Thursday, April 30, 2009

Memoria Press: Traditional Logic Book 1

My oldest son decided a few years ago he wanted to become an attorney when he grew up. As he approached high school I knew I needed new insight in preparing this young logical thinker for college. My husband and I attended our local homeschool convention and asked all sorts of experts their opinion regarding curriculum choices for future law school attendees. All agreed that study of debate, logic and development of strong writing skills would be essential in preparing our son for pre-law collegiate work. Typical of homeschooling this third child of ours was causing us to enter into uncharted waters of a classical education.

Those of you familiar with the Classical education model will instantly recognize Memoria Press as a highly respected name offering curriculum that supports the study of Latin, history, copywork, penmanship, Christian studies, logic and rhetoric. In addition, Memoria Press just released a new modern foreign language program, First Start French. All courses are designed to fit easily in with the classical model of education.

After a helpful discussion with customer service at Memoria Press it was decided my 9th grade son and I should receive Traditional Logic: Introduction to Formal Logic, Book 1 to review. This introductory course is the first in Memoria Press’s logic series and focuses on traditional logic which was used in the classical trivium. The course consists of 14 chapters with a recommendation to spend a week of study per chapter. My curriculum package contained a 144 page soft bound manual for students, a slim 32 page soft bound answer key and a DVD video course filled with lectures for each chapter starring author Martin Cothran. Memoria Press sells this curriculum package at their website for $68.95 or without the DVD course for $31.90. The course is designed for students in grades 7-12.

Cothran states in the “Note to the Teacher” section of the curriculum, “Traditional Logic is the study of the classical syllogism”. It is not the study of informal logic which covers the content of argument. According to Cothran, traditional logic must be mastered first before attempting the study of fallacies and argument building so often thought of as the study of logic. Formal or traditional logic, he says, “trains the mind to respect truth”.

If you had a similar education to mine you most likely didn’t study logic in high school or college. Taking on a new subject as the teacher can seem a bit daunting, but Memoria Press has designed their course to hold the teachers hand and encourage independent study of the student. The text is written to the student in a conversational tone and if reading through a lesson is too burdensome the video course contains full lectures for each chapter.

According to Cothran the video course was put together with homeschoolers in mind. It was developed by a cottage school where students met once a week then did homework on their own. Traditional Logic is written to be a semester course or can be used as a year long course for those wishing to take their time. Helpful hints for customizing the schedule to fit your homeschooling needs are given in the text.

I found the video content of the course a bit bland with Cothran dressed in a beige suit standing in front of a white board. The lecture was consistently made up of the written material in the student and teacher manuals with helpful power point slides high lighting key points. I thought the appearance of the power point slides during the video broke up the visual monotony of the neutral set and could easily be used to assist students with refining note taking skills during lectures.

I did like the intelligent language and well-organized structure of each of the lessons within the text. I found it took my son and I about a half an hour to read through a lesson together, although I could have easily allowed him to read it silently alone which would have taken less time. After reading he was required to answer 6-13 brief questions relating to the lecture portion of the course. The questions required true/ false, matching and essay style answers. Questions and answers are provided for four days of study per week. My answer key held all answers including suggested essay answers to guarantee his comprehension of the material was accurate. Even though I had never formally studied logic I found this course very easy to facilitate and not intimidating in the least.

When I asked Jonah for his opinion he shared the following,” “I found the course interesting and easy to understand. I like the format of the lessons because questions were easily answered from the reading section of what I read in each lesson. It only took me about 10 minutes a day to complete the reading and questions which I liked. I thought the video portion of the course was a bit boring. When I continue this course I probably will not use the video, but just read through the material and answer the questions. I am planning to finish this Logic course because I am hoping it will help me become a better writer.”

For sample lessons, to view an on-line catalog or just read helpful articles regarding the classical model of education, visit the Memoria Press website at The quality of their classical curricula provide homeschoolers with wonderful options to help meet the educational needs of future attorneys, scientists, homemakers, teachers and everyone else in between.

Memoria Press- First Start French

Je t’aime francaise! I love all things French; French food, French culture, my friends in France, the beautiful country of France and especially the French language. I was delighted to receive First Start French as one of my last products to review for The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Review Crew this year. First Start French, written for grades 3-8, is a wonderful curriculum designed to introduce students to the French language and culture.

