Chemistry Resources for Curious Kids

For a year now, my seven-year-old has been in love with chemistry. He has other interests and will participate in other activities, but on an average day, he probably spends 2-3 hours in chemistry-related activities, just because he loves it.

He tells people he’s going to grow up to be a chemist. I don’t know if this is true, or if this interest will wane like astronomy did a couple years ago, by for right now, this is the world we’re living in. I thought I would share some of our favorite (and not-so-favorite) resources in an approximate order of complexity or academic level, in case anyone else shares a similar interest or wants to explore.

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We started out with this book. It’s wonderful, as are most of the Basher books. The reading level is upper elementary, and the periodic table is divided into groups based on properties, and then all of these groups and elements are given comic figure status, with short, dynamic descriptions of what they do.

Basher also has a Chemistry book which can be helpful in identifying terminology and how things work, but if you’re going to start with one, I would definitely go for Elements in Style.

At about the same level, ASAP Science has a great updated Periodic Table song.

Quick note: not all of ASAP Science’s videos are G-Rated, just as an FYI.

J was enamored by this point by the Periodic Table. We got him this shirt from Amazon. It’s his favorite, and he wears it as often as it is clean. It’s super soft, for those with sensory issues. We love it.

After he had the basics down, we borrowed and then bought Theodore Gray’s Elements trilogy. These are his favorites. His books are falling apart because he’d read them so much. The writing is at a high school level, but the thing that exudes from these books is someone who truly enjoys what he’s writing about. He includes silly puns and writes intelligently, but not patronizingly. And the photography is gorgeous. There’s also an app, which we don’t have, but I hear it’s pretty cool.

Around this time, we borrowed a bunch of other resources from the library. Our favorite of all the middle-high school general info books was The Elements by Dan Green, who incidentally also wrote Basher’s Chemistry book. His writing is good, and he manages to communicate the vibrant nature of chemistry rather than dry facts to memorize.

A neighbor who had seen J drawing the periodic table on our driveway recommended the NOVA documentary “Hunting the Elements” (Season 39, Epsisode 6). It’s great – very accessible and interesting for kids and adults, and there’s even a segment where Theodore Gray (above) shows off his Periodic Table table and demonstrates some reactions.
http://www.pbs.org/video/nova-hunting-the-elements/

Around the time that J started studying Gray’s 2nd book, Molecules, we also picked up The Cartoon Guide to Chemistry, which is intended as a study aid for AP or college level chemistry. He has been through it a few times, and each time he seems to pick up more about how reactions work, balancing chemical equations, and other phenomena.

My family also gave J a book for Christmas that’s not exclusively chemistry but does a great job putting everything into perspective. It’s probably geared for grades 5-8 but is accessible for other levels too.

PBS made a fascinating series called The Mystery of Matter, tracing the development of the periodic table. It’s currently available for free on Amazon Prime (April 2018). We skipped about 20 minutes of Episode 3 because atomic bombs and WWII are still too mature for my crew, but we loved how actors dressed as scientists and spoke and demonstrated the equipment used to make their discoveries as it traced the journey from alchemy to the present day.

I was looking for something more practical regarding how molecules form, etc., and that’s when we discovered the Valence card game. We played it for 60 days straight. No joke. It does a great job introducing oxidation numbers and modeling simple reactions. Then we discovered Valence Plus, which has even more elements and combinations, and that is now our game of choice.

Our most recent fascination is powered by Happy Atoms, a molecular building set combined with an iPad app that lets you photograph and “discover” and learn about hundreds and even thousands of common molecules, using the most common elements. I’ve been very impressed with this app and building set. It’s unique in how it models ionic and covalent bonds, and because of its magnets, it’s easy to see whether all of the electron bonds have been satisfied.

These have been our favorites thus far. I will update this post as we discover more great resources.

Some other interesting things we’ve found have been

BrainPop videos – geared to upper elementary, short explanations (subscription service)

Usborne’s “What’s Chemistry All About?” – J asked for this for his good night story tonight. It’s written at a middle school level and has nice, straightforward introductions to terminology and concepts.

Usborne also came out with a Periodic Table Lift the Flap book. We don’t have it, but it seems to be a good intro-level resource.

Kahn Academy has good video descriptions/lectures for various topics, so we have occasionally gone there if there’s a concept he wants to understand that I can’t help him with.

