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Homeschooling Thru High School
You can Before H.S. During H.S. After H.S. Resources FAQs Blog

Carol Becker

Diane Kummer
Diane Kummer

Upcoming Speaking Engagements

We hope to meet you
in person!

July 15-16, 2016: Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE)—Phoenix, AZ (Carol)

August 6, 2016: HSLDA You Can Homeschool Symposium—Purcellville, VA (Carol)

January 28, 2017: Home Educators of Grove—Richmond, VA (Diane)

Not able to attend one of Carol or Diane’s high school events? Purchase a recording of HSLDA’s High School at Home: Turning Possibility into Reality event and watch sessions on developing a high school plan, creating transcripts, charting a course for post-high school plans, and more—with lots of encouragement!

We have exciting news for our high school newsletter readers.  Fresh off the press is our new e-book, Develop a Plan for High School, the first in a three-book series.  This e-book explains the fundamentals, so you can develop a four-year plan for your teen’s high school program.  It covers how to determine individual courses, how to assign high school credits, how to evaluate course work, and how to improve time management for you and your teen. We know this informative book will serve as a handy reference during the high school years!

“Both of HSLDA’s high school consultants homeschooled their children from kindergarten through the 12th grade.” Learn more >>

History—The Core of Social Studies

Dear Friends, July 7, 2016

The summer months offer opportunities to plan for the upcoming school year. From our perspective, 9th grade is a crossover year for most students. They may seem too young to begin high school coursework, but most make a successful transition sometime during the year.

As you draw up a plan for 9th–12th grades, you may have questions about the number and type of social studies courses students should complete, and the timeline for those courses. Social studies is a broad category of education that examines human society. In high school academics, history is the main branch of social studies.

In this article we will examine the essential history courses high school students should take, give an overview of various teaching options, and offer guidelines for how to evaluate your student’s work in this important discipline.

Essential history courses

The following history courses are important for all teens, whether headed to the workforce, military enlistment, vocational training, community college, or four-year college. Check your state law to verify what history courses it requires. To prepare teens to be productive, informed citizens, we recommend teens complete the following core history courses:

  • American History
  • World History
  • U.S. Government, Civics, or Constitutional Law

Most college-bound teens need three years of social studies, which includes the core history courses listed above plus a semester of economics. Teens interested in attending competitive or selective colleges or universities should take four years of history, some of which could be Advanced Placement courses or courses taken through dual enrollment in a local community college.

Many curricula offer an overview of U.S. history from the age of exploration through the 20th century in a one-year format. They focus on colonization, the Revolutionary War and Constitutional Convention, the growth of the nation (Louisiana Purchase, War of 1812, Mexican-American War), the pioneer era, Native Americans, the Civil War, Reconstruction, westward expansion, industrialization, World War I, the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War (including the wars in Korea and Vietnam). Other curricula delve into more depth, dividing American history into two years usually after the Civil War. Others incorporate the study of American history into the larger context of world history. Each approach has its strengths—which you choose is a matter of personal preference. 

For world history, some curricula offer a recurring four-year cycle from ancient to modern times. Based on your student’s interest level, you might choose to cover all four years in high school, or select one year to concentrate on one aspect of world history and another year to focus more on American history. Similar to American history, world history curricula offer a one-year overview or 2–4 years of in-depth study. Often multi-year world history courses incorporate the study of American history beginning from the Age of Exploration onward.  You will find information on the major world history units generally studied here.

Helping teens become well-informed citizens and discerning voters is the goal of courses in U.S. government, civics, and U.S. constitutional law. U.S. government focuses on the practical role of federal, state, and local governments. Constitutional Law teaches students the structure of the federal government, the checks-and-balances of the system, and the rights of citizens governed by this important document. Civics typically covers the rights and duties of citizens, and the role citizens play in government.

