High School Biology. The course title strikes fear in the heart of this homeschool mama. Although ACE Biology Paces worked well for my oldest three, my youngest two needed a different approach. The twins thrive on social learning using a highly visual curriculum. The more videos, the better! While exploring options I had considered but dismissed for my older kids, I rediscovered Guest Hollow Biology.
The living books in the course’s supplemental reading first caught my eye. I suspected that sci-fi and historical fiction would undoubtedly draw the girls into biology. As I soon discovered, the online textbook, which utilizes animations and videos in every lesson, was equally motivating.
At first glance, the lesson plans seemed overwhelming. In addition to the online text, there were printable worksheets, creation science supplements, experiments (either online or in the kitchen), a biology coloring book, and videos.
If the girls used everything, they could spend hours on biology every day. Since they also need to study math, history, and other subjects, I viewed the lesson plan as a smorgasbord to pick and choose from. Which resources should I include?
The heart of Guest Hollow Biology is a free online textbook. Beginning with cellular biology and progressing to specific plants and animals, it teaches all the basics of biology from a Christian perspective.
Interspersed with the reading are videos that explain key concepts visually. For my twins, this is the most valuable part of the curriculum. Pausing the reading and watching a video helps to cement their understanding.
To evaluate what they are learning, I could choose from open-ended end-of-lesson questions or printable worksheets.
Although we discuss answers orally in most subjects, the workbook pages presented an excellent opportunity for the girls to use a different learning tool. I happily placed freshly printed pages into binders. Looking back at the lesson, the twins could fill in the blanks or select the appropriate multiple-choice response on most of the pages. Some activities also required them to read and respond in sentences, paragraphs, or even drawings.
Since tests are not included in the course, I keep track of their worksheet scores to calculate their grades.
At the beginning of the semester, we attempted to keep pace with the lesson plan. Six weeks in, we were moving through the material so quickly that the girls felt overwhelmed. Now that we have slowed down to the manageable pace of one lesson each week, they are learning contentedly.
Secular science courses often teach evolution. How can I prepare my daughters to think critically about evolutionary concepts they may encounter in future classes? Guest Hollow schedules excellent books from Answers in Genesis. Surprisingly, they’re all available for free online. In addition to select chapters from Evolution Exposed: Biology, we’ve nearly finished reading The New Answers Book 1.
While the girls eat breakfast each morning, I read aloud from the Answers Book. This cross-disciplinary resource incorporates multiple areas of science. Pausing periodically to let the girls answer questions the book poses, I challenge them to put their critical thinking skills into practice. My husband often shares insights as we read—typically a paragraph before the reading reiterates the same idea.
While reading the first book together, the twins have developed a better understanding of the Bible and the created world. They can readily identify and respond to evolutionary ideas from a Christian perspective.
The book has piqued my interest in science-related news. Looking at resources on the Answers in Genesis website, I discovered their Answers News videocast, on which a panel of creation scientists respond to recent articles and discoveries. Whenever a segment concerns a concept we’ve covered in biology, I show it to the twins. This Monday, they asked to watch the full Answers News program. Of course, we did!
On Fridays, I relax my expectations and let the girls take a break from most of their subjects. After attending our Community Bible Study class and reading a chapter or two of a novel, the twins and I plop in front of the TV and watch a supplemental science video.
Last week, we finished watching our first BBC series: The Human Planet. This series helped them explore interrelated areas of science, geography, and culture. The twins loved learning how people live in different parts of the world.
While some of the scheduled videos are secular in nature, others are from a creation perspective. We’re looking forward to viewing videos from Answer in Genesis that are included later in the course. Next semester, we’ll also be watching Biology 101: Biology According to the Days of Creation.
Since incorporating science experiments into our homeschool can be challenging, I was delighted that Guest Hollow includes alternatives. They make it easy to choose online labs, in-home experiments, or a combination of the two.
Due to time constraints, we’ve only completed a few of the online labs. Yet I love having the option to include experiments without searching for all the supplies or cleaning up the mess.
Initially, literature-rich learning options drew me to Guest Hollow. Can you believe I have yet to incorporate any of those books? Since there is no suggested schedule for the recommended books, I was less motivated to include them. With so many to choose from, I felt directionless. Which one should we start with? How long would it take for the girls to read them?
Since we are already reading many living books as part of our Sonlight curriculum, I don’t feel bad about skipping them for now. Our month-long break in December may be the perfect time to include one or two of them.
Compared to the course my older kids took, Guest Hollow Biology is far more in-depth. My older kids never explored cellular biology at the level that the twins are. Although both programs are Christian, Guest Hollow includes far more creation science and apologetics. Neither course endorses evolution, but Guest Hollow effectively helps students understand it and identify its flaws.
When I examined the contents of Guest Hollow Biology alongside an online college-level test prep course, I was surprised at the overlap. Many topics were strikingly similar. It made me wonder what it would take to prepare for a CLEP Biology test after completing the Guest Hollow course. At the end of the school year, I may let the girls try a practice test to see how they do. Wouldn’t it be amazing if they achieved college credit during their freshman year of high school?
Guest Hollow Biology has made freshman science far less daunting. I’ve enjoyed learning right along with the twins. Together, we’re discovering just how wonderful and complex every living cell is. The multi-media approach keeps the girls’ interest, and the apologetics resources from Answers in Genesis strengthen their faith. I’m so glad I rediscovered Guest Hollow. Perhaps the twins will take more Guest Hollow courses as they progress through high school science.