View Full Version : Homeschooling Science - aka what the heck am I thinking?

10-15-2013, 02:33 AM
Ok I really love homeschooling my kids but uggg some days I wonder what the heck I am thinking.
We're not getting very far with the online school my son has enrolled in for 2 courses this semester. We want to get him moved to a more appropriate level for science and I don't have the energy to fight for it, given that I am not sure that their grade 11 biology class will be worth the fight. (It's a provincial school board that runs these classes so it's the same as red tape we would have to deal with in a bricks and mortar school).

And so I just committed to teaching/facilitating a grade 11/12 level biology class.
I never took biology in high school (moved back and forth between Canada and the US and just happened to miss it because of different school requirements and the timing of our moves) and I was a business major in university so this should be interesting.
And so now I am learning grade 11/12 biology in order to teach it to my kid - who is way way smarter than I am anyway, and his friend (also likely smarter than me).

Do any of you remember high school biology?
Got any suggestions for making it interesting and connected to the real world?

I've found a syllabus/plan on line at the quarks and quirks blog and we will follow that with some supplementation. I've got the Biology lab book, we bought a good microscope etc, one of the texts I ordered has a cd with online tutorials etc so from a content standpoint I think we're covered.

But I want to make it interesting and grounded in real world stuff as well.

Here's my plan - I would love feedback, resource suggestions etc.

I think I will require the kids to read 1 or 2 "popular literature" non fiction books about biology in addition to some of the assigned readings, text readings etc. (books like the Immortal LIfe of Henrietta Lacks, or Double Helix etc) and then discuss them together and with me.

I want to do a movie night one night a month with a documentary or attend the local university documentary series and take them to any other university lectures, meetings with the naturalist club when they have interesting speakers etc. We may have the opportunity to attend one of this year's Massey lectures which is being given by Lawrence Hill on the topic of Blood so that would be cool. My son has read Book of Negroes and loved it.

I also want them to write a term paper - either taking a position on a bioethics question, doing a review of research on a topic of interest, or another topic of their choice. Not quite sure how to assess this - think I will see if one of my professor friends will mark the science part for me.

For field trips I have things planned like high school level programmes at nature centres, local arboreteums, the zoo and the aquarium, meeting with a researcher/professor in a lab to hear about their work, working on a professional research poster to be presented at a conference (a friend helps put these together as part of her job) and doing a citizen science program - not sure what that will look like yet.

I am aiming for about 4-6 hours of work/readings/assignments a week plus our 2 hour weekly meeting/lab. Field trips will be in addition to that. The course will run a full academic year. Both kids I am teaching are very bright (gifted) and enthusiastic academic learners, looking for a challenge. If I do this well, this will be the only high school level biology my son is likely to take. He's much more interested in physics and that will probably be his focus.
Thanks for any help!

10-15-2013, 11:30 AM
I think it sounds like a good plan and certainly at that age, reading something like the Henrietta Lacks book would have been appealling and engaging for me as a student... but it also doesn't sound like it would be a "real" high school biology course? As in, it wouldn't meet the requirements or allow the students to pass a standardized test on high school biology material. Maybe I'm wrong though. So I guess it depends on the goals of the course. I would want to be clear with the parents enrolling, that's for sure.

10-15-2013, 11:35 AM
Farrar can you expand. I am hoping it will be a "real" course.
Here's the syllabus for the course and lab work
HS Biology | Quarks and Quirks (http://quarksandquirks.wordpress.com/biology-hs-level/)

So far the class is my son and 2 friends. We're contemplating adding more but to be honest, coming across secular high school students interested in academics and willing to commit to a year long program is like finding a needle in a haystack here. Lots of very focused Christian kids who aren't interested in secular science, and a few radical unschoolers who do their own thing.

Anyway I am really hoping that this will be enough for biology so I would love to hear more feedback.

10-15-2013, 12:16 PM
If you want to do everything you listed on top of the full Quirks and Quarks curriculum i suspect it will require more hours than you indicated. But I'm pretty sure the Quirks and Quarks by itself is a full curriculum.

10-15-2013, 12:47 PM
First of all BRAVO for taking this on!

Then it got me thinking...did I have biology in high school??? .... ummmm nope. Was biology offered as a stand alone course??....ummmm nope. So I ping'd my 3 youngest neices and a nephew that all graduated from the same highschool as I did but they graduated within the last 3 years. ( my nephew is very science"y" so I knew he'd know)
.... and nope.... biology was included in a Science 1 & 2 and then you could move on to Chemistry 1&2

The first full on biology class any of us had ( well mine was at the second college I went to, no biology at art school) was first year at University.
Then by that time we all took tons of it because we loved it.

Everything you have planned sounds great. You've got the microscope and lab stuff to work on, which is really half of most classes. Half lecture and half Lab.

10-15-2013, 02:12 PM
fwiw, i had biology in 9th grade, complete with a lot of dissections. I had chemistry in 10th and phsyics in 11th and signed up for Chem and Physics 2, but dropped physics 2. Bio 2 i believe dissected a cat. I graduated in 83. I hated bio (because i have a bad memory for parts and thingies, which was most of biology), and never took another bio class except for a genetics class in college, as a science elective. which was very challenging but also very interesting

10-15-2013, 02:27 PM
Yeah, I think I missed the Quarks and Quirks link. That's more like a full high school biology course.

Julie, the vast majority of American students do a separate biology course in high school. It's more common in other countries to have the sciences combined. Ditto with math.

