Monday, September 14, 2015

Homeschooling High School: Math & Science Resources

Math and Science can be a very intimidating topic to those contemplating home school for high school. First of all, few of us have the intensive training and background to understand all the sciences completely, and to a level that we can comfortably teach. The rest of us are many years removed from complicated high school math, and if we haven't used all that algebra and geometry in many years, it may not come back to us so easily!

If you have a student who is considering a college path to a health related field, they definitely need four years of strong science and math instruction. If you have an exceptional student, you can often give them high school level classes in eighth grade, which would even allow them to pack in five years of science and math. Benefits to this include rounding out their understanding, making their transcript look amazing, and allowing them the time to pursue some special interests on top of their necessary core subjects.

We have been blessed to be able to use A Beka curriculum throughout our entire homeschooling years, which has given my children a very strong foundation in their core subjects. This has solved our dilemma of being able to teach honors level science to our children. Using the video teachers has been a tremendous and fun experience. Both children who have graduated feel that the A Beka high school curriculum strongly equipped them for the rigors of college, and both are in health medicine tracks, which have been very heavy in science and math courses. In fact, so far A Beka Chemistry is the winner, in that the high school course they completed closely mirrors the college Chemistry classes they have taken. (My daughter even commented that they do the same labs!) Their grades have reflected their comfort level with the science preparation they received.

Recommendations for high school Science for a math or science major in college:

  • 8th grade - Physical Science, Earth Science
  • 9th grade - Biology with labs
  • 10th grade - Chemistry with labs
  • 11th grade - Physics with labs
  • 12th grade - A science of the student's choosing, focusing on their interest. Some specialized courses include Anatomy & Physiology, Specialized Chemistry, Mechanics, Electric, Marine Biology, Zoology, Engineering, Robotics, Computer Science.
Recommendations for high school Science for a non-science major:
  • 9th grade - Physical Science, Earth Science
  • 10th grade - Biology with labs
  • 11th grade - Chemistry with labs
  • 12th - Physics with labs or a Science of the student's choosing. (see above list)
We have also greatly enjoyed using materials from Apologia to enhance our curriculum. They do offer some of the specialized courses as well.

I cannot stress enough the importance of doing the labs. Often completing the labs was the light bulb moment for my children. It was when the book learning came alive in an understandable way. I highly recommend purchasing a high quality microscope. Not only will it get a lot of use, but it is just plain fun to see things on a microscopic level. Never allow science to become a drudgery to your child. If they "hate science" then they just need more hands on discovery to pique their interest. Science is absolutely amazing.

A great place to order lab materials is Home Science Tools. Not only do they put together kits that correspond with various curriculum and courses, but the company was started by a home school family! We have purchased all our lab materials over the years from them.

The Importance of Science and Math Together!

Science at the high school level requires skill in math to be able to complete. While most of the Biology course consists of investigation and dissecting and memorizing parts, all the other sciences require a good deal of math comprehension in order to understand how they work. It is extremely important to make sure that the levels of math are consistent with the Science course that your student is taking, otherwise they will not be able to complete formulas, equations, and other deciphering. This is especially true for Chemistry and Physics. Math can be taken concurrently, or a year ahead of the corresponding Science.  

A list of recommendations for matching Math courses with Science courses: 
  • Algebra 1 prior to or during Physical Science
  • Algebra 2 prior to or during Chemistry
  • Geometry prior to or during Physics 
Just the Facts about Math:

Hopefully by the time your student rolls around to high school, they will have all the basic math facts committed to memory, such as multiplication tables, units of weight and measure, and basic formulas. If they have struggled with memorizing those, or have forgotten them, it would be beneficial to spend a summer refreshing them and making them sharp before they begin their high school math journey. Having it fresh in mind will save them a lot of time and trouble later on.

Again, math has options based on the student's desires after graduation. If the student has ANY flicker of interest in even considering a math or science path in college, they should take the most rigorous course of mathematics as possible. If they are a strong student, they can begin Algebra 1 in eighth grade.

Recommendations for high school math for a college Science major:
  • 8th grade - Algebra 1
  • 9th grade - Algebra 2
  • 10th grade - Geometry
  • 11th grade - Pre-Calculus, Trigonometry
  • 12th grade - Calculus 
Recommendations for high school math for a non-Science major:
  • 9th grade - Algebra 1
  • 10th grade - Algebra 2
  • 11th grade - Geometry
  • 12th grade - Business Mathematics or Pre-Calculus or Consumer/Personal Finances
Most students struggle with Geometry and often it is a subject that home school parents opt out of, especially in non-science major students. I think that Geometry is important for every student because of the logic and thinking skills that it teaches. While it may be true that most of the formulas and problems seen in a basic Geometry course may never be seen again in real life, the programming that is done in the brain while working those problems out cannot be obtained another way. Geometry solutions are crucial to teaching a high schooler how to think and come to logical conclusions.

SAT Test Preparation:

Much of the math on the SAT and ACT tests is comprised of skills learned in Algebra 1 and 2, so make sure the student masters those before moving on. It is a good idea to give them frequent reviews of the simplest Algebra processes even as they complete higher math, just to keep those concepts fresh for them as they begin the rigorous process of taking SAT tests. 

A Few Resources:

These are a few programs that we have used (and in some cases, reviewed) that we have enjoyed, to enhance our studies:
Math As An Elective:

We have required all of our high school children to take Dave Ramsey's Foundations In Personal Finance course as an elective sometime during their junior/senior years. We purchased the DVD set and all the girls have found Dave Ramsey to be funny and interesting, and have been challenged to manage their own personal finances efficiently. After completing the entire course, (videos and workbook), I awarded them a half credit on their transcripts. 

These are just a few ideas we have compiled in our own home school, to navigate the fascinating world of high school Science and Math. I hope something here will be a help to you. Don't fear these courses, just find the help you need to complete them and have a wonderful home school high school journey with your children! 

Here are some more resources for Math and Science and History: (I will be covering History in a separate post).

Home School High School Hosts Share this Month:

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