Why would anyone skip Biology Lab? What could possibly be more fun that dissection critters and peeping through a microscope? Sure Biology lab is a lot of fun, but it’s also pretty expensive, which is why I talk about it in my Special Report, “7 Secrets to Homeschooling Though a Financial Storm.” Holly read the report and had a follow up question.
I just read your special report and think it was very well done. Lots of great tips for saving money and giving parents confidence to strike out on their own a bit more. I was surprised to see that you suggested skipping Biology or doing it with media applications (online or video) instead of hands-on. In Arizona, the state universities are very particular about the high school sciences being first-hand LAB courses. This is something that I have stressed with my contacts and in my workshops–not just Biology, but any high school science needs to be documented actual lab work. Tell me what you have encountered that puts a lighter emphasis on the labs. Is this more a state-by-state emphasis or is there more of a trend toward “softer” science coursework? Keep up the good work. You are doing many of the things that I dream of doing and can’t make happen all by myself.
~Holly in Arizona
I was surprised to see my suggestion about dropping Biology lab too, because I’m a nurse! I loved biology – and especially the biology labs! I think it’s important to remember how financially desperate people can be in this economy. It’s better to drop a biology lab than not do biology at all – or stop homeschooling entirely because of concerns about science.
First, public universities sometimes have very different requirements than colleges as a whole. I have to gear my message to “general” college preparation. Some colleges requires that lab sciences be taught in a classroom with a certified teacher, for example, and I don’t mention that in my article. It’s a general college prep article.
There is a difference between a public school requirement for something, and what your state law requires from homeschoolers. I see that a lot as I work with homeschoolers nationwide. They think that because a class is required for high school graduation that they also need to meet the requirement, and that often is not true. I don’t think you were concerned about that in your question, but it’s worth throwing it out there.
There is no national definition about what a lab science really is. No definition. Here is a snippet from an upcoming article I’ve written about lab sciences:
The US House of Representatives Committee on Science and Technology formed the Subcommittee on Research and Science Education issued a report about lab science, and it is remarkably clear in their conclusion.
National Research Council’s America’s Lab Report: Investigations in High School Science states, “The NRC report committee concluded that there exists no commonly agreed upon definition of laboratories in high schools amongst researchers and educators.”
Most colleges do not require documented lab sciences. Some colleges do. The most important thing for parents is to research the schools where they plan to apply. Usually a college that has specific science requirements will also provide a method for them to achieve success. Perhaps they will allow the ACT science portion to meet the requirement, or they will accept an SAT Subject Test or AP exam in a science area.
There are many colleges that don’t require excessive math or science. Perhaps their emphasis is music or art or a specific trade, and general sciences meet their admission requirements. There is a very wide variety of colleges that homeschool parents choose.
In general, when I look over the college preparation sites, they don’t mention taking a lab science every year. Even the college board doesn’t specifically mention a lab science. It mentions three years of science, but isn’t specific about the lab requirement.
Science teaches students to think analytically and apply theories to reality. Laboratory classes let students test what they have learned through hands-on work. Six semesters are recommended.
- Two semesters in biology
- Two semesters in chemistry and/or physics
- Two semesters in earth/space sciences, advanced biology, advanced chemistry, or physics
It’s a good idea to make parents aware that the public university in your area has a greater emphasis in lab science. But I think it’s good to remember that colleges are rarely specific about WHICH sciences, and it’s OK for parents to have some delight-directed science courses along with the more ordinary biology-chemistry-physics choices.