Choosing Curriculum with College in Mind

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Choosing curriculum for your high schooler who is aiming towards college…Well, that really can’t be hard for us.  As homeschoolers, we are experts at choosing curricula…..it’s almost a no brainer!!

We have searched for and picked out curricula each year for our kiddos.  And we know how to tweak it, too, to help it fit with our children’s learning style.

There is just one important factor that is different now, for our college bound kids. 

Choosing curriculum for high school is really just the same, with one important difference....now we have the college admission requirements to think about as well. 

With that list of requirements in hand, (see Chapter 1 of my book for more info) my daughter and I looked for curricula one year at a time and found the whole process to be very similar to our previous years. 

One thing that made it easier for us was that most of my daughter’s entrance requirements were very similar, from college to college.  And our planning process was similar, too….

Our Planning Process




We explored around, as usual, choosing the unit studies, textbooks, living books, and/or online courses that would be a good fit for our teen.  We worked to meet our teen’s entrance requirements, but did not forget to focus on her own special interests as well.

My Teen's Interests

My daughter interests in high school focused on film making, and political science. We made sure to center her electives around those interests.   

But we found out that, if she wanted to study either of these in college,  the college entrance requirements would still be the same.  

She needed to complete her college entrance requirements in the basic subjects (LA, social studies, math and science), for either path.  But, we still, her interests framed her electives. We also did a course in Government for one of her social studies requirements, and did outside activities centering around her interest in government as well.  Later, photography and video making became more than one of her homemade electives.  

Getting the entrance requirements does take some time away from following your teen’s interests in high school, but they allow them to be able to dive deeply into their interests in college.

And we kept our eclectic homeschooling style all along the way.

Our Eclectic Approach



We are eclectic homeschoolers, who love unit studies, lots of hands-on learning, and mixing  art into our academics.  We found a curriculum that could do all of that, early on, called Oak Meadow.

We have used a number of the Oak Meadow courses, through the years, and into high school as well.  Their courses are project based, with lots of hands-on-learning, some even in high school.  We found that the Oak Meadow approach had many similarities to Charlotte Mason.  

Below, I will be sharing our favorites for high school curriculum, with college in mind, and some of my homeschooling friend's favorites, too.  I hope these choices will inspire those of you who are in the planning mode.  We used both faith based and secular curriculum in our homeschool.

So what did we do for Science? Math? English? and Social Studies?  Foreign Language?


First, here's two great resources for your own high school curriculum search:
  
Curriculum Search Tools

1. CURRICULUM DIRECTORY at Let's Homeschool High School


This curriculum directory for high school is the most complete one I have seen!  And it includes TONS of links.

2.  THE CURRICULUM CHOICE



This site is full of curriculum reviews, written by a team of authors (I am one) who have actually used the curriculum.  It includes reviews of such curriculum as Tapestry of Grace, IEW for literature and writing, a number of Charlotte Mason options, Oak Meadow and 1,000’s of other reviews.

Here are our favorites...what are yours?

OUR CURRICULUM CHOICES

SCIENCE




Most of our college choices required two lab sciences.  But if your teen is headed towards a math or science major in college, they will usually require 4 science courses, all with lab.

We found many choices for science including Oak Meadow, Apologia, A Beka, Switch-On-Schoolhouse (SOS), etc.  

We made sure that our choices included a science lab component.  

We decided to look for a structured course that included regular test-taking.  Getting used to test-taking would help my daughter to prepare for later test-taking in college!
  
We chose Switched-On-Schoolhouse (SOS), as we wanted a computer based program, and my daughter wanted to work independently.  And all the lessons were graded for me.

 SOS also offered tutoring (from their high school science teachers), to be purchased by the half hour.  Working some of the science problems out with a teacher really helped, when complex concepts came up. We also used Home Science Tools for our high school lab kits.

Other Science Options we considered:
Oak Meadow, Apologia, A Beka, Lifepacs, Apologia Science 
  
The typical requirements for college entrance include two science courses, usually Biology and Chemistry.  If your student is headed towards a math, science, or programming major in college, they will likely be required to do 4 lab sciences.


 MATH


Most of our college choices required Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2.  (Or the series that Saxon offers, which is equivalent). 

If your teen is aiming towards math, computer programming, or a science major in college, they will likely be required to have 4 years of math, including PreCalculus.  (Check with your college.)


We looked at LifePacs, Switch-On-Schoolhouse, Math-You-See, A Beka, etc.  We also considered Teaching Textbooks, but found that, for us, it did not provide enough depth for good retention. 


It's all about what fits for your student. 

We found that SOS met our daughter's needs well, and it had the structured and depth to help my daughter retain that she had learned.  For us, SOS did a better job in providing the solid math background needed for tackling the SAT/ACT later in junior year.

Others that we considered: 
Check out The Curriculum Choice for a review of ALEKS, and also one on No-Nonsense Algebra. We also looked at  Life of Fred, A Beka, Saxon and Khan Academy, all of which are strong programs.  Some families love Teaching Textbooks, too.

For math, we are staying with an old favorite, Switched On Schoolhouse (SOS). It is complete, with clear explanations.  I like how this course is structured, with regular quizes,  giving my daughter practice in test taking.  She will need this, wherever she goes to college. 

I also like how it gives the student instant feedback, and also grades the lessons for me!  What a plus!  And it even helped my daughter to retain the information, so helpful to  help prepare for the math SAT/ACT.

  Math Tutoring Options

All of the Alpha Omega Publications programs offer tutoring (including Monarch, Lifepacs, and SOS). It can be purchased by the half hour, from teachers who specialize in each subject area.
We used this tutoring  last year.  It helped us a lot, and also gave my teen practice in discussing math with her tutor.  Great for critical thinking, too!  

