Choosing High School Homeschool Curriculum

Once you have a high school plan, you’ll want to plan out courses and curricula toward a post-graduation goal.  When choosing curricula, keep in mind questions of whether you want to manage the course yourself or outsource it, whether to use physical or digital curricula, and what your student’s learning style favors.  It’s worth noting that what works for one subject (eg, math) might be different for another (eg, history). 

For each of the core subjects – history, math, science, and language arts – look at your student’s goals.  Is the class something that will help them succeed in their career path, or is it simply a state requirement to check the box?  Does your student learn this subject best through reading, video, or instruction with real-time feedback?

Outsourced & Online Classes

If you’re planning to outsource to online classes, you’ll want to check out whether they run synchronously or asynchronously, accreditation status, and decide whether to choose a full program or individual classes.  It’s worth noting that when outsourcing a class, you often don’t get to choose the base curriculum being used for that class.  Also keep in mind when choosing outsourced and online classes that:

  • Technology has glitches
  • Communication is crucial
  • Time management is key
  • Online doesn’t equate to an “Easy A”

In the past few years, we’ve experienced an educational revolution of sorts, with a cultural shift toward online learning.  You can learn a lot more about choosing the best online options for your family in Four Things to Consider with Online Classes.  There are so many options, though, that it can be overwhelming!  After vetting hundreds of options, here are some of the Best of the Best Online Learning Options.

Sparks Academy is one source of online classes that are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous options. All core classes, including math, history, science, and language arts, are offered at various high school levels!

Advanced Learning Options

Dual Credit – Local community colleges are usually accessible to high school students, and courses can be taken online or in person.  This is a good way for students to get a jump on college credits at a reduced cost and can help with the transition from high school to college classes.  There may be mature discussions and readings as part of dual enrollment, as these courses are intended for college-age students, so be sure that this is an appropriate fit for your student.

If you plan to use dual enrollment credits to transfer toward a four-year degree, you will want to check with the intended transfer college to make sure they will accept the coursework.  Not all colleges will accept coursework from outside, and some have very stringent standards.  Be sure to contact the college directly and get an email with your answers; this way you have that information in writing.

CLEP  – CLEP tests allow you to earn college credits via exam.  You can take a course through websites such as Modern States, or you can simply sign up and take the exam if you feel confident in your knowledge.  As Modern States is free, it’s worth enrolling and completing the online videos, and you may be eligible for an exam waiver after completing the course.

Free & Discounted Curriculum Choices

  • Sign up to receive this semester-long FREE course for high school students on the subject of Psychology.  In this course, they use video and text to take a jaunt through the brain — how it works, when it gets miswired, and how to cope with those issues.
  • Snag an e-book on Homeschooling the Upper Grades.  This covers a wide variety of topics and issues facing the homeschooling parent of teens. In this FREE book, we are also blessing families with fun goodies!
  • If you use The Good & the Beautiful for language arts, bookmark the TGTB extensions page, where you’ll find video playlists, extra printables, quizzes and practice tests, and more that homeschooling moms have created and pulled together all in one place!
  • At Sparks Academy, your students will be part of an interactive co-op with other high school students. Current class offerings are for The Good & the Beautiful language arts and Notgrass history (four levels of each subject), Apologia science (three levels), and Consumer Math.
  • SAVE 10% on Homestead Science with code RANGE10.  This hands-on science course includes agricultural and entrepreneurial principles, making it a cross-curricular course that will appeal to students not pursuing a STEM major post-graduation.

Curricula Choices Year by Year

These are the programs we used and found comprehensive and quality for middle and high school. Remember to start with the end in sight, including the required number of credits for each subject, per your state law. In addition to curriculum choice, you may also include living books, hands-on studies, and novel studies to enhance the learning experience!

Teaching Math to Creative & Right-Brained Learners

We hear a lot about living books and how these are used to foster a love of both reading and learning in children, but what about living math?

