Home Education

A Review of The Riot and the Dance: Foundational Biology (Looking Back on 10th Grade)

June 4, 2018 by Brandy Vencel

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ver a year ago, I contacted Compass Classroom and asked them if I could take The Riot and the Dance by Gordon Wilson for a test drive. I told them I’d only write a review if it was a positive one. I’m writing this, so I’m sure you can see where this is going.

charlotte mason high school biology science

 

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The Text and How We Used It

E-Age-Sixteen and I have spent the last year rioting and dancing. It has been wonderful. I felt like we had the best of both textbooks and living books worlds — textbooks, because there was a definite scope and sequence that was followed in an organized manner and that we were able to finish in a single year — living books because, though organized like a textbook, the book is written by a single author with a sense of humor and an obvious love for his subject.

The Riot and the Dance is everything you need a biology text to be. It’s college prep. It’s interesting. It covers biology from the cellular level all the way up to the macro level (but does not cover humans) and ends with a well written chapter on ecology. It traffics in awe and wonder. While it’s unapologetically creationist in perspective, it is not focused on the evolution/creation debate, which I was so thankful for. I find that debate to be tiresome, and I also think it tends to distract Christians from learning actual science. If you want to dabble in that debate, it’s mentioned a few times, but for the most part you’ll have to see the appendix.

Because I’m a Charlotte Mason homeschooler, I have little tolerance for comprehension questions. There are a collection of these sorts of questions at the end of each chapter, but few of them are helpful. Instead of using those questions, I expected a full oral narration after each reading (chapters vary in length, so sometimes narrations were by section and other times they were by chapter), plus a weekly entry in the science notebook.

 

Deets on Labs: Pros, Cons (with a Solution), How to Make it Affordable, and MORE!

Pros

The labs were good labs. What I mean is, they never seemed to be busy work. The directions were clear and easy to follow. E-Age-Sixteen is generally independent; I never felt like I had to hold his hand in the labs. He was able to be in charge, with me as support staff.

Also, I bummed all dissections off on my husband. If you can do this, too, you will find it to be a definite pro.

 

Cons (and a Solution!)

The biggest problem is that the lab schedule in the book isn’t right. What I mean is, the schedule says you can do a certain lab in a certain week, but the lab says you need to read more before doing it. To solve this problem, I created a 32-week schedule for the labs to replace that found in the teacher’s guide, complete with corresponding reading schedule and an empty box to check off doing a science notebook entry. Use this form to get a copy via email:

Get the alternative lab schedule!

My solution to the issues with the official lab schedule for The Riot and the Dance.

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We do 36 weeks of school, so a couple of times when we were behind, too busy, or a chapter was extra long, I allowed two weeks to complete the assignments.

 

Affordable Biology Labs

The Riot and the Dance can be easily used by homeschoolers, but it was written for classrooms, and that really shows when it comes to labs. If you order all the supplies exactly as written, you will pay one arm, one leg, and possibly have to promise one future grandchild. I don’t know about you, but I can’t afford $50-100 per lab for multiple labs.

The good news is that you have at least two options. The first is to team up with other homeschoolers and do labs together, thereby splitting costs. This is always wonderful to do for labs, but our plans to do shared labs fell through and I had to get creative.

The second option, then, is to buy a few kits, improvise the rest, and don’t worry about doing every lab precisely.

Here are a few examples of where you can improvise:

  1. Labs 2 and 4 both ask for elodea sprigs. I wasn’t able to find those locally, but I found an example we could look at online. It’s not the same as seeing it in person, but it was easier than trying to find the supply.
  2. In Lab 9, the experiment calls for 2 colors of pop beads. Read the description of the lab, because most of us have something similar lying around the house that will work.
  3. Lab 13 requires pressed and mounted leaves, but a Charlotte Mason homeschooler will usually be able to discover most of these leaves on nature walks, and an excellent activity would be to press, mount, and classify them in the style of the lab.

Where should you buy kits? I really like Home Science Tools. If you buy their biology microscope slide set, the basic protozoa set, and one of their dissection kits (I used the Advanced kit), you’ll have most of what you need for the labs, and you’ll spend far less when compared to sourcing every individual thing recommended as supplies. Whatever you don’t have in the two kits you can either find something similar in the kit, skip it, or find an example online.

My big advice on labs is don’t try to follow them exactly, at least not if you want them to be affordable. Do your best, and that’s good enough. I found that dissecting a frog was enough — I don’t think we needed to also do a lizard.

