Homeschool Science for College Bound Students

As a former elementary science specialist, science has always been a major part of our homeschool. During the grammar and logic stages, I taught each of the kids together following a three year cycle (life, earth, and physical sciences) emphasizing hands-on labs and outdoor experiences.

As the kids have matured and their interests have developed, I have begun to customize their coursework to align with college in mind and their individual career goals. As a result, the courses they have taken (or will have taken in the near future) are unique to each.

*Make sure to enter the giveaway at the end of this post for an online homeschool high school science course. Giveaway ends 8/30/19!

Disclaimer:  I was compensated for my time for this review. All opinions are honest and I was not required to post a positive review.

Options for Homeschool Science

Providing a quality science education through high school is a common concern amongst homeschool families. Considerations like budget, time, and even your own level of comfort are frequent topics of conversation at co-op or in online forums.

There are many different avenues available for teaching science in your homeschool. While traditional textbooks, lab kits, and literature based instruction remain popular, online courses and dual enrollment are gaining momentum.

Dual Enrollment

In our homeschool, we opted for the dual enrollment option. This was the best choice for us for a multitude of reasons but primarily cost. Keep in mind, it is important to take into consideration the aptitude and maturity of the student prior to making this choice. It isn’t for everyone.

Additionally, the grades the student earns in college courses will forever be on their transcript. It is also critical to research the local regulations and admission guidelines of the universities to which your child intends to apply. Not all schools accept dual enrollment credit.

Another related option is credit by examination. Students may earn college credit through examination by passing standardized exams in numerous subjects including biology, chemistry, and natural sciences. Taking an accredited AP course is NOT required. Students may study independently using textbooks, online courses, or even tutors of their choice.

Online Courses

There are a growing number of companies that provide diverse online educational opportunities for students around the world. From computer programming to local ecology, the choices are endless.

Online classes are not just for kids. There are a wealth of courses and materials available for adults providing both personal enrichment and professional development.

College Prep Science

One provider that stands out is College Prep Science. I am impressed by the acumen of the author. He has worked as a college professor, has more than twenty years of experience teaching homeschooled students, and he’s a homeschool dad!

The course offerings are diverse, here are a few that will be offered September 2019:

  •  Biology – College Prep (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Chemistry – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Physics – College Prep (10th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology (9th-12th) – Two Semester Class
  • Exercise and Sports Physiology (8th-12th) – One Semester Class

Like most public and private schools, College Prep Science uses a virtual lab service with all classes that allows students to perform very realistic labs online. Students are able to virtually pour liquids and chemicals, light burners, move things in the lab, weigh things, measure temperatures, record results, etc.

The courses provided by College Prep Science are Christ-centered.

Students are instructed on how to produce quality lab reports and they turn-in formal lab reports which are graded. Emphasis is placed on students understanding scientific inquiry, the scientific method, and the resulting science lab reports.

“We focus on building critical thinking skills and developing a research and inquiry mindset with the resulting quality lab reports and thinking skills that affect every area of academics and life.”  ~ Greg Landry, College Prep Science

Summer Camps & Weekend Intensives

Often you can also find incredible summer opportunities at your state university. A year ago, my daughter took part in a week long intensive engineering camp where she was able to take part in authentic research, connect with professors in her prospective field, and make friends with other teens with the same goals.

College Prep Science

College Prep Science offers two day Biology and Chemistry Lab Intensives in 15 locations nationwide. Parents may issue school credit for these as they deem appropriate. According to their website, each two day intensive is the equivalent of a full school year of labs.

They also provide online bootcamps for ACT prep and CLEP Biology prep. For students planning to be science majors in college, doing well on the “science reasoning” section of the ACT is especially important. 

Online Science Class Giveaway

To enter this amazing giveaway of an online science class ($680 value) from College Prep Science, you’ll need to subscribe to their newsletter. One winner will be announced in their newsletter on August 30, 2019.

Teaching homeschool science with college in mind does not have to be overwhelming. I hope these options can help you successfully navigate high school science. Best wishes with the giveaway!

SESEY 2018: Summer Experiences in Science & Engineering

My daughter has been interested in engineering for as long as I can remember. She’s taken part in a numerous STEM workshops for girls over the years. Last summer, she had the amazing opportunity to take part in a summer intensive workshop (SESEY) at the university where she plans to enroll.

SESEY was created to encourage traditionally underrepresented groups to explore the world of engineering and to consider careers in its variety of fields. Initiated by Oregon State University in 1997, SESEY is coordinated by the School of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering.