There are now a number of online homework help/tutoring options, too, and I noticed that some of them are free.  Just google homework help.  Of course, there is Khan Academy.

ENGLISH


When looking for a high school English program, we found that most colleges wanted something strong in literature and/or composition each year.  But some are more lenient.
One option for that is to create your own literature course, and pick out the literature yourself.  Pairing that with writing assignments can make up a complete English course for your teen!  
 
We decided to go another way, and chose a ready made course, with good quality living literature.  We chose Oak Meadow, which offers a variety of literature based courses, including writing, too, from 9th to 12th grade.




Click here for my review of Oak Meadow Literature and Composition II. This course focuses on literary analysis and essay writing. And we later found out that learning literary analysis really helped my daughter to tackle the critical thinking problems that she encountered in college.

We also wanted to be sure that she got lots of  writing practice, with different types of essays and research reports, and to help her to prepare for later essay writing in college.

We have used Oak Meadow for all of our high school English courses.  We love this program, as it is complete, is written to the student, with little or no prep needed from me. 

It also inspired wonderful, meaningful talks about literature, and it also promoted creativity.  For more info, please go to  Oak Meadow Literature and Composition II.   Best of all, it made literary analysis make sense to my teen.  Horray!



Another popular choice for English is the Institute of Excellence in Writing, IEW, which offers a very well established, structured, step by step approach to literature and composition. Go to here for Barb's review of it. 
 
Excerpt from Barb's review:  "These lessons have built from one paragraph summaries to three paragraph essays, to now a five paragraph essay with introduction, conclusion, and bibliography."


Other options we considered:
We also looked at such programs as Hewitt Homeschooling: Lightning Literature & Composition , Lifepacs, Sonlight, Write@ Home, Brave Writer, Ambleside.com, Monarch, and SOS  and found them all to be strong. 

SOCIAL STUDIES

Plotting World War I on the map.
Many colleges ask for 1 year of American History, 1 year of World History, 1/2 credit of Government, and 1/2 credit of Economics.  But ours left it up to us.  It all depends on the college.

We had a lot of flexibility for Social Studies, as our college choices wanted only a certain number of credits, and did not specify which courses we had to take.  For us, we had a wide variety of subjects to choose from, such as World History, US History, Geography, Economics, Psychology, etc.  

You may not have this same flexibility for social studies. Please be sure to check with your college choices.  (Check Chapter 1 for questions.)


We decided to use Oak Meadow's history courses, and also some geography  from the Rainbow Resource catalog.  Then senior year, we did a course in Government, from Northwest College.

Other options we considered:
We also checked out SOS, Lifepacs, Tapestry of Grace, Ambleside.com and Sonlight for social studies, all strong programs.  Alpha Omega Publications offers a number of dual credit courses in social studies.


Then in senior year, my daughter took a government course at the college level from Northwestern College. This gave my teen college credit, and more importantly, experience in doing a college level course.  

Social Studies is an area where my daughter is strong, which was essential for her being able to do this college level course. 

FOREIGN LANGUAGE

  
Most colleges require two years of the same foreign language for their incoming freshmen.  Some two tier or ivy colleges require three.

Be sure to check with your colleges as to what languages they will consider.  Some now are accepting American Sign Language. Check with your college re whether they accept Latin or Greek. Some do.

We chose a Spanish 1 class from a  regional school program in our area, Highline Choice Academy, which offered it twice a week, and that worked out well.  And I liked the fact that the students met together to practice their language verbally.

For Spanish 2, we went with the homeschool version of RosettaStone (RS). I liked the homeschool version best because it had a solid study of Spanish grammar, as the regular RS version did not.  Also, our college choices preferred the homeschool version. 

We also looked at SOS, and Monarch, but wanted something that focused more on conversational Spanish. 

There are so many options now for foreign language.  Cathy Duffy, @ http://cathyduffyreviews.com/foreign-language/foreign-language-index.htm, has a number of reviews of foreign language curricula.  

Middlebury offers digital world language courses, in Spanish, French, German, and Chinese.   Mango Languages offers a homeschool version, and is self graded.

Those are our favorites for high school curricula with college in mind, or not…But with all the wonderful resources available on the web, my list is in no way complete.  What are your favorites?  Please share in the comments, as that could help other families as well.

Have you seen my book on homeschooling high school yet?



Homeschooling High School with College in Mind is full of tips, printables and helps for planning your high school years at home.

Kindle is $7.17 on Amazon  
In print on Amazon   


"This book guides the reader step by step through the maze of requirements for college AND gives the gift of comparing requirements for various types of colleges. I am beyond grateful for this book, and highly suggest it to every homeschool family regardless of the stage one is at. Being able to see a long-term educational plan, laid out so effectively, is a gift. 
.......Theresa Harmon, homeschool mom, WA state

What's included in the book?  Click here for more info on the book, why I wrote it and how it helped my teen get into college, etc. Check out the review on The Curriculum Choice if you like.


Homeschooling the Middle & High School Years




More high school posts are on Pinterest here: Homeschooling High School Pinterest Board


Have you seen my facebook group called Homeschooling Through High School

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Thanks for stopping by BJ's Homeschool,

Betsy

Betsy is mom to her now college junior, whom she homeschooled from day one.  She blogs at BJ's Homeschool, about the early yearshigh school & college and wrote the book - Homeschooling High School with College in Mind.   She offers free homeschool help through messages at BJ's Consulting

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