Monday, July 15, 2013

Review of Science for High School's Chemistry

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I don't love science. I know I'm supposed to. I'm married to a science guy (thank heavens!), but I struggled a bit with it in school and resented the time it took away from the fun subjects (English! History! More History!). It is the one hitch in this super-fun homeschooling journey. The kids have to learn science. Apparently it's not optional. To that end, I am always delighted to check out a science program with which I am unfamiliar - maybe this will be the one that makes me love science! Well, it turns out that I don't think I am cut out to love science, but, thankfully, I don't have to (I'm the mom, you know - I've seen that on a t-shirt). HOWEVER, Bridget Ardoin's Science for High School teaches science pretty much the only way I know how to teach, which happens to be Therese's favorite way to learn. Hence (ding! ding! ding!) - we have a winner! Therese had already started Chemistry, so we were both really excited to take a look at High School Chemistry in Your Home.

Most science programs are, more or less, the same. You read a textbook of varying quality, answer questions at the end of the chapter, do some labs, and take some tests. If you love science, that approach is probably fine. You'll get something out of it, regardless. If, however, science is not your first love, you'll not really warm to reading that textbook no matter how much you may love to read and regardless of how much you love all of your other subjects. Bridget Ardoin solves this problem (and, please note: I'm not saying that she calls it a problem. That is purely my own assessment of science!) brilliantly. She turns the process around. Let me explain.

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Rather than providing students with a Chemistry textbook, High School Chemistry in Your Home provides students with a manual (the set also includes a parent manual that has the answers - yay!) of questions - just questions. Sound strange? It's brilliant. Instead of giving students a textbook in which they can hunt down the answers by looking for the bolded terms (I can't be the only kid who did that), Bridget Ardoin has crafted a program in which she provides students with a list of questions and concepts each week that will require research to answer. At the end of the week, they will complete a lab. So where are they supposed to find the answers? Anywhere! You can use a Chemistry textbook you already own. You can use the Internet. You can use some of the great visual encyclopedias that all homeschoolers own. You truly can find the answers wherever you choose to look. You can use the same source(s) each week, or you can use different ones. Chances are very good that after a month or so, you will have found a couple of sources you really like and will find yourself returning to those (Therese did). I'll explain how we used this program below, but its creator has great ideas for how to use science for high school on her website.

I have detailed Therese's advanced school skills elsewhere, so let me start off by saying that this is definitely a high school Chemistry course. Like all Chemistry classes, it does require some advanced math. It is not for the average 11 or 12 year-old. Having said that, this course was made for Therese. In fact, if you happen to have a gifted middle-schooler, this is probably the *only* way to do Chemistry! Precisely because there is no set text and students can find the materials that work best for them, while still learning all of the concepts that need to be mastered for a high school Chem class, there is nothing standing in the way of a younger gifted child doing Chemistry (N.B. the math requirement, though; there is no getting around that).

Therese uses a history program geared toward gifted kids that actually works in much the same way as Science for High School. It is research-based and relies on Therese to find the answers to questions and to research concepts. In essence, she ends up writing the textbook. That's why I felt this science curriculum was like the answer to a prayer. It works the exact same way! By presenting Therese with a set of concepts at the beginning of the week and letting her know that we would be discussing them (as well as completing a lab) on Fridays, and then letting her go, I was allowing her to learn in exactly the way she likes best. Like many gifted kids, she resists being handed a textbook and told to read this chapter and answer these questions. In fact, if she has a textbook-based course (as some, inevitably, are), I end up reading the chapters to her. With a course like Chemistry, that just wasn't going to happen! Of course, random Internet searches were not going to happen with my not-quite 12 year-old daughter! For one thing, our Internet filters wouldn't allow it.

We spent the first week of the course looking for the sites that would best answer her questions and found two that were superior. Then, I bought a wonderful interactive Chemistry text on the iPad. Because Science for High School's Chemistry had its own outline and order (which makes perfect sense, but does not exactly mirror the text I bought for the iPad), it wasn't in any way like Therese had to read the text and then answer the questions. Rather, she would read the questions and then seek out the answers. As with all wonderful things homeschool, more than once she ended up on a Chemistry rabbit trail and learned more than she ever would have if she had simply been following a syllabus for a conventional Chemistry class.

The labs for this course are very non-threatening and reasonable. Of course, you need some lab equipment. We had recently purchased a full set of Chemistry lab equipment, and so were all set. For those who need the lab equipment, though, Science for High School has several lab equipment and chemical options on its website.

The Chemistry set that I received included the Student Manual, the Parent Manual, and a set of tests and quizzes. This set costs $79.99. An extra Student Manual can be added for $24.99. 

In case I haven't made it clear, I love this program. We are going to finish Chemistry, and then we are going to do Biology. Crew members reviewed other Science for High School levels, so if you have any high schoolers (or ever will), be sure to read the reviews. This is such a neat way to do science!
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  1. Great job, we really enjoyed this way of learning as well!

  2. Thanks, Melanie. This product was a very pleasant surprise :-)

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