Posted in HS4CC

Choosing Curriculum for High School: 4 Quick Tips

As you approach high school, you might wonder what to look for in your high school curriculum. Here are 4 tips you need to consider with every subject:

TIP 1:  Understand that there is no such thing as a perfect curriculum.

Please believe me, there is no such thing as a curriculum that will perfectly fit your budget, your schedule, your teen’s learning preference, AND align perfectly to your exam…. NONE- it doesn’t exist! Chasing a perfect curriculum is like searching for a unicorn. If you can accept that you’ll likely have to do a little bit of trial and error or a little bit of supplementing, you’ll likely be able to find a curriculum that works well AND fits your needs too!

In Homeschooling for College Credit, I advise parents to use a layering technique. This principle builds around a favorite book or textbook and brings in additional resources until you’ve build a robust program. Think of it a little like planning a dinner – your textbook is your main course, but you still need condiments, side dishes, beverages, and dessert. For a deep dive on layering, see Chapter 5.

TIP 2:  Choose programs that work toward independent learning.

High school is the perfect time to transition away from “parent-taught” learning and forward into the more mature “self-directed” or independent learning. Look for AND AVOID curriculum that fosters dependence – like a little baby bird waiting to be fed, that’s ok for younger grades, but we eventually want them to dig in and learn how to find resources and answers to their questions.

Teacher-dependent programs are easy to identify and avoid.  They have daily or weekly lesson plans for the parent (not the student), teaching scripts, and require the parent do preparation ahead of that day’s lesson. My advice is to avoid anything that requires so much “teaching” or grading from you – make your time with them higher quality, not higher quantity. This doesn’t mean giving your teen a book and checking back 16 weeks later, but it means allowing them to work through difficult subjects with a little sweat and by finding answers themselves (google, youtube, etc) instead of automatically asking you for help.    Even if you are sure you could teach the concept quickly, the bigger picture here is that you’re helping them build the muscle they will need as an adult.   

Finally, if your teen doesn’t already grade their own tests and quizzes, they should start that immediately. Teens who get work graded by someone else feel anxious over the pending conversation or situation where they have to defend their mistakes. When they self-grade, they get to answer to themselves which is much more powerful.

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Photo by Anna Shvets on

Tip 3:  Don’t spend beyond your budget.

Believe it or not, cost and quality don’t go hand in hand, so you can’t automatically assume a more expensive curriculum will fit better for your teen.  What I can promise you after almost 25 years of homeschooling – the more you spend- the more you’ll feel obligated to stick with a bad program.

This happens to all of us!!  If it’s free and it doesn’t work, we’re pretty quick to dump it and find something else, but if it cost $750? Discovering you’ve made a mistake now has the added muddiness of sticking with something just because you paid a lot of money for it. If you keep costs low, it will never overpower your good judgment. (Besides- you’ll need that money for college later!)

Tip 4: Choose a brand that offers the subject for every year you’ll need it. 

I have to explain this one carefully because I’m not suggesting you use every level of a product, but as an example, if your teen is on track to learn Calculus 1 in 12th grade, using the same math brand for grades 9-11 assures that there won’t be many gaps. When a company develops a full program (example K-12) they work hard to create a scope and sequence that checks off a full spectrum of skills. If you “brand-hop” in a subject like math, there is a high chance of probability that there will be huge gaps between brands.  Unfortunately, you probably won’t know that until they take a credit exam or start college.  You don’t have to use the same brand for multiple subjects, but within one subject, the less hopping the better.


Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit