Experience Biology by Journey Homeschool Academy is my recommendation for senior high school level biology! And yes, this program can be enjoyed by students in CANADA! Read on for more details!
Note: This post contains affiliate links. (See my disclosure policy here.)
Journey Homeschool Academy is a more recent curriculum provider; JHA focuses most of its course offerings in the subject area of SCIENCE. The course designers, Luke and Trisha Gilkerson are Christian homeschool parents. Luke’s background includes interests in teaching astronomy, logic, and theology. Trisha’s background is in science and psychology. (Both have masters-level degrees.) Along with their team, they produce nicely-presented online video-based lessons, easy-to-follow along simple and comprehensive notebooks with diagrams, charts, fill-in-the-blanks and lab guidebooks.
Today’s blog post will focus on LEVEL C of BIOLOGY. This is their senior level biology, i.e. grade 11/12, university preparatory level of course.
(This company produces online video-based courses for elementary levels too, and you can check those too if that is the style you would prefer for elementary. I personally do not prefer online courses for elementary levels so I will not be trying to blog about those levels. But I realize that, for some homeschool situations, online learning is what is desired so I mention all of their science courses here:)
Below are ALL of their current SCIENCE course offerings (with my affiliate links).
Experience Biology Elementary
Experience Astronomy Elementary
Earth Science Explored (Middle School): (In Canada, middle school years equates to grades 7-10.)
Experience Astronomy (Middle School)
Experience Biology (High School): (In Canada, “high school” in this context equates to grades 11-12.)
Experience Chemistry (High School)
Experience Astronomy (High School)
Or check out Journey Homeschool Academy’s homepage!
You can also preview this course for FREE! Please click on my affiliate button link to do that here:
Journey Homeschool Academy has a Fabulous Fit Promise! They want this course to be a “fabulous fit” for your family. So, if you were to purchase the course, then discover that there is NOT going to be appropriate for your student, they do offer a 100% money-back, happiness guarantee within 30 days of the start of the course OR 6 months from purchase date (whichever comes first).
Experience Biology Level C: My Description
There were four aspects which first caught my eye when I saw the Experience Biology Level C advertised on JHA’s website:
- The video component was visually-appealing, not flashy entertainment but are not a dry-and-boring lecture either. Their videos took first place in my opinion, while Science Shepherd Biology for the same grade level took second place; Science Shepherd has many good points to it and is much better than other popular science video-based curriculum but with Experience Biology videos, often the picture turns into full-screen rather than a picture-within-a-picture format, which means the more interesting video clip to illustrate a concept is larger than the “talking head”. Voices are great, content is straightforward, and while history and vocabulary are definitely part of the lessons, the focus remains on science, not philosophy or history or just defining big words. (Science studies should include a large amount of “how” and “why”, not just “what” or “when”.)
- The notebook component was straightforward and attractive. The print wasn’t too small. The white space on the page is great. There is a small amount of colour ink the pages but not huge amounts of it, making it economical to print and put into binders. Each student needs a notebook binder plus a lab manual binder. I like how the notebook guides the student to practice good notetaking skills (e.g. colour-coding) and includes activities such as making labelled diagrams, again, with a good sizing.
- Marking: They (not the homeschool mom) mark the tests and exams! (This is done automatically since the tests exist online, on the computer.) This was actually a feature I was looking for – I wanted not just an answer key but rather, the tests marked for me. Sure, as a mom with a science degree, I might have “the ability” to mark the tests and follow along with an answer key BUT do I have a lot of time and energy to keep doing that for two teens plus work with the 4 elementary kiddos? Not really. (Last year, a friend of ours helped with marking upper-level biology with the program we were using because I was swamped with so many other household activities by the time I needed to finish the marking.) And the test questions are thought-out, not just generated by a machine, so they have a purpose. (I also liked their approach to tests – they can be repeated because all the “tests” are doing is to check that foundational concepts have been grasped enough to move on. They aren’t just quizzing a student for the sake of getting a mark. The exams, on the other hand, are testing retention and knowledge of the covered material. Those are weighted into a final mark and resemble “real” science exams, preparing students for post-secondary courses.) Labs are marked by the parent but there are guidelines given for these. They specifically want to teach the skill of how to write a lab report as well, not just doing the hands-on work and answering a few questions about it.
