Thursday, July 30, 2015

High School Chemistry, A History Resource, too.

I'm starting with a chat. Scroll, if you wish to immediately get to the product reviews.

covered bridge in Pennsylvania

Often, when we are driving together, "the back-way" to avoid Lancaster tourist traffic and road construction on the main roads, I'll quip to the Man-of-the-House, "Oh, can you pull over here? I'd like a photograph." He does. Then I lean out the window to point-'n-shoot." This time it was a covered bridge. One of our married daughters used to live down the road just through it.

covered bridge in Pennsylvania

In spring the Man-of-the-House drove me to my favorite nursery- Ken's on Old Philadelphia Pike.
We bought two pots of cilantro. Last year's new plantings were mysteriously eaten. I also picked out two handfuls of zinnia. The cilantro and red zinnia, marigolds were planted around the patio near the watermelon phlox. I like how these flowers stand up to the mid-day sun.

I learned something new about our wild rabbits (all 4 of them). It is apparent what their main diet is. We watch them feed on the clover flowers and plantains in our lawn, regularly. But I've surmised that they secretly find cilantro a delicacy. I blame them for nibbling my new plants as soon as they went into the ground - the second year in a row! Not a leaf is left for the cook's use. What brought on my suspicion? The usual caterpillar evidence is absent, firstly.

Our oregano around the back patio

And secondly, the rabbits come to the patio at breakfast time, like clockwork. From the kitchen French doors, I spied one rabbit tasting the oregano. Only a taste, mind you. Then it moved on.

"We have a new visitor," the Man-of-the-House said pointing through the French doors. A curious little bunny was, at that moment, nosing the thyme. Just a sniff. Off it hopped to forage elsewhere.

I cannot see the cilantro through the French doors, nor have I caught any rabbit in the act of eating it. However wise I consider myself to be to their herbal preference, I don't know what to do next year. I like cilantro as much as they do. Can't they leave me just a little?  This is what comes of no longer having cats around the place.

Oh, well.

I agree with a long-distance gardening friend who kindly sent me her hollyhock seed through the mail - seeds I sowed last autumn. She is a conscientious, attentive teacher and in her opinion it is perfectly fine to retreat outdoors, throw our cares (and seeds) to the wind, and be refreshed by flowers - yours or another gardener's - during off hours.

The fairest flower soonest fades. Traditional Saying

Flowers, like good fiction are a lovely momentary escape. They help relieve our minds of the gruesome and distressing national news, for instance. I need flowers. This week, on the way to the doctor's office I paused to gaze on the red roses blooming there. Their beauty helped steady my nerves. I breathed in their scent and marveled at their indescribable pink-red-orange color. This year my hollyhocks have big healthy leaves but are flowerless. They are supposed to be flowerless. I was warned that they are a biannual bloom and look forward to their flowering next year.

hollyhocks in their first year
Hollyhocks on the south side of the house - gaining sun for next summer's bloom.

After a peaceful escape with flowers you might be prepared to reel in your thoughts again. I know some of you have been making big decisions for the school year. These two resources have our vote. I linked each to Amazon.

"Time Travelers" - history resource on CD 
Review by Karen Andreola

It was 2012. I was walking the isles of a homeschool conference when I first laid eyes on a display of projects from Time Travelers. I stopped abruptly. I had to get a closer look. “Ooo,” I thought, “My [now adult] children would have greatly enjoyed going on these hands-on history adventures - had they been available. So would I.”

Time Travelers Lap Book

It’s on the tip of my tongue to say, “These kits are cute” - however, a more telling word is impressive. Amy Pak's Time Travelers supply 50 carefully thought-out activities to choose from. The masters, for constructing them, are expertly rendered. A photo gallery shows you all the finished pieces. Read the day’s lesson (1 of 25) then choose a project to work on over the next couple of days.

time line notebook

The text, with its reading and project schedule, can be used as a backbone to whatever living books you choose for narration.

Students study the people, major events, and lifestyle of the times. This includes the influence of Christians. A resource list points you to living books, music of the period, and relevant films to watch.

Time Travelers Lap Book

You are supplied time-line figures, a map or two, a board game to construct, multiple Lap Book™ projects.

Created for a range of ages, some projects require composition, others neat penmanship only. The student might write headline news onto a life-like newspaper printout. Girls can sew authentic crafts such as a yo-yo quilt or a penny rug in the Great Depression. Boys construct a model suspension bridge and a Wright Brother’s Flyer.

