Classics Not Textbooks: Literature Based Education – Science

It’s been while since I’ve posted one of these.  I’ve been collecting some wonderful science resources in the mean time :)

My kids are all still pretty young, and there are SO many non-textbook resources out there for pre-high school learners.  That being said, we have solid science plans all the way through high school.

Science is one of the easiest thing for me to teach.  Not because I am passionate (I’m passionate about learning so I always enjoy a good science lesson), but because my kids LOVE it!  Why?  What isn’t to love?  Animals, plants, diseases, weird pictures, explosions, experiments, and mess mess mess!

In the elementary years it is SO easy to make science fun and to use exciting and relevant resources.  There are countless books for children of all ages on just about every science subject under the sun.  Magic School Bus alone can serve as the jumping off point and last you for years!


Animals are some of my children’s favorite things to study.  You can go to your local library and pick up a book on any animal you can think of.  I’m also fond of the DK Animal Encyclopedia.  My kids can sit on the floor with this book and stare at the pictures for hours.


And of course, Brian Cleary has an “Animals are Categorical” series.


I also recommend One Minute Mysteries: Short Mysteries you solve with Science.  You can read my review here.


For older children and books to read aloud the old children’s authors have so much to offer!  Authors like Thornton Burgess take the wonders of animals and nature and wrap it up in a fantasy land that children are drawn to like magnets.  Check out for those and you can put on your ereaders for free.  Yesterday’s Classics has a deal where you can get a great many of these classics (many of which you can’t get on  Their website has them categorized by subject.  You can read only from the Nature section of Yesterday’s Classics and have a very rich scientific experience.


Beyond science and nature itself, the lives of the scientists and inventors are fascinating.  For the youngest children Mike Venezia’s Getting To Know the World’s Greatest Inventors and Scientists series is perfect.  Wonderful and playful illustrations and a short, child friendly biographies.  I swear if I had money to burn I would buy every children’s biography Mike Venezia ever wrote.


When I was looking for Mike Venezia biographies at the library I discovered a series that is absolutely brilliant for older children.  The Explosion Zone.  The illustrator in this series is the same illustrator as the “You Wouldn’t Want To…” series (which I will describe in my post about history).  These books are wonderfully detailed biographies on the scientists and their discoveries.  They are a little too long for younger children to sit through in one sitting (though the little children adore looking at the illustrations) but are perfect for independent readers who want to go into more depth than the level of the Venezia books.  My only complaint is that there are only four in the series :(


Science is one of those subjects that most people learn far better by doing and seeing.  Snap Circuits, Thames and Kosmos, Magic School Bus, and other science kits come in really handy, especially if you have little boys who learn by doing rather than reading.


If a science kit isn’t in the budget, Pinterest has hundreds of links to science experiments using every day household objects (you know how we homeschoolers love Pinterest).


When you are looking to supplement your lessons (or when you are in a pinch) there are some excellent science shows that are really popular with my children.  Popular Mechanics for KidsMagic School BusWild Kratts, and MythBusters are all well loved in this home.


I have a word of caution with Mythbusters.  It is an excellent show with TONS of scientific information and experiments however it’s not a show specifically geared towards children so there may be some content that you may feel is not appropriate.  For example, the two main scientists are both special effects experts and the props in the background of their offices look like they were plucked right out of a horror film.  Personally I felt that the science experiments and lessons were worth turning a blind eye to the occasional wax replica of a bloody corpse off in the corner of the office, but you are going to have to make that decision on your own.

For children in middle school and up, I have high hopes for Joy Hakim’s Story of Science.  I have started the series and like what I have read so far (other than the usage of BCE and ACE instead of BC and AD, it seems far to politically correct for my taste.)  This series tells the history of scientific discoveries.


