Science in the upper grades can become a topic of hot debate in education circles. Homeschoolers can take this debate to epic proportions. I am sharing my opinion because I have seen the impact poor planning can have on students.
As a past college professor, I want to give you some insights in terms of the preparation in the sciences that my students needed for success and more importantly the courses/skills that poorly performing students lacked.
Courses in High School Matter
Let’s talk about the importance of the high school science sequence. The science sequence can evoke strong emotions. I might step on some toes so try not to take offense. My opinion is coming from years of observation.
I have worked in the college classroom for over 10 years and I have seen high school planning (or lack there of) get in the way of many dreams. When part of my job was advising students, one of the things that repeatedly came up was this idea that students had skipped chemistry for some reason in high school. That simple decision can be big deal later.
Disclaimer: I am not a professional advisor. The information you see here is available to you as one option and should not be taken without due diligence on your part. Please check with your state, district, umbrella school, and/or college of choice for more detailed information.
I have heard several reasons why a homeschooler might choose an alternative science sequence to the one that they see typically in public school. Let’s not get the apple before the cart.
What is the typical high school science sequence?
The typical science sequence for a college prep student would be a general physical science class which is usually in ninth grade or eighth grade, a general biology class, a general chemistry class, and then students might take a variety of 3rd/4th classes as a college prep student. Students that are academically focused will take physics or AP biology or AP chem – something in a more challenging realm.
Unless you know 100% that your kid is not going to college at some point, every student should at least take the bare minimum to keep their options open. A 15 year old kid and a frustrated parent shouldn’t be making long term decisions based on teen attitude.
I understand the struggle. That is one reason I think outsourcing in the teen years can become so valuable. What is the bare minimum? I think the bare minimum is going through at least chemistry.
Your kid might not be a genius or a budding rocket scientist, but the truth of the matter is that if they decide to return to college at 30 and haven’t had the requisite coursework it could prevent them from going or just create an additional obstacle for students that are already at a disadvantage.
Why are returning students at a disadvantage? That is a whole other post, but you can read a little background about nontraditional student data here.
Know the Requirements.
Your kid doesn’t have to take dual enrollment or advanced placement science courses to do well in college. I do think that most kids today need to take the minimum sequence of some type of physical science course, a general biology course, and a general chemistry course. That high school science sequence will cover most bases.
Check your state, etc. for the requirements. Many states just offer a general requirement of lab sciences, but as as an instructor, I can tell you that the oceanography class that you took in place of chemistry could bite you in the behind in a big way.
3 Reasons to take the Typical Science Sequence
1. Colleges are Looking
Colleges and programs like to see serious students take serious coursework. That means that instead of subbing oceanography you might add it as an elective in addition to the typical sequence.
Most colleges prefer to see a B or C in chemistry over an A in environmental science. Environmental science is a better elective course.
2. Science and Math Courses are not Stand Alone Courses.
Sciences build upon one another. Sciences are interrelated. Biology depends on physics and chemistry to explain the phenomena occurring in biological systems. Skipping to a couple of biology classes means that there are serious issues in the foundation.
3. Preparation Beyond Background Knowledge.
I already told you that colleges like to see serious students take serious coursework. The other side of that is that students that take serious coursework in high school are more prepared for the rigor of college. They have created good study skills, time management skills, and acquired the background knowledge on which to build the next layer of information to prepare for their degree and career.
Don’t Shoot the Messenger.
In the course of my career, I cannot tell you how many students have sat in my office with red cheeks and shaking hands and spitting words at me that are full of anger (piss and vinegar comes to mind) because I have to break the news to them that they’re going to have to take a college level chemistry class.
Why? Because they did not take one in high school. That’s right there are some programs that require at least high school level chemistry for entry and/or licensing. This can become a major roadblock in a student’s plan.
Taking college level chemistry without high school exposure is not ideal. Additionally, college level chemistry has prerequisites that can often put a student behind if they have to take college level chemistry to feel some kind of licensing requirement.
Give the Gift of Options.
I think that the best way to keep options open in high school is to prepare the student for the most options. A lot of us aren’t doing what we saw ourselves doing as teens.
By taking a basic sequence, it covers more of the bases and gives a foundation for more opportunities. I don’t think college is necessary for success, but working with a lot of returning college students I can tell you that a brought foundation is very beneficial.
Join the discussion in our Facebook group. I am doing a Facebook live series this week on planning for high school.