Saturday, January 12, 2008

My High School Curriculum

Avram and I have talked lately about what sort of curriculum we would institute if we were over a private school, charter school, homeschooling, etc. Specifically we've been talking about high school, because at this level it's advanced enough to have a variety of subjects, instead of elementary school, which is so basic that it's not that exciting to think about, at least not to me. This is ironic, because if I were to homeschool, it would only really be through eighth grade, because most of high school subject I don't think I'm really qualified to teach, so I'd have them take college classes or something.

Now, we have talked about hypothetically perhaps homeschooling our children, but are by default planning to send them to public school, unless something happens to change our mind. I should specify here, and say my mind, because Avram, being home schooled himself, is all for us homeschooling. Being myself a product of public education (except for the last couple years of high school, but I hardly count those against the eleven years in the public system), I liked it, and thought it went fine, so that alone tends me towards public school. More importantly, I would be the one homeschooling, and I'm not sure that I want to spend most of my time for the next twenty odd years spending all day teaching my children. Don't get me wrong, I love Lydia, and whatever children may come along, but I'm kind of selfish, and have always been secretly excited at the thought of my children getting old enough to be in school, so that way I can focus on the younger children and pursue educational/household/personally enriching hobbies for myself and family (emphasize self here).

This being said, I find planning curricula to be very exciting, at least to my socially starved self here in England. As a note, I don't think that this curriculum is all encompassing; it covers what I think is most important, and there aren't choices/options on what to take, because it wasn't designed that way.

First, since I know the least about this, is science.

Freshman - Biology
Sophomore - Physics or Chemistry
Junior - Chemistry or Physics
Senior - AP (or appropriate college class level taken at a local community college) Biology, or AP Physics (ie, with Calculus), AP Chemistry, or some other science, like Astronomy.


Freshman - Geometry (assuming they had Algebra in Junior High)
Sophomore - Algebra II
Junior - Trig and Pre-Calc for either half year or whole year.
if half year, than begin Calc second half.
Senior - if began Calculus before, then continue with Calculus to do B/C . If not, then do Calc A/B, or Statistics


Freshman - Peoples of the World. This would be like a cultural geography/anthropology class that goes through the major cultures of the world, both through history and currently. Also the kids would learn where countries are. Like who reading this knows where Djibouti is? I learned in my freshman geography class.
Sophomore - World History. This covers from invention of writing to 1500 AD. It would cover the whole world, not just the west. But would of course specialize on west of the Indus.
Junior - American History
Senior - World History, 1500-Present, focusing on the west/Europe/etc.


Freshman & Sophomore - Latin
Junior & Senior - Either two more years of Latin or first two years of; German, French, Spanish, something exotic if available.


This is by far the most exciting subject for me, and so I've spent the most time fleshing it out.
First, every grade will do Shakespeare, and then in addition focus a literary theme. This is just literature, because I assume every grade will have essays. Lots of essays; they were a pain to write, but the more I wrote, the better and more able I was to formulate my thoughts. Five paragraph essays (which my teachers always said would be the norm in college, but wasn't at all. In fact, I only ever had one teacher who had five paragraph essays on his tests, and he also required the first sentence to be 35 words or shorter, but to at the same time include all the points talked about in the essay. I wrote a lot of first sentences that were exactly 35 words for him.... Regardless, I think it's good for helping a student to plan out how to say things, and be concise, etc.), Literature essays, essays written in class, take home ones. Lots and lots. Also, every grade would have grammar, but I don't know of the various demarcations/classifications of grammar to make a list off the top of my head, so maybe RoseE or Matt, two English majors, can supplement one.

Freshman -
Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet (I don't even like this play that much, but you do have to read it; also as Avram points out is its accessibility; high schoolers understand going behind your parent's back for love), A Midsummer Night's Dream
American Literature: This isn't a complete list, but Huckleberry Finn, A Scarlet Letter (a pain to read, but one has to. Why, I don't quite know, but you do), "Fall of the House of Usher" and other depressing Poe short stories, The Great Gatsby, Age of Innocence (Edith Wharton), something by Hemingway, probably something by Willa Cather, Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Sophomore -
Shakespeare: Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing.
World Literature: Gilgamesh Epic, The Shipwrecked Sailor (Egyptian), The Odyssey, Greek myths from Bullfinch (or Theogony, if up to it), Selections from Journey to the West, Beowulf, Selections from Canterbury Tales, Selections from the Mallory (King Arthur stuff), Inferno, Other good stuff I can't think of right now.

Junior -
Shakespeare: Macbeth, King Lear, Taming of the Shrew
English 18th-19th Century Literature: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, A Tale of Two Cities and one other Dickens (David Copperfield or Great Expectations, probably), poems from Wordsworth, Coleridge, Tennyson (including Idylls of the King), the Brownings, especially Sonnets from Portuguese, "The Importance of Being Earnest"

Senior -
Shakespeare: Hamlet, Othello, A Winter's Tale or Twelfth Night, and a history play, probably Henry the V.
World Literature, 1800-Present: Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Don Quixote, Les Miserables, Really complicated/long 19th British novels like Middlemarch maybe, Something German, but I don't know what (maybe Sarah can help here), and other complicated works.

