Journey Homeschool Academy offers online science courses for three levels. I have reviewed their Level A courses for the elementary grades and plan to review the Level B courses for middle school. This review focuses on Experience Chemistry: Level C for high school. (I have also reviewed Experience Biology: Level C.)
Experience Chemistry: Level C was written for Christian students and includes occasional religious and biblical commentary.
This is a challenging, college-prep course that requires plenty of math, but it can be adapted to some extent to meet the needs of all students. All students will use the Student Guidebook, Student Lab Guide, the online video lectures, the lab videos, at least some of the homework questions, and the online quizzes and exams. The two books and many other components, such as a Parent Guide and answer keys, are available as free PDFs. An optional textbook (purchased separately) can be used along with the course for reinforcement but is not required.
Students can spend less time on the course by using fewer labs, skipping the extra homework questions, or omitting the optional textbook, but all course elements work together to provide students with an excellent grounding in chemistry.
The course has 35 week-long lessons, with two or three 20- to 25-minute lecture videos per lesson that present the course material. Most lessons also have a lab video, and some have supplemental lab videos.
These high-quality videos include images, animations, clips from films, and other elements that help hold students' interest. The course creators, Luke and Trisha Gilkerson, are both excellent lecture presenters who speak with clarity and expressiveness. Trisha presents the main lesson lectures for chemistry, while Luke delivers the lab lectures. (They reverse roles for the biology course.)
The Student Guidebook and Other Course Materials
Students can download the PDF Student Guidebook (more than 300 pages) for free or order a printed copy (at extra cost) if printing that many pages is impractical. For each lesson, the Student Guidebook has new vocabulary words followed by several pages where students fill in the blanks to create their own notes as they watch the video lectures. Within these pages, students also practice drawing molecular structures; writing out things such as noble gas notations, chemical equations, and calculations of electronegativity differences; and solving problems such as “What mass of fluorine gas (F2), in grams, is contained in a 10.0 L tank at 300K and 3.50 atm of pressure?” (p. 166). There is also space for students to write their own notes if they wish. Students actually create their own “textbook” as they complete these pages.
In addition to answering some questions and solving some problems in the Student Guidebook, students are given additional problems to solve. Homework problems are displayed on the screen toward the end of each lesson. Students can copy these or print them out. Parents will find the answer key in the downloadable (PDF) resources. Parents can also download the 60-page PDF “Extra Homework Questions” which has still more reinforcement questions for most chapters.
Still more help is available to students in the form of Homework Help videos that walk students step by step through homework questions involving math or balancing equations. These are accessed from the parent dashboard.
The Student Guidebook includes quarterly study guides to help students prepare for the four exams included in the course. Also, online flashcards help students master the vocabulary.
The online course includes weekly quizzes and quarterly exams. These are automatically scored, and students need to get 70% correct on the quizzes to continue to the next part of a lesson, but they can retake a quiz if they score too low. In contrast, the exams may be taken only one time, and that score is final. The weeks in which students will be taking the quarterly exams dedicate most of the week for review using the provided study guides. Students have no lectures, lab work, or research questions during those weeks.
Parents can also download the Quiz & Exam Solutions which shows solutions for all questions that require students to complete math equations or balance chemical formulas.
The textbook Modern Chemistry (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston) is highly recommended but optional. I think the textbook would be a very useful reference for students who want more explanations of topics and an index to find things easily. A free, three-page PDF “Weekly Reading and Lab Overview” for each course has a chart that correlates the Journey Homeschool Academy lessons in one column, reading assignments in Modern Chemistry in a second column, and the lab activities in a third column. A separate PDF, “Alternative Reading Schedule,” provides reading schedules for six other chemistry textbooks widely used by homeschoolers, four of which were written for Christian students.
The 26 labs in the course tie directly to the lessons. All students are expected to complete a minimum of 15 labs using the 112-page Student Lab Guide (PDF), the online lab videos, and lab equipment. (A full-color, printed, and spiral-bound version of the Student Lab Guide is available for purchase.) Even though students are required to complete only 15 labs, students will benefit from watching all lab videos which are presented by Luke and his son Bradley. While students could complete labs on their own, Luke tells students in the first lab video that they need to have another person with them during lab activities--for safety if nothing else. Note that Lab 10 requires students to identify unknown compounds, so parents must set up this lab.
Journey Homeschool Academy has a complete list of supplies for the course and a link to Cornerstone Educational Supply for a kit with supplies for all the course’s labs. That kit includes safety equipment, many chemicals, and a molecular model kit, along with authentic lab equipment such as graduated cylinders, an Erlenmeyer flask, disposable pipettes, a ring stand, and a digital scale. Alternative suggestions are provided for those on tight budgets and supplemental lab demonstration videos for labs that require chemicals students might have trouble obtaining. The supplemental videos show the results students should have witnessed if they had done the lab, so that they can write up the complete report, including observations. (Those results are not shown in the primary lab videos.)
The Student Lab Guide explains how to write a complete lab report as does the first lab video. The lab activity pages include step-by-step instructions, formatted pages for taking notes, and important points students should address in their reports. However, students will write up their reports in a separate notebook or on a computer. A few of the lab activities do not require a lab report.
Parents need to evaluate lab work and assign grades using a rubric from the Parent Curriculum Guide.
Parents and teachers have a separate login to access important resources. The Parent Curriculum Guide for each course explains how the course works and has forms and rubrics parents need. Even though the courses automatically grade quizzes and exams, parents must compute the student’s course grade by including scores for homework questions and lab work using the various forms in this guide.
Answer keys for the Student Guidebook, quizzes, questions, and the assignments for lab work that have predictable answers are available under the Resources tab in the parent’s portal.
Experience Chemistry: Level C provides homeschool students with a practical way to take a challenging chemistry course, including significant lab work. Parents need to evaluate some student work, but answer keys and other tools make it manageable, even for parents who haven’t studied chemistry.