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I like science and I think it’s incredibly interesting, but I’ve never been what you’d call “good” at the technical side of it. I completely understand why things happen as they do, but I can’t really explain them in “science-y” terms.
For example, I passed 10th grade chemistry (barely) because my teacher realized, in May, that I still had no idea how the equation applied to the experiment. I could practically write a story about why something worked, but I couldn’t write a simple lab report. He realized I hadn’t been handing in my reports all year because I had no clue how to do them, so he took pity. I kid you not.
I started hunting down online and DVD-based courses for chemistry and physics, figuring those were coming next. The thing is, though, he had no interest in taking them! His interests lay, of course, in fields that not many high school courses exist for. Not only was I going to have to teach them, I was going to have to put them together myself.
So I did!
Traditional High School Science
Now, traditionally, students will follow some sort of a pattern in high school. Generally, this includes some combination of physical science, biology, chemistry, and/or physics. There are several companies that produce textbooks, DVD or online classes, and other resources for these classes. Some will even take it beyond those levels.
Apologia, for example, starts out with an overview of General and Physical Science in junior high. It then moves on to Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, with options for Human Anatomy, Marine Biology, Advanced Chemistry, and Advanced Physics. We did several of these, and we enjoyed them. There is literally something for every level, and they’re really good – and really user-friendly!
If you have a child who wants to study a non-traditional field, however, you’re going to find resources a bit harder to get ahold of. For some fields, there literally are not texts that are written beneath a college level. This means that either your child is going to have to work with a harder text or you will have to get creative.
My son was ok working with a college text, but I really didn’t want to spend college text prices, so I got creative. And it actually turned out to be pretty fun!
Some of the courses he took included Environmental Science, Botany, and Astronomy. We also designed some classes that were a blend of life skills and engineering. While learning automotive skills, we also studied the engineering side of cars – everything from aerodynamics to the mechanical engineering. When he apprenticed as a handyman and contractor, he also studied the physics behind what he was learning. Since my husband is a training manager at a composite materials plant, they studied the chemistry and physics behind the products that the company makes.
There are so many ways to study science! And the lab requirement (if your student is college-bound) is actually really easy to work in. It doesn’t have to include lab equipment, just hands-on experience!
When my son studied Environmental Science, he volunteered at a local nature center. He made it known that he was ready to both learn and work, and boy, did they oblige! He learned everything from how plants, animals, and natural resources come together to form and sustain an ecosystem. He also learned what happened when that ecosystem was disrupted.
A lot of his learning was project-based, and one of these projects even turned into his Eagle Project. These included everything from removing an invasive species from a square mile of forest to helping to maintain various sections of the nature reserve. And because he was far more interested in learning through the project than he would be in finishing a textbook, almost all of his research was self-driven. Five years later, he can still discuss what he learned easily.
For resources, we didn’t use a textbook; rather, we used mentors. We used the internet and Boy Scout merit badge handbooks. We used local Master Gardeners and their manuals. We used time with naturalists and park officials who already hang out at the nature center.
We used real life.
Now, I wouldn’t recommend that for every subject, since there are some that you really need a text for. For some subjects though, it works incredibly well.
Philosophy of Science
Another “out of the box” course that my son chose to take is Philosophy of Science. This is something that has fascinated him since he was very small, the early elementary years. He wanted to find out why two or three highly trained, highly committed scientists can look at the same evidence and come up with completely different conclusions.
He knew that it all depended on their starting points, their worldviews, but he wanted to know why.
As part of our worldview studies, he also chose to read the works of a variety of scientists – everyone from Charles Darwin and Richard Dawkins to Michael Behe, Mitch Stokes, and Andrew Snelling. He watched documentaries and interviews of scientists from all sides of the issues – and listened to what they said.
He did not read their work to accept it as fact, but to analyze it. He broke each down to find their presuppositions, methodologies, and conclusions, and then determined for himself which had the strongest and most objective work.
When he got to college, he was very glad that he had done this. In college, information is presented from a wide variety of views, and a student needs to be able to see through it. Seeing stories on social media and hearing conversations and debates on a regular basis, he’s even more thankful. He knows what he believes and why, and he can discuss it confidently with a wide range of people.
And in the end, I’m thankful for that. He won’t always be under my roof, and I want him to be able to think through those situations for himself.
Wrapping It Up
If your student is interested in the traditional science class lineup, that’s awesome! Go with it. There are a ton of great resources, and if you have any questions, I’m happy to point you toward what might work for you.
If you have a student who walks the road less taken, though, be encouraged. There are several great options that are completely doable. Check out my Science board on Pinterest; you might find some great ideas there! I’m also happy to help you however I can.
So tell me – what’s on your list for science? What areas is your student interested in? Comment below!