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

Join us at our upcoming speaking engagements:

January 13, 2018: Family Homeschool Connections (Richmond, VA)—Diane Kummer

January 13, 2018: CHEC High School and Beyond (Castle Rock, CO)—Carol Becker

January 27, 2018: Forsyth Home Educators (Winston-Salem, NC)—Carol Becker

April 12-14, 2018: MACHE (Rochester, MN)—Diane Kummer

April 19-21, 2018: CAPE (Albuquerque, NM)—Diane Kummer

April 27-28, 2018: NCHEA (NE)—Carol Becker

Don’t miss our informative new e-books, now available from the HSLDA Store!

Develop a Plan for High School is the first in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers how to choose courses, assign high school credits, evaluate coursework, and improve time management for you and your high school student.

Simplify Your Recordkeeping and Transcript is the second in a three-book series by Carol Becker and Diane Kummer, HSLDA High School Consultants. This e-book covers in-depth details on both recordkeeping and transcripts.

Recorded events

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

HSLDA student art contest now accepting entries

Teaching Teens High School English

Dear Friends, November 2, 2017

With so many language arts resources available, homeschooling families often ask: What are the components of a solid high school English course? Parents have many options as they design an English course and choose materials to help their students learn to read, write, and communicate more effectively.

The four essentials of a solid high school English course are: reading and analyzing good literature, developing writing skills, using proper grammar, and building vocabulary. All students benefit from honing these skills, so we recommend that students take four (or more) English courses to prepare them for post-graduation plans whether they enter the workforce , enlist in the military, enroll in a trade/tech school, begin an apprenticeship program, or apply to colleges.


Literature is a major emphasis in high school English courses. The amount and types of literature teens read will vary depending on interest and maturity; however, literature covering many genres is beneficial. Some teens prefer non-fiction books. Some find listening to audiobooks more agreeable than reading novels on their own. Many who have enjoyed a diet of action-packed, cliff-hanger adventure stories find classic literature strange and difficult to appreciate.

Good literature speaks about the human condition. Authors spend much time developing significant characters instead of creating exciting plot twists. Rather than merely entertaining readers, well-respected authors probe significant ideas such as the heights and depths of the human soul and how that affects individuals, families, friendships, and societies.

While understanding characters, plot, symbols, motifs, and themes is a recognized goal of literary study, helping students to better discern and process what they read is a significant motivation for teaching literary analysis. Consider this a prime opportunity to teach critical thinking skills that train students to observe keenly, ask challenging questions, draw relevant conclusions, and support their point of view.

To develop these higher level thinking skills, students need lots of examples, encouragement, practice, patience, and persistence. Set aside time to work individually with your teen, because critical thinking is more easily modeled than taught. Teens learn by hearing you examine an author’s work, participating as you analyze your findings, contributing as you deduce relevant conclusions, and helping you construct an author’s philosophy from literary puzzle pieces. Lastly, discuss whether you and your teen support or disagree with the author’s message, and why.

Once you have considered The Pros and Cons of Different Course Options, you may wish to peruse this list of solid English resources:

Many families choose literature based on their teens’ maturity level and family values. Although parents have a key role in protecting teens from offensive material, you can constructively teach your teen how to grapple with serious or controversial ideas. Promoting a secure place for discussing sensitive topics is key. Teens benefit when parents¬†discuss themes and worldviews.¬†

Survey your curriculum or study guides to determine the analysis skills the publishers presume students already possess. If your teen struggles with some of these skills, consider modifying lesson plans to focus on developing selected skills throughout the school year.

Each year, parents can choose novels, short stories, plays, and poetry for students to read and discuss. For novels, go to our Reading lists for Teens for hotlinks to eight online reading lists and four resources available for purchase. If a book you wouldn’t recommend shows up on a particular list, just cross it off; don’t dismiss the entire list because of a few suggestions. If you are unfamiliar with a novel, a quick skim through Wikipedia will give you a better idea of the author’s premise.

Short stories are another way to introduce reluctant readers to literary analysis. Below is a selection of free online resources:

Look for plays being performed in your area and consider adding some to your teen’s reading list. Also, browse the DVD section of the local public library to find recorded productions. Discuss how a performance enhances or detracts from the playwright’s message.

Browse here for some resources to introduce teens to poetry.


Teaching teens to express ideas well through the printed word is the goal for high school writing programs. Begin by assessing your teen’s writing skills to build upon his or her current framework. Here are some tools to help with this process:

Because organization is a key writing skill to teach and develop, most programs begin with techniques to write well-organized paragraphs. If your teen has only learned one or two methods to develop paragraphs, realize that expository writing uses such diverse organizational models as analysis, causation, classification, comparison, contrast, definition, description, evaluation, example, illustration, time order, problem/solution, process, prominence, or proposition. If you need or want variety in writing assignments, consider exploring some of these methods.


In order to express ideas clearly and concisely in both written and spoken communication, teens need to use proper grammar. For teens who have studied grammar each year during middle school, they may just need to work on areas where they often make mistakes. If your teen hasn’t received formal instruction in grammar, then consider utilizing a grammar workbook until your student masters the rules.

Most writers have a handful of grammar and punctuation issues that seem to persist. Applied grammar addresses mistakes that recur regularly in your teen’s writing. This Homeschool Heartbeat interview explains how a personal editing sheet can help students work on self-correcting common writing mistakes. Self-editing their work provides students with a powerful tool.

Below are some free online grammar and style development resources:


Studying vocabulary enhances a teen’s written and oral communication skills. Knowing how to use words effectively and spell them correctly is a hallmark of well-educated people. English freely borrows vocabulary from many languages, and this explains some of its spelling irregularities. Fortunately, there are many vocabulary enhancement books. This free online list has 5,000 words for teens to learn. This list will also benefit students preparing to take college entrance exams.

A favorite teaching tool is to place a list of difficult vocabulary on the refrigerator. Pick ones that students struggle with or don’t seem to stick. Throughout the day, encourage everyone to use these words in everyday sentences and give extra credit for creativity. Treat the teen who earns the most points that day. At first this activity may seem forced, pointless, and uninteresting, but soon humor surfaces. Some priceless sentences will become inside family jokes. The whole family benefits from learning new vocabulary in inventive ways, and teens can learn very challenging words this way.

We encourage you to make the most of these English resources to build on your teen’s current reading, writing, and communications skills set and to prepare them for their future goals.

Join us next month as we share ideas on how to respectfully interact with your teens during the high school years.

Thankful for this season and your investment in your teen’s future,

Carol Becker and Diane Kummer
HSLDA High School Consultants