The dictionary says that the word apologia (…p'e-lo'jˆ-e, -je), noun, means a formal defense or justification. Matthew 12:37 states "For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
Dr. Jay Wile used his own words to develop a whole series of Apologia texts in order to defend creation science and to justify the existence of God, in spite of the world's contention that evolution is fact. Wile states on his web site that "Apologia Ministries exists to give the home-schooled student a scientific education that will help him or her make a reasoned defense of the Christian Faith." He also explains that the word apologia "appears eight times in the New Testament, in the context of people defending their faith or actions by reason and logic."
Using 1 Peter 3:15 as his mission statement, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you," Wile believes in spiritual defense. In a recent interview, Wile noted, "In general, if a student learns science well, he or she will be able to make a reasoned defense of the faith, as science strongly supports the Christian faith." In fact, Wile documents several Old-Testament rules "that are indicative of a highly-advanced scientific mind" in his book, Reasonable Faith, which also documents Wile's conversion to Christianity.
Apologia offers something for everyone, from elementary texts to advanced placement texts, all written in a conversational style that catches some students, particularly those who are used to more pedagogic texts, unawares.
Wile explained that his curriculum is purposefully not written in the same style as Bob Jones University or Abeka science materials. While BJU and Abeka design books for classroom use, Apologia materials are written directly to the student. "They assume that there is a teacher to explain the rough stuff," Wile noted. "We assume that the only teacher is the book, so we explain things more completely. This is also why we have a free help line for when the student gets stuck."
Exploring Creation with Chemistry is a college-preparatory course, but it is also designed to be the student's first or second high school science class, according to Wile's course sequencing table, which is located on the Apologia web site at www.apologia.com/store/
. Biology should be taken first, according to this table.
Chemistry should be taken the same year after the student takes Algebra 1, and while the student is taking Algebra 2 or Trigonometry.
Wile suggest that science-minded students supplement the studies with the following books:
What is Creation Science, Dr. Henry M. Morris and Dr. Gary E. Parker, Master Books, Paperback ISBN 0890510814
Environmental Overkill: Whatever Happened to Common Sense? Dixy Lee Ray, Regnery Gateway Hardcover ISBN 0895265125, Paperback ISBN 0060975989
Students who complete this course with a basic understanding of its contents should be well-prepared for a tough university chemistry course, according to Wile. An advanced placement course, entitled Exploring Creation with Advanced Chemistry, is also available as an elective for upper-level high school students.
How the Multimedia CD is Designed
The CD-ROM versions of the courses contains all the information from the textbook, and the screen looks just like the book text, adding multimedia files like word pronunciations, videos, and animations.
The multimedia CD comes in a small plastic container, about the size of a small book. This CD is not the same as the audiobooks, which are available for some of the courses, and it does not read the course to the student. It is the book on CD, formatted as a website, using a browser. You can get an idea of what the biology text looks like on the Apologia web site at www.apologiascience.com/courses/1/indx.html.
When you place the CD into the CD player, an introductory screen appears that allows you to choose to start the program, place a shortcut on your computer desktop, check the readme file and register, or exit.
From there, a browser window appears with two panes, which displays a list of modules on the left side, and text on the right side. Please note that if your web browser blocks active content, you may get a message asking you if you want to show these files. The student notes section mentions a login/password to get even more "book extras," which takes students to a web site full of links for each lesson. This perk is worth weeks of research for a homeschooling parent.
Advanced students who have the time and the ability for additional learning should be able to use these online resources to give them access to advanced subject matter.
The multimedia CD also comes with a Solutions and Tests CD, which contains PDF versions of the tests and solutions for each module. This CD is so useful, I wish that Apologia would sell it separately from the multimedia CD, instead of or in addition to the solutions and test manual.
Wile noted that the multimedia CDs inspired the new use of companion CDs to go along with the textbooks. "We started with the complete curriculum on CD," he explained, "because educational research indicates that the computer medium is more effective for some students.
"We wanted to make sure that students had such an option, since some would clearly benefit from it. A homeschooling mother suggested that we should take the multimedia from the full course CD and put it on a separate, cheaper CD so that those with the book could enjoy the multimedia. We never considered that before, but we saw the merit of the suggestion."
