Wednesday, August 26, 2015

But HOW will you teach Chemistry?

I remember one day like it was yesterday.  Connor was four, William was two and a half, and Thomas was a few months old.  We had decided to homeschool quite a while before that, but hadn't really publicized it until now.

Practically everyone who heard was appalled.  This just wasn't right.  But one lady, she looked at me with an incredibly concerned expression, and she said, "But HOW will you teach him chemistry???"  I must have looked confused, as she went on, "You know, in high school.  You can't do chemistry labs at home, and that's all so, so HARD!  How will you do it?"

I stared at her, mumbling something like, "I'm sure I'll figure it out when I get there."  Inside, though, I was thinking, "I'll consider myself a success if he learns to speak so other people can understand him."

Looking back, I can come up with witty retorts.  Or polite answers.  Or eye rolls.  Things I could've said, responses I should've made.


But now that I have three boys in high school, her question really hits me sometimes too.  I mean, she was totally out of line.  Seriously, what mom of preschoolers needs to be considering high school chemistry?  Especially given that at that time, I was lucky to sleep for an hour at a time. 
  • There are scary subjects though.  
  • Really scary ones.
  • Though, I never thought chemistry was one of them.

This shot makes me want to go back to high school.

 Before I go being all practical and talk about what we have done, or are doing, or what I plan to do, to teach chemistry, let me throw a couple other things out there.  And from here on out, just consider "chemistry" to be a code word for whatever class intimidates you.
  1. If you didn't learn enough chemistry when you were in school, so that you can come alongside your child and help him learn in the process -- well, I hate to say it, but in that case, you can't do any worse for him than your teachers did for you.
  2. If chemistry isn't a course they need in the next few months, it is too early to be worrying about it.
  3. You don't need to get freaked out over other people's hang-ups.  Maybe that should have been first.

How do you teach Chemistry, though?  Let me count the ways.  And let me point out that not a single one of these resources existed when I was asked this question.
  • There are reasonably typical textbooks, from all kinds of different organizations.  The one that appeals to me is brand new, by Dr. Jay Wile.  Discovering Design with Chemistry.  This would have been great for Connor, but it didn't exist when he needed it.  I expect to use it eventually though.
  • There are DVD-based approaches such as Chemistry 101.  This is a perfect approach for William, who learns best from video and audio.
  • In many places, you can find co-ops, or community college courses, or something where you can hire some expertise and not have to worry about it yourself.
  • Or -- and this is one I highly recommend -- you can go really, really hands-on and get an amazing kit from The Home Scientist, LLC.  Oh, yeah, this is definitely my favorite way to go.  A slightly smaller version is also available, which is certainly a more cost-effective option.


I personally think getting hands-on and doing real labs is the perfect answer to how to teach high school chemistry.  Your mileage may vary.  





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1 comment:

Jennifer Miller said...

It seems funny getting questions like that when the kids were so young. My baby is graduating this year, and she earned her chemistry credit using a resource that you recommended to us a few years ago. Thank you!