Posted in Curriculum, Dual Enrollment, Science

10 Ways to Take High School Lab Science

person holding container with seaweed
Photo by Chokniti Khongchum on Pexels.com

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! 

Continue reading “10 Ways to Take High School Lab Science”

Posted in Curriculum, HS4CC, MOOCs

Build a Science Course around Covid-19

If discussions about Covid-19 are invading your homeschool and dinner table, why not earn some credit?  Using expert resources and top universities of the world, this course allows your teen to earn between 0.5 and 1.0 high school credits in Introduction to Epidemiology. Continue reading “Build a Science Course around Covid-19”

Posted in Career Planning, Curriculum, HS4CC

Question: Bachelor’s in Liberal Arts for a pre-nursing student?

Q: As a homeschool parent of an 8th-grade son who wants to be a nurse, should I let him get a degree in liberal arts now through testing out and then do the nursing degree after high school?

A:  I’d continue Homeschooling for College Credit with less degree planning and more diploma planning. High school really is the time to dream big and explore, there’s no reason your son can’t become a nurse, but rushing into a degree will ultimately undermine his success because it requires you to jump through hoops that will only get him closer to a degree instead of his REAL goal. That’s my sincere opinion, of course, you should do what you think is best.

Without knowing your state, I’ll just operate under the assumption that you have full curricular control. If that’s true, I’d suggest a Language Arts at grade level (all college majors and career occupations require a grasp of the English language in some regard), a math at grade level (no need to go higher than Algebra 2 if he’s struggling- it’s better to have EXCELLENT algebra mastery, even if that means taking Algebra 1 and 2 over 4 years instead of 2), and a good amount of science. Science can be at high school or college level, since the difference is negligible. Biology, chemistry, and physical science are the typical high school subjects, but your son might enjoy different sequence, something like biology, anatomy and physiology, microbiology, and genetics. Those would absolutely be better aligned to his current interests!

Those 3 will keep him on track with academic progress, and if there are special interests, add those in, too. If your city offers dual enrollment options, he can kill two birds with one stone, but also don’t disregard the adult education catalog. When I was a teen, some of my favorite classes were through the community college studying chocolate, cake decorating, and others – they were non-credit (didn’t count toward my degree) but monumentally significant in my decision to pursue culinary school. In your son’s case, depending on his age, they may offer health occupation options like a nursing assistant or similar. Dipping his toe into those topics and perhaps even some volunteer work at a hospital (or job shadow) will allow him to decide if he’s up for the hard work of nursing school. I like the courses he’s considering, keep in mind those are allied health courses, so perfect for exploration, not perfect for degree completion. If he does one or two and that seals the deal- he wants to be a nurse, both of you can meet with the nursing advisor or attend an info session to find out which courses they’d like him to do in high school.

It’s true that nursing is competitive, but so what. It’s not “Harvard-competitive” where fewer than 10% who want it get in, it’s more like 50% competitive- he can do it if he’s dedicated. And there’s really no point in adding a bachelor’s degree in front of someone at his age. One degree will do. Give him a good high school education and remove barriers to things that get in the way of his good high school education. You can find classes, pay the bills, write the transcript, etc. All of those allow him the pleasure of thinking about his future. You can even inject CLEP exams, but I’d strongly suggest these not be in the sciences because that’s usually not acceptable in anything healthcare-related. Keep them in the electives (literature, computers, business, etc) or basic core subjects (math, history, psychology, etc.)

Finally, if you haven’t already, be sure to thoroughly investigate the laws of your state and be sure you’re in full compliance. I strongly suggest joining HSLDA if you’re in a state that is tricky. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states, so you want to be sure his high school graduation requirements are met and his diploma is considered official. That task falls on the parents.

