High School Homeschool Curriculum: What We Use
So many people give up on homeschooling when it comes to high school, but there’s no need to get intimidated. Home is still a great place to give our students a quality classical education, as long as we provide them with the supports they need to finish well.
You can homeschool high school classically. I’ll share what we have used and also resources to help you figure out a plan that will work for your family.
Honestly, I love this stage. When I am sitting on the couch listening to my 5-year-old sound out words, I remind myself: It’s ok. We have to do this now so that later we can talk about Beowulf and diagram sentences.
First, let me say: If you have a seventh grader (i.e. a 12-year-old) and you’re despairing that he (usually he) will ever be independent or motivated or trustworthy, let me tell you: hang in there, stick it out, hold the line – it will happen. Don’t give up. It will pay off.
Honestly, I believe the tears sown in the middle school years are reaped as fruit in the high school years. The self-management and independence and work ethic issues we worked out when our sons were 11-13, and they set their hands to the plow for high school to finish well of their own accord.
You can do it!
Table of Contents
- Three Things to Remember When Homeschooling High School
- Ninth & Tenth Grade Homeschool Curriculum
- High School Curriculum Reviews by Subject
- Dual-Enrollment for High School
- Homeschooling High School: Mom as Cheerleader, not Teacher
Three Things to Remember When Homeschooling High School
It’s hard to believe that we’re well into the high school years with multiple children.
In many ways it was not different; we just took the next step. We didn’t drastically change anything about the workload or the process or the system. His level of work did increase, but it was simply another incremental increase in work of the same kind, not a completely different experience.
Shakespeare might not have said it, but it’s still true:
Expectation is the root of all heartache.
After all, the thought is similar to James 4:1-3:
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.(ESV)
James might seem extreme, whereas the expectations quote appears like the tame version, but when we desire something and do not have it, we start quarrels.
When our children desire and do not have, they start fights.
For both parent and child, our passions – our desires, our pleasure, our will – are at war inside us, causing us to feel conflicted, anxious, and uncertain. Then, because of this internal struggle and war, we are unstable and lash out.
Remember: Your high schooler is a young adult.
Our society today treats teens as large children, when we should be treating them as young adults. Often, though, when we do try to treat them as young adults, we do so by expecting too much.
So before we start thinking about what our high schoolers “should” be doing – that is, what we desire for them – we need to examine our own desires and experience.
You’re an adult. You have duties. How do you feel about them? How long have you been working on accepting and performing your duties cheerfully and willingly? Your teen has just begun that journey.
Whereas toddlers and children obey their parents as practice for obeying God, the law, and their conscience, teens must practice discerning what is right and reasonable for themselves, and then acting accordingly, instead of relying on parental edicts for every occasion.
So give them work that must be done sometime in the week, but don’t micromanage every step and dictate all their work happen on your schedule.
Yes, it will mean more conversations and coaching. Yes, it will mean privileges will be lost more frequently because the work will not always be done. Yes, it will mean they will experiment with bizarre and inefficient study plans.
During those experiments and experiences perhaps even more important learning than the math or science lesson is happening. Add it to your curriculum objectives and take a deep breath.
Remember: Your high schooler needs accountability.
However, not micromanaging does not mean removing the support of accountability.
Make sure that at least once a week, your eyes land on every piece of work they’re supposed to have done. If you don’t value it enough to make time to check it, they will not value it enough to do it. Then, halfway through the year there will be hell to pay. It happens – a lot. You don’t need to give it a grade, but you do need to see that it was done satisfactorily every week.
It is important to understand something of the dynamics of self-discipline. Self-discipline is easily acquired by first coming under the discipline of someone else.– R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture
Our job is not to dictate what they do when, but our job is to provide the basic structure they need to do what they are supposed to do: we provide the books, the standards, and the accountability.
Remember: Your high schooler is a person.
None of us like feeling that we’re in a grind and simply part of the machinery. Sometimes adults have given in and accepted that as how life feels, but teens have enough energy and hormones to resist. They have not yet given up on the idea that life is interesting and meant to be enjoyed.
As parents, we shouldn’t try to contradict or argue with that base assumption, even when we disagree with the way it might be expressed.
Are we demonstrating with our own lives that life is interesting and meant to be enjoyed? Is it not? Do we communicate that duties and responsibilities keep one down and the best life is carefree? Have we lost our interest in the world and in growing? If so, we are not giving our teens a hopeful, attractive picture of adult life.“Life is a continual progress to a child. He does not go over old things in old ways; his joy is to go on.” – Charlotte Mason
There will be days when schoolwork is a drag and just something they do to be done and move on with life. Just like some days we fold laundry or do the dishes just because we must even though we’d rather not and we perhaps even grumble through it.
However, school work should carry the potential for interest and enjoyment – not with superficially fun activities or unrelated rewards, but in its own right. Do they see progress in their work? Are the patterns of their work the same patterns of self-learning they’ll need as adults or are they artificial? Do the books communicate a dull, trudging attitude or an attitude of lively curiosity?
We prevent the work from being a dull grind by continuing with living books, by continuing with work touched by their personality (note-taking, paper-writing, sketching, not fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice), and by continuing with relatively short lessons so they don’t get bogged down and feeling helpless and hopeless.
Just because the typical teen attends school for most of the day and then has hours of homework does not mean we need to load our teens up with work to fill their day.
They are young adults. They are people. They should have interests, hobbies, and a life outside school work. Homeschooling allows them this freedom, and we should not steal it from them.
Ninth & Tenth Grade Homeschool Curriculum
Choose the tab to explore that year’s homeschool plan:
- Plans & Reality
- 2017-2018 Ninth Grade Homeschool Plans
- 2018 Ninth Grade Report
- 2018-2019 Tenth Grade Homeschool Plans
- 2019-2020 Ninth Grade Homeschool Curriculum
The plan is always different from the reality, but we’re better off for making the plan. I like to share both the summer-made plans and the end-of-school-year reality report. You’ll find both here.
