Where Science and Faith Converge

Quick Guide to Evaluating a Science Textbook

By Krista Bontrager - March 1, 2013

It’s almost that time of year again when parents stroll the aisles at their local homeschool show or search the internet looking for a new science curriculum. But what happens when you come across one you’ve never heard of before? You can check for a review at the Educator’s Help Desk or send me an inquiry about it. But you can also equip yourselves with five quick tips to help you evaluate almost any science text and see if it’s right for you and your children.

Step #1: Get an overview.

Take a few minutes to read the back cover and the Table of Contents. This will give you an idea of what topics the book covers. If you can’t locate a downloadable preview on the publisher’s web site, write to them and ask for one.

This step also provides an opportunity to verify that collegebound students have access to sufficiently rigorous information. Also, if you plan to participate in standardized testing at the end of the year, it will be important to compare the text’s content to the science standards in your state to make sure students are adequately prepared.

Step #2: Skim a lesson and check the text’s reading level.

If necessary, ask the publisher to send a sample chapter. Is it appropriate for your child? Is it too easy? Too difficult? Are the graphics age-appropriate? Consider whether it’s time to aim a little higher and keep them growing. Now is also a good time to consider your child’s personal learning style. Does this text look like a good fit?

Step #3: Determine the worldview.

Identify what worldview perspective the author is promoting. Is it Christian or religiously neutral or hostile? One good way to tell is by checking the section in the biology text about evolution. This discussion generally reveals the author’s biases. If you’re still unsure, ask the publisher.

Step #4: Check for young-earth content.

Here are two easy ways this can be done:

1. If the book is about astronomy, turn to the section on the Moon’s formation. If it says that the Moon was created for the first time on day 4, after the Earth, it’s a young-earth text.

2. If the book is about geology, turn to the section on the geologic column. If it says all of the fossils were laid down in a global flood about 5,000 years ago or if it says that radiometric dating is unreliable, then it’s a young-earth text.

Step #5: Inquire about supplementary materials and assessments.

Inclusion of supplementary materials (such as lab assignments, worksheets) and tests will enhance the curriculum. It’s critical that college-bound students receive adequate experience in taking different kinds of tests, not just standardized tests, beginning around the 7th grade.

Selection of a science textbook can be tricky. But these tips hopefully will help you narrow down your choices. For more tips on choosing a science curriculum, see my coaching video, "Quick Guide to Evaluating Science Curriculum," on the Educator’s Help Desk.

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