TOS Crew: Friendly Chemistry

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Here is a homeschool chemistry course that lives up to its name; it really is friendly.

In comparing Friendly Chemistry to other courses available to homeschoolers, we’ll be looking at the meat of the matter; in other words, the content, not the packaging.

Just a brief note on the packaging: The course materials are put together in a way that looks somewhat rough and homemade, with the purpose of keeping costs down for the publisher and buyer.

I don’t have a problem with that. Over the years I’ve used a number of “jewels in the rough” — after all, I’ve seen lots of glossy covers concealing poor content over the years, while at the same time using “rough draft” materials that did a brilliant job of helping me to teach our children (or helping them to teach themselves!).

Good Stuff

There’s good stuff in Friendly Chemistry. The authors’ background lends itself to an understanding of the subjects of chemistry, homeschooling, and teaching. From the Friendly Chemistry website:

Joey and Lisa are the homeschooling parents of 10 children, aged 1 year to 21 years.  Joey has a doctorate degree in veterinary medicine and a masters degree in secondary and higher education curriculum and instruction. Lisa has a bachelors degree in veterinary science, a masters degree in elementary curriculum and instruction and has completed coursework towards her doctorate in education. Joey has taught science courses at the middle school and high school levels for over 20 years, as well as at the local community college level.  Their children have been homeschooled since early childhood through high school.

The student text is written directly to the student, with a conversational tone. The teacher, doing lesson preparation, will also be reading the student material, which I’m told contains all the necessary information to learn the written material. The Teacher’s Edition offers notes on how to present concepts in class, building upon the reading material in the student text, as well as instructions for labs.

Innovative Games

Innovative games and group activities help students to grasp theoretical and abstract concepts in a concrete way. The format of this curriculum lends itself to co-op classes. As a matter of fact, it would be pretty hard to play the group-oriented games with just one or two students.

Manipulatives

Included student materials are simple but effective (a “Doo Wop” board, flash cards, a bag of little clear plastic disks — I don’t know what they’re called, but they remind me of the game pieces in a Tiddly Wink set, and work well for Bingo counters, among other things). The “Doo Wop” board helps students to learn about the concept of electron orbitals, something I learned in college chemistry, and which is a foundational concept for later work with ions, formulas, and chemical reactions.

Lesson Map

The Teacher Guide gives a “game plan” for each lesson, a suggested map of how a lesson should go, starting with review (after the first session, of course), notes on presenting material the students have read about in their reading assignment, assignments for the following week, and finishing with a test for the week.

I really like the extra suggestions aimed at giving students a better visual understanding of a concept. The authors are very good at coming up with visual aids made from commonly available items; for example, the teaching tip for illustrating a “mole” uses disposable drinking cups, packing peanuts, and another item easily found in your kitchen.

Fun, edible, doable labs

Labs are fun, and many of them are edible!

Friendly Chemistry is designed to provide all the information you’d find in a high school Chemistry 1 course. It’s a great way to fulfill a high school lab science credit, especially for those students who are not science-oriented. The course also works well as a supplement or introduction to chemistry (alongside or preceding a more rigorous textbook-based course) for those students who are heading into science-based studies such as pre-med or engineering.

Multi-level learning; co-op friendly

Even though it’s based on high school chemistry requirements, the course can be adapted to suit younger learners, making it a multi-level addition to a homeschool family’s studies. (Our middle schooler was able to do the work; our hands-on, energetic, very active 10yo especially enjoyed the games.) However, where the course really shines is in group settings. A number of the exercises that illustrate basic concepts in chemistry study are best suited to group endeavors. This makes Friendly Chemistry a logical choice for a homeschool co-op; the more, the merrier.

Cost (free shipping within the U.S.):

Student edition (330 pages, 3-ring binder): $75
Teacher edition (300 pages, 3-ring binder): $60

Note: this is not a course where you can get away with just the teacher or just the student edition. You need both.

Visit the Friendly Chemistry website for more details and ordering information.

To read more TOS Crew reviews of Friendly Chemistry, click here.


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