Apologia Science Texts: What would Miss Mason Think?

A reader asks:

At what point does the use of a standard textbook become okay according to Charlotte Mason? I have not read all of her books, but thus far, I have not found the answer to my question.

At first glance, due to the lack of pictures (and ugly covers) Apologia looks like just another text, but it reads like a living book. Unlike modern day textbooks, several authors didn't contribute their little blip to the volume but rather, one author, who is passionate about science wrote the text in an engaging, conversational manner. I would call Apologia books 'LIVING.'

I also feel that by the time students reach this age they need to be stretched a little more so that they will be able to do well in college courses and/or the working environment. They need to get used to taking tests, learning to study vocabulary, etc... I feel this should be a very minor part of my children's education, but nevertheless, it is the reality of our world today. Apologia provides a gentle introduction to these skills. We add narration, as well.

It is interesting to note that Miss Mason used much more difficult "texts" in the upper years for various subjects as well as living books. (Look at her Math, Grammar and Foreign Language choices) And if you look at her programs (available at the AO website) for 8 and 9th graders, they used science books such as:

First Year Scientific Knowledge and A Health Reader

These sound like texts to me. Were they living? I hope so. I know that she lamented the lack of good, living science books. The students' narrations were also more sophisticated. She didn't just have them tell back, but asked them to compare and describe processes, diagram, explain cause and effect...

Look at these sample questions from her old exams:

"Describe an experiment which illustrates the possible arrangement of electrons within the atom. If the electron theory be true, how does it help us to understand, a), an electric charge, b), an electric current?

What are the chief classes of the Vertebrata? Mention some of the earliest known specimens in each class. What plant fossils may be found, and in what kinds of rocks do they occur?"

Today, the sciences have become more important than they were in Miss Mason's day because new discoveries mean there is a lot more new information to process and understand; and it is important to understand these concepts if we truly want a liberal education (think Leonardo da Vinci). But many homeschooling parents don't have the science background to create a comprehensive curriculum in the sciences. I certainly don't, so I appreciate the Apologia books. I DO want my children to continue to wonder at the world around them and think that Apologia does a pretty good job in this.

If some parents feel confident in coming up with their own science plan, then I think that is great and encourage them to do so. I happen to have a child who enjoys chemistry and physics. I know little about these subjects, but I want to nurture this interest, so I look for living books to share with her in these particular areas and will continue to do alongside her Apologia courses.

Mr. Wile's books are so wildly popular because most kids really do enjoy them. He realizes the importance of making the sciences interesting. However, I feel he can improve on his texts and also make them more visually engaging. No doubt, some creative homeschooler, with a love of the sciences will build upon Mr. Wile's idea and come up with something even better. In the meantime, I'm glad this excellent resource is available.

one step at a time...