Biology can be a challenging topic for faith-based homeschools.
But with its thorough and engaging textbook, easy to follow self-study format, interesting hands-on labs and a strong Christian guiding philosophy that meets difficult topics head on, the 3rd edition of Apologia Biology offers students a foundational college course that not only teaches them biology but can also strengthen their belief in the long run.
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What is Apologia Biology (3rd Edition)?
Created by well-known publisher of Christian science homeschool curricula, Apologia Press, the 3rd edition of Exploring Creation with Biology is the latest edition of Apologia’s foundational biology course.
Designed to be a first science course at the high school level, Exploring Creation with Biology is a complete introductory biology course that delves into concepts such as cellular structure, DNA, microscopy, ecosystems and more through a combination of an engaging textbook and hands-on lab work.
Apologia Biology explores its material from a strongly Christian perspective, viewing the beauty and development of life primarily in the context of Divine creation.
What Grades Is It Intended For?
Apologia Biology is intended to be a first-year high school biology course and as such is intended to be used in Grade 9 or so.
That said, it is a homeschool curriculum and can of course be used by students studying outside a typical grade progression, such as by precocious students and those who are a bit behind in their studies.
That said, while it can be used by younger students who have an interest in science, parents should keep in mind the fact that Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Biology is a fairly in-depth exploration of biology that has a considerable number of questions that require some in-depth reflection and critical thinking.
It also involves a fair amount of hands-on lab work that requires concentration, attention to details and the occasional handling of delicate items.
Further, as it is designed to be an independent study, it does assume that students have a more developed capacity for self-study to get the most out of it.
What’s Required to Teach Apologia Biology?
A rather comprehensive homeschool biology course, Apologia Biology does have a few core components to it that parents will need to purchase, as well as a few optional items that can enhance a student’s overall experience. These include:
Core learning materials:
- Exploring Creation with Biology (3rd Edition) Textbook
- Exploring Creation with Biology (3rd Edition) Student Notebook
- Test Manual and Solutions
- Lab Materials and Supplies
Optional learning materials:
- Exploring Creation with Biology (3rd Edition) Audio Textbook
- Apologia Biology Video Lessons
Exploring Creation with Biology (3rd Edition) Textbook
Apologia’s biology textbook is a 710-page, full color softcover book (also available as an ebook) that forms the core of student learning in the course.
As Apologia Biology is a self-paced, self-study course, the book is written to the student and is written in a more casual and approachable tone often stopping to ask students poignant questions to ponder or to relate concepts to their everyday lives.
Although perhaps not to every parent’s taste, this more narrative style makes the text a little more engaging for students and the reading level a little more accessible compared to a typical science textbook and is, in our opinion, ideal as a first introduction to science for most students.
Yet, despite its casual tone, the textbook offers a fairly in-depth study of biology, providing students with a detailed exploration of the material that never shies away from introducing complex concepts, ideas or vocabulary.
The text can, however, be a little dense at times.
While there are full color pictures, photos and infographics dotted throughout, the textbook really relies quite a bit on detailed, written explanations of concepts, which can be a lot for students with reading or processing difficulties.
As they read along, students are expected to complete their work in a notebook.
Apologia offers a ready made student notebook to go along with the textbook. This is a 553-page, spiral bound and color book with room for taking notes (using the Cornell system) and conveniently has the textbook’s study and review questions printed inside, along with plenty of room for student responses.
There is also room for entering new vocabulary and instructions for the lab experiments, along with room for observations and student drawings, which is a nice touch.
While a student could feasibly use a few regular notebooks to do their work, the Apologia Biology student notebook is something of a timesaver.
Although the book is fairly thick, it does a good job at keeping all of a student’s work in one place, making it easier for students to keep track of and parents to use when overseeing and correcting student work.
Test Manual and Solutions
As a complete high school biology curriculum, Apologia Biology also includes module tests and exams that parents can administer to their students.
These are included in a Test Manual and Solutions package, which provides tests, a testing manual and relevant solutions.
Test pages are black and white, have a diversity of question types and come shrink wrapped as a bulk package.
The manual contains answers to the tests, as might be expected, but also contains solutions to study guide questions, which is helpful for parents who want to make sure their student is staying on track, as well as potential answers to the various open ended questions that pop up in the textbook.
This makes assessments and corrections pretty easy for parents, all things considered, which is helpful for new homeschooling families and parents whose own knowledge of high school biology might be a bit rusty.
Lab Supplies and Equipment
Finally, as might be expected of a high school science course, Apologia Biology includes quite a few labs and experiments.
