How to Create a Homeschool Honors Class

Hello fellow homeschooling Momma! Ready to dive into the all the details about what makes an Honors class? It's not just your regular ol' classroom – it's like a secret club for the curious where learning is an adventurous journey! Imagine a place where you don't just study but embark on a quest for knowledge, where thinking outside the box is the norm. Join us as we walk you step-by-step through what makes Honors class and how to create one of your own!

Ready to Dive in?

In the public-school arena, there are typically 3 levels of any given class potentially offered:

  • 1. Honors
  • 2. Academic
  • 3. Support or Vocational

Most people seem to understand what academic and support means, but what constitutes honors? Just like grade levels are arbitrary from state to state, the idea of honors varies from district to district even.

In my experience in the public, private, and homeschool sectors, honors is usually a combination of additional time, depth/challenge, and amount of work. All of these are a bit fickle and dependent on each student though. For sake of argument, I am going to be speaking to English classes, as those are what I most often see in discussion.

When we are talking about time, if you aim for approximately 120hrs/credit (based on the Carnegie Unit and what is considered a credit in most states like Pennsylvania), an additional 30hrs for 150 hours is usually a very good place to land. Of course, you may have a student that completes work very quickly, or very slowly. In these cases, you must obviously be judicial, and look at the overall work completed. 

Depth and Challenge

So often I see in various homeschool groups how much a student is reading. As an English teacher, nothing can make me happier! What I consistently see lacking is any literary analysis or criticism to go along with all of that reading. Reading for pleasure is incredible. I read well over 1,000 books in high school. But there must be more than reading alone.

Understanding different criticisms, analysis, historical context, archetypes, story structure, themes, and other components that make literature so incredible, should also be included. Students can show this deeper, more complex understanding, and critical thinking in any creative way you can come up with; essays, presentations, skits, art- the options are limitless, but there should be options nonetheless. Students should also be reading work on grade level or above for honors work. Though taking a magnifying glass to SD Smith’s The Green Ember would be a super fun assignment, and GREAT for maybe a 7th or even 8th grade honors, it shouldn’t be something a 10th grade student is doing for honors work. 

Academic vs. Honors

These deeper understanding inevitably also lead to an increased amount of work. If you have 2 students, in the same grade, taking the same class, but one is doing honors and the other academic, it make look something like this:

Read, Study Guide 1Read, Study Guide 1, Archetypes Character Chart
Read, Study Guide 2 ArchetypesRead, Study Guide 2, Literary Devices Used
Read, Study Guide 3 Literary DevicesRead, Study Guide 3, Journal Assignment
Read, Study Guide 4, Literary DevicesRead, Study Guide 4, Themes
Read, Study Guide 5, Journal AssignmentRead, Study Guide 5, Work on Analysis Essay

As you can see, both students complete the same reading and study guides. The honors student is expected to complete additional assignments. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the pace of the academic student, but maybe you spend 2 days on literary devices instead of 1. When looking at the honors course load, the student is going to spend a more time. In addition, the expectation of the quality of the work should be higher and more assignments are covered in a shorter amount of time. The Honors student is expected to do more work, and more rigorous work.

Are Honors Classes Necessary?

Does your student HAVE to have honors to get into college? An institution would rather your student get an A or B in an academic class, than struggle through a class with more than they can handle and come out with a C for the sake of an honors denotation. Instead of all honors level's classes, be judicial and make classes that your student already enjoys and shines in their honors classes. Honors should not be a challenge, on top of an already challenging subject, that brings them to tears regularly, but an opportunity for your student to flex their brain and challenge them in a subject that they may already love and want to grow deeper in. 

Cheers to crafting a homeschool experience that's not just educational but extraordinary!

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Lisa Nehring
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