Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Review: Friendly Chemistry, Part 2

If you haven't already read Part 1 of this review, please do so and get yourself up to speed! I've included basic information in Part 1 that I will not be including in this update.

I get excited when I see a product that fits a particular niche or fills a need within a population, whether I happen to be a part of that niche or not. I know the elation of finding the perfect program for your particular situation, one that makes you feel like you just completed a quest or found a treasure. Sometimes that treasure needs a bit of polishing, but in the end it is a real gem. I earlier shared an initial impression of Friendly Chemistry as a diamond in the rough. After having a chance to dig in some more, I've confirmed that this program has a real potential to shine!

I didn't get very detailed with the structure and format in my earlier introduction and will spend a bit of time doing that now. As mentioned earlier, there are two binders for the program, one for the student and one for the teacher. The lessons in the Student Edition consist of 3-10 pages of independent reading followed by activities or worksheets to solidify the new concept taught. The lesson is designed to be read before a group class, where the teacher will expand upon what was covered in the student text.

The Teacher Edition is essentially an outline of how the class should be conducted with instructions for games and activities. It also includes answers to the worksheets and tests. Whether or not the teacher has a background in chemistry, it would be best to read the Student Edition before teaching class. I didn't feel the Teacher Edition thoroughly explained the concepts that are to be taught and this will ensure that both teacher and student are on the same page. It was always suggested that class start with a review of the previous lesson. Many times the outline suggested that the new student lesson be read as a class; other times more explanation than given in the student text was provided in the Teacher Edition. Each class always contained at least one group activity, many which were very creative. Often group gym games were incorporated. Some of the activities could be done with an individual student but in general the activities were geared towards group learning.

I used this program with one student, a middle schooler, and found it adaptable for this purpose. First, I would read the student lesson on my own. Next, I reviewed the Teacher Edition for that lesson and selected classroom activities that could be done with one student or adapted, gathering any needed materials. I then assigned my daughter the student lesson and worksheets to do independently. Usually the following day, I would cover the material more using examples from the Teacher Edition if needed, do the related activities and assign the chapter test.

As with most programs, Friendly Chemistry has areas that are a definite advantage and other areas that could use some improvement. Some areas that may be a advantage to some are a disadvantage to others. In this case, I've listed the potential concern in both areas.

Areas that Sparkle
  • fun activities with everyday items
  • designed for multi-age group learning
  • flexibility in group activities, explanation on how to modify for your particular class
  • ideal for high school students not ready for college prep chemistry
  • hands-on, use of manipulatives
  • wonderful group learning games
  • ideal for younger gifted learners not ready for traditional high school textbooks
  • approachable, shorter lessons
Areas that Need Polishing
  • student lesson not integrated into the Teacher Edition for easy reference
  • no formal experiments and lab reports for college prep students
  • price may be out of range for many, especially if used with only one student
  • doesn't cover as much material as a traditional high school text, less rigorous
  • typos and formatting issues - I found many in my edition, though I've been told most of these have now been polished out
  • 3-hole punch pages tended to tear out of binder easily
  • no material supply list (though this is now available on the website)
Note, many of the areas needing polished are simply in the presentation package and easy to buff out. Other areas, such as it being less rigorous or labs without beakers and Bunsen burners, are situational and also on the "shine" list.

While adaptable for the individual student, Friendly Chemistry is ideal for group learning. In particular, I think a group of young gifted learners would completely enjoy this program being presented as a class. I do not want to discount that many older students would enjoy it as well. After all, most teens will enjoy a good physical gym game and team activities. High school students who aren't looking for a honors chemistry program or are hands-on and discouraged by dry texts will certainly appreciate this program. However, I feel that one niche group this program truly serves would be those upper elementary and middle school students that are ready for chemistry but not the weighing down of your traditional textbook. This would make a fine course as an introduction to chemistry, either for the student continuing on with more courses or those who are just looking for the basics.

Be sure to check out the Friendly Chemistry website; you may find yourself a true treasure.


In an effort to get a great chemistry curriculum in the hands of more families, Hideaway Ventures, the creators of Friendly Chemistry, is hosting a BIG summer sale on their curriculum! From today (July 8th) until September 1st, 2009, the retail cost per student text will be $30.00 and the teacher's edition will be $40.00 (shipping included). This is less than half the regular price. If you've been contemplating using Friendly Chemistry, now would be the time to make your choice! Go to to learn more about this unique chemistry curriculum.

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