These labs are a mixture of household lab work (which mainly rely on commonly found household and kitchen supplies), microscope work (which require slides, stains and a microscope), and dissections (which require dissection kits and equipment).
The Exploring Creation with Biology textbook contains a fairly detailed list of what’s required for each lab towards the back, which is helpful, but generally speaking most of the material is fairly typical of a homeschool biology course.
Whatever can’t be found at a local grocery or home goods store can be purchased through Apologia’s website, on Amazon or another homeschool science supply website.
That said, although the inclusion of so many labs throughout the course does give students an excellent hands-on learning experience, all told there can be a lot for parents to keep track of and store over the course of a year.
Optional Materials and Supplements
Exploring Creation with Biology Audiobook
As an alternative or supplement to the traditional textbook, Apologia also offers an audio recording of its textbook.
Auditory learners, students with reading challenges and those with reading-related processing disorders who find the textbook a bit much to go through can instead listen to the audiobook version, something that we feel is quite thoughtful.
The audio book is a more or less direct reading of the textbook material that is narrated clearly and carefully by a professional voice over artist and each module takes approximately between an hour to an hour and a half to get through, making the whole audiobook around 26 and half hours long to listen to.
Although all the information in the textbook is read aloud, ideally we feel that most students will want to listen to the audiobook while following along in the physical text so they can examine the various related photos and information-rich infographics and charts.
The audiobook can be accessed in a few ways, depending on a homeschool family’s preference.
It is available via streaming, through audible, as well as being available as an MP3 and audio CD.
The MP3 version is a fairly flexible option, as might be expected from a digital format.
Parents can choose to download the course in a single large file (which requires students to keep their place) or as individual modules, which can be ideal if a student is having a hard time keeping track of where they left off, if they want to review a particular lesson or if they simply want to take a small, individual file on the go with them.
The digital format also allows users to speed up and slow down the learning material, as well as more easily upload it to a mobile device.
For those who prefer to not use an MP3 for whatever reason, however, Apologia still (at time of writing) offers a physical CD of its lessons that parents can buy.
Interestingly, Apologia also offers video lessons to go with their textbook, which can be very helpful for more visual learners.
These videos are more of a supplement to the text (as opposed to the audiobook’s direct reading), rather than a replacement.
They cover the main ideas of the textbook and bring key ideas to life through rich, multimedia learning.
Hosted by marine biologist and author of Exploring Creation Through Marine Biology, the videos are pretty interesting and well done, using animation, graphic illustrations and even on-location filming to help students better understand some of the more complex topics presented in the textbook and generally enrich the learning by presenting key topics in a more engaging and entertaining way.
In addition to covering the material included in the textbook, Apologia’s biology videos also cover lab work, providing students with a more visual and clear idea of how to set up and conduct their labs, as well as providing a decent explanation of the key takeaways and the reasoning behind them.
As with the audiobook, Apologia offers a couple different ways for parents to access the videos.
They are available to stream on Vimeo, which can provide anywhere/anytime access to the material but requires parents to create an account and make payments through Vimeo.
Apologia also sells USB thumb drives with all the videos included on them.
Aside from allowing parents and students to own permanent, physical copies of the videos, they also allow students to work offline, as the videos can be accessed without an internet connection.
That said, the thumb drive option is considerably more expensive to purchase, costing around $207 (at time of writing) compared to the streaming option’s $159 price tag.
How Apologia Approaches Teaching Biology
A Science Curriculum With a Strong Christian Outlook
Apologia is a well-known producer of Christian science curricula and it is perhaps no surprise that Exploring Creation with Biology approaches its subject matter with a strong Biblical-worldview.
Apologia Biology is a Young Earth creationist biology curriculum, seeing the hand and design of God in the intricacies and beauty of the natural world, frequently drawing a connection between scientific observation, thought, faith and the word of God.
Yet, while the text does present and favor a creationist origin of life, it does teach concepts like evolution and the fossil record (Module 8).
It teaches these concepts as theory rather than established fact, and does so in order to help students become more knowledgeable about both sides of the issue so that they can engage in more meaningful discourse and be able to better defend their beliefs when challenged (the apologetics of Apologia, so to speak).
This does stand in contrast to many faith-based and even many neutral biology curricula that tend to omit these topics or make them optional (such as with Elemental Science), but is in line with some more rigorous faith-based biology courses such as BJU Press’ Biology.
While this approach does make learning with Apologia Biology a lot more comprehensive and can help strengthen belief in the long run, it is important to note that Apologia’s approach may not fit with every Christian homeschool philosophy.
