07 February 2007


Let's say you wanted to study zoology for a few weeks with an 11 year old and a 7 year old. What would you choose to put this unit together?

Contestant number 1 is a pile of zoology-related books from Noeo Science Biology II:

I don't have the Instructor's Guide for Biology II. I'd have to purchase that. It would include botany, which we aren't interested in at this time (I''m following Kid1's lead on what she wants to study when). But, of course, we could save it for later, and eventually maybe do it. Also, I'd need to buy the experiment packages from Young Scientist Club. Also, I don't have the books on the human body in this pile, since we'd rather do an in-depth study of that later.

The problem is, I think the books shown are ... well, the Usborne Science Encyclopedia is an encyclopedia. Which is okay, if you want an encyclopedia, but if you want a book to read to learn about zoology, it isn't the most engaging. The Mystery and Marvels book is interesting, in sort of a factoid way, by which I mean that it seems to reduce all zoology to unconnected factoids about various animals. Great for Trivial Pursuit, not so great for getting a "big picture" of zoology. I suppose it would be handy for memorizing lists of facts (as would the encyclopedia). And the microscope book looks intriguing simply because it has to do with microscopes, which we haven't much worked with. I could picture it turning into drudgery to slog through day after day.

The question is, how does Noeo put it all together. Do they have engaging activities that make us want to leap out of bed in the morning crowing, "Hot diggity dog! Today we're going to study zoology"? Because, really, with books with a boredom potential like this, that's what we're going to need.

We have all of Noeo Biology I, the complete package set purchased straight off the website. And, let me tell you, I'm underwhelmed. I don't particularly like the books they've chosen. The assignments are drudgery -- read 2 pages, then summarize, read another 2 pages and summarize. The experiment kits aren't matched up well to the reading. Frankly, the experiment kits are sort of dippy, and I've found better experiments on the Internet, using household items.

Put it all together, and I don't have high hopes for this being a zoology curriculum we'll have fond memories of. I picture getting to the end of the unit (or block) and wanting a T-shirt that says, "I survived our zoology unit study".

Contestant number 2 is the lovely Apologia book:

It really is lovely. The text is engaging. The experiments look fun. The God-talk doesn't give me hives, at least at a cursory read-through (which is to say, it isn't incessant, it isn't smarmy, it doesn't remind me of certain people in my past that I'd rather forget -- not all Christian curriculum can make those claims).

As nearly as I can tell, you can do the first section, then you're free to do the other sections (birds, insects, flying reptiles, bats) in whatever order you choose. This implies that we can skip the insects and flying reptiles totally, since we have no current interest in them.

Of course, that leaves you with birds and bats. And, really, do we want to spend weeks and weeks just on birds and bats? I mean, there's plenty of interesting stuff there to learn, but when Kid1 says she wants to learn about zoology, she's thinking a little more broadly. You know, stuff like companion animals and zoo animals and wild animals outside our door.

Finally, contestant number 3:

Which is an out of print book on mammals (Man and Mammal by Schad), and a beat up copy of Comstock's Handbook of Nature Study. These represent the concept of a homemade curriculum, based on the idea of the Waldorf zoology block entitled Man and Animal. This block is usually presented in Class 4, which is 9 and 10 year olds.

At first I thought, "No way! That's way too much work!" But then I discovered that this homeschool family is already doing it and blogging about it. I started looking up suggestions in From Nature Stories to Natural Science and also in Path of Discovery, to read about how others approach the block. I scoured the yahoo groups that deal with Waldorf homeschooling, getting ideas from them. And, I discovered that the city library here actually owns a copy of Schad's book.

So I quickly put in an Interlibrary Loan request, got the book, started reading, and was totally swept away. So. Much. Fun. (In a geeky sort of Goethe-esque, biological way.)

We are forging ahead with Man and Animal, relating the animal kingdom to humans. NB: This is Man and Animal in a non-Waldorf household, filtered through GailV.

More later.


Anonymous said...


It's nice to know that someone else is having the same problem with Noeo. We tried to do Chem I, and after "What's Smaller than a Pygmy Shrew" we got stuck. Other than Pygmy Shrew it's way too factual for my creative, imaginative DD age 7. Now I'm trying to figure out what to do with science myself. We haven't done any since before Christmas.

We are enjoying Right Start math (Level B) even though we are doing it very slowly. I've enjoyed reading your comments about it.


GailV said...

If you figure out a fun chemistry, let us all know! We tried RS4K chemistry a couple of years ago. The kids liked the experiments, particularly building molecules from marshmallows and toothpicks, but absolutely glazed over with the text. They have no memory whatsoever about ever reading about atoms.

I've wondered about writing more about RightStart B. We're taking it pretty slowly, too, and sometimes go weeks without doing any.

KathyJo said...

We've got both the Apologia Zoology books for Jared to go through this year. They drive me nuts sometimes, but Jared just shrugs off the parts that don't fit our particular beliefs. He's looking forward to the third book coming out.

We've gone through the RS4K books, too, but mainly I just drag out the Adventures with Atoms and Molecules book on occasion and do a few experiments. That may be the extent of our Chemistry until high school :}