Dr. Durell Dobbins, author of The Rainbow science course for junior high, continues with the same user-friendly approach for high school chemistry that makes The Rainbow a great science program. The Spectrum Chemistry, coauthored by Dr. Gary Wilemon, was created for homeschooling high schoolers who are working independently.
The course covers everything required for a college prep lab course. With 30 labs in the Home Laboratory book, it actually includes about twice as many labs as other courses commonly used by homeschoolers. The lab equipment and supplies are all included in the complete set. This is serious lab equipment with chemicals that are not readily available to individuals trying to purchase them on their own. Students get to do some fairly impressive lab work such as chemifluorescence, visible liquid extraction, and enzyme detection. Labs require caution and parental supervision, but are designed for safety and "environmental friendliness." Dr. Dobbins tells me, "some of our most impressive reactions are done in the clean-up section to render products inert."
Those who have already purchased The Rainbow will already have some of the required equipment, so they need to purchase the continuation set that omits the duplicate equipment. For those with younger students it is important to know that you will also be able to buy a less expensive replacement set of only the consumable supplies for the course.
The textbook is printed in full color with plenty of illustrations. At just under 300 pages and with an easy-to-read layout, it is less intimidating than some other chemistry texts. In addition, the writing style is very user friendly—more casual than typical textbooks. Probably the closest comparison would be Apologia's Exploring Creation with Chemistry, which also has a user friendly writing style directed to teens. A major difference is that Apologia's course incorporates labs directly into the textbook rather than having a separate lab manual. The separate lab manual for The Spectrum is very convenient and time saving since students write directly into the manual rather than creating one of their own. The fact that you can purchase everything you need in one package from the publisher also simplifies things.
While the course reviews some basics, it requires a "working knowledge of Algebra 1." Beginnings Publishing also publishes a short course titled Bridge Math for students whose math skills might not be up to that level. It might be a great idea for a freshman to do the Bridge Math course over the summer before starting The Spectrum Chemistry in his or her sophomore year. Students also should have had an exposure to the basics of physical science as they receive in The Rainbow course. Students without that background might be overwhelmed by the vocabulary, concepts, and math they encounter. This is not a problem with the course, but a caution that you do need to take these prerequisites seriously.
The course ends with two pages discussing chemistry and evolution, essentially rejecting evolutionary theory on the basis of chemical principles and probability. While a Christian worldview underlies the course, specifically religious content aside from the two pages I mentioned appears only in a brief mention of God in the first chapter of the text and a few places in the laboratory workbook.
The Teacher's Helper serves primarily as a step-by-step solutions guide, although it also has critical information that the parent/teacher must read before a student begins the course. Lab answers and explanations are included in sequence with the appropriate lessons where labs should be done.
A packet of ten quizzes comes with the text. The text provides a list of key topics for students to study in preparation for each quiz. Answer keys for the ten quizzes in the textbook and for a final quiz in the lab manual are in the Teacher's Helper.
While the course content and labs are academically challenging at a level equal to or beyond what students would get in a typical classroom, this is still one of the most practical choices for homeschoolers who want a solid college-prep chemistry course.