August 5, 2021

Chemistry 101 from The 101 Series (review)

Finding just the right fit for the high school science curriculum turned out to quite possibly be the most difficult part of high school for us. During our high school planning time, Chemistry was the number one topic my son wanted to study. However, he decided to put it off until 10th grade to allow him to finish algebra 2 and, most importantly, give me more time to find a curriculum. It means a lot to my son that I make chemistry happen in the way he needs.

To be honest, I’ve been getting a little nervous since it appeared there simply wasn’t going to be a curriculum to match our criteria for chemistry. I had heard only a very little about The 101 Series and never investigated it until the opportunity to review one of their products came up. I spent hours pouring over their website, reading all of the sample materials before deciding that it might be worth the time to check out Chemistry 101, and I’m ever so grateful to the Homeschool Review Crew for bringing this curriculum to my attention.

Chemistry 101:

This course is entirely flexible and can be used as a supplement to another science curriculum by watching only the videos or as a comprehensive, year-long high school course if all of the options suggested are assigned. Although the videos and lesson work is geared toward students 15 years old and up, the imagery in the videos is appropriate for the entire family.

Chemistry 101 is packaged in a single DVD case containing four discs, with the fourth disc holding the accreditation book, the course guidebook, and a printable full-color periodic table for use during class.

The course is divided into 19 total segments of 20-45 minutes of video time each. This is a complete chemistry course, which covers:

The Road to the Periodic Table

  • Introduction & The Last Alchemist (35 min.)
  • Birth of Modern Chemistry (30 min.)
  • The Bold Russian (35 min.)
  • Lots of Mystery Rays (45 min.)
  • The Likeable Rutherford (30 min.)
  • The Periodic Table at Last! (20 min.)
  • The Periodic Table – Main Group (45 min.)
  • The Periodic Table – Quantum Mechanics (40 min.)

Chemistry Essentials

  • Neutrons, Isotopes and Ions (40 min.)
  • Compounds and Molecules Part 1 (20 min.)
  • Compounds and Molecules Part 2 (35 min.)
  • Balancing Equations (30 min.)
  • Essentials Wrap-up (35 min.)

Meet the Elements

  • The Four Main Columns (30 min.)
  • Non-Metals and Poor Metals (30 min.)
  • Transition Metals (40 min.)
  • Rare Earth & Radioactive Metals (45 min.)

The Future

  • The Future of Chemistry Part 1 (30 min.)
  • The Future of Chemistry Part 2 (40 min.)

Course Accreditation Program:

The Course Accreditation Program comes as a 23-page PDF file on the fourth disc of the set, and while you could work from the PDF file on your computer, it is infinitely easier to print the document. The Course Accreditation Program explains how to fulfill a one year high school credit using the Chemistry 101 DVDs, suggested projects, additional reading, and labs.

The program starts with a quick list of items needed in all experiments, sorted by video segment. Personally, I need these types of lists to ensure I don’t miss a needed item and all supplies are ready prior to each lesson. The experiments use mostly items we have on hand already, and the labs are conducted on the videos too. However, it fills out the curriculum to for the student to complete their own version of the labs and write up a report.

Next the program document has a schedule for each segment in a spreadsheet format with columns listing the work to be complete and the target hours for that item. Then there are blank columns where you can fill in the actual hours taken to complete an item along with a column to mark the item complete. Learning activities for the segments include watching the Chemistry 101 DVD, reading the provided guidebook section, discussions, research and report on the specific topic, experiments, notebooking, and quizzes.

This schedule was exactly what I needed to tip the scale in favor of Chemistry 101 for my son’s high school chemistry. The course provides options for a variety of learning methods without requiring the teacher to search for extra topics or activities. Everything is all right in front me, including the hours you can expect your student to earn for each segment. No more guessing if we have enough hours scheduled.

Guidebook & Quizzes:

The guidebook for Chemistry 101 is also provided as a 122-page PDF file on the fourth disc, and again I would highly recommend printing this as opposed to using it in PDF format. Still, the option is there to transfer the PDF file to any computer or portable device that can read PDF files.

Each video segment on the DVDs has a chapter in the guidebook which includes the scientific details provided in the video. The guidebook chapters are not structured as boring summaries, but instead are visually engaging with sidebars of chemistry facts on related topics. Towards the end of each chapter is a box with biographies of applicable people, commentaries, or observations.  Each chapter ends with discussion questions and a multiple choice quiz.  Be aware the answers to the quizzes are provided at the end of the guidebook (so you might want to take those pages away from your student).

Something I didn’t expect to find in the guidebook was a complete index! I know this guidebook is akin to a textbook for the Chemistry 101 curriculum, but an index took me by surprise. It is wonderful to be able to locate the pages on specific topics because that also tells me which video segment contains that specific topic.


The videos themselves are of high quality with an easy to use the menu. They worked well on both my computer and my son ‘s finicky blu-ray player in his TV room.

The video segments are hosted by Wes Olson, who has an engaging, pleasant style of speech and is easily understood. The chemistry lessons are presented as more than boring facts, but done as you would hope the best professor might do in a classroom – except most of the video segments with Wes Olson are shot outside!

This doesn’t mean the course lacks in content, far from it. Colorful and engaging graphics accompany the presentation along with demonstrations of experiments that can be recreated at home. Images of actual items and historical events are included along with created graphics.  It really is a well-rounded video course.

How we used Chemistry 101:

After much discussion, our plan for the review period of Chemistry 101 was to merely get our feet wet to ensure this truly was the chemistry course for my son, since he is in the middle of his botany course at the moment. We did pause the botany course to give Chemistry 101 our full attention but did not do every suggested activity since Amber will actually restart Chemistry 101 when we are ready for the full-year course. Still, we needed to do more than just a quick perusal to ensure Chemistry 101 was the solution to our search.

We decided my son and I would watch the videos together and then discuss how he felt about the way the material was presented, look over what the assignments would be, and see if this was going to meet our needs. We also wanted to ensure the topics were covered with enough depth to be worthy of his high school credit. In the end, Amber completed the videos for six segments and I watched the remainder on my own to verify the scope of all the listed topics.

Our Thoughts:

We set out to find a chemistry curriculum that met both my son ‘s educational needs and my administrative needs.


  • Multiple sensory inputs, including hands-on experiments
  • Video of lecture components to engage him visually and reduce fatigue from reading
  • Written text to follow along, or use for lesson review
  • High school level science with the topics expected in a full course
  • Discussion and writing assignments as opposed to workbooks


  • Options to create a full-year course without needing to rewrite the curriculum or provide additional activities
  • Ability to change assignments that are not a good fit for my son (I’m used to the “salad bar” types of the curriculum).

So did Chemistry 101 fulfill our needs? 

  • The guidebook has the details my son needs to follow along with the video and he can also use it for review.
  • Video lessons engage him while being of appropriate content and difficulty.
  • Labs are demonstrated in the videos while also being detailed in the accreditation program for recreation at home.
  • A wide variety of assignments for me to chose from in order for my son to receive his full year of science.
  • The option to use the quizzes for a grade or as a review assignment.

Chemistry 101 has met all of our requirements for a high school chemistry course, including the important interest factor.  If my son was not already in the middle of another science topic, he would have liked to switch right now to Chemistry 101 as his current science curriculum. Thankfully, we no longer have to search for the perfect curriculum, we’ve found everything we need in Chemistry 101 from The 101 Series!

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