Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Chemistry: Working with Atoms

We have started our study of Chemistry for this year using the Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry series and Friendly Chemistry. I love the Real Science 4 Kids series for many reasons, but one of them is the fact that the books have the same topics for their chapters in all three levels. In this way, all the boys can be studying the same topics, just at the level that is appropriate for their level. The last time we went through the Real Science 4 Kids Chemistry series, I used the Pre-Level (grades K-3) with James and Quentin and Level I (4-6) with Sam. We completed the suggested experiments/lab work. This year, I am going to read the Pre-Level material to Quentin again because I am not sure he is ready to go on to the next level yet. James will be doing Level 1 material and Sam will be doing Level 2 (grades 7-9) material. Alex will be doing a mixture. In order not to be repetitive with the experiments/lab work, I am pulling from other sources and making up some of my own activities along the way.
The first chapter in all three books covers the properties of atoms. (Here is the experiment/labwork for chapter 1 we did last year.) I thought it would be a good idea to make models of the atom (as suggested in Friendly Chemistry Lab book.)
I made some playdough from the recipe I saw at Almost Unschoolers in three colors, and used it for the younger boys.

Pre-Level: At this level, they learn that different things in the world have different qualities (colors, taste, etc.) because they are made up of different atoms. They learn that even though atoms are too small for us to see with just our eyes, we can make models of them and draw pictures of them in order to think about the differences in the atoms and how they work.
Quentin really liked the way the atoms were drawn in the book and enjoyed making models based on the drawings with the playdough. 
This will lay the foundation for when we make molecule models next week, and he learns that the number of "arms" these atoms have helps determine how they combine to make molecules.
He called this Phosphorus atom "Atom Man" because he had 5 limbs which made him look like a person.
Level I: At this level, they learn about the parts of the atom. James decided to make a model of the Sodium (Na) atom, with 11 electrons, and therefore 11 protons. He made the electrons red, protons yellow and the neutrons green, just like the illustration in his book.
James figured out the number of neutrons by subtracting the number of protons from the atomic weight, which in the case of Sodium is 22(.9898)-11=11, giving it 11 neutrons as well.

Level II: The first chapter is mainly review, but it does introduce the concept of moles, the rows and columns of the Periodic Table and the differences between pure substances and mixtures. The labwork involves converting moles to grams.

Next Post in this Series: Building Molecules


  1. Those are good books. We read through the Level I and II books this year. I like the play dough atoms!

  2. The books look interesting. Hmmm. :)
    I need to make more playdough, too!

  3. Anonymous8.7.10

    That is a great way to learn chemistry! I found myself wishing I'd learnt through this method instead of struggling to make sense of how atoms combine to make different molecules the very difficult textbook way.

    You have given me a good idea to keep in mind when it comes time to teach our kids. :-)

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  5. (I accidently removed what I was going to say! LOL Let me try again...)
    I started my youngest son with the first book two years ago when he was Pre-K-4!This year we are re-reading it and he remembers much of what we read before, but it enjoying the review, which is not uncommon for young children. When you start that young, chemistry just seems as uncomplicated as anything else they are learning at that age.

  6. Trying to understand and decide. I have an advanced 6 year old and an average 9 year. I try to combine all that I can and do what I can as a group. We have not done Chemistry other than a few nature classes and the basics. Would you recommend we begin with the Pre-level, Level 1 or Level 2. Also I was looking at Rainbow Resources and not sure which kit I should purchase out of these kits: http://www.rainbowresource.com/prodlist.php?sid=1281918543-728105&subject=11&category=2731 Maybe the student/teacher kog bundle? Thank you so very much for any assistance...

  7. Sometimes we have to face a lot of confusion when we found different opinion of different hundreds of articles related to same question. But I think now I am close to resolve my doubts after reading this blog. igcse


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