‘Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.’–W.B. Yeats
Some traditional schoolers think that a homeschool teacher teaches every upper-class subject from Calculus to Physics to World History. This is not how homeschooling high school works. A homeschool teacher at this stage is more like a counselor/advisor/course coordinator. I consider myself the Lead Learner – in charge of tutoring as needed, but also researching academics, purchasing content, coordinating class times. It is my job to make sure all State high school requirements are met – as well as requirements for College admissions.
In our school, we insist our teens take ownership of their education. We encourage them to become independent learners, which shifts me from the primary role of “teacher” and into a more supporting role for them as the high school years roll on. The many hours of high school course development, record-keeping, and transcript writing is one reason it is such a mighty job. Understandably, many happy home-middle-schoolers return to brick-and-mortar schools before ninth grade to avoid it.
This past school year both exhausted and inspired me. I chose not to post much, as you may have noticed. I didn’t write, because I couldn’t. Between the obvious disruptions of Covid, and two teens in college prep homeschool, I was flat out for the entire nine-month school year. My focus was squarely on our family, our health, and our school and until now, I had little time to reflect.
So, how did we do?
Despite the pandemic, our 2020-2021 school year was a success in nearly every way! Our teens applied themselves wholly to every school subject, adopted two rescue kittens, excelled in various sports, and made a mass of new friends. Who knew this could all happen in a year when we hardly left our house? Surprisingly, we even made some new academic friends because of the Covid disruption.
A lot changes for homeschoolers in the upper grades. Before high school, we could cover core learning in crazy-creative ways. We meandered through our school days by deep-diving into a topic and learning the pants off it. We researched places and then went to those places to see, touch, smell, and experience them first-hand. I loved the carefree, rabbit-hole learning style of our early homeschool years.
When grades 9-12 hit, we had to fit our merry, round homeschool life into a square, college-brain-shaped box. So we adjusted. Here we are, in our eighth year of homeschool, and our kids are continuing to thrive. They have proven that they can adapt from one learning style to another with relative ease while accomplishing new and exciting things. Homeschooling high school is hard, no doubt, but in our house –so far– it has been profoundly satisfying and rewarding for both teens and parents.
What High School courses are worth the money?
It is hard to know what will work for a student or a family, and sometimes trial and error is the only way. Unfortunately, this can be expensive in both time and money. I am grateful for fellow homeschool moms who have given me curriculum advice over the years, so I want to share the love and pass on what has worked for us, too. Below are some favorite course resources that we are currently using with our teens. We are picky about the level and quality of courses we chose, so each is also a challenging and effective method of learning. Our school is eclectic, meaning we do not use one-stop-shop curriculums.
Some links below served as the core structure of the class, supplemented by additional resources. Other links below are used as supplements to a core subject.
“If we re-frame our approach to focus on practice and true knowing, we will revolutionize the way we educate.”Mr. D (Dennis Denoia)
We discovered MrDMath about three years ago. After trying many different course books, tutors, online/CD-ROM-based math programs, MrDMath (MrD) is the best math program for us. Our kids have taken Pre-Algebra, Pre-Geometry, Algebra I, Algebra II, and Geometry with MrD (Sophia will take Pre-Calculus with Trigonometry in the fall). After-school live tutoring comes with the course, as well as the ability to email a teacher any day of the week with questions. There are also supplemental MrD programs we have taken and loved like “College and Career Readiness” and “ASL” (American Sign Language). I highly recommend MrD and the community of students and teachers there.
BraveWriter (BW) is our go-to writing program. We love BraveWriter, its teachers, and the variety of quality offerings. The online courses are thoughtful, engaging, and accessible with 1:1 teacher attention and feedback (note: I also like IEW, but my kids prefer Brave Writer courses). We use Pre-Scripts from Classical Conversations for cursive writing practice; Typesy.com for keyboard typing. Teaching guides are available online for just about any book we chose to read as a class. Grammar is taught separately.
Science was always a hands-on course for us with all the travel we had been doing. But as we developed our college-prep curriculum, I knew we had to become more “formal” with our science choices. Luckily, I found College Prep Science (CPS). Live classes complete with online LABS, CPS was founded by 20-year science teacher and homeschool dad Greg Landry. We are not a religious-based homeschool, yet College Prep Science is taught from a Christian World View. We are okay with this because we find learning a new religious perspective interesting. Plus, College Prep Science is more science than religion by far. CPS is the best high school science (Pre-Biology, Physics, Biology, Chemistry) program we have found and it works well for our teens.