 

Posted in Curriculum, edX, MOOCs

Free Shakespeare courses this fall HarvardX

Today’s Blog

EdX is a site that hosts a university’s public courses for free. This fall, HarvardX (Harvard University on EdX) is hosting a series of 3 Shakespeare courses your teen can take!  These are open to anyone and carry no cost – but also carry no direct credit.  In other words, these are curriculum you can use, and you’ll award the high school credit.   The courses have a start date but no ending date, so they are entirely self-paced.  Recommended completion for all 3:  9-12 weeks. Continue reading “Free Shakespeare courses this fall HarvardX”

Posted in Curriculum, edX, MOOCs

Free Shakespeare courses this fall HarvardX

EdX is a site that hosts a university’s public courses for free. This fall, HarvardX (Harvard University on EdX) is hosting a series of 3 Shakespeare courses your teen can take!  These are open to anyone, and carry no cost – but also carry no direct credit.  In other words, these are curriculum you can use, and you’ll award the high school credit.   The courses have a start date but no ending date, so they are entirely self-paced.  Recommended completion for all 3:  9-12 weeks. Continue reading “Free Shakespeare courses this fall HarvardX”

Posted in Curriculum, Dual Enrollment, High School, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

Straighterline and my 10th Grader’s Spring Semester

Almost as an afterthought, when my 12th grader started using Straighterline this past semester, I decided to enroll my 10th grader- for just one month.  My goal was for them to share the textbook I’d just purchased for my older son.  Efficiency is always an important part of our budget.  They’d share the text, learn lessons together (mostly) and we’d assess after the first class.  (NOTE:  In our second month, Straighterline’s policy for books changed, and a free edition of an eBook was included with each course’s tuition, so we ended up not spending anything on books after the first month!)

You can read about the basics of using Straighterline in your homeschool, or how to choose your courses in my previous posts.  For this post, I just want to provide a brief overview of what my son did, what we spent, and his outcome.  As you’ll see, the first month was so successful (earning 9 college credits) that I decided to continue for the duration of the semester (Dec-May).  You should know that he dedicated about 1-2 hours per day to his Straighterline course Monday-Friday as part of his regular school schedule.  He was able to complete his other homeschool courses (Chemistry with Lab, Consumer Math, and Building Thinking Skills) during another 1-2 hours each day.

As you read the schedule, I list each course and credit earned in the month that I purchased it, not the month he completed it.  Some courses were completed in a week, others in a month, and others took longer still.  As an example, Nutrition and American Government, courses he’d already taken in homeschool, took him only 1 week each, but writing-intensive courses like English Composition I & II took him about 7 weeks each.

As I write this, he enters his final month of the school year with Straighterline and me. We take a summer vacation, so I’m ready to wrap things up with our kids by Memorial Day.  He has completed everything except Chemistry and English II.  He has 3 more papers to write for English II and hasn’t started their chemistry course.  Since he’s been doing Chemistry with Lab all school year with me, I expect Straighterline’s General Chemistry I to go smoothly and take about 2 weeks.  Writing, for him, is a long and arduous process.  I expect he’ll struggle through until the very end.

Grades:  His grades have been fine.  Straighterline requires a minimum passing score of 70% for their courses, and he’s finished most of his courses in the mid-80’s.  His best course grade was English Composition I (100%) and his lowest course grade was Introduction to Psychology (79%).  Final course grades issued by Straighterline are based only on quizzes and exams (except composition and lab courses) so testing acumen is important if you want to score well.  Since these credits will only appear as “credit” on his college transcript, the final grades aren’t important to his GPA.  While I used his Straighterline courses to inform the grade I awarded him on his high school transcript, in most cases, the grades I gave him differed slightly.  (NOTE:  Since Straighterline is not a college, you never have to disclose any grades or credits earned/not earned through them.  Dual enrollment, on the other hand, requires full disclosure on college applications)


