Homeschool science can be done the easy way or the hard way. Some STEM-crazy parents can do science in their sleep with both hands tied behind their backs. Other parents … let’s just say they aren’t so enthusiastic. Whether science is your passion or the bane of your existence, let me show you how to make science simple in your homeschool. You CAN encourage the love of learning, and help your children enjoy science.
Science is a core subject that students need to learn in high school. It’s often a requirement for high school graduation as well as college admission. Even though it’s important, it can still be a stumbling block for some parents. One way to get kids (and parents) excited about science in high school is to introduce fun science activities in the early grades. Here are some great STEAM ideas for younger kids (short for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math).
If your child wants to go into a scientific profession then biology, chemistry, and physics might be important. For other children, branching out is a better idea. You have a wide range of homeschool science choices and you do not have to teach biology first, then chemistry, and then physics. If your child naturally loves one branch of science, it’s very easy to get stuck on just that one science, leaving your children ill-prepared for a career in science.
For science-minded children, be sure to cover biology, chemistry, and physics if possible. For children with no interest in science, expose them to different branches so they get the best possible college prep education in high school and have more choices open to them later on. At a minimum, teach three years of science, including at least one lab science.
What is college preparation? If possible, do biology in 9th grade, chemistry in 10th grade (or after algebra 1), and add at least one more year of science.
How can you teach what you don’t know? Allow teens to use the solution manual so they can teach themselves.
The easiest way to be successful with any subject is to memorize and master the vocabulary. Teaching the vocabulary is critical for academic success, not to memorize facts, but to learn the ideas each word represents. Even knowing that a “pistil” is part of a flower and not part of a cell can help your child understand as they are reading the biology book. About 80% of comprehending academic textbooks is dependent upon understanding academic vocabulary. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Have your child make a list of the words that are unfamiliar and review them each morning. By the end of the week, it’s surprising how many they will know based on simple repetition alone.
Donna Young’s website has excellent resources for science vocabulary, complete with ready-made lists for you (for example, see Donna Young’s Apologia Biology Resources). Learning how to master the vocabulary will prepare your child to succeed in college and career. No matter where they go in the future, whether college or on the job, learning the vocabulary is a key to getting ahead.
Make it easier to learn homeschool science. Review vocabulary words daily to increase understanding.
Generally speaking, colleges want at least one high school science to include a lab. As the instructor, facilitating a lab means making sure your children don’t stab each other in biology, blow something up in chemistry, or jump off a building in physics. Beyond ensuring safety, there is no national definition about what a lab science requires. The US House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology formed the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education that issued a report about high school lab science. They concluded that there is no consistent definition of “high school lab science.”
As a parent teaching homeschool science, keep your lab expectations simple. Do your best to complete the lab experiments that come with your curriculum. If you don’t use a curriculum, include something hands-on about once a week. Have your children write a report after each experiment. Keep that report simple, too! Have your teenager write one paragraph describing what they did. You may need to clarify that “paragraph” means 3-5 sentences or more. In addition, have them create a drawing, graph, or chart that demonstrates what they did. You are trying to teach them to be consistent by requiring a short, written explanation after each experiment. Hopefully this will help them consider what they have learned.
What is a science lab? There is no definition, so create your own school policy. I suggest at least one experiment each week.
Whenever you teach a subject you don’t know, it’s important to use a self-teaching homeschool curriculum, intended for homeschooling high school that assumes you don’t have a degree in the subject matter. While there are many options, choose something that is tried and true, and well-reviewed, particularly if you loathe science. I chose biology, chemistry, and physics textbooks by Jay Wile. Both my science-lover and my science-loather did well with that curriculum. It’s self-teaching and excellent college preparation. When choosing in what order to teach, keep in mind that chemistry requires a good understanding of Algebra 1 first. Don’t start physics unless your child has completed pre-Calculus, because it’s very math-based.
