Homeschool Chemistry for Middle & High Schoolers
Fascinating Education offers 3 secular science tracks for middle school students: Chemistry, Biology and Physics. Though it’s target audience is 6th graders and above, it could be used by advanced younger children as well. Or so it says. Since Super Hero has shown a keen interest for Chemistry lately, and encouraged by this claim, I thought we’d give Fascinating Chemistry a whirl. Yes, he’s still younger than that, but you never know till you try, right?
What We Received
We received one annual subscription for Fascinating Chemistry free of charge, retail value $79. Now, I am to share with you all my thorough and honest review.
What Is Fascinating Chemistry Like?
Fascinating Chemistry is an online program developed by neurologist Dr. Sheldon Margulies. He has created this site because of his passion to share his vast knowledge of science. His intention: to deliver a visually appealing, easy-to-follow, and kid-friendly learning environment. Clearly, Dr. Margulies knows how the brain works, and how it bests learns.
Dr. Margulies’ courses engage the student by bringing a real life touch to all the lessons so that the student understands why the material is important for them. His “right-hemispheric” learning approach takes advantage of the brain’s ability to process images more efficiently and more effectively than just reading text.
The course assumes no prior knowledge. Here’s Fascinating Chemistry’s outline:
- Lesson 1: Intramolecular Bonding
- Lesson 2: The Ionic Bond
- Lesson 3: The Covalent Bond
- Lesson 4: The Polar Covalent Bond
- Lesson 5: The Metallic Bond, Part 1
- Lesson 6: The Metallic Bond, Part 2
- Lesson 7: Heat
- Lesson 8: Air Pressure
- Lesson 9: Properties of Water
- Lesson 10: The Mole
- Lesson 11: Gases
- Lesson 12: Solutions
- Lesson 13: Chemical Reactions
- Lesson 14: Orbitals
- Lesson 15: Molecular Geometry
- Lesson 16: Electrochemistry
- Lesson 17: Polymers
- Lesson 18: The Nucleus
- Final Problems
The Nitty Gritty
As soon as the child logs in, he meets the entire collection of lessons, 19 in total, displayed orderly on a single screen. Underneath each lesson’s descriptive thumbnail, there is a red button for the actual lesson, or video presentation. A blue button for the script in full-color PDF. And a yellow button for the test. The child must pass the test with a score of at least 80%. If not, he can’t advance. There’s really nothing preventing him from clicking on the following, or any, of the other red buttons, pass or fail. If he does skip ahead though, he will soon be lost like a fish out of water. Lessons build upon themselves quite robustly. Thus, it behooves the child to get a good grasp before moving on.
The actual lesson is a Power-Point-like presentation. The top title shows the topic. The left panel shows the subtopics. The presentation begins automatically, but the child may choose any subtopic. This is of course handy if he’s revisiting the slideshow. Dr. Margulies speaks clearly, with a pleasant voice and a friendly tone. He’s brief and to the point. The quality of the audio voiceover, graphics, and animation is outstanding. So is the video/slideshow player. The child can easily pause or go backward or forward, if so is needed.
We couldn’t find the lesson’s time duration anywhere. Nor was it visible while playing the subtopics. At the beginning, this was a bit unnerving for Super Hero. Still the wiggly boy that he is, he wanted to find out quickly how long he was to sit and watch. No such good fortune. In time, we were able to estimate each slide’s time length by how quickly the playing line moved along. Each lesson takes 30 minutes or so.
Some lessons offer hands-on lab experiments. For safety and security reasons, a separate password is needed to access the labs section. Once there, you can print the PDF and complete the lab at your own pace of course.
How Did Super Hero Fare?
Super Hero does enjoy Dr. Marguiles lectures, yet he doesn’t retain the material enough for him to pass the tests on his first try. Let’s just say his experience with quizzes up until now has all been hunky-dory. Not so much now. After all, the lessons do cover a lot in language that’s not-so-munchkin anymore! For the first test, the second try did the trick. But for the second, it took him a good 4 or 5 attempts. Definitely not his favorite thing in the world. Granted, this program targets middle and high schoolers. Super Hero, who just turned 10 earlier this month, is 2 to 4 years younger. So I’m not concerned about him not nailing every test. (Not that I’d ever expect him to.) But, being the competitive kind, he’s a bit ticked off, though he won’t readily admit it.
Breaking down the lessons into shorter chunks is a good idea. I wouldn’t think this would be necessary with the bigger kids, especially not with high schoolers. Anyhow, there’s no need for Super Hero to rush through. We go at a comfortable pace for him. And yes, I do sit to watch along with him. It’d be a pity for me not to take advantage of such first-class program 😉
Fascinating Education does reveal to the students (or parents) that the course will get rather advanced the last few lessons. High school math is required to go fully through the end. We’ll see how we end up managing that phase of the course. I’m certain Super Hero will do whatever he’s capable of at that point. As long as he can understand it conceptually, which is possible, they say, it will sure be time well-spent.
Did We Like It?
Let’s let the stars do the talking. As usual, Super Hero’s in charge of the review ratings. Fascinating Chemistry, it seems, received his indisputable approval.
In a Nutshell
In Super Hero's Own Words
I like the site. It looks really nice. The lessons are good, they teach you good stuff. They are fun. The tests… I don’t really like the tests. You can only get 2 wrong, and that’s a little bit too high a standard. Apart from that, I like it.
Fascinating Chemistry is an outstanding program. I do highly recommend it for kids in the intended audience: Middle and high schoolers. For a child younger than that, unless he or she is truly interested in the subject, it might become too complex or overwhelming.
Ah! For the record, I don’t think 80% passing grade is too high a standard 😉
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