Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How We Organize Apologia Notebooks

This post is for those who have asked how we 'do' our Apologia notebooks for the upper years.

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
Study Guide

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...


  1. Donna B31.7.07

    Perfect timing! I started organizing DD's AO notebooks this week. Thank you.

  2. Thank you for this helpful post Linda! I too was just preparing to schedule Apologia for next school year. I have recently begun looking at Donna Young's website & have found many helpful forms. Question, though, her Apolgia schedule is divided into 5 days, do you alter her schedule to make it 4 days or do you simply have your children work through her schedule, as is, only working 4 days a week? With doing that, how would you still finish in a 36 week period?
    Blessings, K.

  3. We don't use Apologia, but for science we do something similar- but I'm so lazy that I buy the already-divided 5-subject notebooks ;-)

  4. K,
    If you look at Donna's Gen. Sci. schedule, many days are blank so that several weeks are only 3 or 4 day weeks. On the days she left it blank we went to the next day and continued. We were able to finish all in 36wks, 4 days per wk.

    For Phys. Sci, Donna schedules two days each module for the study guide(generally), but my daughter only took one day per week to do it. She still has a couple modules to go on her schedule, but we will just finish it at the beginning of her Biology year before moving on. So I'd say it took her 40 weeks to do that year. She also told me that, because of the math, it took her about 45 minutes a day to do the Physical Science year.

  5. Coffeemamma,
    I've been away from the US so long I don't know what is available anymore. Glad to hear there is something like that now. I wouldn't call it laziness, but efficiency :)

  6. This was so helpful. You gave me several idea's for my son's.
    Thank you!

  7. My kids are much younger but I love reading any sort of organizational tips to see what we might be able to adapt for our use.

  8. Anonymous1.8.07

    I have not been able to find the answer elsewhere, perhaps you would know ... Why does AO endorse a textbook such as Apologia? At what point does the use of a standard textbook become okay according to Charlotte Mason? I have not read all of her books, but thus far, I have not found the answer to my question. BTW, I enjoy your blog as a source of inspiration. Sometimes, I find it overwhelming to not fall back on the old textbooks especially when HSing 5 separate ages.


  9. This would be a great post to add to the "open house " I am hosting (hint hint)

    If you feel up to particpating you can read the guidlines and such on my blog!

    Thanks for this post it was helpful!


  10. Anonymous2.8.07

    Thank you so much Lindafay.
    This has been so helpful. My son is finishing up Module 1 of GS. I really wasn't happy with the way we were going about it, without any structure. Now I can implement your ideas before going any further. Thanks bunches,

    God bless,
    Kelly Lynn in Texas

  11. How funny! I was just starting to do something very similar to this. Only difference is we do it 5 days a week and in the On Your Own section, I have already typed up the questions and printed them out (we use 3 ring binders instead of notebooks).

    May I post this blog post on my blog? I love to share my ideas with my friends and readers and I know they would love to see how you do Apologia.

  12. Heather,
    I don't mind if you tell others about it. I would prefer that you do not post the entire article on your blog.

    Thank you

  13. I enjoyed reading about how you organize for homeschool. Have a great year!

  14. Lindafay,
    Thank you for this post. I'm going to be a first time home schooler & needed this! One question though: You said: "...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."

    I looked on Donna Young's site & found this: http://www.donnayoung.org/apologia/pages/general-schedule2.htm But that's 20 pages. I don't see how I can staple 20 pages to the inside of a notebook. How did you do it?

    Thanks in advance for any help. Maritza

  15. Maritza,
    We used the first edition text and the schedule at Donna's site took up 4 pages front and back. I see that her new schedule for the 2nd edition is different and much longer. I suggest making a pocket on the inside front cover of the notebook by stapling a half sheet of thick paper such as manila folder material. Print the schedule front and back so less paper is used, staple it together in order, fold and place it in the pocket for reference.