Most parents have no problem finding a wealth of different curriculums to choose from while they homeschool their young children. But when it comes to the middle and high school years finding the right materials becomes tricky. The biggest problem I ran into was that most curriculum wasn’t secular in nature. It comes to no surprise that the religious organizations who reintroduced America to the concept of homeschooling in the first place, seem to have cornered the market on materials. But religious and non-religious alike should not despair. There are resources to fit everyone’s tastes, but of course this article slants towards what I liked and didn’t like, as well as what works regardless of one’s personal theology.
For math we did find that the Singapore New Elementary Mathematics series was a good bet. I am certainly not good at math in my opinion, but I took several years of it in college, so at least I have a certain comfort level. Singapore has a nice solutions manual and fairly good examples in the teacher and student texts, but although this series worked for us, it’s not for the weak at math parents. It is certainly NOT a student driven course and you will be required to plan lessons. My daughter is horrible at math and she completed the first book with no real problems, so though the series seems to be good for kids at all levels, it will be severely limited by the effectiveness of the teacher.
There are two other programs that I have heard good things about, both of which ARE student driven plans. The first is Math Relief and the second is Video Text Algebra. If we were going to do it all again, I would pick one of these programs instead of Singapore. They vary greatly in price, so check them out first.
For science I know that some of you are not going to like my main pick, but hand’s down, it’s the easiest and most effective upper grade science available. Dr. Jay Wile writes the texts for Apologia Science and although it IS Christian based, his books are well worth putting up with the religion part. The science is solid and there are plenty of cool labs to keep all the kids interested. My second grader always wanted in on his sister’s labs last year. Another BIG plus to this curriculum is that they sell lab kits at Home Science Tools online. Any supplies not included in the kit are basic household materials. My daughter hates science and she had a blast last year doing this program.
Sorry, I wish I could recommend another alternative upper grade science curriculum, but I can’t. Get Apologia.
OK here comes History! My daughter’s favorite subject. I stumbled on the Early Times series by Suzanne Strauss Art during our first year homeschooling and they are great. They really don’t go past grade 9, but if you have a middle schooler, give these books a try. One little problem is that these books are very hard to find and they don’t have a teacher’s manual. This is the home website http://www.waysidepublishing.com/History.html These books are a FUN way to learn about The Middle Ages, The Renaissance, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, and Ancient Greece. There are quite a few more on Amazon than the publisher sells, so it’s worth checking out. The reason we liked these books so much is because she writes in very clear language and there are questions at the end of each chapter as well as projects. My daughter loved them.
If you read my first article on the elementary years then you know that I loved Memoria Press for Latin instruction. After using it for a full year, my opinion still holds. I made supplemental worksheets for my daughter, but if your kid is diligent about doing the drills, and mine wasn’t, then you probably won’t need to make more worksheets. We got the DVD set and although my daughter bitched and moaned about them, they DID work and sometimes that was the only way for her to understand the grammar. I recommend the DVD’s if you have the money to spare.
One program she hated with a passion was Traditional Logic from the same company. Not that the program is bad, I don’t think it is, she just didn’t care for the subject matter and getting her to complete just one semester of it was a huge pain in my ass and I finally relented and put it away.
English was a tough subject for us for some reason. Maybe some of you have found the ideal high school English curriculum, but I never did. It was a complete mismatched hodgepodge of materials, most of which was taken off the web. One text we used consistently through middle school and high school was Vocabulary From Classical Roots. It’s a SAT test prep type vocabulary building series. I liked it and it was challenging for all grades. All the other stuff was just reading novels, poems, and short stories. I basically picked classics and she read them and then I went to a website like Book Rags to find free study questions and background material. English was hard for me to teach because it has a huge time commitment on the teaching end and I have zero time to do anything. I started using Learning Language Arts Through Literature The Gold Book, but again, my problem was time. I just didn’t have the time to keep up with it.
My last bit of advice is to do your research before you decide and DO NOT be put off by Christian based curriculum. Sure some of it is preachy, but there are some really excellent texts out there worth taking advantage of.
The following links hold a wealth of information so check them out.
Home Science Tools
Homeschool Reviews (see what parents think about all the different curriculums ) http://homeschoolreviews.com
Homeschool Discount (curriculum store)
Donna Young (free printables)
Homeschoolers in the News