High School Chemistry part 1

As our children get older, we are being faced with teaching upper level science at home.  Do you have reservations about doing science at home?   This post can help you approach high school science with confidence.  Science is the subject most mentioned by parents in my seminars as the reason parents send children back to regular schools.  And yet, science may be one of the best subjects for homeschooling because of the flexibility possible at home.  Let’s discuss some of the many options available for learning high school level chemistry at home. 

Chemistry is a difficult course.  In regular schools, students either take a minimum level introductory course or no chemistry at all.  The homeschooled student is different, however, and many are taking difficult courses like calculus, physics, law, logic, and world philosophies.  Homeschoolers should not be afraid of chemistry, either.  Some of that fear can be removed by learning about chemistry, what is involved in learning it, how a homeschooler can do chemistry lab at home, and how to plan ahead for chemistry.

What is chemistry and what is studied in high school chemistry?  Chemistry is the study of the matter that makes up the universe and the changes in that matter.  In a high school course, the student should learn about the structure of matter, the periodic chart, chemical reactions, the chemistry of life, nuclear chemistry, and some basic lab techniques.  Who needs chemistry?  Every student should take some type of chemistry.  Those students who will go on to college should take a more rigorous course and those who may never go on to college should at least take a foundational course that emphasizes real-life application of chemical principles.  Both of these groups should have lab experiences although the labs may be somewhat different.  Whether your student studies chemistry for one semester or for four semesters, he should be able to apply what he has learned to life.

What are the fundamentals of a high school chemistry course?  For a list of traditional topics normally covered in high school chemistry, check this blog entry.  For students using a non-traditional method of learning chemistry such a list can be a valuable help to keeping on track.  Check off topics as they are studied so that the student does not have to repeat topics already learned.  An example of this: suppose the student has studied the structure of matter, atoms, molecules, and compounds in 8th grade.  He should not have to repeat topics if he already knows the information.  So, he checks off those topics and during the first quarter of the year, reads over the material already studied in a quick review.  He then spends the remainder of the semester studying electron configuration, the periodic chart, and bonding; fundamental concepts he has not yet learned.  By doing this, the student has more time to learn the new material and, at the same time, is getting ahead of the normal schedule allowing him time for the more complex topics at the end of the book.  When you study the theory of chemistry you should not leave out the practical aspects of the subject.
   
Many students never really make the connection that chemistry is something they will live with for the rest of their lives.  They do not connect events in the laboratory with events in the garage or the kitchen.  The application of chemical principles to real life is very important to every student because in understanding these principles the student understands many events in the “real world”.  To help make chemistry real for your student, use a good plan for laboratory.

A homeschooler can easily have a real chemistry laboratory at home. There are several lab manuals on the market that use materials which are available to the average homeschooler and which will do an excellent job of teaching chemistry.  Check out the resource list in part 3 of this blog post for suggestions.  The materials do not cost a large amount, either.  In fact, if you buy a good chemistry kit (with glassware rather than plastic) when your children are young, you will get many years of use out of the materials.  Kits may contain the chemicals necessary to do the experiments, or chemicals can be bought at the grocery store or hardware store.  Have your student keep a lab notebook that describes the experiments he or she has done.  The best plan for building a home lab is to:

  1. Buy your equipment early
  2. Buy a lab manual and read it for materials required
  3. Make your purchases, ideally purchasing or borrowing only what you need to complete the prescribed labs
  4. Ensure the student keeps a lab notebook as the labs are completed.

Now, you have a list of topics for chemistry and a plan for getting your lab set up.  The next step is putting it all together.  This means choosing a text, a lab manual, and perhaps a few references.  These choices must be made based upon the goals, reading level, and math level of your student.  Remember, you do not necessarily have to do the teaching.  The primary role of a parent at the high school level, anyway, is facilitation (that’s where you provide the money and the wheels for your children.)  Your student should be able to do the reading and problem solving solo, or nearly so.  You may be needed to help interpret the text, discuss the material, and be curious; or, on the other hand, you could have another friend do these things.  One homeschooling mom from Colorado told me that she thought that the beauty of homeschooling is that the children learn to learn on their own.  Even struggling with hard things helps them learn so much better.  So, be encouraged; you can do this!

Each student learns differently and so, will need a different kind of chemistry course.  Here are some suggestions for different students:

Planning for chemistry for the non-science major who will probably not ever consider college is not difficult.  The concepts he should know are the fundamentals, the basic principles of chemistry upon which our lives depend.  A good text might be Usborne’s Illustrated Dictionary of Chemistry.  These books explain things simply and concisely.  Use Chemistry Experiments by Mary Johnson for lab. 

