So, if you already feel yourself mounting a reaction to the title, this post isn’t for you. Like anything you’re good at, you can’t imagine that other people can’t “become” good at it too… if they only had a better attitude, different curriculum, a better teacher, etc. STEM fields (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) are all the rage – most universities have watched their STEM-majors double in the past few years, so there is a ton of emphasis on not only high school math, but college-level math in high school. Sure, with 10,000 hours it’s possible to become an expert in anything. This is not that. Continue reading “Math Success 4 Math Averse”
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.
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 suprised 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 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 curriculum from scratch. Building Curriculum 6-Layer Technique
Not to be missed! These videos are AWESOME!
*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
Disease Lab Simulator (free)
Virtual Dissection Subscription ($36/year)
“A class of children sit revising for make-or-break exams to get them into the college of their choice. It’s the sort of scene that could be seen in high schools across the world but for one important difference: The pupils have intravenous drips hanging over their desks. The image is taken from footage that claims to reveal the controversial use of the drips to boost pupils’ ability to study at a school in Xiaogan, Hubei province, China.” Full story
Homeschooling parents have a special kind of anxiety about standardized testing. In many cases, the very principle of using a standardized course of study is exactly why parents removed their kids from group schools in the first place. The notion of individualized pursuit of academic excellence is the opposite of seeking standardization and consistency. Parents I talk to are completely comfortable marching to the beat of their own drum… until somewhere around middle or high school.
Around middle / high school the homeschooling parent’s anxiety goes up, and parents worry about their kids “measuring up” against the kids who have taken standardized tests on a regular basis. Why? PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, and a few others in the alphabet soup of measurement are introduced into the homeschool for the first time. Remember, most states don’t require homeschooled kids to take standardized tests, in fact, my own kids didn’t take a test until we moved to a “test required” state in 2012. My oldest was a senior in high school with 21 college credits before he ever had to “fill in a bubble.”
The irony of parent’s anxiety, is that homeschooled teens usually kick-butt when it comes to standardized testing. I think most of us have heard the stats- generally homeschooled teens score somewhere in the 80th+ percentile on standardized grade-level tests, and in the upper quartile on college entrance exams . The “why” behind those stats are for another day, but for most parents, those stats aren’t comforting reassurance- they’re added pressure from the homeschool community that demands a higher standard. Above average is average. But what if your teen really is average? What if your teen has passions and talents that aren’t part of what is tested on the SAT? What if your teen is just a regular student who will probably score in the 50th percentile in most subjects? They have no chance, right?
Well, you might be suprised and relieved to know that SAT scores are not an accurate predictor of success in college – and yet, they continue to be a source of stress and fuss among high school parents and students. Homeschool parents know, but should be reminded, that academic success is multi-dimensional. College success is multi-dimensional. Additionally, happiness, health, and success in life as a grown up is more than a high school test score or grade.
As you consider standardized testing options for your teen, know that college entrance tests are currently optional. Unlike achievement tests that may be required of k-12 homeschool students in some states, the PSAT, ACT, and SAT for college entrance are not required exams. Choosing to take an exam is an opportunity for your teen to demonstrate college readiness. As such, whether or not your teen decides to take one of these exams depends on 4 key factors: Homeschool exit strategies, target colleges, availability, and their strengths/weaknesses.
Homeschool Exit Strategies
What are the options after high school? The most popular options include: college, military, apprenticeship, mission work, vocational training, gap year, or entering the workforce. While it feels like “everyone” goes to college, the current data tells us about 67% of high school graduates will enter college directly. We also know that of that set, only 60% will graduate in 6 years or less. From that, we can infer that many of the students who entered college directly may have been more successful taking a different approach:
if 1000 students graduate high school: 330 do not head to college while 670 do.
Of those 670 who start college, 402 graduate in 6 years or less, while 268 do not graduate college ever. The simple math tells us that of the initial 1000 high school graduates, only 402 follow the direct timeline from high school graduation to college graduation. That leaves the majority -598 students- in different categories. This set had a different exit strategy or changed strategy at some point in the 6 years after high school graduation. National Center for Educational Statistics
As you consider exit strategies for your teen, remember that one size does not fit all. For teens not heading directly into college following high school graduation, or choosing a different path, standardized exams are probably unnecessary.
If your teen has a few target colleges picked out, simply visit the college’s website to see if and which exam(s) they prefer. (Try looking in their “Admissions” tab) If your teen doesn’t have target colleges picked out, read on…
There is a growing trend away from requiring ACT/SAT exams for admission. You might be surprised to know that The National Center for Fair and Open Testing maintains a database of over 900 bachelor-degree-granting-colleges that do not require standardized exams for admission, are “test optional” or “test flexible.” See full list. In addition to the bachelor’s degree colleges above, there are 1,200 community colleges in the United States, most of which provide open enrollment admission – that is to say admission is granted without test score benchmarks. In most cases, colleges use a placement tool (Accuplacer and Compass) to determine level for placement, not whether or not you can earn admission.
since not all students graduate high school ready for 100 level college courses, the community college provides the courses necessary to meet that deficiency instead of denying admission.