Where to start? Look first at Exploring Creation with Biology or Chemistry with the lab resources suggested by Home Science Tools.
Homeschoolers often seem to think that there are thirteen commandments, adding thou shalt teach biology, chemistry, and physics as the extra three. It’s not true! It’s fairly unusual for a child to get into physics, because it requires a lot of math to be successful.
You can branch out when you teach science! Choose from astronomy, geology, botany, robotics, astronomy, ornithology, marine biology, equine science, computer science, and many other options. Most colleges would like to see at least one of the standard sciences, especially either biology or chemistry. Children who might major in STEM careers (science, technology, engineering, or math) should cover basic biology and chemistry, as well as physics if possible.
What science to cover? For non-science kids, cover biology, maybe chemistry, and one “outside the box” science. For kids planning careers in science, include four science credits, with physics if possible.
Are you pretty sure you are failing in providing a homeschool science education? If you know that science is your own weak area, you can take steps to make sure you are successful with science. Don’t feel guilty and stick your head in the sand. Every homeschool parent has a subject they don’t understand, tolerate, like, or remember to teach. When you identify your weak area, do something about it! Prioritize the subject; it’s the first subject your student tackles in the morning. It’s the one subject you make sure is done every single day. Even when a fabulous or free opportunity arrives, and all the other homeschool subjects get put on the shelf, this is the one you are sure gets done before you leave the house.
It’s also the first homeschool curriculum you buy each year and the subject you are willing to spend the most money on. It’s the only thing you will be sure to reinvest in, if it becomes necessary. In other words, if you choose a science curriculum and it doesn’t work, this is the area you will make a second purchase in – even within the first couple of months of school.
Is science your weak area? Prioritize it with your time, by putting it first each day to be sure you get it done, and prioritize it with your money, by investing in a quality curriculum.
It's also helpful to let your teen choose curriculum - especially in their weak areas. As your teen progresses, try to engage them in curriculum choosing. If you can come up with 2 or 3 suitable alternatives for a subject, and you can't decide, perhaps your teen can place the deciding vote. That will often help to reduce whining. After all, who can they blame? They chose it themselves!
This strategy is especially important when you are looking at a video curriculum of any kind. Teens are remarkably sensitive to visual programs. Things that seem fine to us may drive them crazy! Maybe it's the way a speaker dresses or the sound of their voice, but sometimes a video will annoy kids so much they can't learn.
Whenever possible, have your teen compare video samples and make the choice themselves. Even without a video, you may still be surprised at their choices. I remember being stunned when my son, Kevin, chose Saxon math! Believe it or not, he was looking for a book that had pages full of math problems. Meanwhile, I had been shopping for a curriculum with clearly written instructions and colorful photos and diagrams. Let your teen help you choose a curriculum and you could be pleasantly surprised.
Scholarships abound for STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. If you can prepare your children in science, you can demonstrate a rigorous high school education, and they will have a much better chance of earning college admission and scholarships. Encourage young women toward STEM degrees as well, and they could get college at a discount. Overall, there are more girls going to college than there are boys. With girls in the majority, they are less likely to receive admission and financial aid. There is an exception though – in science, technology, engineering, and math, girls are still in the minority. You can encourage your young women to pursue a college major in a STEM field, which might improve their chances of admission and financial aid.
Teach your children to love science the easy way, so you can prepare them for college and career. With a college preparation education, your child will be ready to tackle any challenge in the future, and enjoy the love of learning today.
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Homeschool parents often approach teaching high school science as if being asked to build the space shuttle! But teaching high school science isn't rocket science! Teaching your kids science doesn't require a PhD. All it requires is a willing heart, an organized approach, and some simple facilitation skills. There is no reason for science to be scary.
Let Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, show you the way! Lee's fearless approach and easy to follow guidance will make any parent a science success, no matter how science-phobic! Just keep in mind the first principle of homeschooling high school: "You don't have to learn it. Your kids have to learn it."
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