Because of my love of the French language I have searched for a quality language curriculum for years. Some offer outstanding opportunity for developing conversation skills, but lack in grammar. Some develop grammar and vocabulary awareness, but lack culture study and pronunciation practice. First Start French has been carefully designed to introduce students to all aspects of French language study; vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar and culture. I especially appreciate the cultural highlights nestled within each lesson in the form of proverb, story, Bible verse or song. The curriculum even includes “Notre Pere” (The Lord’s Prayer) en francaise and English.

Thirty-six basic lessons, teachers’s manual and answer key, student manual, and a CD recording of all vocabulary and songs from the lessons round out the curriculum package for $39.95. Each lesson has a standard format to follow with vocabulary, dialogue and grammar instruction on Day 1, vocabulary review, dialogue practice, grammar review, a translation exercise for Day 2, dialogue, translation, and grammar practice on Day 3 and review and quizzes for Day 4. In addition each lesson contains cultural information and a chanson (song) to enhance the learning experience. Author Danielle L. Shultz encourages making use of “great books” and other additional resources listed in the back of the teacher’s manual for advanced study. By utilizing all First Start French has to offer a student could easily receive one credit towards a beginning high school French class.

My 11 year old daughter, Micah took on the challenge of helping me out with this review. Micah has a general familiarity with the French language as our family worked through a different basic French curriculum last year. We have hosted two French students in our home over the past three years and my oldest two daughters have traveled to France the past two summers to visit our dear friends. There is a lot of French conversation that takes place in our home on occasion and of course cultural experiences abound. Micah has not spent a lot of time with grammar study, however so I was grateful for the chance to introduce these very important principals to her.

When I asked Micah what she thought of First Start French after three weeks of use she replied, “I like the songs with some of the lessons. I enjoy listening to the vocabulary and dialogue on the CD so I can learn how to say the words just right. It’s also nice that it doesn’t take much time out of the day, but I am still learning a lot.”

Our instructional lesson time was brief each day lasting no longer than 20 mins. Further practice and independent study is recommended each day by the author. I agree that extra practice is mandatory for achieving true fluency and comprehension. I once read a statistic which stated it takes 900 hours of exposure to a language before fluency is achieved. If the student of First Start French only made use of the brief 15 min. lesson time it would likely take him 22 typical school years to reach this goal, so plan on extra practice and study time. Making good use of the handy resource section in the teacher’s manual will encourage practice and make extra lesson time a breeze.

Memoria Press offers curriculum to support Latin, history, penmanship, copywork, Christian studies, logic and rhetoric for the classical home educator and their students in grades K-12. You can visit their website at to view an on-line catalog, pricing, interesting articles regarding classical education and information about special on-line classes for older students. Whether your homeschool is classically driven or not First Start French will easily support your foreign language education needs.
Vive la France!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tapestry of Grace

I remember when I first heard of Tapestry of Grace I thought it was amazing, yet complicated. It certainly seemed to be the type of education people dream of for their kids, but could I use it? My best friend of the time had just purchased Year 1 and was showing the volumes of paper which made up the manual. She spent nearly an hour explaining to me how she planned to use the curriculum the next year with her daughter, the great literature they would read, the philosophical discussions that would result from reading said literature, the variety of activities they could do. I was extremely impressed, but a tad overwhelmed at the sheer volume of it all.

I have since come to understand that the “overwhelmed” feeling is common to those of us new to the “Tapestry” way. The authors of the curriculum in fact warn users to allow two to three weeks of use to become comfortable with the curriculum. Once comfort has arrived, however, it is my understanding the delight ensues.

Tapestry of Grace is one of the most comprehensive unit study curriculums I have ever seen. Created by homeschool parents and home education leaders, Marcia and Scott Sommerville, this history based curriculum is designed to aid families in teaching their children in grades K-12. According to “An Introduction to Tapestry” published by the curriculum authors, “Tapestry of Grace is a homeschool curriculum: a plan of study that helps parents provide a Christian, classical education using a guided unit study approach with the history of the world as the core organizational theme.”

Comprehensive is such an inadequate adjective to describe Tapestry of Grace. Colossally comprehensive, delightfully detailed, everything you could possibly dream of and more written out for your convenience in a very large manual might be a better description. Ironically, it is the comprehensive, detailed nature of the curriculum that has driven up printing costs for the company creating financial woes recently. In an effort to continue to provide the quality products they offer at an affordable cost to home educators, Tapestry of Grace is now available in digital format.

