Let’s start with the things I loved. From the standpoint of what is covered, this course is a better fit for students who took Jeannie Fulbright and Dr. Brooke Ryan’s elementary course, Exploring Creation with Human Anatomy and Physiology. That’s because in the second edition of Exploring Creation with General Science, I spent an enormous amount of time covering the human body. Fulbright and Ryan’s course does that as well, so there is a lot of overlap for students who have taken their course. This problem is compounded by the fact that Fulbright and Ryan’s course is the most difficult of all the elementary courses in that series, so it is usually taken in fifth or sixth grade, just one or two years before the general science course is usually taken. This new edition of general science does not dwell on the human body, so students will not have to sift through all that repetitive material. However, as I will mention later on, students will have to sift through repetitive material if they end up taking the next book in the publisher’s series.
I also loved the discussion of graphs and tables that takes place in Module 3. It is very well done, and it is something that will be extremely useful for students who are getting ready for high school science.
Another great thing about the course is that many of the experiments are novel and interesting. For example, there are several “standard” household experiments on the subject of density, but this course’s experiment on density (Experiment 1.1) is one that I had never seen and is very effective. Another great experiment is the Rube Goldberg experiment that ends the course.
In addition, I loved the way that Seligson makes science personal. She starts the course with a letter to the student and ends the course with another one. That’s a nice touch. Similarly, I loved the fact that the last module is made up of personal testimonies from several different scientists. They discuss how the scientists came to enjoy science, what they have done and are doing in their scientific field, and how they relate science to their Christian faith. That is an excellent way to end the course.
Unfortunately, there were also things I didn’t like about the course. My biggest dislike is that I don’t think there is enough explanation for most of the topics that are covered. Some topics (like graphs and mass) are thoroughly explained, but most are glossed over. For example, the book attempts to explain the refraction of light using a grand total of five sentences. In the same way, it discusses the light path in a reflecting telescope with such little explanation that I don’t understand the point the book was trying to make. When it comes to the amount of explanation, this book reads like a typical school textbook, not a course designed for independent study.
My second dislike is that the book uses some concepts before it explains them. For example, the book discusses the earth’s core and notes that while the inner core is hotter than the outer core, the outer core is liquid, and the inner core is solid. It then says that this is because the pressure in the inner core is so high that the atoms are not able to move around. However, the phases of matter (solid, liquid, and gas) are not discussed until 66 pages later. Even when the phases of matter are discussed, the differences in atomic motion among the phases are never discussed! Thus, the student has no idea why the lack of atomic motion makes the inner core solid.
The last dislike I want to mention is that the book makes the artificial distinction between “operational science” and “historical science.” I understand that a lot of creationists like the distinction, but it is not real. To see that, all you have to do is look at real scientific research that is currently happening. For example, Lenski’s Long Term Evolution Experiment is a repeatable experiment that is being run right now (what the book calls “operational science”), but it helps us understand the limits of natural selection, which allows us to better understand the kinds of biological change that happened in the past (what the book calls “historical science”). In the same way, epidemiologists use things that happened in the past (“historical science”) to learn about the causes of and risk factors for disease (“operational science”). Finally, how do predictive models about the future (such as models related to global warming) fit into all this? In reality, there is no distinction between “operational” and “historical” science. Science is science, and trying to make artificial distinctions like this is counterproductive.
There are also things that I don’t understand about the book. The introduction, for example, says that the student notebook is required. However, I don’t see why. Sure, it has note-taking prompts, places for the students to write their answers, etc. However a student can take notes and answer questions in a blank notebook, and it’s a lot cheaper! I am not saying the notebook is useless. Like most study aids, it will be useful to some and useless to others. But why is it listed as necessary?
Also, while the topics covered are better for students who have recently used Fulbright and Ryan’s elementary course, they are not a good fit for those who plan to use the next book in the publisher’s science series, Exploring Creation with Physical Science. That’s because large swaths of what is found in modules 5-9 of this course are also in the physical science course. That means a lot of repetition for students who plan to use the next book in the series. Now, it’s possible that the physical science course will be replaced next year; I don’t know. But even if it is replaced, some students will be in co-ops and other groups that will be using the old edition of the course for several years to come. Thus, parents need to be aware of the significant overlap between the two courses.
Overall, then, I am really conflicted about this course. It has some great aspects, and it has some bad aspects. It also has some mystifying aspects. As a result, I will neither recommend the course nor suggest that you avoid it. Instead, I want to hear from actual users. If you are reading this and decide to use the course, please remember that I would like to hear from you. You can use the contact form on this website to let me know what you think of it after you have used it for a while. I will then post a follow-up about what I have heard approximately one year from today.
Please note that if you use the book, I strongly recommend that you visit the “book extras” website, which is discussed on page viii. There, you will find a list of clarifications (the proper term is “errata”) that should be used to correct some passages in the book.