How We Organize Apologia Notebooks

(Please note that these instructions are NOT for the elementary series. I am addressing 7th gd+ beginning with General Science.)

-I buy a college-ruled, 5 subject, spiral bound notebook. I don't buy a thin one. I'd say this notebook is about 1/2 inch thick.

-The first thing I do is print out the year's schedule divided by days found at Donna Young's website and staple this to the inside front cover of the notebook. My daughter simply checks off each day as she finishes it and can refer to this schedule to find out what we need to buy ahead of time for experiments too. She works on science four days a week and reserves Fridays for the study guides and tests. It usually takes her 30 to 40 minutes daily, although the first week takes longer as it takes time to fall into this new routine.

-Next, we label each section in the following order:
On Your Own
Study Guide

Vocabulary- For each two week module my daughter writes down the new vocabulary and definitions that are listed in the book in bold as she finds the words in her readings throughout each week. I require her to memorize the definitions. I learned long ago from a biologist friend the importance of knowing the definitions of new words. She said that learning the vocabulary was so important in the sciences in order to understand new concepts.

On Your Own- She also finds these questions while she reads through the chapter and answers them. They make her think through the concepts. It assures me that she understands what she is reading without my hovering over her. I have her divide each page in half vertically with a pen. She writes her answers down on the left side and at the end of the reading she checks them and crosses out wrong answers. She writes down the correct answers on the right side of the page if she answered incorrectly. She doesn't correct this with a red pen-just crosses out what was wrong.

Experiments- My daughter does most of the experiments, but not all. I usually don't do them with her. She likes to do them with a younger sibling and watch them oooh and aaah. We only skip the ones that we did in earlier years. I require her to write down all her experiments in an orderly format. Using Dr. Wile's directions, her experiment pages look like this:

Purpose-  (two sentences) A general statement of what the experiment is about and what area it will test. The second sentence is similar to a hypothesis.This statement is more specific and should include a final result you hope to obtain. (Personally, we don't do this step until we begin Biology)
Data- Jot down observations, measurements and calculations in words and labeled drawings. Be brief and accurate.
Summary- (a paragraph) This is basically a brief narration telling what was done and what was learned. 
samples here.

(Don't get hung up on this. Don't let your student be wordy. Help her keep experiment pages brief and concise. One page is plenty. )

Study Guide- This is sort of an open book pretest right before the test to help prepare the student for the real thing. I like the open book idea because it clarifies concepts she may have had fuzzy ideas about. She also divides the pages in half vertically for this with a black pen and is allowed to check her answers by herself. Since this is a practice test, she marks her wrong answers with an X but doesn't use a red pen. She writes the correct answers on the right side of the page.

Tests- At the end of a two-week module she takes the test. I correct this test myself with a red pen. She must correct every mistake before going on to a new module. I grade the test by adding up all her answers, not the amount of questions, because often a question has several parts to it. Out of a possible 20 points on a test, if she got 17 correct, I write 17 over 20 at the top of the test. That's all I do for now.

-Lastly, on Fridays, when we have group time and individual little 'conferences', I go over her notebook and make sure she is keeping up, being neat, correcting her answers, etc…I also let her narrate what she learned during the week. The first few weeks we did this, two years back, she didn't take me seriously and sort of half-did her work. I sent her back and made her correct every jot and tittle, then proceeded to give her a little pep talk about her being in the big leagues now and this was not the same as nature study. She needed to step up her organization skills in the area of science and be able to follow directions precisely. If she followed my directions, she would learn a lot more about this area and be proud of her work. She enjoyed her first year immensely. Her second year was more difficult math-wise, but she enjoyed the science part.

How I calculate grades for transcripts:

At the end of the course I add all test scores together and convert this to a percentage with a calculator. This counts for half of the grade. The notebook with the labs count for the other half. I give anything 90 percent and above an A. 80 to 89 a B, and so on. For example:

Suppose 16 module tests total 266 points. Her total correct answers comes to 212.
212 ÷ 266 = .796  Round this up to 80. Total exam score is 80%. This counts for half of her grade.

Then I grade the notebook. I check for three things. Suppose her score was:
Neatness- 9 points out of a possible 10
Organization-10 out of a possible 10
Inclusion (nothing omitted)- 9 out of a possible 10

Total Possible: 30
Total actual score: 28
28 ÷ 30 = .933
Total notebook score is 93%

Add the total exam score and notebook score together and divide by total possible score of 200.
80 + 93 = 173
173 ÷ 200 = .865
Total grade for the course is 87% or a B.

I have learned that if I stay organized and communicate EXACTLY what I expect from my children, my work load is much lighter. It took quite a bit of time for me to go over the Apologia text and figure out what I felt to be the best way for my child to get as much out of it as possible with minimal supervision while keeping it enjoyable; but it was worth my time. I've hardly spent any time helping my daughter with her science courses. She knows what is expected (and knows I will check it regularly) and feels good about directing her studies. With just a glance in her notebook I can tell if she is not understanding something and needs guidance.

one step at a time...