TOS Review: Apologia Marine Biology

Apologia Educational MinistriesOne of the things I find complicated about teaching high school is getting in all the elective credits. Sometimes it can be difficult to find interesting courses to fill those needs for your child. However, I do have a kid who loves the ocean, so the Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage set with the Audio CD from Apologia Educational Ministries seemed like a good fit for us!

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage SetThe Advantage set itself comes with the student textbook, notebook, and tests and answer keys. We loved the full-color textbook which has a great layout on each page. The pictures/charts/diagrams etc help break up the text, which is great for my son who has trouble focusing when there is nothing but words on the page. This program features 16 modules on topics like: Life in the Sea, Marine Invertebrates, Marine Ecology, Coral Reefs, and much more.

Each chapter includes a few experiments that can pretty much be completed with things you have at home. I like this feature since purchasing a lot of very specific items for labs is often expensive. Directions are clear and easy to follow, meaning you can easily do the labs even if you do not have a lot of science experience. There are questions sprinkled throughout the chapter that help students articulate what they are learning, and each chapter features a review at the end that your child can complete before they take the test.

Apologia Marine Biology is a creation-based program, which I like, and interspersed in the chapter are sections called “Creation Connection” which links what is being learned in the chapter to evidence for creation. If you did not want to focus on this, you could skip this part, but I felt it led to very good discussions between my son and I and helped him sharpen his viewpoint on creation in general.

The appendices offer a glossary, additional study guides, and a list of required lab materials. Basically, my son and I would work our way through the chapter, with him doing the reading and answering the questions, and when we got to the end of the chapter, he would complete his review and take the test. If he did not do well on the test I would have him go back and complete the additional study guide for that chapter.

One thing that helped him complete the reading on his own is the Marine Biology 2nd Edition Audio CD. Read by Marissa Leinart, the CD offers a complete word-by-word reading of each chapter. This is great for reluctant readers like my son who are often intimidated by the sheer amount of reading in a textbook. Ms. Leinart reads at a comfortable, steady pace with appropriate volume and inflection so kids don’t get bored. The CD also offers and introduction and student notes section as well. It is important to note that this is an MP3 CD so you will need a compatible device to use it.

Marine Biology 2nd Ed Audio CDAnother really good part of the Advantage set is the student notebook. Seriously, I cannot stress enough how, whenever you get any Apologia program you should ALWAYS purchase the student notebook. It is so worth it! First of all, the notebook includes a daily schedule with reading/labs/questions all spelled out for you, which is in itself a huge bonus! The notebook also includes all the questions in the chapter, so your child has one place to record all their answers and you aren’t chasing papers around. Lab forms and chapter reviews are also included, so you really don’t need to purchase additional notebooks/binders etc. There is plenty of room for students to write and take notes too.

Marine Biology 2nd Edition Advantage SetThe test book and answer key are also a great component of the program. By high school, kids need to get used to taking tests and I don’t want to have to make them up on my own, it’s just additional work I don’t need. A complete answer key makes it easy for me to grade everything at a glance, so I know if we need further discussion or study on a topic or if we can just move on.

Altogether, we thought Marine Biology was great, and for less than $100 for the main set, it also has a great price! To learn more, connect with Apologia on social media here:

Apologia on Facebook

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TOS Review: Fascinating Education (Fascinating Biology)

Fascinating EducationAll kids learn differently, and one of the great things about homeschooling is how you can customize your child’s education to meet their needs. So, one of my kids is a fantastic book-learner. You can just hand him a textbook, tell him where to start, and send him on his way. My other one, however, really struggles with textbooks. Too many words on a page, too big, too intimidating etc. So, I have learned to find alternate methods of teaching for him, including online learning. For this review, we got to check out Fascinating Biology from Fascinating Education.

