Teaching the lab component part of high school science doesn’t have to be expensive or overwhelming. Quite the opposite, it can be utterly fun and fulfilling.
With that being said, when I had my first homeschooled teen I was at a loss as to where to start. So today, I’ve rounded up some fun ways to easily meet the lab component of homeschool high school science.
Lab Component Goals Matter
The first place to start when planning is to identify the end science goal for your teen.
Not all kids will be science majors.
If your student will be, then you’ll want more of a traditional experience. The best thing for kids pursuing a science major is to always ask the college for their requirements.
If your kid will not be choosing a science major, you have so much room for flexibility and to mix and match lab component resources.
6 Things to Know When Choosing Science Lab Components
Moreover, look at these six things to know when choosing science lab components.
Determine your teen’s science learning track – career or college?
- Will your teen follow the traditional high school science route? What I call the traditional route is studying these areas: Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. It begins in your teen’s freshman year. A lot of the traditional curriculum providers follow this sequence. So for beginners, it’s easy to follow this sequence if you use a textbook.
- Also, depending on what your teen chooses to do after graduating, your student may need a fourth year of science if attending a specific college.
For example, if your teen will be going into a STEM field, then the course and labs will have to meet high expectations.
Another point to understand is that if your child is a science major, you still have much room to pick and choose lab resources. Labs are meant for your teen to experiment, engage, and interact with the information your teen is learning.
Whether your teen is choosing a career track or college track, try to keep all future options open by doing at least two or three sciences for high school.
Meet your homeschool state law science requirements, if any.
Next, each state’s law is different. For example, some states list hours needed to cover subjects only, but don’t separate the lab component.
Other state laws require two labs; others divide hours by core and non-core. However, they may not state number of labs hours needed or even separate the lab component. Many others list no requirement for hours, but to just teach science in high school.
For a lot of states, you have much flexibility in how many labs your teens does and what actually counts as credit and how many hours too.
Point is know exactly what is your state law.
The second step is mix your teen’s goal with your state law to give you a wider picture of your goals.
If this is your first teen, will you get your money’s worth by purchasing some home lab equipment now to use with all of your kids?
Subsequently, I realized that I had quite a few more future labs after my first high school teen because I had younger children. Determining how much science equipment, if any, I wanted to invest in was my next step.
Purchasing science equipment, using it with my first high school teen, and using it for every child after that gave me my money’s worth for my purchase.
One of my best purchases early on when all my kids were younger was the niftiest microscope sold by Sonlight which was specifically built or made for home use. Check out the Sonlight Homeschool Microscope.
The final step before you choose resources for the lab component is to understand how high school science curriculum is organized.
Traditional high school science courses incorporate labs in their curriculum.
For beginners, purchasing the type of curriculum that easily adds science lab component which can be done at home is a great starting point. This is what I started out doing.
It was sanity-saving when I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare labs to know that my teen could gather most items needed at home and perform the activities.
For example Apologia has step by step instructions. The course description for Biology states: Labs that cover experimentation, field studies, microscopy, and dissection.
Finally, you’ll want to know what is a good rule of thumb for counting lab hours. The simple answer is that it varies, but that didn’t help me much in the beginning..
Thirty (30) lab hours is a good rule of thumb for a lab science course.
Fast forward twenty years of homeschooling and research I learned a good rule of thumb is thirty lab hours.
If you’re using 180 hours for 1 science course then logically that means 150 hours would meet the academic course and 30 meet the lab hours.
6. Simple Lab Report
Another area I stressed about in the beginning was how to get my teens do what I call the official lab reports. I learned that because he was not going to have a science major that I could ease up on the reports.
Sure, I wanted him to know what one was and to have some of the official experience. However, I learned too that thoughts could be penned in a worksheet just as well and still accomplish much of the same.
Like I mentioned we did lab reports on certain labs because they were valuable in teaching my kids how to write down what they were learning, draw pictures, and label. You don’t really have that ability with a straight worksheet.
Again, the point is you decide when you want your teen to do an official lab report and when sometimes a worksheet will work just fine.
8 Easy Homeschool Science Lab Component Resources
Next, if you have flexibility in planning labs, there are other ways to meet the lab component which are creative.
Because a lot of homeschool state laws don’t describe what counts as a lab science, you have wiggle room.
Depending on how your teen learns you can use many resources to meet science lab. Mixing and matching to add spice works best.
1. Dissection Kits and Supplies
A lot of curriculum providers provide kits which can be purchased from them, but separately from the course.
However, one of the BEST science provider through the years for me has been Home Science Tools.
Not only do they put kits together for numerous curriculum providers, they also have the best science tools and supplies for home use.
Although you’ll want your teen to know how to write a lab report to analyze his findings and learn from his mistakes, writing lab reports is not the only component to learning.
Many students benefit from watching videos and incorporating them as part of the lab.
Look at this site, Biologybyme which has many dissections and videos. Brainstuff is another one I love and Deep Sky Video. Deep Sky Video is amazing. And here is another super one about the human body.
