Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Apologia's Anatomy and Physiology {Schoolhouse Crew Review}


After reviewing homeschool curriculum for the past few years, I realize that I can set my standards high. There are often so many choices that I can be picky about what types of curriculum I'd like to use with my children. Recently, I was thinking about a science curriculum for Brennan (my sixth grader). I wanted one that was a blend of informative text and hands-on activities. I know that the activities help Brennan grasp the concepts, but I want activities that are easy to accomplish and that don't require too many unusual supplies. I want the text to be complete by itself. While I know that we could research subjects on our own, I realistically know that I don't always have outside materials available when we need them. I'd prefer a Christian based program, but I'm open to materials that take a neutral stance on creationism versus evolution.

Over the past month, Brennan and I have been using one of Apologia's Elementary science offerings -- Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology. It meets all of my "requirements" for an elementary science curriculum and exceeded my expectations.

The Anatomy and Physiology text is divided into 14 chapters. According to the schedule in the Notebooking journal, each chapter can be covered in four sessions. They suggest a schedule of twice-weekly science lessons with each chapter taking approximately two weeks. For some of the lessons, the suggested pace worked well. We sometimes divide the lessons into more than four days when the reading assignments are long.

The textbook itself is colorful and inviting for the student. We have found that there is a ton of information covered in some of the sections. Instead of having Brennan work independently, I found that it worked better to read through the materials together, stopping every few paragraphs to review and discuss what was covered.

The material included enough details that I didn't feel the need to supplement with any outside materials. For instance, the chapter about parts of a cell included such organelles as the nucleus, endoplasmic reticulum, golgi bodies, lysosome, centrioles, mitochondria, and others. In the chapter covering the skeletal system, the student was introduced to the scientific names for at least 20 common bones. I've looked ahead in the materials and found that most sections are sufficiently detailed. I may want to add in extra materials for areas that are of particular interest to our family such as more specifics about congenital heart defects or the role of the pancreas in type 1 diabetes, but I don't feel the need to hunt for supplemental materials for most topics.

The notebooking journal gave us a way to record all the information Brennan was learning in the textbook. It included review activities, copywork, places to record interesting facts, and the pages needed to complete the "personal person" project. I particularly appreciate the way that the questions in the textbook have a corresponding page in the notebooking journal. It's much easier to write out the "What do you remember?" activities when the questions are already printed on a notebook page. I also like the way that the most important terms for each chapter are reviewed either in a crossword puzzle, another activity, or both.
Perhaps the best part of the Apologia Anatomy course is the selection of hands-on activities. Each chapter is packed with possible activities to supplement the text. Some of the activities are relatively short, such as the day Brennan shook containers with eggs in them to show how fluid would protect the egg from breaking. Another day, he slapped the counter both with and without a pillow to show how cartilage protects bones. One of our longer experiments was mummifying an apple as part of the discussion of science history and how our knowledge of anatomy has changed over the years.

Brennan's favorite activity in the first few chapters was making an edible cell out of jello (the cytoplasm) and candy (the various organelles). In the top picture, he shows the endoplasmic reticulum with ribosomes. After adding so many organelles to the cell, it didn't quite stay together for the final picture.

Even if a curriculum has everything I'm looking for as a teacher, it doesn't make a difference if my children don't actually learn anything from it. Brennan learned a lot from the first two chapters of this book, and I am certain he will have a good grasp of human anatomy/physiology basics when we finish the course.

One evening at dinner, I asked him to share what we had talked about during our lessons about the parts of a cell. He was able to recall nearly all of the parts and to correctly identify their function in the cell. My husband said it was one of the first times he's heard him talk about something in that much detail (except for when he's been talking about camping gear and what various reviewers think of a particular brand).

We received the Anatomy and Physiology Textbook (hardcover, 265 pages, $39) and the companion Anatomy Notebooking Journal (spiral bound softcover, 200+ pages, $24). They also offer a Junior Notebooking Journal for younger elementary students or students that struggle with writing. The corresponding mp3 audio CD costs $29. Brennan chose not to listen to the audio version of the book because he feared he wouldn't be able to pay attention closely enough. Having the text read aloud might be helpful for other students.

As far as I can tell, these materials are intended to use with elementary aged students, and Apologia doesn't necessarily make a more specific recommendation. Based on our experience with the book, I'd definitely say it is most appropriate for upper elementary aged students (4th grade and up). The amount of detail introduced in each section of the book would definitely overwhelm my first grader.

I highly recommend the Apologia Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology materials. It far exceeds all my expectations for a science curriculum. It presents solid information in a way that appeals to Brennan, and it has enough review in the hands-on and written activities so that he's fully grasping (and retaining) what he learns.

Addison has been using Apologia's upper level science materials for the past few years, and Brennan now has an exceptional human anatomy course to use for the rest of the school year. I need to get one of Apologia's other elementary science curriculums for Lauren to use. She's already telling me that first graders should get to study science too.

Disclaimer: I received an Anatomy and Physiology textbook, a notebooking journal, and mp3 audios as a member of the 2012 TOS Homeschool Review Crew, and I received no other compensation. In return, I agreed to give an honest review of the materials and how they worked for my homeschool family.


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  1. Can we fast forward to 5th grade?? Jude loved studying Apologia's Zoology 2 (Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day), but I think *I* want to study this one!!

  2. Cristi,

    This is a really nice review! I love all the good solid details you gave and your experiences with your son. I really like all the photos too.

    Great job!




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