Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Homeschooling High School - Math, Science, and History Round-Up

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High school means the pressure is on to get the perfect math, science, and history curriculum for your student --- or at least that's what it feels like sometimes! Of course we know there probably isn't a truly perfect curriculum, and if there was, it probably would work for everyone but my kid. Ask me how I know... yeah, been there, done that.

Choosing curriculum can be a daunting task, simply because there is so much out there to choose from, and as homeschool moms we worry that we'll somehow mess our kid up if we don't pick the right thing. Relax, mom! The good thing about so much curriculum to choose from is that we have options, and have a pretty good shot at finding something that will work for our situation. If you've been homeschooling for a few years already, you should have a pretty good idea about what your student's learning style might be, and know their interests, strengths, and weaknesses. That should help you narrow it down.

With my fourth child now entering high school, I've had the chance to try quite a few different things, and being a part of the Schoolhouse Review Crew has given us opportunity to test drive lots of curriculum. Each of my four kids has different abilities and interests, and what worked fine for one kid doesn't necessarily work well for another. 

Today I'm going to share a list of some of the high school level curriculum we've tried and some thoughts about how they work for different learning and homeschool styles.

Algebra is probably the subject that causes the most anxiety for homeschool moms, because most of us just don't remember much of what we learned in our own high school math classes. Fortunately, there are plenty of choices for math curriculum that don't put the pressure on mom to do much teaching. In fact, some do the teaching and even the grading for you! 

VideoText Interactive has earned top grades from Landon (and from me!) since we reviewed it about two years ago. This one is comprehensive and taught expertly. Lessons are taught in short videos and followed by student practice problems and quizzes. The teaching is done for you, but you will still need to check lesson practice and tests.
Good for: student that needs to see and hear information; student that can work well independently.
Might not be best for: student without access to high speed internet. 
photo Algebra_productimage_zps6b262264.jpg

Kennady needs a very different type of math instruction than Landon. She is using Life of Fred, although she may switch to VideoText in a year or two to finish up. Life of Fred teaches in a story format, and doesn't offer nearly as much in the way of practice problems as many folks prefer.
Good for: student that "hates" math or struggles with it, but likes a good story.
Might not be best for: student that needs a more rigorous or traditional math program.
Middle School Monday - Looking Ahead to Grade 9 on Homeschool Coffee Break @

My oldest two boys used Saxon, which teaches using a spiral approach. It is thorough and familiar, though very dry, in our opinion.
Good for: student that needs an uncluttered book to avoid distraction.
Might not be best for: student that is easily overwhelmed by pages full of problems.

My second son struggled with geometry until we reviewed a web-based math instruction program at ALEKS.  (You can read my review HERE.) He enjoyed using the program and I loved that I didn't have to grade it myself.
Good for: filling in gaps in learning
Might not be best for: student that needs paper and pencil problems

And finally, we reviewed the Pre-Algebra course from UnLock Math earlier this year and found it to be very helpful. (You can read my review HERE.) Algebra I is currently available, and Algebra II, Geometry, and Calculus are coming!
Good for: student that needs a creative presentation to help them learn
Might not be best for: student without access to high speed internet
Unlock Math Review

Graduation requirements generally include two or three science credits, and almost universally, it's required that one of those credits is for Biology. This has been the subject area that we have struggled with at the high school level, because none of my kids have been particularly interested in Biology, which does make it a challenge to find a curriculum that's a good fit. My goal has been to have my students gain a general working knowledge of high school level Biology, but not necessarily study in-depth or have a lot of lab work. None of my kids are pursuing a college or career path that is science-oriented, so a general biology course is "good enough" for us since it's not an area of interest. My thinking is that if they were to change their mind, they would be required to take Biology again in college anyway, so as long as they've got a decent foundation with it, the details will fall into place. Since my students are required to take one full credit course in Biology (which they don't care for), I allow them quite a bit of latitude in choosing their second science credit (we are required to have two science credits). My oldest chose to do some Physics and some Human Anatomy and Physiology; my second did Chemistry and Classical Astronomy; Landon did Classical Astronomy and will do a general science history course this year. Kennady will be doing the same general science course, so it remains for us to find a Biology course for her to do at some point.

Supercharged Science provided the main text and activities/experiments for Landon when he studied Biology, but in my opinion does need some extra reading or assignments to make it truly high school level. (Read our review HERE.)  It's simple and makes science accessible and fun.
Good for: student that needs only a basic course, and is willing to do some extra to round it out
Might not be good for: student without access to high speed internet; student who requires a more substantial and in-depth program.

We also reviewed High School Biology in Your Home, which is on the other end of the spectrum - a very in-depth program with a lot of research and lab work. At first I thought we could make it work, but we decided it was not a good fit for us. However, I would recommend it for families that need or want a more rigorous science course. Because of the reliance on labwork, this course requires the student to have access to a microscope and other equipment, and be willing to acquire specimens and do a lot of dissection. (Read our review HERE.)
Good for: student that enjoys science and is interested in lots of lab work
Might not be good for: student that is ambivalent about science, or has trouble with self-motivation.

Signs and Seasons : Understanding the Elements of Classical Astronomy - This was the excellent science elective course that all three of my kids did a few years ago.  The boys both earned high school credit for it. The book itself is non-consumable, and there's an optional field guide you can purchase, which contains chapter tests, templates and instructions for all the field activities, and places to keep records. (See my post C is for Classical Astronomy for more details.)
Good for: whole family study.

Survey of Science History & Concepts is the general science elective that Landon and Kennady will both do this year. This course is an overview of Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, and Physics; so it provides the foundational knowledge in the concepts of each of these branches of science.
Good for: general science study from a Christian worldview; a first-year high school study or an elective.
Might not be good for: student that needs a more rigorous course.

This is by far my favorite subject, and I could probably go on and on about it! However, we do have a clear favorite curriculum for high school history - Notgrass. I will probably discuss this more in next month's Homeschooling High School blog hop post, because History and Literature study go hand-in-hand.

Notgrass has been my go-to for high school history (combined with Bible and Literature) for several years now, and it tops my list of favorite publishers for History curriculum. All of my kids have studied or will study Exploring World History and Exploring America. (See my post: E is for Exploring America for more info on that one.) Each of these courses is worth three full credits - one each in History, Bible, and English or Literature.
Good for: students willing to do a lot of reading; those who want history taught from a solid Biblical worldview
Might not be good for: struggling readers
Midterm Evaluation - 10th Grade @   Photo

Kennady has been working on Cultural Geography, using this Grade 9 level text from BJUPress. She requested cultural geography last year (for Grade 8) but wanted to study Europe specifically. So we worked on the introductory units in the text and then the chapters that dealt with Europe - along with some additional reading and map studies. This year Kennady will finish this textbook, we'll throw in a few projects along the way, and she'll have her first high school history/social studies credit.
Good for: student with an interest in geography and culture.
Middle School Monday - Looking Ahead to Grade 9 on Homeschool Coffee Break @

Some related posts here on the Homeschool Coffee Break:

C is for Curriculum
Middle School Monday - Looking Ahead to Grade 9

Homeschooling High School Hosts Share this Month:

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Gena at said...

So many great recommendations! And none that we are using. :) That's the joy of homeschooling, that we can get what works for our own families.

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