I received Year 2, Unit 1, Tapestry of Grace Digital Edition for review. The file was immediately accessible to me for down load but, before I could open it I first had to download Lock Lizard a special program which allows users to view protected PDF files. Tapestry of Grace makes use of Lock Lizard in an effort to supervise copyright issues as each Digital Edition is meant to be used by one household. If for some reason a problem arises with your computer or download, Tapestry of Grace offers the opportunity to download a purchase more than once from their website free of charge. Unit 1 of Year 2 was a 107 Megabyte file and took my computer operating on a DSL internet connection 20 mins. to download.

Tapestry provides a “Simple Start” guide for all newbies like me. The helpful 17 page guide answered questions like, “What is Tapestry?” and “What is the philosophy of education?” Detailed descriptions complete with small screen shots of the pages discussed were also provided explaining various aspects of the curriculum including writing assignments, student activity pages, Pageant of Philosophy, Teachers notes, and Setting up Tapestry. Once a homeschool teacher has worked through the “Simple Start” guide the typical overwhelmed feeling should begin to dissipate.

Being more of a paper in hand type of girl than a digital one I printed all the pages which coordinated with week 1 of Unit 1 for Year 2. This was no small task as it contained 66 pages! It was easier for me to understand the depth of information and begin to see its flow as I flipped through the various paper pages, however. Included were extremely detailed teacher’s notes complete with history, geography and church history background information, discussion questions and answers to be used with students, mini world book articles with detailed basic information regarding the topics at hand, the first installment of the Pageant of Philosophy, accountability and thinking questions for rhetoric level students, and worksheets. Papers are color coded on the edges for easy reference with blue representing rhetoric level students, green for dialectic, yellow for upper grammar and red for lower grammar. I thought this a nice touch for busy Moms trying to keep organized.

Tapestry of Grace is comprehensive in nature, but users will need to have access to a well stocked library as the curriculum makes use of many living books for literature, church history and biography study. For those with inadequate library access, Tapestry does offer an on-line shopping tool called “Bookshelf Central” accessible from the Tapestry of Grace website. Simply plug in the unit being studied, age of child and subjects of books needed and a handy excel spread sheet appears with direct links for purchasing the books listed. Bookshelf Central can save moms and dads with multiple children planning several levels of study for a school year hours of time and energy. Nice touch Tapestry!

Tapestry of Grace has been written to follow the classical four year cycle of history model of education. I know many families whom have chosen to spread each year of Tapestry of Grace over two years or only commit to one or two units of study in a school year. Tapestry of Grace offers such depth of information and study opportunities that however it is used students will benefit.

The cost for one full year of Tapestry of Grace is $225.00 for the full year program in print version or $170.00 for the Digital Edition download version of the full year. Currently, only the Digital Edition is available for Year 2, but pre-orders are being accepted for the print version. For those unsure about committing to a full year of Tapestry, individual units which comprise of about 9 weeks of study are available for $60.00 each for printed versions and $45.00 for digital editions. Currently, only units 2, 3, and 4 are available in the printed format on the Tapestry website, but all four units of the digital edition are available.

If you still feel a bit overwhelmed as I did after reading about all Tapestry of Grace offers the company has made a free download sample available on the Tapestry website of the first three weeks lesson plans of Year 1 along with other helpful “getting started” information. In addition a Tapestry of Grace forum created and monitored by the company allows opportunity for homeschooling parents to enjoy the benefits of a homeschool support group just for Tapestry of Grace users. With all of this help, support and test marketing available you might just find your homeschool learning the Tapestry way.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Write Shop

After 13 years of being a homeschool teacher the only subject I still hesitate to recommend curriculum for when asked is writing. Ironically, even though I am a free-lance writer I never felt I could find the magic instructional tool to teach my children to write. My oldest is a math and science brained child and really HATES the written word about as much as I hate math study. My second oldest, a soon to graduate high schooler, recently decided she enjoys writing, but can not spell to save her life. My third child, a teenaged boy and, not to stereotype, a typical male, is only interested in written communication if it involves some sort of score or sports related statistic. For years I blamed myself for my children’s seeming lack of interest in writing, but recently, I have come to realize through God’s grace, they have miraculously learned necessary skills for writing, despite the lack of passion I have witnessed over the years.

Times are about to change in our little homeschool for I have discovered the joy of Writeshop! I recently received and reviewed WriteShop’s StoryBuilders this year and now I have the pleasure to offer you my opinion regarding WriteShop’s newest release, WriteShop Primary Book A.

WriteShop curriculum written by homeschool Moms, Kim Kautzer and Debra Oldar, was developed out of necessity. Like many great stories from home education these women were faced with a need in the form of their sons not being able to write and determined to fill it.

