Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments
Although I get excited about a lot of new products, when I saw this one my first thought was, "Why wasn't something like this available when I was in high school?" Subtitled "All Lab, No Lecture," and written for the do-it-yourselfers of all types and ages, I can't imagine a more fitting homeschool chemistry lab guide. Author Robert Bruce Thompson has studied chemistry most of his life after receiving a chemistry set for Christmas when he was a boy. With the growing realization both that the chemistry sets offered today have been so "whittled down" due to liability that they no longer can teach actual chemistry, and that schools often "skimp" on science, he was determined to write a complete lab manual for people truly interested in learning chemistry. And he has done a fantastic job.
The lab manual contains two year's worth of chemistry labs (including AP recommended labs), organized topically. Because this is lab material only, you may need to do a bit of coordinating to plan for labs that correlate with what you are studying in your chemistry text. Further aiding your lesson planning, he sorts out lists of labs in the introduction, providing three suggested lists of labs for high schoolers who are not planning on going into a science major in college, those who are planning on a science-related major in college, and those who are wanting to take the AP Chemistry test for college credit (a chart is also included here matching AP recommended experiments with particular labs in the book). You may want to modify these lists or even create your own, however, based on the chemistry curriculum you are using. Before we jump into the labs, however, there is plenty more "good stuff" to read, including information on setting up and using a lab notebook, lab safety information, guidance on assembling equipment for your home laboratory, and advice on obtaining chemicals for the lab. While I could gloss over this and go onto the labs, I want to reinforce how helpful these chapters will be both to you and your student. With the background of someone who has built and used his own home chemistry lab for years, he offers a wealth of knowledge on specific apparatus and chemicals that you won't find in any packaged chemistry curriculum's teacher manual. In the chapter on equipping the lab, he goes into detail on specific types of glassware, and recommends specific sizes and quantities for each. This information is also helpfully found in a chart form as well. Other equipment, such as balances, heat sources, support stands, pipettes, thermometers, scoops, filter paper, rubber stoppers and more are covered separately, and he also provides a chart for these as well. I can appreciate how he keeps cost in mind, and often recommends substitutes or sources for items that he has found helpful. The last part of this chapter offers advice on where in your home to locate your chemistry lab (I have to grin, thinking of my own makeshift 1950's diner table in the corner of the dim basement). The chapter on obtaining chemicals is a gold mine all by itself (a tricky area, since some forms are classified as hazardous or restricted!). Here the author provides excellent reference material for the non-chemist/homeschool parent. He includes information on chemical names, how to understand chemical grades, information on chemical risk phrases and markings, safe chemical handling and storage. Next you'll find charts of all recommended basic and supplemental chemicals (with suggested quantities) needed for the labs in the book, helpfully organized on a chart complete with storage codes, risk and safety phrases, and quantities (in grams and mL, not moles!). Also very helpful are the appended notes that provide sources and alternatives for the chemicals in the list. More extensive notes on recommended supply sources can be found at www.homechemlab.com. A few words on hazardous chemical shipping are also included. The last chapter before the labs provides explanation and instruction on common laboratory skills the student will need, like how to correctly measure liquids, use a balance, perform titrations, using various heat sources, cleaning glassware, and more. Inside the back cover you'll also find a fold-out periodic table and a chart of formula weights for commonly used chemicals.
The last 300+ pages of the book are devoted to the labs. These are grouped in chapters according to topic, as mentioned above, so you may be jumping around the book completing them according to your chosen chemistry text rather than completing the labs front to back. Topics covered in the lab chapters include: separating mixtures, solubility and solutions, colligative properties of solutions, introduction to chemical reactions and stoichiometry, reduction-oxidation reactions, acid-base chemistry, chemical kinetics, chemical equilibrium, gas chemistry, thermochemistry and calorimetry, electrochemistry, photochemistry, colloids and suspensions, qualitative analysis, quantitative analysis, synthesis of useful compounds, forensic chemistry. Each lab contains background information and advice, a checklist of equipment and chemicals, a step-by-step procedure, charts with blanks to guide lab report recording, and long-answer review questions based on the lab. The layout is extremely easy to read and well-organized, and also often contains full-color photos of set-ups or results. Side notes on substitutes and modifications, optional activities, and comments from the author's technical editors all make these labs non-threatening, as if you have a team of experts to support you. Because the review questions are all related directly to the experiment, the answers should be attainable for the student. Unfortunately, no answers are included in the book (which fits with the spirit of self-discovery found throughout), but if you absolutely need them, you can subscribe to the author's newsletter ($18 per year) and receive an electronic copy. The e-mail newsletter contains additional labs and updates. Whether or not you subscribe, you should definitely check out www.homechemlab.com for the lists of corrections found since the book's publication.
In summary, I would stack this lab guide up against any lab manual from a purely school/educational publisher. You can't beat the price for the treasure trove of practical information and advice from someone who has "been there, done that" before, also on a budget. It's extremely user-friendly for both the student and the parent and the professional-looking, with ample use of charts and photos make it easy on the eye as well. Have I said enough yet? Perhaps so; I think it's time for me to go start setting up my own lab, this time as a hobbyist! 416 pgs, pb. Jess
Chemistry is the ultimate hands-on science, but with the dwindling availability of student and hobbyist chemistry sets, it can be hard to get started. This book helps the modern DIY scientist get set up with a home chemistry lab, learn the basics of chemistry, and perform a variety of home chemistry experiments that are fun and educational. This book is intended primarily to meet the needs of DIY enthusiasts, but will prove invaluable to Advanced Placement (AP) and home-schooled high school students, as well as college students studying this field.