September 6, 2016

Looking to the Skies with Apologia Astronomy {Curriculum Review}

Earlier this year, I received a newsletter from Apologia Educational Ministries, announcing the release of their Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition curriculum. The colors of the book leapt off the screen, and my oldest son (who was standing behind me at the time) pointed and said, "I want to do that book!" I told him that I would check it out at the homeschool convention in Cincinnati, which I did. It was gorgeous! I fell in love with the brilliantly colored illustrations and knew he would probably love it. But, it wasn't in the budget for this year, so it went on my wish list. You can imagine my excitement when the Schoolhouse Review Crew was given a chance to review the curriculum this summer! I hoped that it would be just the kind of science program our family would love.
Apologia Astronomy 2nd Edition Curriculum Review
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About Exploring Creation with Astronomy

Apologia Educational Ministries has long been known for their award winning science curriculum. Their Christian worldview of the sciences, makes them a must have for many homeschool families, and one of their most popular curriculum is the Young Explorers Series--geared towards elementary level students. The latest addition in the series is the Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition. The latest edition has taken the already award winning curriculum, and upped the ante! By working closely with an engineer at NASA, the author Jeanie Fulbright has expanded the curriculum to include more incredible full color real life illustrations, infographics, new color coordinated schedule for all the curriculum components, fresh layouts for the activities, and new links for additional projects and research that can be done.

The Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition offers the following materials:
*Student Text
*Notebooking Journal
*Jr. Notebooking Journal (geared for K-3rd)
*Audio CD

And just released:
*Astronomy 2nd Edition Science Kit

The Apologia Science curriculum uses a Charlotte Mason methodology, combining read aloud, with journaling, hands on activities, lapbook style components, puzzles, copywork, and more! Because of the addition of the Jr. Notebooking Journal, you can make this a multi-age subject so even your Kindergarten students can join in with grade appropriate activities. The Audio CD allows for more student independence, as it is an audio text, allowing them to follow along in the book while the author reads it to them. The newest component is the Science Kit which was just released in September 2016. This kit offers 62 different activities--21 of which are exclusive to the kit and allows your children to take their lessons on astronomy even further!

Throughout the course of the curriculum, you child will learn about the sun, the planets, the asteroid belt, dwarf planets, and then an exploration of the stars themselves. All of the material is written from a Christian perspective, pointing the student constantly to the majesty and wonder of God.

We were given the Student Text, Notebooking Journal, Jr. Notebooking Journal, and Audio CD to review with our family.

How Did We Use Exploring Creation with Astronomy?

When I told my son that we were granted this review, he was so excited! When it came we admired how pretty it was and as we flipped through the text, we realized what a treat it was going to be to work through the program. Because Apologia sent me the Notebooking Journal and the Jr. Notebooking Journal, I was going to be able to work through the curriculum with both boys at the same time--something I really was looking forward to.

Because I love being involved in learning new things, we made the decision that I would read aloud the material from the student text. My oldest (Age 10) is more than capable, but I wanted to be able to add any extra explanation for the sake of my youngest (Age 6) since he was sitting in with us too. I do like the option of having the Audio Book on standby for the days when I am not feeling well, or I need them to work independently.

I read a little bit in the front of the student text to get an idea for how the program worked, including noticing that there was a link where I could find MORE materials, activities, and information for each chapter. I also learned about the little new color coded symbols and what they meant. At this point, I realized the program was an open and go variety--my favorite! So I grabbed the two notebooks for the boys, grabbed the text, and we got started!

I appreciated the Daily Lesson Schedule that was in the front of the boys' notebooking journals, and decided that we would follow it for the most part over the course of the review. There were 4-7 days in each daily lesson schedule, so this fit perfectly into our summer schedule of 3 days a week. We simply did 2-3 of the daily schedule days per week.

