Recently I sat down with my teens to plan their courses for next fall. I've asked my son for his input before, and his response has always been, "Mom, you know what I need. Why don't you decide?" Now, he is finishing up his junior year, and as I anticipate his launch into college, I've insisted that he take a larger role in planning.
There are a lot of things to consider when planning high school coursework. I keep these five keys in mind when planning the coming year.
- What are your state's requirements? Using your state’s public school graduation requirements can be a helpful starting point. Ben, as an up-and-coming senior, has knocked out all our state requirements apart from math. Our state requires students take math all four years of high school. Because he has gone beyond the highest course required, I was able to give him a choice between Calculus or Business Math. You can find out if your state has any specific homeschool subject requirements at hslda.org/legal.
- What knowledge do you believe is foundational? Even with all the writing Ben has done over the years, I still remember the terror I felt in college when I was assigned my first paper. I put "Senior Thesis" as a requirement for his upcoming year, because I want him to be secure in his ability before he steps into a college writing class.
- Where might your child be headed vocationally? When I was a high school senior, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. My son, on the other hand, demonstrates absolute certainty in his choice: Film Production. It is also something I can't help him with, nor do I really need to. Giving him a solid foundation is the most important thing, so he can pursue his major interest in college. If he were less certain, or considering a STEM career, I would probably push for calculus or a more challenging science course.
- Have you narrowed down a list of colleges whose requirements can guide you? Because Ben's major is not widely offered, we have narrowed it down to just a few colleges. We were able to look at the courses he would be taking in his major at these schools. There is some conflict as to what he needs: at one, he would pursue a Bachelor of Arts and need more foreign language to fulfill proficiency requirements. At another, the degree path is a Bachelor of Science, and requires no additional foreign language beyond the two years of high school Latin he has already finished. He opted to keep his options open and sign up for German at the local community college, to make the B.A. option a little more manageable.
- What are his interests? When I asked Ben what he wanted to study this year, he requested to take another history course. His transcript already has four history credits, and I had been experiencing guilt at how much time I had required of him in my area of interest. I had recently discovered that the work I required of him in his freshman and sophomore years was well above the normal requirements. When I questioned if he wanted to tackle a hefty course again, his response was "Yes! Mom, I love history!"
When I had finished planning out my son's year with him, it was time to plan with my daughter. Kyrie will be starting 9th grade next fall, and unlike Ben, she is an eager participant in the decision-making. Just like me at her age, she is interested in the humanities, but not certain where that will take her vocationally. For her, we focus more on the first two areas: fulfilling state requirements and sticking to the foundational. But within that, there is plenty of room to let her choose and pursue interests. We already know she wants to take more foreign language (this is a girl who tries to teach herself Russian for fun), and that she will want to take more literature than history.
Because every child is different, and especially because homeschooling encourages individuality, every child’s plan should look a little different. Just like constructing a house, the foundations should be rock solid and not terribly varied, but as the walls go up, the personality should be more and more visible. I’m excited to help each of my children design a plan for their future.
P.S. If you are in the middle of high school planning, check out HSLDA's helpful article series!
Photo credit: iStock. Following images courtesy of author.