Your non-science major future college student will need a bit more rigorous course.  The A Beka text, Chemistry: Precision and Design, is very good and the explanations are excellent.  Chemistry in the Community (ChemCom) by the American Chemical Society is a great text and the labs are within the text itself.  Choose a kit from The Science Project Store, Science Labs.com (for ChemCom), or use Experiences in Chemistry from Castle Heights Press. 

If you have a student who is in 7th grade and very interested in chemistry, go for it.  Take out the list of fundamentals; get an introductory text, like Bob Jones’ Physical Science or A Beka’s Science of the Physical Creation, and just do the chemistry part of it.  Do the first part of Experiences in Chemistry for the lab.  When the child is older, just dive right into a high school level book and complete the laboratory activities already begun.  If you choose Science of the Physical Creation, you can do many of the lab activities at home provided you have a good lab kit. 

Your older college bound science lover can complete any of the usual high school texts or he or she can go right into the General Chemistry text by Umland for a rigorous start on college level material.  Remember the information is not different, there is just more of it.  For lab do Experiences in Chemistry, or a Chemistry kit from ScienceLabs.com such as the Chem C2000.  After the text is complete have your student take the Advanced Placement test in May.   If your student has used the normal high school level texts have him or her take the SAT II: Chemistry in the spring.

What about the parents who simply want a worry-free experience for their students?  Go to the local junior college and have your child take the general chemistry course.  It will be two semesters and the labs will probably be integrated into the course.  Don’t be afraid of night courses.  My son took one and the instructor was a retired chemical engineer who taught a great deal about vat chemistry in industry.  My son loved it. 

Now you know something about what is taught in high school level chemistry, you know how to plan for a laboratory at home, you also know several options for putting together a good chemistry course.  Learning chemistry requires effort, but is an excellent way to learn about God’s universe and the way it is put together.

Part 2: Myths About Teaching Chemistry!

Part 3: Resources for Teaching Chemistry.

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Preschool Behaviors in Gifted Children

By Deborah L. Ruf, Ph.D.

These are general guidelines to help you know if you have a gifted child. Personality type, boy or girl, and the reactions of those around the children can affect how many of these items describe gifted preschool children. The earlier any of the behaviors below occur, the more likely the child is highly to exceptionally gifted.

Birth to 4 months:
• Makes eye contact soon after birth and continues this interaction and awareness of others
• Makes eye contact while nursing
• Does not like to be left in infant seat
• Almost always wants someone in the room interacting with him or her
• Very alert; others notice and comment

4 months to one year:
• Seldom “mouths” toys
• Shows purpose with toys, seldom destructive or arbitrary
• Pays attention when read to or watching TV
• Plays pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo
• Waves bye-bye, says ma-ma, dada, and bye-bye
• Follows directions, knows what’s next in routine

One year to 18 months:
• Obvious interest in competence; has “fits” when not permitted to do it himself (or herself)
• Long attention span
• Obvious interest in letters, numbers, books, and talking
• Surprisingly good eye-hand coordination for shape sorters, putting things in and taking things out
• Uses puzzles and toys that are beyond stated age level
• Does not chew on or tear books
• Tries hard to please; feelings easily hurt

18 months to 2 years:
• Talking, clear understanding of others’ talk
• Knows many letters, colors, and numbers. The brightest gifted children often know how to count and organize by quantities, know many colors and shades, and know the alphabet in order or isolation. This is at their insistence, not parental drill.
• Tenacity; needs to do it own way and not done until they are done
• Not easily distracted from what they want to do; don’t even try tricking them with distraction
• Can sing a song with you, knows all the words and melody
• Clearly exhibits a sense of humor beyond typical “bathroom humor”
• Although active, activity is usually very purposeful and important to the child
• Interest in activities, machinery, and implements that are complex and maybe delicate, e.g., CD player, computer. Can handle them well, if allowed.
• Bossy; quickly lose interest in any children who cannot do what they want to do.
• Grandparents have started to complain that your child is willful and perhaps spoiled.
• Drawing and identifying what they’ve drawn.
• Stacking block towers of 6 blocks or more
• Recognizing basic shapes and pointing them out elsewhere
• Notice beauty in nature
• Attention to the feelings of others
• Need to know “why” before complying