Here are some photos from our adventures in Astronomy:

Working on Copywork

Labeling the cards for our balloon solar system

Our balloon solar system
Making a solar eclipse with a ping pong ball (moon), the globe, and a flashlight (sun)

Working on the sun matchbook

Adding definitions to vocabulary
 At the end of the sun unit, there is an extra section that talks about the SOHO satellite, with a link to where you can print off more information, including making a SOHO model. The boys loved this idea, so I printed a model for each of them. We worked together to get it built, because there was a lot of cutting, pasting, and piecing the parts together--but it was well worth the hour we spent on it. The boys LOVE their SOHO models!
Learning about SOHO

Making the SOHO satellite model

SOHO Satellite all finished
As of today, we have finished the first two units (Introduction to Solar System, the Sun) which was about 11 daily lessons, and we will be beginning the third unit Mercury.

What Are Our Thoughts on Exploring Creation with Astronomy?

Baby Britches: I liked learning about the sun. It was fun to do the thing where we pretended we were the sun, moon, and earth and tried to walk around each other.

Little Britches: I like building the SOHO satellite and I like that there are a lot of different activities. But I think there are too many of those mini-books. I don't like making them as much.

Me: LOVE!!!
Really, this curriculum is perfect for us. When I read today that it was a Charlotte Mason methodology behind it, it made total sense. We are a Unit Study/Charlotte Mason style homeschool! I love the way the information is presented in the text and how it is broken up with the different infographics, or illustrations. I also like that the activities are woven throughout the lesson, instead of all at the end. The Notebooking Journals are an excellent way to keep track of the information being learned and I love the lapbook components, even if my oldest doesn't care for them as much. The addition of the having the scripture copywork, the puzzles (word search, crossword), as well as the pages to just let them draw or color, really makes the program ideal for all types of learners.

Having the Christian worldview is just the icing on the cake for us, and I get a happy thrill whenever I am reading aloud about how everything points back to the magnificent Creator of our universe. This book really gives glory and honor to God for His complexity and perfection in the way the universe works, AND I LOVE THAT!!

For a person who likes things to be slightly scheduled, I really appreciate the breakdown of the lessons, supplied in the notebooking journals. Having a suggestion of what activities to do each day really works for our style, and I like that I can mix it up as I go.

My only request, would be to put this SAME daily schedule in the TEXT, not just the journals. As the reader of the text, I would appreciate having that information at the beginning for my reference. I ended up photocopying the daily schedules from the boys notebooks, so I could have a copy for myself.

Is there anything I don't like? No, not really. At this point, it appears to be everything we would want in a science program! I am considering purchasing the new Science Kit for us to add in this year, but I don't know if I will or not. There are still plenty of activities and experiments included with the text.

Also, while we didn't use the Audio Book yet, as I said earlier, I love having it as an option. I KNOW there will be days this year when I don't feel good, or need them to work through their books independently.

Will we continue to use this product?
Absolutely! I have it written into our curriculum list for the 2016-2017 school year. It's not often I find something that BOTH boys enjoy! And the fact that it's science and I can teach it to both at the same time? Well that's just fantastic!

Would We Recommend Exploring Creation with Astronomy?

Yes! If you are looking for a Christian worldview on science for your family, please consider Apologia! If you are wanting a more laid back approach to learning where you spend more than just one day learning about a piece of the solar system, consider Apologia Astronomy! If you want to have something that is 90% open and go, consider Apologia Astronomy! If you want to be able to teach multi-grades with one resource for elementary, consider Apologia Astronomy! If you need a product that mixes the different learning styles together, consider Apologia Astronomy!

If you answered no to any of these...well, then I probably wouldn't recommend this to you. ESPECIALLY if you are wanting something that avoids a Christian worldview.

Want to Know More?

We have been enjoying our review of Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition by Apologia Educational Ministries. We've only made it through a few of the chapters, so make sure you check out some of the reviews by my fellow crew members to see other aspects of the book, we didn't cover!
Exploring Creation with Astronomy, 2nd Edition Review
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As you can see, we have been absolutely loving our experience with this curriculum. We are looking forward to continuing to use this book throughout our upcoming school year (which started TODAY!) so we can learn more about what the universe holds! 
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