Navigate through these tabs to learn how I have put together our high school curriculum plans.
Ninth Grade Homeschool Curriculum Picks
Crazy times. My oldest will begin high school this year.
In seventh & eighth grade we’ve worked on the skills of independence, not without tears from us both. Experience is often the best teacher, and he’s had the opportunity to have experiences with procrastination, defining “done” for himself, shoddy work, and trying to slide under the radar without doing things. Such things are totally normal, and even though I was expecting them (having done them all myself at his age), I should have been checking up (or checking in more closely) than I sometimes did.
Those experiences have been had and we’ve both learned, but that doesn’t mean we get to check the box and move on as if we won’t have those same problems over again. That’s not how temptation works, is it? No, now we’ve established the rhythms of looking at work, establishing standards, and following through. It’s time to keep it up and not grow weary rather than ease up and think a lesson once learned is learned for good.
That’s not been true in my life, so I can’t expect it would be in anyone else’s.
But my goal and priority for high school is to make that checking in feel more like camaraderie of learning rather than taskmaster checking boxes.
And that means keeping up with his reading myself, something I’ve always wanted to do, but never made the time to do.
When I look at his book stack now, though, I’m jealous, so I have even more motivation to follow along.
Homeschool Plans for High School
Here is his lineup for the year:
- Math: finish MUS Geometry and move into Algebra 2
- Bible: Basic Christian Living by Doug Wilson, plus reading Basic Christianity by Stott, Being Christian by Jim Wilson, and 7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind by Anthony T. Selvaggio
- History: From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun, History of the American People by Paul Johnson, and The Patriot’s History Reader for primary source historical documents
- Science: The Riot and the Dance by Gordon Wilson, paired with Khan Academy videos
- Literature: early modern lit class reading Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan, Emma by Jane Austen, Oliver Twist by Dickens, and Huckleberry Finn by Twain
- Writing & Grammar: persuasive essays based on literature readings, grammar review by diagramming Heidelberg Catechism answers.
- Logic: Intermediate Logic (video lessons)
- Language: German, using Living Language, Berlitz, and DuoLingo
- Music: Piano lessons and How to Listen to & Understand Great Music from Great Courses
If push comes to shove and this is too much, then the Great Courses music lectures go (or become free-time listening). I heard about it from Amber Vanderpol, and thought it’d be a nice addition – one he’d enjoy that would add to his appreciation for various piano pieces he’s learning.
As I estimate times and run numbers, I’m guessing this will amount to around 4 hours a day of schoolwork, including Morning Time. So if we get started right at 8 and he is focused, he could be done by lunch some days, but I’m going to be warning him that the 1pm-2pm hour after an hour lunch break is reserved for schoolwork as well.
We are again using Trello for our homeschool checklists because that has been working great for us. Here’s a tour of my 9th grader’s Trello to-do list:
Once a week I’ll be teaching a writing and literature class I’m looking forward to. We’ll be reviewing grammar by diagramming a Heidelberg Q&A, one sentence a week in class and one sentence a week homework (most of them have deep thought expressed in clearly structured sentences). We’ll practice persuasive essays, and I’ll be basing my lessons off Lost Tools of Writing, but not following the program exactly and not using the student workbook. Those essays will be on topics related to our literature discussions. And for literature, we’ll be reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan, Emma by Jane Austen, Oliver Twist by Dickens, and Huckleberry Finn by Twain.
What Homeschooling Ninth Grade Really Looked Like
So, in the interest of transparency and reporting after-the-fact, not only posting plans but also posting reality, here is what we used in high school and how we liked each.
Math: Math-U-See Geometry & Algebra 2
We have used Math-U-See from the beginning and still love it. My husband has taken over not only the correcting of math pages but also the math tutoring for the older two boys. This has been a life saver, because I do not have the know-how to help Hans with his math this year. Plus, because my husband is correcting math each day, he knows when they need help. He calls them for math tutoring more often than they ask for it.
Having also been homeschooled with the option of asking Dad for math help in the evening, I don’t think it’s wise to leave the initiative for getting help with the student.
Because we just pick up each year where we left off in Math-U-See and work each lesson until mastery, we never finish a book at the end of the year. Each year, each student will complete somewhere between 3/4-1 1/4 of a math text, and so far, over the long haul, I have found that their progress evens out. This son was “behind” the book-a-year completion rate until 4th or 5th grade, and now he’s slightly ahead.
Having finished Geometry, though, Algebra 2 has slowed his progress rate down considerably, but that’s totally ok. We’ll just pick up next year wherever he leaves off this year.
Bible: Basic Christian Living and various titles
In addition to simply reading the Bible, this year my son completed the lessons + short answer work pages of Basic Christian Living by Douglas Wilson.
He had worked through the Bible over 7th & 8th grade with Starr Meade’s Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study, and instead of moving on to a more doctrinal and theological study, I wanted to have a year for application-thinking. When it comes to applying Scripture and scriptural principles to daily life, I always appreciate Doug Wilson, because he does so without excuses or pulled punches. He has solid reformed theology, but also an evangelical background he still respects that matter-of-factly asserts, “If the Bible says it, I believe it, and I’ll do it.” That attitude brought him to reformed theology, and it makes him a clear, straight-forward teacher in matter of faithful living.
For Charlotte Mason types, in my mind I roughly equate Basic Christian Living with Ourselves in the lineup. I think they cover very similar ideas and serve the same purpose.
Hans read the book, answered the questions, and we didn’t really talk about it. He read the other assigned books, a chapter a week, and wrote a summary or bullet point list for each chapter, but we didn’t talk about them.
Because these are conscience-forming books, I didn’t want to additionally interfere. He doesn’t need me in order to think things through – I know he will – and I knew he would grow personally through it more if left to appropriate it for himself rather than have to tell me what he was thinking.
