Homeschool Tidbits: Big Picture Planning for High School

July 7, 2023

Welcome to Build Your Library’s Homeschool Tidbits: Episode 54 – Big Picture Planning for High School. In this weekly video series, I will delve briefly into a topic related to homeschooling and will share some of my knowledge and expertise as a long-time homeschooling mother of 4 children. Three of whom have graduated high school and one who is a college graduate!

As my youngest child is starting 9th grade in the fall, I wanted to spend some time talking about plans. High school is an important four years. But for those of us who have been homeschooling for a long time, it really isn’t that much different from what we’ve been doing all along. It just requires a few more steps.

The first step is to understand your student and their needs.

By the time your child is starting high school, you should have an idea of what their strengths are. They might not have any idea of what they want to do after high school yet, and that’s totally fine! But at this point, you should be able to gauge where they might be headed. It’s always nice to have a roadmap!

Are they art-focused or more into tech and coding? Do they love to write stories or are they obsessed with history? Maybe they love creating makeup looks, creating new hairstyles, or sewing amazing outfits and costumes. Knowing their talents and interests will help you determine where to focus their time and energy on electives and specialty courses.

On the flip side of that is knowing their weaknesses. Do you need to really double down and focus on math? Writing? Has science always been a weak spot in your homeschool? These are subjects that you might need to outsource. Now is the time to research online courses or co-ops.

In my case, my youngest daughter has been showing interest in video game design and development. She has been creating games with Scratch for years and coming up with characters and elaborate backstories for her games. She also loves to write her own graphic novels. So I’m thinking it’s time we add in a formal coding course.

I also want to find her an art class to try out. I don’t know if she will stick with this all four years and actually go on to study game development and design in college. But since this is where she seems headed right now, we can start there. I also know that writing is a big weakness, and we need to take her 9th-grade year to really hone that skill.

Remember, 4 years is both a long time and very short. Your child may pivot to something totally different by the time they get to senior year! But for now, I have an idea of where she might be headed. But we still need to cover all of the general bases, just in case.

Focus on the Basics

First, find out what requirements you need to graduate high school in your state. Every state is different, and you need to know how many credits you will need and what subjects you are expected to complete. Not every high school graduate will go to college. But if you think your child might start looking at what credits and courses nearby colleges want to see. It might be a bit more involved than what is necessary just to graduate. For example, you might need 2  or more years of a foreign language,  more math credits, or, if your child is going to an art school, they might need to develop a portfolio of their work. We had to do that twice already.

In New Hampshire, we need around 20 credits to graduate, and they break down like this:

  • 4 credits in English
  • 3 credits in Mathematics
  • 3 credits in Social Studies (1 US History, 1 World History, .5 Civics and .5 Economics)
  • 2 credits in Science (1 Biology and 1 Physical)
  • 1 credit in Physical Education
  • .5 credit in Art
  • .5 credit in Information and Communication Technology
  • .5 credit in Health
  • 6 credits in Electives

This is just the bare minimum. If my daughter chooses to go to college, in addition to all the credits above,  she’s going to need at least 2 years of a foreign language. Since I suspect she’s on a STEM or Art related path, I’m planning to add some extra courses in coding, and technology, as well as lots of art courses.

As I sit down to plan out a very basic skeleton of her high school years, this is what I’m aiming for:

  • 4 credits in English
  • 3 credits in Mathematics
  • 4 credits in History
  • 1 credit in Government
  • 1 credit in Economics
  • 3 credits in Sciences (1 general science, 1 Biology with labs, 1 Physical science with labs)
  • 1 credit in Physical Education
  • 2 credits in Foreign Language (she will be studying ASL)
  • 1 credit in coding
  • 3 – 4 credits in art
  • 4 – 6 more electives of her choosing

I’m not worried right now about what electives she will be taking past her 9th-grade year. We’ll assess that as we go. But for now, I know what her 9th grade year will look like and I have a plan to work from to ensure that we will eventually hit all the necessary credits.

Time to Jump in with Both Feet and Make a Plan!

Now that you have a bare-bones 4-year plan, it’s time to jump in and start planning. But don’t give in to the temptation to plan all 4 years at once! Remember I said that plans can change? Plan out high school coursework one year at a time, keeping the next year in the back of your head. You know that you need multiple years of certain courses, but you don’t necessarily know what electives are going to look like year to year. Worry about one year at a time.

I sat down with my daughter and we talked about potential courses she could study in the fall. She decided to do Level 8: History of Science. It’s super easy to turn that into a high school course.  I plan on beefing up the science to make it worth a high school credit, but otherwise, on its own, Level 8 works very nicely as a high school-level course.

In addition to that, she’ll be taking Algebra 1, an ASL class, an art class, and I plan on having her work through the Computer Programming course at Kahn Academy. With all of that, here is what her 9th-grade credit breakdown will look like:

9th Grade:

  • World History (History of Science) – 1 credit
  • English and Literature – 1 credit
  • General Science or Conceptual Physics – 1 credit
  • Algebra 1 – 1 credit
  • Living Math – .5 credit
  • Art History Survey – .5 credit
  • ASL class – 1 credit
  • Art course (TBD) – .5 credit
  • Computer Programming – .5 credit

That gives her 7 credits in her first year of high school, which is a pretty good start!

Remember to keep in mind that high school planning is just a fancier version of what you’ve been doing all along. Make sure you keep good records and you will be more than prepared for whatever they choose to do next. Enjoy these next four years! They are going to fly, so remember to make lots of memories along the way too!

Coming up next…

I hope you found this Tidbit helpful! Come back next week for more homeschooling inspiration!

Until then, happy reading!

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Emily Cook is the author and creator of the secular homeschool curriculum Build Your Library, a literature-based K-12 program infused with the teachings of Charlotte Mason. She writes full-year lesson plans as well as shorter topical unit studies. Emily has been homeschooling her four children in Southern NH for 21 years. She is passionate about reading aloud to children of all ages and loves to share her love of literature with others. She and her family also make incredibly dorky videos about homeschooling, books, and more on Youtube at ARRRGH! Schooling. You can follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. You can also check out her author page on Amazon.

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About Build Your Library

Have you been looking for a literature based homeschool curriculum that is secular? How about a way to incorporate narration, copywork, dictation and memory work into your child’s education? Or art study that ties into history?

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