 In Colonial Life girls can stitch an alphabet sampler, lavender sachet, or stencil a Shaker box, while boys make a punched tin lantern, candle holder – and more. Printout pages can be kept in a three-ring binder.

Time Travelers History Study
Time Travelers makes me want to go back and do homeschool history over again. Suitable for upper elementary to junior high but younger siblings can take part.

And high school ages will appreciate the activities in “America in WW II.” It would lend itself to fabulous co-op projects.

It is the experienced homeschool or private school teacher who is likely to come up with innovative material for supporting the love of learning. She has the creative freedom to do so. Government schools are tragically constrained by standardization as they stay inside the “core.” It is with a thankful heart that a home teacher exercises her choice of materials.

Time Travelers History Study

Time Travelers on my chair rail. The silhouette is of my grandson. 

Review by homeschool dad Dean Andreola
"Chemistry 101" on 4 DVDs 

It was the 1970s. My high school chemistry teacher was giving his first lecture of the school year. While his chalk scribbled symbols on the blackboard, he mumbled. As soon as he turned to face the class I raised my hand.  He nodded. I approached his desk and politely handed in my textbook.  I left the classroom, walked down the long empty hall and into the guidance office. There , with a click of my ballpoint pen, I calmly signed up for 4 English electives.  “You can’t do this,” the counselor cried.

I stood my ground. I had long hair, a draft card for the Vietnam War in my wallet and said, “Sure I can. It's either English or I drop out. Anything but chemistry.”  English it was.  If Wes Olson had been my chemistry teacher, the outcome of my life might have been entirely different.  Hmm . . . Doctor Andreola . . . has a nice ring to it.

With the vitality Mr. Olson packs into this DVD course you won’t believe its chemistry!  Even my wife sat watching what she called “the next episode.” He makes some bold claims right from the start:

1. You can learn a great deal about chemistry without knowing the complicated math.

2. You can become good friends with the periodic table; understand what it means, how to read it, and how to explain it to somebody else.

How does he pull this off? Wes Olson obviously has a love of knowledge – in particularly, chemistry. And he takes care that your students find it interesting too. He begins with compelling dramas of the men behind the science. Students may be surprised to discover that some of the fathers of modern chemistry were also men wit faith in God.  Who were they? What did they discover?  Why was it important?  The Christian faith of these men is mentioned matter-of-fact, without any preaching.

These narratives are seasoned with story, light humor, colorful visuals, different locations, and recreations of original experiments.  Students are drawn into a private world that once only yielded up its secrets to a privileged few. What follows are clear and approachable introductions to the Periodic Table, quantum mechanics, neutrons, compounds and molecules, balancing equations, the elements and more. It concludes with a glimpse into the future of chemistry.

Homeschool dad Mr. Olson respects his viewer’s intelligence. He concentrates on the quality of the material, without resorting to gooney slapstick or monotonous repetition. He moves along holding viewers’ attention, sometimes with experiments to drive the message home. Students can view the 4 DVD’s as a supplementary or introductory elective, or opt for the full Course Accreditation Program for an entire year’s worth of science credits. Simply print out the program outline and the 34 page illustrated student Guidebook, and follow the assignments.

Around the time my adult son Nigel and I were viewing this course, a church friend sat at our dinner table. He was in the middle of taking a college level chemistry course given by the local hospital as necessary credit for becoming a respiratory technician. We asked him about his course and mentioned the inside scoop of what we were learning. But we had nothing in common to talk about. He said, “I'm learning none of those things.” His course amounted to dry memorization, nothing more. Since he is smart and good at the tricks of memorizing he would ace the course but he admitted that there was really nothing at all interesting about it. Too bad. By strong contrast Chemistry 101 - An Overview of God's Chemical World is a blast.

Eating peaches.

Until next time,
Karen Andreola


  1. Thank you for your product reviews. I've been eyeing the science 101 DVDs for my older children. Love covered bridges too. There is a little tour in Oregon which I'd love to go on someday - it's only a few hours drive from my home.

  2. Karen (& Dean),

    I hope you're enjoying your peaches. I am buying a sackful every Saturday for $7 and love them. I never get a chance to make them into pies or crisps since they are enjoyed raw and I never have enough for the desserts. Just as well.

    Dean, I am most glad that you were not drafted! I actually liked my chemistry class since I enjoyed the experiments and equations, which is odd since literature and history are usually my main subjects. However, I did like that class. My older children never took chemistry, but my youngest did. He did not enjoy it as much as I. Maybe if he had that resource he would.

