What Should a Homeschool High School English Curriculum Include?

Overview: Finding a homeschool high school English curriculum is not as hard as it sounds. Pick what you want your teen to focus on, and do the rest another time.

Everything is so much easier to do in the elementary years, isn't it?

Math? Addition and subtraction. Multiplication facts. Fractions. Nothing too difficult.

History? Let's read some books together or go on a field trip.

English? We're gonna cover reading, and spelling, and grammar, and writing. All of them. All the time. And it may be that each has its own curriculum! We may spend half the day on this stuff, and that's totally ok! Cuz English is important!

But when your kid gets to high school, some of this becomes more difficult to figure out. Nothing is as simple as it used to be.

Take English. Your teen doesn't have time to spend half the day on it anymore, because there are plenty of other subjects to fit in. But what do you NEED to include? Do you still have to make sure that your kid does it ALL EVERY YEAR? What should a homeschool high school English curriculum consist of?

Finding a homeschool high school English curriculum is not as hard as it sounds. Pick what you want your teen to focus on, and do the rest later. Truly!

A gal in my Facebook group asked a question the other day. She wanted to know if the 1-credit curriculum she had picked out for grammar AND the 1-credit curriculum she had picked out for writing AND the 1-credit curriculum she had picked out for literature would altogether count for 1 English credit. (This is actually a very common question, in case you're feeling like you could be her. :-) )

What was interesting to me were the answers. Before I was able to respond to the question, as many as 8-10 moms had already weighed in for her. And most of them said YES; that all those homeschool high school English curriculum choices were actually only worth ONE English credit put together. They expected her teen to work for 3 hours each day for one measly credit!

Now, if these gals want their own kiddos to work that hard, then that's totally their call; and far be it from me to tell them to do something other than what they feel is best. But I want to make something clear right here and now: it does NOT have to be this way, y'all.

Yes, Annie is here again to ease your mind and tell you the less stressful way to do something. In this case, let's take the overwork out of doing English in high school, okay? :-)

Making Homeschool High School English Curriculum More Doable 

First, it is important to note that YES, there are many subtopics under the larger topic of English (also known as Language Arts). Spelling, reading, writing, grammar, literature, speech, and even listening all fall under this umbrella.

Foreign language, such as Spanish and French, however, does not. Just to be clear, when we talk about Language Arts, we are really talking about the language of English and none other.

What this means is that a curriculum covering ANY of these subtopics can be considered an English/Language Arts course. 

It's similar to history. History can be American History, or World History, or Ancient History, or European, or the Middle Ages, or Modern, or French, or many many many other things. Does that mean we need to study them all every year? Of course not! Why do we think an English course must touch on every single subtopic in order to be called English?

Well, it doesn't. Not every Language Arts course (even in high school!) needs to include all of the aspects of verbal communication in order to be considered worthy of Language Arts credit. Even just one of them is fine, y'all. Like speech, or grammar, or writing, or vocab…

In other words, just because it CAN be Language Arts, doesn't mean it HAS to be.

You can focus on what your kid needs or on what you think is important. You don't have to jump from one thing to the next with no real deep understanding of any one of them. You can spend all four years on writing, if you think it's best, and your state homeschool law doesn't require anything different.

My kids spent all of 9th and 10th grade on grammar study. Yep, they were still doing nouns and prepositions and predicate adjectives and diagramming and all that other stuff, even in high school. But ya know what? They all got high scores on the language portion of the ACT and SAT. Just sayin'. :-)

For 11th and 12th grade, we did writing and literature. Sometimes both were covered within the same curriculum, but other times my kids would do a writing course for one semester and then a literature course for the next. There was no need to cram in any more than that, since most colleges ask for only four credits of Language Arts.

That works out to one credit per year, which is approximately one hour of work per day over a 180-day school year. (Or, if the curriculum specifies the amount of credit that it is worth, then that's what it's worth, regardless of how long your kid takes to complete it.) (Also check your state homeschool law; it may define the number of hours needed for a credit differently.)

So, in answer to the Facebook gal's question, I gave a resounding NO. All of the courses she had chosen added up to THREE credits, not just one. 

I advised her to drop one or two of the courses and concentrate on just what she really thought was important for HER kid for THIS year. The rest could wait until later. No one needs to do THREE credits of English in one year; trust me on that one!

It truly is completely permissible to concentrate on just grammar for an English credit in high school, as long as the curriculum you choose says it's worth a credit, and/or your teen is spending the appropriate amount of time on it.

OR, it is completely permissible to focus on just writing for a credit. Or literature. Or speech.

Related Reading: Homeschool Literature Curriculum Options When your Teen Hates to Read

Is Language Arts important? You bet. But there is absolutely no need for your kid to kill themselves (or for you to want to kill them, LOL) trying to fit in EVERY aspect of Language Arts EVERY year during high school. (Read that sentence twice so it sinks in!)

They don't even do this in college, y'all. They focus on British Literature for one course and Poetry for another. Why do we need to be any different?