Living math is real-world applicable and can include things like balancing a checkbook, altering a recipe, comparing prices, building a treehouse, making change for a customer, or calculating square footage.  It can also be more playful, such as using math for arts or crafts. 

As with living books, students are more apt to retain principles when they are tied together with other ideas and subjects.  If your student is working on a fun project and comes across the need for a particular math principle, they learn it and incorporate it with that creativity, and that’s where the magic sticking point comes into play.

Living Math in Action

Our son began his work at the tender age of five.  His earliest works, all made of cardboard and duct tape, were crude adaptations of Greco-Roman armor that he had seen in picture books.  Fast-forwarding, he learned how to use the internet to look up pictures of other, more specified, types of armor and added aluminum foil and basic sewn pieces into the mix. 

Through the creative process, he was also learning how to measure, how to calculate said measurements for fitting, and how to size things up or down to scale….all math principles, and all to a kid who abhors math.  (Seriously y’all, I don’t think I have a single ‘bad homeschool day’ story for this kid that didn’t begin with math.)

Today, he does welding and metalwork, creating full-scale arms and armor from scratch and to historic standards.  He does the research, creates the pieces, and then gives it a personalized flair.  He does so many calculations for every single one of these pieces, but since the math has a purpose and application, he says that it doesn’t feel like math to him.  If you have a budding artist, chef, or builder, you will probably see the same trend as well…play to it!!

Today, he’s learning entrepreneurship along with his creative math skills, where at Sparks Forge & Armory, he creates beautiful, accurate, and detailed historical reproduction crossbows, scabbards, swords, daggers, maille (chainmail), armor, and other medieval artifacts. Each piece is handmade and unique! 

You can see many of his patterns and early work at Cullowhee Creates, a website / blog he started as a portfolio.  Unbeknownst to him, he was also learning organization, cataloging, and basic HTML as well!   

For an even more basic start on patterns and creating hands-on costume projects, check out Recycled History.  All projects are created with items found around the house….many that would be headed for the trash bin….and the book includes directions and photo-directions.  Projects are history-based, and span from ancient civilizations to modern times. They are designed to get kids excited about learning, and include sculpture, costumes, flat art, woodworking, and more! 

Right-Brained Kids and Math

Boys of our boys are right-brained learners when it comes to math, which made it very difficult for this left-brained mama to adjust to teaching.  However, rather than teaching math facts using pencil and paper and sterile problems, we had to find out what each kid really likes and relate math to that. For example, our other boy loves shopping, so we decided to teach him how to use money while shopping, and then work with him as he saved up for something special.

Hands-on learning and movement are very important to right-brained learning, especially when it comes to math.  Manipulatives are your friend here!  There are so many manipulatives available for elementary school, but fewer for the upper grades.  Here are some of the best hands-on resources we’ve discovered and loved:

  • Coordinate Board – This oversized dry-erase board is perfect for students in pre-algebra, algebra, and geometry who need to master coordinates and use them for linear equations and geometric functions.
  • Beautiful Discovery – These boxes help students to learn math, art, science & code, in a beautiful way, deCODING nature’s patterns.  Each one includes natural wonders & all you need to model them with art, math, and code.  Each month’s box has a webpage full of videos and interactive models to help students discover deep patterns & beautiful math underlying nature’s diversity. 
  • Number lines – These dry-erase boards are perfect for learning to add and subtract with littles, but can help with skip counting and multi-step problems with older children.  My only complaint is that there isn’t a negative numbers board, which can be butted against the positive one, as many students struggle with the concept of adding and subtracting positives and negatives.  In this case, simply turn one upside down and use it for negative numbers!
  • Money set – If you don’t have one already on-hand from the elementary years, it’s never too late to use a money kit to teach about borrowing and carrying, as well as to master counting change – a skill that many employers complain kids don’t know how to do today!
  • Magnetic Tiles – While it’s true that they may know the basic fractions, many students struggle with adding and subtracting fractions, borrowing and carrying, and that’s what this set helps with as they visualize it, move the pieces around, and master it.
  • Place Value Flip Chart – If you have a student who has mastered place value at an early age, congrats!  Many students, however, don’t master this until middle school, and special needs learners may take even longer.  This flip chart uses different colors to make it easier to distinguish between different place values for number manipulation (adding, etc).
  • Place Value Chart – Another dry-erase board, this one goes hand in hand with the flip chart to help students with adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing using proper place value placement.

