High School, Take Two (2011 Curriculum Fair)

Written by contributor Sarah Small of SmallWorld at Home

Ages of my children: 14, 10 (and college sophomore, 18)
Educational Philosophy Influences: Literature-based, Eclectic, College-Bound

In August our daughter will begin high school at home. This is our second time homeschooling a high schooler; our older son just finished his freshman year of college. As we enter high school again, we naturally consider what we’ll do the same and what we’ll do differently.

Our son’s input was tremendously helpful. At the end of the year, I asked him what boiled down to: how did we do? I’ve been relieved at his answers. He didn’t have a list of “Things I Missed Because I Was Homeschooled.” He basically had two items on his “wish list.”

  1. That we had talked more about literary elements like symbolism, imagery, etc. and that we’d analyzed more poetry. (You might have guessed that he is an English major.)
  2. That he had taken a language through dual enrollment at the community college rather than using Rosetta Stone at home.

I can definitely correct those two issues! But there are other places that we’ll tweak according to the differences in the two kids themselves and a few things I wish I’d done differently.

One major difference is that we will have more time with our daughter. Our son wanted to finish high school in three years, so we packed a lot into those years. She’ll take four years, allowing for a more leisurely pace.

For our kids, high school consists of a combination of home, co-op, and community college. Why this mixture?


Well, we are homeschoolers, after all. Some things are done more efficiently at home.


Within our support group of 240 families, we have a fantastic enrichment class program, referred to here as “co-op.” My kids love the social aspect, and we have excellent teachers. Classes meet once each week for about 28 weeks. Each 1-2 hour class generally consists of explanation, discussion and review, with assignments given to be done at home throughout the week.

Community College

Dual enrollment at a community college is a great step toward preparing for the university. We advocate this not so much because of accumulating college credits but for getting accustomed to what is expected at the college level. Our daughter will take a couple of classes during her junior year and then the majority of classes there for her senior year.

Here is what’s coming up for our newest high schooler for her freshman year:

At Home

Math (1 credit): She’ll continue using Teaching Textbooks. Our son did his high-school math through our co-op using a variety of curricula: including Saxon and Jacobs. He wishes he’d done math daily at home under our guidance rather than relying on the once-a-week format of co-op.

PE (1/4 credit): Our physical education regime consists of activities such as hiking, biking, and running. This year we hope to add in snow skiing.

Community Service: She’ll continue to be active in community service through American Heritage Girls, church, and co-op. I keep a detailed record of her service, as this will be an important component for her college applications.

At Co-op

Health (1 credit): My friend who is teaching this has decades of experience as a nurse and is a healthy living advocate. She will be developing her own materials. (Mondays)

ACT Prep (1/2  elective credit): I will be co-teaching this with another mom. I’ll focus more on the grammar and reading components, while she tackles the math. Together we’ll cover test-taking strategies. (Mondays)

Art History (1 credit): Fabulous teacher at co-op. (Mondays)

Performing Arts (1/2 elective credit): She’ll continue taking international dance and drama through a performing arts school. (Tuesdays)

English 1 (1 credit): I will be teaching British Literature for 9th and 10th graders. I make up my own curriculum for English classes. Some of my favorite sources include my own college grammar book, a community college composition guide, Glencoe Literature guides, and Shmoop. This year we’ll read poetry, short stories, and novels, concentrating on literary analysis. We will concentrate on improving writing skills, including learning to write a major research paper. (Fridays)

History (1 credit): Hand-in-hand with British literature will be European history. My friend and I are coordinating the courses so that they complement each other. She’ll be using this World History book, which can be purchased for just $5 on amazon.com. (Fridays)

Wild Cards

Science (1 credit): We just aren’t sure yet. Physical Science will be taught at our Monday co-op; the teacher will be using Apologia. My husband, who is a biology professor, has serious reservations about the Apologia high-school level texts. Our son took three somewhat painful years of science through our co-op using Apologia and did a second biology through dual enrollment. We have not yet decided which route to take with our daughter this year.