Fascinating  PhysicsThe course consists of 18 lessons that include topics like energy, nutrients, reproduction, adaptations, plants, and more. Each lesson offers a narrated power-point style video with a navigation bar on the side. I really appreciated this part because it was easy to break the lessons up if you wanted (for kids like mine with a short attention span) and pick up right where you left off. If you have a child who is not an audio/visual learner, Fascinating Education also gives you a word-by-word script of the lessonn with the pictures included so your child could read the lesson instead. These are also handy for reviewing before taking the tests.

biology 1

The tests are basically quizzes that review the information in the lesson with multiple choice questions. Students receive their grade immediately and if they did not do well, they are given the chance to review the test and retake it. I really really like the review part, because that is what I would have my son do anyway if he had trouble with a test in any subject. I think giving your kids a chance to review where they went wrong helps them learn the correct information and then they can retake the test afterwards. You can also print PDFs of the tests if you prefer to use paper and pencil.

biology 3

As far as how we used Fascinating Biology, it was pretty easy. I would look at the lesson for the week and decide how much my son would do each day. One thing to know about this program is that some lessons can be long (45 minutes). If you have a child who can focus on a presentation for that long, then you’re fine. If not, you can break it into sections using the menu like I did. My son usually did at least three sections per day, depending on the rest of our schedule. It will probably take us a little longer to complete it that way, but I don’t mind. I’m more concerned about making sure he really understands the information.

biology 2

After each lesson, we would talk about what he learned, and I could use the script at this point to follow along and make sure he knew what he was talking about. The tab on the side also includes a glossary of terms that you could use to have your child keep a biology vocabulary notebook if you wanted. Once he finished an entire lesson, we would review the key terms and then he would take the test. If he did well, we would move on, if not, I always had him review the test and also the script to go over those concepts that he missed. If you want, you can also print the tests, which will give you the score, and list of questions which tell you which ones your child got right and which ones they got wrong.

One thing to note, the program at this point does not save test scores, nor do they keep running grades, so you will have to keep track of that yourself. Also, while some of the tests include questions from multiple lessons, there are no formal mid-term or final exams. Since Fascinating Education has made some changes to their programs, there have been a few technichal issues with sound and things like that, but I didn’t really feel that was a big issue. Their team is very responsive and works hard to resolve problems quickly, and I find it is not uncommon to run into hiccups when using computer-based programs in general.

I feel like Fascinating Biology is a great overview of a biology course. After trying and trying to get my son through a traditional textbook course, I was really happy to find something that worked well for him. I think he is getting a fantastic grasp of biology concepts, and will have a great foundation to move on from.

To see what other members of the crew had to say about this product, and the others we got to check out, click here:

Biology, Chemistry & Physics {Fascinating Education Reviews}

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TOS Review: Novare Science & Math

Novare Science & MathSo, how do you feel about high school science? I’ll be honest, when I was in school I loved my English and writing classes, but math and science, not so much. So, teaching upper level science is one of those things that kind of gives me some anxiety. I’ve tried many different courses with my boys, and to be honest, they all stress me out a little. For this review, I got to check out General Chemistry from Novare Science & Math, and I think I may have found something that will work for us!

Novare General ChemistryFirst of all, this is a very complete Chemistry program aimed at students in 11th grade. This is because they need to either have completed, or be working through, Algebra 2 in order to do the math in the program. My son (a junior) is working on Algebra 2 right now, and he didn’t have any problems with the math (at least so far).  General Chemistry, wirtten by John D. Mays, is a faith-based science program, which I appreciate. Mays himself is a Christian and a scientist and does not believe the two need to be mutually exclusive, which I agree with.

The textbook itself is really well done and is definitely a book that will last a long time, in case you have upcoming students you want to use it with. It consists of 12 chapters with topics like isotopes, molecular structure, metallic bonding, dissolution and more. The philosophy behind Novare’s programs really focuses on student mastery of the concepts they learn. This means students will dig in-depth on their topics, and also repeat previously learned topics on reviews to make sure they really engage with the information and retain it for the future.

Each chapter in the color textbook begins with objectives which the students are supposed to read and use as goals for each chapter. The idea is that by the time they finish the chapter they will have mastered each objective. Chapters are broken into sections, which does make it easier to set up a schedule for the week. The text itself is well-written and easy to follow. Since the sections are small, my son didn’t feel to anxious about digging into it (large textbooks with tons of reading intimidate him). All of the math computations are fully explained, with examples, so students get a chance to really practice what they are learning.

