Thursday, October 23, 2008


Yesterday Jacob and Alexandra finally took – and passed! – the test for chapter two of our Chemistry book. We’re weeks behind, but we’ve made progress!

We learned the different units with which you measure energy. We survived calculations to determine specific heat of objects. Even I could recite equations such as q = m c ΔT (where q is heat absorbed or released, m is mass, c is the specific heat, and delta T is the change in temperature), and -q (object) = q (water) + q (calorimeter), which tells us that the heat lost by the object placed in the calorimeter is gained by the water and calorimeter.

Aren’t you impressed? I certainly surprised myself by memorizing those equations!

I was solving for that mysterious specific heat of an unknown metallic object or finding out how much energy was lost or gained, working out algebraic equations better than my kids were. Perhaps now – decades after being a new girl in my school and being forced to take Algebra a second time because my new school system didn’t believe that a seventh grader could possibly have taken Algebra – the Algebra that I had so thoroughly learned in junior high was coming in handy.

I don’t know why both my kids got so mired in that chapter on energy, heat, and temperature. I understood it. It was a painful three and a half weeks as I explained and reworked problems and sat with them, handholding them through equations, reteaching them algebra so they could solve the equations.

And through it all, my son shook his head and said, “Why do I have to learn all that? I’ll never need to know the specific heat of anything!” Deep down I could see his point, but… We plodded on.

And it paid off. They both got the same grade on the test, a 93%, though each got different problems wrong. I was so relieved.

On to atoms and molecules.

Sigh. I know what tonight’s bedtime reading will be for me.

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What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
— Albert Pike, Scottish Rite Freemason (1809-1891)