Help….they HATE Apologia General Science

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  • crazy4boys

    Background – 2 boys, ages 12 and 13.  Have done CM-type science their whole lives.  Lots of nature study.  Most of the younger Apologia books.  Most of the Real Science 4 Kids books.  Lots and lots and lots of living books, picture books, videos, outside time, etc.  One boy has some learning challenges mainly as relates to language (processing words, reading comprehension if written vs. oral, etc)

    They finished Module 3 last week and it’s been pure torture.  As part of our yearly planning I sat them each down to talk about how things were going, what they wanted to learn, etc.

    One said, “I wanted to do something with science as a job, but not anymore.  You killed that for me by making me do this science program.”  He went on to explain that it was dry, boring, not well written and that he knew the author was trying to get him to learn something but he (the author) was doing a terrible job explaining it.  He also said it felt scattered and not coherent. 

    The other said, “It’s just hard.  I don’t like it.  I’m really bad at it.”  Now normally I wouldn’t worry too much about these kinds of statements, but this particular boy has serious confidence issues because learning is hard for him.  He really, really wants to do something science-related with his life so I want him to have the foundation, but he is really, really bad at learning from this textbook!  

    So, my options:

    1.  Push through it.  Perhaps give shorter assignments.  Discuss it with them daily instead of weekly.  Something.

    2.  Take the topics taught in the book and find other resources instead.  For example, there is a chapter on the digestive system.  I’d find books, movies, experiments, etc. to teach the digestive system then we’d move on.

    3.  Switch to God’s Design for Science and work through the entire series in the next 2 years then have them pick up Biology in high school as recommended.

    4.  Have them work through the Apologia Young Explorer series (which they’ve done at younger ages, except the human body and new chemistry/physics) either by themselves or with the family.  

    5.  Something else????

    I was hoping that this year they’d become more independent in science, working on their own.  They can manage their time and get the assigned work done.  They just don’t seem to like or understand it!

    Any thoughts, suggestions, ideas would be greatly appreciated.



    Has your son been talking to my son?!!  That is the general gist of what my 14 yo said to me after the first few modules of General Science.  I had already heard that the first modules were difficult, so we plowed through and after those it went much better and the same son confessed to liking it by the end.  

    I tried to stay ahead of them with the reading so that we could discuss it every few days, but that just didn’t happen, although it helped when we did that.  It’s becoming clear to me that some science teaching needs to happen and it’s also clear that my energies are better spent in other subects, so I’m looking into ideas for out-sourcing science teaching somewhat.  We’re thinking of getting the tutorial from Red Wagon next year for Physical Science.  For General we tried listening to the lectures at virtualhomeschool and that helped some, but I think having audio and visual will be better.  

    I was hoping that my boys would be able to be more independent also with General and they were, but I could echo your comment on not liking it or particularly understanding it and I don’t want to just go through the motions.

    Doug Smith

    We’re always keeping an eye out for good, solid high school science materials. @potpourri0710, What have you used for high school science?



    Exploration education. It’s physical science, not general and presented in a very exciting, hands on, CM way!


    It was actually a discussion on here that made me stick with General Science and I think it was bookworm who advocated sticking with it.  For one thing, General transitions to more of a textbook feel.  If you have college-bound children, they’re going to need to learn to learn from those types of books eventually and yet, General has much more of a conversational style than most textbooks would.  I think it’s a good transition.  It also transitions to a more difficult reading level, and again, my kids complained, but I think they needed that.  

    The first few chapters of General are about the history of science, so they are different from many science programs that you may have previously used.  After those chapters, it is much more of a typical program and my sons really enjoyed the rest of it.

    I do agree that it is good to give children subjects that follow their interests, but I also know that my children will manipulate me to get out of doing something because it is difficult.  The quotes from the OP sound exactly like something my children would say to manipulate me into giving them something easier to do.  If that isn’t the case with your children, please don’t take offense at my suggesting it.  

    We were all glad that we stuck with the General Science.  They ended up enjoying it and learned to persevere.  Perhaps my earlier comments made it sound like it was a waste of time, whereas I simply meant that if I could do it again, I would employ different teaching methods to make it go more smoothly from the beginning.  


    Another quick suggestion that you take a look at Noeo. We used it for Bio II this year and really liked it. I didn’t do any of the notebooking they suggest because my boys just aren’t ready to tackle that yet, but the program itself I felt was very good. My 7YO (yes, he did the Bio II with us) loved it.