College Prep Biology
Exploring Creation with Biology (3rd Edition) is a complete college prep course that is designed to serve as a first year course in high school biology and as a foundation for further high school courses in the subject (Exploring Creation with Advanced Biology, for example).
The course covers all the subjects one might expect of a general biology course, including a variety of biology labs that can provide lab credit, and includes a full complement of reviews, tests and exams.
It is also a fairly rigorous examination of biology, diving quite deeply into the material, offering students a plethora of facts and information, providing interesting and challenging lab experiments, and frequently asking fairly thought provoking questions that can challenge a students critical thinking skills.
While a thorough investigation of science is usually a good thing, the curriculum can be a bit intense at times for some students who may need to slow things down and take their time in order to absorb the stream of facts and information coming at them.
Self-study, Self-Paced Learning
Aimed at high school students, Apologia Biology is intended to be an independent learning biology program that homeschool students can learn at their own pace.
The textbook is written to students using a more engaging and casual style and can carry students step-by-step through the learning and lab components with a minimum of parental involvement.
As a result, the program can help build strong independent learning/scientific investigation skills in high school students and can be very convenient for busy homeschooling parents, allowing them to take a step back into an oversight role and giving them more time to concentrate on the many other tasks that a homeschooling family might need to take care of.
In fact, in addition to the textbooks and video lessons, Apologia also has developed an online, self-paced course for Exploring Creation with Biology that can take independent learning a step further.
Through an online portal, students receive access to digital versions of the course’s textbook, video lessons and audio files, and are also provided with digital versions of the course’s study questions that they can fill out and have scored online.
In addition, the course provides students with daily assignments and allows them to take their tests online, with scoring and grade recording done automatically.
Although the labs still need to be done physically, this digital format automates much of the administration of the course, making things a lot simpler and easier for both parent and student.
The daily assignments can also make it a better option than the traditional course for those students who still struggle with independent learning and pacing.
On the downside, access to this independent online learning is limited to a year, so it may not be a great option for those who need to take their time with learning, and the digital format of the courseware does mean that students will spend a considerable amount of time of a screen unless they buy a second copy of the course textbook.
Multisensory Options for Learning
Finally, by offering its course material in formats other than simple text, Apologia has designed its biology course to be able to suit a wider variety of learning styles.
Auditory learners can, for example, purchase and use the audiobooks as a primary learning resource.
Visual learners, in contrast, can supplement the textbook with the various video lessons, while tactile learners can explore biology in a more hands-on way through the many labs that are included in the curriculum.
In addition to being more engaging for those who don’t learn best by reading, these different formats for learning can also be of great help to students with reading difficulties.
How it Works
Exploring Creation with Biology is designed to cover 34 weeks of learning, or about a full year’s worth of biology.
There are 16 modules in the textbook, each of which take about 2 weeks to go through at a 1 hour a day, 5 days per week schedule.
Students begin Apologia Biology by examining the basics of science, including science as a discipline, the concept of theories vs laws, the scientific method, scientific thought and philosophy with regard to faith, and more.
The course then progresses through a general overview of biology, from the chemistry of life, econology, cell structure and functioning, all the way through genetics, evolution, viruses and more.
Similar to other introductory high school biology courses out there, Apologia Biology tends to move from the smallest components of life (atoms, cells, chromosomes) to the largest (animal and plant biology), while teaching critical lab techniques along the way.
Each module in the course is broken up into several different subtopics and students progress through them at their own pace, taking notes in their student notebook as they go.
The textbook will occasionally stop in order to present a callout, usually a short discussion activity and/or a series of questions, which is designed to get kids to think a little more deeply about what they are learning or presents them with an opportunity to connect with the material in a more personal way, something that we always appreciate.
These callouts are sprinkled throughout and there are a few types that pop up.
On Your Own and Think About This – these are a series of thought provoking questions and exercises that encourage students to critically analyze certain topics in some way and to see things from a different perspective.
Creation Connection – these connect the learning to creationism, evidence for a divine Creator and so on.
Signs of Life – These connect the learning to the bible and biblical thought, often while discussing scripture.
In addition to getting kids to critically think about the material and connect it to a biblical worldview, these activities also serve to provide more opportunity for review and revision, which is nice and can be very helpful in a typically memorization-heavy course such as biology.
In addition to the textbook learning, most modules also include practical lab work for students to complete.
There can be anywhere from 1 to 5 labs per module, depending on the topic, and these lab exercises can be thought to broadly fall into one of three categories.