Homeschool High School English Curriculum Recommendations

Some homeschool high school English curriculum choices do come with more than one Language Arts subtopic bundled into the same curriculum. This can be helpful but is not necessary.

For instance, WriteShop 1 & 2 for high school focus mostly on writing, but there is also a grammar component. This is nice because grammar and writing are so closely related, so it's helpful for your kid to be learning/reviewing grammar in order to write better papers.

Related Reading: WriteShop 1 & 2 Homeschool High School Writing Curriculum: An In-depth Review

Rod & Staff is primarily a grammar curriculum, but they also have chapters about writing and even speech. This keeps the grammar from getting too boring or onerous, I think.

Related Reading: Homeschool High School Writing—Tips and Curriculum Reviews

For more English curriculum reviews, see all of mine here (scroll down to the Language Arts section): Annie's Curriculum Review Page.

My personal feeling is that if the curriculum says it's worth one credit, then that's plenty for any kid to do that year. Or maybe it's worth a half credit; so then you let your kid work on that for a semester and find another half-credit course for the next semester.

Just relax! You've got four years, and in that time your teen can cover a lot of ground, one piece at at time. They DON'T have to do it all at once. Rome wasn't built in a day. Breathe! :-)

If you have further questions about curriculum planning, you might like my book called Cure the Fear of Homeschooling High School: A Step-by-Step Handbook for Research & Planning. It will most likely answer them all! It's available as either a printable PDF or as a paperback from Amazon. You can get more info here: CURE THE FEAR OF HOMESCHOOLING HIGH SCHOOL.

Now you can rest assured that finding a homeschool high school English curriculum is easier than you may have thought. Ask your teen what THEY want to do. Surprisingly enough, they will often give an honest answer about what they know they need more work on. If not, you decide. You have that freedom!

Homeschooling high school really can be the best years of your homeschooling career! HUGS!

It's Not That Hard to Homeschool

17 thoughts on “What Should a Homeschool High School English Curriculum Include?”

  1. Thank you, I have been stressed over this! So this was very helpful. Just one question. Would you just call each year English 9/10/11/12 if you just do writing one year and literature the next, etc? Or call them Composition, Literature, etc?

    1. If it was a literature course about a specific time period or author, or a writing course that focused on a particular type of writing, then I named it specifically. If it was mostly grammar, or a catch-all course that included a little of everything or several types of literature, then I named it English 9 or 10 or whatever. But it’s really up to you; there is no right or wrong answer to that question. Hope this helps!

  2. Thank you so much!!!!!!!!!! You answered the looming question in my mind and I can be confident now in my choice. Thank you so much!!

  3. Thank you so much! This was sooo helpful. I am so thankful that I stumbled across your website. My 9th grader has already started on American Lit. this year and I planned for him to do world lit next year (10th grade). Is it too late to have him focus on grammar, etc in 11th grade? Should I switch the focus next year to grammar instead?

    1. No, it’s not too late; you can do grammar at any time. It all depends on what you think is important and what he needs. I personally think if they don’t mostly use good grammar in their rough drafts of papers, but it has to be pointed out to them, then maybe they need focused grammar instruction. But that’s just me!

  4. I know this is an old thread, but thank you so much for that information. This was the very thing I was puzzled about. I know in our state they need to have writing, reading, speaking, and literature and I was confused how to incorporate that for every year. I am a new homeschool mom for a 10th grader and this was so helpful for me.

  5. Thank you so much- no wonder my 9th grader has been having meltdowns & making me question my sanity! Whew 😅 I’m brand new at homeschooling- thank you – now I need to decide what to do first – over-thinker momma here

  6. I was just reading your post here on English credits and wanted to clarify. Our daughter is a Sophomore and this is our first year of homeschooling. She just finished a dual-credit English Writing course at the local college for 3 credits. I was looking for some English for her second semester when I happened upon your site. My first question, are those 3 credits plus the one she would’ve received as a freshman her 4 required high school requirements? Or is that figured differently? Does she really need to go on and take more English this year?

  7. If my state says my high schooler must have an English 1, 2, 3, and 4, how do I know which curriculums fall into each “level?” I feel everywhere else it’s stated “Math needs 4 credits, which include Algebra and Geometry” but it specifically says English I, II, III, and IV. What does this mean or how do I determine which curriculums fall under these?

  8. Thank you so much. I just went to my curriculum sale and got so overwhelmed by the huge curriculum choices. We’ve always pieces together different elements to get the lessons taught. But for high school I felt the pressure to change that, because everyone else was! I felt bullied (in my own head). After reading your post, I now realize, I’m going to continue my style of teaching and see how it goes. Thanks again for easing my mind.

  9. Hey, I realized while reading this that I have your book! 🙂 This year is 9th grade for my son, and Language Arts has always been his Everest. So we are doing an English I (grammar, spelling, reading and just basically the mechanics of the English language), and Essay Writing to concentrate on writing by itself. I’m giving him 2 credits, because it’s 2 hours a day combined. We covered U.S. History pretty thoroughly in 8th grade, so he already has that credit making room for more English this year. The only thing harder about HS is the planning.

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