At the end of each chapter students complete their chapter exercises, and these are again divided by section, which makes it easy for your child to go back to a specific place in the chapter to review concepts as needed. In addition to the textbook, the General Chemistry Resource CD includes chapter tests and quizzes, solutions for problems, and mid-term and final exams. Each chapter has at least two quizzes to give students a chance to test themselves on their own knowledge before moving onto the chapter test.

To complete the course, you can also get the Chemistry Experiments book which is definitely on my list of things to purchase as we move forward. This particular edition is designed for homeschoolers and includes experiments that are easier to perform at home rather than in a lab setting. Doing experiments is a big part of high school math, and if you’re like me, you definitely need a guide to make those happen!

So, what did we think of this chemistry program from Novare Science & Math? We really liked it. I appreciated how easy it was to use and my son didn’t feel it was boring or too difficult to understand. Basically, I would look at each chapter and divide the workload up over 1-2 weeks. For weeks that included a lot more math we might work at a slower pace becuase I wanted to make sure my son really understood what he was doing. Other weeks, we might go a little faster. I liked having the multiple quizzes because I would have my son take them and then go back and correct his mistakes before using them as a study guide for the test.

At this age, I feel testing is important, as it is something kids will need to be more and more familiar with as they get older. Also, having the tests and exams ready to go made it much easier for me to assign grades and keep up with my son’s progress. As far as the math goes, that is another area I am not really fluent in, however, the computations in this program are really well-explained and with the solutions it was even possible for me to follow!

The price for the Chemistry materials varies depending on what you get, but with the textbook and resource CD coming in at less than $120 I think it’s a great deal! To learn more, connect with Novare on social media here:

Novare Science & Math on Facebook

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TOS Review:

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

Let’s face it, homeschooling can be costly, and in years when you don’t have much of a budget, you have to scramble to put together curriculum for your kids. Some moms find this really easy, but I am not one of them. That’s why I was really excited to check out the CHSH Download Club from A subscription gives you access to tons of curriculum from Kindergarten to High School in just about any subject!

Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

The way the download club works is that you find curriculum or other things you want to use and just download them to your computer. You can search for items by topic, grade, and even look for seasonal activities by month. In addition, CHSH-Teach also offers organizational tools like a printable planner, gradekeeper, and calendars.

My son is in 10th grade, and at first I wasn’t sure what the website would have to offer high schoolers, but I was in for a very pleasant surprise. For starters, they have complete curriculums for science, English, math, and social studies. The Biology curriculum gave us an entire Biology textbook with 10 units and suggested labs. It had an accompanying teacher’s guide that even included quizzes for each unit! It basically had everything you need to teach Biology except for the lab equipment. The textbook read like most any other textbook I have seen, and includes questions and review activities too. Now, I feel I should note that CHSH stands for Christian HomeSchool Hub. However, some of the materials you will find are secular. For the Biology text, they give parents a heads up about the pages that discuss evolution, so you can plan to address that ahead of time, which I appreciate.

In addition to Biology, the site offers Integrated Science, Physical science, Marine science and Natural science. So you definitely have a lot of options and could use CHSH-Teach for high schooler across multiple grades.

For English, you have several options. First, there are a multitude of classic books you can download to have your child read. Organized by author, you can choose your favorites and then just get some literature guides to go with them. I picked a few of my favorites to start with (The Emerald City of Oz, Little Men, Jo’s Boys) and then started planning for my son. They offer everything from Lewis Carroll, to Dickens, to Jack London and so much more. I think you could probably get your child through high school lit just using these books.

For writing, you can use the English and Composition courses, which are offered for all four years of high school. It offers lessons on all types of writing, from technical writing to persuasive, to speeches. The books also include grammar lessons interspersed with the writing lessons. The teacher’s guide includes suggestions for ways to flesh out the lessons and rubrics for grading writing. It also has an assessment for each unit and answer keys to the questions in the student book.


Other fun activities you can find on CHSH-Teach include lapbook style activities built around seasonal themes like pumpkins for fall and a 9-11 activity for older students. You can use some of these activities for special holiday unit studies and flesh them out with books from the library. CHSH-Teach is constantly updating their site with new downloads, so it’s like a surprise when you log on and find out what’s new. I think this is a fantastic resource for homeschool families, because the wealth of information it offers is amazing. You could really use the site to school multiple students across pretty much all subjects, and since a yearly subscription costs less than $30, it is a great value. You can even get a lifetime subscription for less than $100.