One of the genres that often gets pegged as frivolous is science fiction.  Ender’s Game is fabulous for teaching quantum physics and other kinds of science.  Matt told me that reading the Enders books (and there are a lot of them) allowed him to truly understood the Theory of Quantum Entanglement.  Michael Vey makes electricity and physics exciting.  Michael Crichton is also and excellent resource.  Unfortunately I don’t know a lot of science fiction, if you have any suggestions I would love to hear them :)


Ok now here comes the part I don’t like… the controversial part.  Now I REALLY don’t want to start a debate on evolution vs creationism but to think that it is not a divisive issue in the scientific community is foolish.  That being said I have to say that taking part in the debate is even more foolish.  I have made no secret of the fact that I believe in God.  Believing in God tends to go hand in hand with belief in a Divine creation.  I know that some people think you can separate religion from science but the fact of the matter is, if you are a religious person, your beliefs color EVERYTHING, not just religion.  I don’t pretend to know how He created the world it, and to be perfectly honest, I don’t know that it’s even possible to know how in this life.  Personally, I think that there are far more than two sides to this argument and that the truth lies somewhere in between the two polar opposites.  I believe MOST people who believe in a Creator do not fall under the umbrella that many of the outspoken creationists (like Ken Ham) hold.  I would also like to believe that MOST secular or atheist scientists aren’t hostile to others simply because they believe in God.

There are two things that really bother me about the whole debate.  First of all, the origin of man is such a minuscule portion of the “science” pie.  It really is SO tiny and when we focus on fighting over this microscopic slice we are missing out on a vast amount of knowledge and frankly, (and this is where my scientist readers throw their hands up and curse my name) it doesn’t matter.  That’s right… it doesn’t matter.

It certainly may matter to YOU, and if it does excellent!  Try and discover everything you can to learn the truth!  If it is your life’s mission to study the origin of man and the universe then you shouldn’t let anyone stop you.  But please don’t make the mistake of thinking that something that is important to YOU is the same as something being necessary and important for all of mankind.

Whether or not we evolved from a single celled organism does not affect the chemical properties of water or gasoline.  Whether we were created by a Heavenly Father or not does not change the fact that if we mix ammonia and bleach we will poison ourselves.  It doesn’t change how the body works any more than it changes how rocks are formed.  Scientifically “proving” where we as a human race came from has zero bearing on the political state of war and will never solve poverty or hunger.  In fact, I would say that rooting out the intolerance and bigotry that spawned such a debate to begin with will go farther in solving the world’s problems than “proving” or “disproving” Darwinism.  There is SO much more to science than calling each other names just because they have a different theory than you do!  Which brings me to the second thing that bothers me about the evolution/creation debate.

Science isn’t about proving anything!  In fact science CAN’T prove anything.  As a very bright young man wrote to the journal Science, “Scientific measurements can only disprove theories or be consistent with them. Any theory that is consistent with measurements could be disproved by a future measurement.”  The editor rightly conceded to that point.

Science is about discovery.  It’s about trying to figure out how the world around us works.  When we use different scientific theories to attack each other and our beliefs, we have effectively stepped out of the realm of science and into tyranny.  In science (or in any subject for that matter) opposing theories and positions should be welcomed and openly debated without malice or bigotry.  No one lost my respect as a scientist more quickly than Bill Nye the Science Guy when he claimed that “religion was the enemy of science”.  The two can and DO peacefully coexist and it is incredibly arrogant for him to essentially dismiss the vast majority of history’s scientists and their discoveries because they believed in a higher power.  And it’s dangerous for him to categorize over half of the world’s population as the “enemy”.

Let’s not forget that not long ago the leading scientists in the world swore up and down that washing your hands before performing medical procedures wasn’t necessary.  The finest scientific minds thought that we could “breed out” the undesirable qualities in the human race.  And, let’s please not forget that in 2011 Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was called into question.  New scientific discoveries are happening every day and scientists make huge (and sometimes deadly) mistakes every day.  Please don’t allow yourself to get caught up in a divisive debate that has absolutely no bearing on science itself.