Working in the lab as part of her summer intensive workshop at Oregon State University

Participants have the opportunity to interact directly with university students – to ask questions about campus life and how to balance their course load. Presentations and tours of each department are provided to help students better understand the diverse options in engineering.

Learn how to encourage girls in STEM careers with these fun activities.

Best of all, participants have the unique experience of taking part in an authentic research project. Working in small groups, they apply the inquiry method to real life issues. At the end of the week, they present their findings in poster format at the annual DaVinci days celebration.

My daughter was overjoyed to be assigned to the one environmental engineering project this past year – Bioremediation of Chlorinated Solvents Using Aerobic Microorganisms. Here’s a peak at her poster:

The program – especially the professors and university student volunteers who collaborated to make it happen – has cemented her desire to pursue a career in chemical and environmental engineering. She will be applying for admission soon.

You might also be interested in the engineering unit I developed, World’s Tallest Buildings. This short unit study includes a timeline project, integrated writing assignment, and an oral presentation.

Have your teens taken part in summer learning experiences or weekend intensive courses? I would love to hear about opportunities in other parts of the country.

Top 10 { FREE } Online Courses to Learn Computer Programming

My son has a growing interest in computer programming and computer science. I have thereby scoured the internet in search of quality materials that are engaging and inexpensive.

free-computer-programming-classesComputer Science Education Week (December 5-11, 2016) is almost here. You’ll find a wealth of resources at Code.org®. Together with the resources listed below, you are guaranteed to have material and inspiration to teach computer science and programming all year-round.

This annual program is dedicated to inspiring K-12 students to take interest in computer science. Originally conceived by the Computing in the Core coalition, Code.org® organizes CSEdWeek as a grassroots campaign supported by 350 partners and 100,000 educators worldwide.

5 Free Computer Programming Courses for Kids

Microsoft and Mojang are announcing the all-new Minecraft Hour of Code Designer, a tutorial that lets students code their own Minecraft rules. This year, students can use code to control how animals and other Minecraft creatures behave—they can create a totally unique Minecraft experience, and then share it with friends or play it on their phones!

hourcode_minecraftA collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy, Pixar in a Box is designed especially for students in middle and high school. This free course sponsored by Disney, is a series of video lessons, interactive exercises, and hands-on activities.The course materials enable students to discover how the academic concepts they learn in school enable Pixar filmmakers to create new worlds, animate unique characters, and tell stories through animation.

If you are planning an Hour of Code event, be sure to signup and and look through the variety of tutorials and resources available for your students!

Tickle is easy to learn, fun to use, yet powerful enough for university courses and research projects. Experience the magic of programming drones, robots, smart homes, and Arduino, all wirelessly. You can even create custom robots by adding Arduino-based sensors and motors.

With Scratch, you can create your own interactive games, stories, animations — and share them with your friends. Get started by animating your name, creating a holiday card, or making a pong game.

Codecademy is an interactive, student-guided introduction to the basics of CS through JavaScript that’s used by tens of millions of students around the world. With accompanying quizzes, slides, and a completed project for students at the end, this is a perfect computer programming course for high school students.

piper4Computer Programming Kits & Resources

Computer programming and coding are not the only areas of career opportunity in the field of computer science. Computer science is the study of the theory, experimentation, and engineering that form the basis for the design and use of computers.

Piper is a complete DIY kit that provides kids with the chance to not only build their first computer but also learn about electronics along the way. Best of all, the kit grows with them. Included is the popular Raspberry Pi computer that budding makers can use in a variety of other projects.

Another exciting option is a monthly subscription box from Creation Crate, designed to help youth learn about electronics. Surprisingly, this box isn’t just for kids – it’s suitable for anyone age 12+ who wants to learn or enhance their electronics and coding skills. It’s fun and definitely educational!

Learn to modify the Minecraft game with Youth Digital’s Mod Design 1, a year-long online course that teaches kids programming with Java. Kids learn to code their own Minecraft mod from start to finish and watch as the end result becomes a unique, shareable Minecraft mod that they built from scratch. This course is currently available at a steep discount through Educents

5 More Free Online Computer Programming Courses

TheNewBoston is arguably the single best resource for anyone who wants to become a Programmer. The tutorials in this channel cover a range of different programming topics including developing for android and Web design. Bucky Roberts is the guy who manages the channel and teaches the lessons using a teaching style best described as entertaining and simple. His coding tutorials are very easy for almost anyone of any age to grasp. This channel should be on your list for sure.

Derek Banas is a Youtube content creator who is very famous for his ” Programming language in a single video “series. Just as the title of that playlist implies, Banas explains the core concepts of a programming language in just one video. Among the content, you will find videos like Learn Java script in 30 Minutes and Learn the Ruby Programming Language in One Video. He explains a wide range of programming topics with content that includes thorough guides on PHP, along with MySQL and Java.

