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Which type of microscope is right for your homeschool?

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Purchasing a microscope to use at home can be a big investment, one that we want to get right so that we don't waste our homeschooling budgets!

In this post, we are going to look at the pros and cons of three different options for magnifying samples. And once you are armed with this information, you'll be able to choose the best option for your homeschool!

Let's dig in . . . 

Three basic types of microscope for your homeschool

The Palm-sized Microscope

Technically this is called a currency detection microscope. A palm-sized microscope should:

  1. Fit in the palm of your hand
  2. Magnify things 60 times
  3. Have LED lights to illuminate the sample
  4. Be battery-powered
  5. Weigh less than an ounce

In other words, you can take this device anywhere to help you look at whatever your heart desires up close.

Pros and Cons

  • Pro - It is lighter and smaller than the other options, which makes it easier to carry around.
  • Pro - It is super affordable, most are around $10.
  • Con - It only magnifies things sixty times, which is not enough to see cells.
  • Con - It is easy to lose!

Learn a few more tips for using a palm-sized microscope for science.

The Standard Microscope

This microscope is just like the one you used in school!  The standard microscope should have:

  1. A compound monocular microscope
  2. A microscope with 4x, 10x, and 40x objective lenses at a minimum
  3. A microscope with separate coarse and fine adjustment knobs
  4. A good light source (LED is best)
  5. A dust cover or carrying case

The standard microscope is the norm when it comes to options for looking at the microscopic world around us.

Pros and Cons

  • Pro - You are familiar with this type of microscope and if you are not, there is lots of help out there!
  • Pro - It's sturdy and gives several different magnification options.
  • Con - It's heavy and difficult to transport.
  • Con - With all the bells and whistles, these can get expensive.

Listen to episode 27 of our podcast for more tips for choosing a standard compound microscope.

The Digital Microscope

These microscopes are the new kids on the block. An external digital microscope should have:

  • 10x-50x, 230x magnification
  • 640x480 pixel resolution
  • USB connection
  • LED lighting
  • PC/Mac Compatible
  • A Tripod stand

An external digital microscope is a modern option good for a showing the microscopic work to a group of students.

Pros and Cons

  • Pro - It is very flexible as it works almost like a camera.
  • Pro - You can show a sample to multiple students at one time.
  • Con - On the cheaper models, the adjustment is not so great.
  • Con - With all the bells and whistles, these can get expensive.

You can add a digital camera lens to a standard compound microscope and achieve some of the same benefits as a digital scope.

How to choose between the options

What you choose will depend upon two main factors:

  1. Your budget
  2. Your students' needs

Any of the three options above will introduce your students to the world they can't see with their naked eye, so you can't go wrong!

Don't miss the following post to learn how to make your own slides to view with your standard or digital microscope.

If you still have questions about microscopes, please feel free to leave them in the comments below!

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  • Paige Hudson
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