Planning a High School Curriculum

Homeschoolers are in the unique position of getting to set their own graduation requirements.  All the law requires is that we teach the required subjects.  My interpretation is just that the material must be taught, not that we have to cover all zillion subjects every single day of every year (but then, I am not a lawyer, so don’t construe my personal opinion as legal advice).

When approaching high school, it is time to consider your child’s unique skills and abilities, and think about where your child is headed after graduation.  What type of career is your child interested in?  Although a 14 year old won’t necessarily know exactly what his future will hold, the two of you will probably have hints.  Policeman?  Lawyer?  Beautician?  Engineer?  Teacher?  Barber?  Nurse? Professional athlete?  Missionary?  Accountant?  Farmer?  There are thousands of occupations.  Your child is certainly not suited for all of them.  The goal as parents is to help our children find their niche, and prepare them so that they can pursue their life’s calling.

Toward the end of eighth grade, we need to craft an educational plan designed to give our children the knowledge and skills they will need to graduate from high school prepared for the next step — whether that is going straight to work in the family business, enrolling in a training program, or beginning college.

In our family, children are expected to attend college and earn at least an associates degree.  That means we create a four-year plan for their high school studies.  This plan must include all the classes needed for college admissions, emphasizing subjects pertinent to the child’s interests.

A basic framework for building a college-prep high school curriculum is:


You have freedom to choose which literature course your child studies, but not whether your child should study literature.  You can choose whether to study a third year of literature, or if public speaking or debate would be a better option.  It depends on the college your child wants to attend. Some colleges include public speaking as an entrance requirement.  Note that speech/public speaking is a good course for Running Start students to take at a community college for dual credit during their junior or senior year of high school, if desired.

All students are expected to take two years of algebra and a year of geometry.  Additional math is possible, depending on the student.

At least two years of science must be a lab-based course.  My recommendation for my students is at least one advanced science course their senior year so that they are better prepared for college-level science courses.

Check the website of the colleges your child wishes to attend to see if specific social science courses are required/recommended.  Also investigate the degree requirements for your child’s prospective college major.  These things can influence which subjects your child studies at the high school level.  U.S. and world history are standard recommendations.  Since a western civilizations course has been required of all my college students, I am emphasizing medieval/renaissance history in my younger children’s world history courses to give them a better background and help them feel more prepared when they meet that material in college.  A student who will be required to take college-level psychology can benefit from seeing the material first at the high-school level.  Many states require students to study civics/government.

Many different subjects qualify as fine arts.  Some colleges want to see performing arts, which has a different definition.  My children are required to take music lessons through at least their freshman year.  After that, whether they continue depends on their interest level. My youngest child will probably not continue music after that because he is very involved in sports and just does not have the time to practice as much as is needed at this level of play.

Foreign language can be difficult for homeschoolers, but there are options.  Some people like Rosetta Stone.  I am not one of them.  We like Visual Link Spanish, and I’d love to find a comparable course in French.  I also like Visual Latin.  Note that some colleges require homeschoolers to take a placement test to prove the validity of the homeschooled transcript – if that is true at a college your child wants to attend, make sure that foreign language is studied the junior and senior year (not the freshman and sophomore year, and then forgotten).  Foreign language is an excellent candidate for students to take through Running Start.  Often one year of college-level foreign language will fulfill the cultures/diversity college graduation requirement, so students should plan to learn enough of a language to do well at the college level.  American Sign Language is considered a world language.

Occupational education is required by law for homeschoolers, but it is not a college entrance requirement.  Some high schools now require Career and Technical Education instead of occupational ed.  In choosing a class here, think about knowledge and skills that will be helpful for your child.  Everyone should learn to type.  Basic computer skills are good to have.  Anyone who might ever want to run a business should consider an accounting course.  Home economics is considered an occupational education course, but some people don’t think it belongs on a college-bound transcript (I disagree, but will take this into account and might dress up our course titles/descriptions to sound more acceptable if it will make a difference for my kids’ college admissions). My personal belief is that things like woodworking, welding, sewing, and natural hoof care can showcase some of a child’s unique interests, but nothing entered here is likely to make or break the decision on whether a student is admitted to a specific college (but then, I’m not an admissions officer, so I could be wrong).  The point is that you have a lot of flexibility in this area to choose something that will work for your family and your student.

Health is required by law for homeschoolers, but it is not a college entrance requirement.

Here is an example of how a college-prep education can be customized based on a child’s interests — what we did for our older children (three of them have graduated and started college, and one is half-way through high school; the younger child is not shown in this example).  There are a few electives that do not appear, since they did not fit into one of the categories.

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