How to choose a microscope for homeschooling
Microscopes are amazing tools for homeschool science. They’re easy to use, relatively cheap, and will give your children a much greater appreciation of science and nature.
Choosing a homeschooling microscope to suit your child (and your budget) can be a bit daunting but if you’re wondering what to buy, and what features are important, read on!
Types of microscopes
The two most popular microscopes for home schooling are (1) stereo, and (2) compound microscopes. These can be traditional or digital (more on that later), but don’t dismiss other options, such as the new portable pocket microscopes for kids on the move!
Stereo Microscopes for Homeschooling Students
- Lower magnification (usually 10 to 40x)
- Used to look at bigger 3D objects like plants, insects and rocks
- Fewer moving parts or difficult concepts
- Allow you to handle and interact with your samples while you look
Suitable for younger children in early science studies.
Very young children can sometimes struggle to use a binocular microscope (the kind where you look down two eyepieces using both eyes). Early on, they may find it easier to use a monocular microscope (one eyepiece).
Compound Microscopes for Home Schooling
- Standard for high school science curriculums
- Higher magnification (up to 1000x)
- Show internal structures of tiny transparent objects like microorganisms, cells, or tissue
- Work by placing samples on glass slides and illuminating them from below
- Come with several lenses of varying magnifications (usually 4x,10x, 40x and 100x)
Suitable for older primary school-aged kids and high school-aged students
- Purchase a range of lenses (4x, 10x and 40x objective lenses) in order for your child to get a good grasp on high school science. You’ll need good magnification to see microscopic cells and organisms.
- Look for a mechanical stage. Instead of having to move your slide with your hands, this gives you fine control – no more accidentally knocking the sample out of focus.
- Choose both coarse and fine control knobs for better focus – and your child will be less likely to ram the sample into their lens!
Put simply, a digital microscope is a microscope that uses a digital camera instead of an eyepiece. Digital microscopes connect to a computer monitor to show the results in real time. They be either stereo or compound and perform the same tasks as optical microscopes, but they comes with extra benefits, for example the Dino-Lite AM2111 basic digital USB microscope is an excellent choice if you home school your child.
- No eyepiece – instead they show images on a screen, multiple screens or even on smartphones
- Can be viewed from a comfortable, upright position
- Can take high-quality photos and videos
- Can benefit more than one child at a time
- Lightweight and portable – they travel well
Suitable for all ages
- Keep in mind, not all digital microscopes are created equal. For some people, ‘digital’ means a fully integrated model that plugs into a screen. For others, it means a regular microscope that simply has a digital camera attached to it – you can still put an image up on a screen with these.
- Fun is the X factor for many kids. Your child might find a traditional microscope more engaging (a novel and tactile experience) compared to watching another screen.
- Make sure your choice of digital microscope is compatible with your computer –and monitor, table and phone! It’s easy to be caught out.
- Durable microscopes that fit in your pocket
- Decent quality and magnification (usually 20 to 120x)
- Battery powered
- Don’t require a base or setup – can just be held in your hand
- Some can take pictures, or plug into laptops
Suitable for young children, outdoorsy or well-travelled families
- Avoid the ‘toy’ category if you don’t want your child to be disappointed in the experience.
- Although less common now, some pocket models display an image that is reversed. This takes some getting used to and may be too confusing for some. It's just something to watch out for when buying a very small microscope.
You can find perfectly reasonable student microscopes for up to $500, depending on the age of your child, what you’re after and your budget.
At the same time, be wary of the cheapest options. They are often shoddily made and easily fall apart. Some use plastic lenses instead of glass, which will produce blurry images with no resolution.
We hope your new microscope serves your family well for years to come.
Don’t forget about all the important things that go along with a microscope, such as prepared slides, blank slides, coverslips and mounting solutions. Some kits even come with their own experiments to get your child started right away.
Take a look at our Optico N400M Student Microscope this is one of our best selling microscopes for homeschool teaching it comes complete with the microscope, Biology Slides Set, companion book , dust cover, blank slides & coverslips and accessory kit.
Our recommended microscopes for Home Schooling:
Optico ASZ-100 Stereo Microscope with Rechargeable Batteries
The built in turret objectives make it convenient to change magnifications of 20x & 40x.
Ideal for use in the field as it can be powered by the included rechargeable batteries, and in the lab it can be powered from the mains.
Head can be raised or lowered on post to accommodate various sized specimens. Versatile illumination system offers incident (top) lighting or transmitted (bottom) lighting through the frosted glass stage plate. Precision optics provide a wide field of view with good depth and high resolution.
With a twist on a classic design this ALL METAL CONSTRUCTION dual light high power compound microscope with top & bottom LED lights enabling viewing of both translucent biological samples, and low magnification (4x and 10x objective) viewing of solid objects such as insects, flowers, coins and household specimens. Features a built in rechargeable battery and AC power adaptor for use both inside and outside, provides up to 15 hours use from a single charge.