Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Homeschool Co-op: Apologia's Chemistry & Physics, Lesson 1, Part 1

Today was a good day. It was the first day for us to begin our new co-op. A new year, but with old friends. Two of my bestie homeschool mommas, our 13 kids and me just hanging out in the library conference room is a fabulous thing. It's in the week in and week out times that you really get to build relationships and get to know people on a level that goes deep enough to really make a friendship that lasts.

Aimee gave us a lesson on a Renaissance artist and Jessica introduced us to creative writing in a really fun way. I may talk more about all that some other time, but for tonight, I'm going to focus on my lesson: The Properties of Matter.

My part of co-op is teaching Chemistry and Physics using Apologia's Young Explorer Series. Each lesson will probably take me at least two weeks to get through, because there are a lot of really cool experiments and I want to do as many as possible. This is why I love doing science with other families. It forces me to do more than just show the kids a video or tell them what is supposed to happen. I actually gather the stuff and do the experiments. The accountability and larger group both help with this, I guess.

Lesson One is properties of matter.  Since it was Day 1, we started with a really short review about my expectations for the class and all that jazz. Then came the lecture portion. This is my fourth Apologia science co-op class and I've pretty much done them all the same way. I NEVER read to the kids from the book, unless it's a short excerpt or the directions for an experiment. In fact, I've found that it's best for me to read the material ahead of time, and just make short notes for myself to teach from. It's more fun for everyone that way. No one enjoys a class that only involves the leader reading straight from the text you can read yourself!

I'm a big believer in graphic organizers and use them with kids all the time. So, rather than have them just take notes, I gave them one. Because it's a homeschool class, we have kids ages 4-16. That's a WIDE range. The smallest don't even get a paper, because honestly, if they can't read, there is no point. The middle kids may get a page that is partially filled out and the oldest of the kids have to fill in most of the blanks themselves. Differentiated instruction at it's best, right there! My old principals would be so proud!

There were a TON of supplies for this lesson. I spent a good chunk of time on Sunday afternoon collecting them and making sure I had everything I needed. That said, the baseball and eggs didn't make it to the car and I forgot to stop at my mom's house and borrow her turkey baster. Luck for me, the kids are imaginative and I had a small medicine dropper that we could use in a pinch!

One of the things I love about the Apologia books is that they include a lot of great experiments right in the text. Yes, I supplement with other things when appropriate, but just doing the stuff in the book is enough. That's exactly what we did today; most of the suggested stuff with a little of my own thrown in.

We only got through three properties today; volume, mass and density. We did the experiments for each as we got to them. Density was by far the most fun. Because it was a word that some of the kids had never heard before, we started out the discussion by having everyone stand and huddle together, thus becoming more dense. We then took some steps back; less dense. Repeat a couple times and they got the idea along with a couple of group hugs!

Because I'd forgotten the eggs, I assigned the next experiment as homework. Basically, the idea is to see how adding salt to water changes its density, and thus, the ability of certain things to float. Drop an egg into a regular glass of water and it will sink to the bottom. Drop it in a glass of salt water the result should be different.

We did another salt water density experiment with colored water that stayed separated when we sucked it up in a straw. I have to admit, I kind of blew it on this one. I didn't have big enough cups (see the photo below) because I didn't read the lesson closely enough. I tilted them a little and it kinda worked, but mostly it was a bust - totally my bad. Live and learn, folks!

The next, and last one of the day, went a lot better. It had the most supplies and was pretty pricey, as far as experiments go. I spent over $20 on the ingredients. The point of the experiment was to see how liquids with different densities would stack on top of one another. We followed the instructions and added a cup each of honey, corn syrup, and 100% maple syrup. Those are the three big layers on the bottom. Cool, huh? The next layers were supposed to be one cup each as well, but I got nervous that my vase wasn't big enough and I didn't have the turkey baster. It took a lot of time to add everything with the little medicine dropper, so I improvised. The kids could still see the layers, so that worked. I just forgot about dropping things into the solution to see where they would end up. That was much harder to see. I wish I had taken a bit more time and made all the remaining layers at least a little bigger.

Next came whole milk, dish soap, water, vegetable oil and rubbing alcohol. We added some food coloring to a few of the liquids to make it easier to see the differences. Everyone thought this was a really neat experiment. One of the littler guys kept hypothesizing that the liquids would mix but whenever they did, they quickly separated back out. After getting all the layers in, we added various objects to see where they ended up. You can see the ping pong ball that ended up on top, as well as the die and rock that sunk all the way to the bottom. What you can't see in the picture is the cherry tomato in the dish soap, the bead right under the milk layer, and the popcorn kernel that we couldn't find that's somewhere in the middle!

Next week, we'll discuss seven more properties and make our own lava lamps! I'm really looking forward to seeing how those turn out. Stay tuned, as my plan is to try to document our way through chemistry and physics here! 


  1. Hi! I am teaching this Apologia's Chemistry and Physics to a class next year. Would you mind sharing the experiments and graphic organizers you used? I'm loving your blog!

    1. All of the experiments we did for this lesson are straight out of the book. You can find them there.

      As for the GO, I'm not sure how to do that. I'll work on it and see if I can figure out how to post them here. Thanks for the feedback!

  2. I found your site through google :). I may also be doing a co-op with this book in the fall. The amount of supplies needed is pretty overwhelming....did you just track down the supplies each week?? Did you do the TryThis as well as end of chapter experiments in the class? And how did you go about figuring out how much to charge for a lab fee?? Thanks so much for answering my questions!!

  3. Cressa, I did just track down supplies. If I didn't have something on hand, I would first ask the other moms in the group, then buy it.

    We didn't do many of the end of chapter assignments, but we did some. I didn't do all the Try This either, but we did do most of them. It really depended on time and money for me.

    I did a horrible job figuring out any kind of fee and just paid for everything myself. Going forward, our co-op is charging a small fee each semester to cover costs. I would guess that all said, this class cost me about $80 to do the experiments. The density experiment covered here alone is by far the most expensive, as it was about $30 by itself.