To learn more about CHSH-Teach, connect with them on social media here: on Facebook on Twitter on Pinterest

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Christian HomeSchool Hub {Download Club}

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TOS Review: Memoria Press Astronomy

Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press ReviewI’ve always loved looking at the stars, and my youngest son does too. When he was about 10 he saved up money to purchase his own (beginner) telescope, and he loves field trips to the planetarium. He even has an app on his phone that helps him identify the stars in the sky. So, I figured he would really enjoy the Book of Astronomy Set from Memoria Press, and I thought it would make for a fun science study for us.

While this program is aimed at grades 3-5, my son is actually in middle school, and I feel it suited him just fine. The information is pretty in-depth, and the memorization component definitely requires some skill. Plus, you can flesh it out even more if you can get your hands on a copy of D’Aulaires Greek Myths and you could certainly add in a research component for older students if you wanted to.

The book opens with a copy of the poem The Pleiades by Amy Lowell, which students work on memorizing throughout the program. It also offers some basic guidelines for how to teach the program, but doesn’t go so far as to give you a daily schedule. For me, this is nice, because I kind of like to set things up on my own, and I tend to tweak schedules anyway. The schedules suggests daily recitation and review that asks for an overhead projector. Of course, I don’t use an overhead projector, so we skipped that part, but it really wasn’t a big deal since it was just my son and I working through this together.

Throughout the course of Astronomy, students will memorize the 15 brightest stars, the planets, and the 12 Zodiac constellations, which is a lot of information. The student book is divided into four units and also includes an appendix with definitions, facts about the planets, a pronunciation guide and more. The Teacher’s Guide includes all the pages in the student guide, but with the answers.

The first thing you study is an explanation of some basic astronomy, touching on what the constellations are, how the Earth moves, how stars got their names, and a discussion about star magnitudes. Then you get an intro to the 15 brightest stars before moving on to study individual constellations. Kids start practicing their memorization right away, recording the names of the stars in a chart that will repeat throughout the book.

I really like the way the lessons are set up. First of all, they are relatively short, so it’s easy to complete a couple at a time in about 20 minutes. There is not too much reading in the workbook, so it was pretty easy for my reluctant reader son to complete on his own. I also thought it was really cool how they have students trace the stars and label the brightest stars in each constellation. Even for me, I could see how this would be helpful in actually identifying the same constellations in the sky (something I can honestly admit, I have a hard time doing with my naked eye). As students complete the lesson, they learn both the Roman and English names for the constellation and they continually fill in their star chart.

After a few lessons, students review what they have learned and the end of each unit also has a larger review. These were good practice and allowed my son to cement what he had learned before moving on. We are getting into unit two right now, and I look forward to continuing this over the summer. It’s easy to do, but a lot of fun, and spending summer nights checking out the stars is a great way to hang out! To learn more about this program, connect with Memoria Press on social media here:
Memoria Press on Facebook

Memoria Press on Twitter

Memoria Press on Instagram

Memoria Press on LinkedIn

Memoria Press on Pinterest

Memoria Press on Google+

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Logic, Greek Myths and Astronomy Memoria Press Review

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TOS Review: Fascinating Education

While my boys and I enjoyed doing science together at the elementary and even middle school levels, I am finding high-school level science less enjoyable. I am more of a “unit study” type girl, and chemistry and physics in particular, were not the type of science I particularly enjoy. So, when offered the chance to review the Fascinating Physics course from Fascinating Education, I was excited. Any online course that might take some of the pressure off of me is a welcome addition to my homeschool!

The course consists of 15 lessons on topics like movement, vectors, waves, motion, and electrical currents and charges. Lessons follow the same basic pattern with each lesson starting with a video, accompanied by a script and a test. Now I should note that the physics program is not exactly creation-based. It does begin it’s introduction with the Big Bang theory. This was not a problem for us, but I wanted to mention it so my readers would be aware. The videos include graphics and narration, and many of the images are quite breathtaking. Dr. Margulies also uses a lot of graphs and other concrete organizers to explain difficult concepts, which I (and my son) found very effective.