So as I write this out, I realize how many flaws it has, like perhaps it would be better to mix up the themes, and do each year by difficulty level, but I don't know.

Do any of you, my readers, have any opinions/thoughts/ideas/alternate curricula?


  1. as for your english i think you should have them also read books of choice in addition, becuase its great to make sure they enjoy reading and sometimes finding a type of book or author that apeals to them is key. Oh and i think you should include some other books like maybe one of the ones about world war two like anne franks diary, or i really like the book Night by Elli Wiesel. i think its important for kids to read about things that happened recently as well, and it makes the war more realistic and understandable to us privledged americans living our posh lives and all :) \

    I cant think of anything else.. i read so many books in high school its just one big jumble... my english teacher let me make my own curriculum and i basically read every book she had in her office and just wrote about them for her, compared some of them, etc. maybe some fo the basic ones like huck fin, although they might enjoy reading this at a junior high level better and if you homeschool you can introduce it then.

  2. Hey I Know where it is! I took that class too. I still remember the song mostly :)
    sound good I would home school my kids if I thought that the school system was bad or not teaching things rightly.
    hey I am bad at english!

  3. I'm sure there are lots of suggested reading lists out there and other curriculum guides. Actually, you can access on line a given state's curriculum for any grade level. Successful homeschooled kids have to be highly motivated on their own and will probably drive their own curriculum to an extent like Camilla did with the reading. Soren felt it was hard to push himself enough when he homeschooled for part of that year in Washington but when he got back in school, he always sought out the teachers who really required a lot of him.

  4. I am probobly the last person to even have a clue about ciriculum, but I agree with camilla about books they chose. I never learned to like reading and i always hated being told what books to read, I would have been more inclined to read had i been given a choice to find any book I liked. although I still think there is literature out there that is important they read. Especially some non fiction at appropriate age/maturity levels. I also agree with barbara about being motivated on thier own for home school to be effective, how ever, I think it applies to any form of education, abd depends on the child. Had I ben home schooled any more then I was (witch was a joke) I would not know simple addition and subtraction inpart because I did not care to learn. that being said, once I was in public school, I still was not motivated, and the only subject I cared about was music, and even then only in the from of actually playing it. I did not care to read about it, write about or learn the history of it. That was just me. But I don't htink I am the only person ever to be that way. I now wish I had been more motivated and interested in learning. But I have no clue what could have helped me at the time.

  5. I do think that choices of books are important too; I forgot to mention that, because I finished the post kind of late at night, and so was pretty tired and not thinking straight. That's why the senior year list of books is kind of short and lame, and has nothing modern in it, as well. Anyway, I would give them some choices, as well, and also, if they didn't like to read, try and give them books to read that are fun to read, instead of hard to get through, to teach them that reading can be a fun thing to do.
    Tali, you make me think a lot, because it's true that if someone doesn't want to learn, it's really hard to teach them, no matter how "good" the curriculum is. Yet another reason I would find it hard to home school; I think my child, if they were like that, would at least get more out of learning from someone else than, instead of from me.

  6. Oooo, this is so exciting! I plan on homeschooling our kids and so I have given this subject a little thought, too. Really I only have one basic idea, and that is that I want to teach world history on a rotating basis. Kind of like an eternal World Civ Humanities class. This includes when the kids are young. I think I will divide world history into quarters, and teach one quarter per year, starting over again after four years. When they are young we can do things like make viking ships or castles or do little Galileo experiments. When they are older they can do more intensive research and read world literature and stuff. Of course the whole time they would also be doing math and other important things.

    I think I will write a post about this when I get home from church!

  7. Okay, sure you've got your Chaucer and your Shakespeare, but where's your Milton? Geoff teaches you to laugh, Bill teaches you to love language, John teaches you to think. This is why they're the holy trinity of the English language. Areopagitica should be one of those things what need to be read:

    Also, you're going to need some Orwell in there. Politics and the English Language is a good one:

    Hmm.. You might need some Hemingway in there (my wife will disagree) but he's just too prolific, to influential to ignore. And if nothing else, he could tell a fine story.

    Willa Cather? I agree. I'd suggest 'My Antonia' or 'Death Comes for the Archbishop'.

    You should throw 'Inviable Man' in there too, 'cause it's --- it's as close to a perfect novel as I've encountered.

    - Matt

  8. Links, 'cause my last post cut them off.



  9. You're right, how could I forget Milton? Avram loves Milton. Despite the fact that neither of us have ever made it through any Milton. But I have the best of intentions, as does he. He wants you to know that he began Paradise Lost...he just got involved in his degree.

    I think I did mention Hemingway, but not a specific novel. Maybe Old Man and the's the least whiniest that I've read, as apposed to the castrated man novel (which, by the way, I didn't even get until almost the end of the novel, when I read it, because I was a lot younger), The Sun Also Rises.

    Also, Later I thought of some other good ones, like Utopia, or Faulkner , Candide (it's crazy, but short), Heart of Darkness, etc.

  10. I would have recommended Kafka for your German, but he seems to be persona non grata around here . . .

    That being, I would recommend either a Nobel prize winner, probably Heinrich Boell short stories or Hermann Hesse.

  11. If you get tired of reading Shakespeare etc. you can always download an audiobook and listen instead.
    High school audio books from the English curriculum are available here
    Hope this helps.