“In need of new resources, we pulled out every writing program we’d ever used (and believe me, between us we had them all!). We drafted a wish list detailing the components of our “ideal” writing class: prewriting games to stimulate creativity; a way to introduce and help develop new skills; creative, varied writing exercises with clearly defined expectations; incremental lessons that built upon previously learned material; writing checklists to help students edit their own work; and a simple evaluation tool to help us grade final drafts objectively. We didn’t think we were asking much! While each of the programs on our shelves had merit, not one of them provided everything we needed or wanted to help us feel successful at teaching writing. In that moment of clarity, WriteShop was born.” (Kim Kautzer,

Write Shop Primary Book A is one of the latest releases from the dynamic duo of Kautzer and Olgar. I received a copy of this incremental writing program designed to be used with K-1 students and immediately put it to task with my 7 year old sweetie Sierra. Like all good curricula, WriteShop Primary A is theme based filled with simple to follow instructions, lesson planning suggestions and short and effective writing lessons for the little ones.

WriteShop Primary A is available in print version for $26.95 plus shipping or by e-book for $24.25. The print version arrives as a 186 page plastic coil bound softcover teacher’s manual that lays flat during lesson time. A 20 page activity worksheet pack is available for an additional $4.95 print version or $4.50 for the E-book. WriteShop Primary A will encourage your little author to “generate story ideas”, “experience planning a story before writing it”, “gather simple information about a topic”, “use a story web to organize information”, “identify a beginning, middle and an end”, “choose an appropriate title”, “think of simple ways to improve a story”, and “publish work through crafts and projects”. My experience has taught WriteShop Primary A will also help little ones with early reading skills, identify proper ending punctuation for sentences, and correct capitalization of title, beginning sentences and names.

Sierra and I worked through Lesson 1 over the course of two and a half weeks. There are 10 lessons total in the one year program. The theme of lesson one is animals; a favorite topic at our house. I love the “Guided Writing Practice” portion of each activity set because it is scripted which helps distractible Moms like me keep focus on the goal at hand and know just the right words to say to encourage guided learning. The authors have included a sample of what the child’s writing might look like which I also found helpful as I tend to be a Mom who expects William Shakespeare to emerge after one lesson. The samples provide instant perspective as to the ability and expectations of a young author.

All activities within the lesson are allowing parent and student to complete them within an average of 15-20 minutes. A sample lesson can be viewed here. The curriculum encourages parents to utilize narration with their young children having the parent take on the role of scribe. My daughter desperately wanted to write her own sentences, so most of our lesson time was spent in spelling out words letter by letter and reminding her of the direction and shape of the handwriting. In the future I intend to insist we simply use the narration method so frustration with the physical act of the writing does not overshadow the value of learning to compose thoughts.

I found the curriculum to be extremely child-friendly a very important aspect in teaching little ones. The authors suggest utilizing colorful markers, crayons and pens and guided lined paper or oversized chart paper for writing exercises. The use of colorful markers really appealed to my daughter and even though markers tend to be a bit unforgiving with mistakes we used them for every activity.

Sierra gave WriteShop Primary A a two thumbs up rating. She said, “I liked when they helped you think of ideas about animals. I really liked writing about my favorite stuffed animal. I liked writing with the markers because of all the colors. I want to still keep writing for a long time.”

We will definitely continue with WriteShop’s wonderful primary writing program. It’s delightful incremental, confidence building approach is exactly what this Mom needs to be able to teach her children to write effectively.

Friday, April 10, 2009

High School Chemistry In Your Home

My Dad would have loved Bridget Ardoin’s, High School Chemistry In Your Home. He was a research chemist and constantly made our home a place for chemistry study. I can remember sitting around the dinner table at night and not being able to refill my glass of water without running commentary from my Dad about the properties of H2O. Salt was not salt, but sodium chloride. He was relentless and bored my brother and I to tears. Now that I am "old and wise" I credit his passion for education as lighting in me a love for educating my children at home.

High School level science study can seem dreadful to someone entering the high school years for the first time. High School Chemistry In Your Home is designed to aid parents in mentoring their teen through the educational process rather than requiring them to pretend to be an all knowing teacher. In fact, according to author Bridget Ardoin, “That's the reason I wrote these curriculums designed for the homeschooling family. They are designed to be academically challenging for the student and parent-friendly for YOU!” Ardoin also carries High School Physical Science In Your Home and High School Biology In Your Home on her website,

Ardoin’s wealth of experience stems from a degree in microbiology obtained from Louisiana State University, being the mother of 5 and a homeschool parent for 12+ years and teaching high school level science courses in private schools and tutorially since the early 1990’s. According to Ardoin, she has “encouraged home school high schoolers in learning chemistry since 1999."