Two advantages of taking a placement exam at your community college over traditional standardized tests are (a) student can schedule it whenever they want – even into adulthood, and (b) typically there is little or no cost.
For colleges that require SAT or ACT exams for admission, you may find that this only applies to freshman applications. For students entering college after military service, after mission service, as a transfer student, after earning an associate’s degree, or those over the age of 21, the SAT/ACT exam requirement is typically removed.
Standardized exams require advanced scheduling and travel to a testing center. In short, homeschooling families that spend a lot of time traveling, stationed overseas, or other location-based limitations will have to take that into account.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The purpose of a standardized exam is for your son or daughter to demonstrate their candidacy to a specific college. As such, you’ll want to take stock of their strengths and weaknesses when choosing the right exam rather than trying to score well on both exams. Remember, both ACT and SAT have undergone changes over the past few years, so be sure your teen is using current study material as they prepare. Since the last SAT revision, the differences between the Reading, English, and Math sections are very minor. The significant distinction is that ACT includes science, while he SAT does not.
If your teen’s strengths are in athletics, music, ministry, or if they have weaknesses that interfere with strong testing ability, the standardized test may not be the right choice for your family. While it’s true that some teens will be required to take a standardized test to pursue specific colleges, creative and resourceful parents should not be intimidated or fall to peer pressure that may not be in the best interest of their family.
If you’re planning an SAT exam this semester, check out the official collaboration between Khan Academy and College Board – they’ve put together an interactive study program that’s totally free and open access! In addition, it includes 6 adaptive practice tests, which correct and target questions toward your weaknesses.
If you’re Stressing About Testing, you’re not alone. Standardized testing, especially the SAT, causes a lot of anxiety among homeschool parents. Incase you missed it, I wrote a long piece on the trends away from standardized testing, and how to find schools that don’t require standardized tests for admission. SAT: Stressing About Testing
I recently as the parents on Homeschooling for College Credit’s Facebook page to share their experiences with dual enrollment, and any advice they might have for parents considering it for their teens.
Dual enrollment is enrolling in a college credit course, usually through a college, and counting it also as a high school course. Popular dual enrollment courses include English 101, College Algebra, United States History, and others.
- Jennifer’s comment: at most colleges, dual enrollment students are the bottom of the pecking order, and preference will go to the college’s regular students. My only advice is to try and register the first day you’re allowed, and even consider a second college to use as your “back up” provider.
- Jennifer’s comment: Good point about dual enrollment having more than one name. I’ve found dozens of different names, and usually, a state tends to call it the same thing. For instance, if you’re in Georgia, your state calls all dual enrollment “Move on When Ready” and if you’re in North Carolina, it’s called “Career and College Promise.” If you can’t find “dual enrollment” for your state, it might be called something else.
On campus is much more engaging than online.
Spread out heavy reading/writing courses.
Get as much face time with professor (even with online courses, if possible).
Don’t get overwhelmed with the process /paperwork from registering. It boils down to a few documents, but the email and explanation can seem daunting!!
Don’t pass it up. It will save you THOUSANDS of dollars in the end. Like getting a scholarship without the essay. Lol!
- Jennifer’s comment: Thousands! That’s right. In a handful of states, dual enrollment opportunities are FREE tuition, in a couple you even get free books and fees. If this applies to you, the can mean your costs for 2 years of college = $0
- For students that have to pay dual enrollment tuition, you’re paying the community college rate, which is typically 1/4 to 1/3 the cost of a typical 4-year college rate. In addition, your teen is living at home, so the living expenses associated with 2 years in a dorm are eliminated.
- A far-reaching benefit, but for those edu-nerds like myself, an important one: you get a better return on investment (ROI) when you complete college credit in high school. Every credit your teen earns early puts them in the industry one year sooner. For students in high-paying professions like nursing, medicine, engineering, etc. that means an extra 1-2-3+ years of full salary ahead of their peers.
Karen Dutton Realize that your child will be in regular college classes with adults, and that topics, assignments, and discussions will not be altered because of your child’s age, so they should be both academically and emotionally ready. The average age of a student in classes at our community college is 25. The student needs to be able to handle interactions with the professor on their own as you probably won’t have access.
Leah Johnson Stanford Daughter currently in her first semester of dual enrollment. We settled on online due to local university doesn’t allow until senior year and local cc have no price break for homeschoolers. She is taking Eng 101, American Government, and Fine Arts this fall. So far positive, but the work load is intense. Best advice watch due dates and work ahead when possible. My daughter is getting assignments turned in early to allow more free time to have extra study time to prepare for tests.
Lori Andersson Dual enrollment was the best decision we ever made. My high schooler will be nearly finished with his AA by the time I issue his high school diploma, and every core class he takes, I also count toward high school credit.
Lisa Tatum Ga is very de friendly for homeschoolers. We get free tuition and free books. Most colleges also waive the additional fees. My son has taken 7 de classes so far.
Parents and teens have to decide which subjects make sense, and choose carefully. You can’t duplicate credit, so taking US History as a dual enrolled student means you can’t also get AP credit for US History – you have to choose.