By Lee Binz
Most colleges like to see four years of English, which you can accomplish in a variety of ways. Your student could study literature and composition through a prepared curriculum, or you could simply have them read and write a lot every year. You could consider a speech class as an alternative. Keep in mind what really matters–ending up with a student who enjoys reading, communicates in writing, and knows how to learn.
Math is such a cornerstone for other subjects, careers, and college majors that I believe it’s important to have four years of math. Most colleges want at least 3 years, and many want 4 years of math. They like to see kids moving forward in their math studies, so just teach your student consistently at their level, and keep moving. As long as you “do the next thing,” working on math at your student’s level, you can’t lose.
Three years of science is expected for college preparation, with at least one of those classes including a lab. Each area of science is so different that a child may really hate one but really love the other, so it’s helpful to try to expose them to difference branches of science. You can also try unique subjects: geology, astronomy, computer programming, etc. Colleges love to see unique courses, so don’t be afraid to delve into another area of science if your son or daughter is interested.
Colleges like to see three to four years of social studies. Often colleges will further specify what specific classes they particularly want to see. Usually that will mean world history, American history, American government, and economics. Remember that you aren’t confined to choosing the “expected classes” for social studies, either. In our family, one son took a course in Russian History and the other chose Psychology.
Many colleges require a foreign language for admission. Most colleges demand two or three years of a single language, so the student becomes reasonably fluent. Whatever curriculum you choose, do a little bit every day. A daily 15 minute study period is much more effective than once a week for an hour. Use a foreign language curriculum designed for homeschoolers, so you aren’t expected to already know the language. Find a good curriculum, let the student learn independently, and check on their progress now and then.
Some children find it very easy to get the required two credits of PE, while others really balk at physical exercise. Some unique ways to obtain physical education credits are yoga or weight lifting at a YMCA. Your kids could also take CPR classes or study health. Some kids who “hate” PE will love swing-dancing or computer games requiring movement. Any physical activity that breaks a sweat counts!
Colleges like to see some fine arts in the transcript, but usually one credit will suffice. Fine arts include music, art, theater and dance. My students studied the fine arts through history, using lots of library books. We studied music history by checking out CDs and biographical books on different composers and styles of music.
Electives are the credits that don’t fit under the other categories and can include driver’s education, typing, logic, and technology. Electives may be the things your student does for fun. I have one student that loved chess and studied it for hours each week. Other students I know specialized in ornithology, mycology, economics, and musicology. Specialization is one of the benefits of homeschooling, so seize this opportunity!
How can you do it?
Parents may wonder how to teach children upper level math or foreign language when they don’t know the subject themselves. Find resources, such as video tutorials, at a homeschool convention or curriculum fair, where you can compare choices side-by-side. Remember, one of our goals is to teach our students to learn the way adults do - by teaching themselves. Teach your children this valuable skill, and they will be well-prepared for college, and for life.
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Lee Binz, The HomeScholar, specializes in helping parents homeschool high school. Get Lee's FREE 5 part mini-course "The 5 Biggest Mistakes Parents Make Homeschooling High School" and more freebies at www.TheHomeScholar.com.
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