This isn't the first book to present chemistry labs for homeschoolers, but it is by far the most comprehensive and complete I've seen to date. (It was not written exclusively for homeschoolers. Hobbyists who want to create their own chemistry labs for legal fun should find this book extremely valuable.) At 400+ pages and about 2.5 pounds, the book covers everything: course outlines, lab safety, equipment for your lab (very extensive chapter!), obtaining and working with chemicals, how to dispose of chemicals, sources for equipment and chemicals, microchemistry "substitutions," lab skills such as working with heat sources and measurements, creating and using the laboratory notebook, and lots of experiments.
Author Robert Thompson points out in the preface that back in the 1950s and 1960s, many families bought chemistry sets for their children that allowed them to do serious chemistry. Liability and legal issues degraded these general chemistry sets manufactured since then to the point where they are generally of little real value for those who really want to learn something. Thus, the need to create your own "chemistry set" for those interested in serious science education, especially homeschoolers. With this book students use real chemicals, glassware, heat, and other resources that allow them to experience visible and, sometimes, dramatic results from their experiments.
You can select from the experiments those appropriate for a variety of purposes: chemistry course for a high school student who will not be a science major in college, course for potential science majors, and course for AP Chemistry. Recommended courses are outlined in the first chapter. There are 17 chapters of experiments, each chapter devoted to a topic such as acid-base chemistry or colloids and suspensions. And each chapter has from two to six labs from which to choose. Thompson says in the preface, "A student who completes all of the laboratories in this book has done the equivalent of two full years of high school chemistry lab work or a first-year college general chemistry laboratory course."
Before tackling experiments, students should thoroughly read through the fifth chapter "Mastering Laboratory Skills." The supervising parent or teacher, if not already very familiar with chemistry lab skills, should also study this chapter.
The experiments are thoroughly explained with step-by-step procedures, a list of required equipment and supplies, cautions, optional activities to extend learning, tables or charts that should be created in the student's notebook for data recording, and review questions. I especially appreciate the frequent sidebar comments, cautions, and recommendations, since there are certainly dangers when a novice works with chemicals under the supervision of a parent who likely has limited (if any) experience teaching chemistry. Often there are suggested substitutions or modifications suggested for experiments that might be extremely helpful.
Chemistry courses are fairly standard in the types of topics taught at high school level, so the experiments in this book can easily be correlated to just about any textbook.
While you can purchase the book (published by O'Reilly Media) on its own, Thompson has created a Homeschool Chemistry Laboratory Kit that includes a digital manual that is not as extensive as the book reviewed here. However, that manual covers lab work for a full year of either standard or honors chemistry lab work. Those purchasing a kit also receive a free copy of an answer key. This seems to be the only way to get any answer key, but keep in mind that the answer key is for the briefer manual.