That was my very long introduction to the science textbooks that I use for our family :)

Exploring Creation

UPDATE!  Excellent news!! The Exploring Creation middle school and high school science books are NOW available at Berean Builders, which is Dr. Wile’s NEW publishing company! For those of who who did not want to purchase the books due to Apologia’s anti-mormon views, look no further than Berean Builders. Same great science, no worries about financially supporting Apologia.

In my opinion the Exploring Creation series is, hands down, the best science curriculum on the market today.  As you would expect from the name, this series comes from a Christian worldview and unapologetically acknowledges the hand of God in the organization of the universe.  However, unlike what a lot of atheist scientists are claiming these days (cough cough Bill Nye the Science Guy), it is NOT anti-science.  All you have to do is read them to know that.  One of the reasons why I like this series is because all current theories about the origin of man are discussed in detail and they do not hide from theories that they don’t subscribe to.  They simply lay out all of the evidence and allow you to decide for yourself.  That being said, I fully realize that the references to a Creator (especially prevalent in the elementary books) might not be appreciated in every household and for those of you who know of any excellent secular science books, please tell me so I can inform my readers :)

Okay, on to the nitty gritty.

Last spring we spent a good portion of our tax refund to outfit ourselves with the entire collection of Exploring Creation series up through high school.  We chose to buy it all at once (and early) because it would allow me to refresh my own science knowledge before my children entered that phase of their education.  I also like the peace of mind that comes with knowing we are fully prepared for our educational needs up through high school.

Shortly after I purchased the books the current owners of Apologia Educational Ministries (the publishers) took an extremely anti-mormon stance.  As an LDS homeschooler I am used to seeing a certain prejudice against our beliefs in the curriculum and books we get from mainstream christian sources.  Most of the time it’s just a matter of addressing doctrinal differences in history or literature.  Last year, Apologia made a statement that took a stand against the Latter-Day Saints faith that is quite a bit harsher than your average anti-mormon sentiment.  In fact it was quite hostile and reminded me a little too much of the “origin of man” debate I referenced earlier.

After learning of this I found myself in a bit of a quandary.  How could I justify financially supporting an institution that is so intolerant and hateful?  On the other hand the books themselves had no content hostile to my faith… AND I had already purchased them.  I concluded that the books were a sunk cost and it would be stupid of me to throw money down the drain because of the sad and misguided intolerance of a publishing company.  However I was still uncomfortable with recommending the books to my readers because of it.  Fortunately, shortly after original publication of this article, Berean Builders began selling ALL of Dr. Wile’s science text books!  Problem solved!

But back to the science books themselves.  Shortly after this all came to light I discovered a new elementary science book coming from a brand new publishing company.  The author was Dr. Jay Wile.  I looked him up and discovered that not only was he the author of the entire high school Apologia Exploring Creation series, but he was also the founder of Apologia publishing itself!  My curiosity was piqued.  I contacted him and confirmed that one of the reasons he left Apologia Educational Ministries was, “they spend far too much time drawing lines to separate us rather than concentrating on the things we have in common.”  Knowing that he did not share the prejudices of the once great company helped me be more comfortable with supporting him as an author.

His book, In The Beginning, is the same fabulous science we have come to expect from his work in the Exploring Creation series.  His books are some of the few “textbooks” that are also “classics” for me.


Dr. Wile has a gift.  He clearly loves science and has made it his life’s mission to share it with our children.  The books are geared towards homeschoolers and are written in a way so that you can work on it together which your family or your children can pick it up and read it on their own if they so desired (as my children often do).  This particular volume has several different types of science over 90 lessons with more experiments then we could possibly fit in.  They are broken up into groups of 15, one group for each “creative day”.  So since on the first day God said, “let their be light”, the first section is all about light, colors, energy, the law of conservation, how the human eye sees – all things relating to light.  The second day is water, and on and on.

