Exploring Creation with Chemistry
Overall, homeschooled students tend to do at least as well in high school as their public school counterparts. However, high school chemistry is a subject that can be difficult in a homeschool environment. First, many parents feel less able to teach chemistry than other subjects. Special (and sometimes expensive) lab equipment is often needed, and experiments with strong acids or bases can be hazardous.
Enter Exploring Creation With Chemistry, written by Dr. Jay L. Wile. Dr. Wile is a former university professor who has written the Exploring Creation with ... series for the homeschool environment. His course addresses the main problems listed above. First, he assumes no prior knowledge of chemistry and explains concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. The entire set of recommended lab equipment (not included) sells for $55.00; he even tells you what substitutions of common household items you can make that will still work, which could bring equipment cost to less than $15.00! Finally, no special chemicals are required beyond what would normally be found around the house. And it's written from a Christian perspective.
So, it's easy to understand, written from a Christian perspective, requires little lab equipment and no special chemicals. But does it teach chemistry? At our house, we have used the Basic Chemistry for Christian Schools course from Bob Jones University Press. Linda and I claim no particular gift when it comes to science teaching, but we have been able to get through the book with Jessica and Megan, and both did fairly well on the "Science Reasoning" part of the ACT test. So let's see how the courses compare.
Coverage of Topics. Laying the books side by side, Exploring Creation With Chemistry covers the same topics in 16 chapters (two weeks per chapter) as the BJUP course, with the exception of the last three chapters in BCfCS (Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, and Nuclear Chemistry), which are often not covered anyway. Algebra 1 is a prerequisite for both. ECWC is designed to be used every day for about 45 to 60 minutes per day.
Visual Appeal. ECWC is not quite as visually appealing although it is full-color, with simple line drawings, diagrams and photos. BCfCS uses a combination of drawings, insets and photographs, both color and black-and-white, and has a more professional look.
Ease of Understanding. ECWC gets the nod here. When explaining stoichiometry, for instance, the book includes a simple experiment to explain what it is and how it works. Most of the text gives you the feeling that Dr. Wile is right there, telling you all about some interesting facet of chemistry.
Expense of Lab Equipment. ECWC is a clear winner here. As mentioned previously, special lab equipment is kept to a minimum. For instance, when heat is required for an experiment, the kitchen stove can be used; otherwise, you can purchase an alcohol burner with stand as part of the lab equipment. Lab equipment is offered below. The BJUP course assumes a school setting with a science lab, so you occasionally need to alter the labs for the equipment you have available. To purchase the equipment called for in the experiments can be pricey, and sometimes a particular piece of equipment can be hard to find.
Ease of Labs. Again, ECWC is the winner. Supplies needed for the labs are commonly found around the house anyway, so the expense is virtually nil. Items like cooking oil, baking soda, vinegar, window cleaner, cleanser, and drain opener are used. (An additional advantage to this approach is that the student more readily identifies the properties of commonly used items, and can more easily apply his knowledge to real world situations.) Labs are described in the student text. BCfCS requires the purchase of supplies like hydrochloric acid and various other specialty items. Labs are contained in the lab manuals (teacher and student).
Review and Testing. In ECWC, "On Your Own" practice problems are sprinkled throughout each chapter, with solutions and explanations at the end of the chapter. Approximately 10 review questions and 10 practice problems are listed at the end of each chapter. Answers for these are included in Solutions and Tests For Exploring Creation With Chemistry. Also included in this book are chapter tests (about 15 questions each) and answers to the tests. In the BCfCS course, 15 to 20 review questions are given at the end of each chapter, with answers in the Solution Manual. Chapter tests are much more extensive, with 50 to 100 questions per chapter. Please note that the Solutions Manual also includes the perforated tests listed below.
Cost. The two-book set for ECWC is $75. For BCfCS, all components, including the Testbank, would be approx. $120. Adding in the difference for lab equipment and supplies would mean an even larger difference.
All in all, Exploring Creation With Chemistry is a solid high school chemistry course that should be easy to implement in a homeschool setting.