Apologia Science is exceptionally flexible, making it ideal for use in a homeschool co-op setting. My son and I had a wonderful experience last year using Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day with our Koinonia Homeschool Co-op in Manhattan, Kansas. The homeschool co-op was a huge success in its first year, with fifty-four children enrolled, fifteen parent-teachers, and families from six different adjacent towns. We met once a week and offered a full-day program, beginning with praise and worship and consisting of three class periods, lunch, and a recess.
How your homeschool co-op should be set up depends on its size and purpose. Should it be organized by grade level or ability? We decided to group children according to similar grade levels and ages. In addition to nursery, preschool, and kindergarten, we grouped first and second grades together, third and fourth, fifth and sixth, and seventh and eighth. If you have a smaller co-op, you may have only have one class with all ages. For this reason, Apologia’s Young Explorer Series is the perfect choice for science. It can be used with children from kindergarten through sixth grade with little to no adaptation. Our seventh and eighth graders also used Apologia Science, but in their case it was Exploring Creation with General Science.
It’s not unusual to think that for a larger homeschool co-op, with various science classes in one church building going on at the same time, each class would be using a different “level” book. But we very intentionally did not go that route, and Apologia’s elementary homeschool science proved to be a perfect fit as it does not take a grade-level approach to the subject. Instead, we used the same text with all grade levels and covered the same chapters at home and co-op each week. There are multiple benefits to this approach: Families only need to buy one textbook, which keeps cost to a minimum; siblings can read and study at home together during the week, giving Mom more freedom and children more independence; and the co-op gets established with a long-term vision in mind.
This long-term vision is important. It enables returning families and children to move through the grade levels year after year and receive new material each year just as they would at home. It also offers continuity and congruency between the teachers and all other facets of the co-op, such as field trips, guest speakers, class projects, and experiments. One week our preschool teachers even planned games, snacks, and activities that complemented the science content the older children were learning that week!
Although each family purchased only one textbook, a notebooking journal was purchased for each child. We used the junior notebooking journals for first and second grades and the regular notebooking journals for the older children. We felt that each child should have his or her own personal notebooking journal to record what they were learning. Remember, it’s never appropriate to copy the notebooking pages, as this is a violation of copyright.
Every teacher followed the same syllabus for the year, but could teach according to her own style and method, and was responsible for her own lesson plans. We chose to take a gentle approach and use one thirteen-chapter text for the entire twenty-four-week co-op year, meaning we completed about one chapter every two weeks. This approach gave us the flexibility we knew we would need to accommodate snow days and other unforeseen cancellations.
Most of the reading assignments and notebooking activities were done at home. Our teachers used the hour-long class each week to review the information in the text, discuss the questions at the end of each chapter, and do hands-on projects as a group in the classroom. We realized that the children wanted to have fun together, so many of the mini-books, experiments, and suggested activities were done or started at co-op. Because each teacher was responsible for providing “lab” supplies for her class, we also collected a one-time class fee to cover the cost of materials for these projects.
I think the founder of our homeschool co-op summed it up best when she said, “Apologia does an excellent job of unifying family science time so that it can be used with all ages, but also because it’s a curriculum the entire family can use at once.” We simply applied this model to our co-op, and I’m so very glad we took this approach. Not only did it provide the children with excellent academic content, but it also helped our homeschool co-op to live up to its name, Koinonia, which means “deep fellowship.”
Stephanie Harrington has been a military spouse for nineteen years and has homeschooled for more than fourteen of those years. She is mom to three creative kids, ranging from a college grad to fifth grade. She and her husband of twenty-three years serve and live wherever the U.S. Army sends them. She writes about homeschooling and military life on her blog www.harringtonharmonies.com. When she isn’t teaching, writing, or moving, she enjoys art, sightseeing, gardening, and cooking