In many of the traditional schools around us, Chemistry is no longer as hands on as it used to be. Instead, they do dry labs, teacher demonstrations, and videos. We wanted Chemistry for our son to be different than that. We wanted it to be very hands on. Thus, we played with several different kits or programs before coming up with our game plan. Due to several of my homeschooling mom friends asking us what we are doing for high school level chemistry, I wrote this blog. This blog highlights our plan and resources so others can see that it is completely possible to teach high school chemistry at home. One huge benefit of homeschooling is covering appropriate level material for our son regardless of his age. In addition, we are going at a more in-depth and slower pace than traditional schools. We started it this summer and plan on taking more than one school year to complete. We are using a combination of books, videos, online resources, model building, and experimentation.
Here is our plan for a year-long Chemistry study (Realistically, it will be more than 1 calendar year.):
The Thames & Kosmos Chem C3000 Experiment Kit was chosen because it not only contains 333 experiments, it comes with 95% of the materials and chemicals needed. It was not hard to obtain the missing ones. In addition, it has a more advanced manual than I have seen in any other science kit. This kit alone will far exceed the number of experiments students in traditional schools in our area get to perform or observe. We also played with other Chemistry kits and found them too easy or overly simplified. One other set out there that was intriguing was MEL Chemistry but it is a monthly subscription program that was more expensive with less experiments than the C3000.
I selected some traditional textbooks to make sure we covered all areas as well as to give us even more experiment suggestions. But, I also used lots of other books too. I wanted Chemistry books that were interesting and appealing to my son. The books we are using for this year-long study are:
- “Molecules: The Elements and the Architecture of Everything” by Theodore Gray (The book has stunning photographs, is well written, and is very fascinating to our son.)
- “Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom” in the Universe by Theodore Gray (It compliments Molecules and really should be read together.)
- “Chemistry for Every Kid: 101 Easy Experiments that Really Work” by Janice VanCleave (It is older but lots of experiments with materials most people have or are easy to get.)
- “The Periodic Table of Elements Coloring Book” by Teresa Bondora (I loved the idea of learning the periodic table of elements via coloring. The book goes in the order of elements and is a great complement to Theodore Gray’s Elements book.)
- “Chemistry: The Molecular Nature of Matter & Change” by Silberger (This is a traditional chemistry textbook.)
- “Chemistry: The Central Science” by Brown, LeMay, & Bursten (This is a traditional chemistry textbook but also has a student’s guide.)
For videos we used the following DVD’s (all from our public library) prior to what our son is now watching on Khan Academy:
- Great Discoveries with Bill Nye: Chemistry by Bill Nye & Discovery Education (well done)
- Chemistry by the Standard Deviants Core Curriculum (only okay)
- Bill Nye the science guy: Chemical reactions by Bill Nye (good)
- Chemical reactions & electricity by Schlessinger Media (good but simple)
- The Periodic Table for students: Using the Periodic Table by Schlessinger Media (good)
The final component of our plan is centered on molecular model building. We are using a combination of Zometool, The Prentice Hall Molecular Model Set for Organic Chemistry, Legos, and Happy Atoms. Aquarium of the Pacific has a 5th grade lesson plan for using Legos to build molecules. It would be easy to modify this up to make harder molecules or have more in-depth conversations. Zometool has a lesson guide for covering Chemistry in addition to other subjects beyond just math. You can find all kinds of molecular building ideas online. Happy Atoms is a unique digital and physical building set but it is not as unlimited in molecular construction as Legos and Zometool. Happy Atoms is brand new but all other sets mentioned can be found pretty cheap online, especially used sets.
Here are some chemistry related apps my son has on his device:
- Particle Zoo
- Nova Elements
- Chemist’s Virtual Lab
- Periodic Table
Here are some other chemistry books that our son had previously read (We purchased Horrible Science series, but all others were from our public library.):
- “Chemistry: Getting a Reaction” by Simon Basher & Dan Green
- “Basher Science: The Complete Periodic Table: All the Elements with Style!” by Adrian Dingle, Simon Basher, & Dan Green
- “Chemical Chaos” by Nick Arnold (This is part of the Horrible Science series and there really are lots of other titles that my son has read that would also be great for Chemistry and science understanding.)
- “The cartoon guide to chemistry” by Larry Gonick
Other great resources that we use:
- Links to All Things Free for Homeschoolers: Chemistry has links to 100’s of free chemistry related teaching resources.
- American Chemical Society has links to educational resources by grade level.
- “LEGO® Atoms and Molecules: Chemical Reactions” by the MIT Edgerton Center is a great way to combine learning about Chemistry while using Legos.
- The National Science Foundation has Chemistry & Materials Classroom Resources.
- The Catalyst has Chemistry Resources For The Secondary Education Teacher On The WWW which is filled with demonstrations that can be watched or recreated.
For those with children or teens who like board or card games (sadly our son does not), here are Chemistry themed games:
- Molecules: A Chemistry Card Game
- Chemistry: An Atom Building Card Game
- Meltdown: A Nuclear Board Game
- Periodic Quest
- Covalence: A Molecule Building Game
- Periodic Table Playing Cards
- Element Quest Game
- Periodyx (we won this and my son thinks it is okay)
- Ion: A Compound Building Game (we have this and my son thinks it is okay)
- Periodic Table Illustrated Jigsaw Puzzle
- Nefarious The Mad Scientist Game
- Science Ninjas
Now go enjoy the Periodic Table Song! It is updated to 118 elements.