Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Memoria Press Nature's Beautiful Order (Natural History/Science Review)

Memoria Press has been a staple of Classical Homeschoolers for decades, with their Latin Curricula being one of the trademark products, however, as you may have noticed with my reviews over the years ( Famous Men of the Middle Ages and Prima Latina in 2009, Geography I in 2013, The Book of the Ancient Romans Set in 2015, The Book of Astronomy Set in 2016, and most recently The Illiad & the Odyssey Set in Spring 2017 ) they are not limited to one subject, by any stretch of the imagination. Once again the Crew were sent a selection of different curricula, with the set Nature's Beautiful Order being the product we were sent to review (scroll to the end of my review to find out what other products were reviewed, with a link to read them).

Natural History/Natural Science ~ what's in the set
Nature's Beautiful Order was written by professors Christopher O. Blum and  John A. Cuddeback, with an eye to creating a rigorous course for 6th to 9th grades, or as a supplementary curriculum for high school biology students. The set includes the textbook, student guide, and teacher key.

There are 18 chapters covered:
  • What is an Animal? 
  • The Lobster
  • The Cuttlefish
  • The Sea Urchin
  • The Bee
  • The Trout
  • The Frog
  • The Turtle
  • The Canada Goose
  • The Miracle of Flight
  • Day's Herald Bird
  • Birds at Home
  • The Groundhog
  • The White-Tailed Deer
  • The Carnivora
  • Farm Friends
  • Man the Upright Animal (Please note that this curriculum does not undermine the nature of man, or promote evolution, but addresses man as a mammal as well as a created being of reason)
  • Man the Steward
The Textbook employs the writings of classical scholars, approached through a Christian, Young Earth Worldview. They lean heavily on the works of Aristotle, the first and some would say greatest of the biologists, with great emphasis on the works of John James Audubon, Jean-Henri Fabre, and St. George J. Mivart. I have to be very truthful and admit that the only names I was really familiar with myself were Aristotle (but not as a biologist per se), and Audubon!

The Workbook is very typical of the Memoria Press style~ no nonsense questions that require an original answer on the lines provided ~ no multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank options here~ if they can answer the question, they understand it!
Teacher Key upper left, Student Guide upper right, Text lower middle

The Teacher Key looks just like the Student Guide inside except that all the blanks are filled in, to help you assess if your student is heading in the right direction with his answer or not.

Sample pages of all three books can be found on the Memoria Press Nature's Beautiful Order information page.

My Thoughts

The Text
The language is somewhat wordy in the way books written in the 19th Century sometimes are.
The first glance at the animal shows us a six-jointed tail, in front of which is a large solid mass (the cephalo-thorax, or head and fore-part of the body), terminating, anteriorly, in a pointed process the rostrum.
As you can see from the selection above, the sentence structure and even the vocabulary is a bit advanced for a middle school-aged student, and without accompanying diagrams could be a little difficult to understand. Admittedly my son is a little younger than the recommended age for this set, but I wondered how easily adaptable it would be for those families who school multiple ages at once. When reading aloud I stopped regularly to see if he was understanding the vocabulary, and felt that I was interrupting any flow of the text when doing so.

I ended up giving him the book to read on his own. Words that interfered with his understanding could be looked up, but if they didn't stand in the way of his understanding (ie... anteriorly...) he could skip right over them. Note: While I generally support using the dictionary, in this case the text (I think it is very evident that the book is authored by college professors, used to teaching to older students) is fairly dense with so many terms that I think it would be counterproductive from a time perspective to require those younger than 8th grade to define *all* the words they don't understand. ;) Not a negative, just an observation for those looking at the younger end of the recommended age range.

NOTE: as I mentioned at the beginning of this review, this book is also recommended as a supplement to High School Biology courses, and I think it is supremely suited as such!

I found that the pages that included charts or diagrams stuck with him, and the pages that were filled with text didn't as much.

The Workbook ~
Because of the age of my student using the curriculum, I generally allowed him to dictate his answers to me (his handwriting isn't on a par with the spaces allowed in the workbook~ enforcing penmanship isn't my forte'), and sometimes we just went over the questions verbally, depending on time and inclination. In those instances I just opened the Teacher Key and used it to check his comprehension. If he didn't understand what I was asking, or didn't retain the information, we opened the text up together and I gave him clues for finding the answers on the page.

While not his favorite style of learning science, reading through some of the chapters has provoked him to do some searches on specific people and creatures mentioned in the text, so I call that a win!

Not So Nutty Nitty Gritty 
You can visit Memoria Press on any one of their multiple Social Media outlets:
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Please click the banner below to visit the TOS Homeschool Review Crew and see what others had to say about Nature's Beautiful Order, The Book of Trees, and the Memoria Press Latin Programs from Prima Latina to Fourth Form Latin. As always, I hope that this review was useful to you as you choose where best to spend your homeschool budget.
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