Ultimate Guide to Teaching with Minecraft @EvaVarga.net

Pre-teens love Minecraft. Learn how to engage them in multiple subject areas with this Ultimate Guide to Teaching with Minecraft.

Treehouse is a educational resource established with the mission of providing affordable education. Treehouse offers lessons on numerous topics including coding in C# and Python. The videos are delivered in a casual and a easy-to-understand style by a variety of presenters. The channel’s content also includes the Treehouse Show, which is a roundup of web development and programming news along with helpful tips and interviews.

Learncode.academy is a great source for anyone who wishes to learn Web designing. In this channel, you will be walked through topics like jQuery  and JavaScript in Stern’s efficient and thorough style. The channel’s trailer is one of his most popular videos and provides web development career advice. This video outlines the paths that you can take on your way to becoming a professional web developer along with the order in which you have to learn things.

The tutorials at ProgrammingKnowledge are specifically geared for new programmers and range from an Android tutorial for beginners to Python, Java, and C++. Among the resources is a C programming tutorial that is considered the best course in that language that you will find anywhere. The channel (along with ProgrammingKnowledge blog) are owned by Yogesh Patel. The sheer number of videos (over 1,000) that are geared towards beginners makes this one of the first channels that anyone who wants to get into coding should bookmark.

University Courses in Computer Science & Programming

Stanford’s CS 101 class taught by Nick Parlante teaches the essential ideas of computer science for a zero-prior-experience audience. Play and experiment with short bits of code to bring to life to the power and limitations of computers. CS101 also provides a general background on computers today: what is a computer, what is hardware, what is software, what is the internet.

Harvard College’s CS50x offers an introduction to the intellectual enterprises of computer science and the art of programming for majors and non-majors alike, with or without prior programming experience. Topics include abstraction, algorithms, data structures, encapsulation, resource management, security, software engineering, and web development. Languages include C, PHP, and JavaScript plus SQL, CSS, and HTML.

Develop Your Student’s Science Inquiry Skills with BirdSleuth

When we lived in California we had a tropical bird-of-paradise in our yard. While it was not a native flower, we could agree that it was extravagant. When we traveled to Peru, we enjoyed a nature walk at the Inkaterra Hotel in Machu Picchu where we observed over 100 different native orchid species in their natural habitat.

Tropical species provide an interesting point of discussion in the classroom, sparking questions such as: “Why are our local flowers different?” or “What characteristics do the wildflowers we find here in North America share with tropical species?” These questions offer a perfect springboard into science inquiry.

inquiry-skills-birdsleuthWhat is Science Inquiry?

When most people think of science class, they picture classrooms of students all engaged in the same canned activity, following a scripted set of procedures that lead to a predictable outcome. Inquiry based science education is much more. Inquiry science engages kids in inquiry-based science lessons provides them with a way to explore on their own. It removes the teacher as somebody who is providing them with information that they need to memorize. Instead, the kids are experiencing, discovering, and developing their inquiry skills as they go. That is what real scientists do.

Although inquiry based instruction has been written about for decades, it is not widely used in science classrooms. Open inquiry, in particular, is often thought to be difficult to use in the classroom. Perhaps one explanation for this is the perceived difficulty in moving students toward the development of experimental questions.

Scientific inquiry also refers to the activities through which students develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas, as well as an understanding of how scientists study the natural world.

Many home educators have experience in leading their children through guided nature studies and observations. Keeping a nature journal is a popular pastime amongst many.  When we take a group of kids outside, however, you will quickly observe that the majority of their questions are reference questions. Questions they can answer relatively easily with experience identifying and using reliable sources.

If your goal is for students to generate questions that inspire investigations, then you need to be able to guide learners into reframing their questions. The Integrating Inquiry for Educators: Developing Student Science Practices online course is a wonderful guide designed to help you – the educator – do just that.

integrating-science-inquiryScience Inquiry Skills for Educators

If you wish to go further with inquiry and citizen science, I strongly recommend Cornell University’s BirdSleuth online course Integrating Inquiry for Educators. They have designed this self-paced course to help educators explore the process of science inquiry and investigation, especially as inspired by outdoor observations and citizen-science participation.

I was provided free access to this course in exchange for an honest review. Having completed the course, I would gladly have paid three times the course fee of just $49. I was very happy with the design of the course as well as how the material was delivered. The course text (eBook option is FREE), videos, assigned NSTA reading materials, case studies, interactive quizzes, and the application assignments were all nicely balanced.