Other good resource lists:

https://www.steampoweredfamily.com/activities/chemistry-for-kids/

https://my-little-poppies.com/chemistry-resources-kids/

App suggestions:

https://unschoolrules.com/homeschool-chemistry-resource-guide/

What about you? Do you have any favorite resources?

Asynchrony Day 4 – What Works for Us

Asynchronous kids are awesome, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them or for their families to find ways to fit in.

I’ve already described in days 1 & 2 some of the struggles that asynchronous kids face.

Today I’d like to talk about what has been working for us.

1 – Homeschool

We did the public school thing for a couple years, even though it wasn’t a great fit. It was still a safe place for J to interact with other kids and to have a break from his twin sisters’ screaming fits. (His sisters are great, but there are two of them, and they have pretty much always been loud – at home, at least.)

When he came up with algebra on his own when he was five, we took a deep breath and started sending math notes in his lunch box.

When he memorized the periodic table at six, and started showing unhealthy signs of stress, we did the paperwork for him to homeschool.

(Here he just learned about Mendeleev, and was thinking about alternate arrangements for the periodic table. At 6. You can’t make this stuff up.)

It’s been wonderful. He loves it. I can work with him on his writing, which is developmentally normal (7), provide math a few grade levels ahead, let him read his college-level chemistry books and spend hours immersing himself in that, and still have time for some motor skills practice and play – which he needs. He’s 7.

Some people advocate for grade skipping, and that works for some kids in some situations, but homeschool was the right choice for us. For now, at least.

2 – Mixed Age Groups

Asynchronous kids tend to struggle with same-aged peer groups, simply because there is an unwritten expectation that they will all be the same, so my 7yo who can’t yet ride a bike but would like to talk about double land-locked countries in Europe stands out.

In mixed age groups, that expectation is minimized. He can help younger kids, who expect him to be academically further along, or chat with older kids, who can keep up mentally but don’t expect him to be physically or emotionally a peer.

A few friends and I created a really sweet homeschool coop this year. Some kids can read, some are too young or are on their way. Some are neurotypical, and others have various disabilities, but our goal has been to encourage healthy interactions and to give the kids chances to share their own voices. It’s been good.

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3 – A Relaxed Pace

I’m in no way implying that J has a relaxed pace when it comes to what he wants to learn. No, he actually devours new knowledge, and we have to slow him down, or he will go into overdrive and have trouble self-regulating.

What I mean is that, because of his personality and learning style, we don’t push lots of formalized curricula. Instead, we explore together, focus on doing a few things well, and maybe add one challenging or not-self-motivated item at a time. He’ll get there.

4 – Bibliotherapy

We read lots of books around here, and I’m always on the hunt for books that feature quirky main characters who don’t always fit in but are still loved and appreciated by those around them.

I’ll post about these tomorrow. đŸ™‚

This has been Day 4 of my 5 Days of a Asynchrony series, part of a blog hopscotch organized by iHomeschool Network.

Asynchrony – Favorite Bloggers and Thinkers

If anything I’ve been writing in a Days 1 or 2 of this series has been striking a chord with you, here are some resources I have found helpful:

Hoagies Gifted is a wonderful resource of all things gifted – little kids to adults, all types of school environments, etc. They have a number of Asynchrony articles and resources. Here are two to get you started:

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/asynchrony.htm

http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/asynchronous.htm

 

A few of my favorite bloggers:

Colleen Kessler at Raising Lifelong Learners

https://raisinglifelonglearners.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-homeschooling-gifted-children/

Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley at My Little Poppies

https://my-little-poppies.com/asynchronous-development-and-the-gifted-child/

Celi Trépanier at Crushing Tall Poppies

http://crushingtallpoppies.com/2014/07/15/6-gifted-students-develop-asynchronously/

 

Other worthwhile resources:

From Psychology Today

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-synthesis/201201/many-ages-once

A Scholarly Article by Linda Kreger Silverman

https://positivedisintegration.com/Silverman1997.pdf

Very Well Family

https://www.verywellfamily.com/asynchronous-development-1449172

The National Association for Gifted Children

http://www.nagc.org/sites/default/files/Publication%20PHP/NAGC%20TIP%20Sheet-Asynchronous%20Development-FINAL%20REVISED-OCTOBER%202017%281%29.pdf

This article is Day 3 of the iHomeschool Network 2018 Hopscotch.

Tomorrow I’ll be writing about what works for our family, tricks and tools we’ve been picking up along the way.

Asynchrony Day 2 – it’s not your fault

Yesterday I started sharing a little bit of our story and how Asynchrony affects our family, especially my son.