Ardoin’s Chemistry course purposefully differs from a standard textbook curriculum. She explains the difference on page 6 of her curriculum guide. “At first I taught directly from a textbook. Being the home schooler that I am, I was not satisfied with the textbook: I continued to change the order of the subject matter. I wanted to emphasize to the student that textbooks are tools, and from experience, I saw a need for a different way to learn chemistry.”

High School Chemistry in Your Home will guide students through a process of research, experimentation and discovery. The curriculum consists of a student manual filled with questions ready to be answered, a lab manual with complete instructions and explanations, a parents manual with sample answers for the student manual, and weekly or bi-weekly tests and quizzes.

When I first looked at the text it reminded me of a blank textbook waiting for details to be filled in by the student. The student manual is divided into two semesters of work with 12 weeks of topics plus a review week in the first semester and 13 weeks of topics and a review week in the second semester. The review weeks are provided at the end of each semester for comprehensive study for a mid-term and final exam. Ardoin has provided a great deal of flexibility with her curriculum by only including 26 weeks of topics, allowing students the opportunity to focus on a particular topic for longer than one week if desired.

Evaluation of the weekly essay questions and experiments is easily completed by utilizing the teacher’s manual that includes an answer for all questions and complete directions and explanations of the labs. Students are encouraged to work independently four days a week then meet with Mom or Dad for discussion on the fifth day. Keeping this sort of schedule is a great way for high school students to learn time management with their studies. Weekly or bi-weekly quizzes are included for additional evaluation along with two semester final exams.

Student and teacher manuals are sold as a set for $79.99. Customers can purchase a complete lab kit with the manuals for $115.00 or the lab kit separately for $49.99. On-line shopping, samples and other helpful background information regarding the curriculum is available on the High School Science In Your Home website found here.

All of my highschool aged students have completed their courses in Chemistry so our family was not able to test drive this unique curriculum per se. I was interested in reading within the curriculum guide, however that Ardoin was approached by Konos rep, Linda Gomez when she first began offering chemistry classes in 1999. Our family has benefited from learning the Konos way over the years and I can testify that despite its non-traditional, play-like educational method it works, works, works.

For family's looking for a little something different for their high school science classes I highly recomend seeking out the Science in Your Home series of courses. I can speak from experience that this very Konos-like style of education provides wonderful memory anchors for information. High School Chemistry in the Home will provide an experience for your high schoolers not just information. Through their research, hands-on dissections, discussion and finally testing, students will not just study Chemistry, but live it.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Exploring Creation with Biology-2nd edition

Six years ago I took my then 7th grade daughter to a nearby support group meeting that was hosting Dr. Jay Wile, founder of Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. as its guest speaker. He gave an extremely encouraging talk regarding homeschooling during the teen years. For those fearing the future, Dr. Wile offered positive statistics regarding home educated students, wonderfully encouraging antidotes and an entire line textbook curriculum line covering Biology, Chemistry and Physics, Marine Biology and Anatomy and Physiology.

I asked for his recommendation regarding a science course for Courtney for the following year. He had mentioned during his talk to match a student’s math ability with their science course. When a student took Algebra 1 they should be ready for his high school course, Exploring Creation with Biology. He suggested we begin high school work and move from his General Science text right into Biology the following year. This, in his opinion, would allow Courtney time later in high school to re-visit her favorite science course at an advanced level.

Following his advice we purchased Exploring Creation with Biology-1st edition during the summer and a high school was born at our home. Six years later, three of my children have successfully completed Apologia’s Biology course with my son having the unique opportunity of being assisted by a PHD in Biology in a co-op setting. His teacher chose Apologia over all other texts on the market after reviewing the book.

Exploring Creation with Biology-2nd edition was actually released several years ago. Since we had a very new looking first edition I made my kids suffer as the “only ones without the new book”. The differences with the 2nd edition include color photographs in the text, updated information regarding cellular science, an improved tests and solutions manual including a semester test and final exam and assistance with awarding points for essay test answers.

Apologia Science Exploring Creation with Biology--2nd edition is a creation based high school biology text book. I once compared it with our local high school’s textbook at the library finding it of superior quality in regards to presentation of material. The text is written in a narrative style so the student can get the feel of having a master teacher within the pages of the book. Labs including the dreaded dissections are laid out in a step by step format with helpful explanations and diagrams included to enable maximum success. A high powered microscope is recommended and well worth the investment if being used by multiple children. Students will use the microscope during two thirds of the course as they study cells, plant life and single celled organisms. Even if dissections are not completed the explanations, diagrams and photographs will provide adequate exposure for the student to succeed on the tests.