That wouldn’t be the case for all my children, I’m sure, but for him it was the right call.
These are the additional books he read, and all of them are staying on my 9th grade list:
- Basic Christianity by Stott
- Being Christian by Jim Wilson
- 7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind by Anthony T. Selvaggio
History: Modern & American
Hans and I both read From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun and A History of the American People by Paul Johnson. These were both amazing books and I’m so glad I read them. We had interesting conversations about them both, spilling into dinner conversations and relating to other topics in surprising ways throughout the year.
I ended up turning to the audio version for History of the American People in order to keep up, and was behind Hans in Dawn to Decadence most of the year, but instead of giving up I kept going, mostly because the book was just so good! Prereading or no, I wanted to read it – I just couldn’t keep up Hans’ pace.
These are definitely staying on my 9th grade history plan, though I’m not sure if all my 9th graders will be ready for Dawn to Decadence. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but it does require a strong, intelligent, theoretical, mature reader. It’s a cultural history, not an events-narrative history. A more practical-minded student might not be able to stick with it. And, FYI: details necessary to explain culture are included; it is an adult book. Nothing is sordid or detailed, but topics and mindsets necessary to explain the shifts from AD 1500-2000 are discussed. I appreciated it, and think it was appropriate, but I know not everyone would, and the maturity of the 14-year-old would also impact the appropriateness.
I also planned to use The Patriot’s History Reader for primary source historical documents, but that never happened. The two fat history books were enough.
Science: The Riot and the Dance by Gordon Wilson
This was a hit. Hans and I both hands-down highly recommend *The Riot & the Dance: Foundational Biology.
We used my spreadsheet schedule which adapted some of the written review to sketch-review assignments and also included a related Khan academy video. We stuck to the schedule all year! Big win!
No, we did not do any of the labs. Didn’t plan to, didn’t, don’t regret it.
Literature: early modern lit class
Our 8th/9th grade literature & writing class has been going very well. Our class of 6 has read Pilgrim’s Progress, Emma, Oliver Twist, and is now in the middle of Huckleberry Finn. I chose 3 themes to discuss for each title, including the theme of friendship across all four titles. The students have kept a basic commonplace book and been able to give examples to make points about themes, so I’ve been pleased. My goal is to get them talking rather than to talk myself, and that’s mostly worked.
They’ve also written one 5-paragraph persuasive, literary analysis essay per book title, which has gone well. It’s about the right amount of work – 6ish weeks from start to final product, with lots of revising in between.
My plan was to base my lessons and instructions off the Lost Tools of Writing. I wasn’t using the workbook assignments, because we were learning strategies while writing papers for our lit class, not having a class entirely on writing alone. This did not work. We did start our paper brainstorming with an ANI chart and pulled details (without the sorting activity) from the ANI into our outlines, and I did use the “nominalization” lessons in our revision process (Make the subject and verb active rather than saying “This is…” or “There are…”).
Other than that, I found Lost Tools complex and difficult to navigate and adapt. I wouldn’t use the program straight because it starts by instructing students to write so basically and formulaically that it’s bad writing, then revise from a bad basic draft. That process might work if you have a very writing-phobic student or if you’re starting persuasive writing too young (when the student doesn’t yet actually have anything to say), but 8th/9th grade students can come up with an opinion and defend it, however poorly, and I think it’s a better process to let them write a draft saying what they have to say in their way and then revise from there.
However, my method does make the feedback and revision process more complicated and time-consuming for the teacher, because what each student needs to hear along the way is unique. It would be too exhausting to keep up with a class of 15 or 20. But my class is 6, and their clarity and cohesiveness and personal style have improved markedly over the year, which is always gratifying to see.
Logic: Intermediate Logic
Hans finished out the Logic program in February and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last part was more on binary and programming logic, which Hans found “practical” – it was interesting, anyway, and a nice change from truth trees.
I was bad about correcting the exercises, but did have him orally narrate each chapter and that worked well and demonstrated that he understood what he was learning through the DVD lessons.
Learning languages through a book is a questionable practice, but we ran with it this year. Because German was his own choice, the motivation was (mostly) there, and I checked that the work was done but I have no idea how conversant he is (or should be) with German.
I figure any learning he’s doing at this point will make going on with it easier if that’s what he chooses to do. My personal goal is simply that he exercise his mind via vocabulary and grammar in another language – and that goal was accomplished.
Next year, however, we’ll switch up methods and do online course work with videos (and audible instruction).
Overall: A Strong Year
Overall, we had such a good year! Hans had about 4-4.5 hours of work each day (more on class day), and that seemed to be enough for meaty work, but not so much he got bogged down, discouraged, or tired.
One thing that helps, I believe, is that I did not overload him, although that is always a temptation with a capable, interested student moving up a level. If I had given more than 4 1/2 hours of work per day, we would have had problems. But having cut my lists back so that everything was meaty, important, and clear, he was able to work through it and manage his load to be done by 1-ish, with time for his beloved morning walk and a lunch break.
It left him plenty of time to develop hobbies (Disc Golf and fencing) as well as mess about with friends, practice the piano extra for church accompaniment, listen to audiobooks and podcasts of his own choosing, work in the yard (for pay), and, in general, be an interested and interesting person in his own right apart from his school checklist and mom-assigned work.
Tenth Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices
I’m loving high school at home.
However, this is – Lord willing – my oldest’s last year in our homeschool. This spring he’ll take the test for our community college’s dual enrollment program and, assuming he passes (and I have no reason to doubt he will), he’ll do most if not all his work there at the community college. But then it will be time to homeschool high school with my second, so we’ll just keep going.
So here’s what we have planned this last year I’m in charge of his scope and sequence and what I’ve prioritized to make sure he’s a well-rounded and well-prepared student to be sent out into the world.
Math-U-See is still working for us, even in these upper years. Hans is halfway through Algebra 2 and I have Precalculus waiting for him on the shelf.