Here are a few more tips on lab supplies:

  • Read through the lab descriptions as you prep. I know it takes more time, but you can only know if and how to improvise if you carefully read the description.
  • Go through the supplies for all of the labs and order everything except live cultures at once. Yes, you won’t need those specimens for dissection until later in the year, but they will store just fine because they are vacuum sealed and you’ll save on shipping cost, plus you’ll be prepared.
  • You probably already have a small scale — a kitchen scale usually works. If you don’t, I like this little inexpensive scale from AmazonBasics — it works great.
  • Order live cultures right before you need them — they don’t live long after they arrive.
  • Home Science Tools does not carry some of the preserved specimens on the supply list — things like preserved millipedes and jellyfish. You can probably find those things at your local natural history museum (or see them live at a zoo or aquarium). If you want to buy some of these supplies to enhance your lab experience, I recommend Carolina Biological.
  • Yes, you need a microscope. (Welcome to homeschooling.) If you don’t have one, this one is good.

 

Did We Do Anything Else?

Only a little, but yes. I kept the AmblesideOnline Year 10 readings from Microbe Hunters and Six Easy Pieces in our regular school schedule. In addition to this, my student read Tiner’s Eploring the World of Chemistry as a free read. I found the latter two especially important because this meant he read in areas of science other than biology this school year.

 

Do I Recommend this?

Yes! Wholeheartedly yes! If you are looking for a biology curriculum for high school, The Riot and the Dance is worth your consideration. It’s a solid, informative text, it’s engaging, and the labs are good.

What’s not to like?

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40 Comments

  • Reply Terryn August 20, 2019 at 5:09 pm

    I submitted my email address in order to receive the suggested schedule, but never did. Where can I find it?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 21, 2019 at 11:22 am

      Hi Terryn!

      I just checked and it said you never confirmed your email? My guess is the confirmation went to your spam folder. Can you please check this? Sometimes yahoo won’t accept emails from me at all, but if it’s in spam, pushing confirm should work. If you can’t find it, I can try having my service manually confirm you, but this will work better if you can find it.

  • Reply Kelsi Rea February 18, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    Thanks SO much for this review! I am able to see a preview of the text online, but I’m still wondering…how many days per week did you do Biology (that it lasted you basically the full year)? Also, is this best for 10th grade? Is it too advanced for 9th? Could it be used in a range of grades? thanks for your help!

    • Reply Friederike Lehrbass August 24, 2019 at 7:16 am

      The same company that sells Riot also sell a DVD set, called Devotional Biology,which is much more explicit in Creation based then the RIOT. My DD uses RIOT,but I probably should be more hands on with her in that… Thanks

  • Reply Friederike December 5, 2018 at 10:40 am

    Thanks so much for that review. That is really helpful.Blessings.

  • Reply Thoughtworthy (BLACK FRIDAY Edition, Plus: Using Online Tutors) | Afterthoughts November 23, 2018 at 9:01 am

    […] The Riot and the Dance Biology (see my review) […]

  • Reply Carla July 25, 2018 at 12:56 pm

    I appreciated this review. I’m wondering if you have plans to add living books related to human biology in the coming years to supplement your upcoming science?

    We previously did DIVE, which covered human as well, but I’m not sure it will be a good fit for my daughter (who is in Yr 8, so there is still time to decide 🙂 )

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 25, 2018 at 4:34 pm

      Yes, that we’ll do as we have time. He prefers books on physics, so I try not to overdo it, but I know I still have 2 we haven’t read. 🙂

  • Reply Dani July 17, 2018 at 9:57 am

    Hi, Brandy. Thanks for the review. I’m leaning heavily toward this text for my son’s high school Biology this year, but I’m wondering if you can tell me how strong the Creationist slant is? Is it mostly a general awe and wonder at God’s creation? Or is it attempting to make the Bible into a science text? Pointing to the wonder of God’s creation is fine and dandy, but if it’s too Young Earth I might look elsewhere… Thank you!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 18, 2018 at 9:26 am

      Hi! For the most part, the creationism was just assumed. I wasn’t actually sure if he was young earth or old earth until the very end in the appendix where he discussed it! My MAIN objection to many Christian science books has been exactly what you said — that it tries to read the Bible as a science text, which is totally inappropriate. I didn’t think TRATD did that at all. I *think* there is a sample you can get from the publisher if you want to read a bit yourself, but I was very pleased with it.