    Karen, you look so pretty (and thin!) in the photos. :)


  3. Always enjoy your blog posts, Karen :-)

  4. Karen,
    I enjoyed your post, as always. I finally got some flowers planted and am enjoying them. I'm glad they are still growing and blooming. The temperature is over 100. The products you reviewed do seem really fun and interesting. As my youngest is a senior this year, and has already taken Chemistry, I won't be needing them. I am finding it somewhat hard, after 24 years, to transition to not being on the look out for things to use in our homeschool. I saw a children's book recently that I definitely would have gotten if I had younger children. It was kind of eye opening to realize that I didn't need it. I do still collect some beautiful children's books for myself and maybe someday there will be grandchildren. How is Sophia? Has she had her baby yet?
    Dianne L

  5. We have had a lot of nibbling in the garden this year. It must be all the rain, but the rabbits and groundhogs have been very active.

    I am always looking for flowers that will withstand the heat. The watermelon phlox must be the gorgeous pink flowers. We have planted Benary's Giant zinnias in the past and they make great cutting flowers, and can stand up to the heat.

    Thank you for the product recommendations. High school science is looming, and the Chemistry looks like a good option.

    I haven't had much time to comment lately, but enjoy your posts as always.

  6. Hello Ladies,

    I haven't been able to ignore children's books either.

    Oh, yes. Sophia had her baby. Eloise Victoria. She is tiny - and craves cuddling - more than her other babies ever did.

    I'm glad my Dean's number wasn't called. His brother's friend - their neighbor - was missing - and never returned home.

    I remember hearing it predicted (20 years ago) that the homeschool world would create special materials for the love of learning. What was birthed in hopeful anticipation has come to be.

    I find this summer to be a busy one, too. Probably why it is whizzing by. So nice to hear from you. - Karen

  7. Welcome to the world, Eloise!

    Peaches have been exceptionally good this year. We also eat ours before they can be made into any baked treat. When I am wanting to lament the heat of summer, I remind myself that the heat makes delicious peaches and hot jalapenos.

    While emptying a kitchen cabinet this morning, we found zinnia and hollyhock seeds. We look forward to planting them.

    I still buy beautiful children's books. My great-nieces are growing rapidly, but the younger still likes to see something new in the book rack from time to time. A second niece is marrying this summer, so I am looking forward to more greats in the future!


  8. Congratulations, Grandma! What a beautiful name. I imagine the big brothers are lovestruck with their dainty baby sister. God bless you and yours.

  9. Dear Karen,

    I always enjoy your posts. Congratulations on little Eloise Victoria! We just welcomed our third child into the world in June - a little boy, Levi James. Your adventures with rabbits and cilantro reminds me of my adventures with cats and catnip when I was young. We grew fresh catnip for our cats to enjoy during the summer and would dry it for the rest of the year. We ended up building a rectangular cage to protect the plants from the cats rolling over it and eating it. We just made a rectangular wooden frame and put metal screen over it on 5 sides. The cats would love laying on top of it - so it had to be strong enough to support them, which it was. Anyway, I thought that maybe the idea could help you with your garden - not always the most attractive, but perhaps there is a way to make it pleasing to the eye. It does get the job done though!


    Becky L

  10. Hi Karen,
    It's always so nice to visit here and read your delightful posts. Congratulations on Eloise Victoria! Grandchildren are such a blessing.
    Garden phlox and hollyhocks are two of my favorites. We've had our share of nature's visitors to our gardens and hen house!
    Hope you are doing well,
    Take care and blessings,

  11. Congratulations on Eloise Victoria! What beautiful names.
    Your hollyhock looks wonderfully healthy and strong. You must have found the ideal space for it. I am sure you will be rewarded with many flowers next year. And then, you can go on giving the seeds away to different friends... Isn't that fun?
    I also like your phlox. We have a dark purple and darker pink one than yours. It has a heavenly scent.
    Summer break started a few days ago here. I enjoy having my first tea in the morning outside in the garden. How good it is to see so much beauty.

  12. Karen, congratulations on Eloise Victoria. I love her name. Just beautiful.
    The photos in your post are lovely. Shame on little rabbits. My plants are trying to survive our >100 degree temperatures. I, too, love sharing flowers. I have many from my mother-in-law, and some from my late mother and grandmother. They bring back sweet memories.
    We used Biology 101 two years ago and really liked it. I am thinking of ordering Chemistry 101 this year. We are doing things a little differently this year and I think it would be a nice fit.
    I hope this finds you well and enjoying time with your family.
    Take care,