He also weaves stories into the lessons to make complicated information more accessible. For example, in the lesson on movement, to help explain the concepts of velocity he engages the students in solving a mystery, and determining the speed of a suspect’s car. This was much more interesting to my son than a typical math calculation. Combined with the graphics in the presentation, he felt he had a pretty solid understanding of how to solve velocity problems by the end of the lesson.

Now, another thing to note is that the lessons are intended for high school students, and therefore, they are a bit long. The presentations ran around 45 minutes apiece (so far). For my son, this was a little too long to sit still, so we broke the presentations into two sessions. This really isn’t too difficult because they have a convenient menu on the side with a heading for each section of the presentation, so you can basically just make a note of where you left off (we set a timer for 20 minutes on the first day) and then just pick up from there the next day.

For students who learn better by reading, or students (or parents!) who want notes to refer back to later, there is also a complete script of the lesson with the slides included as well. I found these useful as a review. So basically, my son would spend two days (or sometimes more depending on our week) watching a presentation. Then I would ask him to recap the lesson to me orally, while I kind of looked over the script. From there, I usually had him write some kind of written summary of the lesson, before moving onto the test.

Tests consisted of a series of multiple choice questions related to the lesson. At the end of the quiz the student’s score is calculated, with a passing score considered to be 80 percent or higher. The program does not keep a running record of scores, but it is pretty easy to write them down yourself. After finishing the test, students can review their answers, and retry the test if they want. There is also a video explanation for each test question, which was particularly helpful for the computation problems.

In general, if my son performed poorly on a particular test, I would have him review it, and then take it again the next week to see if he could improve his score. At this point, we still have quite a few lessons left, as we are moving through the course at our own rate. Depending on how advanced your child is at science and/or math, you might move through at a faster pace. For us, this will probably take at least a semester, if not more, to finish.

Fascinating Education courses cost $79.00 for one year of access.

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TOS Review: Purposeful Design

Purposeful Design Review

Good creation resources are a benefit to any homeschool. I am always on the lookout resources that will attract my kids attention and explain things in a way they understand. For this review, we got to check out the book Purposeful Design: Understanding the Creation from author Jay Schabacker at Purposeful Design.

This book is suitable for all ages and features seven chapters, each one devoted to a particular day of creation. With over 90 pages, it is chock full of information, plenty to start a unit study if you wanted. What struck me first about the book is the beautiful photographs that accompany the text. From landscapes, to people, to animals, Schabacker brings you the world in vivid color. The book provides easy to understand explanations for scientific topics like the water cycle and the seasons, which make this a perfect resource for moms with littles. However, it also provides a great jumping off point for further study for older children, making it great for use with multiple ages.

Purposeful Design Review

Bible verses are spread out throughout the book and provide an excellent source of memory work. I appreciated how Purposeful Design makes it clear how exact our world is and how radically different it would be if just one thing were out of place. For example, one section talked about how Earth is perfectly tilted on its axis, and discusses the consequences if that tilt were off by even a little bit. To me, that just reaffirms that our world was deliberately created.

In addition to the book, parents can download a free curriculum to go with it at the Purposeful Design website. The PDF file contains questions for each chapter, additional verses to memorize and think about, as well as discussion questions you can use to further make the connection between creation and God. For younger kids, you could do a lot of this orally, but for older children, you could easily print it out and use it as a review for each chapter. I felt like the curriculum was a great addition to the book, especially if you wanted to use it as a starting point for a unit study. When combined with other books about the stars, planets, plants, etc. and maybe a couple of episodes of The Magic School Bus or documentaries, you could definitely create something to last for at least a semester.

Of course, this is also an excellent choice to simply add to your bookshelf. Use it as a read aloud, or put it in your book basket for your kids to explore on their own. It is full of factual information which makes it a great reference. You could also use it to supplement other curriculum you are using if you are studying topics like astronomy, earth science, or life science.

In 2013 Purposeful Design won the Illumination Book Awards bronze medal, and in 2014 it was awarded a bronze medal in the Coffee Table category by the Catholic Press Association. I think it definitely deserves those awards, and is well worth the price of $18.95.

To learn more about Purposeful Design connect with the author here:

Purposeful Design Blog

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