Breakdown of Costs & Credit

Month Class Cost Discounts Applied Credits Earned
December Membership

Introduction to Religion

Microbiology

Business Ethics

$99

$49

$25

$69

-$20 coupon

-$20 coupon

9
January Membership

Cultural Anthropology

Medical Terminology

Introduction to Nutrition

$99

$49

$49

$49

9
February Membership

English Composition I

English Composition II

$99

$69

$69

6
March Membership

Environmental Science

American Government

Introduction to Psychology

$99

$59

$59

$59

-$49 coupon 9
April Membership

Chemistry I

Introduction to Business

$99

$59

$59

-$50 coupon 6
May Membership $99
IMG_3442 $1376

-$139 coupons

$1237

39

The total we spent over 6 months was: $1237

Total credits earned:  39 

Breakdown average per month:  $206/month

The average price per credit:  $32/credit

What I liked best about his semester:

  • I obviously liked that he earned college credit since he’s isn’t eligible to use dual enrollment in our state until next school year.  This gave him a great head-start.
  • I liked that the course rubric (point break down) is spelled out clearly, so, at any given time, he (I) knew exactly how many points he needed to pass the class.  This eliminated a LOT of testing anxiety because in most cases, he’d already earned enough points to pass
    the course before ever taking the proctored final exam.  While the exam is required, passing is not, so his testing anxiety wasn’t nearly as high as when he attempted (and failed) his first CLEP exam last year.
  • I like that they added free eBooks in the tuition of each course.  This helped me make sure I had the book on day 1 of each class without waiting for books to arrive.
  • I liked that I can pay for my son’s classes with Paypal.  This allowed me to use sales from books I’d sold through the College Credit Marketplace Swap Facebook group.
  • I liked Straighterline’s video lesson format.  Since a couple of their courses didn’t have the video lesson format (Microbiology and Statistics) this can also be classified as what I didn’t like!
  • I liked that my son could do all of his courses without my help (after the first one!)

What I liked least about this semester:

  • I didn’t like finding a totally different format (reading only!) in the Microbiology course.  This was a huge disappointment.  There’s a reason that course is only $25.
  • Some courses had WAY TOO MANY quizzes, or the quizzes were WAY TOO LONG.  I can think of several instances where the quizzes were over 50 questions and covered 4 or more chapters in the text.  Both my sons hated these.  Obviously, since the quizzes are open book (I make them look up every answer on every question on every open book quiz- that’s low hanging fruit people!) these took a long time.
  • This seems to contradict what I just said, but other quizzes were too short.  Nutrition, for instance, was full of 10-question quizzes.  As you can imagine, missing a few questions really makes a difference between an A and a C!  The “sweet spot” according to my teens is the 20 question quiz.  I tend to agree.
  • Written assignments are not graded by teachers, they are graded by “graders.” Graders are anonymous people who you’ll never meet, and can never have
    a conversation with.  While they attempt to give good feedback, the loop is broken because the student can’t communicate with the grader!  In one instance during English I, my son turned in a paper that was kicked back for being off-topic.  It was clearly on-topic, so we had to submit a support ticket, which escalated to a course administrator, and finally resulted in his paper being accepted and graded.  The process is clunky and frustrating when compared with the other courses that don’t have graders (tests are automatically graded instantly).
  •  My son worked fast- and you have to because you’re being
    billed $99 per month.  So, there is a constant sense of playing “beat the clock” in a course. Since we were aware of the structure ahead of time, I adjusted his homeschool schedule and was prepared to pull back on his other work if necessary, but for me, the feeling was a little inconsistent with my normal approach to courses- allowing plenty of time for marinating.  When I asked my son, he said he liked finishing courses quickly instead of spending all semester studying something……so mark this up to personal preference.
  • ProctorU.  I really, really, really don’t love ProctorU.  ProctorU is the third party webcam proctoring service that is part of each final exam.  Your teen logs in, the webcam clicks on, ProctorU opens your final and then testing begins.  Initially, I didn’t like the feeling of the webcam experience, but my kids thought this wasn’t an issue at all.  But, the issue that we had at least 3 times (between about 24 courses with 2 teens) was technical issues getting logged in.  If there is any log in trouble, they route you to tech support, but if you don’t start your exam within the 15-minute window, you have to reschedule it and pay $5.  So, as you can imagine, this is really really frustrating because you have to reschedule your test!  Finals must be scheduled 72 hours in advance (or pay a rush fee).  2 of the 3 times Straighterline covered the $5 reschedule fee for us (I didn’t ask the first time because I didn’t think to) but it’s really inconvenient when you’ve planned your homeschool schedule around taking a proctored exam.  The room has to be private, quiet, and free of things that could be used for cheating.  In our home, the room that meets these criteria is our dining room, so keep that in mind too.  One final ProctorU comment, you’ll need identification for each test.  If you don’t have a driver’s license, they’ll ask for 2 forms of ID.  My son used his passport and driver’s permit.