Homeschool Spanish Academy is a program based in Guatemala with lessons custom-tailored to each student. Spanish is our family’s second language, so it is important to us that Sophia and Oliver learn correctly and speak with accuracy. Homeschool Spanish Academy (HSA), offers a 1:1 private live tutor to learn from, talk to and interact with during 2-4x weekly lessons throughout the school year. The curriculum provided by HSA is rigorous and satisfies the high school foreign language requirement for college admissions. HSA courses use native speakers from A1 to C3 language proficiency levels. We augmented our Spanish lessons with Duolingo and IXL Spanish online in prior years, though we found this was not necessary with HSA.
“Any given moment can change your life. You just have to show up.”– Anonymous
Debate and Model United Nations.
Westfield Academy (WA) is the hands-down winner of our new curriculum choices this past year. With their International Debate and MUN program, WA is multi-age and top level. We love Westfield Academy! Oliver is participating in one of their virtual “Summer Camps” this week which has blown us away (…when was the last time a summer camp blew you away?) Physically located in CT but unlimited in reach online, Westfield brings world-class speakers, Debate, and MUN into our school and home in the most positive way. Unfortunately, we could not find a Debate and MUN option where we live, so finding WA was another lucky denouement of our Covid school year.
Sophia is an oil painter specializing in portraiture. Her work is moving and powerful. Pre-Covid, she took private lessons from master painters and group classes at our local Art Museum. During Covid, I struggled to find her lessons outside of what I could provide at home. Since 1:1 lessons were not options last year, we again reached out online and found some new courses that surprised us. One of which is Kara Bullock art online.
Our family is super-sporty. So getting in Physical Education hours is not a problem for us, thanks to baked-in motivation and aided by our local public school sports (Go Vikings!). However, I like encouraging our student-athletes to kick it up a notch by getting CPR and First Aid Certified. We do this bi-annually with the National CPR Foundation. Comprehensive lessons cover Good Samaritan Law, CPR, First Aid, Wounds, Heart Attacks, Fractures, Burns, Poisoning, etc. A certificate is valid for two years.
Sophia also has her Small Boat Level 1 Instructor’s license from US SAILING, where students are evaluated on their teaching ability, sailing skills, powerboat handling, and class management, among other topics. In addition, students are required to pass a swim test without floatation, 100 meters in an open ocean, bay, or harbor.
We chose College Prep Science for our official ACT Prep Course. Sophia took the course twice and earned a whopping 7 point rise on her last ACT. There are many books available that include practice tests, and I cannot recommend them enough. However, expensive prep courses are not necessary if you can budget your time to study well before the test.
Transcript Writing / General High School Advice.
Lee Binz is the Homeschool High School guru and has written over 40 books on various homeschool (High School) topics. She is an essential resource, and I would be lost without her counsel. If you have high schoolers at home or will soon be homeschooling high school, then budget in membership to Lee’s Home-Scholar Club. During your student’s junior year, I recommend joining the Gold Care Club for 1:1 access. Believe me, you will have questions and will need a support system in place if your kids are college-bound.
So you see our kids learn from a variety of teachers in a variety of formats. A great deal is online in high school. Still, the learning is also specialized to them individually, and activity (or non-active) breaks are taken as needed. Every homeschool is unique; every learner is different – even within the same family! So what works for us may or may not work for you. But by sharing resources, we can inspire each other with new ideas, new courses, or a new path for our amazing kids to try.
I wish you the best of luck as you homeschool through high school. I urge you to “be there” for your teens, but most importantly, encourage them to show up and advocate for themselves. Attitude is everything!
For now, savor those quiet summer moments on the porch, let your shoulders relax, and enjoy your amazing, capable kids.
Links by Subject:
Math: Supplemental lessons IXL.com
English: Supplemental Language Arts lessons IXL.com
Science: Materials/Games supplemental supplies. Powscience.com
Science: Materials/supplemental supplies. HomeScienceTools.com
Science: Supplemental science lessons IXL.com
Foreign Language: Homeschool Spanish Academy
Foreign Language: Duolingo
Foreign Language (ASL): MrDMath.com
Foreign Language: Supplemental Spanish lessons IXL.com
Geography: Mapping the World by Heart by FableVision Learning
Geography: (supplemental practice) Seterra.com
Geography: Supplemental lessons IXL.com
Debate and MUN: Westfield Academy
Art: Kara Bullock
PE/Health: National CPR Foundation
PE/Health: US Sailing
ACT Prep: College Prep Science
Other: Curriculum savings: Homeschool Buyers Coop
Other: Homeschool High School Transcripts: Lee Binz: High School Help
Note: I am not affiliated with any of the programs or links above. My opinions about curriculum are only that – my opinion – so please do your own research about what will work for you and your children. If a link is not operating, I apologize (but please let me know, so I can fix it)! I am happy to discuss any of the courses above in further detail, including many other programs not listed. For questions or more info, email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.