Lab Science for Unschoolers

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:

Free Virtual Dissections Online
Interactive Science Simulations
Online Physics, Chemistry, & Biology Labs
VirtLab Virtual Laboratory


  • 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.

July 26, 2014


  1. bailbrae says:
    Posted August 1, 2014 11:20 am

    Thank you so, so much for putting together the post about the virtual dissections, and for chiming in here with MORE great tips! :)

  2. Magic and Mayhem says:
    Posted July 31, 2014 9:22 am

    Great ideas! I was tickled to see you my virtual dissection round-up featured. :) Another thought is that unschoolers can easily put together their own lab work. For biology, you could count hours doing things like: examining all different things under the microscope (we have an inexpensive, indestructible Brock we use with all ages and I bought the higher lenses to be able to see blood cells and such), volunteering at a veterinary office, the virtual dissections and also virtual surgeries, raising chickens, training to be a doula (yes, there are a few teen doulas who assist teen moms with childbirth and some doula organizations offer free training for teens interested in that kind of advocacy), raising butterflies (and tadpoles and so on), kitchen table science experiments, cleaning fish (an easy route if your child wants to do dissection!) and so on. :)

    You can also do labs in other science areas -- geology is an easy one, and you could do a half credit in that and a half credit in another science specialty. For chemistry, you can purchase one of the lab kits for homeschoolers or DIY. I've featured quite a few free science curricula over the years in my examiner column that include full lab lesson plans that use easy to find materials and supplies, and there's also Pinterest if you want to put it together yourself (my HS science board on Pinterest has more great experiments and lessons than I could use with all 5 of my kids put together). :) Unschoolers can also put together lab courses to fit their interests -- a half credit lab for the chemistry of photography, for example, if they develop their own film and are immersed in learning all about how cameras and film work, growing an organic garden for a half credit of ag, and so on.

    ITA about documenting and photographing too. That has been the biggest help when it comes to figuring out how to assign high school credits to my 11th grader and also to help us figure out what we can do to fill in any gaps on her transcript. We had to do her transcript 2 years earlier than expected since she applied (and was admitted) to a competitive public arts high school, and we found that we had more science credit than there was room for on the forms since she had done so much science (hands-on experiments, oodles of nature studies, medical podcasts, specialty science books, volunteer work, science museum memberships and so on... I'd even given her a blood typing kit for Christmas one year). It can be done and you can still stick to interest-led education. :)

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