      With that said, he doesn’t go into evolution much, but he is definitely and obviously creationist when he does. I only mention this in case it matters to you. But I didn’t think he was definitely and obviously YE, as I said — and I really felt like his focus was perfect. Because the author has a lot of awe and wonder, he wants his students, too, as well, and he wants to accomplish this not by preaching at them, but by sharing actual scientific knowledge with them. ♥

  • Reply Cameron E Ely June 12, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    I found the post I was remembering,
    https://afterthoughtsblog.net/2018/01/thoughtworthy-anniversary-gear-different-perspectives.html

    If there are any more I would still love to know! Planning year 10 now. ?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 12, 2018 at 12:13 pm

      I’m glad you found that because I wasn’t sure! I think that might be the only one. 🙁

  • Reply Cameron E Ely June 12, 2018 at 11:56 am

    Thank you for this review. Can you point me toward the post where you share the books you read for year 10? I remember reading about it, but after much searching cannot seem to find any post about year 10 books. Thank you!

  • Reply Elizabeth Trotter June 6, 2018 at 11:25 am

    Ok you have now got me interested in this book! I was planning to do Wile’s Biology. I love Wile, and my son loved his Physical Science course last year. And as a science-trained person myself, I thought it was pretty tough.

    But you make this seem so interesting! I really prefer not too much hammering about creation/evolution as well. I just want the science facts. Worldview is something I can teach separately.

    And since my son is planning something with physics/space/NASA as a career choice, I don’t feel the need to do too much lab work with Biology (Mystie’s website says they didn’t do the labs and don’t regret it). We will focus on lab work for physics and chemistry instead, in later years.

    So my question is, are you familiar with Jay Wile’s Biology book, and what main differences do you see between the Riot and the Dance and Wile’s book?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 6, 2018 at 4:12 pm

      I am so sorry! I am not familiar with Jay Wile’s book at all, so I really can’t compare. 🙁

      • Reply Elizabeth Trotter June 8, 2018 at 11:42 am

        Thanks for letting me know!

  • Reply Heather Baker June 6, 2018 at 10:11 am

    Thank you, Brandy, for your review on this text. The alternative lab schedule will be an amazing resource for me! I am so grateful because modifying those labs from the classroom to the homeschool is pretty tough and it wonderful of you to share your hard work. I debated last summer whether my ninth grader should use this text, but we ended up going with an Introductory Physics text instead. I was hoping to have him do Biology for this next year (10th), so your timing is impeccable, as always. Over the years, it has been such a gift to me that you are one year ahead of me and that you so generously share your experiences. I trust your judgement and appreciate your insight so much! Please know that your posts are a great encouragement and help to me and I am sure to many, many others out there. Thank you!

  • Reply Rondalyn Ohrenberg June 5, 2018 at 9:51 pm

    Totally different subject, but this review reminded me that I’m wondering about your 10th grade Church Fathers reading? Will you have a chance to blog about that this summer?

  • Reply Mariel June 5, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    “Yes, you need a microscope. (Welcome to homeschooling.)” 🙂

    I found this in a PR article by Arabella Buckley…
    “…I cannot do better than tell you what happened some time ago, when I was delivering a lecture at a working man’s club on the growth of sponges. About a dozen microscopes were arranged at the back of the room, and, after the lecture, the men and their wives walked round and looked at the beautiful specimens of sponge-spicules under each. One of the men, after examining some exquisite spicules shaped like tiny anchors, turned to a friend and said, “Look at this! A man ought to have a microscope in his house as he has his Bible.”

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 5, 2018 at 1:58 pm

      What a fabulous quote! Thank you for sharing it!

    • Reply Amanda Vines August 9, 2018 at 5:43 am

      Oh, I love this!

  • Reply Michele June 5, 2018 at 7:36 am

    We are using this next year, so I’m very interested in how you used it. Could you describe what you required for the weekly science notebook entries? Thanks — this is all very helpful!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 5, 2018 at 8:57 am

      I let my student choose to document *something* from the reading. Often, he copied over a diagram that was already in the book. Other times, he made his own. Also acceptable were drawings with descriptions detailing something he did in a lab. He’s been doing a science notebook for a few years, so I didn’t feel I needed to give him a lot of guidance. If your student is new to it, you might want to be more direct at first, or at least give lots of examples so they know the sorts of things you are looking for. 🙂

  • Reply Mama Rachael June 4, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    I’ve wondered about this text, but I don’t have extra $ to just get books… well, I do, but I’m trying to focus on stuff that is relevant now. And we are only in year 1. But someday!

    I’m so glad to hear that this text doesn’t focus on the creation/evolution debate. There is so little “science” to that debate, it belongs in a philosophy or religion classroom, not a science classroom. Biology has a place in my heart, so glad to hear of someone treating it well. And I’ve used both homesciencetools.com and carolina.com and like them both. they each have different strengths that we can play off of.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 5, 2018 at 9:03 am

      Good for you, focusing where you need to. That is SO hard sometimes! Once it’s been out a bit longer, I bet you’ll be able to find used copies reasonably priced. I would love to hear your opinion when that happens!

