By now you should know that my mantra is that homeschooling high school is not that hard. Because it really doesn’t have to be. We tend to make it hard because we don’t have enough information, and so we place unreasonable expectations on ourselves — even when it comes to setting high school requirements.
The way to solve this problem is simply to educate ourselves — but to do it in the right way. Don’t pay attention to blog articles and websites that give you a long list of things you “must” do to homeschool high school correctly. There are very few “musts” when it comes to homeschooling high school.
For instance, did you know that colleges have varying high school requirements for their applicants? Not every college requires four years of math, for example. So don’t place the expectation on your child to do four years of math unless the college he wants to attend (or course of study he wants to pursue there) requires it. There’s more about finding out about college requirements in The Easy First Step for High School Curriculum Planning. I would highly recommend you read it before going further.
Also, it is interesting to find out that even the states vary in their requirements for public school students to graduate. So even they can’t agree on a list of “musts.” And we homeschoolers usually are not bound to our state’s requirements for public school, anyway. (My article The Easy 2nd Step for High School Curriculum Planning goes into further detail about this and has a link to a chart with the requirements for all 50 states. Again, a highly recommended read.) We have a lot more authority and flexibility when it comes to choosing our child’s high school requirements than you might realize.
Now, with that background, I want to discuss planning out four years of high school core courses. By core courses I mean Math, Science, History/Social Studies, English, and Foreign Language. These are the subjects that every college will require from an applicant to one degree or another. Once you have a very general four-year plan in place (completed in the Easy 2nd Step), determining the specifics for the core courses is a very simple process. Usually there is a standard progression to follow, so filling in the blanks doesn’t take much thought.
One Caution Regarding High School Requirements
We homeschoolers tend to be overachievers, and so we start off thinking our child is going to do all of the core courses every year of high school. I get that, I really do. I had very high expectations for homeschooling myself.
But from someone who has graduated three children from our high school homeschool, and has a junior this year, I would advise against that. It leads to a LOT of pressure. High school core courses take a lot of time each day to complete. And grades matter now, lol. Not every student is best served by having to slave away all day on core courses.
And guess what? “Senioritis” is real, lol. That means your kid will most likely (unless mine were all just rebellious teenagers — and they weren’t) have a very hard time being motivated to do school their senior year. So you might want to build more electives into that year, so that at least they will be studying subjects they enjoy.
Math is one of those subjects that proceeds in a typical order for high school. The first high school credit given for math is Algebra 1, so that generally happens in 9th grade (although if your child is ready, it is possible to take it for credit in 8th grade). After that comes Geometry, then Algebra 2/Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, and finally, Calculus.
But not every child has to do all of these. Only those who take Algebra 1 in 8th grade even have the possibility to get as far as Calculus, for instance. And as I mentioned earlier, many colleges only require 3 credits of math for their applicants — so you might prefer to stop after Algebra 2, anyway. (For information about my family’s math sequence and the curricula we have used, read Our Homeschool Math Curriculum Sequence.)
The first science course that is generally considered worthy of high school credit is Physical Science. After that the student can take Biology, then Chemistry, then Physics. The order of these is not set in stone, but often the difficulty level of the material, and the fact that each science course requires comprehension of a particular math level, means that this is the best sequence for most students.
Again, though, college requirements vary. If your child is not a budding scientist, doctor, or engineer, you may be better off not requiring all of these. There are also other possibilities for science courses out there, such as Astronomy or Marine Biology. As I’ve said so many times before, check the college requirements so that you can know where you have leeway and where you don’t.
For history (or social studies, if you prefer), most colleges require only these courses: World History, American History, Civics, and Economics. There is no preferred order, so you can plug them into your plan wherever they will fit. The only consideration might be the difficulty level of the curriculum you choose. We used Notgrass for all of these, and since their World History course is considered easier than their American History, we did World in 9th grade and American in 10th.
For some reason I’ve always considered Civics and Economics to be senior courses (they are each only a semester), so that is when my kids have done them. But in Classical Conversations, which we are involved in this year, they do them in Challenge 1, which is similar to 9th grade. If your child is not a history fan, you probably don’t need to do any more history than this.
English gets a little more complicated. Most colleges do require a full four years of high school English, so there are lots of boxes to fill on the plan. Many colleges require some type of literature course, either British literature or American literature — or both. Beyond that it’s up to you. It can be difficult to narrow down from the vast selection of possibilities.
I went the simple route (you should have figured out by now that that is my standard M.O., lol) and did two more years of grammar in 9th and 10th grade, and then two years of literature in 11th and 12th. There are lots of resources for high school English out there. For now just fill in your plan with general course names (e.g., American Literature); as you research curriculum you can get more specific.
Most colleges do require at least two years of a single foreign language. This again is an easy thing to plug into your four-year plan. Just choose the language your child wants to learn and find two spots for it on your plan. Spanish 1 and Spanish 2, for example. Easy-peasy. No need to add a third or fourth year unless it’s something your child is interested in; it is harder to find curriculum for the advanced levels.
I would be remiss if I did not make this part of the process as easy for you as possible (see tagline at very top of page, lol). So I have made a very simple form for you to fill out as you plan your high school requirements. You could just use a piece of blank paper, but it’s always nicer to have boxes to fill in, don’t you think? If you would like a copy, click here: High School Requirements Planning Form.
The Next Step?
You might notice, especially if your child will not be taking math, science, or history for all four years, that there are a lot of empty spots in the plan for junior and senior years. That’s where electives come in. And they will be the subject of a future blog post SOON. So hang in there and stay tuned to this blog! One way to be sure you don’t miss it is to put your email address in the box below; then it will be delivered to your inbox the day it is published. 🙂