Grade: A 99.45%
For my Chemistry course, I used the Calvert curriculum supplemented heavily by additional readings and experiments.
In my opinion, the Calvert curriculum focused far too much on calculations, rather than on the fun and fascination of chemistry.
I utilized Brainfuse online tutoring which was – quite literally – a godsend. This service is available through my local library and I was so grateful for it that I even wrote an entire article for a local magazine to help point other students (and their parents) in the direction of their libraries because they really do offer so many services that can help with some pretty weighty topics.
I received an A for Calvert’s extensive tests. Sadly, however, I can’t helping thinking that I’ll forget 95% of what I learned in their curriculum.
What I WILL remember are the supplements I sought out to add to my learning.
The first book I used, I chose because I was so in love with U.S. History for Dummies (you can read more about it HERE). So I decided to read Chemistry for Dummies.
Chemistry for Dummies is exceptional, and I highly recommend it for anyone who is struggling to stay engaged in a dry chemistry curriculum. It is very informative and delves into most of the basic formulas and key chemistry terms.
This book covers basics of protons, neutrons, and electrons; acids and bases; molecular shapes including linear, trigonal planar, tetrahedral, seesaw, octahedral, square planar, t-shaped, trigonal bipyramidal, bent (v-shaped) and square pyramidal. It also includes information on isotopes and ions; isotonic, hypertonic, and hypotonic solutions; and exothermic and endothermic reactions.
But what I found most interesting is that this book covers environmental issues that are so critical with the challenges facing our society. It talks about the origination of global warming and air pollution, as well as how photochemical smog, London smog, and acid rain are created. This was very interesting to me as a budding environmentalist.
The second supplemental book I chose was The Elements by Theodore Gray. This fascinating book is chock-full of stunning photos and really can make any student excited about tackling the elements.
Instead of just forcing me to memorize their names like I was required in the Calvert curriculum, I found myself enjoying learning about them. The memorization that followed was simply a fortunate side effect.
Another addition I loved for my chemistry course was watching a YouTube video series called Intro to Chemistry, Basic Concepts – Periodic Table, Elements, Metric System & Unit Conversion. I tend to be a visual learner, so this further helped me get to know basic formulas and equations.
But what about labs?
That’s the most exciting part of chemistry, and I think it is often overlooked not just in homeschool curriculums, but also in brick-and-mortar schools as reported to me by many of my friends. I’ve always enjoyed the labs in 730 Easy Science Experiments with Everyday Materials. They’re a good introduction to science in action, but definitely not enough for a high school student.
So, to try something new specifically for this course, I decided to try a subscription service called MEL Science. I’ve included some photos and videos below.
For example, MEL’s foam eruption project I did, using soap and a natural food dye from a flask, brought chemistry to life. It was so satisfying seeing the foam ooze – actually witnessing for myself what happens when acids and carbonates react to each other.
Another great lab was growing a sugar snake. The sugar snake was made out of baking soda and sugar and then set on fire. I loved seeing the snake grow as the chemical transformations took place.
All in all, chemistry was a blast… a literal blast when it was time for lab work. And while the Calvert curriculum was kind of dry (although very thorough), MEL Science Experiments, The Elements, Chemistry for Dummies and even my old stand-by, 730 Easy Science Experiments with Everyday Materials helped make my chemistry course more engaging.