Counting partly as math and partly as Economics, Hans is also doing the Math-U-See Stewardship program. He’s not enjoying that so much, but it’s teaching him about such real life things as not getting all your paycheck, working for commission v. hourly v. salary, and other such real-life practical issues – with the math to figure it all out.
Bible & History
For Bible I’ve been assigning the readings from the Christ Church Bible Reading Challenge. In September their school-year plan begins, but I just hopped them into the summer reading program when we started in July, reading Acts.
Other than that, Bible/Doctrine/Theology is integrated into all the humanities he’s studying this year.
For history, he’s studying Church History with an emphasis in the medieval & reformation period. Our spine is 2000 Years of Christ’s Power by Nick Needham. Hans and my friend’s oldest will have synced readings and twice per term we’ll get together for a discussion over lunch. My husband will join us so Hans isn’t the only male in the group.
The series includes a well-written summary of the issues pertinent to different phases of the period and brief biographies of the major players. The emphasis is on how orthodox formulations were created over time, and the circumstances that forced the need for such formulations.
Then the end of each chapter includes primary source excerpts and a quick bullet-point timeline.
So it’s history and theology woven together: something that’s probably only possible if you homeschool high school. ?
We’ll be starting that at the end of August, so for the summer Hans has been preparing by reading Francis Schaeffer’s How Shall We Then Live, which provides a very brief overview of how we got to post-WWII America from the Greeks and Romans with an emphasis on appreciating culture and participating in it wisely in our own time.
I considered adding Art Appreciation, but ended up instead choosing Wes Callihan’s Christendom video series. These lectures weave together history, art, literature, and theology. Hans is not doing the readings, papers, or tests; he’s only watching the 20-40 minute lectures and taking notes. Part of the decision to go this route was to prepare him for lecture format at the community college and the other part was simply to give him another male voice and perspective. Art isn’t for girls – it’s for humans.
Speaking of art and literature, he’ll continue to have the voice of his mother in this area.
I’ll be teaching a class with 13-15 year olds, leading them through The Aeneid, The Inferno, and Beowulf.
Plus, in this class we’ll also read Shakespeare (Much Ado about Nothing, Richard III, and King Lear) and Plutarch (Demosthenes and Cicero, with Anne White’s guide, of course).
Hans and the classmates his age have written enough essays now that they need practice, not instruction. So they’ll have assignments and I will give feedback to help them revise, but we won’t use class time for writing instruction. When writing instruction for the younger half of class begins, the high school students will be dismissed.
Even – or perhaps particularly – homeschooled high school students need a learning community, and I am excited to be the facilitator for it again this year.
Hans is doing Physics this year, and so far he is really enjoying it.
His primary text is Introductory Physics by Novare Math & Science; it’s written for high school freshmen or sophomores and is less math-intense than typical Physics.
We might do one or two of the experiments at the end of the year, but experiments are not top of my agenda. I want him to understand how things work, and I don’t actually think the experiments are necessary for that. Fun, maybe, but optional. He’ll have lab sciences at the community college, so I don’t feel any responsibility to meet that requirement myself.
Instead, I’ve added some supplemental reading. The text is certainly sufficient in itself, but I think coming at a subject from multiple angles is valuable (perhaps more valuable than experiments). So he’s also using Drawing Physics and 6 Easy Pieces.
He reads a few pages in the Novare textbook twice a week and makes a “science journal” entry each time. The entry doesn’t have to be a full-blown paragraph, but rather a page of notes with diagrams or illustrations as desired.
Basically, I homeschool high school so we can focus in on awesome books and not waste time with learning “activities,” most of which I’m certain are created in order to fill time. I’m not opinionated or anything, though. ;)
Probably if I was keeping track, this would be a “half credit” class, but on our schedule it just is what it is. I have the plans and I’ll put it on a transcript, if I need to make when, the way I need to in order to communicate to whoever the transcript is for.
For Economics, we using the Economics for Everyone video series from Compass Classroom done with R.C. Sproul Jr. A lesson every other week from this gets us through the course in a year.
Hans is also reading Whatever Happened to Penny Candy. In fact, he misunderstood his first assignment because the book really doesn’t have chapters or clear stop points and it is small, so he read the whole thing.
Another book on his homeschool high school list is Economics in One Easy Lesson, which I have not kept up with myself so far, but it is one I want to read, too. The one easy lesson? TANSTAAFL: There Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.
Besides watching and reading, he makes a “learning journal” entry with notes or an illustration. This is his narration, and I’ve pretty much turned it over to him on how he wants to keep it, after showing him some examples. I’m not requiring full paragraphs or his best composition here – it’s for retention, so it’s his self-activity, not a writing assignment.
Last year I let him be done with Latin and choose a language to study. He chose German and is continuing to stick with it. I found some online courses he’s using this year through Udemy.
He’s still in piano lessons and practices daily. He sometimes accompanies at church and will also prepares for adjudications and other events.
He will do Speech and Debate – or at least Speech. We still haven’t heard for sure the schedule for our local club (!), but if it conflicts with fencing, he will do only speech so he can continue in fencing.
So, yes, fencing is another thing. I can tell how it’s helped his coordination and helped soothe over some of the inevitable gangly teen awkwardness. He knows how to hold and move his body with ease and grace, purposefully – it’s “gymnastic” in the classical terminology.
Moreover, he’ll be doing driver’s ed this fall! Crazy.
Time flies when you’re having fun. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we were practicing phonics and memorizing Psalm 1, and now here we are 10 years later wrapping up our time together. I have to admit, homeschooling high school has felt like pay off for those phonics lessons.
Homeschool Ninth Grade Curriculum Plans
My second son is starting high school this year, and I have already this summer seen the hopeful glimmers of the corresponding jump in maturity and responsibility – the sort mothers tend to despair of ever happening during 7th and 8th grade.
