Being an unschooler is about freedom. It’s about curiosity. It’s about taking your child’s passions and building an education around them. It’s not about following a curriculum. It’s not about adhering to a specific schedule or to a specific pattern of study.
But what happens when your unschooling path crosses the path of needing to follow a set of requirements? This is all too often the case when it comes to Lab Sciences and college requirements.
Many colleges and universities require at least one year of lab science in high school, with the majority requiring two years or more. So how can you fulfill those requirements for your high schooler, without completely letting go of your unschooling approach to education?
See if you have a local homeschool co-op in your area. With a co-op, you only have to participate in the classes that you want to, so your teen won’t have to take any other academic classes if the desire is not there. Additionally, lab sciences can be one of the harder things to do at home (many homeschoolers are afraid of blowing up their kitchens in a chemistry experiment gone wrong, or don’t think they have the stomach to walk their kids through a dissection), so participating in a co-op can really bring a fun, group dynamic to science learning!
Check out dual enrollment options at your local community college. This can be a great way to not only tackle the lab science requirements for high school, but for your unschooler to start earning college credit as well.
You always have the option of purchasing boxed lab kits and/or lab equipment (like petrie dishes, microscopes, etc.) from sites like Home Science Tools and Quality Science Labs, and letting your high schoolers create/re-create their own experiments (YouTube for the win!).
There are tons of online virtual dissections and online lab simulations. Many of which are free! Here are a few links to get you started with those:
One last tip (and this would apply to traditional homeschoolers, unschoolers, and everyone in between) would be to document, document, document lab work. Your teen could do this with a lab notebook, where they make notes about their preparation for an experiment, as well as what they observed in each step. You can also snap pictures throughout their experiments/projects. Besides being a great way to keep visual memories of their high school years, these photos can definitely go a long way in a portfolio.
Don’t be afraid to ask others what they have done. Visit forums (LHSHS has an awesome parent forum <ahem>) and connect with other unschoolers. Pick brains and seek out others. Not only might you get some wonderful ideas and advice, you may even be able to connect with others locally and work together to fulfill lab science requirements.
Katie has been homeschooling her two boys, now ages 9 and 14, since 2005. She was once an "accidental homeschooler," but is now a "can't imagine NOT doing this" homeschooler. She's also an online marketing consultant, an avid reader, a TV watcher extraordinaire, a coffee drinker, a gadget addict, a music lover, a fan of community theater and a proud geek. You can hang out with her a little more over on her personal blog.