If there is one thing that strikes fear in the heart of homeschool moms, it is high school science!
I know, I’ve been there with my eight grown children, too! It just seems so intimidating; science is too, you know, technical, and many young people (I’m talking teens) just aren’t!
For instance, in the melange that makes up my fifteen children, most are what would be considered “creative.” From birth, it seems, they are found with pencil and paper, constantly drawing, drawing, drawing. Some draw out plans for building things, some take a part of the human body and cover page after page with thumbnails, others draw battle scenes and even make sounds as they draw the bombs being dropped. Hour upon hour upon hour they have sat, even in groups, each drawing a part of a huge story.
Now, it wouldn’t seem as though any of this would turn into anything resembling academics at all, but just the opposite is true.
As they grew and began to develop specified interests, they also began to delve deeply into one subject or another, and these areas obviously involved some sort of scientific knowledge.
One would clean her room while listening to lectures by Stephen Hawking. One studied physics equations so he could plug them into some software he was creating. A son who wanted to have some wheels purchased a kit and built a motor scooter in our garage. Another studied human anatomy, physiology, and microbiology in order to draw the human figure better. Still another spent whole summers studying the behaviors of insects, collecting them and pinning them, and reading books by Jean-Henri Fabre. Still another was interested in soldiering, so he checked out every book imaginable about current and ancient warfare from the library, including weapons and vehicles, and studied for hours.
And this brings me to the very definition of science: it is simply knowing. A person is a scientist who knows his subject matter inside and out, whether it be in the area of cosmology or cosmetology, and this is why we as homeschoolers should never feel guilty about allowing our teens the time they need to delve deeply into a subject that enthuses them.
The problem, however, is how to convince officials that their studies are valid and can be put into a transcript.
No problem–this is where notebooking comes in!
Keeping notes for proof of study in the pursuit of high school or college credit is not a new idea, but something that has been practiced for a long time. I read once that a homeschooled college student in the ’90’s was being required to have a PE course for graduation, but just couldn’t fit it in to his schedule, so he approached a professor with the idea of keeping a diary of his walking to and from classes each day in lieu of taking an actual course. His proposal was accepted, and after a review of his notebook, the credits were granted!
Keeping careful notes on what is being learned is not difficult, we just need to help our children develop the habit of notebooking and documenting what they are doing so that we will have proof for any future reviewer.
There are many different types of notebooks, from simple daily journals created from 50-cent composition books, to printed notebooking pages, to official lab books that can be purchased at a premium. And, come to find out, there are actually some very strict rules for official scientific notebooking.
Sometimes the writing needs to be extensive, such as when explaining the reasons or parameters of a course of study, and other times it can be the simple jotting down of notes. For some young people this can seem like torture, especially when they feel like writing down what they are doing slows them up, or when they don’t have a clear understanding of just what should be included in their daily entries.
Sometimes, as in the case of my daughter sketching through anatomy, there are no problems at all, but for those who have trouble there are a few solutions.
Tips for notebooking homeschool high school science
One is to use pre-printed notebooking pages. I created a number of these for my own children, and they seemed to help them get started with the idea, as you can see here (these examples are only of the first page for each subject, subsequent pages were for essay questions):
Another solution is to use a regular composition book, but with specific parameters in place. For instance, when my children use comp books, I give them an outline at the beginning of the notebook of what exactly to include and either write it out on an index card and staple it to the inside cover, or use the first page in the notebook, or both.
Here is an example for my daughter who is notebooking through the book Home Comforts (a scientific treatment of homekeeping):
1. Write the gist of this chapter.
2. Describe in detail three ideas that stick out to you.
3. Explain a way you could (or have) put these ideas into practice.
4. Include one drawing, chart, or other graphic (these can be hand-created or printed/copied and glued to the page).
Of course, for something like entomology, the notebook would need to be fashioned according to these more strict guidelines.
This has worked fine for my children who are not specifically college-bound or are not interested in a technical vocation such as engineering, etc. (although three have degrees, another is working on one currently, and one has gone for a certificate in illustration). Check with the institution of higher learning you are interested in and find out what the requirements for homeschoolers are and whether or not they will need formal science instruction, or if alternatives are accepted.
If you find the requirements to be strict, there are still other ways to meet them. There are online courses, homeschool classes, and dual enrollment (college classes during high school), just to mention a few. One enterprising youth actually studied on his own and took the CLEP test for first year chemistry–you can read how he did it here.
Here are some other helpful links:
The Myth of Science and Engineering Shortage From Atlantic Monthly
The Hidden STEM Economy About technical jobs that do not require degrees–Atlantic Monthly
Khan Academy–free high-school level (and beyond) science courses.
As you can see, there are many ways to skin the high school science cat–just keep an open mind and heart, do your research, and enjoy the journey with your kids!
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