When we met after the end of last school year, he had good insight not only into his own preferences, but into what actually helps him do his best work. We brainstormed ways to build in effective accountability and consistent discussion and feedback.
One thing that I know helps our high school responsibility leap is that they see that their time at home is short and their ability to take the next step – college at 16 – depends entirely on their own efforts (particularly in math).
So here we go, homeschooling a high school boy, take 2.
Homeschool High School Math
This son is about 1/2-3/4 of a math book behind where his older brother was at the start of 9th grade, but that leap into algebraic, abstract thinking comes when it comes – once it comes, things will speed along nicely. Until it comes, pushing is in vain.
Last year this son spent several months “starting over” in Algebra with Khan Academy, because forward progress does no good until the concepts and basics click. So we did what we could to approach those basics in multiple ways.
Now he’s had not only that extra practice and a review of the same concepts from a different perspective, but also 7 weeks entirely off math. Though I think more time off would become detrimental, I also have seen a math maturity leap happen several times after a longer, true math vacation. All the built up anxieties and complaints and tensions have dissipated, the student returns ready to tackle it, and often other growth has happened during that time that helps along the math growth.
Diffuse learning has happened, you might say.
So, he’ll begin 9th grade in Algebra 1 and I have Geometry ready in the wings in case we need it this year, too. We’re sticking with Math-U-See because we have no reason not to. So far it’s working for everyone – mostly because we’re working it (my husband consistently corrects math pages daily and keeps them in a brisk pace) and because we bring along other aids if necessary alongside (like xtramath for drill, extra practice pages, and Khan Academy).
Homeschool High School Science
Homeschool high school, take 2, means I get to put most of my previous plans on repeat, because they worked last time.
We will again use The Riot & the Dance for high school biology in 9th grade.
Every week he’ll read a chapter, write a thorough written narration (thorough because it must use all bolded vocabulary words from the chapter), add a science journal entry (an annotated illustration, usually), and watch a corresponding video (mostly from Khan Academy). Yes, you can find videos of the typical dissections done in high school biology, and yes, I count that.
Now, I don’t count it as a lab science, but I don’t need to worry about lab sciences. Lab sciences will be done at the community college in 11th and 12th grade. My goal in 9th and 10th is to work on adequate math for college-level science later and on introducing all necessary science concepts and ideas.
Homeschool High School History
In history we are altering the plan my oldest followed somewhat. My oldest did a year of modern history and then a church history survey in 10th.
My current 9th grader, however, will do a full modern humanities track over the course of 9th & 10th grade with a combination of materials.
Over the course of two years, he’ll complete
- Dave Raymond’s Modernity history series from Roman Roads
- Wes Callihan’s Old Western Culture: Early Modern series from Roman Roads
- Paul Johnson’s tome History of the American People
When I plotted out the readings for the first half of History of the American People, I ended up with about a month extra, so if we do end up with that extra month, he’ll read a book I just started American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures of North America by Colin Woodard.
The work I have laid out for him in this area is to watch a lesson of the Early Modern series and two lessons from the Modernity series, taking notes while he watches and also adding at least one thing from each to his Book of Centuries. These he will be doing with his friend down the street, too, not only for efficiency sake but also because learning is better in community (especially in high school).
Homeschool High School Theology
I have a reading plan for ninth grade theology, but Jaeger chose to read Calvin’s Institutes along with his older brother. And, as I said above, learning is better in community (ok, yeah, and it’s also efficient).
So over the next two years, Jaeger will also be reading Calvin’s Institutes at the rate of 20 pages a week. He requested daily readings on his checklist, though, so he’s assigned 5 or so pages four days a week, leaving Fridays open for either catch up or discussion with his friends, brother, and mother.
Also, he is and will continue to use the Bible Reading Challenge checklist to direct his own personal Bible reading and continue Scripture reading as a lifelong habit.
Homeschool High School Writing & Grammar
This student has already written five-paragraph essays for my literature class last year, but that was a big leap forward done for, yes, convenience and efficiency sake. This year we’re going to take a step back and reinforce steps of the writing process and practice with more concrete and informative writing instead of opinion-based and persuasive writing.
We’ll work on note-taking, outlining, revising, revising, and revising. They’ll write 5-paragraph (and more) papers on history topics from their studies, biographies (doing some research for those assignments), and compare/contrast.
This writing class will be done as a small class of three boys: Jaeger, his friend down the street, and their pal who is now on the mission field in Ghana who can still join via Zoom.
I’ll teach them to cite sources (something I skipped with the oldest set), diagram sentences (this is review), and self-edit. Oh, did I mention we’d be revising their writing also? Yes, that’s essential to improving writing skill for all writers, at all levels.
I don’t use a curriculum for writing, but I’ll be sharing assignments on Instagram as we go along, and I do plan on writing another post on teaching writing during this school year. If you haven’t already, you can find my previous article here: How to Teach Writing Without a Curriculum.
For grammar we’ll work through Nancy Wilson’s Our Mother Tongue, systematically, finishing the book over the course of the school year.
Homeschool High School Literature
Most of what I count as literature will not fall to me in a lit class this year, but to Wes Callihan’s Early Moderns set in the Old Western Culture series. The first two units we’ll do this year include a focus on poets, which I’m looking forward to.
However, good reading must continue to be encouraged, and to broaden my son’s reading scope, I am having him choose a novel (within perimeters) each term. For our first summer term I told him to pick a novel by Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, or Sir Walter Scott (he’s read each of these authors already). He scanned our shelves and selected Bleak House (because it sounded appropriate for summer school, he said – teens are a great source of wit like that).
Plus, starting in the fall, we’ll spend 45 minutes or so midweek continuing our old habits of reading a Shakespeare play and Plutarch as a group with our teen neighbor compatriots. The teens will do the history cycle: Richard II, Henry IV, Henry V. We did Richard III this last year and my 9th grader has been vociferously requesting Henry V again for the last two years.