For more specialized elementary science books, Apologia still corners the market on the Young Explorer’s series.  The Young Explorer Series, is also excellent.  In this case there are seven books: Zoology 1, Zoology 2, Zoology 3, Botany, Astronomy, Human Anatomy and Physiology, and Chemistry and Physics.  The author of this series is Jeannie Fulbright and again, she clearly has a gift and loves teaching.  That being said, I have found a few things in the zoology books that I had to clarify with my kids.  I don’t necessarily subscribe to all of the theories the author mentions in those books, but, since we don’t hide from opposing points of view, I look at things like that as just another opportunity for a teaching moment.  The other three in the series however are flawless in their presentation (from what I have read) and my children are absolutely delighted every single time I mention studying science.  You can really use these in any order you wish though you may want to do the zoology books in order.  You can purchase note booking journals separately but I find they don’t fit in well with our style.

If you are uncomfortable financially supporting Apologia because of their divisive position, you can buy the books used (and thereby saving money) or buy them from another company (, that kind of thing).  They don’t get nearly as much money when we buy it from anyone OTHER than directly from Apologia.

We use all eight books (the seven Young Explorers books and Science In The Beginning) in our home on a regular basis.  I’m especially fond of Chemistry and Physics and Lucy is partial to Human Anatomy and Physiology.


On to the jr high and high school books.  As I mentioned before these were all written by Dr. Jay Wile.  They are General Science and Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.  That will get you through your jr year of high school and fulfilling most college entrance requirements (most universities only require two or three years of laboratory science).  When you purchase the books, I suggest you buy the kit which includes textbook, the tests and solutions.  I also recommend that you buy the companion CD’s which are helpful with vocabulary pronunciation and visual resources for sample experiments (yes it is Mac compatible).  The chemistry book also has a chemistry lab kit that you need to purchase separately.


For your child’s senior year (or for parents like me who get to do senior year over again every time their child does) you have a few options.  Depending on your child’s interests and future goals you can choose from The Human Body (Advanced Biology), Marine Biology (another Advanced Biology option and what I expect Emma will choose), Advanced Chemistry (this is totally going to be Spencer’s choice), and Advanced Physics.  I don’t currently have the Marine Biology, Advanced Chemistry, or Advanced Physics but I may end up getting them in the end just for me!  Please note that as of the editing of this article, the Marine Biology, Advanced Chemistry, and Advanced Physics are NOT available from Berean Builders.


Well there you have it, our science plans for k-12.  Did I miss anything?

Click here to visit my science Amazon Affiliate store.

**This post has been edited to inform you of the Exploring Creation series now being available on


14 Comments Add yours

  1. Amy says:

    Thank you for the post. Another video that we have and love is God of Wonders. We watched it on Netflix and my husband liked it so much we ended up buying it. We have used the Apologia Young Explorers books- Anatomy and this year we are using the Astronomy book. Everyone has enjoyed them both.


  2. Cari says:

    Awesome list! I love all the Nature Classics- we have a few of them but many I hadn’t heard of before, definitely adding them to my shopping cart. We love Snap Circuits and Fishertechnik, I’m stocking up on a bunch of engineering kits before we leave. I also think Apologia is by far the best curriculum for going “all the way”. My husband was a microbiology major (before turning lawyer) so science is very important to him and we’ve yet to find another curriculum that has measured up. I’m excited to check out Dr Wile’s new book, I hadn’t heard of it before. I also love the Michael Vey series, and although I hated Ender’s Game and couldn’t even read more than a few chapters- my science-geek husband LOVED it.

    We have different views on evolution than most Christian’s simply because my husband is a scientist and he has read (and loves) Darwin. The misconception is that Darwin excuses the need for God, but in fact Darwin believed in God and he believed it was God that created things but let them change into their current state. Evolution is simply the fact that things change over time, which indeed they do.

    Anyway, GREAT resources!


