It’s common for high school students to take a couple science classes, but science LABS seem to create some anxiety for parents. I think our lab sciences ended up being our BEST classes!! When in doubt, add more lab!
It’s common for high school students to take a couple science classes, but labs seem to create some anxiety for homeschool parents. Some states may require a high school lab to meet high school graduation requirements, and a few colleges will ask for labs to meet college admissions requirements. If you don’t know your state’s homeschool graduation requirements, you should look them up on the Homeschool Legal Defense Association page. If you want to be on the safe side with college admissions, usually 1 high school lab science course will check that box. If your teen is really excited about lab science, there’s no reason to stop at just one. One of my sons (the little guy in the photo from years back) will have 6 high school lab sciences on his transcript before he graduates high school, but my current high school senior has none. (he has 6 college credits in science, but none contain a lab). Once you know what you do and don’t have to do, you can decide what you do and don’t want to do.
A BIG factor with lab science is cost, and I’d love to tell you it’s “always” cheaper to do X, and “always” more expensive to do Y, but lab science costs are all over the place. A good rule of thumb: the more control you have over choosing course content, the more control you’ll have over the costs.
Tip: if you take a science lab for college credit, not only does this check the boxes for high school graduation and college admissions, but it may also check the DEGREE REQUIREMENT of your teen’s future degree!
If your local college has reduced or free dual enrollment tuition for homeschool students, you’ll still have to investigate costs. Even “free” dual enrollment programs can involve access codes, expensive textbooks, and lab fees. Many dual enrollment parents will tell you that their “free” classes were very expensive.
10 Ways to Take High School Lab Science:
#1 Use the community college for a lab science course on campus. 100% of the activities happen in the college classroom, and you won’t have to do anything. You’ll have to purchase the required textbook and don’t be surprised if you must also purchase an access code to unlock supplemental online activities. You and the college both issue credit, but the grade is issued by the college. You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit for science with a lab.
#2 Use the community college for a NON-lab science course on campus, and conduct a science lab at home*. The college course grade is issued by the college, but the high school grade is issued by the parent. In this case, by adding the lab, you’ve rolled their college class into your homeschool class. You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit without lab. The grades can differ since the courses, technically, are different.
#3 Use a community college for a lab science course as a distance learner. In this type of class, you’ll have to purchase a specific lab kit and conduct the experiments at home, but you can shop around across all 50 states. Be prepared to take and upload photos as part of the experiment process. You and the college issue credit, but the grade is issued by the college. You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit for science with lab.
#4 Use the community college for a NON-lab science course as a distance learner, and conduct a science lab at home*. This is a modification of #2, but with the ability to shop around across all 50 states. The course grade is issued by the college, but the high school grade is issued by the parent. You award high school credit for science with lab, and the college awards college credit without lab.
#5 Use a local homeschool co-op program. These classes may be offered with or without a lab, but if a lab is not offered, the parent(s) could DIY a science lab at home*. If you go through the trouble of creating a lab space at home, perhaps others from the co-op would like to cost-share with your family or work as a team. You award a grade for the course, and high school credit for science with lab. No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.
#6 Use your favorite high school textbook brand to conduct a homeschool science course with lab. I share the same frustrations you do: you spend a lot of money on a curriculum that promises you’ll only need “common, household ingredients” only to find that you don’t have lab supplies on hand when you need them. A few years back I found the company Home Science Tools. They have an online catalog of pre-assembled lab kits that match all the assignments in major curriculum brands like Apologia, A Beka, Berean, REAL Science, Monarch, Science Odyssey, and others. They also have a curriculum selection guide if you don’t yet have a favorite brand. Brand Selection HELP. You award grades and high school credit for science with lab. No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.
#7 Use your favorite video based brand for the course, and you’ll DIY the lab portion at home*. The Great Courses is one of my favorite full course brands (a bit expensive). The lectures are fantastic, but the parent will have to create homework or enrichment to go with the videos. The photo at the beginning of this article is of my son and I dissected a pig while completing The Great Course program called Understanding the Human Body by Dr. Anthony Goodman. Make no mistake, the course was well over his head, but we still had a blast! For a free option, Khan Academy has full courses (AP, too!) in every major science. They teach by video, but also offer practice exercises and a dashboard to track learning. It is by far the more interactive of the two options. You award all grades and high school credit for science with lab. No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.