Teaching Approaches

With so many curriculum options available, think through the type of program that suits your teen. There are three popular approaches:

  • Traditional approach: This option builds around preplanned lessons, a textbook, reading assignments, comprehension questions, quizzes, and tests. For an additional fee, families can purchase recorded lectures. Most come with answer keys. 
  • Literature-based approach: Students who enjoy reading can learn history through modern literature written about the time period under study. These programs have lesson plans with reading assignments designed to prepare students for discussions with parents. Helping students piece together the actual historical events from the stories they read is an important part of this approach. 
  • Historical literature approach: Students who enjoy a challenge will relish this option. Reading literature written during the historical period under study can be very challenging especially for ancient and medieval times, so discuss this approach before selecting it.

For families with students in earlier grades as well as high school, one good approach is to select a curriculum that covers the same time period at multiple grade levels (elementary, middle school, and high school) simultaneously to simplify your teaching load. When the whole family studies the same historical period, interesting family discussions can arise around the kitchen table! Use your high school student’s core requirements as the determining factor when you select what younger children will cover.

HSLDA’s website offers a good starting point for families to explore curriculum options and providers.

We also offer an expanding list of co-op history classes offered through homeschool groups and online providers.

Students can also take social studies electives that build on areas of personal interest. Examples may include: archaeology, church history, economics (macro, micro), geography, psychology, state history, and worldviews.

Evaluation Guidelines

Many families begin with the traditional approach because it simplifies how to determine a final grade; however, not all teens flourish with this approach. If the program you select doesn’t come with tests, quizzes, and answer keys, you may have questions about how to effectively evaluate your teen’s efforts and compute a final grade. We recommend that you build rubrics and use them to evaluate your teen’s efforts.

Completing assignments thoroughly and on time is an important life skill, and teens benefit when you take the time to train them in this area. Look through your history lesson plans and see what types of work it assigns each week.  Build a rubric that explains exactly what your teen must do to receive a grade (letter: A, B, C, D, or F, or % points) for each type of assignment. Besides common sense things such as “complete the reading assignment on time” (set a weekly completion date/time), you can include statements such as “student comes to discussion with a willingness to contribute.” Use a rubric to grade each of your teen’s assignments. If you are unhappy with any assignment’s final product, adjust the rubric to address the issue. Although it takes time to build and improve rubrics, students really benefit from this type of evaluation, and this greatly simplifies assessing a final grade for the course.

Teens also benefit from developing skills for studying and taking tests. If your program doesn’t have tests or you are dissatisfied with the tests it offers, consider adding the following assignments to develop study skills and test-taking skills.

  • Outlines: Ask your teen to write a summary of a discussion or reading assignment. It is important for students to be able to correlate causes, effects, and consequences of important historical events. Your grading rubric can stipulate that a student include all major points and tie supplemental information logically to the main points. See this grading rubric for an example. Students can study from these outlines to prepare for an exam. Parents can also use completed outlines to construct fill-in-the-blank test questions and free-response essay questions.
  • Maps: Visual representation helps many students to learn information. After studying a map, give your student a blank map to label or fill in map features from memory. See this rubric for an example of grading categories.
  • Timelines: Your teen can create a history timeline and add to it as you cover new material. Track the dates of political events, historical people, arts, inventions, wars, etc. on parallel lines. After students study the timeline, parents may construct a blank (or partially filled in) timeline test for students to label. See this grading rubric for an example.
  • Oral presentations: Teaching students how to present information out loud in a systematic way using logical progression is an important life skill. See this grading rubric for an example.
  • Travel Brochure:  This assignment describes the historical events a traveler would expect to see when he visits this area of the world. Modify this grading rubric to suit the type of brochure you assign your teen to create.
  • Find more sample rubrics here.

Whether your teen is a rising 9th grader or beginning his senior year, we want you to homeschool through the high school years with confidence. Use these ideas to make history come alive!

Join us next month as we encourage those who are preparing to start high school and need a plan of action to prepare for the high school years.

Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants