Saturday, November 3, 2012

Chemistry Ever Lasting.....

...or so it seems.  I'm hoping this is my last chemistry post for some time.  After continuing to read and research like crazy, here are some added recommendations and thoughts....

Laura Berquist, author of Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum suggests the following for 12th grade chemistry.....

DK The Visual DIctionary of Chemistry by Jack Challoner
Chemistry: Concepts and Problems: A Self Teaching Guide by Clifford C. Houk and Richard Post -OR- Apologia Chemistry
TOPS Solutions 12 by Ronald Marson
Lab Science: The How, Why, What, Who 'n' Where Book by Barb Shelton - OR - Apologia Chemistry
The Chemical History of a Candle by Michael Faraday

I also found this online in an interview with her....

Charlotte: Could you give suggestions for adapting a science textbook for both the Dialectic and Rhetoric stages? I am thinking specifically of Dr. Wile's Apologia science texts. What can we do besides read the modules, do the experiments and lab reports, define long lists of vocabulary terms and take tests? It seems pretty dry and rigorous-- the type of stuff they'll forget soon and I wonder if this method will aid formation.

Laura Berquist: I've used some of Dr. Wile's books, and liked them quite well. I agree, however, that one could lose sight of the larger goals and get caught up in memorizing the material simply for the test.

One way to work against that is to have your student write summaries of the modules. For a younger child - 9th grade - this would mean working on outlines as he reads the material (I'm talking simple here; topic sentence of each paragraph outlines) and then writing a short, timed summary at the end of the module. That 30 minute essay would allow the student to order the material in his mind, and practice putting it down on paper.

I like timed essays. They give the children practice in working in a time limit, something they will have to learn how to do at some point. They make the task at hand look finite to the student, which is encouraging. And they encourage, over time, the coherent assembling of an argument.

For older children - 11th and 12th grade - I would do much the same thing, but my emphasis would be on the essay, not the outlining. I would probably have the student do two essays, one a timed essay, and the second a re-write of the essay. In the latter essay, he would be encouraged to say what he has to say well; in an interesting way. The Warriner's Grammar and Composition books have comprehensive chapters on writing style.

This kind of summarizing also reinforces the material, which will help the student remember it after the test.

One nice thing about Dr. Wile's experiments is that they are quite do-able, even by the student. So having the student actually do those experiments, and then having him think about them is another way to encourage reflection and not just the acquisition of unrelated facts.

Michael Faraday, who did some wonderful experiments on the relationship between magnetism and electricity, always called himself a natural philosopher, not a scientist. Working with the natural world is by itself an invitation to reflective thought. Just give your children the time and opportunity to think - this may require some conversation with you, and those summaries can get it started.

Michael Faraday has a great little book, The Chemical History of a Candle which I have my 12th graders read when they do chemistry, even if they are using Dr. Wile's chemistry text. You might like it.

In the Well Trained Mind, Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise recommend keeping a science notebook divided into 3 sections: Principles, Source Readings, and Paper, for rhetoric science study.
Here are some chemistry specific books they suggest..... 

The Usborne Illustrated Dictionary of Science
Chemistry: concepts and Problems - A Self Teaching Guide by Clifford C. Houk and Richard Post  
Chemistry Science Fair Projects by Robert Gardner
Plastics and Polymers Science Fair Projects by Madeleine P. Goodstein
Janice VanCleave's A+ Projects in Chemistry by Janice VanCleave
Hands-On-Chemistry with Real-Life Applications by Norman Herr and James Cunningham 

Some other recommended options are Apologia courses, Real Science-4-Kids, and The Teaching Company Great Courses, as well as primary source biographies. 

I am so relieved to see a plethora of options aside from the traditional Apologia textbook.  

After corresponding with a fellow homeschooling mother who was a college chemistry major and another very wise friend who's in the same boat and researching as well, I developed my wings and am ready to fly.  We are setting Apologia aside for good and going back to Chemistry 101 as a spine, among other things.  Here is our very own home designed high school chemistry course.....
TOPS Solutions 12 (there are 28 "tasks" she will complete one per week for wet labs)
Chemistry 101 DVD's
The Teaching Company’s Great Courses - Chemistry DVD's (this is a great opportunity for lecture study and we are blessed to have them available through our public library)
Exploring the World of Chemistry by John Hudson Tiner (Angel requested this book and she's really enjoying it)
The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker
The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean
Napoleon’s Buttons by Penny LeCouteur

I will give a grade based 35% on labs and 65% on tests as recommended by Apologia.  

It may need minor tweaking, but it's been a couple of weeks and it seems to be going much better for both of us.....what a relief!  Next time, I vow to go with my gut and not be persuaded/pressured by my insecurities.  I could have avoided the stress and hours spent/wasted coming full circle back to where I knew we needed to be.....lesson learned :)  

You can reference former posts on this topic here one, two, three, ....


  1. I'm wondering how the 11th grade year proceeded after making the change from Apologia chemistry? I'm considering doing the same for my daughter. Also, did you have a lesson plan for the made changes or did you create your own? Thanks!

  2. AmyH,

    Well, she finished it :) I think it went better than if we'd stayed with the Apologia text. I'm afraid this dd is not a science lover, however, she did like the Chemistry 101 DVD's, Exploring the World of Chemistry, and Napoleon's Buttons. She found Tops Solutions 12 and the Great Course DVD's rather challenging. If I had it to do over again, I would try The Joy of Chemistry by Cathy Cobb in place of the Tops experiments. As difficult as the Great Course DVD's were, I do think they added an extra element of chemistry not found in the other resources. Overall, we were satisfied. I did not have a lesson plan, just scheduled as we went along.

    Have you looked at any of the Master Books courses? We plan to use their Pre-Med study for anatomy this fall. I did a blog post on this a while back with links to their site. You can find that post under the "high school" or "science" label on the side bar. You might look to see what they have to offer for chemistry. As mentioned, our dd loved Exploring the World of Chemistry by Tiner, which is a Master Book. Though I'm not sure if they have an entire chemistry course.


    1. Thanks so much for the reply! I will certainly take your advice and look into the recommended texts. I did look at the Masters Books and they have a chemistry set for middle school, but not high school, as far as I could tell. My daughter wants to go into the medical field and enjoys science (if it's fun and interesting) but loathes math. That's another issue I'm having... finding a math curriculum that she will tolerate and actually learn. Ugh!
      In Christ,

  3. You're welcome Amy :) This particular dd also loathes math, so I feel your pain. She has had success with Math-U-See. Blessings, Melissa

  4. Well, I've got the Great Courses chemistry on the plate for my dd's school year. We begin in a few days. I'm hopeful on this one. I'm still concerned about math. We're stuck on Saxon right now, but I may check into Math-U-See. Thank you so much and I pray the school year is smooth sailing for you!

  5. Thanks Amy! Best of luck to you as well. Please report back on your chemistry year...