What On Earth Can I Do? ~ Product Review

Apologia Review
This week’s review is from one of our favorite homeschool curriculum publishers, Apologia Educational Ministries. Our family, like a lot of homeschool families, is very familiar with Apologia’s science curriculum packages. This review however is on one of Apologia’s discipleship curriculums from their What Do I Believe series. We reviewed the fourth book in this series, What on Earth Can I Do? as well as the What on Earth Can I Do Notebooking Journal, What On Earth Can I Do Junior Notebooking Journal, and the What on Earth Can I Do Coloring Book that can be used in conjunction with the main text. Join us in sharing our experiences and thoughts on this new addition to our family’s educational and spiritual journey.

Apologia Review

What We Received:

The What on Earth Can I Do? text is a hardbound book that contains all of the content for this curriculum. The curriculum was created for families with children in Grades 1-6, but could also be expanded to touch the hearts of those younger and older. The text can be used independently by older students, but also makes a great read aloud resource to use with the whole family whether as part of your school day or during a family devotional time. The core concept of the study is to encourage children to think about what they personally can do for the Lord in their own lives.

Accompanying this text are three levels of supplemental materials. The notebooking journal, which we used with our son, is ideal for use with children in the upper elementary grades.

Apologia Review

There is a similar junior notebooking journal for those students in the early elementary grades and even a wonderful What on Earth Can I Do? coloring book for the preschool and kindergarteners in your life that are joining in on the fun.

Apologia Review

Both the notebooking journal and the junior notebooking journal are spiral bound so that they lay flat on the table as your student works. They retail for $24 each on the publisher’s website, while the coloring book is available for $8. The main text is available for $39. These resources are filled with wonderful pictures and color for eye appeal in both of the notebooking journals as well as the main text.

For an overview of topics covered, please check out the table of contents for the study as well as some samples that can be found on the Apologia site here.

What We Did:

During this review period, I used the main text as well as the notebooking journal with our 10 year old son.  In hindsight, the information in this course is so inspiring that I think it would have been a wonderful resource for the whole family.

Before jumping in with both feet, I perused the Getting Started sections in both the text and the notebooking journal.  Those sections are priceless in helping you to organize how to approach the study.  As a parent, I love to enjoy the journey of learning with my children, but love it when the study is already clearly laid out for us.  The lesson plans contained in the Notebooking Journal did exactly that.  Based on these lesson plans, there are 48 instructional days to complete the study.  Depending on how you choose to pace those lessons, the study could be accomplished in either a half or whole year.  I chose a pace of about 2 lessons per week.  This seemed to work well as I really wanted my son to have some time to chew on what we studied before moving on.  The days when we did not do new lessons I found to be days when the wheels kept turning with us starting off the next day with wonderful discussion from the prior lesson before moving on.

The content in the text is a combination of personal challenges, biographies, and stories.  This mixture allows for lots of information to be presented, but does not fall into a dry rut by any imagination.  Some of the days are filled with more than 10 pages of reading that I would share out loud with our son.  These days were generally stories that really captivated him.  On other days the reading was on more conceptual things for him to chew on and were much shorter.

After we completed the reading selection for the day, we would then either work that day or the next on the activity pages in the notebooking journal.  Some lessons we found ourselves completing all of the associated pages and some lessons we chose to skip some of the pages, but engaged in uplifting conversation filled with personal challenges and questions.  The activity pages in the notebooking journal were a combination of places where our son could journal about things in his own life, record personal challenges, define key terms, write key bible verses as practice for memorization, and completion of crossword puzzles and word searches to review the material from the lesson.

At the end of each lesson, there is a Find Out More page.  This page is loaded with project ideas, book ideas, songs, and even movie suggestions that tie right in with the lesson.  This could be completely optional material or could be used to expand your study and learn more about a lesson that is particularly intriguing.

Our Thoughts:

Our family has thoroughly loved the science resources from Apologia and found ourselves just as in love with the What We Believe series through our experience in using What on Earth Can I Do?  In having used the Apologia Exploring Creation science series, the layout of the books and notebooking journals was very familiar.  The content was equally as impressive.

My son loved this study because it focused on real people – those from history and his own personal walk with the Lord.  Many children brought up in church are taught lots of doctrine and biblical principles.  What on Earth Can I Do? helped our son to realize that he could not only learn about God, but be a powerful force in this world for Him. What he really loved is that he didn’t feel preached at and really saw more and more with each lesson how a Christian’s daily life and spiritual beliefs are tied together in what transpires and how they react.

