June 6, 2017

Exploring Nature's Beautiful Order with Memoria Press {Curriculum Review}

We love science and we love studying nature, thus when we had the chance to review the Nature's Beautiful Order curriculum from Memoria Press, I hoped that it would be a blending of two of our favorite things and we would enjoy another product from Memoria Press
Nature's Beautiful Order by Memoria Press~ Middle School Science Curriculum {Review}

About Nature's Beautiful Order

Nature's Beautiful Order is a science (biology) curriculum intended for grades 6th through 8th. Over the course of eighteen lessons, the student is guided through the animal kingdom--starting with the invertebrates, and continuing to the top of the natural order--man--visiting the five great vertebrate classes along the way. The text consists of passages from the works of great classical naturalist's like John James Audubon, Jean-Henri Fabre, Mivart, and even Aristotle. The goal of the program is to instill in the student, the love for the beautiful and understandable of nature through the eyes of real life observationalists. 

Nature's Beautiful Order is an eighteen lesson course which includes the text, student guide, and teacher guide. No additional books or supplies are needed. The curriculum retails for $45.00.

Memoria Press carries a full line of curriculum for your classical education including their extensive award winning Latin curriculum. There is also another middle school science course The Book of Trees for your nature lover.
We have been working through this course over the last several weeks with my 11 year old who will be a 6th grader this fall.

Our Thoughts on Nature's Beautiful Order

Wow. It has been awhile since I have been challenged as I have been over the last few weeks working through this course. There is SOOOO much information about the animal world included in this curriculum--jam pack full of facts and figures to show the complexity of every creature featured--even down to the lowly sea urchin. I can officially say that I would be well versed in discussing aspects of these creatures with confidence. LOL

For a reference, we have completed six lessons as of this week, and will be finishing our seventh unit (The Frog) this week. 

This curriculum was written far advanced of anything my son could have muddled through. There were passages I had to read at least 3 times before we got the gist of what it said--not because it was poorly written, but because it was full of scientific terms and was written at more of what I would consider advanced high school/college level. I had to look up several words in the vocabulary to even know what was being discussed, and to be able to explain it properly to my son. 
Sample of the text
An example sentence: "The relation of these alternating tracts to the circle of ocular and genital plates is such that an ocular plate is placed at the summit of each ambulacrum, while a genital plate stands at the top of each interambulacrum." (Sea Urchin, pg 43)

There isn't any dictionary for terms nor is there a pronunciation guide--we had to "ask Siri" for help nearly every day! LOL

The unfamiliar and advanced vocabulary was made a bit more difficult to understand with the text's lack of diagrams or an illustration pointing out what is being discussed. The first three chapters (two on animals) had zero diagrams or illustrations--and they were frankly the most complicated creatures thus far--the lobster and cuttlefish! There were two general illustrations in chapter 4 (sea urchin), 1 picture not really related to the animal in chapter 5 (bee), two illustrations in chapter 6 (trout), and 3 illustrations in chapter 7 (frog). In each circumstance--particularly the first 3 creatures, I had to pull out an animal encyclopedia so we could actually LOOK at the creature as we spoke about it. This helped A LOT! 
one of the few illustrations
The routine we use is that I read the text out loud (only way it would work), and then we do chunks of each lesson over the course of the week. It usually works out that one lesson is completed in 4 days. This was easy to separate out because every lesson is broken into sections/topics. So we could read 1-2 sections and then fill out the questions that would be related to that section's information. Some questions (the simple answer ones) he completed by himself, but the longer answer ones, I let him dictate to me. Some of the questions required me to look in the Teacher Key to even know HOW to answer them. 
Completing his answers about the Cuttlefish
Each chapter is about 6-10 pages long. If you work through one chapter (one creature) per week, you would have 18 weeks of lessons. We were very comfortable working one creature per week with our 4-5 days a week schedule. It took us maybe 30 minutes each day (or less) to read the section and complete the questions. Memoria Press usually has lesson plans for their science curriculum--however they do not have a lesson plan for this one yet. 

So let me sum up my experience:
We have learned more about these animals than ever before and the information (once we were able to decode the vocabulary and look at photos on our own) was fascinating! This book is a Christian worldview--so every chapter pointed back to an Intelligent Designer who created with purpose, not by chance. The "normal" text, not the classical naturalist works, was MUCH easier to read than the included classical works; however, it was still not what I would necessarily say your average middle schooler--or even an advanced reader like my son--could digest on their own. Especially if READING WORDS only for instruction is not their cup of tea. I love to read--but it definitely stretched my imagination before we looked at illustrations to match what we were reading. 

The style of the curriculum is definitely "classical" (which it is designed to be) with text book for lessons and workbook for recording information. If you have a child who does well with that--this would be a curriculum to consider. If you have a child who does better with illustrations and photos and LISTENING, then you will either need to adapt the curriculum as we did (teacher reading aloud with animal encyclopedia to reference) or perhaps skip this curriculum. If however, you DO complete this curriculum, I can ASSURE you that you will be ready to play on Jeopardy with all the random biology knowledge you will now have! I am still impressed by what I can recall about the animals we have read about so far! LOL

I am not 100% sure what we are going to do with this curriculum. If we decide to complete this curriculum, we will continue as we have been doing. I will need to read aloud the chapters to my son. BUT instead of completing the workbook, we will probably just discuss the questions and record information via diagrams and drawings notebooking style. This is a way to modify this excellent curriculum to fit my needs. I think my son enjoys me reading to him--he just hated the workbook--so this might work for us with my adaptations...but we will have to see how it goes. Maybe for summer work! It's funny though--he remembers quite a bit from our reading, but the #1 thing he likes to tell people is about how people eat the reproductive organs of a sea urchin. For some reason, this just stuck with him! LOL

You would be surprised at the depth of my knowledge now on these creatures. I can wield the fancy vocabulary quite well now. I learned how to correctly pronounce Cephalopods, can wax eloquently about the cuttlefish reproduction, and describe how the plates on the sea urchin are put together. (snicker) All joking aside, I did appreciate how everything in this curriculum pointing back to God as the Maker and master designer. A definite plus for the curriculum!

If you are still unsure--please visit the website and check out the sample pages for the product! They will help you determine whether or not this product will be for you! We discovered that while this product DID blend our love of science with our love of nature, it just wasn't a "perfect" fit and required modifications.

Want to Know More About Memoria Press?

We have been reviewing Nature's Beautiful Order from Memoria Press with my oldest son over the last few weeks. You have learned our thoughts on the product--but there were seven other products from Memoria Press being reviewed by the Review Team--so please make sure you visit them as well!
Latin, Nature and Trees {Memoria Press Reviews}

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Thanks for joining me on another review. I am hoping to do a LIVE review on this product some day this week--but I can't be quite sure when yet. Hay season on the farm throws things a bit catawhompus!  

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