Tag Archives: Book Reviews

Review of Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy

Science can be a homeschool mom’s favorite subject if she likes messes and pointless projects. Not for yours truly, I was never too keen on the way children’s science was taught. When the girls were younger we kept nature notebooks after a fashion, read a lot, and discussed the world in general as it came up.  The goal with younger children, according  Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, is to teach them scientific thought process.  Makes perfect sense to me, and worked splendidly for a while, but as the girls got older, the need for a more formal program arose.

Enter Apologia’s Exploring Creation series. This series is authored by Jeanne Fulbright who subscribes to a number of CM philosophies. Her texts are meant to be used with narration and note booking. The books we have used in the series have been a perfect fit for us. This year we are using Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology, which is coauthored by Brooke Ryan M.D. We are over half way through it and it has been the girls’ favorite subject. The human body is amazing! Let me tell you, we are just a mass of bile and acid.

Each system in the body is covered. The hands on projects are reasonably relevant and not outrageously messy. A project should never take longer to clean up than to do. We still pick and choose projects according to our time and interests.

This week’s chapter was on blood. We built a model of blood. That sounds so brilliant, but really all we did was drop things in corn syrup while we read. Half of being a respectable teacher is using the correct jargon.

The notebooks/journals designed to go with this program are not mandatory, but they will save you time and headache. In past years we’ve just used binders, but sometimes a woman can just not stomach one more binder! The girls have done some of their best work ever in these quality notebooks.

Every chapter has a couple of lined pages, with inset drawing boxes, for ‘Fascinating Facts,’ a vocabulary puzzle, a verse for copy work and a mini-book. Don’t expect to fill up every page!

My second grader has the Jr. Notebook. It has helped her have an idea of what mom expects from schoolwork, and gives me time to work with the older girls. There are coloring pages for each lesson, big writing lines, and easier puzzles.

Everyone’s favorite part is the ‘personal person’ on-going project where each of system gets glued on a figure one by one.

Plan on a total of 4 to 5 hours per chapter. We usually take about 45 minutes to an hour to do Science. We read, write, and narrate three days of the week, the fourth day we take about two hours to finish up writing, puzzles, and an easy project. If they want to do a more involved project they do it on the fifth day.

These books are not a spiral approach to Science, so you may feel the need to supplement some general science reading. My girls do not believe the world is flat despite having no formal general science before 7th grade. (Although they may have believed in fairies for a while…) We still discuss science-related and the world in general as it comes up.

Apologia is a Christian publisher and their books reflect this strongly, Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology possibly more strongly than the others, as the authors use the blood and heart lessons as a jumping off point for some evangelizing and theology discussion. Atheist families will probably not be comfortable with the frequent references to a Creator, and non-evangelical families may feel the need to skip bits here and there. Then again, I don’t mind using Usborne books, which are not Creation based at all, so it would all depend on your level of comfort.

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The cookbook with brains and other confessions

It was book review entry week three weeks ago at NorthWind Menagerie. Nobody knew that but me; why am I confessing? Trying to select a book even tangentially related to the imaginary farm life, while I’ve been indulging in light fiction is a difficult hurdle. So, here is a review on a novel cook book, which firmly advocates raw milk and chicken liver, making it seem an appropriate choice to my winter twisted mind.

Nourishing Traditions by Sally FallonNorishing Traditions

This book was first published in 1999, and has a number of devoted followers, and has, in my opinion, strongly influenced the current alternative health food movement. Its exuberant, yellow, hippie art cover made me covet it every time I saw it listed in a catalogue, but I don’t buy cookbooks. I must protect my bookshelves from collapse. One day my mom gifted this book to me, my bookshelf just would have to suffer.

The bad part.

My initial reaction to this book was actually one of disappointment. I’ve worked pretty hard at feeding my family healthy food, and it’s a little frustrating to be told in every chapter that “it’s not good enough.” It’s not enough to grind your wheat, you have to sprout it or soak it. Don’t even look at sugar. Eat liver to be a lengthy liver. Coffee, tea, and chocolate should be avoided. There’s always one more thing that has to be done to wholly earn your sanctification through good health.

The main issue I have with this book is its underlying view of the happy savage, and its promise a possible health utopia. Forgive the political theory when we’re talking about a cookbook, but often the similarity between the far right and the left is that they both promise you utopia on earth, the difference is where they find it. The far left offers you utopia in the future, on these terrestrial shores, and the far right finds a utopia somewhere in the past that could be regained. This book is primarily based on the research of Weston Price, who finds his utopia in primitive cultures yet untouched by white man and its refined food, and in that good old hunter-gatherer ideal.

There are organ meat recipes in this book. Are you going to cook a recipe entitled Offal Burritos? Brains in wine sauce anyone?

The good part.

Despite these drawbacks, it’s an enticing book and I found myself continuing to peruse it until it has earned a secure place on my cookbook shelf. The author recognizes the political nature of food a thing which is often lost sight of. The book cites extensively from many studies that question the current government approved health program, many of them legitimate, some that need more work. It’s a little hard to jump from ‘fat’s going to kill me,’ to ‘butter is health food.’ You do not need to agree with everything to appreciate the message of Nourishing Traditions, natural food is better for you, and most of us can strive to learn more and eat a little better. Since this is turning into a confession day I will tell you that we certainly don’t eat according to this book. Despite the dire warnings, I eat a moderate amount of sugar, an immoderate amount of chocolate and drink a horrifying amount of coffee. (I confess, only one of those confessions is 100% true.)

The best part.

The world of lacto-fermenting opens up on page 89 and is the primary reason you will still find this book with brain recipes on my shelf. Food transformation is irresistible to me. Here’s the story of my conversion.

Mom- “Wow, you should try this fermented sauerkraut I made, it is so good”

Me- “Umm, no thanks”

Mom- “It’s really good”

Me-“Yeah, fermented cabbage, sounds irresistible, but I’m dieting this year.”

Mom- “Come on just try it,”

From years of experience, I know the swiftest way to end this exchange is to give in. My mouth reluctantly opens, and inserts rotted cabbage. It was good, it was crispy, it was the best sauerkraut ever! (Another confession- this verbal exchange is only 99.9% true.)

Stay tuned and we’ll rot some things one day. What! You don’t want to come to dinner anymore?

If you hate this book, I apologize. If you think I have been excessively critical on this book, I apologize. If you’re bored to tears, have a good cry, it’s okay. I understand that this stuff only appeals to a limited number of unique souls, most of whom would probably be monks in another age. I have long had a yen to be a monk, but my religion and gender preclude me from that pursuit. Being a nun would be far less of a hurdle, but nuns selflessly teach school and work tirelessly in leper colonies. Monks garden and keep bees and live with people who take vows of silence. Is that the just Hollywood version? I did see a cheese book, written by French Benedictine nuns, in a goat catalogue the other day. If they fire me here, you’ll know where to find me. Ora et labora, merci! As that about exhausts my Latin and French, I better hope that there is a vow of silence for cheese making nuns.


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