Science isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But as many homeschool parents realize, it’s an important part of homeschooling. We might wing it during elementary, but what about those homeschool science labs for middle and high school?
Fear not, for there are several solutions to these labs, including making your own lab at home or choosing an online lab like College Prep Science’s Labs (Christian worldview)!
Disclaimer: College Prep Science compensated me for this article, but they did not give me access to their resources, and this does not influence the opinions in this article. For more details, please read my Disclosure.
As you know, M (10 years old) is very science-oriented. But how advanced is he? It’s hard to gauge that since he is self-taught, but here’s a breakdown:
- Chemistry– highschool to college level
- Electronics – middle school to highschool level
- Biology and Anatomy – highschool level
- Physics– middle school to highschool level
His interests led him to learn a lot on his own. He is almost ready to take some college classes for certain science concepts and he already did so for chemistry. So it’s only natural that I take science and science labs seriously in our homeschool.
Even if your children aren’t science lovers or you don’t have the time, money, or energy for labs and experiments, you might consider some of these homeschool science labs solutions since they fit everyone. You can choose from offline or online, free or paid.
Science Labs are Important
We all know that children learn best by doing and science labs offer them the perfect opportunity to use their senses while learning. But does learning by doing work for middle school and up? Of course!
Here are some more points to consider (if you are still debating the usefulness of a homeschool science lab).
Understanding difficult concepts
It’s easier to grasp hard-to-understand concepts if you apply them in a lab or experiment. Applying the concepts they’ve learned in an experiment will provide them with the opportunity to see the why and how behind it.
Imagine illustrating electrolysis with a glass of water and a battery rather than just reading that:
“[…] electrolysis is a technique that uses direct electric current to drive an otherwise non-spontaneous chemical reaction. “ (Wikipedia)
It’s obvious that the experiment will stick in their memory longer than the definition.
Science is all about investigating, analyzing, inferring, all important steps when using the scientific method. For those of you that need more help, I created a printable that contains the scientific method poster and you can get it for free by subscribing to my newsletter (home page or sidebar).
Learning how to use the science apparatus
Learning to use science lab tools, a microscope, density cubes, a Bunsen burner, and so on, are important skills, especially if your child is planning to pursue a STEM career.
Improving science literacy
During an experiment and at the end, kids need to use scientific terms to describe the processes taking place and explain their conclusions. This broadens their academic vocabulary and familiarizes them with STEM terms.
Labs also improve science literacy (which later helps them take informed decisions based on facts). This expands beyong the subject of science and is applied every day in all situations.
Science literacy is more than just understanding scientific terms, is learning how to make informed decisions and use your critical thinking in the process.
Brainstorming ideas and asking (the right) questions
Maybe one of the most important things when trying to think out of the box and find different solutions to problems is asking the right questions. Labs and experiments also help kids work in teams and come up with solutions to their problems.
Building resilience and patience
A failed experiment isn’t the end and learning how to properly manage your emotions and take further steps when things didn’t turn out as expected is an important part of growing up.
Homeschool Science Labs Options
You can start doing this from kindergarten. I know that there are a lot of kits you can use, and you are more than welcome to subscribe to some of them (I am even recommending a couple) but to start off, you have most of the things you need at home.
Another option is getting an online lab like those from College Prep Science, which is perfect for Christian homeschoolers that want to cover the labs without having to prep, organize experiments or clean up the mess afterward.
1. Offline Homeschool Labs
Nothing compares to having a real science lab and a teacher to guide it. You could make a lab at home or find a nearby class or co-op that offers one.
Because we don’t have access to many classes, we’ve made our own science lab at home that we keep growing year by year. M is delighted to do chemistry experiments and this year we are focusing on physics.
But here are some options for homeschool science labs outside your home or at home.
As we all know, it’s preferable to have a knowledgeable teacher conduct the experiments.
You could see if any co-ops or study groups in your area offer any labs, science camps, or advanced science experiments in any form.
This is a great way to not only fulfill the lab requirements but also to spend time with like-minded children and learn what it’s like to work in a team when conducting experiments.
I love the idea of having my son spend science quality time with like-minded children, doing experiments all day long, and learning the proper way to approach them or to take notes. Unfortunately, we live in a remote area where not much is available to us.
An option for those families lucky enough to have these close by are the in-person labs or camps. For example, College Prep Science offers camps for Pre-Med and Marine Biology. These camps will be filled with hands-on science experiments and labs! (Please note these are not secular.)
What better ways to learn science?
I know investing in a home lab can be a costly affair, but we invested in it over the years. Of course, this won’t compare to a proper school lab, but it comes pretty close.
