Category Archives: High School Homeschool Science

Do You Fear I Am Dumbing it Down?

A thought came to me recently that maybe we have a communication gap.  Don’t you love it when you have been struggling to explain yourself, and finally you realize that a small clarification might do the trick?  It might be wishful thinking, but it’s worth clarifying:

Not all living books are easy. 

Really you already know this, because after all, you probably read Plutarch to your children each week.  If you are at all like me, there are even times when you are thrilled that your children can narrate so beautifully, because otherwise you would have no idea what you just read!

It is possible, however, that not everyone realizes that there are advanced living books available for science too.  Thankfully, we are not stuck with choices between easy stories or text books, fiction or dry facts. We also are not limited to the history of a science or a list of biographies. (Although, please don’t miss those!) More technical books can still be living, while utilizing the hard language needed for the field. For example:

The Elegant Universe
Superstrings, Hidden Dimensions, and the Quest for the Ultimate Theory
by Brian Greene
In a rare blend of scientific insight and writing as elegant as the theories it explains, Brian Greene, one of the world’s leading string theorists, peels away the layers of mystery surrounding string theory to reveal a universe that consists of 11 dimensions where the fabric of space tears and repairs itself, and all matter-from the smallest quarks to the most gargantuan supernovas-is generated by the vibrations of microscopically tiny loops of energy.

I’m giggling, and I hope you are too.  Clearly this isn’t the place to start, but can you just image how passionate this author must be about his field? Passionate writers are bound to be inspiring. They are going to engage you, make you think, make you wonder. A text book is not going to do any of those things.

As exciting as that it, we still must start from the beginning, because of course you didn’t start your little one out on Sir Walter Scott or Winston Churchill.  Instead, you probably read books like The Red Fairy Book and An Island Story. But be encouraged that the beginning is only that, the beginning. Not only for literature and history, but for science as well.

What Chemistry Principles Are We Covering

I put together a list of the chemistry principles we are covering while completing our Living Chemistry course this year, and uploaded it as a PDF for you to check out.  You could consider this a scope and sequence, but the reality is that we are doing it backwards. In other words, instead of covering the list sequentially, we are letting our spine text lead us to each principle.

I came up with this list by looking at several scope and sequences for high school chemistry, as well as the table of contents of several chemistry textbooks, to compare what we were learning to what we would be learning if we did a traditional textbook. I was happy, but not surprised, to see that we are really covering everything they are – just in a different way.  I would like to think that our way is much better!

Science for Those Intimidated by Mathematics

I recently read a great interview with a professor of general and organic chemistry at The Master’s College. (The link has been removed now, so you can’t read it yourself unfortunately.) Of the thirteen questions asked, one was regarding those who want to know more about science but are intimidated by mathematics.

One of the biggest concerns I had about teaching chemistry to my little band of homeschoolers was the intense math required.  I knew that was going to be a huge obstacle for them, and had the potential to make a year of chemistry a hateful endeavor, instead of something they were excited about.

In the interview Dr. Taylor Jones said, “If one is interested in science as a layman, most of science can be explained satisfactorily in qualitative terms, i.e., without math. For the prospective student of science, recognize that acquiring proficiency in problem solving takes longer than any other type of learning. Be patient. In the beginning, how to do problems is more important than why the method works. Learn to accept that proficiency may lag behind understanding. You learned to ride a bicycle long before you learned that it’s gyroscopic behavior that allows you to ride.”

The first half of his answer was very encouraging to me, because I have two students who definitely fit in the description of “layman”. Chemistry is a requirement for them, so our primary goal is to complete the class for graduation. However, I don’t want that to be our only goal by far! I also hope that they will be inspired, and acquire another reason to respect the world God created.

The second part of the answer was also encouraging to me, because I have one student who is very interested in a nursing field. This sweet girl is not a gifted math student, but at some point she will need to master some of these difficult concepts to attain her goals. His answer gave me confidence that she will be able to do it in time. For now we will continue putting one block on top of another as she builds on her math abilities. She is loving our living chemistry course, and is inspired to reach for her goals, rather than being put off by what may have seemed like an insurmountable task for her.