In the fall of 2014, Apologia released the third edition of its chemistry course. While I had written the two previous editions, they went with two different authors for their third edition. I reviewed it and couldn’t recommend it to anyone. Since Apologia allowed its second edition to go out of print, I thought that homeschoolers needed another option, so I wrote a new chemistry course, which Berean Builders published in the summer of 2015. Many people have asked me how I compare my new book to Apologia’s new book, but it is hard for me to do that, since I am the author of one and not the other.
In December of last year, I received an email from a mother (Leeanne White) who needed advice about chemistry. Her daughter (Sarah) was using Apologia’s new chemistry book and was really struggling. She had gotten through the first three modules and just wasn’t getting it. I suggested that she use my book instead. She decided that was a good idea. I also asked her to consider writing a completely honest comparison of the two courses. She agreed.
Well, Sarah and Leeanne have been through four chapters of my book now, and they both agree that it works much better for them. They wrote up a review (which contains both perspectives), and it appears below. They promised to write another review once they are completely done, but I thought people might want to see what they think so far.
From the student’s perspective:
We chose Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Chemistry 3rd edition, because I had just completed Apologia’s Anatomy textbook, 2nd edition, and I loved it. After finishing 3 modules of Exploring Chemistry I was very displeased and frustrated to the point where I thought I should find a different textbook. After doing some searching, we chose Dr. Wile’s Discovering Design with Chemistry. I have now studied 4 chapters of Discovering Design with Chemistry, and I love it! I have been comparing the two textbooks and taking notes as I study. Here are some of the differences I noticed.
From the very first sentence of Discovering Design’s introduction, I found it to be warm, welcoming, fun, clear and understandable. On reading the introduction and the first module to the Apologia book, I thought it would be a good course, however, as I continued into the 2nd and 3rd modules, I found myself becoming more overwhelmed and confused.
Subject Matter: From what I can tell the Apologia Chemistry covers all the topics necessary for chemistry, but I was not always sure why the book included some of the information. I noticed as I went through Discovering Design that Dr. Wile does not waste time talking about topics or formulating experiments that are not directly related to the material being studied. When I covered the material a second time in Discovering Design, I finally grasped concepts that were confusing: why math is so important to chemistry; what light, energy and frequency must do with atoms and how they relate to chemistry and to one another; how historical scientists fit into the chemistry concept.
Organization of Subject Matter: In studying the Apologia Chemistry, I got the impression that it was thrown together, whereas the Discovering Design flows from one thought to the next. An example would be in Discovering Design the discussion of density was given in chapter 1 along with other discussion about measuring units. This made sense to me. In Exploring Creation, the discussion of density doesn’t even come in until module 6. So far, this seems to be a repeating thing with Exploring Creation with Chemistry 3rd edition and is probably a main reason why the book is so confusing for me.
Illustrations: Both texts have some good illustrations. In the Apologia text, I particularly liked figure 1.3 and Table 1.1 and 1.2 (1.2 is also in Discovering Design). However, figure 2.7 was confusing in Apologia where I loved the comparable graphed outline of the four categories of element, compound, homogeneous and heterogeneous mixtures in Discovering Design.
Review and Study Guides: Discovering Design shows you what you need to remember (pink boxes, bold face type). There are good comprehension checks to help make sure you understand the material. Dr. Wile’s reviews really prepare you for the test. What I also love about Dr. Wile’s reviews is that he asks questions that you really can’t answer unless you know the material. Also, in chapter 2, I appreciated having the edited version of Dalton’s Atomic Theory. Though the Apologia Chemistry study guides were helpful for preparing for the tests, I did not feel as if it mattered or not whether I understood the material.
From the parent’s perspective:
Solutions and Test Manuals: The format of the Solutions and Tests in both texts is organized and easy to use. In the Apologia, the review questions are helpful, but a few times I found myself confused trying to help the student struggle through a concept, and the textbook was little help. The tests, for the most part, are either multiple choice or short answer, and there are few, if any, scientific terms for the students to learn. A few times, I was not always sure the answers given were correct.
In Discovering Design, the answers for the review and test questions are thorough so both the teacher and the student know exactly why an answer is correct or not. On the tests, the questions are in a variety of formats and quite often have challenging questions that require the student to apply concepts. The tests require students to learn scientific terms.