When I began planning our eldest’s homeschool high school curriculum, I quickly became overwhelmed and scared. I was afraid I would miss something important — mainly because I didn’t even know what WAS important! There was so much information coming at me about what my daughter “should” do in high school, and I knew we couldn’t do everything that was recommended.
Well, eventually we figured it out. That eldest daughter is now a Master’s candidate on a full-tuition graduate scholarship after obtaining her B.S. magna cum laude. If we did miss something, it couldn’t have been that important, lol.
Here’s the thing: with just a few pieces of information, you can figure it out, too. You can KNOW what your kid “should” do and what is NOT important. And I’m going to tell you how to do that right here and now!
How to Begin Planning Your Teen’s Homeschool High School Curriculum
1) First of all, if your kid is interested in going to college — and frankly, even if they’re not — I highly recommend that you do a little research about what colleges require of their applicants. I wrote an entire post about this already, so I’m not going to repeat that information here. You can read it for yourself by clicking this link: How to KNOW what Your Teen NEEDS to Get Into College.
2) Then, with that information in mind, there needs to be some decision-making about what your high school graduation requirements will be. In other words, based on what you’ve seen on the college websites, how many credits of each subject will you require for graduation? Will you require four full years of math, or can your child just take three? Do they need foreign language credits, and if so, how many? Do they need to take American History, specifically? Or Government? Or a science lab? How many credits will you require in total?[NOTE: In high school terms, a credit is a course that lasts a full year, and ½ credit is a course that lasts only a semester.]
The biggest help to me as we were answering that last question was to check out many different states’ public high school graduation requirements. There is a handy chart at this link: https://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d13/tables/dt13_234.30.asp. This chart is fairly recent; it’s from 2013. And the thing that should jump out at you is the VAST difference in the total number of credits needed to graduate for the different states (shown in the first column). Crazy, isn’t it?
And guess what? Most states do NOT legislate that homeschools even follow these requirements. So not only are they widely varied; they are also not usually something we need to feel bound by. (Some states do have homeschool graduation requirements, so be sure you know your state homeschool law. For more information about this topic, see my post here: What You Need to Know about Homeschool Graduation Requirements.)
The chart should reassure you that your high school is YOUR high school. YOU can decide how many credits you think are sufficient for a high school education. If the states can vary so much, then we ought to feel that same flexibility. Don’t you feel empowered by that? I know I did.
3) After you’ve thought about what your graduation requirements will be, then it’s time to create a general plan for when those required credits will take place. You want to do this on the front end of the high school years, if possible. It’s very stress-reducing to look down the road and make sure your plan is workable.
It helps to make a chart where you can write down what credits will go where. When I did this for my eldest, I just took a sheet of looseleaf paper and split it up into 4 sections, with the numbers 9, 10, 11, and 12 at the top of each section. If you buy my ebook, there is a much prettier printable in there.
If you decide that your child needs four years of English, then you will write “English” down under each year. If you think only three credits of math are necessary, then you might choose to write “math” only under 9, 10, and 11. You can decide to get the heavy coursework out of the way early, or you can decide to spread it out more. You can decide when they might need some elective credits (no need here yet to specify what, unless it’s obvious — my first was getting lots of violin credit, and I knew that from the beginning; but #2 was gonna take several electives that we hadn’t decided on yet, so I just put “elective” where I thought one should be).
As you work on the four-year plan (or five-year plan; that’s fine, too!), you might realize that your graduation requirements are too steep, so you can rework them a little to be more achievable; or you might realize that you need to beef them up a bit more. You might realize you can graduate your child early so he can go get a job for a semester before college; or you might decide he can look for an internship and count it as high school credit during a certain semester. The possibilities are endless!
For us, this process occurred over the course of several days as The Man and I discussed what we wanted our eldest to have accomplished by the end of high school, and I began to plan it out over the four-year span. As I would get part of it down on paper, I would go back and ask him questions, and we would consider and re-consider how it should all look. It was a fun time of communication between us as we worked together to firm up our plan.
Please know, though, that the plan at the beginning and the actuality at the end DID NOT match each other. LOL! Circumstances change; plans that seemed great turn out to be not-so-great; the child who at one time loved math decides halfway through junior year that she absolutely cannot stand to take another course of it — you get the idea. One of the beauties of homeschooling is that we can flex as needs change. I just love that, don’t you?
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan.
These steps for planning homeschool high school curriculum are crucial, because they give us the confidence to take a stab at actually doing the homeschool high school thing.
Completing each step in the process helps us feel empowered, even qualified, to think about graduating a homeschooled student down the road. Once you have your graduation requirements decided and a general four- or-five-year plan in place, the worst is over! 🙂
4) After this it’s just a matter of deciding which curriculum to use for each year. I recommend doing that the summer before each school year begins, just so you can adapt to changing needs and interests.
For help planning your core curriculum courses, read this: How to Plan High School Core Courses in Your Homeschool.
For help with electives, read this: Planning High School Electives for Your Homeschool.
Taken step by step, a bite at a time, homeschooling high school is not a daunting task. It all begins with a couple of straightforward steps! So go for it! 🙂
P.S. If you are feeling like you wish you had more specific help with this, then you just need to get my ebook. It will take you step-by-step from start to finish, from square one of knowing nothing to the end result of a workable plan and curriculum choices. Check it out by clicking below!