Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Credit Hours & Chemistry

We are fortunate to have a thriving, open, friendly local homeschool group that loves to share their wisdom.  Several moms who homeschooled through high school and have kids who have gone on to college, recommended tracking high school hours.

Initially I had my reservations about tracking hours because 1) I felt like I had enough going on and 2) I was afraid it would make me more rigid.  I am, by nature, someone who craves organization but in homeschooling I have found that the true learning happens when we go off-course and explore and dive in, rather than just follow the plan.  I was afraid that tracking hours would make me less comfortable with moving off the beaten path.  Actually, just the OPPOSITE happened: I found that tracking hours created order from what sometimes feels like chaos when we deviate from the plan.  This is especially true with Language Arts, History and Film Study.

I have also found that it shows where we have gaps or where we don't have enough material.  Allie was originally going to take an online biology class this year, but it didn't work out time-wise and she decided to do American Chemical Society chemistry with Piper and Jason.  We added videos and experiments and projects to make the middle school program challenging enough for high school credits.  


Jason has been traveling for work and when he returns work will be crazy busy with new projects and new people starting and he won't have time to commit to chemistry, so I have taken it over again.  In so doing, I realized we would be about 24 hours shy of 120 hours (1 high school credit = 120 hours of work).  I knew Chem Lab experiments were missing, so I started looking online, but I was not satisfied with the reviews and what was included for the price.  So, I started looking online for home chem lab experiments at home and found a plethora of options.  I especially liked that they used things you can buy in Home Depot or Lowe's or an art supply store, I really like the idea that the girls will learn the chemical names of things in household products.  I was able to buy the alcohol burner, flasks, test tubes, tongs and ph test strips for under $45 on Amazon.  We will be doing experiments from Off the Shelf Chemistry and Classic Chemistry Experiments, which will require us to buy drain cleaner, lye, borax, denatured alcohol, hydrochloric (muriatic) acid and to use things like nails, bobby pins, baby oil and other things that we have around the house or in the garage.  There are a few experiments we probably won't do if the cost of supplies is pretty high and we don't have another use for the items (like photography developing chemicals).  We will be starting to do these chem lab experiments in addition to the ones in our chemistry curriculum next week.

We are tracking hours with: Language Arts, History, Film Study, Cooking & Baking and Chemistry.  Math and Italian are based on finishing the curriculum (with Italian I have found that Level 1 is more like one semester than a whole year; I can't speak to the other levels, but we bought 1-5 so if we complete that we should have at least the two years of foreign language required of many colleges).  E-cubed (teen-led outside enrichment class) is based on weeks attended multiplied by 3 hours per week...and does come out to over 120 hours for the year, so we are counting that as well for it's leadership opportunities, book discussions, mock trial, improvisation, skill development, etc.  Film Study and Cooking & Baking are things that we anticipate will take more than 1 year to fulfill the 120 hour requirement of one high school credit (or 5 here in New Jersey).  We are on track to have more than enough credit hours for full year Language Arts and History credits this year.