    1. Thanks for the extra resources! I’ll have to add them to my science page :)

      Excellent explanation! It frustrates me that so many people think it has to be either one or the other and can’t possibly be some combination of both. They let such a tiny and minuscule portion of (essentially) science history come in between them. Instead of two great minds working together they spend their energy fighting each other. How about instead of arguing, Bill and Ken get together and try and make solar power efficient and cost effective. But because these two men who both clearly love science can’t agree on ONE thing (one thing that won’t change anything even if we DID know the truth) they are wasting their brilliance.



  3. Cari says:

    Oh, and another one I’m going to check out for my little ones is Real Science 4 Kids, my 7 year old is just getting into apologia jr explorer, but my other two still aren’t very interested- hoping this will be a hit


  4. Heather B. says:

    Excellent post!


  5. Tristan says:

    I’m going to dig into this post deeper later on, I love all the ideas. Some we have and enjoy: Magic School Bus, Apologia, Yesterday’s Classics, Mythbusters, etc. I had heard of Jay Wile’s new curriculum and peeked at samples. It looks pretty good.

    We actually just ordered a new science curriculum I’m hoping will be a fun and easy way to do science with the younger 7 children: God’s Design for Science. It’s a series put out by Answers in Genesis that is very multi-level teaching friendly. I’ll let you know what we think of them. My idea is that we will use these as a base for the younger children and then let them dive deeper with the Apologia Elementary books as they want to. God’s Design is a 4 year set that you then repeat until kids reach 7th or 8th, having them use whatever information section for their age/level each time. It looks promising! Then we plan to have them go right into Apologia General Science from there. Makayla is enjoying that one this year and I’m enjoying it too!

    I’ve not heard of The Story of Science! I would love to hear more about it (and get my hands on a copy…lol).

    I agree, the whole Creation vs. Evolution debate usually is a waste of time. We don’t know the specifics yet and it’s not going to affect our eternal salvation. We’ll get 100% accurate answers when we see God face to face anyway!


  6. Tristan says:

    Ooo, a question! What do you think of Joy Hakim’s A History of US series of books?


    1. I think that SOME of the books are excellent. I don’t appreciate her take on feminism and her last book was very progressive from what I could tell (granted I only skimmed it). I LOVE the book on the Civil War and the one before it. I thought they gave a very balanced view. Her section on LDS history was the best I have ever seen from someone who wasn’t LDS. I don’t know much about the first several volumes because I used other resources.

      I decided that I would not buy the set, but would check them out one at a time from the library as needed and if I could use most of the volume without having to correct the discrepancies in our world view I would buy it.

      She is clearly a very talented woman who loves history and I can appreciate that very much.


  7. Misti says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on so many great resources!

    I had the same concerns about Apoligia’s anti-Mormon stand point. I wondered if you had noticed that is also anti-Mormon? (Though they don’t go so far as to actually teach an anti-Mormon class as Apologia does.) On, under Books->Cults, Occult & Spiritual Warfare->Cults, you’ll find listed Mormonism.

    I haven’t taken the time to contact about this, but it saddens me to see a company clearly identifying itself as Christian being so openly un-Christian-like. I haven’t shopped there since making this unfortunate discovery.


    1. I didn’t know that! How sad :( thanks for the info.


      1. I took Christian book out if my recommendation. Sad :( I always had a good experience with them.


  8. Sanz says:

    Great resources! I’m excited to look into many of these. When that whole thing happened with Apologia, I wrote them a letter stating how horrendous I thought it was that they were teaching such hate-filled messages to children about Mormons, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses and never even got a response. I won’t purchase any more of their products because of this and I won’t review their products either. The other books you mentioned by Dr. Wile (I think that’s what you said) look like a fabulous resource. I am super impressed you have everything planned out so far in advance. I will buy some new supplies in July-ish and I think my boys would love Snap Circuits. Thanks Courtney!


  9. Bebe McGooch says:

    Thank you for this valuable post. Some books that I also adore for the younger set are Ruth Heller’s picture books. Beautiful illustrations to accompany lessons on animals, grammar, and design.


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