Discovering Design with Chemistry

Reviewed by Cindy Puhek (BS, MA Chemistry)

It is important—if not critical—for homeschoolers to use high school science textbooks that were written for homeschoolers. Why? The author of a homeschool-friendly text will assume the student does not have easy access to a subject matter expert. The book will cover only the pertinent topics rather than offering a smorgasbord of topics for a teacher to choose from, since the homeschooler does not know what is important and what can be skipped. The book needs to have a conversational style and labs that are outlined in understandable detail, with the expected outcomes explained. Thankfully, homeschool textbooks like this are available thanks to Dr. Jay Wile, and he has just published a new chemistry book, Discovering Design with Chemistry.

Discovering Design with Chemistry is even more homeschool-friendly than Dr. Wile’s previous chemistry text. It was unmistakably written with independent study in mind, although I think it would make a great text for a classroom as well.

There are several helpful features in the book. A reproducible schedule breaks the book into daily assignments so the book can be completed within a school year. Statements and equations that need to be memorized are set apart from the text in pink boxes. Definitions of terms that need to be memorized are also highlighted and centered in the text. But most importantly, Dr. Wile helps students recognize God’s hand in chemistry and trains them to become biblically grounded scientists.

Discovering Design with Chemistry contains forty-six experiments, so students complete, on average, three labs every two weeks. Because the price of lab equipment has gone down considerably in recent years, Dr. Wile has been able to increase the level of sophistication of these labs. With the reasonably priced $70 lab kit, which needs to be purchased with the book, students can complete quantitative labs like determining the number of water molecules in a hydrated compound, determining the concentration of a hydrogen peroxide solution, and determining the concentration of acetic acid in vinegar. Whenever a lab requires calculations, Dr. Wile includes a sample calculation at the end of the chapter. Qualitative labs, in which students observe changes that are not measured in numbers, include exploring Boyles Law, performing flame tests, and electroplating.

My oldest student has used Dr. Wile’s texts for general science, physical science, biology, and chemistry. Dr. Wile does a masterful job of communicating complicated scientific theories to students in understandable language. The labs in his books actually work and give the expected results. Most other lab programs I have used inside and outside the classroom fail to give the expected results about half the time. I’m very excited about Dr. Wile’s new book. I think it will be a blessing to homeschoolers and prepare them to excel in college-level science classrooms. 

This review was originally published in the May/June 2016 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine. Information and availability subject to change without notice.