The other day Applie posted on her blog that she is planning to teach Apologia Chemistry at her co-op next year. She is gearing up to teach and has found the Apologia book a bit confusing and heavy on the math. I have mentioned before that I am not a big fan of the Apologia Chemistry book. In fact, I am less of a fan than I was when I wrote that post, but I have the book and we are going to use it. I just have to tweak it. A lot. I don’t have the plan done for my girl’s entire year of Chemistry, but I do have the first couple of weeks. Maybe if I am motivated I will blog about it as we go along. Hence, the Part 1 in the title. We will see. But at least I can give a start.

I do start with Module 1.

What is important in Module 1

  • Mass. It is important for the student to understand the concept of mass. The experiments are lame, but they make the point. Mass and weight are not the same thing. This is important. The book talks about it a bit, but the point needs to be driven home.
  • Units of measure. I love the metric system. Love it! Why our country won’t get on board and quit using the English units is beyond me, but that is beside the point. Students need to be comfortable with basic units of measure. If they aren’t comfortable yet, they should make a cheat sheet for handy reference of equivalent measures. Donna Young has a great one. The goal should be to memorize them, but as they practice that should come.
  • Unit multipliers. This is extremely important. Students have to be comfortable with this. One pet peeve that I have Dr. Wile briefly mentions that 1 cc is equivalent to 1mm. But he just throws it in there. It is kind of a “oh yeah, by the way”. Lame. It is a handy conversion and used frequently, and in advanced sciences FREQUENTLY. (side note: I worked in a biochemistry lab in college. I was working with very small amounts at times and it was always in cc’s.)

I am going to stop here and discuss unit multipliers for a second. I do not like the way that Dr. Wile explains them. I am sure it is a personal perference. His way works and it is fine, but I don’t like it. If I was tech savvy, I would make my own YouTube video, but I am not. If you want to hear someone talk it out, here is a handy video of it.

  • Significant figures. Again important. Do you see how much stuff he crams into this module? He does a fine job explaining them, but the kids need more practice. There are a bunch of different applets online to practice. Just google for it. Find one that has what you want. This is a MUST. If they don’t grasp this concept now, it will haunt them the entire course. They must memorize the rules.

I want to say something about the experiments in this module. They are very lame, but they have a purpose. I did not make my daughter write them up. We did them to prove a point. I used experiment 1.4 mainly to practice measuring and reading liquids in a graduated cylinder. There is value in that. If you have been homeschooling awhile, I am sure your kids get the density concept. Why he includes density in this module is beyond me. There is plenty in this module for the kids to remember. However, they need to memorize the formula, be able to use it appropriately, convert the units, and determine significant figures. Help them do that.

So, that is Module 1.

I see that this is going to be a long post, but I want to talk a little about where I go now. I do NOT going into the second module. You can if you want. It is all just math, but I found it frustrating to jump right into it. It is a module that can be done at any point in the course. If you have a student that struggles with Algebra, maybe wait until later in the year when their math skills are a bit stronger or until the summer cobwebs have cleared.

Next I begin discussing the periodic table. The periodic table is a beautiful table that has beautiful order. I don’t think that point is ever brought to the kids’ attention. Understanding that order makes things so much easier. There are tons of YouTube videos that explain this. I can’t find the one I really like. Typical. But there are some good ones there.

First of all make a black and white copy of the table on the inside cover of the book. Have the kids get their colored pencils ready. Color the table explaining the difference between metals, non-metals, and noble gases. You may need to find another reference. I use the Usborne Science Encyclopedia. What does everything in the box mean? Answer all these questions now.

It is also imporant to understand the periods and groups on the table. What do these mean? The kids should have some understanding from previous classes about protons, neutron, and electrons. If they don’t, you need to cover this now. They should understand that electrons are in shells surrounding the nucleus of the atom. The Usborne Science Encyclopedia again gives enough information for this point.

One thing I like to point out that the elements in their groups behave in similar ways. For example, the metals in group one (this excludes Hydrogen because it is not a metal) all react with water in a similar way. What is intersting is that as you move down the periods they become more reactive. You can mix Lithium with water, and you have a small reaction. But if you mix Cesium with water you hae a lovely, violent reaction. Watch this video for a good demonstration. See? Fun!

Next I explain what the periods and groups mean. This is so important for later. We know that the electrons of an atom are arranged in shells. The elements in each period have the same number of shells. In period one we have Hydrogen and Helium. They have one shell. In period 2, the atoms have two shells. And so on. The elements in the same groups have the same number of electrons in their outer shell. For example the atoms in group VI all have 6 electrons in their outer shell. This is enough information for now.

Now I am ready to teach Module 3. Except we cover much more about naming compounds. In fact, it really, really bugs me how little time he spends on this. He jumps into chemical reactions in the following module before they are comfortable with the nomenclature. Irritating!! I am just getting ready to cover nomenclature with my daughter. As I work on that, I will keep notes and I will make a page for links that teach nomenclature. Now is the time to bring out the chemical beads and play with them. After they are comfortable with nomenclature it is fine to move to Module 4.

Sigh. As I am looking more and more at this book, I find myself liking it less and less. I think I will write a post about nomenclature. Just not today. I feel so bad for my oldest. That I made him suffer through this.

End note: This took me much longer than I had anticipated. I am not sure how this will work. I think I will make the next posts a lot more simple.