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Q&A: High School Science

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4270464593_bc2cc20953_osource: Brian Jones

Question: I have a 15 year old son and I am afraid I won’t be able to teach him science when he gets to high school age.  I never went to college and my husband doesn’t have the time to help.  Do you have any ideas?

Answer: Homeschooling a high schooler is a lot harder than homeschooling other age groups.  High school  sciences are difficult for many parents to handle unless they have a college degree or were excellent students in high school. There are ways of getting around this though.

The easiest subjects for non-scientific parents to teach are astronomy, earth science and biology because they don’t require a lot of math.  There are many good textbooks for these subjects available on amazon.  Just read the reviews to look for books that are clearly written and easy to understand.

Chemistry and physics are quite a bit harder because of the math involved.  If you feel your child must learn these subjects, find out if there are any homeschooling classes available.  In Baltimore, where I homeschooled for many years, parents organized a private chemistry class at a local community college.

If no homeschooling class is available, there are several books that have a reputation for being very good: Physics the Easy Way by Robert L. Lehrman, Basic Physics by Karl F. Kuhn and Chemistry by Clifford C. Houk.  Try to get your local bookstore to order them, but take a long look at them before heading to the cash register.  If you run into trouble, hire a tutor occasionally to explain things.

To round out your science program, investigate some of the science kits that are available.  Any well stocked educational toy store or web site should have several choices of chemistry, electricity and robotics kits.  Even Toys “R” Us has some good kits and equipment for a very reasonable price.

The information in the above paragraphs explains the correct way to deal with high school sciences.  However, my son and I didn’t do it this way.  I will publish an article on how we did science in a future post.

Read More: Science Education or Home

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High School Science, The No-Math Way

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Science, The No-Math Waysource: Ohio Sea Grant

When it came time to teach my son high school science, I knew I was going to have a problem.  I have no science or math background at all.  And, since I was already paying hundreds of dollars a month for religious tutoring, I had no additional money left for private science classes.

Since I knew my son was not going to go to major in the sciences in college, I took a shortcut. 

Here’s what I did:

1) For the first two years of science we studied Life Science and Biology.  Neither of these subjects require a lot of math skills.

2) For chemistry and physics I bought regular high school science texts and taught as much as I could from those books.  When I got to chapters that were too complicated for me to teach, I went to the library and got out an easy books that covered that same material.  We used that book for the chapter instead.

For chapters in which there was no book, we skipped them entirely.  We skipped anything to do with math. Sometimes we skipped so much we were unable to return to the book and that was as far as we got in that science.

3) We read a lot of non-technical science books and websites.  For instance, we read articles from How Stuff Works almost every week.

4) We participated in collaborative, online science projects from CIESE and other interactive sites.

5) We used a lot of science experiments and equipment bought very cheap at the local charity thrift store.  We made a mouse robot, looked at slides of onion skins and made a working radio.  We even found an old Radio Shack 40-in-1 kit and spent time making circuits.

6) Lastly, we took out all the science videos at the library and watched them over and over.  When they ran out of new ones, we bought videos from ebay, watched videos online and listened to science radio programs.

The way we did science was far from what is recommended by the school system, but it worked.  My son had a basic knowledge of all the sciences….enough to pass the GED and more than he will ever need for real life.  I figured if he goes to college and needs two sciences to graduate, he can take astronomy and earth science, like I did. Sometimes, when you have no choice, practical has got to win over correct.

Update: When I first published this article, ten years ago, I got a lot of criticism.

Some homeschooling parents said I was letting my son down by not giving him a math-based science program. Since hindsight is always 100% accurate, I’ll tell you what actually happened post high school.

My son decided against going to college. Instead, instead he took the Comptia A+ certification test to become a computer repairman. After a few years, he became bored with fixing computers and took a 18 month technical course in programming. He now works as a CSS programmer for a major website development firm. He is well payed and his boss said that as he improves his skills his pay will increase. He is currently learning Drupal 7.

As far as income, my son makes more than many professionals with college educations. As to job satisfaction, he loves his job.

He may eventually go to college, but if not, he’s doing great as is.

Read More: Science Education or Home

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