Two to three years:
• Excellent attention for favorite TV or videos
• Shows tremendous interest in printing letters and numbers
• Will catch your mistakes, hold you to your word, and not forget promises or changes of plans.
• Easily frustrated with own lack of ability, seems to obsess on some things
• People outside the family start to comment on how smart your child is
• Child has trouble playing with other children same age, prefers adults or much older children but is not a lot of fun for them because child is still too immature
• Throws fits or tantrums especially when thwarted in doing something his or her own way to completion
• Can play with games, puzzles, and toys that state an age range twice their own or more
• Early reading, e.g. know most store and street signs, recognize many names, labels and words in print
• Most tantrums precipitated by lack of adult respect or understanding; child is more likely to cooperate than simply comply with adult demands
• Highly competitive

Three to four years:
• Highly inquisitive
• Highly talkative
• Increasing interest in books and reading and finding answers there
• Love to debate and reason and argue
• Can do many things on the computer
• May become fearful of what they don’t understand, tend to think ahead and worry
• Show interest in how and why; ask questions and listen to answers unlike most age-mates
• Interested in strategy and application of rules; dismissive and annoyed at others who don’t “get it”
• Bossy
• Creative
• Cleverly manipulative
• Perfectionistic, even obsessive about developing own skills

Four to five years:
• Many start reading simple books then chapter books almost spontaneously before they are five
• Show interest in mature subjects but can be frightened by their own lack of perspective (e.g., natural disasters are both fascinating and frightening)
• Intuitive grasp of numerical concepts and mathematic reasoning; many can effectively compete with older children and adults in board and card games
• May start to question the meaning of life, their own worth, etc.
• Huge vocabulary, huge memory for facts, events, and information
• Increasingly facility with computers and keyboarding, video games
• Obvious abstract reasoning ability, love of concepts and theorizing; philosophical and speculative
• Great need to engage others in meaningful and intelligent conversation about the things that interest them (the children, not necessarily the adults)

Summary:
Gifted preschool children tend to initiate their own learning. In fact, it is one hallmark of high intelligence. Although strong parental or preschool involvement and instruction can accelerate a child’s acquisition of academic skills, children at different levels of intelligence will still gain those skills at a noticeably different rate.

This article has been reprinted with permission from the author.  She says this about her website:  “I founded Educational Options to provide accurate information regarding intelligence, what it is, where it comes from, and how our family, school, relationship and workplace environments either nurture or stifle its expression. When someone is highly intelligent – different from the majority in thoughts, expression, and interest – the wrong environment can lead to confusion, sadness, and underachievement. My continuing purpose is to open the eyes and awareness of adults in ways that will benefit them and the children under their care.”

Check out Dr. Ruf’s latest project at http://www.talentigniter.com/, especially the page on Ruf Estimates of Levels of Gifted Assessments.

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Your Science Tool-Kit: Evaluating Scientific Messages

By Samantha Burns at Homeschool-Articles.com

On any given day we are presented with any number of scientific messages;  it is important to understand science, so that we might better understand the natural world around us.  But what do we do if the information makes no sense to us?  What should you do if the message gets garbled by the news-reporter and sounds alien?  How do we know the information we are receiving is accurate, and not skewed to suit a corporation with a private agenda?
We use our scientific tools to question and research the information.
Ask yourself:

  1. Where does the information come from?
  2. Are the views of the scientific community portrayed accurately?
  3. Is the scientific community’s confidence in the ideas accurately portrayed?
  4. Is it a controversy misrepresented or blown out of proportion?
  5. Where can you get more information?
  6. How strong is the evidence.

With these tools you can decipher the messages, discern truth from exaggeration, and gain a better insight to the world around you.  This will aid you in every day decisions you make.  From the minor to the most monumental life-changing decisions you make, I guarantee that a better understanding of science and the world around you is only going to benefit you and yours.
Use the following checklist to determine how scientific something is.

How Scientific Is It?

  • Focuses on the natural world.
  • Aims to explain the natural world.
  • Uses testable ideas.
  • Relies on evidence.
  • Involves the scientific community
  • Leads to on-going research.
  • Benefits from Scientific “Behavior”.

Science is not just a subject to play around with in our school endeavors; it is part of our every day lives.  It is crucially important that we give our children the skills and tools necessary to decipher the scientific messages bombarding them on any given day.  In a world where the natural state of things is in such a precarious place, and a society that is increasingly reliant upon technology, science will surely play a key role.


Samantha Burns is a self-taught homeschool teacher to 2 sons, and wife 10 years to a citizen scientist. You can visit her website at www.squidoo.com/chronologicalhistorystudies.

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