- I also liked that the textbook is used as I think one should be for such a course – as a reference tool, not the curriculum itself. That means that any good senior high school level biology textbook is fine to use. And that meant I didn’t have to purchase another textbook but rather could simply use the biology textbook(s) I already have in my home. Although the course is somewhat costly, especially when you figure in the exchange rate, I have felt that the overall cost versus benefit is quite reasonable.
Obviously, with a name like “Experience Science”, there is a hands-on component to the lessons. But, for labs which your family does not choose to actually “do”, there is a video showing what would have been done. And rather than a self-discovery method of learning, students should be able to understand the basics of what should be done because the labs have a fair amount of guidance provided. (The one exception I’ve found to this was that, in my opinion, they missed a “using a microscope” rule, which perhaps they will include in future editions: Since you always should begin at the lowest magnification to see a slide, adjust the knobs to see that clearly and put the object in the center of your viewing area. When you move up to a greater magnification, ONLY adjust the fine adjustment knob, never the coarse adjustment on higher powers because, if you accidentally move the coarse adjustment downwards on a higher power, it might touch the glass slide and cause breakage or scratching of the microscope lens or smush the slide and its contents. Yes, our microscope is still fine and so are the slides.)
How important is it to have specialty lab supplies for this course? In reality, the parent/student decides how many labs to complete as “hands-on” assignments (compared to just watching the lab demo online) and thus, which items need to be purchased. This course leaves these decisions to the individual family to decide while still teaching the material in a visual manner. I would however, highly recommend that the usage of a microscope for this level of science IS important.
The senior level lab supplies are the only potential concern I had in going with this program. (The lower level science courses don’t have the “hard-to-find” supplies.)
It has been difficult to find a science supply business in Canada who will ship to residences and in small quantities (rather than school classrooms). Also, using a USA homeschool science supplier is difficult if not impossible, for some kinds of lab supplies – especially chemicals such as stains. (There are import/border restrictions.) I searched and asked a number of suppliers for possibilities for lab supplies for this program.
I had hoped it could come in an easy kit for Canadians but that didn’t work out. But what CAN be done sounds good still to me.
Here’s What Can Be Done for LAB SUPPLIES in CANADA:
Many of the supplies used for the labs are common household items, easily found around the home already or in a grocery store or similar. You might want to check ahead in the curriculum though, if you shop in a very small community and don’t already have the items in your home already. We didn’t have a geranium or an ivy plant (the lab asked for just one of these plants) and we did not find an ivy plant until Christmas plants were available in department stores. One lab also asks for a flowering plant to dissect (e.g. a lily or a tulip).
The basic answer regarding finding SENIOR LEVEL specialty lab supplies in CANADA for Journey Homeschool Academy Science is that I can provide you a short list of labs which only use household/grocery store type of supplies and also can provide you a list of supplies that you can get through Amazon or a pharmacy or a pet store or a pool/spa store or a science supply business in Canada.
GENERAL SUPPLIES: Safety goggles, latex or nitrile gloves – I’m sure you could find these at Canadian Tire or similar.
THE SPECIALTY SUPPLIES:
Some lab supplies for this course are “specialty” items and I wanted to give you that list including at least one place where you might find each IN CANADA.
The main place I’ve linked to is Spectrum Educational Supplies, located in Ontario. Be aware that shipping costs are very high because the supplies are fragile or chemicals. If you contact them before you finalize an order, they may be able to reduce your shipping costs slightly by “split shipping”. The customer service representative I dealt with was very willing to help. The total shipments arrived at our place about 3-6 weeks after ordering and were in very good condition, nothing broken. (On the other hand, when I had 2 shipments from a different supplier for glass slides, those arrived shattered.)
Sprig of Elodea – I understand this might be found in a pet/aquarium shop. It is mentioned on the list of supplies for Lab #3. (Perhaps try Petsmart since they also offer delivery in Canada and mention this water plant in their note at the bottom of this page.)
