By Jennifer Nairne
When I envisioned homeschooling my children, I wanted to create a safe and fun environment for engaged learning that inspired my kids to go beyond the traditional classroom restrictions in search of knowledge. It has not always been easy – grammar, for one, seems increasingly less applicable in everyday life and the subject does not lend itself to creative teaching. But we have always managed to incorporate the interests of our children and the content they need to learn to achieve our goals. That is, until we hit Chemistry.
As anyone with homeschoolers in high school will tell you, Chemistry is one of the most difficult and rigorous courses, prior to college. Dr. Suzanne Lahl has created a primer, Chemistry For Everyone, that is perfect for homeschoolers, as well as parent-teachers who may need a refresher on the finer points of the periodic table. Rather than peppering the book with practice questions and experiments, Dr. Lahl has focused on the conceptual understanding that forms the foundation for the course. Using “plain English” (rather than scientific gobbledygook), she frequently uses metaphors to explain many of the basic topics in chemistry in a very relatable way.
The book offers a “big picture” view of chemistry – reviewing fundamental concepts and how those concepts fit together. Even students that perform well on tests and love science can struggle when it comes to chemistry. This can be attributed, in part, to the traditional teaching and learning methods used in the classroom. Most Chemistry textbooks are incredibly technical and read more like a text on mathematics – dry and with little real-world applicability. Rather than promoting rote memorization and “plugging in” numbers into equations, Dr. Lahl wants students to gain a deeper understanding by encouraging learning and applying that knowledge. Using metaphors that make sense to high school homeschoolers, she walks each reader through the basic concepts of the Chemistry course and builds on each one to form a larger picture.
Homeschoolers and parent-teachers will appreciate Dr. Lahl’s approach in Chemistry for Everyone. Each chapter is succinct and contains informative illustrations that make complex concepts more approachable for young students. While there are content-based review questions available in each chapter, the problem-solving advice and test-taking tips are invaluable guidance for any subject, not just chemistry. Students who have previously struggled with science would find her suggestions especially helpful and even parent-teachers, including yours truly, can benefit from the strategies offered. JN