Sunday, January 15, 2017

Low Stress High School Science and Math (VCF Week 3)

Welcome to the third week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. I almost didn't make this week due to my own illness, but decided I really wanted to talk about how we have handled the two subjects that give Amber the most difficulty: science and math.

Unexpected Homeschool: Low Stress High School Science and Math Curriculum Ideas (VCF 2017 Week 3)

High School Math:
Although Amber is rather gifted in mathematics (and this is coming from her math and science degree holding parents), it is an endless source of stress for her. It took us years to determine the root of the anxiety, since she has no difficulty at all with the concepts. I'm not going to detail here all of our struggles, but needless to say Saxon Math was not the best choice for a perfectionist child who couldn't stand getting a single problem wrong. Add to that her chronic illnesses that result in exhaustion after mental strain, and Saxon Math was just too many problems. We had to find something else that would give Amber a good basis in mathematics, challenge her, and yet not trigger her anxiety or cause so much exhaustion she had to choose between math or all of her other subjects for the day.

You can read about our math journey in previous blog posts (here and here), but our end choice has been Life of Fred high school math.  Amber has so far completed the Life of Fred Beginning Algebra (algebra 1) and Advanced Algebra (algebra 2). She's ready to start Geometry in the next couple of weeks when we resume full days of school.  Our plan is to continue through the series with Trigonometry and Calculus.

We have never forced Amber to finish or start math books on the school year schedule, which lead to her being about a semester ahead of schedule. Which means she will hopefully finish geometry in December of her Sophomore year, Trigonometry in December of her Junior year, and Calculus in December of her Senior year. This gives us an entire semester of buffer time, however she is not required to complete Calculus for her English degree which makes that entire course extra math.

Unexpected Homeschool: Low Stress High School Science and Math Curriculum Ideas (VCF 2017 Week 3)

High School Science:

Amber has a great interest in many science topics, however we found that a good deal of the science curricula available do not even come close to meeting her needs. We would start each new science curriculum with excitement only to be stressed out within a few weeks. Amber worried quite a bit about how she would ever get through high school science and the expected topics: Physical Science, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and now an advanced science since she completed Physical Science in 8th grade.

We wanted to love Apologia science so badly. We really did. Amber always protested that she liked it for Physical Science, yet never wanted to work on it. Never. Ever. It was a struggle to finally finish the summer before 9th grade. I think the issue for her was the not the content, but using a textbook. She found it interesting, but it drained her energy almost as fast as math.

While planning for high school, I decided to brainstorm and research on alternative high school science topics. We live in a very homeschool friendly state, and basically our only restrictions on science are what she might need for college.  The schools Amber is looking at do not list specific required science topics, only a set number of science courses of which another number need to include labs. That opened us up to an array of new science topics.

I've already written a detailed post about our research for topics and curriculum.  However, what I left out was our last minute addition this semester: forensic science.  We were all set to work on a semester of botany and a semester of genetics for 9th grade, when Amber decided that aspects of forensic science interested her.  Of course being a homeschool mom, I went into research mode.  The result was a course I designed for Amber and have ended up teaching in our homeschool co-op this semester.

The forensics course touches on chemistry, physics, and biology aspects as well as logical deductions.  It is heavy on laboratory (experiment) work in class and reading outside of class time.  And while I'm not a forensic scientist, there are many resources available that make this topic accessible to those outside of the field. It is an entirely home-grown course while still being high school level and should encompass enough hours to be worth 1/2 credit. Our resources are:

Unexpected Homeschool: Low Stress High School Science and Math Curriculum Ideas (VCF 2017 Week 3)

There are so many more amazing resources to use for a full year forensics class, we simply decided to limit ours to a single semester and gear the level to the majority of our students who are in the earlier years of high school.

Although the use of some mathematics is needed in this forensics course, it is not the equation heavy type found in a lot of other math based sciences. The students are finding this to be of just the right difficulty to not cause math anxiety - which was my ultimate goal for Amber.

Next week I'll be talking about how Amber is earning history, government, and biological science credits.

Miss a week? Take a look at some of the other posts from the 2017 Curriculum Fair.

Virtual Curriculum Fair 2017 - Keeping Our Homeschool Organized

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are talking about Discovering Patterns: Math and the Mathematical Sciences this week:


  1. What an awesome course you have designed.
    Blessings, Dawn

  2. I love the looks of your forensics course! Thank you for sharing with the VCF. :)

  3. That forensics course really does sound interesting! I think it's great that you were able to design a course specific to her needs and interests!

  4. forensics as a science course...i like it! :)

  5. I love how you have looked ahead and were able to determined what she needed and how to get it. The forensics looks really interesting. - Lori

  6. It is neat to hear of an older child being successful with Life of Fred. Usually only hear stories of younger kids liking it. That is great. Yep, we tried to hang with Apologia for older students as well but eventually gave up the fight and retreated back to ABeka!