When I started homeschooling my children years ago, my primary reason was that I didn’t want them to have a cookie-cutter education, using the same textbooks in the same classes as everyone else. I wanted to focus on academic excellence in a less stressful setting, and the curricula we used was most important to me. In the years since, I have added other reasons to the list of why we choose to homeschool, but what and how they learn is still important to me.

During the elementary years I focused on the basics: reading, writing, and math, with history, art, music, and teaching our Christian faith to each of my three children. But by the time they were in middle school, key differences started to appear in how each learned, what each was interested in, and what area each was heading toward vocationally. For me, that’s where it got fun.

I defined key distinctives of our school early, and each of my children knew they had to fulfill those requirements. They each had to take two years of Latin, usually in middle school, and then they could decide to keep going with two more years or choose to study another foreign language for two years. Everyone takes two years of logic and participates in debate as an extracurricular for a year. And of course, we pay attention to normal education markers for math, science, English, and reading.

Because I follow a more classical model, my first step in finding curriculum is joining the mailing/email lists of companies that use this methodology. I also peruse online school syllabi to see what books they are using in a particular course. I look back on my own education to remember what was memorable, for good or ill.

Each of my children is unique. My oldest son was interested in film and music, so I found an online course through Udemy with a series of video lessons on writing musical scores for film and television. Coupled with piano lessons, my son Ben went through the course and ended the class by writing a score to accompany an episode of a TV show.

I thought taking a health course was important and that incorporating CPR and basic first aid was a practical skill to incorporate. So, in addition to using a health book, we added a Red Cross course to the class.

I stumbled upon 100 Days of Dante and turned it into a literature course for my son his senior year. His writing course was a senior thesis class, and he wrote his senior thesis on Dante’s influence on literature, film, television, and video games. This year, I’ll be guiding my daughter and some of her friends through The Divine Comedy again, using this valuable resource and adding in discussion, journaling, and a research paper.

While some high school texts can be expensive, often using online resources, shopping used curriculum sales, and searching Homeschooled Classifieds can help offset the cost of outsourcing a class or two through an online school or a college for dual credit.

The high school years can be overwhelming to plan, but determining where my strengths lie and where I need help has been key. I have learned it is okay to outsource subjects I have little knowledge of or little enthusiasm for. At the same time, I have also learned that working to help my children determine where they want to go in life and tailoring an education that helps them get there is a true joy that I wouldn’t want anyone else to take charge of.