#8 Use a YouTube course, and you’ll DIY the lab component at home*. If you didn’t already know, dozens of universities are uploading full lecture content from their real courses for you to watch on YouTube. I frequently share the link to Dr. Marian Diamond’s Anatomy class at Berkeley. She is a 90-year-old firecracker who doesn’t use a textbook or PowerPoint. Instead, she writes her notes on the chalkboard (in cursive) for students to copy by hand into their notebook. Harvard, MIT, University of Nottingham, and many others have robust offerings. You award all grades and high school credit for science with a lab. No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.
#9 Enroll in an Open Source course (MOOC). Open Source courses, usually called Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are free college-level courses that can include classroom support, or operate as an archived class that you study independently. MOOCs aren’t one thing, so you may have a really great experience with one class, and then another be a total dud. My current favorite “first stop” when I’m course searching is edX. edX was founded by MIT and Harvard, but everyone is getting on board. You can find universities from all over the globe on their partnership list. You can search by class title, or by university. Some of the courses are specifically tagged as “Advanced Placement” which should align with the AP exam. For MOOCs, you may or may not have: lectures, reading, video, homework, etc. and you usually will not be graded by a teacher, even if a teacher oversees the class. You’ll have to DIY a lab component at home* and award all grades. You will award high school credit for science with lab. No college credit is awarded, but you could integrate a college credit by exam option like CLEP, AP, DSST.
#10 Enroll in an ACE college-credit-eligible course. ACE college credit-eligible courses are not technically college credit courses unless your target college award credit, so these can be a little tricky. Companies like Saylor Academy, Studycom, Straighterline, Sophia and others may offer science courses that suit your needs. A common approach is to pay per month for a membership, and then purchase courses a la carte. Upon completing the course requirements and passing a proctored final exam, you pass the course. College credit eligible courses are evaluated to award credit by ACE or NCCRS. This is not the same as dual enrollment (actual college credit) but even this potential college credit can add a lot of value to your homeschool program. You award high school credit for science with a lab, and the potential college credit is submitted when your teen applies to college. You can read more about the pros and cons of using ACE courses in your homeschool here.
#11 and beyond… There are so many other options and variations of how you can integrate a lab science into your homeschool. If you have found a great solution, Let me know! In addition, you can completely and organically start from scratch! I’ve taught entire courses to my teens that I’ve built from discarded (free) textbooks and online videos.
Not to be missed! These videos are AWESOME!
I built my own high school Chemistry course using the videos above, a thrift store high school chemistry book, and a lab subscription from MEL Science. MEL is “next level” home science kits delivered to your home monthly – our members here often report back that they really loved them too.
MEL Chemistry can be used with any chemistry curriculum targeting middle or high school. They have supporting videos on YouTube that show you what to expect, and can be done more than once. When I subscribed to MEL, I had a 7th grader and 11th grader that shared the lab. My middle schooler used his middle school text and did the experiments for fun. My 11th grader used his chemistry text (along with an online college chemistry text) and did a deep dive into the chemistry/reactions of the experiments. It completely worked- entertaining for my younger and educational for my older.
(pro tip: they send you SO MANY experiments in each kit, that if you schedule home labs for Fridays, you’ll have enough for a full semester after only a few months)
This link takes you to the MEL Chemistry lab that we used (middle/high school)
This link takes you to the MEL Physics lab (middle school)
*DIY Lab (Do It Yourself) labs can come in many forms.
- You can purchase a lab kit for the year, like those mentioned in #6. Kits can include microscopes, beakers, chemicals, and everything you need for at-home experiments.
- You can also use a subscription service like Mel Science (use link above for a sale price). Each month, the labs are delivered to your home. It’s a pretty outstanding product.
- Finally, if you don’t want to physically do the lab, but still want to do the lab, you can use VIRTUAL LABS.
Virtual Lab Links & Sites
Disease Lab Simulator (free)
Virtual Dissection Subscription ($36/year)