For Plutarch, we’ll do the parallel lives of Alexander & Julius Caesar. Alexander is twice as long, so I will likely assign some reading in that one instead of doing it completely aloud. I use Anne White’s guides, but they aren’t published necessarily by parallel sets. Alexander is in volume 5 and Julius Caesar in volume 3.
Another tag along to the history and humanities category is music, which he will be studying not only through applied piano lessons (and church service practice), but by listening and taking notes from the Great Course: How to Listen to and Understand Great Music. In the summer, he’ll do two lessons per week, moving to just one per week once his other history subjects begin in the fall.
Homeschool High School Latin
This particular 9th grader did Latin for Children Primers A & B in elementary school, then has done 2 years of Spanish in middle school using a variety of materials. Upon inquiring after yet another instance of shoddy and incomplete work in Spanish last term, it came out that he didn’t care enough about learning Spanish to carry him through actually doing the work.
So, that means he is back to Latin, because that’s a program I will oversee more closely.
I already had plans to move my elementary students to Visual Latin this year, and I had already bought the 2-year special value pack of that curriculum, so Jaeger will simply start Visual Latin at the beginning and move at a 2-lesson-a-week pace, completing both Visual Latin 1 and 2 in 9th grade.
That’s the plan, anyway. To his chagrin, I do not consider language study optional to education.
Homeschool High School Skills
Typing is an important secondary skill to have as a teen and adult, and so a few times a week he’ll work on increasing his typing speed using keybr.com
The other necessary skill to education and study is accountability and responsibility – and they are intimately linked. Never expect what you don’t inspect. We have twice weekly (Monday & Friday) meetings built into our weeks (which, my son pointed out, means they’ll happen half the time – he knows life well by this point), plus I must see all his work and approve his checked off checklist before he’s free for the day. It feels inconvenient and obnoxious to us both, but we both know it’s essential to ensuring the work actually gets done consistently without doubt.
Accountability isn’t a crutch, it’s a necessity.
Several of my lesson plans, including those for The Riot and the Dance (without experiments) are available in my subscriber resource vault:
High School Curriculum Reviews by Subject
- Foreign Language
- Free reads
We also supplement with Khan Academy as needed for extra tutoring or clarification on concepts they have a hard time with.
Basic Christian Living
by Doug Wilson
How we use it
Each chapter is like a short homily on a practical tenet of Christianity, such as forgiveness, contentment, temptation, and more. Wilson’s strength is in his insightful applications of doctrine, written memorably. Each chapter also has short answer questions, which we did use but could be related by narration or a conversation.
This tiny book covers the major doctrines in clear, concise, pastoral language. It is always a good idea to study and remember what is central, core Christianity and what is secondary doctrine.
Written with the heart of an evangelist, this strong text with short chapters paints a picture of biblical wisdom and devotion lived out in a life that sees no distinction between everyday life and the supernatural.
by Anthony Selvaggio
We all have a tendency to accept and even live by ideas we’d verbally reject or contradict. Our culture seeps in more than we know. Reading this book at least starts some awareness conversations about noticing and actually rejecting the insidious false teachings of postmodernity.
Two-Year Systematic Theology Study
John Calvin, translated by Ford Lewis Battles
So often the best book is the classic, not a modern summary or commentary. Calvin (in the Battles translation, not the Beveridge) is lucid, sharp, and even funny as he gallops through a comprehensive study of biblical theology.
American & Modern World History
by Paul Johnson
My high schoolers and myself all love this book. It is thorough, engaging, interesting, and enlightening. We get so much of even our own history in disjointed snippets, but Paul Johnson uncovers the bigger picture happening in the many threads that make America what it is.
by Jacques Barzun
My ninth grader complained about this book while it was assigned, but after the year was over marked it as a favorite. Barzun’s emphasis is on the decline of primarily European culture, but America plays its part as well. More than history, this book also gives us a perspective on what culture is and why it’s important.
by Nick Needham
We read all four in my oldest’s tenth grade year, and it was a lot of information and a lot of reading. The grownups had a hard time keeping up, but the discussions we had at our twice-a-month book club meeting were worth it. These could definitely be used at a slower pace. They have handy end-of-chapter lists of names, dates, and places that makes Book of Centuries additions a cinch. The author is a Calvinist baptist, but his attitude toward Catholicism & Orthodoxy was ecumenical, as it should be in a history of the Church universal.
Two-Year Modernity History Curriculum
Taught by Wes Callihan; published by Roman Roads Media.
With engaging lectures, Callihan and guests make the history of modern times come alive with its music, literature, and politics. We count this as our literature as well as history.
by Paul Johnson
My high schoolers and myself all love this book. It is thorough, engaging, interesting, and enlightening. We get so much of even our own history in disjointed snippets, but Paul Johnson uncovers the bigger picture happening in the many threads that make America what it is.
Anne White’s study guides (with the text already broken into 12 readings) make Plutarch an open-and-go group class we can do. Often I am the one narrating the page to give the sense and flow of the action, but after the first year 1) I got better at reading it out loud so the words made sense and 2) my students became better listeners.
I pick a matched pair of Lives each year based on my own idea of what fits our year and needs best. In our high school years we’ve done:
Early Modern Literature
My oldest in ninth grade and my second in seventh both were in a literature class I taught with 5 other friends of theirs. In addition to the reading and discussion, they wrote one literary analysis paper for each book and we learned revision and stylistic techniques along the way.