For the elementary years, you can begin with gathering simple supplies that you have lying around. The best way to go about this is to first choose a curriculum and see what experiments they suggest. Make a list of supplies and just gather everything up in a science box to use for the year.
For experiment ideas with young kids, Pinterest is a great resource!
- measuring tools: measuring tape, kitchen scale, measuring cups and spoons.
- other tools: popsicles, droppers, beakers, tweezers, Q-Tips, filter paper, magnets, paper clips.
- safety: gloves, science googles.
- substances: food coloring, vinegar, baking soda, oil, salt, sugar, cornstarch.
Add in some useful manipulatives for science for elementary-aged children (and beyond) and you will have fun while doing science.
We have been using these manipulatives year after year and even if M knows the concepts, he still enjoys using them! Here are a few that we love:
- Squishy Human Body– we’ve been exploring the human body with it for over 5 years now. It’s one of our favorite science manipulatives. My son loves taking it apart and naming each part. We still use it to review the body systems or names of the most notable bones in the body.
- Happy Atoms – For the elementary and middle school kids that love chemistry, this set is a must. They can build their own molecules and scan them on their tablet to find facts and see them on a 3d online model. They even have on-app tasks to explore and find out more from the world of chemistry.
- Various Cell Models – M’s 7th birthday wish was to get a set of realistic virus and bacteria toys and he is still using them today! It’s another one of the best investments for homeschool science. He can take them apart and learn about the various parts that make a virus or bacteria or look inside a white blood cell and red blood cell. These have opened a whole new learning desire for him and he is currently studying immunology because of them.
- Safari Life Cycle Figurines – For elementary and even kindergarten, getting the Safari Life Cycle sets has been a hit! I love the variety they offer and my son explored a lot of the natural world by using these sets.
- Solar System – Another set from Safari worthy of mention is the Solar System. Learning Resources has a similar set with inflatable planets. We’ve successfully used this with early elementary science books to demonstrate how the planets are arranged and what orbit means.
- Origami Organelles – For middle school and beyond, Origami organelles are an affordable and quick solution to understand difficult concepts. These are paper models that you just print at home and glue together to create your own science manipulatives. We showed easily how immune cells like cytotoxic T cells, B cells, plasma cells, antibodies, cytokines, memory cells and phagocytes function and interact with each other.
As your kids get older and the experiments become more demanding, it’s a good idea to keep adding to the science box (or have several boxes – as we do). If you invest in them over the years, you will have a proper lab set up by high school. Here’s what we have so far:
- microscope (read about our microscopes here)- It’s the number one must-have tool for any homeschoolers that love science or want to create a proper science lab at home. We’ve been using ours to look at protozoa, cells, blood and more.
- MEL Science Kits (read about our MEL Chemistry subscription here)- Because we can’t possibly get our hands on small quantities of various substances for our home lab, we currently have a MEL Science subscription for Chemistry and Physics. They are the best subscription boxes we’ve gotten for our homeschool by far and ones that we’ll continue getting for years to come, especially since they just launched their Medical kits.
I won’t describe how we use any of the following, because they are pretty self-explanatory
- density cubes
- petri dishes
- bacteria kits
- molecular models
- electricity kit
- lab glassware kit
- pulley kit
- optical experiments kit
- Arduino kit
- dissection kit
- dissection specimens
- scientific calculator
We will add more in the future, but these have served us right in doing more advanced science. You can see these on my Amazon Idea list.
2. Online Homeschool Science Labs and Useful Websites
For those unlucky ones that have nothing interesting going on in the area, that have a limited budget and no science background or energy to clean up the experiments’ mess, you will be happy to know that you can do virtual labs online.
There are also some websites that provide a lot of simulations or experiments online. Here are your options:
These homeschool science labs and the classes College Prep Science offer are great because:
- require no materials – you don’t need to buy expensive materials and lab supplies because everything is virtual.
- no curriculum to buy – you don’t even have to buy a textbook, because everything is inside the labs including the steps you need to take to successfully complete an experiment.
- zero mess – it’s online, so no more dreaded experiment mess to clean up afterwards.
- no prep – no more running around the house gathering supplies for a lab experiment. Just log-in, experiment, record your results, and log out.
- parent involvement not needed – some live experiments require adult supervision. Virtual labs aren’t dangerous, so parents can step back.
- amazing tool to supplement your home lab – there will still be lab materials you can’t get for home use, or experiments at a larger scale (for example in Physics). So these labs make for a great supplement of your home setup.
- encourages college-style note-taking and reports – result-recording and reports are encouraged, so these labs are a great way to get into note-taking habits.
