Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Friendly Chemistry! Yes, Really!

As a member of The Old Schoolhouse Homeschool Crew, we were able to use and review a copy of Friendly Chemistry, by Joey and Lisa Hajda.   Joey and Lisa Hajda have excellent qualifications for writing a chemistry curriculum, as homeschool parents of ten, with graduate-level degrees in chemistry and education.

Chemistry was my hardest subject in high school, and I avoided it completely in college.  So, I was thrilled to see the word "friendly" in the title of this curriculum.  I figured if it was friendly for the student, it would also be friendly for the teacher.  The teacher's manual walks you through each lesson, providing helpful analogies like using an apple to explain the principal quantum number.  In addition to the  teacher's manual, the authors are available to help by email.

The Friendly Chemistry textbook is written directly to the student, in simple language.  It uses unique analogies, hands-on activities, and games to help students understand complicated chemistry concepts.  This multi-sensory approach also helps the students remember what they have learned.  The Friendly Chemistry course is flexible:  a high school student can use it in a self-directed way, it can be used in group settings, or the junior or senior high student can work with their parent one-on-one.   Some of the games and activities included are:  Doo Wop Mania, Ion Bingo, Compound Restaurant Game, and "Turmoil in the Chemistry Kingdom" dramatization.

Its friendly approach doesn't detract from the academic level; it is definitely adequate coursework to receive high school credit.  There are 32 lessons, which should be covered at an average pace of one week per lesson.  At this pace, the course would be completed in one school year.  Although, for students not desiring to pursue a science-related career, and only needing two science credits for high school, it would be possible to take this course at a slower pace.

If the thought of mixing chemicals in your home for science experiments scares you, then Friendly Chemistry can set your mind at ease.  All the experiments in Friendly Chemistry use common substances that will not blow up your kitchen!   There's no need to increase your homeowner's insurance before beginning this course.  That should also set your husband's mind at ease, or your land lord's mind if you rent.  You can see the supply list at their website.

The Friendly Chemistry set arrives with a Student's Textbook, a Teacher's Manual, and a manipulative set.   The student's textbook and teacher's manuals are both bound in 3-ring binders, as many self-published curriculum are.  There are 330 pages of text in the student's textbook and 300 pages in the teacher's manual.  The student textbook includes worksheets, and the teacher's manual includes tests and answer keys.  You can see a sample (text only) of  lesson 1 HERE.  First, the text from the teacher's manual is listed, and then the student manual. 

The manipulative set (which comes with the student textbook) includes the Doo Wop mania game, flash cards, and pieces for the Compound Intensity game.  Get out your scissors, because the manipulative set does not come pre-cut. 

My 13 year old daughter understood the chemistry concepts in Friendly Chemistry, and enjoyed reading the student's textbook.  While she did understand the concepts taught in Friendly Chemistry, we feel she will benefit from more algebra studies before proceeding further with Friendly Chemistry.   We didn't progress through the textbook as fast as I had hoped.  This was partly due to my 13 year old being unaccustomed to a textbook approach to science.  We only began using a science textbook with her a year ago, but she was taking it at her own pace, as she felt comfortable.  So, she struggled to keep up with the 1 chapter per week schedule we attempted with Friendly Chemistry.  She wanted more time to process the information, study it, and prepare for her tests.  This is an area we need to work on with her, as well as testing anxiety, before we begin Friendly Chemistry again. 

From my own perspective, I did not find this to be a "pick up and go" curriculum.  It required advance preparation from me: to become familiar with the lesson, highlight anything I needed to say, divide it into daily sections, and gather all the chemistry lab supplies.  Some parents may not find this necessary, but I did.  It is also helpful to read the student's textbook before teaching the lessons, especially if you struggled with chemistry in high school as I did. 

We've decided to set aside Friendly Chemistry until our daughter has grown accustomed to using a science textbook, and following a schedule that will move her through it at an adequate pace.  We also feel she would benefit from studying more science and algebra first.  Basic algebra is a recommended pre-requisite for the course.  We may choose to work through it with both our oldest daughters at the same time, either as 9th and 11th graders, or as 10th and 12th graders.  This would maximize my teaching time, and allow them to do some of the group activities.  Since this will probably not be a self-directed study in our home, pairing up our children to take the course two at a time will be the best solution for us.

Friendly Chemistry can be ordered HERE at their website.  The Student Textbook with manipulative set costs $75.00, and the Teacher's Manual costs an additional $60.00.  Shipping is FREE within the United States. The price of Friendly Chemistry seemed high at first to me ... but it's less expensive than hiring someone else to teach chemistry to your student.

Friendly Chemistry has a goal of making the process of learning chemistry painless.  Their curriculum, while not as polished as some other curricula, definitely succeeds in making chemistry friendly for the student, and the teacher.   If you or your student are afraid of the word "chemistry", then Friendly Chemistry is for you!

Click the banner at the top to read more reviews on this product by other Homeschool Crew members.

Trusting in Him,

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