We followed a few themes throughout each book, but we also followed the theme of friendship in all of them.
by John Bunyan, adapted by C.J. Lovik
Yes, we read an adaption of Pilgrim’s Progress. Because this class had both middle and high school students, not all of whom had strong reading backgrounds, I opted for a shorter, clearer version. Throw your tomatoes; I deserve them. On the other hand, if you want an adaption, I do recommend this one.
by Charles Dickens
Like his wordiness or not, everyone should get a taste of Dickens and his stereotyped-for-a-reason characters. Sometimes the dialect makes it harder to follow; if so, I recommended students listen to the audiobook version while following along with the book.
by Jane Austen
Emma is not my favorite Austen, by far, but I thought it’d be a good fit for this age group – Emma being one of the most juvenile of Austen’s characters. It is also the perfect pick for discussing the theme of friendship, as we did. I was disappointed that most of the students had a hard time following the story because they did not understand Austen’s irony.
by Mark Twain
If ever there was a classic story of friendship, Huck Finn takes the cake. For those who have a hard time reading the dialect, I again recommend listening to the audio while following along. Audible’s version read by Elijah Wood is fantastic.
We continue to read and enjoy Shakespeare following my five step plan, even into high school, although our discussions get better and better. We generally do 3 plays a year, partially determined by what is being performed locally. By the end of tenth grade, my goal is for my student to be familiar with all Shakespeare’s major plays at least.
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by Dr. Gordon Wilson; published by Canon Press
We use this excellently written and engaging text along with written narrations and diagram-copying plus paired YouTube videos as our ninth grade science credit. That’s right: we don’t do any experiments. But we do watch a few.
by Dr. John Mayes; published by Novare Science & Classical Academic Press
Introductory Physics is well written and covers key concepts in Physics with minimal math. It is the core text we use for 10th grade. We schedule it with narrations and assign a few of the math problems but not all that are included in the book.
by Don Lemons
Drawing Physics is an interesting book we use to supplement our Physics credit. The student with read the short chapter and copy the diagram illustrating the physics principle into his science notebook.
by Richard Feynman
If time is relative, so is “easy.” Ambleside Online made me do it. Thankfully, they also made me schedule it out in short readings.
by Jim Nance, published by Canon Press
We used the full video curriculum for this one and my oldest thoroughly enjoyed it. He did Introductory Logic in the same series in eighth grade, and ate up this program in ninth. My second son, on the other hand, was less enthusiastic and less into the abstract reasoning, so we dropped it for him.
My oldest then took Logic at the community college and found that he’d already covered most of the material from this program. He didn’t mind the review or the easy A.
Economics in One Easy Lesson
by Henry Hazlitt
by Dwane Thomas, published by Roman Roads Media
My second son had completed Latin for Children A & B by 6th grade and then took an unsuccessful diversion into Spanish in 7th & 8th. For 9th grade, he returned to Latin and completed Visual Latin, volumes 1-2 in a single year, on the promise that he’d not have to do a language in 10th grade.
He enjoyed Visual Latin and did, indeed, laugh in Latin class, though quietly.
We’ve gotten our audible credit’s worth from this one.
Each week, my ninth graders listen to one lecture, then briefly narrate to me what it was about.
Each of my high school boys picked 5 books they have chosen for themselves to recommend here. For the most part, they have free access to the library, purchase their own books, and read adult books. They read a lot, and I am not cataloguing everything they’ve read, but these have been some standouts for them:
If you need more guidance about the requirements for homeschooling high school through graduation, Pam Barnhill and Heather Woodie have an excellent workshop on planning high school. It’s included in the Plan Your Year Course.
Dual-Enrollment for High School
Our state has a program whereby high school junior and seniors can attend the community college as dual enrollment students, and it’s our plan to take advantage of that program. Both my husband and I graduated high school with an AA through our local community college, and it was a good experience for us both.
In a way, our homeschool has proved itself when my oldest took the entrance test for the community college. He passed the test and is objectively verified for college-level studies. He reads. He has his own opinions and articulates them (this is what makes teens obnoxious but it’s actually good). He’s responsible and capable.
Eleventh Grade Dual Enrollment Plan
My oldest son is no longer my education experiment. He has passed all his mother’s criteria and the state’s for starting college. Using our state’s Running Start program which allows high school students to earn college credit in high school. My husband and I both used this program and graduated high school with an AA degree.
He passed the test to enter the program with flying colors and begins his first college quarter with English 101, Psych 100, and Math 142 (Pre-Calculus II).
To his mild chagrin, I have not deemed it seemly or wise that he be footloose and fancy-free until the community college’s start date of September 16.
On his own, he’s participating in The Bible Reading Challenge – I printed him a colored version of the men’s plan. Bible reading isn’t really schoolwork, though; it’s just living.
Homeschool High School: Philosophy
For the 8 weeks or so of our school calendar before his classes begin, he has a short checklist with 20 minutes of Khan Academy math and weekly reading assignments in “Philosophy”:
- A Little History of Philosophy by Nigel Warburton
- Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey
- Universe Next Door by James Sire
- Discipleship of the Mind by James Sire
He will finish all three books before he starts CBC. I’m not assigning any work beyond reading. He has a reading journal. He knows how to commonplace and has a place for such things. He knows how to take notes and has a place for such things. He can choose to do what he will with these readings (his plan is to do nothing; I shrugged and told him that was his choice). On Fridays we’ll have coffee and discuss for 30 minutes or so.
Homeschool High School: Theology
I will continue to assign theology readings as he studies at the community college, because he certainly won’t get it there and it is, after all, the queen of the sciences (and humanities).
He’ll be two years at the community college, two years more at home, and over the course of those two years, we will read and discuss Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
Twenty pages a day, or five pages for four days, will get us there, and while the content and thought is dense, the style is not. With the right translator (Ford Lewis Battles – not the Victorian Beveridge), Calvin retains the lucidity he was known for in his day (though that was in Latin and French).
He’s assigned to take notes and commonplace from his reading of Calvin – and I’m following the assignments as well. On some yet-to-be-determined regular appointment, we will discuss the assigned readings with the others who are following the same plan (his 9th grade brother, a 10th grade friend on our street, plus the moms).