The point is there is NO shortage of wonderful videos and science channels.
However, remember when choosing resources to count for high school credit your resource needs to be for a high school level. Unless your child has special needs, you want to choose videos for teens to adults.
Also, paying for a video course is a great option too. I love The Great Courses They can be a bit more, but then somebody else is also doing the teaching. That can be a good thing when you want that option for you or your teen.
3. Yes, Adult Science Coloring Books
In addition, a lot of teens love to learn by the color and/or label method. It wasn’t too long ago that science coloring books were frowned on, but hands-on education has come a long way.
Too, many of the coloring books are great reference tools and encourages students to dive deeper to learn the different parts of the science topic.
I have MORE great science coloring books here on my Amazon storefront.
Then another choice we love as homeschoolers is to do labs with others like in a co-op.
4. Homeschool Co-ops
Homeschool co-ops which are set up to suit homeschool families instead of ran like mini private schools maintain tons of flexibility and teens love them.
Some subjects are just better learned with others. Lab science is one of those subjects my teens loved doing with others.
A co-op can be as simple as two, three or more families meeting together sharing science supplies and the best part is sharing the teaching. If you’re not a science-minded mom, this is a great option to let your girlfriends do some of the teaching.
5. Community College
Another option we had available in our area was doing a science at the local community college. Teens mature at different rates and some of them enjoy taking courses or dual enrollment at colleges. Be sure to talk to the counselor at the colleges like I did.
It was very helpful to understand how they assigned credit for high school and college with a lab.
6. Virtual Labs
Next, virtual labs are another way of meeting the credit for science labs.
Remember, your teen’s science track determines if virtual labs are frowned on by colleges. Some colleges where teens are seeking STEM careers may designate that only a certain amount of time is credited for virtual learning.
A lot of colleges want teens to have the interaction of learning hands-on, then still others may not care.
However, if there are no strict guidelines to abide by, enjoying the flexibility of adding virtual labs.
Look at some options for virtual labs and simulations.
- VirtualLabs is a fun one about testing food for humans and animals.
- The Biology Corner. From the site: It contains a variety of lessons, quizzes, labs, web quests, and information on science topics for all levels, including introductory life science and advanced placement biology.
- PhET Interactive Simulations has virtual labs which you can search by grade.
- the Science Bank. Their online dissection resources are fantastic.
- Disease Lab.
- The CDC has this Microbiology Series.
- This next site, SERC, is pretty fun and helpful because it’s a year long earth science course (free) with labs.
- ChemCollective. From the site: The ChemCollective is a collection of virtual labs, scenario-based learning activities, tutorials, and concept tests. Teachers can use our content for pre-labs, for alternatives to textbook homework, and for in-class activities for individuals or teams.
7. Field Trips Count
In addition, don’t forget to count field trips as labs too. I know some in our group counted the whole time as hours and other moms only counted the time the teen was learning, etc. Again, it’s up to you.
There are many places near you that you may not have thought of. The easiest is a museum with classes, but also we lived near a state park that offered classes outside on various topics. I had learned about the rangers leading discussions early one when we had scavenger hunts there when the kids were little. So it was a great resource as the got older.
Don’t forget the zoo counts if your teen is leaning towards biology. At Galveston near where we lived they had classes for ocean science and even on the beach. Even the aquarium offered classes. They’re constantly changing so I had to research each year.
Too, if you live near an estuary, it’s a great place for labs outside.
Next, remember since you’re the one in charge and fun in science doesn’t have to stop in the high school years, you’ll want to add games.
8. Science Games
If you’ve homeschooled for any length of time, you know the value of games. Not only is it a fun way to review concept, but teens love them.
I love the ones from Ellen McHenry’s Basement. Also, check out her fun courses and free games.
How to Fit In Homeschool Science Labs With a Busy Schedule
Additionally, I wanted to share one more important tip to take out the struggle of how to schedule labs. With my first teen it felt like huffing and puffing to get the labs in.
However, I learned that when we did them on our own, having an all day science day worked for us. We would basically pull out all of our supplies and do several labs in one morning or one day. Even leaving the items out overnight so we could tackle more labs the next day was good for us.
Just like I did with my kids when they were younger and we would have an all day reading day or all day history day that tip was great for high school too.
Sometimes, having a lab a week worked, but with so much on our plate it was hard to do them consistently a few years.
Doing labs with other teens at a co-op where you have a set time and an all day science days was great too.
Finally, remember labs are fun ways to test theories for a teen and to get your students thinking.
There is no one right way to teach science at the high school level or to do labs. Just relax, have fun, and fit them into your day naturally.
Look at these other helps:
- 100 Brilliant STEM Activities Using Everyday Items
- 41 Easy Hands-on Faith-Neutral Science Activities for Kids
- How to Teach Science Through A Story – Middle & High School
- Homeschooling High School: Curriculum, Credits, and Courses
- Famous and Historic Trees Fun Nature and History Homeschool Unit Study
If you have a question, let me know. What do you like to do for your teen’s lab?
Hugs and love ya,