What to Look for in a Microscope
Home-schooling can be a hard road, a parent trying to educate their child has some difficulties that may not seem immediately apparent from the beginning. But as the lessons go on, so do the requirements of experiencing them properly. Illustrations can go a long way towards explaining some of the basic fundamentals of science, but when it comes time to delve deeper, illustrations and the naked eye just won’t do.
There are things that must be seen to be truly appreciated, things like the cells that make up a blade of grass, the movement of single-celled organisms in a drop of pond water, and the process of growth through cell-division that’s only able to be observed through the lens of a microscope. There are mysteries of the world that will open minds, inspire dreams, and build ambition, and many of those building blocks are found in the world of science.
What Kind of Microscope Does my Homeschool Really Need?
There are two types of microscope that are used in your basic scientific exploration, in part because they cover the basics, and in part because they are among the most affordable. We know that affordability is key when you’re teaching your child at home, especially since those who dedicate their life to their childrens growth and education often come from a single income home.
Stereoscopic Microscopes for Kids
These microscopes are great for low magnification levels, and come with the additional advantage of providing a 3-dimensional view of the object. It is based on this special property that makes it an exceptional tool for doing the kind of exploration that comes with dissection, getting a look at different angles of the contents of a cell, and getting a good perception of depth and distance in a sample.
Compound Microscope for Kids
These microscopes uses multiple lenses to bring about a clearer image to be studied. A special lens close to the viewed object is used to collect the light, and then reflects it onto another lens for magnification. The properties of light and the lenses in this microscope combine to provide the best combination of magnification, clarity, and affordability that can be found in a microscope suitable for homeschool applications.
How Much is a Kids Microscope?
The price of microscopes vary, but in general you should be able to find useful and effective models for well under a hundred dollars, often starting as low as $20. However, you have to pay attention to what you’re getting with your microscope. If you’re paying a low price, pay attention to what you get with it, and what you may have to purchase later. If the price seems rather high, then it’s time to take a close look at the package and make sure that it comes with a good supply of equipment, and always check for a warranty!
When you start looking into a microscope, you’re going to want to make sure that it’s a durable model, capable of handling the stress and abuse that come from being handled by eager children in a homeschool environment. While some of the most durable will also be the heaviest, you may also find them incredibly difficult to clean. You’re going to want to find a piece that has a good weight, as well as a easily cleaned shell.
- Frame Construction: The body of a microscope can be constructed from metal, plastic, or a combination. In metal microscopes you’re going to get a weight that provides a confidence in handling, and a durability to stand up to the rigors of your childs enthusiasm for science. With a plastic body, your microscope will be lighter and easier to clean, but might not last as long as the metal piece, but you’ll be trading that for a much reduced price. If you’re going to have multiple children in your school of varying ages, invest in a metal bodied one, you’ll regret it if you don’t.
- Number of Lenses: The functionality of a microscope, in part, is tied into how much range you have to view, looking at something from a slight magnification, can tell you just as much, in a different way, than high magnification. A good microscope will have a rotating lens that will enable you to select what magnification you want, often varying from 4x to 400x magnification.
- Types of Lenses: The lens itself can be made of plastic or glass, though glass lenses are by far superior for clarity and magnification, as well as lifespan. If you’re going for quality, make sure you stay away from plastic lenses.
- Lighting: There are multiple forms of light source you can find for microscopes, the most basic being a ‘natural light’ source that consists of little more than a mirror that collects uses the ambient light to assist your magnification. Some of the older models use a simple incandescent bulb, which provides a fairly powerful light source regardless of the lighting in the room. The most recent models use the small, energy efficient yet powerful LEDs to produce the light source.
- Power Source: If a microscope includes a light source, there’s going to have to be some way to provide power to that light. Most often this will be a simple power cord running to a standard light outlet, but some of the newer models utilize batteries, letting you conduct you research, and experiments anywhere that’s convenient!
Materials Included with Microscope
When you start looking at purchasing a microscope, you may not immediately think of all the things you’ll need to go with it. Below I’m going to go into some of the supplies and what they’re for, so you’ll know what they are when you see them on the package.
- Slides: Microscopes require slides to be used effectively, and the best microscopes come with some included.
- Glass Slides: Glass slides having the problem of being fragile, but the benefit of being more scratch resistant. Because of this they keep their clarity longer, and generally defract light a lot less.
- Plastic Slides: These present less danger of breakage and glass splinters, but have a tendency to get scratched up much easier, and therefore have to be replaced more often. In general they are inferior transmitters of light, so even in perfect condition they don’t perform as well as Glass.
- Covers: Covers are thinner pieces of glass then the slides, and are essentially used to protect the sample and keep it in place, as well as keep the liquid suspension from drying from natural evaporation and the heat of the light source. They are available in plastic and glass as well, and share the same properties as the slides.
These are just a few of the things to consider when picking a microscope for your homeschool. Whether inexpensive and light or if you’re paying for quality, these guidelines will lead you on your way to picking the right tools for your budding scientist!