Bible (1/2 or 1 elective credit): She might take Old Testament Survey through our co-op, or we may end up doing Bible through a combination of her regular girls’ Bible study, youth group, and at-home studies.

The minimum requirement for graduation in our state is 22 credit hours. At the end of her freshman year, she’ll be well on her way, with between 7 and 8 credits. While I have the rest of her high school years sketched out now, we’ll make any necessary adjustments at the end of her freshman year.

What are your thoughts on homeschooling a high schooler? Are you excited or nervous about the possibility?

About SarahS

Sarah has graduated one child from homeschooling and is happy to have miles left on the journey with her 11 and 15 year old children. With a master’s degree in English/creative writing, Sarah enjoys teaching writing and literature classes at her co-op and blogs about learning at SmallWorld at Home.


  1. so much great information sarah! my own (non-homeschool) high school experience left me with a list of WAY more than 2 things that i had wished were done differently, so good job mama!! 🙂

    do your children take college course non-matriculated? i’m assuming yes? don’t know how that works so i’m curious…

    is there a high school science that your husband is leaning towards? keep us posted when the right one catches your interest!
    heather’s latest post: the little things

    • Heather: Most community colleges and universities have a dual enrollment program for high schoolers to receive both high school and college credit for a class. In our neck of the woods, students who wish to dual enroll must have a minimum score of 19 on each part of the ACT. Our state also has a dual enrollment grant for juniors and seniors, which pays for 3 credit hours each semester ($330). It’s a great deal and a great experience! My son started when his sophomore/junior year and then entered the university with about 16 hours.
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-Up

  2. Thank you, Sarah! We begin high school this fall so anything homeschool high school- related is grabbing my attention these days. I would like to hear more about your husband’s thoughts regarding Apologia and science for high school. That is what we are planning to use. Thanks!
    Laura’s latest post: Thursday Morning Chit-Chat

  3. Count me in the camp that would love to read a review of the Apologia materials. Those are “THE THING” to use around here.

    Would your husband do a ‘guest post’ to give his thoughts?
    Deb’s latest post: Mothers Day &amp my birthday

    • Agreed, science is one area I’m really nervous about finding curriculum for. I’d love a text book that encourages us to view science in light of intelligent design, but without that being the primary focus.

      I want a series that is scientifically rigorous, and I’m sure your husband is all about that too!
      Sarah G’s latest post: 11 Things That Change When Youre 11 Months Old

    • “Yes, please!” to the requests on a review of Apologia. I tried it (elementary level) for about 2 weeks before going with my gut reaction (not favorable). I’d like to know if there are good, high school level materials that deal with science in an unbiased manner. Is that unrealistic to expect?

      Anyhow, thanks for the run down of your high school plans!

  4. Thanks for this overview of what high school looks like in your home. I am just starting out on this homeschooling journey with a kindergardner and could just not “see it” working for high school. You have given lots of great options that I hadn’t thought of.
    Becky’s latest post: Get My SH Together!

  5. I think using the community college is a wonderful resource. I remember tking courses my senior year of high school.

    As for foreign language we are debating what to do next year. Rosetta Stone or the local Chinese language school? My oldest daughter is only six, however she was adopted from China. We have been studying Chinese language and culture in a co-op setting, but I feel she needs and wants to learn more about her native language. Unfortunately, the school meets on Saturdays.
    Mary @ A Simple Twist of Faith’s latest post: 7 Quick Takes Friday Volume 37

  6. I felt the same way abut high school Apologia classes!
    Pam’s latest post: Yarn Along

  7. I’d love to hear what concerns your husband has with Apologia. I am planning to start using it next year with my rising 8th grader.

  8. Another voice chiming in for the Apologia review by your husband. We are a couple years away (daughter entering grade 7 this year) for in depth high school (we’ll start “high school” years in grade 10) but I want to investigate now what’s out there.

