Carbon Chemistry

February 15, 2011
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Carbon Chemistry

Content: Science
Grade(s): 4th – 8th
Perspective: Secular
Prep Time: Moderate
Teacher Manual: Yes
Teacher Involvement: Essential
Cost: $$ || ?
Pages: 83 pages
Publication Date: 2013
Review Updated: 5/7/2014

From Ellen McHenry’s website:

This curriculum is designed to be a follow-up to The Elements. The style of the text (including the bits of whimsical humor) are the same as in “The Elements,” but the student text is more substantial and requires more reading.

Topics covered: A quick review of what an atom is, three types of atomic models, an overview of the carbon atom and its allotropes (diamond, graphite, buckyballs), introduction to organic chemistry (alkanes, alkenes, alkynes, e.g. methane, propane, butane), refining of crude oil, isomers, saturated and unsatured molecules, functional groups (alcohols, carboxylic acids, aldehydes, ketones, esters, ethers), combination of functional groups (sodium benzoate, nitroglycerin, soap, pheromones), plastics and polymers, rubber and silicon polymers, carbohydrates (simple sugars, starches and cellulose), fats (saturated, unsaturated, trans and cis fats), proteins (amino acids, polypeptides, protein folding and its significance, the lock and key principle, structure of DNA), and finally the carbon oxides (like CO2) and the carbon cycle.

(For those of you are “chemistry-shy”, don’t let this list scare you– everything is presented in ways that both you and your student will understand completely.)

Activities included: A comprehension self-check list of questions for the student at the end of every chapter, on-line research questions at the end of every chapter, some pencil and paper word puzzle activities (crosswords, etc.), building models of carbon’s allotropes, organic molecules card game, burning experiments, counting carbons song, paper chain alkanes, make marbled paper, benzene ring dance, functional group card game, experiments with acetic acid, isopropanol, and acetone, experiment with soap and surface tension, benzaldehyde snack, recycling plastic relay race, sorting plastics using chemical analysis, experiments with water-absorbing polymers (found in diapers), plastic product testing, the Plastic Song, skit about Charles Goodyear, skewering a balloon, demonstrating molecular motion using a plastic polymer, making “slime,” experiments with Silly Putty, testing for starch, artificial sweetener taste tests, glycogen tag game, cake recipe testing (for fats), insulation experiment, The DNA Song, experiment with an enzyme, using rennet in a recipe, the carbon cycle board game, and suggestions all through the text of websites to visit for extra info and activities. In addition, there are instructions for how to throw a “polymer party” to wrap up your unit. There are extra review games, as well as ideas for snacks and decorating.

Download FREE sample lessons of Carbon Chemistry.

About the Author:
Ellen J McHenry is a homeschool mother who holds an art degree, with a minor in math, from Penn State. She has worked as a professional illustrator for more than 20 years. During her years teaching homeschool co-op science classes, Ellen recognized a need for a different type of instructional material and so her career as a curriculum writer was born.

Because one opinion is never enough! Have you ever used Carbon Chemistry? How did it work for your family? Share your review below.



  • Trish April 30, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Carbon Chemistry and The Elements (also by Ellen M) are probably my family’s all-time favorite homeschool discoveries. I thought both books covered the major concepts of intro chemistry in a very solid manner. Neither of my kids had a problem with high school level chemistry afterwards. The illustrations are hand-drawn which made it feel more accessible to my kids who were 8 and 9yo. Students learn Lewis dot notation, electron orbitals and shells, bonding, how to read and understand the Periodic table, and more. I liked that there were lots of activities for each chapter and it was very easy to get the materials and do them (I am NOT a crafty mom). The activities appeal to a wide range of learners and are great if you’re doing a small group class. There are songs, skits, crafts as well as games and experiments.

  • JS August 10, 2012 at 10:11 am

    We finished middle school science before starting this book. It’s written in a way that’s understandable but also lets you go deep into a topic. We don’t find it too easy or simplistic, but it also didn’t take us an entire year to finish it. I love the connections to online videos to make sure we get the material.

  • Jill Henry April 5, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    My family loved this! It’s very hands-on with engaging learning activities and experiments. The language and approach are very kid friendly. They even have crafts and skits included. But, more importantly, the material is not dumbed down.

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