I buy a steno (spiral bound) notebook, because my daughter doesn't like loose-leaf paper notebooks anymore. 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.
We do science four days a week. It usually takes her 30 to 40 minutes daily.
Next, we divide the notebook into five sections. I make nice little tabs from colored paper and tape but you can just buy them if you wish:
On Your Own
Vocabulary- My daughter writes down the new vocabulary and definitions listed in the book in bold as she finds it 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 concepts. This section only needs 10 to 15 pages.
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 must write down the correct answers on the right side of the page if she answered incorrectly. You should allow more paper for this section.
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 and is allowed to check her answers by herself. She uses a red pen, marking her wrong answers and writing in the correct answers on the right side of the page. This section should be one of the larger divisions.
Experiments- We do most of the experiments, but not all. I usually don't do them. My daughter 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 just as a scientist would do in order to acquaint her with the scientific method. At this point, I keep it simple. It gets a bit more complicated in later years, but for now her experiment pages look like this:
Materials- list everything used for the experiment
Procedure- She must clearly explain the procedure and illustrate it with simple pictures and labels
Results- Vagueness not allowed. Be precise using correct vocabulary.
Summary- She tells what she learned here or what law or principle was demonstrated, etc…
(in high school next year, we will add 'Hypothesis')
This section requires fewer pages.
Tests- At the end of a two-week module she takes a short test. I correct this test myself with a red pen. I grade it by adding up all her answers, not the amount of questions, because often a question has several parts to it. Then I convert this to a percentage with a calculator and give anything 90 percent and above an A. 80 to 89 a B, and so on. She must correct every mistake before going on to a new module. So, if out of a possible 20 points, she got 17 correct, then I divide 17 by 20. This section requires fewer pages.
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.
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 oldest 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. This year we begin biology. I'll let you know how it goes.
one step at a time...