    Thanks for this awesome post. I’m envious of your great co-op. Such a boon with a young adult daughter.

  9. Sarah, I agree that your co-op sounds fabulous! Our support group has provided opportunities for its teenagers, but nothing so organized, or encompassing. Consequently, many of the teens in the group wind up taking community college classes almost exclusively as “homeschooled” teens. My two older kids didn’t like that idea–they wanted to spend time with kids their age, rather than with college-age students. Which led my oldest to decide to go to high school as a junior–he just finished his first year of college. My daughter decided to go to high school as a freshman this past year. If I could have provided them with a larger social circle of teens, and more organized, stimulating classes, they might have chosen to continue homeschooling.

    One thing I think it’s important for parents of homeschooled teens to remember: make sure your kids continue to take advantage of their freedom as homeschoolers. Encourage them to pursue personal interests outside of “academic” classes. Those personal interests and the related choices and risks they take in those areas are likely to have more impact on their lives than any “class” ever will! I’m so grateful that my son began pursuing his filmmaking interests when he was still homeschooling. It became a full-blown passion for him, and has given him both life goals (he’s studying film in college) and deep satisfaction. It’s so exciting to see his film projects, and to talk to him about his coursework. He’s utterly engaged, and it’s exciting!

    Some of the teens I know seem to devote all their energies to the community college coursework, and don’t seem to have much time for personal interests. I can’t help but think they’re missing out on some of the benefits and joys that homeschooling should afford them.

    I still have a 9-year-old at home. I’m hoping to provide more of what your co-op does as he gets older, so homeschooling will be a promising alternative for him as he gets older.

    And I agree with Heather’s first comment, big time! Congratulations, Sarah!
    patricia’s latest post: one fine morning

    • Absolutely on the personal interests! My son became interested in sound technology in high school. We set him up with a friend who is the media tech director at large church, and for a year he interned with him, running the sound, lights, video, etc. every Sunday morning there. At the same time, he and some friends started a band. They were able to spend copious amounts of time (which he would not have had in public school) learning all aspects of playing as a band, recording, setting up gigs, etc. Between the sound tech and the actual band, he learned SOOOO much! That freedom to pursue interests has for sure been an invaluable part of homeschooling.
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-Up

  10. Just to let you all know: I’ve alerted my husband to all the requests for a review of Apologia… in a few days I’ll start actually nagging him. 😉
    Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Weekly Wrap-Up

  11. Another Canadian here so highschool for us means grades 10-12. My son was officially in grade nine this year but by June will have completed 21 credits towards the minimum 100 required for graduation. It was a lot of work and really busy as he also pursued his own interests in the area of sports, music and drawing beyond his regular course work. I honestly felt it was quite draining and challenging for me to give my younger daughters the attention I wanted for them. For the first time in our years of HS’ling our son took courses through other people: a couple online writing courses, a French 10 course through ADLC (Alberta distance Learning), we switched from Saxon to the math text he’ll use next year in the high school he’ll attend and my husband took over teaching this subject, he joined a different school board’s two day CPR/first aid course, and so forth. This was definitely the way to go for us. It was good experience for him to be accountable to other instructors, work on their timelines, learn to feel comfortable asking them questions… and honestly, it was such positive reinforcement for us both to see how well he did academically and socially. While others do so, at this point i would not choose to homeschool for highschool as my child’s sole instructor. I live in a small town where options for homeschoolers are limited (as in no coops). For my middle daughter, I would love the option of an artsy alternative school for highschool.

    One of the highschool essay writing courses my son took online was fabulous and I’d like to recommend it to others. It is the Expository Essay class offered by BraveWriter.

    Two other things I’d like to mention: my son is choosing to attend highschool next year but we both agree that homeschooling to this point was a positive experience and greatly contributed to our strong relationship and my son’s strength of self/character. He has known since he was around seven that he wanted to be an artist and has never wavered. The highschool he will attend has options in animation and art that I cannot offer him. Secondly, I also questioned my younger brothers who were homeschooled grades 1-12 on strengths and weaknesses of their experience. The biggest weakness that they felt was a lacking in the areas of higher level math and sciences.

