Making Chemistry More Understandable

I took chemistry for both GCSE and A Level.  I didn’t understand any of it!  The GCSE I basically learned the text-book and then A Level, well one needed a bit more understanding than mere memory and, whilst I passed and got the grades I needed for uni, let’s just say my Chemistry A Level wasn’t my finest moment 🙂

All this to say, I knew if any of my children took chemistry I would not be teaching them!  T wants to take all the science GCSE’s and I want to facilitate this goal.  The first thing we did was to buy in a Chemistry IGCSE course from Echo Education:Capture

We bought the two required text books to go along with their course:

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The accompanying chemistry kit:

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The model making kit:

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As well various extra chemicals and bits and bobs required for the course.  In all it cost us £500.  Costly, I know, but worth it if it helped my son understand the fundamentals of chemistry.

He began the course with excitement.  Claire, the lady who marks his work, is incredibly kind and encouraging and as a first experience of bought courses, I’d have to say Echo education is excellent.  T wasn’t really finding it very easy, and one of his home work pieces came back completely wrong, because both he and I had misunderstood something relatively small.  I could see him losing heart, and having a mother who had always been honest about her lack of understanding in this area, in retrospect, probably hasn’t been helpful because it has allowed him to think that maybe he too can’t understand it.  Something needed to be done, and quick.

This was one of those moments in homeschool where one questions ones ability to actually do this whole teaching thing creditably.  I am desperate not to let him down, but frankly, chemistry is like double dutch to me!  As I reflected on my failure to be able to teach, I caught myself.  I have always and will always be a naff teacher.  That is not my strength.  My strength is finding lots of resources so the student can learn around a subject in order to become excellent at it.  I had let T down, not by my lack of understanding or teaching ability, but in the fact I had bought a course and left him to it.  His whole schooling up to this point has been me giving him a smorgasbord of learning opportunities and him picking the ones which suited him the best.  As such he has never had a problem learning anything, apart from maybe writing, but that is a WHOLE different post 🙂

So I got my research hat on and went straight back to the chemistry drawing board, and three hours later I was feeling what can only be described as excited welling up inside me about chemistry.  I had a plan.  I shared said plan with T and he, whilst not as quite excited as I was, was looking a little happier with his chemical situation.  So what had I come up with?  Lots and lots of resources, which all looked so good I was thinking about taking up chemistry!

Book-Type Resources

  • Non Fiction, popular books with their core in the chemistry world.  Otherwise known as ‘living books’ (a term I am uncomfortable with because it always brings up a mind picture of books on legs scrambling around the house…).  These are the ones we are starting with, but I have heaps of others waiting to be bought (because, y’know if books can have legs then they can certainly have the patience to wait)

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  • Chemistry Themed Fiction books (!), found completely by mistake:

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  • Chemistry books linked with faith:

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  • Experiment-encouraging books:

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Web-Based Resources

I will also be giving him time to peruse the following websites:

The Periodic Table

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This is a BRILLIANT website, full of information on each of the elements.  I almost bought the book but decided the website was so brilliant we didn’t really need the book too.

The World of Chemistry Video Course (FREE)

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Molecule of the Day

Chemistry Experiments You Can Do At Home

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Periodic Videos

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Periodic videos

This is the YouTube channel which goes with the website of the same name above

Crash Course in Chemistry

Khan Chemistry Videos

Chemistry version of Myth Busters

Are you all chemistried out yet?  (spell check does not like that word – it may well be another Claire-ism)  I am quite confident that I may start to understand chemistry after perusing all these resources and I am certain they will help a certain fourteen year old make sense of all things chemical 🙂

26 comments

  1. Splendid compilation of chemistry resources! As an older adult, I don’t know much about it to begin with and always thought it was too hard for me to learn, but since God created and holds together everything that is, I am trying to learn more about His creation. Thank you for all your hard work on this subject for your son and for writing about it for the rest of us. It is appreciated.

  2. Wow, you’ve found some awesome resources. It’s all about chemistry in our house at the moment. My mum got Nibsy A Beginners Guide to the Periodic Table for Christmas and he’s been reading some of it every night with his Dad who is the resident scientist. His birthday gifts also have a science/chemistry theme to them this year!

      1. It is very helpful although sometimes his explanations go over my head. Nibsy seems to follow along just fine though!

  3. Three comments:
    1. I frequently make up words regardless of what the computer says.
    2. I want links to that chemistry set and that model building set, those are so cool.
    3. I loved balancing chemical equations in high school, it was oddly soothing (not the right word, but best I can think of) to me.

      1. Yeah, it’ll just change it to US Amazon when I click on it, Amazon is smart like that. Supposedly there’s some kind of plugin that automatically changes your Amazon link (with affiliate) to the right country, but I haven’t added that in yet.

  4. Claire, as always you have blown me away. Amazing post! I pinned for later, as we are doing CHEMISTRY next year!!! So excited. I will be checking for these books at my Library! Also, I would love links to the chemistry set and model building set as well, please and thank you! 🙂

      1. I need the Canadian one actually 😉 but Yes if you could post the links I will *think* I can jump to the .ca one. If it isn’t too much and no rush, I know your loved one just got home!

  5. Claire, you are so real, and I love that you. 🙂 This is a great reminder that we don’t have to know it all, to be a good mom/teacher. Thanks for the awesome list of resources! My son loves science, so we’ll definitely use this!

  6. Khan Academy is what got me through the baffling and poorly-comprehended anatomy exams on my abandoned midwifery degree. Some people’s brains are wired to understand the way textbooks teach science, and some are not. Mine is not! It wasn’t until I had long left school that I discovered I not only am quite good at maths but actually enjoy it, when I am able to figure it out my own way and not be forced to stick to the teacher’s method. I’m sure T will find the same thing with chemistry. He is intelligent, persistent and well-supported, so he’ll get there 🙂

  7. This is an awesome list! I an def. pinning this. My 10 year old is very much into the Periodic table and I’m always at a loss as to what to with him. Now we have several great resources to use together; thank you.

  8. I’ve been meaning to comment on this one for ages! It’s sooo helpful, thank you! We’re all listening to the Itch audiobook at the mo. Very funny. 🙂 Your experience of chemistry sounds like me with maths!

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