There is a large amount of reference to modern world history and key figures spread throughout this book.  For this reason, it would be a great resource to piggyback studies in modern world history for those that use a Classical Approach to homeschooling.  Those adherents to a more Charlotte Mason approach will not be disappointed as the curriculum utilizes copywork, narration, and lots of journaling.

Before I close allow me to share a small lightbulb moment.  In lesson 1, the text presents a short biographical sketch about Maria Augusta Kutschera, who becomes Maria von Trapp of the famous von Trapp family of World War II.  We were able to read this biographical sketch and then watched the Sound of Music, which was included in the Find Out More page.  Through discussion we had following, I was able to share how the von Trapp family is very much a real family and has an estate in New England that our son’s grandmother has visited.  This led us on a journey on the internet to learn more.  All in all these various learning experiences helped our son realize that there were real people behind the movie and what was in the text.  He then started putting the pieces together of how God could use an orphaned girl from a non-Christian home to come to love Him and serve Him through this family that desperately needed a mother and during an era that was difficult for many.  The wheels were then turning as he asked, “Mom, I wonder what God is going to have me do?” as we discussed some of the challenges that our family has endured and how God might use them in our son’s life in the future.

What on Earth Can I Do? gets a big thumbs up from this homeschool mom.  But as always, see what others have to share in their reviews found by clicking on the image below.


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Science Experiments – A Wealth of Learning

One of my greatest tendencies in homeschooling is in just skipping over all those science experiments that are included in our curriculum. Let’s face it. Science experiments can take a lot of time. They can be a big mess. They don’t always produce the results that they are meant to. But most of all, I am sad to report, that science experiments are the things that kids love the most, make science become real, and create a whole lot more learning sometimes than was ever intended.

Yesterday, the boys and I experienced this very thing. We have been doing a full year of ocean studies. Our current topic is all about sharks and rays. Now that seems pretty elementary, but you would be amazed at the things we have been learning about in using Apologia’s Zoology 2 Book.

zoology-2The main idea that had been presented in the book and highlighted in our experiment was a feature of sharks called the ampullae of Lorenzini. These nerve receptors detect electricity in the water which allows them to detect the location of other creatures and food sources. It is really quite amazing if you think about it.

So what did we do?

I was so thoroughly intrigued by the conversations that we entered into. The first step in our experiment was for the boys to connect a 6V battery to a lightbulb and two nails. Just in building this contraption, the boys learned about:

  • Closed versus open circuits
  • Metals as conductors of electricity
  • The role of the insulated plastic on wiring is to prevent grounding

IMG_0212After getting everything connected, we then put the nails in a glass of distilled water with the nails not touching. In doing this, the lightbulb that became lit when the nails were touching out of the water would no longer come on. The boys then talked about how the circuit was no longer closed and that the electricity wouldn’t pass through the water.

The final step in the experiment was to add about 2 tablespoons of salt to the water and then to see if the lightbulb would light if the nails were placed back in the water. To their amazement, the lightbulb shown brighter than at any previous time. They noticed that the water started moving as if it were boiling. And our final observation was that the water at the top of the glass was turning a copper color.


So our little experiment to learn about the detection of electricity in the ocean by the shark’s amupllae of Lorenzini really revealed a lot more. It demonstrated to us:

  • That electrical current in the water can actually produce movement in the water
  • That the transformation of the water from translucent to copper color was due to the ionizing of the metal in the nails.
  • That basic salt has positive and negative ions that can act as conductors of electrical current.

So the next time you are tempted to skip those time-consuming and messy science experiments, just remember that there might be more learning that goes on during this hands on application of science than reading a much larger textbook assignment. I am sure that my boys will not soon forget our afternoon together.

They asked for me to share with my readers that if you ever have a burning desire to go swimming during a thunder and lightning storm that you are safer swimming in a fresh water pond than the ocean! Their hypothesis was upheld!

Chemistry and Physics for Elementary Grades

Yup, you read that right. A real curriculum for elementary grades that focuses on chemistry and physics. What’s more is that this review is coming from one of the most trusted names in homeschool science curriculum. Brand new to their lineup, Apologia Educational Ministries has added Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics to their offerings just this Fall.

The Curriculum

The Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics course is the newest in the Exploring Creation Series written by Jeannie Fulbright and published by Apologia Educational Ministries. It is written primarily for the elementary grades, but may also be applicable through middle school. This book like the others in the series is designed to take a full academic year to complete.