- encourages inquiry – you get step by step instructions on each experiment, but you can also experiment freely. There is no danger and you can repeat an experiment several times and see how results change.
- free to test out – To see inside College Prep Science, you can get a free drive of their virtual labs and several other freebies. You just need to subscribe on their page.
- only basic math required – most of the advanced online classes and labs require at least pre-algebra if not algebra knowledge in math. College Prep Science‘s classes and labs only require basic levels in math, which makes them accessible to almost everyone, including younger children that are advanced in science.
- multiple choices – the classes they offer are online, intensive classes or self-paced. So they will be perfect for your family’s schedule or budget.
- cover multiple subjects: College Prep Science cover Biology/Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, and Physics. But they also offer ACT prep classes, camps, labs and more.
These virtual labs are great for parents that don’t know how to tackle labs at home. You have two options in taking the labs from College Prep Science: one week intensive or self-paced with 9 months access.
With the intensive lab option, the children attend a 30-minute class with professor Greg Landry daily. This includes lab instructions, note-taking instructions, and 10 labs. Students also get access to the recorded lab lessons. There are 2 assignments for students each day where they need to write 2 lab reports.
The assignments are graded, and children will get more tips and help in improving their lab reports.
The self-paced lab option offers 10 experiments for each subject (Biology, Chemistry, Physics). A full year of lab experiments should include at least 6 experiments with complete lab reports. So this program provides plenty of opportunities to fill that requirement.
Students also get access to a video of professor Greg Landry explaining how you should construct your lab report and they give parents information on how to assess and grade these.
⭐️ Free Simulators and Games for Homeschool Science
A cool online resource to supplement your homemade science lab is using virtual simulators like PHET Interactive Simulators. They are free and they cover math and science.
M loves experimenting with them and he even discovered some games he loves to play, like Black Hole Explorer, Gravity Simulator, Agent Higgs, and more from Test Tube Games (expertly made for science geeks!)
⭐️ Free Mentoring
MentorJr is a free mentoring service that pairs up elementary or middle-school children with high schoolers that are passionate about certain fields. It’s been an awesome experience for us.
While they don’t specialize in science and labs, you could find guidance for younger kids there.
⭐️ Mel Academy
Another wonderful online lab, free for MEL Science subscribers. This one is not virtual and requires some basic materials and an active subscription to their kits.
I’ve written about MEL Academy in my MEL Chemistry review. These are short experiments you can do at home, but a scientist from MEL Science is conducting the experiment on-screen. You could see these live, or you can watch recorded sessions.
You get access to them if you have a current subscription to one of MEL Science’s kits.
Homeschool Science Curriculum
No homeschool science lab is complete without a curriculum to back it up. I won’t dwell on each curriculum because the goal of this post is to focus on homeschool science labs, but these are worth mentioning because of their hands-on approach.
- Free Curriculum for Chemistry– covering all grades from k to 12, made by the American Chemical Society. They offer multiple free options for students and educators.
- Pandia Press’s Science – we’ve successfully used Chemistry 1 and Life Science 1. We are planning to tackle Physics and Biology 2 soon. I love this curriculum because it’s very hands-on. The experiments are simple and easy to set up at home.
- Online classes from College Prep Science (not secular)- they cover a lot of areas, including ACT prep, math and science. These classes focus on inquiry and you can choose from live or self-paced. Both options give you the option to email Greg Landry, the college professor behind all these wonderful materials.
- Real Science 4 Kids– a great curriculum that we loved. We are doing their physics for middle school this year. The experiments are easy to set up at home and the explanations are easy enough to follow.
- Biochemistry literacy for Kids– M loves this one, but the concepts are suitable only for advanced kids that love chemistry and want to delve deeper without the maths aspect.
Conclusion, Video and Free Printable
I hope that homeschool science labs don’t sound so frightening anymore now that you see how many options you have available.
If you have any more recommendations I would love to hear about them in the comments below.
For those of you that find videos easier to follow, I made a short one presenting all the options in this article, with a focus on College Prep Science.
Don’t forget to subscribe to my Youtube channel and hit the bell button to get notified when new videos go up.
Of course, I couldn’t leave you without a parting gift.
For this post, I created a lab workbook with the scientific method explained, worksheets, graph papers for results, lab sheets, and note sections.
I included simple and more complex lab reports you could use from elementary to high school. Just print the sheets that you need and bind them in a Lab Notebook (2 covers included!).
You can download it for free by subscribing to my newsletter on the homepage or pop-up screen/sidebar. And make sure you recommend it to your friends by giving them the link to my website.
Until next time!
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