real science for today's homeschooler

Inexpensive microscope substitute

Inexpensive microscope substitute

One of the most expensive pieces of science equipment to purchase for home studies is a microscope. A good microscope is really a necessity for middle and high school studies, but there’s a cheaper alternative for the earlier grades. You can purchase an “illuminated pocket microscope” for anywhere from $10-$30, depending on the light source and magnification level. It’s definitely limited in what it will do, and it’s no substitute for a real microscope at the secondary level. But, for elementary studies, it will magnify objects well enough for children to see details they can’t see with a regular magnifying glass.

A quick internet search for “illuminated pocket microscope” will give you many sources from which to purchase one. Amazon has a wide selection. I haven’t found that any one brand works better than another. Just make sure it has a light source, and choose the magnification level based on how much you want to spend.

Be aware that the object being viewed must be held close to the pocket microscope, children must be able to look through a small eyepiece with one eye, and it isn’t made for viewing traditional slides. The light will shine on the surface of the object being viewed, not through it like a compound light microscope. You can check out a few different types being demonstrated by watching this utube video.

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Where to get science supplies?

Where to get science supplies?

It’s a constant struggle for homeschool parents to include science labs in their curriculum because of the supplies and equipment required. That’s why I try to include only labs and activities that can be completed with household materials. But, there will be times when you want to include some basic science materials in your home studies. So, where do you buy science stuff?

I buy from a number of vendors, usually basing my decision on cost, quality, and availability. I’m often able to get a “good deal” based on quantity that doesn’t apply when you’re buying for one or two children. The best company I’ve found to purchase good quality science supplies in small quantities is Home Science Tools. They cater to homeschool parents and sell quite a few “kits” that make science experiments more doable at home. Orders are delivered quickly, and almost always correctly. I’ve only had a problem with an order one time in a number of years. The customer service department was quick to respond and went out of their way to fix the problem and make sure I was satisfied.

 

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Getting ready for middle and high school science

Getting ready for middle and high school science

Parents decide to homeschool for many different reasons, but there’s one thing they all have in common . . . they want what’s best for their children. I teach college prep science classes to middle and high school level homeschoolers in my area. I’m often contacted by elementary school parents who are looking ahead, and their number 1 question is, “What background will my child need before (s)he can take your classes?” My answer usually surprises them.

As a middle school science teacher, the number 1 thing I want my students to come in with is a love for science and a curiosity about the world around them. When you get right down to it, science is about observing the world around you and looking for explanations about why things work the way they do. At the elementary level, if students learn to be observant and ask questions, they are on the right track to becoming great scientists!

My advice to you as a parent of an elementary homeschooler is, don’t worry about which curriculum you use and what science facts you cover. Just build in opportunities each day for your child to explore the natural world. Encourage them to ask questions, and then teach them how to find the answers to their questions. This will obviously look different at different ages, but the scientific process is the same. Ask good questions. Then look for valid answers to those questions.

The only other thing I would add would be to make sure you’re exposing your child to many different topics in science. They may be really interested in dinosaurs, but also make sure they are exposed to plants, atoms, forces, etc. Having a well rounded exposure to all things science will help your child develop a deeper understanding of “the big picture,” and how everything in science is interrelated.

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