This course is written for those that adhere to a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling, but is definitely not restricted to this group.  It utilizes active listening, narration, journaling, and lots of hands on activities to bring the material to life.

How We Used It

The primary textbook for the course is really designed for the parent to read the section to be covered for the day while the students either actively listen or journal important things they wish to remember. Our family was using this curriculum with our 9 and 13 year old boys. They have found that they do better in comprehending the material if they journal while I read. Given that everything that God has placed in his Creation is made up of matter and has intrinsic properties, this is a course that is just jam packed with applicable everyday knowledge. It was simply amazing to find a quality Chemistry and Physics book for children in this age range. For a full list of topics covered in this text, a sample lesson, and the full lab supply list, please visit the publisher’s website here.

The daily selections that I read aloud were generally about 6 pages in length. We made this determination in using the Daily Schedule that was outlined in the front of our second resource for this course, Chemistry & Physics Notebooking Journal. This is the book that the boys did their journaling in.

In addition to the journaling pages, the Notebooking Journal also has crossword puzzles, copywork pages, mini flap books, experiment speculation sheets, and a What Do You Remember? end of chapter review page. These pages are found for each of the fourteen chapters in the book. There are also some book suggestions that you can check out of your local library for further investigation into a topic that your child shows extra interest in.

Each chapter in the Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics book is just overflowing with hands-on activities and experiments. In Chapter 1 alone, there are 10 “Try This!” activities to choose from.Yes, I used the word “choose”. You are free to do as many or as few of these activities to enhance your child’s learning as you feel led to. Our family generally does the reading, narration, and journaling first and then follow up with related experiments. For the inquisitive learner that wants to see it work and then learn why, you can also reverse things with placing the experiments first and then reading and narration to follow. If you really want it all laid out for you, there is a “How To Use This Book” reference in the front of the textbook.

In addition to the elements described above, the textbook also has a link shared to Apologia’s website that provides videos and other resources for further exploration related to each chapter.

Some of What We Learned

Matter and its properties were the major theme of the first chapter. Our boys learned that all things were made up of matter. The chapter introduced them to the concepts of volume, mass, density,  and buoyancy. The physical properties of matter were also identified: luster, color, shape, hardness, and smell.

We read about these concepts and the boys narrated back about them. It didn’t really come to life for them and stick in their memories completely until they experienced it first hand. Just one of the wonderful experiments we did related to understanding density. The presentation of this concept was so practical and simple that it just made common sense.

First, our son was directed to fill two glasses half way full with water.  He was then directed to place a 1/2 cup of salt into one of the glasses and stir it in. He was literally adding stuff to the water and making it more dense. He realized on his own that the density of the water was changing because density was presented in the book as being the “amount of stuff” in something. He was able to see very clearly that the one glass of water was more dense than the other.


Second, he was asked to place an egg in each glass. He found that the egg floated in the salt water, but not in the plain water. Almost instantaneously, our 9 year old exclaimed, The egg is floating in the salt water because it is more dense! It has more stuff in it.” He completely got it.


Because he got it, he could easily record his experiment findings on the speculation sheet in the Notebooking Journal with little assistance from mom or his big brother.


Our Thoughts

We have used science curriculum from Apologia for elementary grades, middle school, and high school over the years. Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics is of the same superior quality as the other science resources we have used in the past. This particular curriculum is a wonderful fit for those that adhere to a Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling. It is also a wonderful option for Classical Homeschoolers that choose to spend a full year on the different science disciplines on a four year rotational schedule. Our family is not strictly Charlotte Mason or Classical in our approach and we just loved this curriculum as well.

  • Multi-age appropriate: This science course was created with K-6 students in mind, but can also be used with middle school students as they transition between elementary and high school level work. Our boys, ages 9 and 13, used the Notebooking Journal, which would be appropriate for those in upper end of elementary school and above. There is a Jr. Notebooking Journal available for younger students in grades Kindergarten through the middle of the elementary years.
  • Lab Supplies: Our experience was that most of the lab experiments and activities could be done using regular household items. There are some materials that you may need to purchase specially for this course. Lab Supply kits are available for purchase for those that wish to get everything at one time.
  • Colorful Textbook: Our boys loved the way that the pages in the textbook just popped with color. The graphics were appealing, but did not distract from the content being covered.
  • Notebooking Journals: My boys love their notebooking journals. The pages are in black and white, which invites the student to “decorate” them with their own illustrations.  These spiral bound notebooks lay flat to any page which helps students of any age to be able to utilize the full page in their writing. Our boys loved that they journaled their observations and had space to record what they felt were the fascinating facts of each lesson. I really saw them writing an abundance of information without any prodding or coercion on my part. They forgot that they were writing, because they were so excited about the material.
  • Daily Schedule: I love that there is a recommended schedule to follow. If this schedule were adhered to strictly, the course could be completed in 28 weeks of instruction if worked on 2 days per week.  Our family found this schedule to be overambitious. The amount of material covered in a single day seemed like it would be best split over additional days. We finally decided that we could complete the full book in a year if we devoted time 4 days a week to science. This expansion is due in part to our boys love of hands-on learning and the success they found in getting the experiments to work!
  • Price Point: Considering that this is a multi-age curriculum with a hardbound textbook, the pricing is very reasonable. The hardbound textbook sells for $39.00 and each of the notebooking journals retails for $24.00.