He was reading – fluently – before he was potty trained. And we didn’t teach him to read. Sure, we read a lot together, and he watched shows like Super Why and Word World occasionally, but we didn’t ever sit down and do sight words or phonics lessons. He just picked it up.

It’s not hot-housing.

Asynchrony has very little to do with how a parent parents and very much to do with how a kid is wired.

We have 3 kids. I didn’t treat the other two any differently or deprive them of any opportunities, but they are 4 and still months away from any kind of formal reading exercise. That’s ok. They’re doing great.

When J was 3, he was interested in reading, numbers, astronomy, and sticker books. He would sit for hours doing these things, not because I forced him but because that was what he was drawn to, where his interests lay.

It’s perfectly logical, then, that the parts of his brain that got the most exercise grew the fastest. Now, I wasn’t a terrible mom. We had play dates, gymnastics, swimming lessons, church nursery, library programs, and even a creative arts preschool because I wanted him to have lots of opportunities to move, create, and interact with other kids and adults, and he participated, sometimes more happily than others, but it wasn’t his passion.

He grew most in the areas he loved and cared deeply about. Not because I or anyone else pushed him.

J is now 7, and Asynchrony is still our constant companion, but it now takes different forms. It means he’s more comfortable with adults than peers (more about that later this week), and that we often struggle to find reading material that is both challenging and appropriate for his emotional development. I have even asked the library for “boring” books — the opposite of those high interest/low reading level books that most others are looking for.

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A couple weeks ago, our kids created a “town” with masking tape roads, locations on index cards, etc. It started as a co-op activity and then continued at home.

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My asynchronous kid added

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Hennig Brand (who discovered the element phosphorous) to the street plan.

No one put him up to it, asked him to include famous historical figures, or anything of the sort. It’s how he “ticks”, not any kind of external expectation.

Asynchrony is a description, not a diagnosis. It describes these kids with intense internal drives to understand more, do more, know more, and how they interact with the world around them.

This is Day 2 of 5 Days of Asynchrony, part of a blog hopscotch put together by the inspiring people at iHomeschool Network.

Tomorrow I’ll be posting about some of my favorite bloggers and writers who have helped me wrap my mind around asynchrony and given me ideas to help our family.

Thursday I’ll be posting about what works for us, as well as for other families with asynchronous members.

Kids Don’t Skip Stages

Kids don’t skip stages.

I read this on some online forum months ago, and it stopped me in my tracks. And it shook my entire parenting paradigm too – in a good way.

We have asynchronous kids. They do things on their own schedules. Some things happen very fast, and they fly past their same-age peers. Other things take more time. It’s okay. It’s part of the gifted game, and I am learning to accept that.

Somehow, though, in my mind, the stages that my kid seemingly skipped over had nothing to do with the behavioral issues we were currently dealing with. 

Piaget‘s theories of cognitive development made the case that children need the foundation of the earlier stage before they progress to the next, though he was looking at that development in much broader, more global terms.

Freud also stated that if people were prematurely moved beyond an early stage, they would go back later in life to make up for that absence. 

Now, I’m not a psychologist. I took a couple undergrad psych courses about 20 years ago, but all of this started to make sense to me.

When he was three, my son spent much more time reading and doing worksheets than the ordinary kid, who would have been exploring the world, climbing, tumbling, touching everything. Now that we’ve started to tackle some of the sensory issues that may have been in the way, he’s catching up for lost time. 


It’s not immaturity; it’s filling in the gaps.

J skipped crawling almost entirely. He bear crawled for a bit (sensory avoider, anyone?!) and then was an early walker. He didn’t have motor skills delays until he was about 3. Then the other kids who had spent more time on their hands and knees kept progressing and he slowed down a bit. We’re now intentionally crawling, wheelbarrow walking, laying on our tummies (he HATED tummy time!), and doing the work that most other kids would have already done.


The same with chewing. He didn’t really put things in his mouth… until he was 5. 

It’s a stage we have to work through rather than a negative behavior we need to correct. 

Of course, now that he is older, we can help him find appropriate ways to work through these things. I can still tell him not to lick the shopping cart handle. I’m not indulging his every impulse simply because there’s an unmet need. 

Instead, we work together to find ways to work through these developmental imperatives together.

Why am I sharing this? 

Because you might have a six year old wiggler too. Or a seven year old that needs to pretend play on the four year old level because he was so caught up in non-fiction books that he had no interest in pretending. Or maybe a ten year old who suddenly needs to touch everything. And it’s okay. They’ll get there. 


