Making your own High School English Course


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There are many ways to homeschool high school English.  One way is to make your own course.  One year, we did just that.  So today, I'd like to share six things that we included in our homemade English course.  You can, of course, add in grammar review and vocabulary, too, if that is needed for your student.  

Most colleges tend to look for literature and composition in an applicant's high school English courses, but don't specify what type of lit to include.  That gives us homeschoolers lots of leeway.  

Our homemade English course was accepted by each of the colleges that our daughter applied to. 

 Six Components to High School English 

1.  Reading Literature

Choosing your own literature to read can really be fun, and that can include some free reading books, too.  It all depends on what your teen needs and where you think they are heading.  The reading does not need to be only typical high school literature selections.

2. Write A Lot

I encouraged my teen to write..a lot!  

First, I assigned essays to write, related to her reading.  But we did a variety of other writing, too, when she wanted to do something else.  The important thing is to help your teen get comfortable with the written word.

Sometimes I gave her the choice to write in whatever way that she felt motivated to do....such as:  Write about a newspaper article, write some dialog to a short story, write how to's - such as a recipe, or how to find a good deal on cell phones, etc.  You

If your teen is interested in writing fiction, I would encourage that. Writing fiction is a great way for kids to learn the components of literature - setting, point of view, characters, plot, etc.  That is the basis for literary analysis, discussed below!  Resources for creative writing are here.

It is also helpful to introduce your teen to different types of essays, if they are college bound, eg, narratives, expository essays, persuasive essays, etc. Time for Learning has a great resource for that here.  But the topic was always teen-led, in our house. If you want a guide, there is a listing of writing standards for 11th and 12th grades on this link. 

Oak Meadow and 7 Sisters both offer lots of resources for writing, if you are looking for some guidance on that.

3. Practice the Steps of Writing

Time for Learning has a simple outline of these steps here, which include:

1.  Prewriting/Making an Outline 
2.  Drafting 
3.  Revising 
4.  Editing 
5.  Publishing 

Taking it step by step, as above, helps to make essay writing or report writing less daunting. Having the goal of making an outline, or sketching out a draft was doable, as opposed to trying to do the whole thing at one time! 

My daughter disliked making an outline, but learning to outline has really paid off or her, and helped her to create meaningful essays that were well constructed and made sense!

4.  Do Literary Analysis  

Why do literary analysis?  

...I do it because it is a great way to teach critical thinking skills, needed for whatever your teen will be doing.  But what exactly is it?  

"Literary Analysis is the practice of looking closely at small parts to see how they affect the whole. Literary analysis focuses on how plot/structure, character, setting, and many other techniques are used by the author to create meaning....." from Arrowhead High School.  Click on this title for more info on literary analysis.

For us, we used Oak Meadow, as it helped us with literary analysis by asking lots of questions to ponder.....about plot, setting, character development, etc.  

Then later we found 7 Sisters Curriculum, a much more frugal option that did the same thing, and loved using that for American Lit

It was adaptable, had no busy work, and was written by veteran homeschool mamas.

I was so happy to find the 7 Sisters Literature and Writing courses, as they were SO much more affordable, than the Oak Meadow ones that we had been using.  

If you want to use a prepared course for help with teaching literary analysis, I invite you to check out 7 Sisters Homeschool, as they have lots of literature courses,  for around $30.00, including year long ones in:
-  Chronicles of Narnia
-  British Lit
-  Great Christian Writers
-  Lit and Composition I and II
-  British Poetry

They also offer their literature guides separately, for over 40 books, here, including all of the ones in the courses above, and more.  These can be a great help by giving your teen questions to ponder as they read their Engish books.  Rainbow Resource also offers lit guides.


Ambleside Online also has a great sample list of narration questions as well.   

Join your teens in pondering the why's and how come's of the story, the plot line, how the setting impacted the plot, etc.  The best thing about our English courses in high school, was taking the time to discuss the novels together.  That is how my kiddo learned the critical thinking skills that she would later rely on in college.

5. Write Research Reports

Writing research reports is probably something your kids have learned to do through the years.  Knowing how to research and write up one's findings can be important in many future career opportunities.

If you are looking for help with teaching research writing, I recently looked at and loved how Vicki Tillman put together her course on research writing, below. 

APA Style Research Paper: An Introductory Writing Guide
7 Sisters Research Writing

Oak Meadow also has courses that include research writing, as does Time4Learning.

6.  Take a Break

Taking a break not only helps with writer's block, it can also give your teen something new to write about.

One day, we stopped by a farmer's market, and got a bunch of apples.  That got us busy cooking.  Nothing like homemade applesauce.  We had it with latkes, potato pancakes, for dinner.  

Recipe writing is a good skill, too.  Learning to write the procedures needed in a recipe is good practice for other "how to" writing assignments, such as writing out the steps for a plumbing problem, or how to repair an air conditioner, or a business email at work.

What are your favorite novels for making your own English course?  Please feel free to share in the comments.  I love reading them.  

Are your teens interested in maybe going on to college?

Kindle and paperback are both on Amazon. 

Subscribers will get the first chapter free. 

Click here to get yours.

What do you like to do for high school english at your house?  A prepared curricula or a homemade one?  Please share in the comments.  

Thanks for stopping by,


Betsy is mom to her now college junior, whom she homeschooled from preK through high school.  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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  1. This was great for me. I have been struggling with choosing a curriculum and this came right up when I searched! God always puts the answer right in your face. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Thanks, Katrina, for stopping by to share your comment. I hope it is a help and that you and your family enjoy your English studies in your homeschool this coming year!


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