  12. I think your combo of homeschool, co-op and college will end up with a very balanced, confident kid- I hope to do the same for high school

  13. We have just graduated one child from high school and my oldest daughter will begin this year as well. We love homeschooling and are excited about having another enter the high school years. I will be sitting down next week and mapping out next year for my daughter. While this year is just ending, I am already excited about next year!!
    Joy’s latest post: The Homeschool Villages Garden Challenge Update!

  14. We have used the Apologia science with my co-op and it was rigorous and amazing. the kids had to work hard…but they learned A LOT!

    looking for something Latin and a new history program.

    what about an ACT prep course. any input?
    lisa @thebeadgirl’s latest post: New Jewelry Designs for May

    • My son used The Real Guide to the ACT as his prep class. He also read up on study skills, test taking strategies, etc. He did great on the ACT (his first ever standardized test) at 15 and better at 16 (good college scholarhips). That said, I do know a couple of homeschoolers who invested in Kaplan test prep, and their scores were almost perfect (great college scholarships). If you consider that a couple of points can mean a difference of $5K in scholarship money, Kaplan is probably well worth the $600 investment.
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Bench

  15. Elizabeth K Pinder says:

    I very strongly recommend that you look into Pearson publisher’s science books. Website is http://www.pearsonschool.com/
    I used their “Miller-Levine Biology” with my 9th grade son. It was an AMAZING book. Gorgeous photos, nice paper, filled with great info, good study guides, (can purchase separately: visual quizzes, study workbook and tests) and also included in the texts are many small articles about careers in science, science applications in daily life. This book was outrageously expensive for a homeschooler (we rarely buy text books) but I could not pass this one up. I also had to get instructor’s guide: SO GLAD I DID! I relearned biology with this course. My son has a thorough understanding of biology now and he talks about it in our daily lives — amazing! Apologia Biology did NOT come close in comparison with this book. You should read about the authors, Miller and Levine. They are scientists, very intelligent and very involved in their fields. I will use it again in 3 years with my next son. I am planning to use Pearson’s Physical Science book for my 7th grader and possibly one of their “Scott Foresman” science books for my 2nd grader, although he will probably use the 5th grade book, it’s what he’s capable of reading and where his interests lie!!!

  16. another vote on the apologia review! just found your blog & this post is just what i’m looking for. we finished our 7th yr of home school & my oldest will be a 9th grader this fall… cautiously taking on the job of teaching high school! i’m soaking up all the experience i can get from other home schoolers. thank you for the post!

  17. I know this is an old post, but I was wondering if you have found that Teaching Textbooks adequately taught your daughter? I know locally, many moms have felt like that it was behind and while they did well on there, they struggled in school with it.
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Wedding Weekend

    • Martha: Apologia is not my favorite. My husband is a university biology professor and finds Apologia for high school to be poorly written. That said, our oldest did Apologia’s physical science, biology, and chemistry through our co-op. He then took biology at our local community college for dual enrollment. This has a reputation as being a difficult class, and several students in his class were taking it for the 2nd or 3rd time, hoping to pass. He did well when he took at as a 16-year-old, getting a B+ for the year. He is now a sophomore in college and does not need to take biology because he earned the credit at the community college. He is an English major and won’t be taking any more lab sciences, so I can’t really say how well Apologia transferred beyond the community college level.
      Sarah at SmallWorld’s latest post: Day-in-the-Life in Our Homeschool

  18. That is good to know! I was wondering about Teaching Textbooks for math though as well! = )
    Martha Artyomenko’s latest post: Wedding Weekend

  19. Susan B. says:

    Just chiming in to say that we would not use any other high school science except Apologia. It is the only science with a completely Christian worldview and scientically strong. We know many homeschool graduates who used Apologia and none have had trouble with college science classes. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

  20. It’s great to find an expert who can explain things so well

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