How the Book is Designed
Those who have never used Apologia may need a short primer on the design of Apologia CDs. The chemistry online book is divided into 16 modules, each which should take about two weeks to complete, if a student devotes 45 minutes to an hour every school day to studying science. Students are encouraged to memorize the text in boldface type, as well as all formulas. All in all, the class should take about 32 weeks to complete, giving parents a little wiggle room with the usual 36-week schedule.
Wile begins the chemistry course by asking "What is chemistry?" and goes on to explain how "Chemistry is, quite simply, the study of matter. Of course, this definition doesn't do us much good unless we know what matter is. So, in order to understand what chemistry is, we first need to define matter," and immediately goes into the first experiment, showing how air has mass.
The online text emphasizes the vocabulary of chemistry and provides the student with a strong background in the scientific method and, time and money permitting, a variety of chemistry labs.
Topics covered in chemistry include lessons on measurement and units, unit conversions, energy, heat, and temperature (including the First Law of Thermodynamics), atoms and molecules, ionic and covalent bonds, classifying matter and its changes, the mole concept, stoichiometry, atomic and molecular structure, polyatomic ions and molecular geometry, thermochemistry, thermodynamics, kinetics, acids and bases, redox reactions, solutions, atomic structure, Lewis structures, molecular geometry, the gas laws, and equilibrium.
The course is NOT divided into daily or weekly lesson plans, which on the surface can cause a bit of confusion to parents who are used to a more structured and controlled program. This is more of a text than a built-in daily or weekly curriculum.
The free-flowing text, however, allows students to go along as they are able. This design is great for older students who are self-motivated, but can cause problems for more immature students who don't stay on track without a little nudge. To mitigate those problems, other authors have developed lesson plans for Apologia. Two of these are Lynn Erickson, who sells her lesson plans as 8 1/2 x 11 booklets, and Donna Young, who offers several PDF versions of lesson plans as free downloads on her web site, along with a CD, which can be purchased. Information on these materials is included at the bottom of this review.
Each module has On Your Own questions interspersed throughout the text, which students are to answer when they come upon them. The nice thing about the multimedia version of this course is that students can answer the questions directly into a text box, click the Answer button, and get the answer immediately. The online book also provides a section entitled "Back o' the Book," also known as the glossary and index, along with appendices containing tables and formulae, and a complete list of lab supplies. The glossary and index both link back to the text.
Review questions and practice problems are found in the separate Solutions and Tests CD, which comes in the Apologia package.
The CD also contains module tests and cumulative tests, for parents who want to give students a quarterly, semester, or final exam. Wile strongly recommends (in bold text) that parents test their students after completing each module.
The Physics Solutions and Tests CD contains teacher's notes, which explain a point system for grading the tests and the course for a yearly grade. Wile recommends that parents include only tests grades and laboratory notebook grades, but not On Your Own or Study Guide questions.
Comparing to First Edition
The second edition of the chemistry CD has several differences from the first edition, which was published in 1995 as Wile's first book. There is obviously more color in this edition, which may help students who are more visually-inspired. Drawings from the first edition, particularly when discussing microscopic structures, have been replaced by photographs or other drawings that are of better quality.
Wile reorganized several sections of the book, based on many student questions over the past several years, so the text in this second edition is now more understandable, with clearer explanations and/or more details. In addition, more practice problems were added for each module, as well as detailed solutions to those problems.
Examples are highlighted in purple, and experiments in green. Equations are explained in painstaking detail, written in a conversational yet very informal manner.
Please note that because of the differences between the first and second editions, students in a group setting cannot use both. Wile still makes the first edition available for homeschoolers in support groups that use the first edition
Some parents may be concerned about lab experiments, particularly if their children are college-bound (many colleges require at least one lab class on a high school transcript). "We make labs possible at home," Wile explained. "Sometimes they are expensive and annoying, but they are at least possible."
The Apologia labs are known for their accessibility to home use. Along those lines, Wile stated, "In essence, laboratory exercises are not central to learning science. They are fun and interesting, and they often provide visuals for processes that you would otherwise not be able to visualize, but the people who wrote the science we study now (Einstein, Dirac, etc.) never saw a lab sometimes until graduate school. They seemed to learn science pretty well without the benefit of laboratory exercises.
