Wednesday, April 29, 2009

TOS Review: Friendly Chemistry

Once word gets out that you review homeschool curriculum, you'd be amazed at how popular you become in certain circles. Shockingly, the homeschool community appears to be populated quite heavily with bibliophiles, education nuts and others who just can't seem to get enough resources into their lives.

Which begs the question, really: which came first, the curriculum obsession or the desire to homeschool? It's our own little chicken and the egg quandary, people. Let's own it!

In the course of trying out Friendly Chemistry, I had a handful of homeschoolers with children "on the cusp" of the dreaded cliff that is high school. Every single person to whom I mentioned the program asked the same, very pointed question: "Is it rigorous?"

Definitions of "rigorous" as they apply to a chemistry program vary, as I found out when I did a little more digging. For many folks, that meant "Is there enough lab work involved?" For others, it meant abandoning a Creationist viewpoint in favor of what she referred to as "college level science." Still another just wanted to know that what was covered would line up with the boxes she needed to check off on her son's transcript in the making. All of those questioned held up an example of what a chemistry program ought to be; for many, that program was Apologia's offering.

And then, I kid you not, every.single.person sighed deeply and told me how they were pretty sure that the chemistry program they had their eyes on was way over their heads and would probably be skimmed over since they--the teaching parent--found the entire prospect so intimidating.

Simply baffling, you all. "I want a chemistry program that is tough. One that covers all the bases. One that digs deep. One that is hard science. But you know, I can't teach that, so I probably just won't."

May I humbly suggest something to the homeschool community at large?

The best curricula is the one that won't stay on the shelf.

That's right. The best curriculum doesn't necessarily fit under the umbrella of supreme academic knowledge. It doesn't have to put you through the paces. It isn't the one that your neighbor used to help her son get into Harvard. It should be the one that you feel comfortable teaching--the one that you will use with your child.

Ladies and gentlemen, you can buy a college-level curricula for any given subject and I can guarantee you that it will include pretty much everything you want to know on that topic. It may be chock full of lab examples outlining the overall process. It may have footnotes that refer you here, there and yon for further studies. It may be researched and annotated and indexed. But if you cannot teach from it, it is useless to you.

No matter how many wonderful reviews something has, no matter how well received it is on a high school transcript, that money was wasted. Both you and your child are far better off buying a user-friendly product that no one has ever heard of it it means that you will use it.

And this is the beauty of Friendly Chemistry.

Friendly Chemistry is not fancy. It's not head-over-heels in love with lab work to the point of making your kitchen seem woefully inadequate when cast as a site for experiments. The explanations could probably go deeper for students with a great desire to understand the field. The explanations don't require a degree in the field to decipher.

But overall? This is a program that you will use.

The presentation of Friendly Chemistry could, frankly, use some polish. The edition I have--with its photocopied sheets stuck into a nondescript binder-- reminds me of one of the very early editions of Learning Language Arts Through Literature that I happen to own. Typos and all, though, the curricula still teaches. It's still approachable, painless and chock full of the tidbits I want to pass on to my kids. Included are games, experiments and explanations that satisfy the general knowledge category that most students occupy when it comes to hard (meaning not soft) sciences.

Friendly Chemistry was written by a homeschooling family. Given a chance, it will grow. The polish will come. Further editions will round out the presentation and (hopefully) leave the fun elements intact. I realize that this program doesn't have the makings of a textbook giant, but you know ... I kind of like that. Friendly Chemistry is real-life chemistry for the rest of us. And honestly, don't we homeschoolers need more of that?

1 comment:

~ Angi :) said...

"It should be the one that you feel comfortable teaching--the one that you will use with your child."

From the "Amen, amen, amen" corner:

Amen, amen, amen! :D