Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Thank You

I've been riding this particular hobby horse for a while now. Great article from Chemical and Engineering News.
More parents are also deciding to homeschool their children beyond middle school, and as they do so, they are discovering that the availability of already prepared chemistry curricula is quite limited. The situation is especially challenging for secular homeschoolers, who say there are virtually no secular high school chemistry curricula out there for the homeschooling community.
One caveat: please, no more of "the homeschooling community." As if you could have a "community" composed of people for whom the sole common denominator is that they don't want to be part of any educational "community," public or private. Especially annoying when some ignorant columnist or politico runs with that particular ball and starts calling on "the homeschooling community" to do this or that. But that's for another blogpost. Onward...

Many secular homeschoolers end up modifying one of the Christian curricula, simply because those curricula are the only ones available. Or, like the Strouds, they cobble together their own curricula, which many say is incredibly time-consuming and nearly impossible for parents without a science background. Some parents with older kids end up sending them to a community college for chemistry courses. Some join co-ops where they can pool their resources with other parents. Some gloss over or skip chemistry altogether....

Barrett says she would love for someone to come up with a secular high school chemistry curriculum that is academically rigorous yet parent-friendly. Even better, she says, would be for someone to produce an entire high school science curriculum, including chemistry, biology, and physics, and offer hands-on labs to go along. She wonders whether it would be possible for a chemist to adapt a college-level chemistry textbook for homeschoolers and include labs that can be done in the home.
Amen. We use the intro chemistry text used by our city university for non-science majors: it's thorough, accurate, comprehensible (things that couldn't be said for the high school chemistry text we tried briefly to use), and doesn't assume a high school chemistry background. Labs are a combination of experiments from an old chemistry set manual (from back in the days when they figured kids could take a few risks with chemicals) and the virtual interactive labs from the CD-ROM that comes with the textbook.

One failing of the article: while it does a good job of pointing out the frustration many homeschoolers have in trying to find decent non-Christian science curricula, the author makes it sound as if it's just convinced atheists who don't want any texts that mention God. Actually there are many of us who just object to a (very much) minority religious Creationist worldview that corrupts the majority of homeschool science texts, even chemistry materials. The "C"-word doesn't show up at all in the article; but it's the elephant in the living room.

Anyway, sounds like there are several promising curricula in the works. Hooray! Maybe Offspring #2 will be able to profit from them.

HT to Daryl.

4 Comments:

Blogger Darwin said...

Seems like I took chemistry and biology via packaged AP courses from Univ Nebraska (unless I'm remembering wrong on which university it was). My dad oversaw general science and non-lab physics himself.

Are those guys still around?

Now, the lab was not as cool as some of what you could get in a regular school. No pure sodium to flush down the toilet. But there was a box worth of beakers and pipettes and chemicals and such.

I think I skipped ordering a dissection specimine for Bio, though they were available as an extra. (Is Edmund Scientific still around and selling cool stuff?)

6:37 AM  
Blogger Bekah said...

The problem with pervasive creationism is not isolated to high school texts. Choosing science curricula is trying throughout the 12 years. I object to the materialistic philosophy inherent in non-religious evolutionary science curricula, and I object to overly religious creationist philosophy. There seems to be very little middle ground, unless you cobble together this and that and forego a complete curriculum entirely, which is what we have done this year. Science happens to be my oldest's (10) favorite subject, and I feel that it is one in which I'm a complete failure, despite having a fairly competent science background myself.

10:48 AM  
Blogger Darwin said...

Bekah,

Are you talking about looking for non creationist science books that don't throw in occasional "and this of course means that all regious people are deluded" barbs, or are you looking at something that avoids methodological materialism entirely?

Seems like when my little brother was 10 (he was the biggest science fan in the family) his favorite book in the world was a book called The History of Earth by William K. Hartmann, which I recall was beautifully illustrated, quite scientifically solid (as of the early to mid nineties) and didn't have any screaming philosophical or religious issues.

Of coure, like so many good things, it now appears to be OP (though available used):

http://www.amazon.com/History-Earth-Illustrated-Chronicle-Evolving/dp/1563051222/ref=sr_1_1/103-4657431-0961408?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1178118300&sr=8-1

Not particularly a "kids book" but Tim certainly loved it.

8:08 AM  
Blogger The Opinionated Homeschooler said...

Darwin,

You can still find AP course material; actually we're doing Physics from an IB course (IB is the "new AP" you know) for Offspring #1, as the intro college physics text was a little much for her. But for most kids, AP or IB is too much too fast at the early high school level.

Edmund Scientific is still around, and Home Science Tools is a great resource for cheap chemicals and equipment. Alcohol lamps have come a long way since we were kids. We get lots of advice on lab work and chemistry in general from my dad, a retired chemical engineer. But the problem is coordinating the lab to the text; knowing what experiment will helpfully illustrate the concepts taught.

The main problem is finding a non-creationist, comprehensive chemistry or biology course for the average high school level hs'er, usable even when parents don't have a science background, that incorporates labwork. In other words, something comparable to what you could expect at a good public school. I gather this is what some of the people in the article are working on assembling.

Bekah,

It's true that heavily creationist science texts show up for all ages. But there's lots of non-religious science materials for homeschoolers for the pre-high school set.

I guess I don't want a "middle ground"; I want a curriculum that just teaches science, and not (please forgive me, any creationist readers) pseudo-science shaped by a creationist agenda. I would be equally uninterested in a text that propagandized for atheism; but honestly I've never seen any public high school or college science text that did.

What surprises me--and maybe this deserves its own blog post--is how religious homeschoolers don't get more upset about art materials. If there's any area where texts tend to treat religious faith as some archaic, naive, and slightly bewildering artefact of the past, it's art curriculum. One reason I like the Sister Wendy art texts is that she seems one of the few critics who can take the religious motivations of the great artists seriously, without insisting on seeing everything through the lenses of politics or money.

11:11 AM  

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