In the months that we've been working on Biology, I have often thought about aspects of the course that I will do differently the next time and I have also thought about all of the aspects of the course that I love and will not change at all. Luckily for me, I will get to be a co-learner two more times with my two younger boys!
So, when I get to be a co-learner in Biology again, what will I do exactly the same?
- I will use the same textbook - Apologia's Exploring Creation with Biology 2nd Edition. I've been reading the book right along with my daughter and have found it to be extremely well-written, clear, and packed with wonderful, educationally meaningful illustrations and pictures. I truly have enjoyed reading the book and my daughter has as well (except for a few particularly difficult modules.)
- I will use the same microscope. Given the cost of the microscope, even if I didn't like it, we would still be using it again but I LOVE the microscope we purchased. We purchased the Sonlight Ultra Microscope. We have found it easy to use and of excellent quality.
- I will use the same schedule. We purchased the Science 250 kit from Sonlight which included a 36 week day by day schedule for the textbook. I followed the schedule very closely and found it was a perfect amount of work each day for my daughter. Also, having the schedule was WELL WORTH the cost as it saved me a lot of time scheduling out the course myself. It is important to note that the teacher's edition is only a tests and solutions manual and does not include a schedule for completing the course.
- I will use the same slide set, specimen set, and dissection kit. As mentioned before, I ordered the Science 250 kit from Sonlight which included almost everything needed for the Biology labs. I was extremely pleased with all of the contents. When I am a co-learner again in Biology, I will just need to order a preserved frog, fish, crayfish, and earthworm to do the dissections again.
- I will find a partner for my child's dissections again. Amber did all of her dissections this year with a friend who was taking the course as well. I was amazed by how long they spent working through their dissections and how thorough they were in their investigations. I definitely think her experience was enriched by having a lab partner. If no lab partner is available next time, I will be the lab partner for the dissections.
- I will use the Lapbook Journal kit again. Amber has been so very proud of her Biology notebook and it is pretty impressive! Using the Lapbook Journal kit from Knowledge Box Central has made answering the On Your Own Questions and preparing the study guide for each module much more enjoyable. Barb from Harmony Art Mom posted a thorough review of a similar product from Live and Learn Press on Curriculum Choice.
- I will have my child complete the study guide as he works through the chapter. While this is contrary to what is recommended in the teacher's guide, I preferred to have Amber complete the study guide as she worked through the chapter rather than complete all of the study guide questions at the end. When she reached the end of the chapter, she already had her study guide completed and was ready to really get studying!
- I will try to lay the groundwork for upper level science with lots of hands-on science study in the earlier years. Amber definitely was able to call on her years of nature study programs, educational science videos, and field trips while working through the course.
Now, what are some aspects of the course that I will change or things that I wish I had done during the course or while preparing to teach the course? When I am a co-learner again, I will definitely do all of the following.
- I will gather all of the materials that are needed for the course ahead of time. Now, this is actually pretty easy with Biology. Most of what is needed is included in the Science 250 kit that I mentioned earlier. A full list of needed materials is found in Appendix C of the Apologia Biology text. I also recommend purchasing additional T-pins for the dissections, coverslips for the slides, and larger dissection trays. Large, foam meat trays work really well.
- After reading all of the experiments, I will be making some adjustments to the order in which we complete the modules. I wish I had read all of the experiments ahead of time. Then, I wouldn't find myself in a situation where my daughter has a leaf collection to complete and we have no leaves anywhere. Next time around, I'll start with modules 14 and 15 on plants so that we can do the leaf collection.
- I will be clearer from the very beginning about my expectations for lab reports. My daughter definitely needed more direction than the brief instructions given for lab reports at the beginning of the text.
- I will omit the Module Summary assignments. We finally deleted these assignments about halfway through the course. My daughter's time was much better used making up her own study notecards and studying her study guide than completing a fill-in-the-blank summary of the module.
|One of Amber's creative study notecards.|
- I'll definitely take more of a teacher role in a few modules. While we got through a few difficult modules just fine, Amber would have had less frustration if I had brought in some outside resources and worked with her to help understand modules 5 (the chemistry of life), 6 (the cell), and 7 (cellular respiration and DNA.)
- I'll use the tests that I have prepared for the course. I do use the tests that come in the teacher's manual with one exception - I include a lot more of the vocabulary on each test. Amber was continually frustrated because she would study the vocabulary for hours and hours and then find that only a few of the vocabulary terms were on the test. So, I just added more vocabulary terms to each test. In fact, I included all of the vocabulary on each test in a matching format. Since I didn't start doing this until we were well into the course, I'll change the rest of the module tests to reflect more emphasis on the vocabulary terms.
- I'll look for more field trip opportunities. Later this month, Amber will be attending a full day Career Day at a local zoo for teenagers where she'll learn about careers in the zoology field. The day will be a perfect tie-in for Biology but, really, it completely fell in my lap as she was invited by a homeschooled friend to attend with her. Biology abounds with field trip opportunities, many of which are discussed in Harmony Art Mom's wonderful Squidoo lens about Biology. While Amber's early years of nature study really laid the foundation for the course, we didn't get out and about into nature or other field trips nearly as much as we should have during the course.
- I will schedule use of the companion CD. If I write something down for my children, they do it as part of their lesson for the day. If I don't , they don't. I expected that Amber would seek out the companion CD whenever it was mentioned in the text. Sometimes she did but sometimes she didn't. Next time, I'll make it mandatory. The companion CD is wonderful with pronunciations, and short video clips that make the material more interesting and easier to understand.
- I will add another dissection IF my sons are excited about doing the dissections. Before working through the course, I was a bit afraid of the dissections. Vague memories of suffocating formaldehyde smells made me slightly nauseous just thinking about them. But, the specimens had little odor and really, the whole process was fascinating. Who knew that earthworms don't have hearts? I sure didn't. For example, we could dissect a snake or a turtle during our module 16 study of reptiles, birds, and mammals.
For those of you who have already worked through high school biology, do you have any tips of your own? For those of you who will be teaching high school biology soon, do you have any questions?
Amber and I will working through Apologia's Marine Biology course next year and I am quite excited about being a co-learner again with her!