Iodine – I’ve found this at a pharmacy.
5 Petri dishes with nutrient agar – Here is a link to Spectrum Educational Supplies (Canada) for a set of 2 Petri dishes with the agar. (If you have the “Microscope Discovery Kit” mentioned below, it includes one dish already.) Another option would be to get a number of Petri dishes and a bottle of agar separately (e.g. if you have several students). Some garden seed companies also sell Petri dishes in their accessories section of a seed catalogue. Amazon might be the more economical place to find these, especially since you might want more than 5 dishes if the experiment needs to be repeated or if there will be students in future years who will need those. The dishes are to be disposed of at the end of the experiments (i.e. put into household garbage and NOT reused).
5 Test Tubes with Rack and a Wax Pencil – Here is a link to Spectrum Educational Supplies (which has several test tube options including) this set (which is a little wobbly for standing the test tubes up straight but this is workable) and also on this link for a wax pencil. Scholar’s Choice also sells test tube sets and a rack.
THE MICROSCOPE: Senior biology makes use of a microscope (you can see my tips for choosing a microscope on this post here: https://www.peppermintsticklearningco.com/what-about-micro…/ ) and microscopes and prepared slides can be found at places such as The Learning House (Ontario), Canadian Home Education Resources (Alberta), or The Tree of Life School and Book Services (New Brunswick), or Home Science Tools (USA).
THE MICROSCOPE SLIDES: You can purchase “prepared microscope slides” in a set or individually, for example, by purchasing a different homeschool course set (e.g. the set of prepared slides from Apologia’s Biology has many of the same items in their set or you can make some of them yourself with blank glass slides/cover slips and things around your own home). Some prepared microscope slides may be purchased individually through Spectrum Educational Supplies (Ontario) which ships across Canada to individual people.
Blank microscope slides and cover slips – These are available in the Microscope Discovery Kit (mentioned below) or separately at the same place, for example, here (slides) and here (covers). I really like these because we can investigate various things in our backyard or home using them with a drop of stain or water! (To put a square glass cover on a slide, you put the edge of one cover side touching the edge of the drop of liquid (which is on the rectangle slide with the specimen(s)) at approximately a 45 degree angle and let it drop down the rest of the way onto the slide. Then excess liquid may be gently blotted on the edges with a piece of tissue paper/lens paper.)
Prepared microscope slides: Most of these are available as single slides at Spectrum Educational Supplies. You may be able to also find a set of slides which has some or most of them together. Search in that website for these keywords to find them:
Amoeba proteus (in with a microbial set, along with Paramecium, Euglena, and Pencillium)
Paramecium – see above
Euglena – see above
Penicillium – look for a set of “3 Types of Mold”.
Monocot leaf c.s. (Note: c.s. means “cross-section”. If you can’t find one labelled as “monocot” versus “dicot”, look at what are their leaf, stem, or root names on the slides, which might be “corn” or “buttercup” and then look up that plant to see what kind of plant is it – e.g. is buttercup a monocot plant or a dicot plant and so on.
Dicot leaf c.s.
Monocot stem c.s.
Dicot stem c.s.
Onion Root tip l.s. (Note: l.s. means “longitudinal section”)
Human Skin c.s. – in a set of Human Biology slides, not currently available as a single slide. (Some people just would make their own cheek cell slide using a toothpick gently scraped along the inside of one’s own cheek.)
THE DISSECTIONS: If you want to do dissections, you can either get specimens through places that sell other homeschool science lab supplies in Canada or choose to go to the grocery store for fresh clams, go fishing for a fish, etc.. 🐟🐔 (That’s what our family does anyways. )
Dissection pan, tools, T-pins – these are available through Spectrum Educational Supplies. You could use a Styrofoam meat tray for studying smaller specimens (e.g. for the chicken wing they suggest in lab #28). Otherwise a dissection pan that uses T-pins to hold the specimen stretched out used to have “wax” in the bottom when I went to school but now has a type of flexible pad like this link for lining the pan. (T-pins would be poked into the blue liner.) (I still have the scissors from my past dissection set but use them now for embroidery or fine sewing. 😁 ) Here is link to a dissection kit which includes the tools, pan, etc. for some of the specimens listed in the Experience Biology labs.
