“I’m not sure what to do for language arts this year!” or “I don’t know what to cover for language arts in the middle school and high school years.”
These are common statements that I hear from homeschool parents!
I think that’s because language arts has so many different facets to it, it can feel a little overwhelming. We want to be sure our child doesn’t miss anything important in this area.
In my last post, I shared what language arts skills your child should be working on at each grade level for the Pre-K through elementary years. Today I want to talk about the middle school and high school years.
Grammar, writing, reading, literature analysis, research paper writing, and speech should be covered in these years.
If you want a complete language arts program that covers grammar, writing, reading and literature analysis in a fun and engaging manner, check out these options: “Learning Language Arts Through Literature” and “Total Language Plus”. Both these programs use literature as a basis for studying the various aspects of language arts.
Grammar is something your student will need to help them become a better writer, so this is a good time to introduce it if you haven’t already. The “Blue Book of Grammar” is a great resource to help you with this. “Easy Grammar” is a simple way to introduce grammar concepts. “Fix-it Grammar” by IEW is also a good option for teaching grammar skills.
Writing assignments should be getting progressively harder and you should see your student improve as you continue to work on grammar and writing skills. If you want a focused writing course, “Institute for Excellence in Writing” is a popular program for writing among homeschoolers. I found “Write Shop” to be very thorough also. “Brave Writer” is a fairly new program out there written by a homeschool mom that seems very good.
Essay writing is an important skill to begin to develop in the middle school years, so as you choose writing curriculum, look for something that offers training on writing essays.
The middle school years can also be a good time to introduce writing a short research paper if your student is ready. Introduce how to do research, how to make an outline, and how to write a short research paper, including how to cite sources. Here’s a website that has a free introduction to writing research papers: http://www.thecurriculumcorner.com/thecurriculumcorner456/writing-research-papers/.
Having your student do oral presentations on what they’re learning is valuable as well. If your student enjoys public speaking, consider enrolling him or her in a Speech and Debate Club. The MN Homeschool Speech and Debate Club allows students to join at age 12.
Most students in these grades will be done with formal spelling programs, but if you have a struggling speller, consider using the “Apples Spelling” program level 1 and 2 to help review spelling rules.
These years are preparatory for high school level work, therefore their course work ought to be progressively more challenging. As always, encourage your child to read and continue to read aloud to them if they still enjoy family reading times.
What about High School?
In high school, your student will continue to learn more in-depth skills for literature analysis, essay writing, creative writing, research paper writing, vocabulary building, and speech.
You can incorporate all these skills as part of each year, or you can use a program that focuses on one aspect at a time for a semester.
If your student is college bound:
As homeschoolers, we set our own graduation standards or requirements. I usually recommend that you set your standards at or preferably above the public school standards.
Whether your student plans to go to college or isn’t sure yet, I recommend doing a college preparatory course of study. That way they’re prepared should they decide to go into a career that requires a college education.
For language arts, colleges like to see that incoming students have had at least 4 credits of language arts over the four years of high school. I’d recommend including literature study, essay writing, creative writing, research paper writing, vocabulary building skills, and speech. Encouraging your high school student to read as much as possible will help with building many of these skills.
Your goals for the high school years are to build on your student’s strengths, help them develop areas where they are weak and make sure they’ve had exposure to all the different facets of language arts.
There are great curriculum options out there for high school level language arts. You can use grade level packages for language arts, or you can put together your own program or use a class outside your home.
Some of the same writing programs listed above in the middle school section also offer high school level writing courses. (IEW, Write Shop, and Brave Writer) Another resource is the 7 Sister’s High School writing program. They have a research writing course that looks very good.
Building essay and research paper writing skills are both important for a college bound student. “Writing Research Papers: the Essential Tools” by IEW is another option for a semester or year-long course. (you’ll want to also get the teacher’s manual). For more on writing research papers, check out this post by My Learning Table: http://www.mylearningtable.com/high-school-curriculum-writing-research-papers/.
A fun creative writing program that you might want to consider in the high school years is the “One Year Adventure Novel.”
In preparation for taking the ACT or SAT college entrance exams, it’s helpful to work on vocabulary building. There are a couple fun books called “Vocabulary Cartoons” that can be used for this. Or you can use the “Total Language Plus” book studies which build in vocabulary study plus literature study as well.
Speech is an important one-semester course to have your student take in high school. BJUP offers a one-semester speech course called “Sound Speech” that has positive reviews. Speech and Debate club is also a great way to challenge students who enjoy giving speeches and debating.
Language arts skills are important skills to have for most of the others subjects studied in high school. Therefore, focusing on building these reading and writing skills is important.
Remember that starting as early as 7th grade, student’s can take CLEP tests for subjects and earn college credit. Passing the CLEP test is what earns college credit, not the preparatory course. CLEP tests in Analyzing and Interpreting Literature and College Composition are both available, so you could find a course that would prepare your student for these test. Go to the College Board website to learn specifics on what your student should know for each test. There are some CLEP prep books available online. They would receive high school credit for taking the course and college credit if they score well enough on the CLEP test. Check out Cheri Frame’s website “Credits Before College” for more info on these.
Starting in 9th grade, students can take AP exams for college credit also. Again, the test is what gives the student college credit, not the preparatory course. Check out the College Board website for AP tests available. https://apstudent.collegeboard.org/home. Debra Bell has some AP prep courses through her AIM Academy: https://debrabell.com/online-class-schedule/.
Also, in 11th and 12th grade, many states allow high school students to take college courses at a college for both high school and college credit. In Minnesota, this is called the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options or PSEO. Several other states have this as well, so check with your state homeschool group to see if your state has this program. This is a great option for getting a head start on earning college credit while in high school. There are many PSEO courses that work well for language arts: College Composition, Speech, Creative writing, and Literature courses (I recommend only taking this last one if you’re student is doing PSEO at a Christian college).
I love to meet with parents of high schoolers to help them plan out their student’s four years of high school! If you want someone to come alongside you to help you plan your child’s high school years, please contact me and we can talk about how I can help!
Please comment if you have suggestions for language arts curriculum in the high school years… or if you have any questions! I love to hear from you!