Homeschool High School Biology
Charlotte Mason and Unschooling Approach
Worried About Your Biology Credit?
High school transcript. Those three words can strike fear into a homeschooling mother's heart; and, strike fear into my own heart they did, for awhile. You see, our homeschool has been very accommodating in philosophy in order to work around a learning disability. Generally, I embrace a Charlotte Mason attitude in all we do, but even the gentle structure of a Charlotte Mason approach has had to be tossed out the window at times and the full-fledged attitude of the unschooler adopted. (Don't get me wrong; the more I follow after unschooling the more I like it.) I will be the first to admit that I have abandoned structure at times in favor of allowing my dyslexic son to read for five hours a day. I'll also be the first to admit that I want my son to have the opportunity to go to any college he wants. That said, I know he won't get in without a transcript, and biology is one of the classes that will be required.
What Does It Mean To Teach Biology, Anyway?
Biology. Hmmmmmm. I thought about what I learned in biology from my own public high school education. My teacher was a very nice man, but I walked away from that biology class with little true knowledge about science. Unfortunately, there was a class clown and a major bully in my biology class. The teacher spent much time asking one to be quiet and sending the other to the office for disciplinary action. The bully never graduated, but did end up in prison. The boy and girl that sat across from me and my "lab partner" whispered constantly. The only scrap of true information that certainly came from that class was my knowledge of osmosis and diffusion. I do remember that because someone in class made a joke about expelling gas. So I spent 150 hours in that class only to learn about osmosis and to live in daily fear of a bully who actually turned a science torch on my arm one day in class.
I pondered the many, many hours (way more than 150) that my high school son has spent helping his father dress deer killed in the wild for our eating, studying the habits of pond fish so that he might become a better fisherman, watching wildlife DVDs and talking with his father and me about the differences between the leopard and the cheetah, poring over our many wildlife magazines each month, and raking up leaves to put on our vegetable garden plot because they bring the earthworms to the surface to work the soil and they compost nicely. I remembered the fieldtrips we've taken across a local mountain and how we've been inspired by the simplest plants in our own little yard. Of course, there's more, but those activities alone have added up to way more than 150 hours. In addition, we've had more conversations than I can count about the elements that make up earth's atmosphere and how plants give us oxygen. My son has had way better than a classroom dissection of a frog at his disposal. He has seen a deer's organs -- heart, lungs, stomach, and more. What's more, he's been raised to be thankful for the food the deer will be to our family for an entire year and he's also gotten a class on gun safety and respect out of the deal. Thinking back, both the bully and the class clown in my high school biology class could have benefitted from such a one-on-one education.
When I asked myself --in all honesty -- if I felt my son had earned a high school credit in biology, the answer was an emphatic yes. Nevertheless, I graduated from college myself and I felt that my son would need a strong writing hand to take notes and some definite book work to give him a good foundation. What I needed to do was find a resource to provide written work: something to provide a grade for his transcript and some good biology basics, but certainly not 150 hours of seat-work.
The Perfect Biology Resource
For us, the perfect biology resource ended up being a 48-page workbook designed for grades 4 to 8 and up. Lest you begin to fear that it's too simple a resource, let me assure you that it has many concepts in it that we covered in my college anatomy-physiology and biology classes. In looking at the material in the workbook, I would have been WAY ahead of my high school biology peers if I had retained just a fraction of what's in this workbook. My son and I spent two weeks going through this workbook together (one of my favorite things about homeschooling is learning along with my children -- just call me a "lab partner") and my son did all the worksheets in the book independently. There's a cell unit test at the end of the workbook that worked as a great final examination. As an aside, I had already invested in a microscope for our homeschool, so my son was able to look at many things with a microscopic view and become microscope-proficient.
Is This Really Enough?
To ensure we really covered all we needed for biology, I went to the website that our state's division of public instruction provides for information about courses of study. One of the first things that jumped out at me was a large biology file that could be downloaded by teachers. In its description was a statement that the guideline was provided so that teachers could modify the information "to suit their individual classroom needs." I feel certain that our modifications -- our son's hands-on education -- are acceptable. As I looked at the objectives for the biology, I realized that we had covered many objectives in depth. I remembered our conversations about a wooded area where one could occasionally see a solid white deer. We talked about albinism and genetics. After going over our state's science objectives -- biology in particular -- what I was left with was the feeling that basic cell knowledge was what my son needed to cover, on paper, to complete his biology credit.
Learning About Cells
Learning About Cells is the science activity book I was telling you about, and I have a couple of pictures to illustrate why we love Learning About Cells so much. (Obviously, I can share only a small portion of the book due to copyright laws.) The information in Learning About Cells is presented in a clear fashion and covers a lot of material: cells, tissues, organs, systems and so on; plant and animal cells; mitosis and meiosis; diffusion and osmosis; photosynthesis and respiration. There is instruction on using a microscope and there are worksheets for the student to show what they have learned.
Learning About Cells
"A rich child often sits in a poor mother's lap."
"I hear and I forget.
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