A mom shares her experience with Chemistry in the Kitchen

homeschool chemistry curriculum review
A mom recently shared her teens’ experiences with Chemistry in the Kitchen. I’m sharing what she wrote here, with her permission! I get a lot of emails that describe this type of transformation of a student’s attitude toward science. These stories highlight what my goal for Guest Hollow curriculum is: to engage students, get them thinking, teach them practical things they will actually use in their lives, and spark an interest in learning by using a creative approach. If you have a story to share how Guest Hollow has changed your school day or your child’s view of a particular subject, please feel free to share in the comments! Your sharing will help other families better decide if Guest Hollow is a fit for them or not! 🙂
The excerpt from the email I received:
I’ve always been intrigued with a more literature learning style but my boys were reluctant. They say they prefer one textbook for the whole course. What I’ve found is when it comes to science a textbook can be hard because they tend to just give the facts and you memorize. There is no practical application (aside from experiments.) When I chose this course I didn’t know if it would be a good fit. It was so different than anything we’ve done before. They liked that they only had one small book at a time, it didn’t feel so overwhelming. If they didn’t like a book they knew it would be over in a week and they would jump into something new. My oldest who is the pickiest loved all the practical learning. He would often pull me into a discussion about what he read that day. Sometimes it would be comments like, “I’m never eating that again” and sometimes it would be, “What do you think about vaccines, my book says this.” Both teens willing do their science daily – that to me is the biggest blessing because with Biology, I had a wonderful and solid course for them but they fought me all year. We ended up doing just the reading part and the microscope sat in the box unopened. I think this course is perfect for the non-traditional learner because it is more interest-led. My boys have already decided that we will be doing Guest Hollow Physics next year.

Copper Plating Experiment

Yesterday in chemistry we copper plated an iron nail. If you look at the picture below, you can see that the nail has taken on a copper color.

Copper plate a nail experiment

Want to try it yourself? You’ll need:

  • The juice from 2 lemons or 1/2 cup of vinegar (We used lemon juice.)
  • Plastic cup or ceramic bowl (We used a disposable cup.)
  • 10 to 20 dull pennies (We used about 20.)
  • A pinch or couple shakes of salt
  • An iron nail (ungalvanized)
  1. Put the lemon juice into the cup.
  2. Place your pennies in the bottom of the cup, inside the juice.
  3. Add the salt.
  4. Place the nail inside the cup and leave it for at least 30 minutes. We left our nail in overnight. When you take it out it should be coated with enough copper for you to notice!

Why does it do that? The lemon juice dissolves the copper on the pennies and this produces copper ions. An ion is an atom that either has extra electrons or is missing some electrons.
The copper ions are attracted to the iron in the nail and build up, until there is a visible coat of copper on the nail.

Here’s a close-up of the nail, which is now, roughly, the color of a penny, when before it was almost completely gray:

Copper coated iron nail

Here’s what the experiment did to the pennies, especially the newer pennies!!

Corroded penny

We also learned that pennies after 1982 are actually zinc that is coated with copper. We could really see this when we took some of the newer pennies out and observed the partially-dissolved, thin copper coating over a darker metal underneath. Copper is so expensive now that it would cost MORE than a penny for each penny to be pure (actually 95%) copper!

Click here for a printable of this experiment.


Otter is keeping a chemistry notebook. Inside he’s keeping track of some of the experiments we’ve done using this lab report. He’s also doing some notebooking pages, lapbook elements glued onto colored paper and other printables. When he’s done with chemistry, he’ll have a nice notebook to browse through and remember the various projects he completed. Here’s the cover I made to slip into the front:

Chemistry notebook

Here are some of the assignments he’s already entered into it:

This was a project from Christian Kids Explore Chemistry. Otter took a look at the ingredients of various items and wrote them down to see how “chemistry is in our home”. He noticed how some of the items had the same chemicals.


In the 2nd week of our study, he learned about chemistry tools, safety and measurement. I made him this lab sheet to record the data from a hands-on activity from C.K.E.C. . Otter learned that when you pour liquid from one container to another, eventually it affects the measurement. He also learned how to measure from the meniscus of the liquid.

Chemistry worksheet

Here’s a cut & paste vocabulary activity I downloaded from middleschoolscience.com.


He also made these lapbook booklets about the scientific method and pasted them onto colored paper:

chemistry lapbook

Here’s another cut & paste activity that helped define solids, liquids and gas:

solid, liquid, gas

I’m also making use of BrainPop, one of our favorite online activities. I found this printable to go with the movie about solids, liquids and gases.


He also did some fun lab safety papers with a Sponge Bob theme. You can find the teacher’s notes here.

Sponge Bob science

Here’s an activity he did examining various compounds and mixtures:

chemistry worksheet

Otter isn’t just learning about chemistry. He’s still exploring other science interests, such as astronomy, on a regular basis. He pulled out this kit we forgot to do when he was studying WinterPromise’s Sea & Sky program and completed it the other day. He looked up the actual positions of the planets from this site, to make sure every planet was in its place.
Woe to the big brother who might move one of them out of the proper orbit!

Solar system kit


The other day we read about plasma globes and did some experiments. Here are the pics. Warning: I’m not recommending you do what we did! These experiments could be dangerous and we were referencing websites and videos such as this one. In other words, don’t try this at home.

Otter got a fluorescent light bulb to light up, just by holding it near the plasma globe:

Plasma globe and light bulb

If you put a penny on top and then touch the penny with a nail, you can see a small arc of electricity:

plasma globe

Super close up of the above:

plasma ball

Otter also got an LED light from his Snap Circuits kit to light up just by touching it to the plasma globe:

plasma globe and led

We also recently split water into hydrogen and oxygen. Dad put a lit match to the hydrogen we collected and we all got to hear a POP!

Another experiment Otter did was to figure out how to separate salt from sand:


Other recent things we’ve done in chemistry:

  • Learned about hydrogen
  • Distilled salt water
  • Watched an acid reaction
  • Put up a periodic table poster
  • Learned about lab safety with Sponge Bob
  • Learned about controls and variables
  • Went on an elements scavenger hunt
  • Learned about Antoine Lavoisier

I think Otter is in science heaven lately. Chemistry is full of fun experiments and explorations.

For history, Otter made some ancient Greek honey cakes:

Honey cakes

Starting Chemistry

We just ended our study of astronomy and started chemistry. You can get a sneak peek at some of the books and materials we are using here. I’ll post the schedule I’ve created when I’m finished with it. So far, it’s a highlight of our day and Otter is loving it.

Here is a pic of one of the recent experiments Otter did:

Solid, liquid or gas?

You can download the free printable for this experiment from here. There are more science freebies at ACS Chemistry for Life. If you click on “Science for Kids” there are free lesson plans, some online activities, art ideas and more. I’m scheduling in some of the activities into our chemistry schedule.

Science Fun

Otter is playing with a Dune Craft Astounding Polymer Properties Observation Kit. Oh wait, is it playing or doing school? We tend to confuse that sometimes…


Playing with polymers

A polymer ball (“slippery spheres”):

Polymer ball

More polymer spheres – These started out as teeny hard little balls and grew more than 20x to the size of a marble after adding water:

polymer balls

“Silly squares”:


Besides having a lot of fun, you get to learn about crosslinking, hydration, molecular bonding, polarity, viscosity and absorption.

I like to have a few science kits on hand at any given time. They are great for adding some fun into a week and keeping school from feeling “stale”. They also give Otter the opportunity for some free science exploration with plenty of practice in reading instructions as well as making and testing hypotheses.