Q01: Do your science kits include manuals? Answer guides for review questions?

A: Yes. The BK01 Biology Kit manual is the book Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments. PDF copies of that book and the answer guide are downloadable from the Manuals page, and is also included on the supplemental DVD in the kit.  You can also buy a printed copy of the book from any bookstore.

The Illustrated Guide to Home Forensic Science Experiments is downloadable from the Manuals page. You can also buy a printed copy of the book from any bookstore.

The CK01A and CK01B chemistry kits manuals are freely downloadable. If you order a either chemistry kit, we will email you the answer guide as a PDF file. Note that the CK01A and CK01B chemistry kits are completely stand-alone and do not use or require our book Illustrated Guide to Home Chemistry Experiments. That book covers two full years of chemistry lab work and requires purchasing equipment and chemicals separately. The CK01A and CK01B chemistry kits cover one year of honors/standard chemistry lab work, and use the manual downloadable from the Manuals page.

All of our PDF files may be freely duplicated for your own use.

Q02: Are your kits correlated with homeschool science curricula?

A: The BK01 biology kit lab sessions are correlated with most popular      homeschool biology textbooks, including: Miller & Levine Biology, CK-12 Biology, Biology, 4th edition (Bob Jones University Press), and Exploring Creation with Biology, 2nd edition (Apologia).  Please contact us for correlation guides.

We have not attempted to correlate the CK01A chemistry kit lab sessions with any textbooks because literally dozens of chemistry text titles and editions of those titles are commonly used by homeschoolers. However, it's very easy to correlate the CK01A lab sessions yourself with whatever text you use because the CK01A manual is organized into topic areas that correspond to most or all of the major topics in any first-year high school chemistry text.

Q03: Which science textbooks do you recommend for use with your kits?

A: For biology, we recommend either Miller and Levine Biology (Dragonfly or Macaw version) or CK-12 Biology or Biology I - Honors,     Please contact us for correlation guides. The Illustrated Guide to Home Biology Experiments is the lab manual for this course and can be downloaded from the Manuals page.

For chemistry, we recommend either CK-12 Chemistry, which is freely downloadable and includes both teacher and student editions as well and supplemental teaching materials, or a used copy of a reasonably recent edition of Chemistry: The Central Science.

Q04: Do we have to do all of the lab sessions in a kit to have a useful lab experience?

A: Not at all. Many public school biology and chemistry courses use only demonstrations and provide little or no hands-on lab time for students, so any time at all devoted to hands-on labs is all to the good. Both the BK01 biology kit and the CK01A chemistry kit provide materials and instructions for more labs than many people will have time to      do over the course of a year.

We recommend doing as many of the lab sessions as possible, particularly if your student will go on to major in a hard science in college, but doing half or even a third of the lab sessions will still give your student a useful hands-on lab experience. Also, if you intend to do only a subset of the lab sessions, don't overlook the benefit of allowing the student to choose lab sessions that cover topics in which he or she is particularly interested.

Q05: How much adult supervision is needed? Must the adult be familiar with science procedures?

A: Safety is ultimately your responsibility. The degree of adult      supervision you require will depend on your comfort level and the      maturity of your student(s). Our lab kits include corrosive, toxic, and flammable chemicals and are not intended for use by those under 14 years of age. Although the very small amounts used minimize the risks, it is still important that both teacher and student familiarize themselves with the risks and follow all safety precautions, including wearing gloves and chemical splash goggles when handling hazardous materials.

Our kits have been used successfully by parents whose science background varies from holding a Ph.D. in chemistry or biology to those who haven't had any exposure to science since they were taking high school science courses themselves. We make no assumptions about your level of science knowledge. The kit documentation provides complete, detailed instructions that allow you to do the lab sessions successfully regardless of your own experience.

Q06: How much time is required to prepare for a lab session and to clean up afterward?

A: For most lab sessions, almost none. Simply choose the chemicals and equipment you need for the session, and go to work. When you complete the lab session, simply wash up and return the items you used to your storage location.

In some cases, some preliminary preparation can help you make best use of lab time. For example, you might collect leaves for a biology lab session or make up solutions one evening for use in a chemistry lab session the next day. In cases where preliminary preparation is necessary or desirable, the lab session instructions mention what needs to be done and when.

Q07: If I break or spill something, do I have to buy the whole kit again to replace it?

A: Of course not. All of the components of all of our kits can be purchased individually. Email us at admin (at) thehomescientist (dot) com and tell us which components you need to replace.

Q08: Can students share a kit?

A: Yes. For the best learning experience, we recommend that students work individually or in pairs, but three or four students can share one kit if necessary.

Q9: What is the shelf life of your kits?

A: If you use a kit for one student one year, there should be no problem using that same kit for another student the next year or the year following.

The chemicals and other consumables in our kits generally have shelf lives of two years or longer (in most cases, much longer) if stored unopened or carefully resealed in a cool, dark place. The Rhizobia culture, the carrot and lima bean seeds, and the yeast provided with the BK01 biology kit should remain usable for at least one year unopened. If you intend to reuse the BK01 biology kit for another student within two years, you can purchase replacements for the Rhizobia culture and the seeds at most lawn and garden stores (make sure the Rhizobia culture you purchase is compatible with lima beans), and yeast at any supermarket.

Q10: When I finish using one of your kits, how can I dispose of it safely?

A: If the kit is not completely used up, the best way to dispose of it is to give or sell it to another local homeschool family. (Do NOT ship the kit; unless you repackage the kit in accordance with all hazardous material shipping regulations, doing so may violate those regulations and get you into real trouble.)

Local hazardous material disposal laws and regulations vary greatly in different jurisdictions, so if you want to remain within the letter of the law you should contact your local authorities about proper disposal methods. In practical terms, the amounts of hazardous chemicals included in the kits are small enough that you can simply flush them down the drain with copious running water.

Q11: Do your kits include everything needed to complete the lab sessions?

A: No. They do include the specialized equipment and materials called for in the lab sessions, with the exception of expensive items like a microscope or prepared slide sets and some live specimens. You supply items commonly found around the house or readily-available locally, such as aluminum foil, scissors, soft drink bottles, paper towels, and so on. Each lab session includes a list of the required materials that are provided in the kit, and a second list of materials that you provide.

Other than household materials, the only special item required for any of the CK01A chemistry kit lab sessions is a digital multimeter (DMM), which is used in four of the lab sessions. If you intend to do any or all of those sessions, you can use any DMM. Suitable models are available locally at Radio Shack, Lowes, Home Depot, Harbor Freight, and many on-line vendors starting at $5 or $8.

A balance is required for one of the BK01 biology kit lab sessions, and desirable for several others. If you intend to do that lab session, you'll need a balance with at least decigram (0.1 gram) resolution, although a centigram (0.01 gram) balance is a better choice. Centigram balances with capacities of 100 to 200 grams are widely available on-line starting at around $35.

Two models we can recommend are the Jennings JS-200XV (~$40, with 0.01 g resolution and a 200 g capacity) and the American Weigh Scales SM-5DR (~$45, with 0.01 g resolution to 100 g and 0.1 g resolution to 500 g). Either is excellent for homeschool lab courses in biology, chemistry, and the other sciences.

Some of the lab sessions covered by the BK01 Biology Kit require live specimens or cultures, many of which can be gathered locally but some of which must be purchased if you intend to do the lab session that requires them. Many lab sessions call for prepared slides, which are not included in the kit. You can make many of those slides yourself at no cost, but some must be purchased. To minimize the number of prepared slides needed, the BK01 Biology Kit includes a supplemental DVD that provide high-resolution images of the microscope images in the text. These images can be viewed on any PC or tablet.