I would highly recommend anyone with elementary or middle school students that are wishing to study Chemistry or Physics to consider Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics.  As always, I also invite you to see what others on the Schoolhouse Review Crew have to say after trying this product out with their children.



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Our Line Up for the New Year

When we first stared homeschooling, we thought we would pick out one curriculum, use it for every subject and then pass it on down the line to the next child.  Our learning curve was quick in realizing that each of our children learns a bit differently and responds to different ways that material is presented to them.  We have some readers, some listeners, some watchers, and some doers. Do we cater to each child in every subject? That would be a resounding NO, because spelled a little differently this would mean sheer exhaustion and INSANITY for mom.  We combine some subjects we are doing this year with the boys in science, we pass down some curriculum in honor of living on a budget, and we do customize when there is a good reason to do so. Without further ado, here is what we are using this year at the True Light Christian Academy from the top down.  Our high school students had a lot of say in the planning of our new year, while Dad and I laid out the plan for the boys.

**Please be sure to click on the links to read our review of these curriculum choices.


11th Grade (drumroll…)

American Literature and History – Notgrass Bible – Incorporated in Notgrass and Apologetics class from co-op Advanced Mathematics – Saxon Easy Essay Writing – Bridgeway Homeschool Academy (review to come) Grade 11 Essay Writing and Research Paper – Excellence in Writing Discovery of Deduction (Deductive Logic) – Classical Academic Press French – Auralog Tell Me More Science – we are still considering an option for this year in reserving physics for her senior year Financial Concepts – Dave Ramsey (taken at co-op) Communications & Journalism (taken at co-op) SAT/ACT Preparation – Kaplan


10th Grade (drumroll maestro…)

World Literature – studying Pride and Prejudice, The Screwtape Letters, and a Day No Pig Would Die using the Progeny Press Study Guides. Writing Fiction in High School – Sharon Watson Advanced Algebra – Life of Fred Series World History – Bob Jones Press Introduction to Agriscience – Christian Light Publishing Biology – Bridget Ardoin’s Science for High School French – Auralog Tell Me More Piano Suite – Adventus Bible – Apologetics class at co-op Critical Thinking – class at co-op


8th Grade (huge drumroll…)

Literature – biographies from Christian Heroes: Then & Now Series (Youth With a Mission) to correspond with our study of Geography.  Stay tuned for our review coming soon. Grammar – Easy Grammar Plus Spelling 5 – All About Spelling Teaching the Story: Writing Fiction for Grades 5-8 supplemented with materials from WriteShop Math – Essentials in Math (Middle School/High School book 2) World Geography – Teacher Resource Materials research guide to World Geography and Global Art Oceanography – Apologia’s Zoology 2 and Supercharged Science Because You are Strong bible study – Doorposts Woodworking Anatomy – class at co-op Creative Ministries – class at co-op Hunting & Survival Skills – class at co-op


4th Grade (drumroll with a flare)

Reading 4 – Bob Jones Press Grammar and Writing 4 – Bob Jones Press Spelling 4 – All About Spelling Cursive Success – Handwriting without Tears Math 5/4 – Saxon Oceanography – Apologia’s Zoology 2 and Supercharged Science Heritage Studies 4 – Bob Jones Press Beginning Piano – Adventus Kids Theatre – class at co-op Equine Science – class at c0-op We are excited that the kids will also be playing sports on the Georgetown Crusader teams and through Upward Sports.  They will also continue pursuing their own special interests. Our family has been blessed to be a part of the TOS Review Crew this past year.  The reviews highlighted in this post are curriculum we received as a part of being part of this great team.  If you are a blogger and homeschool, I will be happy to share more about how your family can be a part of this team during their next review year.