When you think about teaching your children High School Chemistry are you filled with joy, dread, or something in between? There are many things to consider when choosing a Chemistry curriculum: do you want to teach the material, or simply enable your student to learn it; do you want one with more math, or less math; a traditional textbook, an online or DVD course, or some combination of book and video? If your head is already reeling just thinking about all the options, take a deep breath and let me tell you about the Chemistry 101 DVD series that Arlene and I have been reviewing from The 101 Series as a part of the Homeschool Review Crew.
The 101 Series are a selection of Biology, Chemistry, and Physics DVD based courses produced by Wes Olson and his family at Westfield Studios in Idaho. Wes and his wife Tammy, along with their four homeschooled children (3 graduated and one in High School) are the creators and producers of The 101 Series.
Since Arlene and I have been reviewing the Chemistry 101 DVD set, we will focus there.
When it comes time to consider High School science for your homeschooling family, you have a lot of quality options. What most of us do NOT have is an unlimited set of resources to try them all. That one key point makes it necessary for you to do some pre-planning and some research. What we have found is that there are three primary options: traditional textbook, online courses, and DVD based courses. Chemistry 101 fits the DVD based course option with some extra benefits.
One concern I hear a lot from Homeschool parents who might be considering a DVD based science course is that they are afraid there will not be enough depth to the course, or that their student will finish the course without the required number of hours needed for their state's graduation accreditation. Chemistry 101 covers both of these concerns, but also has options for those who need an overview course, or help in understanding key topics they may be studying elsewhere. If your students attend a public or private High School and are struggling to keep up with and understand their Chemistry course, I recommend you get them these DVDs to watch as the Chemistry 101 videos make Chemistry interesting again... and fun.
Chemistry 101 is a 4 DVD set that includes 19 video segments that range from 20-45 minutes each. The lessons cover four main areas of Chemistry that Wes Olson, as the student's tour guide to Chemistry, refers to as:
- Road to the Periodic Table
- Chemistry Essentials
- Meet the Elements
- The Future of Chemistry
I have enjoyed hearing Wes present the basics of this course in an understandable, yet thorough manner. I wanted to know more about the technical aspect of how Wes came to write and produce the series so I did some reading. When Wes and Tammy's oldest children were ready for High School Chemistry, Tammy could not find a video based course she thought sufficient, so she asked Wes to create one. Since Wes's background is in filmmaking, he started out with a short video, then expanded upon it until it reached today's Chemistry 101 course. He spent about 4000 hours total over about 18 months, with help from his two boys, to research, plan, adjust, film, and produce the series. His technical advisor was a Chemist who had taught at both the High School and University levels and had authored multiple textbooks on Chemistry.
This thoroughness of understanding the subject matter reassured me that the lessons would help Arlene learn well, without me needing to spend a lot of time on the course. As a homeschooling and working Mama - that is priceless! This is not a course for you to teach, this is a course taught by Wes Olson that enables your students to learn, to understand Chemistry, and to flourish.
During the review period Arlene has been watching the video segments, we have discussed some of them, and she has done a couple of experiments. I have watched some of the videos with her, but not all of them. Because Arlene has already taken Chemistry, this was a refresher course for her.
For your students that haven't yet taken Chemistry, here is the basic overview of the whole course and what you will need to do to make sure they are ready for it...
1. On Disc D there are two PDF files you should either print out at home, or take to your local print shop and have printed and spiral bound. (If you can't print them out because of not having a computer, or not having local print shop, they are available to purchase already printed.) The two PDF files are the course accreditation file (23 pages) and the Guidebook with quizzes (128 pages.) On page 2 of the Guidebook is the copyright information to show to your print shop that you have permission to print it out for family use.
All three of the courses: Biology 101, Chemistry 101, and Physics 101 are designed for ages 15 and up. However, knowing how homeschool families like to work together, and Moms like to group their students, the Olson family chose each picture and video segment so it would be appropriate for the whole family to watch. Thus, feel free to have your younger children watch too, or pair a High School Freshman with their older sibling for this course!
2. Look over the one page supply list for the experiments and gather up your things. It is on page 4 of the Accreditation booklet. Then read page 3 of this booklet with your students! This guideline will help them see how they should be spending their 4-5 hours a week of Chemistry course time effectively.
3. Sit back, relax, and enjoy watching your children learn Chemistry on their own with the course. Or, work on reading or math with your little ones while the older ones are occupied. Or... take a nap. Naps are good for Moms of teenagers!
If you think that this is just too easy, let me reassure you, the planning for this course is simple, the prep work Mom or Dad has to do is easy, but the coursework is still at a solid High School Chemistry class level. Each student will be doing outside research and writing reports, as well as keeping a Chemistry notebook. Chemistry 101 includes 30 hours worth of labs, something that is almost always required of a Chemistry course if your student is headed to college. Most of the labs for this course are shown on the videos and then the student is given tips in the Accreditation booklet to help them recreate those labs at home (after they have studied the topic for their research.)
What if your student just needs an overview, or you want a refresher course? Watch the videos. watch then again if necessary and pick out a few of the scientists mentioned to look up online or at your local library. Arlene wanted to do some of the experiments shown, but not all. A quick look at the supply list showed me that if she wanted to do them all I would need to purchase: red cabbage, a magnesium fire starter, a glow in the dark item, diet soda, and dry ice.
What are our overall thoughts? We really like these DVDs. Arlene said they're fun videos to watch, and I thought the quality visuals Wes Olson uses in them reinforce the information covered quite well. I would recommend these videos for those who want a thorough High School Chemistry course that has a balance of labs, research, and enough math to learn Chemistry without being overwhelmed with too much equation balancing. If your student is planning on attending college and majoring in Chemistry, these DVDs would be a good supplement to a traditional math-heavy textbook course.
Before I send you over to read the other Crew familys' reviews of Chemistry 101, Biology 101, and Physics 101, I want to share a few more thoughts about this course and its appeal to working parents. Chemistry 101 retails for $69.99, or you can buy all three courses for $168.95, a discount of just over 15%. If you are a working and homeschooling parent like me, you are probably always keeping a running tally in your head of how much schoolwork you can actually accomplish with your student, and how much they need to be able to do on their own. You also keep mental budget, and know how much you have left for supplies. With the exception of the dry ice experiment in segment 15, and the fire starting one in segment 17, I would feel comfortable with Arlene (age 16) doing this entire course on her own, without any help from me. Of course, she would probably ask for help with a few of the other experiments, and I, or her older sister, or her Dad would be happy to help her. The point I'm trying to make is that Arlene would not NEED my intervention to get a quality education with this series. I think the $70 price tag for this course is a real bargain! When I consider that Kurt or I can earn that in less than a day at work, or I can spend weeks teaching a Chemistry course from a traditional textbook - yup, you guessed it - I'm all for this course! My only regret is that we didn't review Chemistry 101 before she took Chemistry the first time!
Now, one last thought and then I'll let you go...
Don't be afraid to put this DVD set on your wish list for the holidays. We have been blessed many times over by family members purchasing things for the girls to use for school for Christmas or Birthday presents... like a globe, and a microscope. One of the joys of homeschooling is that your life does not need to look like everyone else's! If you really want this course for your older students (and I think you will,) and you've already used your science budget on other books and experiments, ask for it.
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