- Microscope work
- Household labs
These lab exercises are pretty typical of a good quality biology curriculum, and can include the creation and examination of slides under a microscope, the dissection of earthworms, crawfish, frogs and fish, the examination and exploration of cellular structure and even some field studies to examine animals, plants and their ecologies, which can be a fun Charlotte Mason-inspired learning component.
To help students complete these labs on their own, they are given fairly detailed instructions to help set up their labs and guide them through in a step by step way, and the various lab videos can be quite helpful in this regard.
After completing a lab, students then record their data and observations in their student notebook.
Helpfully, especially when it comes to dissection, the textbooks do include various diagrams and pictures of what things are supposed to look like in case things go disastrously wrong.
At the end of each module, students are given a series of study questions of various types which they answer in their student notebooks. These are designed to act as an additional method of review and can help serve as preparation for both module tests and the more comprehensive exams that the parents can administer.
How easy is Apologia Biology to Learn From?
Apologia Biology is designed for independent learning, and how easy it is to learn from ultimately depends on the student and their capacity for self-study.
Overall, however, we feel that Apologia has done a pretty good job at making things as smooth and painless as possible for students.
The Exploring Creation with Biology textbook is well laid out and written in a way that students will actually want to read (or listen to) for an hour or so a day.
It typically flows quite naturally from topic to topic and guides students along their lessons while stopping periodically to deliver some engagement exercises that can help prevent students from going on autopilot.
In addition, withthe On Your Own questions, study questions and more, the textbook provides ample opportunity for students to review what they are learning, which can help them better remember key facts in the long run.
As with the textbook, the student notebook is also quite well designed and is formatted to fit the flow of the textbook, making it very easy for students to take notes, make observations and respond to questions all in one book.
It also makes things a lot easier for parents to correct and observe student work.
On the downside, Apologia Biology can be a bit wordy and its text a bit dense, which can make it hard for some students to follow at times.
Similarly, it is a pretty rigorous approach to biology and is quite information-rich, which can overwhelm some students and may require them to slow things down and take more time with their studies.
Pros and Cons of Apologia Biology 3rd. Ed.
Rigorous and comprehensive introductory high school biology curriculum
Exploring Creation with Biology 3rd Edition is a full college prep high school biology course that dives pretty deeply into its material, exploring the wonders and complexity of creation without shying away from more complex topics or vocabulary.
The program also provides students with challenging and sometimes intensive lab exercises and frequently gives them exercises and questions that get them to think about what they’re learning more critically and in greater depth than some other programs out there.
Written in an approachable way
Despite its rigor, Apologia Biology’s textbook eschews the typical formality of a typical science book and is written in a casual and approachable manner.
As a result, students are more likely to engage with the material and are less likely to be intimidated or overwhelmed by it when reading on their own.
Apologia Biology is a self-study biology program that promotes valuable independent learning skills in high school students and can take the burden of teaching off of parents, who are then free to spend time on the many other tasks that require their attention.
Well structured and easy to follow
Exploring Creation with Biology 3rd Edition is well written, provides lots of critical review and is structured in a way that guides students quite naturally through the material without letting them zone out.
In a similar vein, its companion student notebook allows students to take notes, respond to questions and record their date in a very easy and convenient manner.
Strong Christian outlook
Although it dives into science very thoroughly and comprehensively, Apologia Biology has a very strong Christian component to it. It doesn’t merely sprinkle the odd bible verse into the textbook, but rather strongly emphasizes God’s hand in the wonder of creation and strives to connect the information students are learning to their faith through various poignant questions, discussions and exercises.
Further, while the program does teach concepts such as evolution and the fossil record, it is ultimately a creationist curriculum that does so in order to better inform students of the current debate and to ultimately strengthen their belief.
Flexible, multisensory learning options
In addition to reading the textbook, students can listen to an audio recording of the material, watch supplemental videos and engage in dynamic, hands-on lab experiments, all of which help Apologia Biology better fit students with different learning styles as well as those with learning difficulties.
Helpful video learning for labs
In addition to providing videos for the lessons, Apologia has also provided students with a series of videos for the lab exercises. These can help students set up their lab, better understand what they are doing and can help them make more sense out of their results.
Can be a little text-heavy at times
Apologia Biology does contain a lot of text and explanations, and the writing can get a little dense at times, which can make it harder for some students to go through in a sitting even when using the audio recording.
Amount of information can intimidate some students
Apologia Biology is a very thorough biology course that provides students with a lot of information and facts to keep track of. This flow of information can seem overwhelming to some students who may need to slow lessons down considerably to get it all.
Who is Apologia Biology Ideal For?