Homeschool High School: Dual Enrollment
We don’t know what dual enrollment will look like in the day to day yet. I suspect he will choose to do his homework at the college campus and not at home, but he has a shelf for his books and supplies.
He has a full-size Arc binder to use for notes and a half-size one with an academic planner inside. He has pencils and pens.
He does not have a phone or his own computer, though we have two family computers available (and my husband and I each have our own laptop). We’ll see what changes when we experience the reality, but so far we’re sticking to no personal internet devices for as long as possible. And it’s still very much possible, though inconvenient to him.
Homeschooling High School: Mom as Cheerleader, not Teacher
Just as our teens are learning about themselves and becoming more invested in the direction of their own lives, so we as mothers during this phase must pay attention and learn about ourselves, allowing them to grow in responsibility while recognizing our own responsibility as well.
Personally, I am very pleased with this new stage. I get to doff the mantle of taskmaster and don the role of cheerleader and support.
So here are three things I think we as homeschooling mothers can do to help our teens make the transition to personal responsibility while still holding them accountable.
Give Ownership to the Student in High School
Passing on the ownership of their education is not something that happens overnight and it’s not something that happens without mess ups. They do not wake up the first day of their freshman year ready, willing, and able to make important decisions about what to study and about how to make sure their work is done on time. Yet it is our goal to get them there by the time they leave our homeschool.
Just like you expect an infant to fall many times as he learns to walk, so expect your high schooler to plan poorly, to argue, to whine, to fail. Just like the toddler learns to get up and try again, so must our teens learn that same lesson.
When they mess up their plan, when they ignore their work and try to get out of it (when, not if), when they are sloppy, when they blame their failings on you, it doesn’t mean they aren’t ready to take ownership any more than a toddler’s fall means he isn’t ready to walk. It’s all part of the process of learning. We learn better when we work through the consequences of our choices.
We must remember that as mothers, both for ourselves and for our teens. Are some of our choices backfiring on us? We need to stand, take responsibility, and move forward to fix it. Are our teens choices backfiring on them? We need to stand, hold the line, and make them take responsibility and move forward to fix it.
Make sure they have interests and hobbies to pursue, something compelling them to get outside, to create, to expand their skills and knowledge.
Hold Your High School Homeschool Student Accountable
Giving our teens ownership is not the same thing as pushing them into the deep end and letting them flounder.
We don’t give them independence and responsibility so as to make our job easier. That’s not the point. If it is our primary purpose, the problem is with us, not them – which we must remember when the house of cards collapses.
The student has true ownership and true responsibility, but not sole ownership or autonomy. We, as the parents, still bear responsibility for their education and must hold them accountable to their work – whether it be work we gave them, work they volunteered for, or work assigned by an outside teacher.
That means we must continually pay attention to their work, even if we delegate much of it.
This doesn’t have to mean we are constantly playing school police, although sometimes it might feel like it. When we ask to see work, when we listen to narrations, when we give feedback on papers, when we ask questions, we are demonstrating that we care.
If we want our child to care, we must care enough ourselves to follow through. We can delegate the planning, we can delegate the work, but we cannot delegate the caring.
When the going gets tough – as it should in high school – the fact that he knows you care will be a brace to help him stick to it. If he must rely only on his own caring, he will interpret that to mean it depends on how he feels – and I speak from the experience of being the high school student here. There will be days he doesn’t feel like it, when it seems like it doesn’t matter. If he believes that doing his work is entirely up to him, there will be days when he simply does not do it – and he will have a multitude of reasons.
We need to be there, ready to help him through that point. We, also, know that feeling and give into it too much. There are days I do not do what is on my list and although I have reasons, they are bad reasons.
When we give our high schoolers accountability and catch such days and help them through them, we are not only making sure the work is done, we are helping to prevent a habit of excuses from forming.
Don’t Overschedule Your High Schooler
Of course, sometimes there are reasons to not get to the checklist that are valid – as we will, as mothers – personally attest. Things come up that get in the way, that derail us, and that require a shift in priorities.
If we want their work to be reliable, however, we have to ensure they have reliable time reserved for the work we are requiring.
It’s easy and tempting to steal their time for our purposes, to tell them that most high schoolers don’t have free time either, to discount their down time. But connections and thinking happen in the down time and we don’t want teens like “most high schoolers” – and that needs to be reflected in how they spend their time.
It does get harder. They do have more work. There will be resistance to overcome. There will be more homework, more deadlines, more activity.
But let us ensure they’re not staying up late for homework. Let’s make sure they have time to hang out with friends outside of organized activities. Let’s make sure they have a hobby or two that they still have time for – maybe not every day, but most days.
As they begin learning about and transitioning into adulthood, we can think about what a balanced adult life looks like and make sure we aren’t encouraging or building bad habits from the start: Do we want men who think it’s normal to bring work home and spend the evening finishing his work? Do we want women so preoccupied with pleasing others’ expectations that they can’t simply enjoy themselves? Do we want adults without hobbies, adults without attention to the world around them, adults with no idea how to manage free time?
School will take more of our high schooler’s time, and they will have more outside obligations as well. But we need to refrain from overcommitting them. We need to hold back our panic that we have so little time left with them. We should not make them bear our guilt for what we haven’t done yet.
We need to guard their time as we would guard our own.
After all, free time is the best motivator I have found for diligent work. If there is no hope for time to do what they want, our teens – and ourselves – are prone to dawdle, procrastinate, and meander. We need to have a reason to work well and with attention – not just for a certain result in the work, but for a certain hope for our time.
When our kids hit high school, suddenly everything seems more high stakes. Our time is short, our choices more influential than ever. Although that can paralyze us, we mustn’t let our anxiety smother our teens.
Really, all three tips come down to realizing our teens are young adults and treating them as such. We know the temptations of adulthood – we deal with them every day. Our job is to not let them flounder in the deep end of those temptations, but give them direction and guidance and structure as they gain experience and skill in navigating responsibility.