Topic | Homeschooling Q&A: What about science labs?

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  • Doug Smith

    Here’s question number two in our series on answering critics and the curious about homeschooling. How would you answer this one:

    Can your children get a good science education without the group labs?

    (Sometimes this kind of question may relate to meeting standards to get into college.)

    Karen Smith

    I think this question comes from two misconceptions: 1) labs must be done as a group and 2) lab supplies are only available to brick-and-mortar schools who can buy in quantity.

    Personally, I have never faced the first misconception. I think it comes from the idea that schools break up into groups to do labs, but no one ever thinks about the reason for that. I think the reason is because they are trying to cut costs. It is cheaper to buy half the materials and have the students do the experiment in groups than it is to buy materials for every student. After all, how many students does it really take to dissect an earthworm, or mix two chemicals for a chemical reaction?

    I have had to answer the second misconception. It is my experience that the person asking the question doesn’t realize the abundance of material available to home schools. They do not realize that you can readily get chemicals for experiments, animals for dissections, microscopes, and any number of other materials used for science experiments. Once I tell them I can get the materials easily and relatively inexpensively, it usually keeps the critic quiet.


    Why can’t they go to group labs? They can do science lab as dual-credit at the local comm college while they’re in high school. And around here, that’s all free.

    There are also several homeschool science classes w/ complete labs that the kids can take.

    This question is making me laugh! I was only homeschooled for my last two years of highschool, but my best friend was always homeschooled (we’re both now college/grad students). She told me once that she used to be jealous of institutionally schooled kids because on tv, they’re always shown in fancy science labs doing cool experiments. However, after she started meeting kids who had gone to school, she realized none of them had done these experiments. You know what? In 4 DoD schools, 3 public schools, and 1 international school, I never had a science lab. One of my high schools had us dissect a frog once, but we were 4 to a frog, and I just sat and read a book the whole time (no, the teacher never noticed).

    Going to a ‘proper’ school doesn’t mean the kids are getting what you think they’re getting.


    I’ve heard these criticisms, too.  In our case, there really is no option other than to do it ourselves.  Our community college costs, and while it’s cheaper than four-year college, we don’t have the money.  And there are no homeschool groups near us anymore and as far as I know, no other high-schoolers except a few in the school-run HSAP (not an option for us, we are HSLDA members).  So I have a feeling there are many other homeschoolers out there without free options.

    I think my kids have done more “real” experiments than I ever did in school.  We were always paired up or more, and I usually deferred when possible to someone else.  I specialized in the “book” stuff and the equations, so I “advised” on the actual experiment work. 

    It’s not always cheap or easy to do them at home, but we’ve managed. We have done some labs through a company that will advise if we are not getting the result we want (Quality Science Labs) and some we’ve done on the cheap on our own, and had to really work to figure out how to do it right.  But in college, we did labs with very little actual supervision, and I think the process of really having to work, troubleshoot, etc. will be valuable for them at that time–college labs are much more independent. 


    you can buy what ever you need for any science experiment now a days


    I think a group study at someone’s home would help student retain it better than the classroom setting.  I grew up in public school and did dissections every year – a worm, frog, cat, brain…you name it but I did not retain any of it…it was fun at the time but I didn’t learn anything but enough to pass the test we were given over it.  Later in life, I dissected a brain in college and had a smaller group (like a homeschool environment but only in college) and I still remember that stuff today and loved every second….not sure if this even helps but I felt to share:)


    Has anyone written any labs up that they would share here?  Or were most of them purchased/boxed and ready?

    Also, in terms of high school transcript requirements … what constitutes a “lab” …. are there a number of hours?  certain types of things to check off with each field of science? 



    I grew up attending public school & I remember doing a few of the classics in elementary such as the volcano eruption however, there were zero experiments or dissections in middle school. And 2 dissections in high school but, never once an experiment of any kind. It was all text books, memorization & tests. And in college, I recall looking at things in a microscope but, that was about it. No joke.

    My 6.5 year old has done more “experiments” than I did my entire life. Mostly just for fun, but oh, is she learning! She soakes it up and she has a love for it. I have not purchased anything other than a handful of easy to obtain supplies… Baking soda, corn starch, borax, etc etc & some safety goggles.

    I studied in a public school and the only “experiments” we did was to sit in the lab as the teacher went on teaching from their text books. Sometimes we would be allowed to put on our bunsen burners and watch chemical reactions but we had to wait to be picked to stand as the teacher did the experiments for us. In contrast, my kids get to exercise their curiosity many times over. We always look for practical ways in which they can pick up theoretical knowledge. All our supplementary activities revolve around their ability to pick up a concept easily. Our summer bucket list even includes taking up science experiments weekly and documenting it! As a birthday gift, DD demanded a scientist kit complete with lab coat and safety goggles. She even wanted one of those solar panel kits where you can build toy boats and cars that use solar energy. I doubt this is something a school will let you experiment with!


    But in terms of documenting this to “count” toward any state requirements for graduation or college entrance requirements for high school science ….. what is necessary?  Maybe I better Google this some on my end?

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