    EDIT TO ADD ONE MORE THING!!  I can’t believe I forgot to share this earlier when I posted, but 4 Straighterline courses are also accredited as AP Courses. These are the SAME COURSE that is in their catalog, but if you take it, you can list the AP designation on your homeschool transcript.  Courses that qualify as AP are:

  • English 1
  • Psychology
  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics

And no, you don’t have to take the AP exam to list AP on your transcript.  You CAN of course, but if you’re sure that the ACE credit offered via Straighterline will do, you don’t have to.  Some of you may want AP scores for other reasons- so that’s fine, but we skipped them.


 

Want to know which Straighterline classes to take and why?  Read this post.

Posted in Curriculum, Science

10 Ways to Take High School Lab Science

Looking for the Mel Science Chemistry kit that I wrote about on Facebook?  Using this link gets you a FREE starter kit

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, and a few colleges, will “require” at least one high school lab science course to meet graduation or 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) 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.  piggy

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.


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 Power Point.  Instead, she writes her notes on the chalkboard (in cursive) for students to copy by hand into their notebook.  I’ve been told that Berkeley is pulling their courses off of YouTube, but Harvard, MIT, University of Nottingham, and many others have robust offerings.  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.

#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 a college-credit-eligible course.  College credit eligible courses are not technically college credit courses.  Instead, they offer a college-level course and arrange to verify your completion if you meet certain standards.  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.  ACE, the more widely accepted, is frequently discussed on this site, so you can use the tag ACE to find a lot of information about the benefits and limitations of programs like these.  My favorite free option in this category is Saylor Academy.  If you use Saylor, you’ll have to DIY the lab portion at home* and award all grades.  You will award high school credit for science with lab.  College credit is stored on your teen’s ACE or NCCRS transcript.  My favorite pay option in this category is Straighterline.  If you use Straighterline, you’ll have the option of buying a lab class.  With Straighterline, the company grades all work, but the parent is responsible for awarding a grade and high school credit.  The college credit is stored on their ACE transcript.

#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.  If you consider yourself handy like that, and love a challenge, this is the video I use to teach how to build a curriculum from scratch.


professorStudying CHEMISTRY? 

Not to be missed!  These videos are AWESOME!

 University of Nottingham Periodic Table Video Series

We built our own Chemistry course using the videos above and a chemistry lab subscription from MEL Science.  MEL is “next level” home science kits delivered to your home monthly.  We subscribed and they send you so much, that you won’t even need to do a full year in order to get enough for a full year.


*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.  Each month, the labs are delivered to your home.  It’s a pretty outstanding product.  This is a sample of what an experiment and kit looks like Experiment.  
  • 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

General Chemistry site (free)

1 year High School Earth Science Curriculum and Labs  (free)

Histology Virtual Microscopic Slides  (free)

General Chemistry Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Quantum Chemistry Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Anatomy Virtual Canine Dissection (free)

Earth Science Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Biology Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Biology Virtual Frog Dissection (free)

Physics Virtual Lab Simulations (free)

Disease Lab Simulator (free)

Virtual Dissection Subscription ($36/year)

Basic Microbiology course by the CDC (free)