"Since the benefits of laboratory exercises are tangential, there is no reason to invest an enormous amount of money in them. Everyday items can demonstrate the same basic principles as expensive equipment."
Wile explained that while the laboratory experiments were designed for the home, some could be easier if specialized equipment was used. Consequently, Apologia makes lab equipment sets available on its web site to help make labs more convenient for the student and more affordable for the parent. However, all chemicals used in this course consist of household materials such as table salt, baking soda, dish soap, vinegar, and so on.
An extra laboratory kit is available online, which will add about a dozen experiments to the course. The extra labs are optional for those students who want more laboratory experience. Wile does encourage their use, particularly for strong science students. "They will be beneficial to the student (especially if he or she is science-oriented) but they are not absolutely necessary," he stated, noting that if cost is a stumbling block, the basic labs will suffice."
He also encourages the creation of a lab notebook for experiments. "This notebook serves two purposes," Wile states in the text. "First, as the student writes about the experiment in the notebook, he or she will be forced to think through all of the concepts that were explored in the experiment. This will help the student cement them into his or her mind.
"Second, certain colleges might actually ask for some evidence that your student did, indeed have a laboratory component to his or her science course. The notebook will not only provide such evidence but will also show the college administrator the quality of the science instruction that you provided to your student."
Wile suggests that lab experiments be conducted by having the student:
1. Read the experiment through in its entirety to gain a quick understanding.
2. Start a new page in the laboratory notebook. "The first page should be used to write down all the data taken during the experiments and perform any exercises discussed in the experiment.
3. Write a brief report right after the page where the data and exercises were written, explaining what was done and what was learned, so that anyone could pick up the book and reproduce the experiment.
Notwithstanding the labs, Wile believes that high school students should be able to learn the science materials on their own, with little help from a teacher or parent, so parents shouldn't be overly concerned with their own abilities. However, he also cautions parents who attempt to teach their children at this level when they have little knowledge of the subject. Instead, he encourages co-learning. Parents should spend time with their students while learning the science alongside them, or at the very least "find one or two serious peers that can work with the child on the subject."
Wile first became interested in home education when he was a professor at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. He was inspired and motivated to write his Apologia series after he discovered parents were sending their students back to school because they were afraid to teach science. "I wrote our courses to keep that from happening," Wile explained." The only real reason I wrote this curriculum was for the parents," he continued. "The studies and my experiences indicated that homeschooled students were learning science VERY well without my help.
"I personally think that the average homeschooled student can learn from most curricula that are out there. A good curriculum simply makes it easier for both the parent and the student. I hope that we have done that with our curriculum."
Wile also teaches online classes through The Potter's School.
There are several ancillary products, endorsed by Dr. Wile, which go along with the Apologia products. Some of the better known ones include:
Lynn Ericson's Lesson Plans
Ericson, a homeschooling mother, developed these lesson plans for her own children. The plans divide the Apologia text on a daily schedule through 36 weeks. They are available by emailing her at firstname.lastname@example.org, Rainbow Resource, Tobin's Lab, or Homeschool Bookworm.
Nature's Workshop Plus
Nature's Workshop creates the biology and chemistry kits that Wile sells on his web site and also provides art, drawing, craft, and hobby items on its web site.
Home Training Tools
Home Training Tools also offers Apologia science kits as well as other scientific equipment.
Carla Hardwick's site has a variety of science experiment kits that include materials for general science, physical science, biology, chemistry, elementary astronomy, and elementary botany. Her site also offers a free three-year lesson plan (soon to be changed to a four-year plan) on Creation Science, using the first eleven chapters of Genesis as a foundation.
Nancy Paula Hasseler wrote a book that goes along with Exploring Creation with Biology (either edition). It provides the Latin and Greek roots for a variety of scientific words.
The Apologia elementary science author now has her own web site, which offers a newsletter, entitled Jeannie's Journal, along with downloads, links, and free drawings. The site also includes free notebooking pages for the elementary Apologia texts.
Visitors can find free Apologia lesson plans, lab reports, downloads, and other helpful information on Donna Young's web site, which came highly recommended by Wile.