    Yes, the first 3 were a bit difficult for my ds to get through, too.  He has a bit of reading struggles so it was a lot to read and digest, but we kept going.  After a time, I did let him move on to modules he was more interested in. We looked over the next module or two and decided it was time; he was really ready to move on (his reading skills are not as high as his comprehensive skills).  He became very excited over the anatomy and is always sharing what he has learned.  It has turned out to be a great text for him.  My only regret is to have not purchased the notebooking journal or something to better contain his notes, etc.  He didn’t ask for it but I think that may have helped him.  We also have the CD that is for pronounciations, etc., and he always forgets to use it. 

    Anyway, he has enjoyed it and I’m glad that he continued through it.  But, my ds is not a complainer, so even if he didn’t like it, he wouldn’t say much. 

    I don’t know exactly what I would do, but I probably wouldn’t like the idea of killing their love for science if there is another text/program that would fit their needs and is solid.


    We have some slow learners.  Waiting a bit does wonders. Red Wagon Tutorials helps also.

    I love Apologia for high school, and we will use it with all of our children.  I was a Science major in university, and it really is the only thing out there that I have seen that is academically rigorous enough for me to consider using (of course, there may be some things I have not seen that may be suitable also). 

    Because of the high quality of Apologia Science, we use it when it fits.  My oldest two are slow learners.  We tried General Science for seventh grade with my oldest, and it seemed to be a hopeless venture.  When he was about the age for eigth grade, it was perfect.  He will be completing Apologia Physical Science soon (using Red Wagon Tutorials also), then do Biology in tenth, Chemistry in 11th, we’ll see after that.

    I agree wholeheartedly with jeaninpa’s comments.


    Thanks for the discussion.  I actually have Bookworm’s comments printed out re this topic!  I don’t think my sons were trying to manipulate me.  They only talked after much coersion and seemed to feel badly about the fact they they didn’t like what we were doing.

    I’ve been wondering if it’s a timing/age thing and I just need to wait another year or if it’s a ‘get past the boring first part’ thing.  I agree wholeheartedly that they need to learn to learn out of a textbook and that the Apologia stuff is the best college prep.  BUT they are now hating/dreading the subject they used to love.  These are kids that read science books for fun and choose science videos over popular movies (most of the time).

    I was hoping there was a textbook-like option out there that would be more engaging than General and easier for my challenged learner, but still prepare them for starting Apologia in high school.  And if in fact, it’s necessary for junior high or if a solid science background would be enough for them to be successful in high school.   


    I think you could just go ahead with Biology with a solid science background.  I might skip General and just do Physical Science the year before, although I suppose it depends on what you need to cover at that point. 

    I obviously didn’t read your first post very well.  Your idea of using God’s Design before Biology is one I would definitely consider.  It’s a great program also.


    God’s Design would be OK.  I have finished that series for all 3 of my boys.  And while I think a “practice” real text before Biology is a good idea, otherwise you are liable to have Textbook Shock then instead of now, I do think you ought to intervene a little here.  After telling your boys that ANYONE wanting to major in science is going to read multiple, MULTIPLE REALLY REALLY THICK AND DENSE science texts that will make General Biology look like an easy reader.  🙂  Of course, you should also tell them that they get to do way fun things.  I’ll have to have my oldest tell me some of his physics lab stuff–he has shared during the year but I have forgotten them because I didn’t really understand them.  But he sure had a blast!  Science is so cool.  Oh, here’s a fun supplement.  Do your kids watch Mythbusters?  It’s a total favorite here.  There is a fun book of experiments from the show (affordable option) and even kits.  

    OK.  Other ideas I have.  I am doing a basic science module with my upcoming 8th grader from Currclick, followed by a classical astronomy text (personal interest) followed by some biographies and a few other things.  Perhaps a few science-fair type projects.

    Another idea.  SLOW DOWN the book (cover over 2 years).  You do need the vocab, and you should decide on some way to evaluate learning.  And then plump it out with FUN stuff.  Add biographies.  Add experiments from the web or an experiment book.  Cover the stuff in fun ways.  Make a jeopardy game with the vocab.  Make matching cards for the scientists and what they did.  Do the lapbook.  Look up fun related demonstrations on youtube.  

    Changing to physical science would be OK as well.  I personally think it’s a more interesting book and would still be a practice text before bio.  

