There are currently eight books in the Young Explorer Series based on the days of Creation. Separate volumes cover astronomy, botany, flying animals, swimming animals, land animals, the human body, chemistry and physics, and earth science. Each text is durable hardcover, designed for use by several students. There are no lesson plans or teacher's guides, though all have free downloadable online "notebooks," or more comprehensive printed notebooks to help students record what they learn. Like the Apologia books for older students, these elementary books are designed for student-directed work, with minimum teacher input.
While these books are recommended by the publisher for K-6th grade, they are written at a Grade 5 reading level and we suggest them for 3rd-6th grade. The books are written in an engaging manner, but by trying to reach a broader audience they lose some appeal—too advanced for many young children to read on their own, but somewhat condescending for older kids. The content and experiments are probably best used by nine to twelve year olds.
How Do These Work?
Each book has 13-14 lessons. Many parents use two books a year, though at a more moderate pace of two weeks per lesson a single text can last an entire year. (Botany is more seasonal than the others, best used during spring when many of the flowers and plants discussed can be observed in bloom.) Students read a portion of each lesson, answer questions (answer keys for in-text questions appear in the back of each student textbook), and do experiments. There are no tests for this series, but a notebook is kept by students recording their observations during experimentation.
We're often asked to recommend a sequence for these books which we prefer not to do as they can be used in nearly any sequence. We will say that Astronomy, Botany, and Zoology 1 are the simplest to start with; Zoology 2 and 3 build on definitions from Book 1; and Anatomy, Chemistry & Physics, and Earth Science include more technical vocabulary. We hope this helps you establish a preferred sequence for your home school!
You can create your own notebooks, or use the full-color "Notebooking Journals" created by Apologia. The "Notebooking Journals" provide a place for kids to record what they're learning, along with a variety of fun and informative activity suggestions, crossword puzzles, coloring pages, and more. These are optional (everything you need is in the text), but they are quite popular; some parents have told us they "make" the program. The "Junior Notebooking Journal" is best for 1st-3rd grade kids or those who have difficulty writing; we'd suggest the regular "Notebooking Journal" for most kids in grades 4-6.
All volumes are written by Jeannie Fulbright, except Earth Science which is written by Rachel Yunis; there is not an appreciable difference in styles, at least not one most kids will pick up on, making transition to the final volume painless. Audiobooks are available for each student text in both CD and MP3 form. Each audio volume is read by the author (Fulbright for the first seven volumes, Yunis for the eighth). Both authors have clear and engaging reading voices, which may help younger kids out quite a bit, especially if they aren't reading yet or are not reading at grade level.
Each volume is written from an explicitly Christian and creationist perspective, but there is more straight science than worldview. Creation science is woven in pretty seamlessly. Students will mostly learn basic facts about science and the scientific method, but they will learn it from a particular context, that of six-day creationism. The worldview element becomes less prominent the further the series progresses, as more time is needed to explain terminology and concepts.
Our Honest Opinion:
Some parents might not hate science as much if they'd learned it this way as kids. The hands-on, observational approach takes the dread out of science by helping kids understand the world around them without losing their sense of wonder.
A lot of other science curricula pack as many pictures as possible into the text, hoping to spark interest in the less-than-thorough content. The Young Explorer Series strikes an excellent balance—there are plenty of beautiful nature pictures, as well as lots of good content written in a conversational tone. There aren't dialogue boxes and interesting facts cluttering every page, making it easier to focus on the actual text.
More than the books for older students, these tend to go out of their way to link science facts and ideas to creationism. The author is an outspoken young-earth creationist, though she does fairly present alternatives. Some people consider the presentation of alternatives unnecessary, but it isn't a big deal for us. The series is thoroughly Christian (one of the reasons we like it).
Other curricula might appear friendlier due to a plethora of pictures and attention-diverters, but the deft blend of content and visuals in these books should actually prove more engaging for elementary students. They are better able to focus, and the easy style (unencumbered with needlessly technical jargon) should help them actually learn and not just read the material. Younger children can also benefit from having the text read aloud to them, though some of the experiments might be more difficult for them to manage.
The Young Explorer Series is a good introduction to the realm of science, helping kids overcome any innate fear they may have of the subject while encouraging them to think scientifically rather than just memorizing facts. Whether your kids enjoy science or not, this is a good place for them to start.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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