Posted by: thediygeochemist | August 5, 2010

science outreach for homeschoolers

After reading my suggestions on how to improve science education for homeschoolers, psi*psi asked how to go about doing outreach for homeschoolers. Actually, it’s fairly easy: all those outreach programs that scientists currently do for K-12? Do them again, but invite a somewhat different group.

The hardest part of dealing with homeschoolers is that there’s no central office you can call when you want to arrange something like this. There are two approaches you can take:

(1) Do your outreach as part of a homeschooling conference. Since homeschoolers like to do things as a family, there are frequently workshops for both teens and younger children at these events. I have several workshops in my repertoire that cater to these crowds (some for older kids, one for younger kids) and I actually find doing these far more fulfilling than speaking to the adults.

This option requires a fair bit of pre-planning though: conference workshops are frequently scheduled 6+ months in advance. I’m about to submit a workshop proposal to a conference which will take place next June. [psi*psi: If I remember your location correctly, the closest secular conference to you is actually happening this weekend. So it’s too late for next year: maybe next time?]

(2) Do a free hands-on science class. Better yet, offer several, all at the same time, for different ages. (One of the great challenges of homeschooling more than one child is finding activities that keep everyone happy but don’t interfere with each other.) Homeschoolers love free things.

Keep in mind that if you go with option 2, you may want to offer a “lite” version first, then a more intense version a few weeks later. The first time you do something like this it’s bound to be sparsely attended, but the few who come will spread the word, and the second one will be packed.

To do this, you need to spread word through local email lists and/or homeschool groups. You usually have to Google to find these. There are a few supposedly comprehensive listings online, but I’ve found these to be poorly maintained and often incomplete. Some groups don’t like advertising to go through the email list, but they usually make an exception for free events.



  1. Good to know! It would be cool to maybe organize something like this in the future…perhaps we could go in on it together, since you already know a lot of the homeschooling scene?

    • Are you interested in option 1 or option 2?

      For #1, I highly recommend that you contact the staff at the CHN Family Expo,

      I doubt they’d remember me–the organizational staff has all changed since I was last there in 2006–but it’s an absolutely awesome conference that’s very hands-on science friendly. Looks like they have Aquarium of the Pacific there this year doing stuff like squid dissections. I’m sure chemistry would be a nice change for next year.

      For option 2, I wouldn’t be much help–I’m from the Bay Area, and almost all of my local connections are still there.

      In any case, I can help you put something together–I’ve certainly done that many times before, on both small and large scales.

      • Option 1 sounds like a quicker and easier way to get involved! I’m only about a six-hour drive from the Bay Area, so if your family is there through next year or so (which I understand sucks for you 😦 ) we could maybe take our time and arrange something for the future. Due to my own extremely negative experiences with religious groups, though, I’d only be willing to work with the secular conferences.

        Funny we should be talking about this–my advisor just handed me a homeschooled high-schooler as an AFM minion!

    • No, they won’t be here then. I haven’t wanted to make announcements until it is final, but they shouldn’t be in CA more than six more weeks. This will make in-person collaboration difficult.

      There aren’t really any Bay Area conferences, anyway, unless you’re going for the Christian sort. The two big secular conferences are CHN (Ontario) and HSC (Sacramento), both in August.

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