Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Getting to Know the Periodic Table

(leftover saag paneer for breakfast!)
For Christmas, N. asked for a periodic table placemat (another proud moment for the homeschooling parents!).  We duly ordered one from Amazon.  Then naturally he kept asking us all sorts of questions about it over breakfast.  I continually had to reply, "I don't know.  I really don't know anything about the periodic table at all.  I don't know why it is arranged that way, what the notations mean, why these are called noble gases and those are all colored green.  I don't know.  I don't know!" 

Although he reads Scientific American every morning with his breakfast, Tim couldn't answer N.'s questions any better than I could, so he decided to incorporate the periodic table into their daily school time.  First they looked up an element per day in the encyclopedia.  After a few days of this, Tim found Theodore Gray's The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, a gorgeous and informative account of the periodic table which they are now slowly working their way through.  And they've also started reading together Sam Kean's The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Madness, Love, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements

Non-homeschooling parents are often skeptical that homeschooling parents can adequately teach their children science.  As graduates of otherwise quite good schools, neither Tim nor I had anything resembling a decent education in science, particularly in chemistry and physics.  But rather than disqualify us, I think this makes us particularly apt for the task, not as science teachers but as co-learners.  We're quite excited by this chance to get it right, to learn together the scientific foundations we never got as kids ourselves.  I hope that as we do so, especially with the narrative accounts of science that appeal to all three of us, N. may not need to relearn all this as an adult.  Although as Tim and I can both testify, relearning science as an adult is actually pretty fun.

6 comments:

growingflowers said...

Yes - we began "farming out" science and math in the high school years. But I learned so much during the girls' early years - and it was truly motivating and exciting.

Now - we are using Khan Academy for Biology - I bet your son would love some of those videos. I wonder if they have the periodic table. I'll check.....https://www.khanacademy.org/science/chemistry/periodic-table-trends-bonding/v/groups-of-the-periodic-table
They do! It will be way over his head, but he may enjoy some of these videos! Love your work!

growingflowers said...

Yes - we began "farming out" science and math in the high school years. But I learned so much during the girls' early years - and it was truly motivating and exciting.

Now - we are using Khan Academy for Biology - I bet your son would love some of those videos. I wonder if they have the periodic table. I'll check.....https://www.khanacademy.org/science/chemistry/periodic-table-trends-bonding/v/groups-of-the-periodic-table
They do! It will be way over his head, but he may enjoy some of these videos! Love your work!

turketwh said...

Has N seen the Periodic Picnic Table on campus? Could make a great picnic stop!

Fanny Harville said...

Excellent reminder! I love that table, and no, N. has not yet seen it. Perfect idea for a spring picnic!

Alice@Supratentorial said...

Love, love, love The Elements by Theodore Gray.

And we have a periodic table shower curtain. A gift to me by my sweet and wonderful (and non-scientist) husband. :) You can find them on Amazon...

Fanny Harville said...

Love the sound of the periodic table shower curtain!