Exploring Creation with Biology—2nd edition text and accompanying solutions and tests manual sell on the Apologia website for $85.00. The text book is available separately for $65.00 and the solutions manual separately for $20.00. For those desiring a high tech version of the course a CD Rom of the entire text is available for $65.00. In addition a multimedia companion CD is priced at $15.00 and a MP3 recording of the text for auditory learners is sold for $15.00. A complete microscope set, priced at $270.00 is available at as well.

Exploring Creation with Biology-2nd edition is a very comprehensive and challenging course for high school. The key to success is constant memorization practice of vocabulary. All vocabulary is highlighted and defined within the text for easy identification. Students complete the course in 32 weeks completing one module every two weeks. The text contains 16 modules covering the topics of Kingdom Monera, Protista, Fungi, Chemistry of Life, The Cell, Cellular Reproduction, Mendelian Genetics, Evolution, Ecology, Invertebrates, Kingdom Plantae, and Reptiles Birds and Mammals. All tests are comprised of essay type questions and answers thus the need for memorizing and constant comprehension of the various topics.

Dr. Wile along with co-author Marilyn Durnell has provided homeschoolers with a phenomenal resource. Students not only fulfill a high school lab science requirement by completing this course, but they also grow tremendously in their ability to study independently and follow a schedule. Six years after first opening the pages of this amazing textbook I am still impressed.

Exploring Creation with General Science--2nd Edition

“But how do teach the upper level classes like math and science?” I wish I had a dollar for everytime I have been asked that question. It is a common question asked by beginning homeschoolers sure they won’t last through the high school years and friends and relations who really don’t understand the motivation to keep educating kids through the teen years. Since I have now graduated two lovely young ladies from my home school I find myself ready to answer the question more and more.

Homeschooling for high school does seem like a daunting task at first glance. I remember attending a homeschool convention the summer before my oldest daughter was to enter 7th grade. I happened into a workshop held by Marilyn Durnell, co-author of Apologia Science’s Exploring Creation with Biology. She gave a lovely presentation focused on the topic of teaching high school sciences. I found it very encouraging and loved listening to her as she instantly reminded me of my paternal grandmother. I left the workshop, traveled to the Apologia booth, purchased Exploring Creation with General Science 1st edition and never looked back.

Almost 7 years later I still look to Apologia for reassurance and quality upper level science curriculum. I have met founder Dr. Jay Wile on two occasions and been inspired and encouraged by his presentations. Dr. Wile recently sold Apologia to Davis and Rachael Carman who are dedicated to continuing the quality, vision and integrity of the company.

Apologia Science upper level science texts are designed to mentor students and encourage independent study. Mom or Dad will NOT be required to re-take their high school Biology, Chemistry or Physics class in order to keep pace with students. All test and problem answers are easily found within solutions manuals. The text is written in an engaging conversational style directed to the student. If the student reads and comprehends the text it will serve as the all important lecture portion of any course.

Much to my pleasure lab experiments usually conclude with a brief, yet gentle reminder to “clean up your mess and put things away”. Dr. Wile has designed all of his texts for mentoring students who can work independently; the ideal work environment for the highschool homeschool.

I have three students that have completed Apologia’s Exploring Creation with General Science-1st edition, Exploring Creation with Biology-1st edition and Exploring Creation with Chemistry-2nd edition. My oldest daughter, currently a college student majoring in Mechanical Engineering, also completed Exploring Creation with Physics her Senior year of high school and needed me only for grading her tests. It was this course that helped her realize she definitely wanted to pursue Mechanical engineering over any other degree program. I am not a science major sort of teacher, but with the help of Apologia’s outstanding curriculum my daughter was able to discover her passion on her own.

Already familiar with Exploring Creation with General Science—first edition thrice over I gave the 2nd edition text to my 11 year old daughter to test drive. She was scheduled to begin General Science in the fall as she will enter the Junior High years and in our home that equates with lots of independent study directed by Mom.

General Science- 2nd edition consists of 434 pages divided into 16 modules or chapters. Each module should be completed in a two week time period and includes written text, color photographs, diagrams, etc., On Your Own questions designed to aid with student comprehension, lab experiments, detailed explanations of labs, answers to the “On Your Own” questions, and a study guide for the module test. Module tests are provided in a separate solutions and tests manual. All answers for tests, and study guides are provided in the solutions and tests manual a handy reference since most questions asked on the tests require an essay style answer. Kids that study with Apologia Science really learn material.

