Friday, February 8, 2013

Review: Apologia Zoology 2 and Notebooking Journal


Curriculum Review: Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day from Apologia Educational Ministries 

PhotobucketOver the past few weeks, we have had the opportunity to try out the Textbook and Regular Notebooking Journal of the Apologia Zoology 2 course. The coursebook was hardbound and retails for $39, while the notebooking journal was soft covered and spiral bound and retails for $24.

I had heard that each of the books could stand alone, and did not have to be done in order, so I specifically requested this book even though we had not done Zoology 1. We had been studying sea creatures in our other coursework, and I knew the kids would be excited about it. After I had ordered it, I began to worry that I might wish that I had requested Zoology 1 first. It turned out to be absolutely fine, as we were able to jump right in.

My first impression of the book was that the text seemed really simple.  While it had a few good illustrations on each page, it was not full of graphic design, no colorful text boxes, etc. I was worried my kids wouldn't be that "into it." As I read the first pages to them aloud (just to get a feel) I realized this was well written, and completely engaging. They were excited!

This course is geared for grades K-6. Tyler and Emma are in 5th and 4th grades (respectively), and so we often let them share coursework. They were happy to set aside their other sciences for a month to try this out. Every day they sat and did the reading assignments together, and then we all (including my Kindergartner and 1st grader) participated in the fun experiments. Tyler and Emma also shared the Notebooking journal, although I would possibly order a second copy next time.

As we worked through the first few lessons, I was amazed at a few things. The text offered really rich information, which I felt would be difficult to retain.  But, after using the notebooking journal immediately to write their thoughts on what they had learned, my kids actually remembered it!

The second thing I noticed was nothing short of a miracle. Tyler was writing in the Notebooking journal. This is the kid who cries every day when his language book asks him to think of new adjectives for sentences? That is the  level of creativity he struggles with... and he was writing! He seemed to have no trouble engaging with the notebooking journal, because he was just repeating facts that he'd just read. Tricky book, getting my kid to write and retain knowledge. So sneaky! ;)

PhotobucketActually, not so sneaky. The author notes in the front cover of the Notebooking Journal:

"The concept of notebooking is not a new one. In fact, keeping notebooks was the primary way the learned men of our past educated themselves.... Studies show that we remember only 5% of what we hear, 50% of what we see and hear, and 90% of what we see, hear, and do." 
-Jeannie Fulbright (Zoology 2, Notebooking Journal, page 3)
Of course, my favorite part of the notebooking journal was the schedule in the front that had the book and notebook broken into daily bites with a way to get through the 17 lessons and match the appropriate lessons with the right notebook pages, and with the right activities. All the guesswork was gone. I quickly penciled in dates in the margins, so we could see right where we should be. The lessons are laid out so you can do it two days a week, completing one lesson every two weeks. In a typical school year of 34 weeks you can easily do finish book.

We stepped up the pace and did a lesson per week, so we could give this a good try before sharing the review. We did the book 4 days a week, and spent about 30 to 45 minutes on it. I was amazed at how easy it was for me as the teacher to facilitate. Really, do not buy the book without getting the notebooking journal, this made the whole thing for us.

I think that one reason that it is so fun, and yet so well absorbed, is all the fun experiments we tried. We did not have to buy anything to do these experiments,  as most of the supplies were things we already had (or could improvise). When studying ocean currents, we used a hair dryer and showed how the wind effected the water currents (see above photo). We also made a fun little booklet where the kids made notes about aquatic animals (left), and many other projects and hand's on activities.

It also worked well for me that this was not grade specific, as Tyler and Emma (being only one grade apart), benefited greatly  from doing it together. And really, everyone was able to join in on some level. The kids enjoyed this part of their school day, so much so that they have requested we stick with this and not go back to our previous Science curriculum.

I was talking about this book with another homeschooling mom and her comment to me was about the depth of the curriculum. It does not skim the subject, but delves deeply into it and covers it completely. Yet is doesn't go over their heads. By the end of this year we will know more than I could have ever hoped about ocean life and sciences.

Bottom Line:

I like this curriculum because:

  • It knocks it out of the ballpark when it comes to retaining the information, especially if you invest in using the notebooking journal.
  • It was fun and easy to do the experiments with everyday household supplies.
  • My kids were excited to do it every day. 
  • It covers the subject material completely and deeply.
  • The lesson schedule in the front of the notebooking journal, the planning was done for me.

I did not like:

  • With all that depth, I did not feel it explored the broad range of the sciences in a very clear way, or in a way that identified the different scientific arenas. This is important to me for the upper grades as they prepare for high school. 
  • That's it, I could only find one thing I did not like!

Disclaimer:  I received a free copy of this product through the Schoolhouse Review Crew in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions I have expressed are my own or those of my family. I am disclosing this in accordance with the FTC Regulations.

Click to read more reviews from the Schoolhouse Review Crew


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  1. We are using the anatomy and physiology book without the notebooking journal. I'm beginning to wonder if this was a mistake.

    1. It was great for us, but I've had other friends who had younger children and felt it was TOO much. It might be different with the A&P too... Thanks for coming by!

  2. We are enjoying Swimming Creatures, too! The notebooking journal is a valuable piece of the puzzle for us also. Great review! =)

  3. We loved the Swimmers, too!! As for the notebook - we probably only completed about 1/3 - 1/2 of the activities (Jude's in Kindergarten), and he still retained a lot. It's definitely a benefit, but I don't think the course is pointless without it.

  4. Thanks for visiting my blog today. You did a great job on the review.

    1. Thanks Diane! I'm glad to have found you as a blogging friend and encouragement!

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on Zoology 2. We may need to try it next!

  6. Laura,

    This is really a great review! I really like all the photos of the experiments you share! Very well done!


  7. What a great review! We are using the Human Anatomy and Physiology and I too noted how well my daughter was retaining the information! It's really great. I am considering using some of the Zoology next year so wanted to see what you all thought about it. Good to know, this was one was a winner!


    1. It really was so much fun! Thanks for stopping in! I'm looking forward to A&P too.

  8. Thank you for this helpful review! I was trying to decide between the notebook and a lapbook, and have decided on the notebook for sure now. Now I just have to decide between the Junior and Regular versions. :) I have a Kindergartner and advanced reader/reluctant writer 3rd grader. I'm trying to decide if I want to do Junior for both or Junior for Kindergartner and Regular for 3rd grader.

    1. If you click the link to the other reviews, you can see what others thought of the junior notebook. I thought this was great and I would just cut back on the writing for a reluctant writer (my Tyler is that way too!)

      Thanks for your kind words, and for coming by!


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