Life has been crazy. Here’s how we put elementary science on autopilot.
So, it’s been a
little bit whole lot bananas around here trying to homeschool my bookish daughter with a high-needs infant in the mix — one who doesn’t tolerate baby carriers, has reflux, needs to be held in very specific ways, doesn’t nap unless he’s held, has mostly no interest in gripping toys, and is homebound (hello, preemie NICU graduate + flu season).
And at six months now since baby was born, advice like “just take a break” doesn’t fly. (Truthfully, that never works with my intense, academic-minded daughter anyway. Breaks in routine mean a breakdown in behavior.)
So as I planned our year, I knew dropping science wasn’t an option.
I knew we needed
- a steady rhythm,
- a way to keep putting one foot in front of the other,
- a way to keep progressing even when our learning days present less than ideal conditions.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a half-price discount on the Apologia Zoology 2 Junior Notebooking Journal from Timberdoodle in exchange for writing and publishing this post. I chose this product because I’ve used other Apologia journals before in our homeschool, and I love them!
Apologia science (from Timberdoodle!) has been key in streamlining our science studies.
This year, our second year of being so far inland away from the ocean, we decided to dive in to marine biology, using Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day from Timberdoodle. As the Tennessee rain falls (again!) I’m reminded marine biology is not quite the same as a day at the beach. ;) But in between all the gray days and mucky weather, getting lost in the world of corals and cnidarians and cephalopods has been therapeutic.
Are you already familiar with Apologia’s elementary science? The Young Explorers series — of which Zoology 2 is a part — is written in a refreshingly conversational style. Each title in the series is suitable for Kindergarten through 6th, making it a particularly attractive choice if you’re teaching a range of elementary-aged kids.
The choices are as follows —
- Zoology 1 (Flying Creatures)
- Zoology 2 (Swimming Creatures aka Marine Biology)
- Zoology 3 (Land Animals)
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Chemistry and Physics
We’ve already completed Astronomy, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Chemistry and Physics, so it was on to Zoology 2 for us.
And you guys, marine biology for kids has been so much fun!
We’re using this audiobook version of the Zoology 2 / marine biology textbook. (It has been a phenomenal timesaver — don’t miss my review.)
To make things super easy, I’m pairing the audiobook with this Zoology 2 Junior Notebooking Journal, also from Timberdoodle.
Seriously, this combo is the magic duo when it comes to putting science on autopilot.
My daughter can slip her headphones on, tap play, and work in the notebooking journal while listening to author Jeannie Fulbright read the book aloud. Meanwhile, I’m wrangling Lochlan, eating one-handed, or pulling more laundry out of the dryer.
Life goes on. School goes on. Science goes on.
So what exactly is an Apologia Notebooking Journal?
The notebooking journal is a consumable resource, designed to be used alongside the textbook (or in our case, the audiobook.) You can choose from two versions:
- junior notebooking journals, for younger students (grades 1-3 or ages 6-8), and
- “regular” notebooking journals, for upper elementary students (grades 4-6 or ages 9-12)
We’ve always used the Junior version, but this might be the last year for that, as Aveline (newly nine) has just now started commenting on how wide the writing lines are. (In addition to having wider lines for writing, the Junior editions also omit the reviews and quizzes which are included in the standard edition.)
The 342-page spiral-bound junior journal (the standard journal is 264 pages) opens with a brief weekly schedule, which is a helpful planning tool if you want to complete the book in just 26 weeks. I can’t say we’ve ever finished that quickly, but it’s easy enough to modify the provided schedule to cover a longer school year (or ditch the schedule altogether.)
What else will you find? Each notebooking journal includes
- vocabulary activities,
- full color lapbooks and minibooks,
- pages for written narration / notebooking,
- Fascinating Facts prompts,
- copywork in manuscript and cursive,
- themed coloring pages,
- lab / scientific method records,
- field trip report sheets,
- hands-on activity ideas,
- book and DVD list, and
- an answer key.
“Your goal”, says the author in the preface, “is not to complete every activity but to make learning a joy.”
She’s right. Even with a very motivated, very science-minded student devouring the books, there’s a lot here. You know what that means — you get to choose the options which will work best for your learners. After all, the freedom and flexibility to provide a completely personalized education is one of the very best parts of homeschooling.
5 more reasons I love Apologia’s Notebooking Journals:
1. Supplementary reading lists are included, but totally optional…
…so if I don’t make it to the library one week, it doesn’t derail the lesson plan. We can still listen to the audiobook and complete the notebooking activities. And for the weeks I know I’m going to have time to run in and grab a stack of holds, I can save time by placing the recommended titles on reserve a head of time. This is a great help during our preemie winter of hibernation, when I don’t have the liberty of leisurely browsing library shelves.
2. The journals are pre-printed…
…so everything’s already done for me. I don’t have to remember where I saved the PDF, and no paper-and-ink lesson prep is needed. Every minute of free time is at a premium this year, so this is really nice.
3. The journals are spiral-bound…
…which means no cracked bindings, no three-ring binders, and no lost papers. Hurrah!
4. The journals contain a lot of variety…
…so there are plenty of options for all types of learners. You can pick and choose which assignments to complete, and which ones to skip.
5. The lapbooks are already prepped…
…there are no folders or cardstock to collect, and nothing to print. The little minibook parts stay bound in the journal until your student is ready to cut and assemble — and then there’s a spot right in the journal to glue in the finished product. Less mess is always a good idea!
Want to teach marine biology for kids?
You’ll need —
- Apologia Young Explorers Series Zoology 2 MP3 Audiobook
- Apologia Young Explorers Series Zoology 2 Junior Notebooking Journal
- Apologia Young Explorers Series Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day Textbook
(Aveline built the pencil holder out of Plus Plus, also from Timberdoodle!)
A note about the science experiments aspect of this course: for simplicity’s sake, we’ve chosen to skip the hands-on projects, and haven’t done any of the Try This! activities. But if you have the bandwidth for science experiments, Timberdoodle makes it easy with an optional supplies kit especially designed to complement the activities in Zoology 2.
What’s the best science curriculum you’ve ever used?
How about the biggest flop?
Comment below, or join The Oaxacaborn Homeschool Community, where we’re always chatting about how to best optimize learning for out-of-the-box kids.
And don’t miss my other recent homeschool reviews!