The online course both challenged and piqued my interest in science inquiry. I am now – more than before – looking forward to engaging my kids in a inquiry based science explorations in the years to come.

You can also elect to earn two optional Continuing Education Units (CEUs) if you successfully complete the course. All online materials will be available to you for six months following your enrollment.

Whether you choose to enroll or not, you can support student inquiry by taking the opportunity to download their free Investigating Evidence lessons which will guide you towards supporting scientific questions through citizen science. To accompany these lessons, they have also compiled an extensive list of resources including power points and videos.

Enroll Today

Publish Student Work

In addition to the course materials and other online resources, their annual publication BirdSleuth Investigator provides students with an opportunity to share their research. You will find rich pieces of work done by students in grades K-12 throughout the country. Written by and for students, is also beautifully illustrated by youth.

The goal with BirdSleuth Investigator is to encourage students to pursue their scientific interests through inquiry and investigation by showing them that their hard work can get published. They accept bird-related submissions from all students. Submissions can take the form of artwork, poetry, or scientific reports; anything that a student has truly put effort into has the potential to get published.

To share your students’ projects with us, submit them here. Students certainly feel rewarded for their hard work when they find their work in a published journal! Read the submission guidelines for more details.

Exploring Digital Animation with Pixar & Khan Academy

STEM has always been a major part of our homeschool curriculum. As my children have gotten older, their interests have only strengthened in relation to math and sciences. They have both expressed an interest in computer programming and we have dabbled a little with different curricula (Homeschool Programming) and online resources (Khan Academy).

Exploring Digital Animation with Pixar & Khan Academy @EvaVarga.netIn addition to computer programming, my daughter has also become interested in digital animation and graphic art. For Christmas she received a Wacom tablet and has spent many hours learning how to create elaborate graphics. Her work has even won two different t-shirt design contests!

She also loves Japanese anime – some of her favorites are Sword Art Online, Hunter X Hunter, and Fairy Tale. It was no surprise when she expressed interest in learning how to animate her own illustrations.

We were thereby very excited to learn of Pixar in a Box, a collaboration between Pixar Animation Studios and Khan Academy, This free course sponsored by Disney, is a series of video lessons, interactive exercises, and hands-on activities.

The course materials will enable students to discover how the academic concepts they learn in school enable Pixar filmmakers to create new worlds, animate unique characters and tell stories through animation. Although designed especially for students in middle and high school, these resources are available to learners of all ages, completely free of charge.

There are presently six topics in the course:

  • Environment Modeling
  • Character Modeling
  • Animation
  • Crowds
  • Sets & Staging
  • Rendering

Each topic begins with a design focused lesson that doesn’t require math concepts beyond the elementary level. The goal is for people of all ages try these lessons – to first get you creating things with interactive tools while exposing the connections to mathematics.

The second lesson dives deeper into the concepts involved and are designed to increase in difficulty so that students can attempt more advanced material. Each lesson is designed to take approximately one hour to complete and includes hands-on activities to extend the lesson.

Exploring Digital Animation with Pixar & Khan Academy @EvaVarga.netWhat I love best about Khan Academy is that the course material is self-paced. We can pick up a lesson at any time and work through the material at a pace with which we are comfortable. There is no deadline and thereby no pressure.

We look forward to integrating this course into our curriculum more fully in the near future. She’s already begun a story board for an animated show of her own.

 

The Marvels of Bridges: Free Online STEM Class

When I was in the public school classroom, one of my favorite units was an engineering and design challenge – Toothpick Bridges. It required little teacher preparation, kept the kids focused and engaged, and best of all, the kids LOVED it!

When we first began homeschooling, my son was fascinated with bridges. I knew we had to build toothpick bridges. He was pretty young so I made a few modifications to the original lessons and jumped into the unit study. You can read about their first experience in my previous post, Building Toothpick Bridges.

Bridges: Free Hands-on, Online STEM Class @EvaVarga.netNow that they are older and summer is upon us – I thought it would be fun to revisit this challenge. In fact – I want to provide this opportunity to all of YOU!! 

I have put together an eBook, Engineering Marvels: Bridges, that includes a materials list, templates, supplemental lesson plans, bibliography, and additional resources. The online course whereby I will also provide access to instructional videos to walk your children through the process of creating a toothpick bridge of their own will take place in July.

This would be an excellent activity for a co-op!

I’m very excited and wanted to let you know of this opportunity today so you can plan ahead. So gather a few friends together and get ready for a friendly competition.

This opportunity is available FREE to my newsletter subscribers. If you already subscribe – just watch for the next newsletter for the download links and video access codes.

If you don’t yet subscribe, do so today. You will have lifetime access to a multitude of additional science printables and resources.