Apologia Biology is a high school level course intended to prepare students to study college level biology.  This is really the first exposure that most students have to a rigorous science curriculum.  We used this Apologia science curriculum in the freshman year and found it to be challenging both on a scientific level and in the level of effort required by the student in order to be successful in the course.

Strengths:
This biology curriculum is student-centered taking the burden of teaching the subject off the home school teacher.  The text is divided into modules and written in a conversational style which makes reading and learning from the text very easy.  The introduction of the text clearly outlines what is expected of the student as far as memorization of facts and definitions and provides advice on how the student can successfully complete the course.  The student is presented with questions to be answered throughout each module as well as a study guide at the end of each module.  The text contains the answers to these questions allowing the home school teacher to easily ascertain the student’s level of conceptual understanding.  The introduction of the text also outlines how long it should take the student to complete each module thus allowing the home school teacher to develop a reasonable schedule for the student to follow.   Experiments are assigned periodically and are divided into three types: microscope labs, dissection labs, and household labs.  The household labs are easy to perform and the student is expected to complete them.  The microscope labs and dissection labs require additional equipment to be purchased and are therefore not required of the student…good news for any student adverse to dissection.  Apologia also provides curriculum support by mail, e-mail, Internet, fax, and phone.

Weaknesses:
I feel the primary weakness with this biology curriculum is that it is very student-centered.  There may be a tendency for the home school teacher to step back and not be as involved in the student’s learning of the subject as perhaps they would be with other subjects.  A secondary weakness would be the fact that the microscope and dissection labs are not required and hence the student would be missing out on an important hands-on aspect of biology.

Recommendations:
I highly recommend the purchase of the accompanying Apologia Science solutions and test book which makes testing the student very easy.  The test book contains both module tests as well as cumulative tests. Different options for administering the tests are outlined, providing an opportunity for students to experience testing as it would be administered in a college course. I would also recommend purchasing the equipment needed to complete both the microscope and dissection labs.  Even though my student was hesitant about the dissections, much was learned about biology (as well as lab work and reports in general) through the completion of these labs.  We used the Dissection Kit With Specimens that is offered by Learning Things.  The equipment was well made and we are planning on re-using the equipment with our next biology student.

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