Teach High School Chemistry at Home

The common Home School technique of using Unit Studies is a good way to teach high school chemistry at home. Obtain a chemistry textbook geared to the consumer such as ChemCom published by the American Chemical Society from a used book store. ChemCom looks at common environmental issues such as air pollution, global warming, oil spills, and acid rain and discusses how chemistry can be used to study and understand these issues. Alternatively use the Internet and public library to study the unanticipated effects that early pesticides such as DDT had on animal life. Why have they been banned in most countries? What effects do fertilizers in run offs have on lakes and rivers? Why have phosphates been banned from laundry detergents? How can flour dust, plastic dust, or dust in grain elevators spontaneously combust? How does a pressure cooker work? Before electricity was readily available only the rich could afford table ware to eat their food. What process made aluminum a common household product? How does recycling aluminum save energy? How does the breathalizer determine alcohol content at a traffic stop? How can the periodic table be used to predict chemical reactions? How and why do metals rust? Why do cars rust faster near the ocean than in middle America? Study how wine is made.

Common kitchen items can then be used for high school chemistry experiments at home. For example different elements burn in a flame by producing different colors. Place a small amount of table salt (sodium imparts the orange color), cream of tarter (potassium is responsible for the purple color), and boric acid (boron imparts the green color) in a gas or candle flame. Liquids such as oil, water, syrup, and glycerol can be used to compare physical properties such as density (see how they form liquid layers in a glass) and viscosity (how slowly some liquids flow when poured). Compare the physical property of melting point by observing the amount of time it takes for chocolate, wax, and butter to melt when placed in a cup of boiling water. Learn how to make soap, perfume, and bath salts from materials you can buy in a drug store. Washing soda or sodium carbonate softens hard water and can be dissolved in water. Adding fragrance to washing soda dissolved in water results in home made bubble bath. Other chemistry demonstrations are available on the Internet on YouTube. Readers Digest published “How Science Works” by Judith Hann. The World of Matter and Air And Water chapters discuss chemistry experiments that can be performed at home with common materials.