    See you have some options here.  You may need to do SOME work with them.  I don’t really consider science a totally independent topic even through high school.  I ask them questions over reading, check their vocab work, am ther “lab assistant” in experiments and administer and grade tests, even through high school.  It’s an important topic and I want to make sure it’s done well, so I keep close tabs on this one.   

    LOL, I don’t remember what I said before.  As far as texts go, this one is not bad–although I do confess it’s the dullest of the Apologia texts.  

    Doug Smith

    but both are CM-friendly in that they do not use textbooks

    CM Myth #3: Charlotte Mason Did Not Use Any Textbooks


    Yes, but the Apologia textbooks are most definitely conversational textbooks.  I’ve read a LOT of textbooks, science and otherwise, in 21+ years of formal education, then 13 years of homeschooling, and Apologia have the unique quality of being thorough, rigorous, AND conversational.  I certainly wish *I* could have done Apologia in high school!  I know to a child who has never experienced something truly painful like a Glencoe or a Prentice Hall <vbg> it can seem daunting and difficult to read.  It’s certainly not a novel!  And well written living books on specific topics can add a lot.  But they do NOT (at least not one I have ever seen, and I’m a book nerd) systematically cover and explain all the information necessary for a high school/prep level biology course.  There really is no alternative.  There are certainly other Christian texts.  I found them drier and less appealing than Apologia by a long shot.  There are “easier” attempts. They come up short in the information and rigor categories.  There are secular books.  They are . . . secular, and often written by committee, and not any easier to manage than Apologia.  We live in an amazing world.  God created it.  I cannot but think He wants us to understand it to the extent of our capabilities.  He has given us the tools.  This is one area where discipline is needed to some extent to reap the great benefit of understanding creation in all its glory–and knowing to Whom to give the glory.  A little applied mental discipline and effort are necessary to master these texts; and then we can receive the great benefits of understanding and more fully appreciating the world around us, and also being able to manage college, teaching our own kids, what just happened to the potato salad we left on the counter in the sun <vbg>  and whether it’s logical that toxins can be removed from the body through the  feet during an electric footbath.  🙂  Arm your kids with real science.  Yes, they are going to need a little help, a little time, a little discipline to study the book.  It will be time well spent.  They may very well not reflect back on high school biology as their favorite class ever.  That’s OK.  Actually, chemistry is much more fun than biology.  And physics is more fun yet!  LOL  It is WAY too much fun to load up your kids, a digital bathroom scale, and head for a tall building with an elevator.  OK, cutting up frogs wasn’t my favorite way to spend a school afternoon.  LOL  But building potato cannon!  There you go.  Chemistry and physics are the treats you get for surviving bio.  LOL  OK.  Just kidding.  Look, my kids were challenged by high school science texts too.  It was a perfect laboratory for developing perseverence and patience, for learning to study large quantities of vocabulary, for taking baby steps to applying math to the real world (hey!  for discovering what the hay all that math was really good FOR anyway!!!!)  

    OK, falling off soap box.  I really do keep going on about this, but it’s because I really do believe it’s important. 


    BTW, back to original poster, I really don’t think the world would end if a child didn’t finish General Sci.  I would try, myself, once I had started, to perk it up a bit first before ditching it (that’s exactly what we did when we discovered it wasn’t exactly mesmerizing) but as long as you logically progress, trying to introduce some sort of systematization, some sort of basis for what is coming next, I think you can be OK.  Just be prepared for kids who don’t love biology texts, either.  We need to find the best books we can, the best-written, the best-suited to our kids, but teen years are high time to learn that not every book is a party.  There are serious books for serious subjects, and serious students need to learn to extract the information they need from them.


    Have to agree with Bookworm all the way. My daughter is doing Gen Sci and she’s starting module 12. She’s been fine, but the beginning was a bit rough. We just pushed through. We did talk about how it would get more interesting and it was time for her to learn about science “texts” and all that. It wasn’t torture for her. She was excited to be preparing herself for high school. Her older brother that has had 3 years of college saw great benefit in Apologia books. He was extremely well prepared for college Biology-and loved it.

    Some things work well for some kids and not others, but I try to not have my kids read too much into their “feelings” about a particular book. Sometimes they just need it. My kids don’t always like what they have to eat or taking a shower either, but you know.


    Great conversation and reminder that the kids are not going to really enjoy everything (me too, I am sure) but some things still have to get done. Yes they can be modified here and there, but sometimes you have to “muddle through” as I would tell the kids 🙂

    Right now it is still “fun” but I know in a few years we will hit the point where the kids and I will have to take that moment where we will have to work through it together.

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