Choosing Your Homeschool High School Curriculum



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Summary:  How to choose your homeschool high school curriculum.  How your teen's interests can guide you.  What colleges look for as far as high school core courses from homeschoolers.  Choosing your high school homeschool curriculum and how the college entrance requirements inpacts that.  Our favorite choices for homeschool high school English, math, science, social studies, language and more.  Note - This post may included affiliate links to products that we love and have used or would use in our  own homeschool. Please see my disclosure policy.


Do you have a teen whom you want to homeschool next year?  Or are you already doing high school at home?

Today, I'd like to share how we went about choosing our high school curricula, keeping college in mind.  As homeschoolers, we have searched for and picked out curricula each year for our kids  And we also know how to tweak it, to help it fit with our children’s learning style.  

Now we just need to also keep in mind the college entrance requirements for our teen, which can be easily gathered from prospective college websites. 

With that list of requirements in hand, my daughter and I looked for curricula one year at a time and found the whole process to be very similar to our previous years.  One thing that made it easier for us was that most of my daughter’s entrance requirements were very similar, from college to college.  And our planning process was similar too….

Our Planning Process

We explored around as usual, choosing the unit studies, textbooks, living books, and/or online courses that would be a good fit for our teen.  We worked to meet our teen’s entrance requirements, but did not forget to focus on her own special interests as well.  

My daughter's interests in high school focused on film making and political science. 

But we found out that, if she wanted to study either of these in college,  the college entrance requirements would still be the same.  She needed to complete her college entrance requirements in the basic subjects (LA, social studies, math and science), for either path. But still, her interests framed her electives.  

We also did a course in Government for one of her social studies requirements and did outside activities centering around her interest in government as well.  Later, photography and video making became more than one of her homemade electives.  

Getting the entrance requirements done does take some time away from following your teen’s interests in high school, but they can 
dive deeply into their interests in college of course.  And we kept our eclectic homeschooling style all along the way. 

Our Eclectic Approach

We are eclectic homeschoolers, who love unit studies, lots of hands-on learning, and mixing  art into our academics.  We found a curriculum that could do all of that, early on, called Oak Meadow.  

That worked well for our 2e daughter, as it challenged her, but had a gentle style and lots of hands-on learning in the mix.

We have used a number of the Oak Meadow courses through the years, and into high school as well.  Their courses are project based with lots of hands-on-learning, some even in high school.  We found that the Oak Meadow approach had many similarities to Charlotte Mason , if you are familiar with that approach.

Below, I will be sharing our favorites for high school curriculum, with college in mind, and some of my homeschooling friend's favorites, too.  I hope these choices will inspire those of you who are in the planning mode.  We used both faith based and secular curriculum in our homeschool.

First, here's three great resources for your own high school curriculum search:  

1. CURRICULUM DIRECTORY at Let's Homeschool High School

This curriculum directory for high school is the most complete one I have seen!  And it includes TONS of links.

2.  THE CURRICULUM CHOICE


This site is full of curriculum reviews, written by a team of authors (I am one) who have actually used the curriculum.  It includes reviews of such curriculum as Tapestry of Grace, IEW for literature and writing, a number of Charlotte Mason options, Oak Meadow and 1,000’s of other reviews.  Many are faith based here, but mine are secular.


3.  RESOURCE REVIEW LIST FROM GHF

 GHF Resource List 

Browse through all the resources and reviews offered by the Gifted Homeschoolers Forum here.  

This is a list of curricula and resources with reviews by families who used them.  These are not just for gifted kids.  Many work well for all kids of homeschoolers.  You'll be surprised at how extensive this list is.  And each resource has a review.

OUR CURRICULUM CHOICES
--SCIENCE

Note - Most of our college choices required two lab sciences. But if your teen is headed towards a math or science major in college, they will usually require 4 science courses, all with a lab.

We found many choices for science including Oak Meadow, Apologia, A Beka, Switch-On-Schoolhouse (SOS), etc.  We made sure that our choices included a science lab component.  

We decided to look for a structured course that included regular test-taking.  Getting used to test-taking was important for my daughter.  We chose Switched-On-Schoolhouse (SOS), as we wanted a computer based program, and my daughter wanted to work independently.  And all the lessons were graded for me.  It was well organized with videos included in the lessons.

SOS also offered tutoring (from their high school science teachers), to be purchased by the half hour.  Working some of the science problems out with a teacher really helped, when complex concepts came up. We also used Home Science Tools for our high school lab kits.

Other Science Options we considered:  Oak Meadow, Apologia, A Beka, Lifepacs, Apologia Science . The typical requirements for college entrance include two science courses, usually Biology and Chemistry.  If your student is headed towards a math, science, or programming major in college, they will likely be required to do 4 lab sciences, including Physics that is Algebra based.

--MATH

Most of our college choices required Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2.  (Or the series that Saxon offers, which is equivalent). 

If your teen is aiming towards math, computer programming, or a science major in college, they will likely be required to have 4 years of math, including PreCalculus.  (Check with your college.)

We looked at LifePacs, Switch-On-Schoolhouse, 
Math-You-See, A Beka, etc.  We decided to stay with an old favorite, Switched On Schoolhouse (SOS). 

It is complete, with clear explanations.  I like how this course is structured, with regular quizes.  I also like how it gives the student instant feedback, and also grades the lessons for me!  What a plus!  