Our favorite section of the Apologia General Science-2nd edition book has always been the last eight modules which focus on the human body. My older, soon to graduate daughter, enjoyed this study so much at the time that her ability to draw improved as a direct result of her focused effort in re-creating diagrams of the human circulatory system, nervous system, etc. All of my children have begun Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology the year immediately following the General Science course completing it with ease. General Science has always been a wonderful preparation for the rigors of high school science study.

Exploring Creation with General Science--2nd edition sells for $85.00 for the textbook and solutions and tests manual or $65.00 for the text only and $20.00 for the solutions and tests manual only. In addition for those with a techie side Apologia offers the entire text on CD-Rom for $65.00, a multimedia presentation CD to accompany the text for $15.00 and an MP3 recording of the text for auditory learners for $15.00.

I asked Micah her opinions of her jump start of 7th grade science and she apparently gives Apologia Science, Exploring Creation with General Science--2nd edition two thumbs up. She says, “Like other Apologia science books it was very easy to understand from the author. I liked the science experiments which helped me understand things discussed in the text. I think I will enjoy finishing this up next year in 7th grade.”

The next time you start to doubt your ability to teach the upper level sciences at home simply visit the Apologia website or open one of their amazing textbooks and read. With engaging text, easy to implement household lab science experiments and tests to capture the learning, upper level homeschool science education is within your grasp. Apologia Science really does make it that easy.

Exploring Creaton with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day

I never felt the need to spend much time during elementary years studying science. Maybe it was the amount of necessary time spent conquering the basics and not wanting to keep my little kids in school all day, but I always had a gap in their education in regards to science lessons for my oldest kids before 7th grade. Our homeschool evolved however a few years ago as Apologia Educational Ministries began to release their elementary science series of books. Already familiar with the quality Apologia offers homeschoolers in the upper grades, I was anxious to purchase a title to start filling a long existing gap for our homeschool.

Once only offering high school level sciences, Apologia currently has 5 different elementary volumes all written by Jeannie Fulbright with the Charlotte Mason methodology of teaching in mind. Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 was the third elementary science text we have used in our homeschool having previous experience with Exploring Creation with Botany and Exploring Creation with Astronomy. All five of the elementary texts are written for students in grades 3-8, but filled with enough hands-on activities, notebooking ideas and colorful photographs to engage sibling students in lower grades.

Known as the Young Explorer Series in the Apologia catalog the texts are described aptly as, “…..wonderful books” which “use the classical and Charlotte Mason methodology to give elementary students an introduction to astronomy, botany, and zoology.” (Apologia Educational Ministries, Inc. 2009 catalog)

Exploring Creation with Zoology 1: Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day consists of 14 lessons covering topics from defining zoology to birds to bats to insects and bugs. Each lesson consists of text with defined vocabulary sprinkled throughout. All new vocabulary is highlighted alerting students to the new word. Sub topics within each lesson are set apart in the text with titles to help with lesson planning and keeping lessons short. Notebook assignments are included with each lesson as well as experiments and a scientific speculation sheet (lab report) designed to aid young scientists in recording their findings during lab time. At the conclusion of each lesson a “What do you remember?” section consisting of comprehension questions written in paragraph form to be used by the teacher encourages student with narration. There are no tests included with the texts as the creation of the notebook, lab experiments and discussion all provide parents plenty of information regarding student ability.

The texts are sold for $35.00 each and provide a rich homeschooling experience on their own. Apologia also offers a notebooking journal for Astronomy for $24.00 with plans to release a Botany journal in the summer of 2009.

I tested Exploring Creation with Zoology 1 with my 7 year old, 1st grade daughter, Sierra. When asked for her opinion she said, “I liked doing the activities, I mean crafts. I liked learning about new things like habitats, extinct animals, how birds can fly. I want to keep reading this to the end.”

I have used Botany and Astronomy with her older sister for 4/5th grade and 6th grade and found she retained knowledge in a much deeper way than her first grade sister. Although I read the text of Zoology 1 to Sierra her writing and reading skill level prevented her from being able to take full advantage of recording science experiments and doing most notebooking activities as described in the book. The beauty of these texts, however is that with a few adjustments we were able to read aloud the text, complete experiments together and change some notebooking activities to drawing activities. This enabled Sierra to retain aspects of everything read. I have not found any other text book over the years that provides the same flexibility and quality teaching of the Young Explorer Series.

