In first grade, we studied chemistry using Noeo's Chemistry I course, which I reviewed here. This year, in second grade, we've been studying biology using Noeo's Biology I course: Seeds, Scales, Feathers and Tails.
Noeo courses are designed to be a "balance between the classical method and the Charlotte Mason approach." The catalog includes three options each (chemistry, biology, and
physics) for the early grammar stage (grades 1-3) and the late grammar
or early logic stage (grades 4-6). They have two courses
(Chemistry III and Physics III) for older students with Biology III on the way. Though the family that
created the Noeo courses is Christian, the selected books for the course
In Biology I, the major topics include insects, animals, plants, the human body and weather. As with Chemistry I, experiment kits from The Young Scientists Club are included. (You can purchase these from other sources, but they come in sets of threes, so it's advantageous to purchase them from Noeo and receive all of the kits necessary for the course without extraneous ones.)
The instructor's guide clearly outlines readings and experiments for each day for 36 weeks. Most of the days request a written narration. Often it also suggests words the student should define. I found the printable notebook pages a valuable addition to the course and did use them when we did written narrations. I usually settled for a short oral one so our biology notebook is a little thin. The instructor's guide is my favorite part of Noeo - everything is ready for the instructor, including a list of required materials for the week (for experiments, etc.) so the time necessary for preparation and planning is minimal.
The books were also fun and educational. We particularly enjoyed reading about John James Audobon in The Boy Who Drew Birds: A Story of John James Audubon by Jacqueline Davies. Melissa Sweet's illustrations wonderfully introduce children to a life filled with a love of nature, nature study and artistry. We also enjoyed Audubon's Birds of America Coloring Book from Dover. There are plenty of pages in this book for everyone in the whole family to choose a few to color. Many libraries carry Audubon's Birds Of America so you can use the original to color the book pages.
The One Small Square book series are all amazing (the ones in the course and any others I've come across). The illustrations are full of things to discover and we love poring over them.
My children also loved the Usborne First Encyclopedia of the Human Body. This book includes information on reproductive biology, but it is excluded from the syllabus with a note to cover it as they choose.
As with chemistry, I was unimpressed with the experiment kits. Sometimes they didn't work, often they didn't include anything substantial I didn't already have around the house and they usually didn't contain anything that would last for a second child through the course. I think a full complement of experiments and activities for a biology course could be selected from Janice VanCleave's The Human Body for Every Kid and Biology For Every Kid.
As for the other books, I really don't have any complaints. There were all fine books, adequate for imparting some knowledge to my children in an age-appropriate way. I think, though, that the areas of animal life and the human body could easily have been covered with books from our home and local libraries just as well as with these purchased books. In particular, Steve Jenkins has a variety of books that would have worked well (and I love his books): Biggest, Strongest, Fastest, Actual Size, Living Color, and Almost Gone: The World's Rarest Animals come to mind, but there are many more. Personally, I would have preferred Jenkins's books to the Usborne pocket guide, but that book does cover a great amount of material in a single book (and my children enjoyed it). The human body is another topic libraries cover in great detail with children's books.
Overall, I think Biology I was sufficient and I appreciated not having to think about biology but simply follow the syllabus. In future years, I think I would prefer to select my own books and experiments, but for parents who are anxious about biology or putting together a syllabus, this course would be a good choice. I enjoyed Chemistry I much more, though I would say it was a little more difficult than Biology I (especially for a first grader).
Please note: I did not receive anything for my reviews of Noeo courses and will not receive anything if you follow the links to Noeo and make a purchase. I do receive a small commission if you follow a link to Amazon and make a purchase.