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The area I live in has many, many homeschool families, as well as a lot of great support groups and co ops. For the past several years, I have had the pleasure of teaching subjects like foreign languages, literature, writing, and worldview to all ages of students.
Add that to the fact that my gifted kiddo goes through curriculum like it’s candy, and it’s safe to say that I’ve either tried or reviewed just about everything out there. And I’ve put my favorites all in one place, just for you. That way, you don’t have to dig through all the options to try to figure out what might work!
High School Language Arts
There’s always been a bit of confusion over what high schoolers “need” to take, as far as language arts goes. Having taught it for a while now and having seen the results in college and on the job, here are my recommendations.
Follow Your State Requirements
This one should go without saying: if your state has requirements as to what needs to be taken, consider those a priority. If you live in a state that does not specify requirements, great! Cross this one off the list. But if you do have to fulfill specifics, put those on the list first.
A note, though…even if there are specifics you have to cover, chances are that you have some freedom as to how you go about it. I’ll be giving some ideas later this week for some non-traditional ways to dot those i’s and cross those t’s, so stay tuned!
Check the Requirements for Your Student’s Future Plans
If your child is planning to go to college – or if that possibility is present – you’re going to want to make sure that your course of study will fulfill prerequisites and prepare them. Most colleges and universities require four years of English/language arts, though most do not specify exactly which subjects need to be covered. For college-bound kids, though, I strongly recommend a solid literature and writing program, as it will set them up for success in many ways. More on that in a moment.
If your child is planning to pursue a trade or jump straight into the job market, language arts is still something that deserves your focus. Being able to analyze material and communicate well are skills that will set your child apart, allowing them to thrive and grow in just about any environment.
And if your child has entrepreneurial or internship plans, learning to work with a variety of information sources and communicate clearly are necessary skills. It takes a lot of multi-tasking and the ability to present yourself confidently to run a business, and landing a solid internship requires setting yourself apart from the crowd. The right language arts program can help your child develop and refine these skills.
Communicate With Your Student
By this age, your child is old enough to have some sort of a say in their education; pretty soon, they’ll be responsible for what they learn anyway! When figuring out which options are right for your student, be sure to include them in the conversation.
When talking with your child, ask them leading questions: What skills are they interested in learning? What type of project seems most interesting? What do they not feel terribly confident about, but are up for learning? Get them talking about it – you might be surprised by their answers. (I know I always have been!)
Then, talk about what goals and dreams they have. What will it take to prepare them to achieve those goals? What skills do they already have, and which skills will they need to build? These are all important things to consider when deciding on your high schooler’s course of study.
Language Arts Options
The fun thing about language arts, in my opinion, is that there are so many options. (I’m weird that way, I guess…from what others have told me, it’s what frustrates them the most!) The thing about languages arts, though, is that you don’t have to focus on every single element of it every single year. Your child will develop different skills at different times – that’s completely normal – so work with those skills as they come.
Just a note: I’m going to go over literature and foreign language options in another post, which will be coming shortly!
This is one of those areas which we all know needs to be taught, but most of us just aren’t sure what to teach or how to teach it. Middle school was fairly easy…sentence and paragraph structure is pretty doable. But research papers? Essays? Creative writing?
Those can get a bit intimidating.
However, they’re really not that hard, with the right resources. There are some fantastic programs out there that will show you what to teach and how to teach it, as well as how to evaluate and grade the finished product. There are even some that will teach it for you by video instruction!
If college is in your child’s future, I definitely recommend a strong writing program. Even in technical fields, your student will have to pump out a lot of written projects for a wide variety of professors. A strong foundation of writing skills will set them apart quickly and will make the coursework a lot easier to handle. (Having a child in college right now, I’ve seen this in action.)
Some of my favorite programs include:
*7Sisters: 7Sisters is easily one of my favorite curriculum choices. They have a wide variety of writing programs, and the format will challenge your student while being easy to work with. There are both individual units and full-year bundles to choose from, and because the products are all digital, the prices are great as well!
*BJU Press: I’ve used facets of BJU’s writing curriculum in my classes and with my son for several years, and I have always been impressed. BJU is a pretty rigorous program, so if writing and grammar are not your student’s strong point, you may want to level down a year.
*IEW: Institute for Excellence in Writing programs teach a method that is very different from what many of us grew up with, but it’s one that works well for many kids. There are a variety of programs to choose from, as well as video-based teaching that is easy to work with.
For many students, consistent training in grammar isn’t something that they really need to focus on in high school; it’s more a “key” that opens up every other facet of language arts. Grammar is the set of building blocks behind writing, literature, and foreign languages. Working with these on a regular basis will give your student plenty of practice.
If, however, your student does need the practice, there are some good options:
*Easy Grammar: This one is not necessarily my favorite, but it is a favorite among many families. Either the Easy Grammar Plus or the grade-leveled Daily Grams will provide daily practice.
*Analytical Grammar: This program will provide grammar instruction through sentence analysis and diagramming exercises. There are also a variety of other projects sprinkled throughout. This is one of my favorites to supplement learning a foreign language; the approach corresponds well to how many language programs teach.
*BJU Press: If you’re already doing their writing program, the grammar is built right in. Easy!
There are some good vocabulary programs out there. Honestly though, at this stage vocabulary is often easiest to learn in context. If you have a strong literature program, vocabulary will be built in. And if your child is learning a foreign language, chances are they are also learning a variety of English derivatives and cognates.
If your child does need the extra practice, however, Wordly Wise is excellent and easy to fit in. As a bonus, there are free online practice activities and games available online!
Wrapping It Up
While there are a lot of options to consider, language arts doesn’t have to be intimidating. It’s all a matter of focusing on what your child needs and preparing them for what they’re likely to do. Realize up front that you can’t – and don’t have to! – fit it all in. Instead, focus on what matters.
Get started with high school planning with a free 6-page literature checklist! This list will give you some great titles to work with for 9th through 12th grades. They also make great foundations for writing projects!