Parents and students looking for a self-study biology option for their high school student
Apologia Biology is a self-study and self-paced foundational biology class. Students learn the material on their own and are carefully guided through review, study questions and labs with minimal parental involvement beyond essential oversight and administration. .
As a result, it can be a great option for those who wish to promote independent learning and busier homeschools.
Students with different learning preferences and styles
Alongside a written format, Apologia Biology offers its textbook as an audiobook (auditory learning). The company also offers engaging video lessons (visual learning) and a variety of hands-on labs (tactile learning).
All this means that the curriculum is potentially very multisensory and suitable for most learning styles.
Parents looking for a biology curriculum with a strong Christian worldview
Apologia Biology is a creationist biology course that views the intricacies of nature as evidence of a Divine creator and integrates a fair amount of biblical thought into its curriculum.
Throughout its course students will be challenged to think deeply about how what they are learning connects to God’s word and even difficult subjects, such as evolution, are introduced in a way that can ultimately serve to reinforce a student’s belief and faith.
Parents looking for a biology curriculum that doesn’t shy away from difficult topics and questions
Apologia Biology is a thorough and comprehensive curriculum that, although faith-based, does not shy away from introducing students to important but difficult topics, such as evolution and the fossil record.
Rather than avoid the topic, Apologia chooses to meet the challenge head on, introducing these topics as competing theories, rather than fact, so that students can be better prepared for any discourse or debate that may arise in their future studies.
Who is it Not Ideal For?
Parents looking for a neutral or secular biology curriculum
Apologia Biology is a Christian curriculum that makes frequent mention of the Bible and God, and generally takes a more creationist approach. As a result, it may not be ideal for those looking for a faith-neutral or secular biology curriculum.
Homeschools looking for a parent-led curriculum
Apologia Biology is intended to be an independent learning curriculum. While some homeschools may appreciate and prefer a self-study approach, others may have started homeschooling in order to take a more direct hand in their students’ education or to spend more time with their child and may prefer a more parent-led curriculum.
Parents who don’t want their students to learn evolution and similar topics
While some parents may appreciate the apologetic approach of preparing students to defend their faith by teaching them difficult concepts in biology, such as evolution, others may prefer a curriculum that excludes these topics or keeps them separate from the main course.
Note: Prices are correct as of writing. All prices in USD.
As mentioned previously, there are a few components to teaching Apologia Biology, including several core items and a few helpful supplements, and these can be offered in different formats.
In addition there are a few different that parents can check out that can save them some money.
Student notebook: $42
Solutions and Test Manual: $25
Supplements and multimedia learning options
Video instruction thumb drive: $207
Video instruction on vimeo: $159 (1 year streaming)
Audiobook CD: $29
Audiobook MP3: $16.95
Streaming Audiobook: $19.99-$29.95
Superset (Textbook, notebook, test manual, audiobook and video instruction thumb drive) – $382.00
Advantage Set (Textbook, notebook, test manual): $146.00
Basic Set (Textbook, test manual): $104.00
As always, its important for parents to check the latest prices including any deals or offers that may exist.
Is It Worth the Price
Overall, we feel that the 3rd edition of Apologia Biology can provide a lot of value to Christian homeschooling families.
The curriculum offers a rigorous, yet engagingly written, introduction to high school biology that dives pretty deeply into all the topics one would expect of a college prep general biology course, offering plenty of review and assessment opportunities while also letting students get hands on with science through interesting and challenging lab exercises.
It is also a strongly faith-oriented biology curriculum, connecting the study of biology (and science in general) to the bible and viewing the complexity of life as evidence of a Divine Creator.
Yet, despite being a Christian curriculum, Apologia Biology doesn’t avoid broaching challenging topics such as evolution, using them instead as a means of discussing the difference between theory and fact, and as an opportunity to strengthen a student’s faith.
Finally, Apologia Biology is offered as both a textbook and audiobook, and offers students access to a variety of helpful lessons and lab videos.
As a result, it can be a very multisensory biology course that can also be very accessible to those with different learning preferences and those with learning difficulties and challenges.
Biology can be a challenging topic for faith-based homeschools.
But with its thorough and engaging textbook, easy to follow self-study format, interesting hands-on labs and a strong Christian guiding philosophy that meets difficult topics head on, the 3rd edition of Apologia Biology offers students an excellent foundational college course that not only teaches them biology but can also strengthen their belief in the long run.
Jennifer Keenes is a writer and a new mom living in Florida. She studied education and, prior to becoming a freelance writer, worked as a substitute teacher at the elementary and middle school level. She is a big fan of the beach, working out and homeschooling her two daughters.