Apologia Science offers homeschoolers of all ages quality science instruction and outstanding customer service and support. You can visit their website to shop on-line, order a catalog or simply find answers to all your homeschool science dilemmas. Apologia’s creation based science curriculum will help your homeschool evolve into higher learning like never before.

Friday, April 3, 2009

TruthQuest History

History is one of those subjects which can be approached in a multitude of ways. I have seen curriculum which asks the participant to chart people and events on timelines. I have seen curriculum that asks the student to live the history through reenactments, recipes, art and costumes. I have seen history curriculum which simply asks the student to read a chapter of information and then answer questions of comprehension. TruthQuest History offers yet another approach for teachers and students seeking the opportunity to participate in history study with literature and discussion.

TruthQuest History is more of a guide of philosophical thought than other history curriculum currently available. Written by Michelle Miller, veteran homeschooler and children’s librarian, TruthQuest promises the homeschool family hours, days even years of the study of mankind all while seeking to understand, “God’s plan and our response”, for according to Miller, “that’s history!” TruthQuest will take parents and kids on a journey of thought and discussion and although not designed for the faint of heart, a journey well worth its challenge.

Miller’s passion for history shines through in her explanation of the curriculum. When describing the approach to studying history she explains, “It should be a personal encounter with the King of the Universe, the Maker of our souls! It should be one of the most inspiring, personal, real and intimate topics because it hooks us up with the truths that make life work!”

Miller’s description of implementing TruthQuest in your home is encouraging to parent teachers. “All you have to do is convey truth to your kids in the way the Bible often does: through story. Hence, the copious booklists in this guide, and the happy fact that your children’s ‘history time’ will be spent basking in great reading”, writes Miller in the “Notes for Mom and Dad” section of her curriculum.

Feeling Miller’s passion for her curriculum guide and history I was fired up to give TruthQuest History: Age of Revolution III a go at our house. The guide covers American and European history topics from 1865-2000. When I dream about homeschool days with my children I picture us reading great literature, discussing it and growing in wisdom from the experience. It is an impressionistic painting of soft colors, warm summer days and beauty. TruthQuest instantly brought my dream to mind as I read Miller’s description and helpful hints.

As beautiful as my dream is in my mind the reality falls just a bit short most days. Time flies past us as we run to appointments, deal with illness, grocery shop, eat, clean the house and fend off cranky, bad attitudes or other real life problems. I tend to be a bit distractible or even sometimes remain too focused on special projects to remember to make time for “the great discussion”. Keeping all this in mind I still had high hopes for our home’s experience with TruthQuest.

Unfortunately, when I went with curriculum guide in hand to the main branch of a very extensive library system in a major metropolitan city near my home I could find very few of the books listed in the guide. Miller offered me 14 different titles of books and one film choice to cover the topics of Victorian England and the Crimean War. I found one book for my 9th grade son and one book for my 6th grade daughter in the library system. I was so disappointed at the lack of availability of the literature that my initial enthusiasm was stifled. I think Miller might consider adding a line of literature for purchase along with the curriculum guides to help struggling Moms like me, because the concept of TruthQuest is phenomenal, but the reality for our family fell short.

Miller does specifically address the issue of out of print books in the guide. She says, “All worrying about acquiring listed books is hereby outlawed!” I agree that you do not have to have exact titles to experience the richness of learning through living books, however this Mom no longer has the ability to search for titles and plan accordingly. I need to be able to pay someone who has done that for me.

Despite our limited experience with TruthQuest my 6th grade daughter, Micah, had nothing but glowing remarks to share regarding the curriculum. “I think it’s kind of easier because you can do more things on your own with reading the books. There is no specific schedule so you can read as much as you want.”

When asked what she thought of the running commentary written by Miller laced between book lists Micah said, “She is a bit chatty, but sometimes that helps me understand about what is happening”.

TruthQuest History retails for $24.95 for most volumes with a maximum price of $34.95 for Volume III: Age of Revolution, America/Europe 1865-2000 . Samples of the guides are available by clicking here. TruthQuest divides world history for grades 5-12 into seven different time periods. Families with younger children can still benefit from the TruthQuest guides by purchasing up to three different American History guides written for grades 1-5. TruthQuest sponsors an on-line discussion Yahoo group enabling curriculum users to continue the “great discussion” on a greater scale. Interested families can join by emailing

TruthQuest was chosen by Cathy Duffy as one of her 100 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum. It truly is a treasure which when opened will enhance your children’s education, broaden their minds and bring them closer to truth and wisdom.