English, Science, and Math, Oh My!! Planning the core courses that will be listed on the transcript for your teen's high school requirements can seem intimidating on the front end, right? But I can assure you it's actually very doable and doesn't require much effort. There is a general sequence to follow for most subjects, and once you know that, you'll be done in no time. I promise!
NOTE: if you are looking for more general information about how to plan high school homeschool
What are “core” courses? They are the major subjects: Math, Science, History/Social Studies, English, and Foreign Language. (Some people refer to Foreign Language as an elective, but to me it is rigorous enough to be considered as part of the core.) These are the subjects that almost every college will require from an applicant to one degree or another. (Read How to KNOW What Your Teen Needs to Get Into College for more about that.)
Let's discuss each of the core subjects in turn, and you'll quickly see how easy this is going to be!
But first: a caution regarding high school requirements
We homeschoolers tend to be overachievers, and so we start off thinking our child is going to do all of the core courses every year of high school. I get that, I really do. I had very high expectations for homeschooling myself.
But from someone who has graduated four children from our high school homeschool, I would advise against that. It leads to a LOT of pressure. High school core courses take a lot of time each day to complete. And grades matter now, lol. Not every student is best served by having to slave away all day on core courses.
And guess what? “Senioritis” is real, lol. That means your kid will most likely (unless mine were all just rebellious teenagers — and they weren't) have a very hard time being motivated to do school their senior year. So you might want to build more electives into that year, so that at least they will be studying subjects they enjoy.
BTW: All of this information, and LOTS MORE, can be found in my ebook called Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: How to Be Sure You're Not Missing Anything. It takes you step-by-step all the way from knowing basically nothing, lol, to creating a complete plan for your teen's entire high school career. It will give you everything you need to be confident to homeschool through graduation and prepare your child for whatever their goals are! You can check it out here: Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School.
Core Subject Specifics:
Math is one of those subjects that proceeds in a typical order for high school. The first high school credit given for math is Algebra 1, so that generally happens in 9th grade (although if your child is ready, it is possible to take it for credit in 8th grade). After that comes Geometry, then Algebra 2/Trigonometry, Pre-Calculus, and finally, Calculus.
But not every child has to do all of these. Only those who take Algebra 1 in 8th grade even have the possibility to get as far as Calculus, for instance. And many colleges only require 3 credits of math for their applicants — so you might prefer to stop after Algebra 2, anyway. (For information about my family's math sequence and the curricula we have used, read Our Homeschool Math Curriculum Sequence.)
The first science course that in my experience has generally been considered worthy of high school credit is Physical Science. Lately there has been some debate about that, though; for instance, Apologia used to claim that their Physical Science
After that the student can take Biology (DEFINITELY considered high school level), then Chemistry, then Physics. The order of these is not set in stone, but often the difficulty level of the material, and the fact that each science course requires comprehension of a particular math level, means that this is the best sequence for most students.
Again, though, college requirements vary. If your child is not a budding scientist, doctor, or engineer, you may be better off not requiring all of these. There are also other possibilities for science courses out there, such as Astronomy or Marine Biology. Check the college requirements so that you can know where you have leeway and where you don't.
For history (or social studies, if you prefer), many colleges require only these courses: World History, American History, Civics, and Economics. There is no preferred order. The only consideration might be the difficulty level of the
For some reason I've always considered Civics and Economics to be senior courses (they are each only a semester), so that is when most of my kids did them. My youngest spent some time in Classical Conversations, however, and there they do them in Challenge 1, which is similar to 9th grade — so she got them out of the way at that time.
Some colleges don't specify which history courses AT ALL; instead they specify a number of history credits (often 2-3). Then you have leeway to do whatever your little heart desires (or your teen's heart desires). Just do your research so you can feel comfortable with that choice.
If your child is not a history fan, then there is usually no need to do history EVERY year. Choose carefully which hills you want to die on, LOL, when it comes to what you require of your teen.
English gets a little more complicated. Most colleges do require a full four years of high school English, but there is no standard sequence. Many colleges require some type of literature course, either British literature or American literature — or both. Beyond that it's up to you. It can be difficult to narrow down from the vast selection of possibilities.
I went the simple route (you should have figured out by now that that is my standard M.O., lol) and did two more years of grammar in 9th and 10th grade, and then two years of literature in 11th and 12th. There are lots of resources for high school English out there. For now just fill in your plan with general course names (e.g., American Literature); as you research
I have a blog article that talks specifically about English requirements here: What Should a Homeschool High School English Credit Include?
Many colleges do require at least two years of a single foreign language. The only consideration here is which one your child wants to learn, and whether you can find
Whichever language you choose, there is no need to add a third or fourth year unless it's something your child is especially interested in. It can be hard to find
UPDATE: My youngest got accepted at many colleges with only one year of language. It's not always mandatory!
Get a printable High School Requirements Planning Form!!
I would be remiss if I did not make this part of the process as easy for you as possible, because stress-free is what I'm all about, lol. So I have made a very simple FREE form for you to fill out as you plan your high school requirements. You could just use a piece of blank paper, but it's always nicer to have boxes to fill in, don't you think?
Don't forget, if you want ALL the information about planning your teen's high school years in one place — with the above form (but much prettier, LOL) and more — then take a look at Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Handbook for Research & Planning.
The Next Step?
You might notice, especially if your child will not be taking math, science, or history for all four years, that there are a lot of credits yet to fill for their junior and senior years. That's where electives come in. If you're ready to start thinking about them, you might find this post helpful: Planning High School Electives for Your Homeschool. Choosing electives is really the most fun part of determining how to fulfill your teen's high school requirements!
OR you might be ready for picking out
See, I told you this wouldn't be so bad!