Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gunnar, Chemistry, Flubber, and the Mad Scientist

Although the boys, Gunnar in particular, moan and complain about the end of summer and the thought of getting back to school, it's mostly for show.  Because, you know, it wouldn't be too cool for the boybarians to like school.  But the truth is, we have a pretty good time.  I won't pretend it's all sunshine and rainbows.  There are things certain subject areas we find less than exciting.  But we're interested in things.  In the world.  And in how things work.  So we make it as fun as we can.

Of course, reality doesn't always match expectations, yah?

Gunnar has his heart set on digging into chemistry this year, and I know he imagines something along the lines of Flubber...

... with a side of Back to the Future thrown in.

He sees himself as the mad scientist, the master of a lab filled with experiments, bunsen burners, test tubes and all manner of things bubbling and frothing.  


Unfortunately for him, the Grasshopper Academy's budget won't cover anything quite that extravagant.  But that won't stop us from having a great year.  So, since Crystal asked (so long ago!  I didn't forget!) here's the deal:

Just for the record, when it comes to planning I may be a bit of an over-achiever.  I like having a weekly schedule, showing what we'll cover day-by-day.  When we first began homeschooling I read Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind and had delusions of grandeur.  But the reality was that my boys were not going to thrive on that much sitting and writing.  We do more doing.  Still, that book is a treasure trove of good intentions.  In other words, for me it's a jumping off point.

I grabbed my copy of Eyewitness Chemistry...

... and mapped out each section per week, with the idea of finding experiments that coordinate with each topic area.  But there was a little problem with that plan, and it has to do with the fact that I've only had one chemistry class in my life, and that was kind of a Chemistry for Bone-heads course I took in college over twenty years ago.  So if the Eyewitness book says something about Oxidation-Reduction reactions I'm... well...  a little bit lost.

Then I had a reality check.  Gunnar is twelve.  TWELVE.  Thanks to homeschooling, he's had more science already than any (public) elementary student in this district and most likely the whole state.  Over the next couple of years, he'll get more introduction to chemistry in Apologia's General and Physical Science, and then a whole year of Chemistry when he's Wyatt's age.  Clearly, I have some wiggle room.

I re-thought the plan.

We'll still use Eyewitness Chemistry as a sort of a spine.  We'll read through a section each week, and we won't be stressed out when the book goes over concepts... that go right over our heads.  We'll be writing down definitions of key words, names and (brief!) bios of important scientists, major discoveries, as well as sketching things like atoms and molecules.  We have other resources to help us.

But what Gunnar is really looking forward to are the experiments, and I'm planning a couple per week.  I'm pulling them from lots of sources.

I'm hoping the test tubes, pipettes, and little bottles of chemicals in this kit will inspire him with lab work.  Though the experiments are pretty simple, all the equipment makes it feel official and important.

We've used Fizz, Bubble, and Flash before, and it's definitely targeted to a slightly younger audience, but it also has several fun experiments and Gunnar loves the little poems about various elements.  I like that the book groups the experiments with the elements as they appear in the periodic table - introducing young kids to the organizational structure there... the why of the groupings.

Of course, we love Janice van Cleave.  We've already done many of the experiments in these books, but there are some worth re-doing and a few Gunnar hasn't seen yet.

I also picked up (cheap!) a couple of these Adventures with Atoms and Molecules books.  Of course, there's a lot of redundancy (glad I didn't pay much) but they do explain some of the concepts at a kid level and have a handful of experiments the other books don't.

Where it made sense to me, I scheduled certain experiments to coordinate with our subject-of-the-week from Eyewitness Chemistry, but frankly... it doesn't all work out that neat and tidy.

I remind myself again, he is TWELVE.  He will cover chemistry again.  And again.  I do not have to create a perfect, exhaustive, grade 6 level chemistry course, that covers everything.  As if. 

What I will do is walk through a year of exploring concepts in chemistry through reading, and writing, and DOING.  We'll document our experiments, working through the scientific method (observe, ask, hypothesize, test, analyze), and we'll try to have a little fun.  You know... to preserve our sanity and our sense of humor ;D

And you?

1 comment:

Choate Family said...

Oh, how I love your sense of humor! It's always so fun to see what everybody else is doing. We do plain ol' Sonlight Science, and I'm so thankful they plan everything out, because I do not have your gift for organization :-)