Incorporating Real-World Math

We make time for the things that are important, and this is no exception.  If your school day is strictly planned out, with no time for creative play, you’ll find it difficult to get that hands-on experience which incorporates living math.  Here are some strategies to help:

  • Slow down.  Build in free time each day for play, creativity, and even boredom.  (Boredom breeds creativity…ask any Gen-Xer.)
  • Stock up.  Have the supplies on hand for creative play, be that cardboard, aluminum foil, Legos, crayons, various types of foods, or whatever your student is into.
  • Step back.  Allow your student to get creative without direction, criticism, or even an excessive amount of praise.

When they enjoy the project, and aren’t just completing projects in a textbook, your children will be more apt to pick up on, retain, and love the skills they are learning!

More Information

  • Although it’s workbook-based, these real-world math problems are an alternative to regular textbooks and incorporate many facets of daily life.  Download the book here.
  • Real-World Math for Students who Ask “WHY?” For so many students, math is thought of as boring and unnecessary.  They just don’t see the reason why they need to learn the material.  Do you have one like my middle school student…who struggles constantly with math, and is always asking WHY?! 
  • Teaching Math to Visual Learners  Most people have a combination of learning styles, but tend more toward one than the others.  If your child prefers to draw pictures with his word problems…he might be a visual learner. 

Hands-On Science & Nature Projects for Upper Grades

Spring and summer are a fantastic time to take your homeschool outside!  Hands-on projects can be completed year-round, but during these times, it’s easier to incorporate nature and do big, messy projects.  Getting hands-on helps students to become more engaged, involve their senses in learning, and prevent burnout.  It also helps to flesh out abstract ideas in a more concrete format, applying difficult-to-understand concepts into a real-world application.  This not only helps the student understand more, but also retain more.

Each of these resources is appropriate for middle and high school students.  If you prefer family-style teaching, they can be tailored down, or you may eliminate some of the more complicated aspects, for elementary students.  Want to create your own hands-on nature study?  Download the unit study planner, and get started exploring your family’s interests!


Exploring the outdoors is a great way to learn!  Soak it all in, homeschool mama, and wear your homeschooling style proudly!


Think Like a Scientist

Mathematical concepts and the scientific method are a good place to start…


Get Inspired

Sometimes we just need a little inspiration to get started!


Take a Field Trip

Here are some virtual field trips that will inspire you to take one of your own…


Get Outside

Unplug and get your hands dirty!


Go Wild

Is it animals, wild plants, the jungle, or the human psyche that intrigues you?


A Little of This; A Little of That

Projects and ideas that didn’t really fit in a box…


Explore through the Pages

A literature study is a fantastic jumping-off point for further exploration.  Pick a topic, read all about it, and then get hands on with the additional projects!


Use a Complete Curriculum

Maybe you’re not quite ready to head outside…or maybe you’re required to have more structured learning.  Either way, these curricula incorporate real-world learning projects into the lessons!



Hands-On Subscription Boxes You’ll Love!

Learn about forensic science and methods. Go hands-on with techniques like fingerprinting, collecting shoe prints, and more. Use the same tools the pros use to detect the presence of blood and identify theft suspects. Each box comes with gear that real investigators use along with activities designed to let you learn by doing. Your first box contains a free one-year subscription to our online detective game. Examine the evidence and solve the case.