      I didn’t mention this in the review, but besides the evolution thing, I also appreciated that there wasn’t such an emphasis on ecology (even though the chapter at the end was fantastic). The reason for this is because I — gasp! — thought biology was boring in high school because all we covered was save the earth, save the whales, greenhouses gases are evil, and the like. I remember taking biology again in college and I couldn’t believe it was the same subject! I was fascinated by it all, and so sad that my high school spent so much time on things that weren’t really biology proper.

      • Reply Mama Rachael June 5, 2018 at 9:29 am

        I LOVE ecology, and as a biology teacher I don’t think you can fully understand the natural world with out ecology. Ecology isn’t ‘save this, save that”, but how do all these thing interact together, how does this impact that, does does the water cycle and the carbon cycle and the nitrogen cycle fit in with the turtle, the frog and the bird. What does the frog have to do with the bird anyways? When a teacher uses “ecology” to argue ‘save this, save that’ the biology teacher is doing a disservice to the subject! And to God’s world!

        I’ll be keeping my eyes open for a used copy, or when I’m ready for it. I super duper want to find a biology text that treats God’s world well. Not that I’ve looked super extensively, but not found one yet.

        • Reply Brandy Vencel June 5, 2018 at 11:26 am

          I think my favorite thing you said was, “When a teacher uses ‘ecology’ to argue ‘save this, save that’ the biology teacher is doing a disservice to the subject! And to God’s world!” Because AMEN. And honestly, even if/when some things need saving, not understanding why, how they fit together, etc. means that most students won’t care. It really was all politics and environmentalist talking points — I see now that it wasn’t fair for me to call it ecology! — and it’s very sad to me, now that I understand how wonderful biology is!

  • Reply Melissa June 4, 2018 at 12:46 pm

    We have this book sitting on our shelves and didn’t end up doing it because we did a few other living science texts, but we are diving in next year so this is great timing!

    Did you use the teachers guide often? Trying to determine if I should buy that as well as the lab manual.

    Thanks!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 4, 2018 at 12:55 pm

      I didn’t use the teacher’s guide much at all, but the lab manual has all the lab directions, so we used it all the time!

      • Reply Kay Pelham August 15, 2019 at 10:59 am

        So what if I don’t purchase the teacher’s guide? Will I be sorry?

        • Reply Brandy Vencel August 15, 2019 at 11:42 am

          Well, I think that depends. Honestly, I don’t think I EVER opened it. But I did pure narration conversation with no additional tests and quizzes. (I wrote my own examination questions.) But if you want those types of resources, you will need it.

  • Reply Melissa Greene June 4, 2018 at 9:47 am

    Wonderful Brandy! I’ve been waiting for this review 😉 It looks like a winner. I especially appreciate you mentioning the fact that you read a couple extra living books to cover other branches of science….very CMesque! You have helped me solidify my high school science plan.

  • Reply April June 4, 2018 at 8:49 am

    Sorry, to clarify you stated your child is age 16…not sure what grade exactly..? Just wanting to make sure my daughter could handle this at age 15 in September. ?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 4, 2018 at 9:21 am

      I think so! My son was 15 and 3 months when we started. He didn’t turn 16 until a couple weeks ago. 🙂

  • Reply April June 4, 2018 at 8:43 am

    Hi Brandy! Thank you for sharing this resource! What did you do for your child’s 9th grade year for science? I was planning to do Biology for my daughters 9th grade year and worry this may be a bit much since you did this for 10th? Can you share your thoughts? Thank you! ?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 4, 2018 at 9:19 am

      We did this for 10th, yes. I think the reading would have been okay for 9th grade, but we would have had to be more in charge of labs in 9th, I think.

      • Reply April June 6, 2018 at 8:15 pm

        Thank you!

  • Reply Kay Pelham June 4, 2018 at 8:22 am

    How much time each week did you average for the reading and labs. Also, any idea how much weekly prep time was required for you?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel June 4, 2018 at 9:18 am

      I scheduled 2 30-minute sessions for reading and narration. Many times he didn’t need that much; a couple times he needed more and that was when I decided to spread it out over 2 weeks.

      My weekly prep was only doing the pre-reading since my husband did the labs. I will be honest: I don’t think my husband looked at the labs before they did them, so he would say zero prep. HA! I had gathered the supplies over summer, though, and that took time.

  • Reply Laura in Ontario June 4, 2018 at 6:08 am

    I had never even heard of this curriculum. Thanks for the informative review – it looks really good!

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