We found that SOS met our daughter's needs well, and it had the structured and depth to help my daughter retain that she had learned.  It did a better job in providing the solid math background needed for tackling the SAT/ACT than Teaching Textbooks did for us.

Others that we considered:  Check out The Curriculum Choice.  We also looked at  Life of Fred, A Beka, Saxon, Math You See, Mr. D. Math and Khan Academy, all of which are strong programs. 

Math Tutoring Options: All of the www.aop.com programs offer tutoring (including Monarch, Lifepacs, and SOS). It can be purchased by the half hour, from teachers who specialize in each subject area.  Our daughter struggled with math and having the teacher to talk with periodically was a wonderful help for her.  They could log onto her exact lesson and go from there.

-- ENGLISH 
Note - This post may included affiliate links to products that we love and have used or would use in our own homeschool. Please see my disclosure policy.

When looking for a high school English program, we found that most colleges wanted something strong in literature and/or composition each year.  But some are more lenient.  Our college allowed us to do a speech and debate course for one of our English credits.  

One option for that is to create your own course, and pick out the literature yourself.  Pairing that with writing assignments can make up a complete English course for your teen. 
We decided to go another way, and chose a ready made course, with good quality living literature.  We chose Oak Meadow, which offers a variety of literature based courses, including writing, too, from 9th to 12th grade.

Click here to read my review of Oak Meadow Literature and Composition II. This course focuses on literary analysis and essay writing. We liked how it gave quite a lot of  writing practice, with different types of essays and research reports, to help to prepare for later essay writing in college.  Recently we found resources for English from another source, called the 7 Sisters Homeschool site.  

 
They offer complete year long courses in a variety of literature topics, plus writing and speech courses as well. 

They also offer individual Literature Guides, easy-to-use Essay Writing courses, and even Speech, all written by homeschool moms who have been there, and have graduated their students from their homeschools. 

Click here for more info.  Putting together your own courses using your teen's favorite lit guides is easy with 7 Sisters Homeschool.

Other options we consideredWe also looked at such programs as Hewitt Homeschooling: Lightning Literature & Composition , Lifepacs, Sonlight, Write@ Home, Brave Writer, Ambleside.com, Monarch, and SOS and found them all to be strong. IEW offers a very structured, step by step approach to composition.  My student did not prefer their approach, but some teens do. Go to here for Barb's review of it.

--SOCIAL STUDIES


We had a lot of flexibility for Social Studies, as our college choices wanted only a certain number of credits, and did not specify which courses we had to take.  For us, we had a wide variety of subjects to choose from, such as World History, US History, Geography, Economics, Psychology, etc. 

You may not have this same flexibility.  Check with your  colleges. We decided to use Oak Meadow's history courses, and also some geography  from the Rainbow Resource catalog.  Then in senior year, my daughter took a government course at the college level from Northwestern College. This gave my teen college credit, and more importantly, experience in doing a college level course.  I highly recommend their intro to government course.  Other options we considered:  We also checked into SOS, Lifepacs, Tapestry of Grace, Ambleside, and Sonlight which are all strong programs.

--- FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Most colleges require two years of the same foreign language for their incoming freshmen.  Some two tier or ivy colleges require three.

Some now are accepting American Sign Language. Check with your college re whether they accept Latin or Greek. Some do.  If you are doing ASL, ie sign language, be sure your course will cover both the signs and the deaf culture as well.
We chose a Spanish 1 class from a  regional school program in our area, Highline Choice Academy, which offered it twice a week, and that worked out well.  And I liked the fact that the students met together to practice their language verbally.

For Spanish 2, we went with the homeschool version of RosettaStone (RS). I liked the homeschool version best because it had a solid study of Spanish grammar, as the regular RS version did not.  Also, our college choices preferred the homeschool version. 

There are so many options now for foreign language.  Cathy Duffy, @ http://cathyduffyreviews.com/foreign-language/foreign-language-index.htm, has a number of reviews of foreign language curricula.  Middlebury offers digital world language courses, in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese.  

-- FINE ARTS
Most colleges require a 1/2 credit or a full credit in fine arts.  That can be done in a number of ways.  Art, art history, music, photography, or even video-making can be used to fulfill this requirement, at most colleges.  We chose to do a course in video-making, and had a lot of fun with that.  Here's how we made our own course for that, and it was easy to do.

Do you have a teen who is interested in art?  

"Video Art Course - Semester 2."full of spring related chalk art lessons.  

Made by a homeschool mom and an artist, this company, You Are An Artist offers many video and book courses all using chalk pastels on a variety of topics, which include a number of history related options.  The semester long course worked well for my daughter's 1/2 fine arts credit.  

For more information, please click here.  
They have a number of other art courses listed.  In my post on electives, there are many more art courses listed also.  

Now that we have covered the core subjects for homeschooling high school with college in mind.....What would you add to this list? What are your favorites?  

Do you have questions about making transcripts, the college essay, course descriptions or how to showcase your teen to the colleges?


Check out my book on college for homeschoolers, called Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.  It is a simple guide, based on my experience helping my teen get accepted to each college on her list, including a tier two U.  It is available on Amazon.

It includes 12 planning forms, plus a transcript, the type that the colleges are used to seeing.

I am soon to be releasing my new second edition, with 4 added chapters, including my guide to the Common Application for homeschoolers.


Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,

Betsy

Betsy is mom to her now college grad, whom she homeschooled from preK.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh school & college She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting


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