book: the elements

The Elements

  • Emily 

When working on school from home, we have more success when topics are combined rather than try to approach any one of them independently.  E8 is fascinated by the elements and wants to build a collection of each of the elements individually, and is always talking about different combinations he’d like to test.  Writing, on the other hand—is probably the task E8 likes the least.  While we were finishing up 2nd grade at home, writing was a mandatory part of every school day, but to ease the pain some days, we’d pull out his current favorite book:  The Elements by Theodore Gray.

The Elements is a visual introduction to the concept of elements and the periodic table. Sometimes for school writing, he works on compiling his own summarized version of the book and I think really has been enjoying writing it one or two facts about each element.  Some days, any writing was better than none, and this was a reasonably happy middle ground.

Outside of school work, this book still keeps E8 reading for hours.  He’ll read it page by page, and often quotes it verbatim.   The pictures are engaging and are selected with an eye towards making each element understandable and approachable.  It won’t replace a chemistry course but has been a really top-notch introduction to the concept of elements, and fascinating pictures to keep everyone engaged.

Its pretty cool to see how E8 has applied what he has read here. After learning about pennies and how their composition changed, he was chatting with my mom, and telling her all about it. A few days later she dropped off a jar of pennies from her child hood collection, and he’s been having a blast sorting them, looking for copper vs. zinc pennies, keeping tallies and weighing them to feel the difference.

The Elements may be directed at adults and enjoyed by E8, but E5 (not yet reading) really likes it as well.  We’ll look through it together browsing the pictures and talking sometimes about the names of the elements—practicing pronunciation—but more often simply talking about all the different interesting things that can be made, which items are pretty, which we’d like to touch, and which are more pleasant simply viewed on the page. 

At the beginning of each school year, the kids give their teachers a copy of their current favorite book—this one was E8’s choice both for his first and second grade teachers. At the rate we’re going, my bet is on The Elements as the book again for third grade as well.

It sounds like this year school will be in person 2 days a week and at home 3 for him. I haven’t yet wrapped my mind around the logistics, but next year is anything like the end of this year, Teacher Mama will probably be supplementing a bit to keep him focused—and I have a feeling this book, and perhaps its companions (Molecules and Reactions), will feature prominently in the Mama-required writing!

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