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Homeschooling High School: Science

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I have often wished that Samantha’s daughter was just a tad older than Brianna because I have picked up so many great ideas on homeschooling high school from Samantha. I especially love some of her wonderfully creative ideas for science, which is why I asked her to guest post on that topic. Enjoy!

For years, you’ve been taking nature walks with your child, raising butterflies, and making models of the solar system. Science has been hands-on, low-key, and enjoyable. Science has never scared you or your child.

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But now your child has reached HIGH SCHOOL! Now science, according to conventional wisdom, is really hard, intense, and definitely not fun. Most likely, you, or a well-meaning friend or relative, has serious doubts about your ability to offer a high school level science course at home.

One of the many fabulous things about the high school years is that children become wonderful independent learners. If you’re nervous about teaching a high school level science course, realize that, for the most part, you are more a facilitator and a co-learner most of the time rather than a teacher. (For more inspiration regarding being a co-learner and not a teacher, I highly suggest Jay Wile’s seminar, Teaching the Junior High and High School Sciences at Home.)

I worked right through Biology with my daughter – relearning or learning for the first time the same things she was learning. Now I’m taking the same journey with Marine Biology. While I was quite nervous at first, I am feeling confident now about leading my children through their high school level science courses at home. Hopefully, after reading my tips and suggestions, you will be well on your way to feeling more confident about science courses and the high school years!

Provide a Daily Schedule and Help Your Student Get Organized

Adjusting to high school level work can be difficult for some students and some of this difficulty can center on time management and organizational issues. I am very much in favor of helping students to get organized and stay organized.

We have used Apologia textbooks for our high school science courses so far and I was surprised to see that no schedule is included in the teacher’s materials. Many high school students would struggle setting up their own schedule to complete a science course within a typical school year. Thankfully, schedules are available and some are even free.

  • DonnaYoung.org – In addition to free schedules for many Apologia science courses, she offers many other helpful printables.
  • Sonlight – Sonlight sells schedules for several Apologia science courses.
  • Knowledge Box Central and Live & Learn Press both sell study guide kits for many Apologia courses. My daughter has found her lapbook study guide extremely helpful in getting and keeping her organized. She also loves the way her science notebooks look!

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Make a Plan for Labs

Labs are often messy, time-consuming, and require gathering up a number of different materials. Therefore, if you don’t make a plan for labs, they may not happen.

Schedule a specific time – You don’t have to do the lab exactly when your student comes to it in the book. If it works best for your schedule, do labs only on Fridays or have one all-lab week a month. Do what works for you and your student to make sure the labs actually are completed.

Be clear about expectations regarding lab reports – Many students new to high school science courses have no idea what to include or how to write a lab report. Be clear about exactly what you expect and how the lab reports will be graded.

Get a microscope – If your homeschooling budget will allow the purchase of a microscope, I highly recommend getting one. Many of the labs in Biology and Marine Biology rely on microscope work. It is an investment but it adds a great deal to high school science labs.

Get together for labs – If you have a homeschooling friend who has a student taking the same course, getting together for labs can be a great experience. My daughter completed all of her dissection labs with a fellow homeschooler and the process was enriched for both of them. If no high school student is available, a parent can be the lab partner.

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Gather all of the needed materials ahead of time – Take time over the weekend to gather everything you will need for all science labs for the week. Thankfully, science kits are readily available for many science courses which can greatly reduce the individual items you need to gather up and find.

Make Time for “Out of the Book” Enrichment Experiences

With the rigors of high school coursework, it is easy to forget to close the books for a while and do something to connect the books to the world. Making time for “out of the book” experiences can enrich high school science courses tremendously. When my daughter was taking Biology, she spent a day at a local zoo attending a program for high school students about careers in the field of life science.

  • Harmony Art Mom has excellent suggestions for combining nature study with high school science courses.
  • Many zoos, nature centers, museums, and science centers offer classes for homeschoolers of all ages that may tie in directly with topics from high school science courses.
  • Field trip possibilities are endless. Look at the table of contents in your child’s science textbook and brainstorm with him or her about where you would like to go.
  • If you’ve never grown a frog, raised butterflies, or found constellations in the sky; you can do those things now with your high school student. Most high school students still enjoy hands-on activities.

Video Courses

Some students do really well working through a science textbook using an independent study approach. Others need a bit more help understanding the concepts or enjoy having a teacher explain the material.

For a busy teaching parent, a video course can be wonderful. A video course can help a high school student to become even more independent or you can watch the videos right along with your student. The extra teaching help and extra explanations of science concepts can be a benefit to students and homeschooling parents.

Be an Umbrella School

In Susan Wise Bauer’s seminar about preparing high school students for college, she suggested that once the high school years hit, homeschooling parents need to think of themselves less as the primary teachers and more as the director of an umbrella school. In essence, just because you’re homeschooling you do not have to teach every single class that your high school student takes.

If teaching a high school science course is something that you would rather just out-source, that’s completely fine! There are many options for your high school student to take a high school level science course that is not facilitated by you.

  • The Potter’s School – This online school offers a wide variety of courses, including science courses. From the personal experiences of friends, the courses are excellent.
  • Apologia Academy
  • Red Wagon Tutorials
  • Local private schools – In my area both Biology and Advanced Biology are taught at a Christian school for homeschoolers in the evening.
  • Co-op classes
  • Local community college – Many homeschoolers take lab sciences at a local community college during their third and fourth years of high school in dual-credit programs.
  • Private tutor

High school science courses do not need to be a cause of fear for homeschooling parents. With research and preparation, fears can be eased and the stage can be set for a great experience while working through science courses in the high school years…for both the student and the teaching parent.

Samantha writes about homeschooling and family life at To Be Busy At Home. For the 2011-2012 school year, she is homeschooling her 9th grade daughter, 7th grade son, and 5th grade son. When she’s not busy at home, she’s busy at a pool, as all three of her children swim competitively through USA swimming.

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Be sure to visit these brilliant women during our 10 days adventure between November 7th-18th!

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6 Comments

  1. This post is phenomenal!!  I will definitely be referencing this again and again, esp as we are in our first year of "high school science".  Thank you! 🙂

  2. Thank you so much, Shonya!  I certainly appreciate the encouraging words and am glad the post was helpful to you!

  3. Wow! I'm not homeschooling a highschooler right now, but this is great info! I'm your new follower. Your blog looks great! I found you via the HSBAPost.com blog awards.

  4. Great ideas – thanks so much!  There's also a fabulous program called Providence Extension Program – and their website has info on getting one going in your area.  Bottom line –  it's tutoring for tough classes, like science, math, etc., with a historical world view foundation that helps prepare them for dealing with the world, and it's college prep.  https://www.PEP1.org .  We've got 2 kids in the program, and am ready for the college experience.  These days freshman English is all about atheism, etc., and I'm pleased with what I've seen the graduates (It's still homeschooling, though) do to handle these things. 

    Blessings,
    Nina Roesner

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