MATTER

We search planet Earth for the most interesting forms of matter. Each month we ship fossils, tools, specimens, materials, or artifacts that have been carefully selected as some of the most interesting pieces of matter in our accessible universe. Part museum, part laboratory, perfect for quarantine! Feed your curiosity or spark someone’s else’s. This one is for the kid who knows everything!! It will spark an interest for further research…

Beautiful Discovery

Beautiful Discovery kits use visually and kinesthetically engaging patterns of nature to unleash your hidden pattern power and give you STEAM skills. Items include eco-games, art, origami, drag and drop code, models, natural wonders, full color informational cards, full color picture books and booklets, paints and colored pencils, drawing sheets with art lessons on patterns seen in the natural wonders.

Perfect for the student who is hesitant about math, but all about art! This box combines the beauty of nature with real-world math through projects with seashells, crystals, dried leaves, flowers, for their beautiful patterns. There’s even an computer coding element with simple drag and drop block coding that will simulate the patterns seen in the natural wonders studied in each box.

Spangler Science 

Let’s make science fun one month at a time! A subscription to Spangler Science Club is a guarantee that we’re working together to prepare your young scientist for a future STEM-based career. Choose from one of three levels of hands-on science kits and subscribe to amazing science delivered every month!


Groovy Lab in a Box

With Groovy Lab in a Box, you will receive boxes full of everything you need to learn about and do hands on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) experiments for ages 8+. We blend Scientific Inquiry and the Engineering Design Process, which allows children to create ingenious inventions, enhance problem solving skills and FUN!

It’s NOT Ancient History! Making Connections with World History

Although the people we study in history lived decades or even centuries ago, their actions impacted how we live our lives today.  Names, dates, facts…these are some of the things that I hear students complain about when they talk about disliking history.  It’s too confusing…they can’t put it into context.  A visual display, however, can help tie everything together in an easier-to-digest format!  Our two favorite, visually-appealing ways to link historic events include this book (fantastic for those with small spaces) and this wall chart (for those with a dedicated homeschool area).

But it’s not just faceless names and random dates; history is full of transitional events that have altered the world’s story.  By learning about different eras, you start to see what changes might happen in the future and what would drive that change.  For example, learning about the fall of Rome teaches you that even the most powerful society can fall apart—and what happens to cause that crumbling.  

By studying history, humanity has a chance to learn from its mistakes, theorize about alternative options based on correcting past mistakes as it moves forward with future events.  After all, history rhymes…so it’s likely that there will be a chance to act differently in the future.

There are five concepts – or 5 Cs – of history.  These are at the heart of every question historians ask as they seek to better understand the past, and they include (from most easily understood to the more complex): change over time, causality, context, complexity, and contingency.  The strangeness of the past enables us to step back and look at our society and ourselves from a new perspective—indeed, we might start to look a bit strange to ourselves!  (Think not?  Check out Motel of the Mysteries)

General Ancient History

Classes

Printables

Extras

Egypt

Greece

Rome

Asia / Middle East

Medieval

Mythology

Rabbit Trails

Innovative Ways to Study World Geography

Geography gets a bad rap for being boring, but usually that’s just because it’s not being taught in an engaging way.  After all, who wants to look at a bunch of maps for places they’ve never been (or possibly never even heard of) and think about people and things they will never see?  To really get kids interested in geography, you have to bring it to life!

Why study geography?

Geography is the study of humans and people through space, throughout time, and how those spaces have shaped history.  Every place has a history behind it, shaped by humans, earth, and climate.  By studying geography, we gain meaning and awareness to those places, which also puts history in context.  It helps us see the why, when, and how of what happened in history.  Learn more about History, Mythology, and World Cultures.

Studying countries also helps with spatial awareness and mapping skills.  If you don’t know where a place is, or the physical context of the area, how can you understand what is being reported on the news?  Learning about land, resources available, and how that has shaped a culture of today helps you understand the uniqueness of each local culture.

Geography helps us to explore and understand the differences in cultures, political systems, economies, landscapes, and environments across the world.  By understanding these things, we can explore the connections between them.  As we learn how all people are interconnected, it makes the world a little bit smaller, making us care just a bit more about our fellow man…even if he is halfway around the globe.


