When you homeschool high school, curriculum planning can be one of the biggest challenges. Let’s break it down into some manageable steps, so you can be confident in your choices!
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“How do I know which homeschool curriculum to choose?”
“Should I use an all-in-one program or piece it together?”
“Do I need an accredited program?”
“There’s so much to choose from! It’s so overwhelming!”
I have been seeing these questions and statements over and over again the past couple of months. Understandably, a lot of people who have never considered homeschooling before have now decided to give it a try due to the uncertainties surrounding traditional schooling during a pandemic.
Whether you are in that boat or you are a veteran homeschool mom who just needs some direction on how to start planning to homeschool high school, I hope this will make the curriculum planning process a little less daunting.
A note about traditional homeschooling vs. online charter schools…
Just as a note to clarify, the steps I will be discussing here apply to traditional homeschooling, not online charter schools. If you’re wondering why I’m specifying that, it’s because the two fall under different sets of laws. Although the home is the main setting for both, online charter schools are subject to state attendance and testing policies mandated to public schools. While some charter schools do offer a limited number of choices regarding curricula, most follow a set curriculum for all students.
I’m not here to tell you what choice you should make for your own family. I think that is a very personal decision that should be based on a number of factors. I just want you to know that the information given here only applies to traditional homeschooling.
My only comment on this is that I urge you to do whatever will give each of your children the best opportunity for success. I even know families who do online charter school for some of their children and traditional homeschooling for others.
If you’re planning to go back to public school after the pandemic, an online charter school may make that transition a little easier, as they may not require as much placement testing upon return. But if you’re ready to jump into traditional homeschooling for high school with both feet, keep reading!
Step 1: Know your state’s homeschool laws
It is legal to homeschool in all 50 U.S. states. Every state has different laws for homeschooling, though, and it’s your responsibility to find out what those are for your state and make sure you follow them. Here’s a good place to start. If you’re not in the U.S., please seek out your country’s own laws regarding homeschooling. I believe the U.K. is quite homeschool-friendly, but I don’t know about most other countries.
While some states do not require any reporting, others have strict provisions and may even stipulate that you operate under an umbrella school. Once you know what your state requires, that may give you a framework to work within. For example, some states will mandate how many credits of each subject your student will need to complete at the high school level. If not, don’t worry! There are plenty of other resources to help you out. Personally, I’d rather have both the freedom and the responsibility of my kids’ education, so I’m happy to live in a state with no regulations.
Step 2: Read up on some different homeschooling philosophies and practices
There are quite a few different approaches that homeschooling families take towards educating at home and knowing which one you most closely align with can help point you in the right direction when choosing curricula. Some of the methods seem to lend themselves more to teaching younger children, so you’ll want to make sure to choose one that is practical for your family’s needs as you begin to homeschool high school.
A good overview of the different philosophies can be found here. And you can take a quiz that might help you see which ones you most align with here. I don’t know how scientifically accurate the quiz is (the educational psychologist in me always wants to make sure these types of instruments have been verified as reliable), but I took it myself and it seemed to reflect my appreciation of eclectic learning. Although not surprising to me at all, I do think it’s funny that I am a former public school teacher and counselor, and I scored lowest (-17, in fact) on traditional education!
Step 3: Talk to your kids about what and how they want to learn
Once your kids reach middle and high school, it’s really essential for them to have some input about what they learn and how they learn it. If they take ownership of their learning, it will be more meaningful to them and less stressful for everyone involved. Of course, there will always be things that are not a kid’s favorite that they have to work through. But even with those things, if you can get your student involved in choosing the way in which they will learn, it can make a world of difference.
In our house, algebra has been a struggle for everyone. We have tried so many different programs. My oldest two have managed to get through both Algebra 1 and 2 with A’s, but my youngest (who will be a freshman this year) was just really dreading high school math. We worked together this summer to find a program for her to use that she is actually excited about, and I can’t wait to see how she does with it!
Don’t forget to talk to your kids about whether they prefer to learn from textbooks, online programs, videos, etc. Discuss whether they might want to attend a homeschool co-op and what extra-curricular activities are most important to them. Of course, you have the final say in this, but trying to force your kids to learn in a way that they don’t enjoy…well, let’s just say that you’re not going to enjoy it very much either!
Step 4: Write down your 4-year plan
I like to start with a 4-year plan to homeschool high school and work backwards from there to choose courses for each school year. If your state requires a certain number of credits for each subject, you can use that. If not, there are several other options. You might want to read my Homeschool Graduation Requirements Guide to help out with this.
I use a combination of sources to put together the 4-year plan. First, my kids have been accepted to a state scholarship program that has credit requirements, so I make sure those are covered. Then, I look at local high school graduation plans and admission requirements for any colleges my kids might be interested in attending to see if there is anything from those that could enhance our plan. Next, I talk to my kids about what courses they may want to take and whether they might want to do concurrent classes or vo-tech programs that are offered in our community. Finally, I add in their extra-curricular activities that can be counted as credits.
Step 5: Break it down by school year
Once I have the overall plan written down, I start breaking it down by which courses they will take each year. Remember, if you’re planning to homeschool through graduation, there’s no need to take all courses in the same sequence that the public school offers them.
Of course, there are some that are prerequisites for others, but for most courses, the order in which your student takes them doesn’t matter. For instance, you might choose to do US history and government back to back, rather than doing US history in the 10th grade and government in the 12th. We have switched things up quite a bit over the years, so that my kids who are a couple of years apart in grade-level could take courses together, allowing for group projects, discussion, peer-reviewing, and so much more. It just makes a lot of sense!
One important point to keep in mind here-Keep some flexibility in your plan! Chances are, something will change over the course