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Home Schooling / Chemistry & Mineralogy



My first submission to the SpykerFarm (and as an Open Letter) – of suggestions for home schooling was last week’s; it was on Poetry … and included assignments (for each person) to learn a particular poem and share it with the family.


This second one is on Chemistry & Mineralogy.  (Of course – Owen got a rock tumbler for Christmas; and the last time I was there, his batch of rocks was nearing completion). 

I will admit – (as with ANY discipline) – that Love (appreciation  /  a heart connection with whatever you’re studying) – is the most important component … then on this basis, knowledge and understanding (as it is acquired) enhances and enriches that Love.


We study Chemistry along with Mineralogy because it’s not really possible to understand rocks and minerals without some knowledge of chemistry.


Let’s do a quick review of what we’ve already learned –


All matter is made up of only about a hundred basic Elements.  And these elements intercombine into a multitude of compounds.  (Water, for example, is a compound of  the elements : hydrogen and oxygen.)  Dan got copies of the Periodic Table of Elements to each of the kids.


This Periodic Table is not just a mere list (of all the elements).  It is called ‘Periodic’ because the elements within the table each occupy a place in the table according to the (naturally occurring) pattern, according to which – the elements interact (chemically) with each other.


[The Periodic Table will never get old … it will only get better, as we come to understand it better.]



  (periodic table with actual PHYSICAL SAMPLES  of each element)  [For many years I have thought that this sort of Periodic Table (with actual physical samples) – was just what we needed]










(the chemical elements in order)















We all ate a salty cracker … SLOWLY.  (We chewed it but did not swallow it … until we noticed that the cracker changed its taste to: SWEET!)   From this experience we learned – that our TONGUE KNOWS CHEMISTRY !        [Ptyalin is an enzyme, a protein found in saliva that breaks down the insoluble starch found in foods into smaller, soluble sugar fragments.  This is a chemical change.]


We found that salt (or sugar) will dissolve in water.  This is NOT a chemical change; but it’s still important.  Minerals can dissolve (go into solution) … and they can come out.  

Many minerals form in just this way.  They dissolve (go into solution) in the ground water … then come out of solution again, when the conditions allow this to happen.  

This is how an agate (or a geode) forms.  Or quartz crystals.  (NOT the ones in granite; these form in a different way: from the slow cooling of a hot molten mass of material (magma).)


I sent you links to videos – on how to make ‘rock candy’ – (crystals – from a water solution), but I’m not sure you watched them (or did the experiments)


    (make rock candy in 7 days)




   (make rock candy in 4 hours)




I know you DID see some of the videos – which are designed to help us comprehend HOW BIG  and   HOW SMALL our universe is  (though honestly – it’s really BEYOND our comprehension.  We should still TRY though.)


    (Cosmic Voyage Zoom-in:     1 minute)



   (Powers of 10 –  with  Morgan Freeman)









At my request, Dan acquired (for the farm’s Home School)  a copy of “Rocks and Minerals” (from the Smithsonian Handbooks series).  It contains nice photos AND it shows the chemical formula of each mineral listed (which connects us to the Elements on the periodic table) !


Now I want to suggest that you (also) have another book available to you: “Discover Rocks & Minerals” (from Publications International, Ltd.    ISBN:  1-56173-854-9)   This book also has lots of good photos; and it’s geared toward young people.


We talked some – about oxidation … which, we have observed, may happen fast (as with a bonfire) … or slow (as when a piece of steel, which has been left lying around the farm (maybe even buried in the dirt) for a long time –  gets rusty.  (The rust itself is iron oxide.  When the rust is yellow, it’s the same as ‘Limonite’; when it’s dark red or black, it’s similar to (naturally occurring) ‘Hematite’.

And, of course Quartz is also an oxide … only it’s an oxide of silicon – silicon dioxide)


We also had a look at how (even THICK) steel may be cut with an oxygen-acetylene torch.  And the reason this process is called “burning” is because: once the cutting is in progress, the steel becomes the FUEL.  Rapid oxidation.  Just like how wood is the fuel in a bonfire.  (And, by the way, even most GROWNUPS do not know this.)


  (‘Burning’ steel with an oxygen-acetylene torch)


~ ~ ~ ~ ~


(to be continued)

1 thought on “Home Schooling / Chemistry & Mineralogy

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