This blog has been part of the Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page Blog Hop, Ages & Stages. “Hop on over” to read more about what various developmental stages look like for gifted kids and adults, and maybe recognize your kids or even yourself in their words. 


It’s Not that Simple! – Big Emotions and Major Life Events

My 6yo was at the dentist, and naturally, he got asked about the tooth fairy.

“The tooth fairy doesn’t come to our house.” – his matter-of-fact reply.

The dental hygienist cast me an inquiring glance – what kind of horrible parents are we, anyways?

It’s not our fault, though. Really. When he was 4, my son rejected the tooth fairy. Even if it was only pretend. Even if it meant he would miss out on special surprises. It didn’t matter to him. He wanted to throw those bothersome old teeth away and had no use for the tooth fairy.

Recent New Yorker Cartoon about the Tooth Fairy
The same was/is true of Santa.

Every December, we lecture our children on how it’s not okay to tell other kids that Santa’s not real, and then we hold our breaths and hope there are no sobbing children in their wakes.

He’s never accepted Santa, never been interested in him in the slightest. The concept of a stranger sneaking in to our home, even with good motives, is disquieting, at the very least.

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Where is this coming from? Anxiety? A deeper understanding of the world and of cause & effect?

In Sunday School and reading Bible stories at home, our little guy, even at 3 or 4, was bothered by the death and violence in these commonplace stories. I’m talking David & Goliath, Noah & the Ark, Samson. His empathy can be off the charts (thanks, overexcitabilities!), so these stories really bothered him.

I used to think that it was related to overthinking, but recently it’s becoming clearer that his unwillingness to approach these subjects is actually much more closely related to Emotional Overexcitabilities (OEs). He feels things so deeply that things which would, for others, be joyful, end up being excruciatingly overstimulating. The tooth fairy isn’t fun. She’s terrifying in the anticipation of when/what/how much.

Birthdays are tough, too. There’s all the build-up, the expectations ahead of time that will be impossible to meet. The self-awareness of it being your birthday and therefore not someone else’s, the stress that comes with being the center of attention.

Our kids are built this way. They’re not broken. They’re intensely feeling, hyper aware, amazing people who get crazy amounts of joy out of little things.

If we know that someone has a small appetite, we don’t try to shove a huge piece of cake in front of them. Instead, we honor their preferences and provide the size of slice they most likely will enjoy.

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last year’s marble birthday cake – we keep things simple around here
The same should be true of our kids. Instead of forcing them to be “normal” and to conform to society’s expectations, we release them from huge burdens of anxiety when we give them the freedom to tell us what portion size they can handle and then work to accommodate those needs.

When they’re ready, they’ll ask for more. In fact, my 6yo was just pretending this week to be the “tooth fairy” for his little sisters. Someday soon, we may actually get a visit.

 

This post has been part of Hoagies’ Gifted Education Page’s Blog hop.  Click on over to check out some helpful perspectives from all over the world.

Sept2017BlogHop

Brain Under Construction

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This is the packaging my 6 year old created for his dad’s father’s day gift. His dad is a particle physicist, so there’s intentionality in this list.

This is how my 6yo rolls. J thrives on new information. Tonight, I asked what he wanted to read for a bedtime story, and he chose an elementary math dictionary, the pages on functions and algebra. We’re not pushing this on him. We’re not hothousing him. I suggested Dr. Frumble’s Bedtime Stories, (aff. link) but he wanted to talk about algebra and to do 78*2*2 in his head.

This isn’t to brag. It’s just the reality of who he is. Like other kids who can ride a bike early, are totally coordinated, musically inclined, socially aware, or have other talents. Everyone has some area in which he or she shines. Some are more recognized and celebrated by society than others.

He started reading at 3, and would sit for hours, reading books and completing worksheets. But that’s time he didn’t spend running, jumping, and socializing with other kids. So we have to make that up now, as those parts of his brain “wake up”, so to speak. It means that we’re practicing some of the same social skills that we are with my 3 year olds, like not taking things without asking. But it’s not wrong. It’s an outgrowth of how his brain works.

He’s asynchronous. Different areas of his brain are developing at rates outside what is typically expected, and because some parts are getting more attention, others have been neglected and are waking up later.

brainunderconstruction

That means that we can be discussing what kinds of metals are best for cars or staples, and the next I’m telling him not to lick his stuffed sheep. (true story)