The Pain of Making Curriculum Choices for Homeschool High School

by Jimmie Lanley on July 11, 2013


We are nearing the final stretch in this homeschool adventure! Emma begins ninth grade in August 2013. She is constantly reminding me that I have only four more years with her. It’s a sobering thought.

In all my years of homeschooling, this year was the hardest ever to make curriculum choices.

Why I Am Struggling to Choose High School Curriculum

1. There was the pressure (mostly unfounded) of high school — transcripts, credits, record keeping, and college admissions. Fears about doing  high school wrong can make curriculum choices harder than they need to be.

2. There was the concern of keeping my umbrella school (required by TN law) satisfied. In the lower grades, they have not been too concerned with what I did. I sent in grades each semester, and that was about it. But in the high school years (because they issue a transcript), they want to know what curriculum I am using.  I have never had to answer to anyone in such detail about our homeschooling, and I really chafe under the requirement. All of our years abroad, I was totally on my own, and I liked that.

But now I have all these worries. What if we want to make it up as we go? What if we want to change mid-stream? I’ve always been able to make such adjustments or wing it, but I can’t do that any more. When I told someone from the umbrella school that we make up our writing curriculum as we go, he was not happy. That was not adequate for them to issue a transcript. Then I said I didn’t need their transcript, and that made him really upset.

The umbrella school wants the names of the curriculum we are using. Saying that I make it up as we go isn’t enough. And with the exception of Sonlight, their recommended choices are all textbooks.

I am so bothered by these requirements that I even considered leaving the umbrella school and registering directly with the local school board. That is an option in my state. But I am unsure of exactly what that change will entail, and our local schools are going through a huge merger with county and city. Plus the city I live in is trying to create its own school system on top of that. It’s a mess that I really don’t understand or want to invest in figuring out. The thought of answering to them for homeschooling gives me pause since there is so much internal turmoil going on. So I’m sticking with my umbrella school, and toughing out their requirements. If I can survive eight years in China, dealing with communist bureaucracies, surely I can jump through the hoops of a Christian cover school.

3. I am now a full-time work at home mom, and time is a big factor in my choices. Obviously, Emma is already doing a lot of her work independently, but planning a living books curriculum on the fly does take quite a bit of time. I need to step back a bit and let someone else do more of the planning. So even as I chafe under my cover school’s requirements, I realize that using a pre-planned curriculum will be a big help to me.

4. The downside to using more pre-planned curriculum and fewer living books is that I’m departing from many of the Charlotte Mason ideals that I’ve held to for so long.  This is another internal struggle for me. I believe in these principles, but when the rubber meets the road, when I look at Emma’s learning style, her interests and passions, when I evaluate my own available time and the requirements of my umbrella school, I realize that things have to change. She is not a reader, and for us to use a living books approach means that I have to read to her a great deal. I don’t mind doing that, and I will continue to read to her in these years, but the living books approach also entails a lot of preparation work for me.

The Plan for Ninth Grade

So, I planned and researched, got frustrated and put it all aside. Then I pulled it out again, agonized over it, and shelved it in disgust. But finally, I think I have come up with a plan that will work.

  • I can afford it.
  • It will make the umbrella school happy.
  • It will work with our time constraints.
  • Emma can get the credits she needs.
  • And it matches Emma’s interests and learning style.

It is a plan, and it might have to change. I’m okay with that. In a few months I may be sharing how we chucked huge portions of this plan and chose something else.

But in the end of this decision making process, I decided to take my own advice.

For the most part, any curriculum choice can work (omitting the crazy options that you would never even consider). Obsessing over finding the perfect curriculum is insane. There is no perfect curriculum. Just pick something and go with it. It will work. And if it doesn’t, you can tweak it or replace it. Just choose.

I will share the actual list soon. I need to go over it one more time with Emma before I make my purchases.

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