Ten years ago, my husband Rick, encouraged me to find some type of on-going science program for our very scientific homeschooled second grade son. Having taught for ten years and knowing what great program OMSI had for traditional schoolers, I turned to OMSI to see what they had for homeschoolers. Nothing. OMSI had not had much contact from the homeschool community at that time.
We were long term members of OMSI and had greatly used their Discovery Center, but beyond the halls, we had never ventured deep into the labs. From behind the chemistry counter, Science Educator Jake gave me the beginning elements for creating the series of first classes. If we could find 12 homeschoolers, we could have a private lab, just like the traditional school students . . .
"Did we know 12 homeschoolers in Portland?"
(Photo is of "Son" with his favorite OMSI Chemistry Science Educators. Now, Son is an OMSI Rising Star, a high schooler having completed Chemistry and gearing up to take Physics in the fall.)
By the end of that first month we had 24 regular homeschool students, ranging from kindergarten to seventh grade, all taking one lab together; olders helping the youngers. At the end of the year, I had 125 interested families, and grew from the one class to five classes, weekly.
Currently we hold 100 students, and limit the classes to 16 students, offering six science classes based on age groups and three all-age Lego Engineering classes.
Fall classes begin the middle of September, wrapping up about Thanksgiving. Spring classes begin the first of February, break for two weeks at Spring Vacation, and finish off at the beginning of May.
We LOVE coming to OMSI on Tuesdays during the school year when the building is in low use; and for OMSI we fill the labs during a time of the year when traditional students are busy in their classrooms, and finish our year as the other schools begin their season of field trips. A win-win for both parties.
About our program:
OHSSC offers classes from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Science levels overlap by grades to give flexibility to parents wanting to challenge their child, or to accommodate students warming up to science or traditional classroom structure.
Science classes are grouped as Beginner (K through 2nd), Intermediate (2nd to 4th), and Advanced (4th to 6th grade). The topics each week are the same (great for multi-aged families wanting to expand at home on the topics), but the content and objectives deepen with the older students. Bumping up to a higher level than the students grade is a joint decision based on science background, academic ability, and space availability.
The Middle School Challenge class is geared for 6th through 8th, however, some 5th graders with past science experience are eager to join the class.
Lego Engineering students need to be 7 years old. Students team up in small groups of two or three, to work through structural building challenges.
Classes range in size from 12 to 16 students, plus auditing parents and siblings. True to homeschooling tradition, the siblings are hopping up and down at the side, ready with answers or questions of their own. Since the OMSI instructors see our kids on a regular basis and develop a relationship with each class, the instructors have the ability (and our encouragement) to go deeper with each lesson. Our kids love to be in science classes and leave with answers and the desire for more questions.
Throughout the year many new families ask to join. It is always hard to say that classes are full at 16 students, but when the new families join, they always appreciate the not-too-small, not-too-large groups.
1) Families need to purchase an OMSI pass. Unlike traditional schoolers that pay for a day pass, it would not be worth it to purchase a day pass each visit when taking our series of classes. OMSI offers a homeschool membership with proof of homeschooling (a copy of your letter of intent provided to your school district or ESD). Or for OHSSC homeschoolers too young to register with their district/ESD, I can supply you with a letter from our group so that you can purchase your membership at the homeschool discount.
2) Non-refundable registration fee of $25 per child covers the cost of running the group, your family's name tags, office supplies, and thank you gifts to the incredible Science Educators, Registrar department, and Hand-stamper gentlemen.
3) Tuition is based on the semester. Families can choose to pay per the semester or for the full year. Families do receive a discount when paying for the full year.
• Science classes meet for 10 weeks, one hour a week:
$75 per series of classes, $125 for the full year.
• Lego Engineering classes meet for 10 weeks, one hour a week:
$75 per series of classes, $125 for the full year.
• Middle School Challenge meets for 12 weeks, two hours a week:
$175 per series of classes or $275 for the year.
Tuition is due August 15th. Tuition is refundable up to three weeks prior to the beginning of the term. Full year tuition refunded mid year will be refunded as $50 for science/Lego and $100 for MS Challengers.