Preserved specimens: worm, sea star or sea anemone, clam, crayfish, dogfish shark, fetal pig – These are also available through Spectrum Educational Supplies. However, I prefer to skip this kind of lab and just watch it via video or use fresh clams (i.e. from the grocery store) or fish.
STAINS: These are the most difficult items to find for homeschool use (e.g. quantity) in Canada. However, each of the stains mentioned in this course are ONLY USED FOR ONE LAB EACH. Spectrum Educational Supplies sells a Microscope Discovery Kit which has a red and blue stain included in it, which I guessed that it might be this chemical (or perhaps the other common blue stain, bromothymol blue). I was wrong in my guess – the stains in that kit were only food colours, perhaps more concentrated but if food colours are suggested in a “microscope kit” as stains, why not simply go to your kitchen cupboard to use those?
Methylene Blue – This chemical is only mentioned ONCE as a lab supply, for “Week 3 [Lab]: Comparing Plant and Animal Cell Structures”.
Bromothymol Blue – This chemical is only mentioned ONCE as a lab supply, for “Week 32 [Lab]: Impact of Exercise on Lung Excretions”. It can be found on Amazon but we chose not to purchase it.
Final remarks about labs…
When homeschoolers in the USA look at lab work for credits, I’ve learned that it seems that if the student completes 15 labs, then that is considered a full lab credit. What this indicates is that, if we want to think of completing a full amount of labs, it isn’t as if we really need to have our students complete every single lab of a course which offers 34 labs in total! Simply choose to do the first lab (the introductory one) plus 14 or so more labs which YOUR FAMILY thinks are most beneficial to complete and watch the rest of them on video! (Of course, if a student actually wants to do all the labs, that’s fine too.) Even the team at Journey Homeschool Academy says that we shouldn’t worry if students end up skipping over some labs due to difficulty in getting a specialty supply item, either due to it being difficult to find or due to a high cost. Remember how many labs you did in high school science? For me, it certainly wasn’t 34 in one course. So, keep in mind, THIS science course has some flexibility built into it, which is exactly what a homeschool program should have!
Also, to add another reassurance to another potential lab-related concern, the “Experience Biology” course has labs of reasonable lengths and guidance. I heard of another company’s science program in which a student was to do an overwhelming 30+ page lab report for one lab and I thought, “Wow! Lab reports were never that long, not even in my university.” All I’ve noticed in the Experience Biology curriculum is of reasonable length AND with good supportive direction for what to do and what to expect.
Final remarks about this course in general:
You can preview this course for FREE. Please click on my affiliate button link to do that here:
The Gilkerson’s designed this course to run a full school year (9-10 months, with a couple of video lessons each week). (That is common with American curriculum.) However, I prefer to have courses run for a semester rather than full-year so our family is going through this course in the fall semester, with the hope to finish at the beginning of February. That means there are about 4 video lessons weekly plus the lab to consider. So far, it’s working well, with some flexibility for the teens to double-up if they want to take a day off occasionally. Then, for second term, they can take a different science course (e.g. chemistry or physics). So, yes, this biology course can be paced like the semestered system many of us Canadians have known.
If you want to sign up for this course, don’t forget to do so WHEN their enrollment is OPEN!
While they “might” open the enrollment up once or twice during the school-year for a very brief time (e.g. maybe before second term), this isn’t guaranteed.
The start date(s) and pacing for their course is up to you (except Astronomy which runs according to the calendar for night-watching). (Pacing for senior level courses are 365 days from start date.) But you can’t register at any time – you can only register to be added into a course when the enrollment is OPEN. It closes for most of the traditional school year. This past summer, enrollment was OPEN until August 31st.
If you are interested in this course, sign up for my newsletter since, to the best of my ability, I will notify my subscribers whenever Journey Homeschool Academy is OPEN for enrollment.
Once again, here is my affiliate link to learn more details about this excellent senior high school level BIOLOGY course: