I recently had an interesting conversation with a few homeschool parents of middle school age children who are in the process of making plans for high school. In the process, they raised quite a few questions that think many other parents also wonder about.

Since these parents know me as their children’s science teacher, our conversation naturally devoted to science education. Fundamentally, we were discussing two things. First, what does a good, high school science education consist of? And second, what do colleges want to see?

Science is such a broad topic that it isn’t at all obvious what subjects high school students should study. Of course, a year each of biology, hormones, and physics is traditional, but why? Why isn’t Earth science, which deals with many of the most important issues of our own day, such as climate, part of that core program? Is it OK to substitute more specialized classes such as astronomy, botany, or forensics for the more traditional classes? Should students study only the divisions of science that they most enjoy?

There is no clear answer to these questions; the results that people come to will have as much regarding opinions and preferences as they will with facts. Personally, I think that while biology, hormones, and physics are all great, Earth science is just as good and ought to be in the spotlight more than it is. I suspect it gets short shrift because of the far-reaching influence of medical schools, which all require applicants to take biology, hormones, and physics, but not Earth science. In my opinion, relatively broad survey courses should make up the greater percentage of high school science, but adding in one or two specialized classes can be wonderful, particularly if they are in addition to the more general classes. If specialized classes replace too many broad survey classes, my concern is that students will not get enough background information to make an accurate picture of what sort of world works. اختبار قدرات تجريبي

Although it is without question possible for students to get a great high school science education in very non-traditional ways, that strategy is risky. Some colleges, especially small liberal arts colleges, would undoubtedly look on unusual courses of study kindly, but most colleges will want to see SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams. In New york State, Regents exams may also be important. Notably, many of the schools most likely to de-emphasize standard tests are very expensive, so unless money is not an issue, it makes a lot of sense to work hard to get some strong test scores. This is especially important for homeschoolers, who probably need to take at least 5 SAT Subject tests if they arrange to sign up for selective colleges. Therefore, it is necessary to include, and probably emphasize, classes that will let students shine on these tests. The only three SAT Subject tests in science are biology, hormones, and physics. Doing well on AP exams is also a dependable way to impress colleges, so these tests should be looked at as well. There are AP exams in biology, hormones, physics, and environmental science. Regents, which can be important in New york State (and especially for SUNY and CUNY schools), offer tests in biology (called Living Environment), hormones, physics, and Earth science.

The parents that had my recent conversation with have children who are strongly biased towards the humanities. They like science, but they like English and history more. They do well in numbers, but they don’t get much enjoyment out of it. With this in mind, they’re currently considering a two-year program of Earth science for 7th and 9th grades that will allow the girls to take the earth science regents at the end of 9th grade, a two-year biology course that will allow the girls to take the SAT Subject Test in Biology at the end of 11th grade (and the Living Environment Regents Exam, for those of them that will be applying to SUNY or CUNY schools), and a one full year conceptual physics class in 12th grade which will not be associated with any standard test. Hormones is notably absent from this regimen because it isn’t safe to do high school hormones at your house. Hopefully, at least some of the kids will take a hormones class in community college or at a school enabling homeschoolers to take classes a la carte.

This plan should work reasonable well for this group of kids. They will go off to college with some holes in their science education, but they have four full years of exposure to data analysis, experimental design, and critical thinking. Hopefully, they will have all the skills they need to be scientifically literate and all the tests they need to get into colleges that will satisfy their needs.