10-15-2013, 03:41 PM
AnyoyMs I didn't do it. I really like it though. I've come across the woman who did put it together on a few different homeschool lists etc and I like her approach a lot. We'll probably use her Chem outline next year.
She did the program with her sons (who are a bit younger than the kids I will be working with). I am not sure if this is comparable to a grade 11/12 biology class here. I suspect it falls somewhere in between. I'm not too worried about the AP exams - they aren't as big here in Canada and although it's a door I would like to keep open, it's not the end goal.
I like your idea of arguing the opposite of what they initially believe in. I haven't talked to the other student(s) - one kid is waffling - to see what they want. I have talked with the parents though and shown them the outline.

In Canada grade 9 and 10 science are "composite" classes covering all three strands of science and then the classes specialize into individual strands. My son doesn't really want to do hard sciences in University - which is fine, but I think he's got a gift for them. I would prefer and IRL program for him for at least Chem and Biology and want it to be as engaging as possible and also play to some of his strengths (which is part of why I want to tie it into ethical issues, discussions, real world work etc). He's likely to slack off on an online biology course unless there is a built in accountability element in the programs.

I agree with whoever said it is light on anatomy. Wonder if I want to do anything about that. I think I am running out of time - lol.

In terms of hours for the class, I am aiming for an hour a day essentially, plus our lab time. I am still waiting for a couple of the resources I ordered so I don't have a handle on the depth of the readings etc just yet. For my son, if he's not keeping busy with school work he tends to spend too much time on the computer and everything else around him slides (ie reading for fun etc). I also think he's likely to suffer the same issue as gifted kids classically do - skating through on minimal work because it isn't challenging enough. So I am waiting to keep in engaged as much as possible but also make it things he relates to and enjoys so there is a purpose in all of the work.

Anyway I really appreciate the feedback!

10-15-2013, 10:27 PM
Julie, the vast majority of American students do a separate biology course in high school. It's more common in other countries to have the sciences combined. Ditto with math.

Yeah thats what I figured too... but my school blended the sciences for 10th & 11th grade.. unfortunate.
I do very vividly remember the cat disection.. The whole school reeked of the stench! I didnt do it my self as it was part of a 11th or 12th grade ellective science..and all my ellective were filled with advanced art classes and Portfolio.

I did more biology in middle school!. We disected frogs, and a sheeps eye and and a shark! full labs every day.. identifting cells etc etc.
I know we dug more into biology.. but that's the stuff I remeber most fondly :o

10-15-2013, 11:22 PM
i dont remember much biology about animals before high school? I mostly remember learning the names of trees and wildflowers several times.

10-18-2013, 02:24 PM
When I was in high school, they had separate courses for Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. At some point in the early 90s, they got rid of the Grade 10 levels and introduced Science 10, which covered all 3. I think the reasoning was that you only needed one Grade 12 level science to graduate, so a lot of people just picked whichever course looked easiest and never bothered taking anything else. By combining, at least everyone gets an introduction to all 3 sciences, and moves on in at least one of them.

10-18-2013, 05:29 PM
I loved Biology and took two biology classes in HS. Then I went to college under the mistaken notion that I could handle college Bio. The truth was the bio was not bad, it was the organic chemistry and advanced math they wanted me to take along with it that I could not hack. lol. We did an insect collection to learn about classification and all of that I remember having fun with that. We did lots of dissections that I question the necessity of. I am trying to remember the lab we did in college with fruit flies to learn about genetics. I remember really liking the sections in both hs and college on genetics. This was before the Human Genome Project, so who knows. Now I am going to apply ben-gay, drink a cup of lukewarm tea and go to bed at 8pm. *hobbles away in an elderly fashion*

10-18-2013, 06:49 PM
We did this microscope unit study and it was awesome
Microscope Adventure (http://www.learn-and-do.com/microscope_adventure.htm)

Her Botany unit study is very good too - lots of microscope work which the kids always enjoy.

Crash Course on youtube has a whole playlist of videos (each one 10-15 minutes long) on Biology and one on Ecology. The guys that does the videos is fairly entertaining and these are highschool/college level biology - but I used them with my 10-13 year olds because even though they don't understand it all, they like it and they do catch some it.

Crash Course! - YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/user/crashcourse/videos?shelf_index=3&view=1&sort=dd)

10-23-2013, 07:40 AM
Trickster is working through Biology this year as well. I have so much crap saved. Check these out:

3 Part Cell biology documentary
BBC The Cell 1 of 3- The Hidden Kingdom - Video Dailymotion (http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x11pe80_bbc-the-cell-1-of-3-the-hidden-kingdom_shortfilms)

Molecular animation of cells and other stuff :-)
Molecular Movies - Showcase (http://www.molecularmovies.com/showcase/)

Cells Alive

10-23-2013, 02:42 PM
I grew up on a farm and I remember my feeling like it was applied all over my life. I loved HS biology--but recently laughed with siblings over the fact that we did blood typing back then, in the classroom (bloodborne pathogens, anyone?)!
My dad had us thinking about genetics, and needless to say farming depends on life, so a lot of what we learned in class really made a lot of sense.
My ds is in MS Advanced Life Science now, and I am still waiting to get to the good part!

10-27-2013, 06:57 PM
Just found this too:

Biology Major (saylor.org) | MOOC List (http://www.mooc-list.com/course/biology-major-saylororg)