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Can I Really Teach High School Science At Home?
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When we began homeschooling over 8 years ago, my home seemed to fit our needs for teaching math, English, history, and even science. When our oldest was in 8th grade, the reality of teaching upper-level sciences at home hit. While we had been schooling for years, I was afraid that my house was not really set up for chemistry and biology labs. Elementary science at the counter didn't seem as daunting as our soon-to-be foray into dissection and chemical compounds. And, to be honest, I wasn't entirely sure I was capable of recreating all the science labs. (Don't mention this to my high school science teacher, but my lab partner completed most of the actual lab processes while I did the lab write up and report). I knew that now I would approach science very differently with my children.

What I have learned time and time again is that although I don't have a dedicated lab space, I can easily make adaptations for high school science. The past 2 years we have completed our science courses in the middle of a home remodel with limited kitchen space. I figure if we can survive this, no science is impossible at home with the right mind set and tools.

Planning Ahead

 In terms of planning ahead, I would look at the labs for each chapter and figure out when these would occur. Some days we doubled up on labs from the same chapter. Sometimes we did them in the evening. And other times we did them on the weekends. We continued on with the science chapter even if we went out of order and had not completed the lab.

 With church and sports activities throughout the week, I knew we needed to be very particular about when we would be able to do the labs. I didn't want to start a lab and then realize I didn't have something we needed or that we didn't have time to complete it.

 Planning ahead also allowed me to make a few adaptations to the labs if necessary. I could not locate a certain type of plant for one biology experiment and we had time to research what we could use instead. There were also times that we decided to find a video online to strengthen our understanding of the lab activity.

Selecting and Organizing the Space

 I made the decision that that all non-dissection experiments would occur in the kitchen area. However, I didn't want to share counter space with our science so we set up a 6-foot table on science lab days. It was easy to set up and tear down when we were finished.

 All dissection experiments (think frog, worm, fish) occurred in the basement area where my husband led these activities. The rat dissection (from Biology) wasn't allowed inside the house and took place in the garage in one day.

 All science equipment was kept in tubs in the basement and brought out specifically for the science experiments. With limited space, I didn't want to have science overtake my kitchen area. And having a place to return the equipment to allow for a clear completion of the science experiment.

Investing in Equipment

 Not being set up as a school lab, I don't have all the equipment I need for the different science courses. I knew with 3 children eventually doing upper-level science courses, I would need to have more than measuring cups and thermometers. After doing some research I also knew that the costs could add up quickly if I were to purchase equipment.

 During my oldest son's freshman year, we did not have the benefit of borrowing from local friends as we moved and did not have the same network of homeschoolers. Sending a microscope and hot plate through the mail didn't make sense either.

 We sought to find a balance between adapting and purchasing equipment. I spent one summer researching all of my different options. I am very excited about the Logos Science Kits that can be purchased through BJU Press. The materials and supplies match up to the specific BJU Press curriculum. We will be purchasing these this year and I know that I will not be hunting down individual items or trying to adapt other pre-packaged items. There will still be some supplies to borrow/purchase (i.e. Bunsen burner, microscope).

Allowing Extra Time

 One thing I've learned in leading high school science is that I need to allow for plenty of time for experiments. The labs can rarely be completed in 20 minutes. There is time to set up (which my son does), actual lab work (either my husband or I do with our son), write up (individually completed by my son), clean up (joint effort).

 Another lesson regarding time is that it may take a couple attempts to get the experiment to produce certain results. I love that we can redo an experiment or take more time if needed. I believe this has added to my son's learning with high school science.

 The extra time also kept my son from being pressured to finish up quickly. It allowed him time to process what he was learning and communicate it clearly.

Utilizing Resources to Solidify the Learning

 Not every science experiment worked smoothly. I can honestly say that we did not achieve every expected result and we didn't have the benefit of a teacher that had been running the same experiment for the past 10 years. For me, the teacher's edition of the lab manual was an amazing resource. As we worked through the lab activities, I could see where we were heading. It allowed me to help guide my son when he was stuck, or to retrace our steps. And if we didn't achieve the correct results, I could explain what we had been trying to do.

 With a dislike of anything dissection related, I knew we would have to tap into my husband as a resource for these experiments. My husband has happily engaged in this role and our children benefit from this.

 Another resource we use is the internet. With the ability to research and find videos online related to what we were learning, we found that sometimes we learned more this way. And when we did not complete a few experiments, finding another resource was great.

My biggest challenge of completing upper-level science experiments at home has been overcoming the fear that I couldn't do it. I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to teach and help my high schooler learn. The reality is that with proper planning, equipment, time and resources, we have done very well with science. I may never lead a classroom of 20 students in a chemistry lab, but I don't have to. The learning is happening in our home! My best advice for anyone who might be worried like I was is to take a leap of faith! You might just surprise yourself!

Meet the Author

Debra Schroeder - HomeWorks by Precept Consultant


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