Read All About It

  • Living Literature Units


Walk through the 50 States


Play a Game


Rabbit Trails


Experience It

Rabbit Trails & Child-Directed Studies

Unlike traditional schooling, homeschooling affords you the opportunity to jump down rabbit trails! What’s a rabbit trail? This is when your child develops a sudden interest in a topic, and you spend the whole day (or week, or month) exploring that topic in-depth, following the trail as far as it goes, or until your child moves on to another interest. Regardless of age, this is a valuable tool to add to your homeschooling toolbelt!

Educational Philosophies Encouraging Rabbit Trails

Charlotte Mason
Developed by a 19th century educator who believed in reading ‘living books’ rather than ‘twaddle,’ this approach involves living learning. It revolves around reading aloud together as a family, and following child interests. Nature walks, art museums, and living books are all a part of this approach. 

Unit Studies
This approach takes all of the subjects and smashes them together in an in-depth study of a topic. For example, a unit study of Rome might include reading and writing about Rome, studying the history of Roman emperors, calculating timelines and marketplace purchases, creating artwork and projects from Ancient Roman times, and studying water (from the aqueducts built during this era).  Units may be literature-based, and this is a great style for teaching multiple grades together.

Unschooling
Definitely for the Type B family, this is a child-centered approach to schooling. There are no formal lessons, or even formal curriculum, but the children follow their interests and learn from life experiences. Schedules are not utilized, and there is much flexibility and freedom. This does not mean that they don’t read, write, and do math, but that they follow their interests. Math might be adding up the tab at the restaurant, or figuring the tax.

Places to Find Rabbit Trail Ideas


Parent Guides & Resources

Do you have an early learner? Are you looking for some amazing resources to help make your year even better? Whether you have or will soon have an early learner, I am positive you’re going to love the Early Learning Giveaway!

Thanks to these amazing bloggers and brands that love supporting the homeschool community, we’re able to give back to homeschool families in the best way!

Check out this AMAZING Prize package!

An Early Learners Introduction to the 50 States from In All You Do – The Early Learners Introduction to the 50 States is a fun and simple way to introduce your little ones to the United States. In these simple pages, they will color the state name, state shape, state bird, state flower and state flag. They will also be able to trace and copy facts and do a simple word search puzzle about each state. This is perfect for preschool and kindergartners.
KinderBach Level 1 from Music in Our Homeschool – KinderBach is an early childhood online piano and music theory program for children ages 2 to 7 where young children thrive in learning from fun characters and animations, songs and chants, games, playing simple instruments, and more.
Number Tracing- My First Number Workbook – Spring Edition from Monkey and Mom – “My First Numbers Workbook- Spring Edition” is a digital workbook offering preschoolers a fun way to learn numbers 1 to 10 through spring-themed tracing, cutting, coloring, and interactive counting activities. With over 70 colorful pages, it enhances fine motor skills, number recognition, and foundational math skills, using visual exercises and number patterns, all designed to make number learning engaging.
24 Shark Teeth & Printable Pack from The Homeschool Scientist – This learning pack includes 24 shark teeth from Florida and our DIGITAL 65+ page study of sharks. Topics covered include the unique features of sharks, shark anatomy, shark teeth, shark identification cards, food webs, and more! Use this with a range of grades K-6. We have also included some fun puzzle pages.
Seasons PlayDoh Mats Bundle from Our Crazy Adventures In Autismland – Use this different seasons PlayDoh mats bundle to teach your autistic child all about what to expect for upcoming events while having fun.
 

Learn more about each of the 2024 Early Learning Giveaway Sponsors

This giveaway wouldn’t be possible without our amazing sponsors! We encourage you to visit their site and take a look around at all their wonderful products perfect for homeschoolers! Thanks to these amazing bloggers and brands that love supporting the homeschool community, we’re giving away more than $110 in Early Learning products!  
 
 

Want to enter to win? Simply enter by following as many sponsors and partners on the form below, and you’re in it to win it! 



You are responsible for reading the Terms and Conditions before entering. Entering this giveaway confirms that you have read and understand the terms.

a Rafflecopter giveaway