An Eclectic, Academic Approach to a High School Course of Study


What does an eclectic, academic course of study look like for homeschoolers in the high school years? It can take a variety of different forms depending on the teen and their strengths and weaknesses. It can also develop differently based on their interests and the resources available to them. Regardless of these differences, a rich eclectic, academic study will be one in which the student learns at a meaningful level through a variety of resources and opportunities.

At the beginning of my son’s high school years he became very interested in astronomy, and his natural curiosity about the subject matter gave me the idea of incorporating it into his school year as a science credit. Building upon and nurturing a high school student’s interests in an educational capacity is very important at this phase, as intuitive curiosity leads a student to want to pursue an area of knowledge at a deeper level. As a concrete example, here is what I did with my son for his study of astronomy.

Astronomy first caught the attention of my son when he discovered Black Holes Explained, a short series from the Great Courses. Because of his interest I decided to order a longer title from the Great Courses titled An Introduction to Astronomy which included 96 half-hour lectures. The guidebook to this series included several reading recommendations which we purchased and he eagerly worked through. It also came with questions which he answered as he watched the lectures. In addition to this I picked up a standard astronomy college textbook and he worked through parts of it.

After going through all of these my son’s passion for the subject of astronomy had not diminished and he applied to attend an Astronomy Camp at the University of Arizona. Upon being accepted he and other camp mates spent seven sleepless nights on top of an isolated mountain in the desert of Arizona learning about astronomy hands-on. He also had the opportunity to partake in a radio broadcast talking to the crew of the International Space Station, where he posed the question of how fast could the crew evacuate in an emergency. Through these hands-on experiences his love of astronomy grew.


My son returned from camp with a truly enriched understanding of the subject and a desire to delve even deeper into his studies, so I turned to other online options and found a Coursera class on Astrobiology from the University of Edinburgh, and then he and his sister joined our local astronomy club where he attended monthly lectures by experts in the field from local universities including Cal Tech, UC Irvine, and Chapman. He also rented a telescope from the club and used it to study the stars, planets, and the moon on clear nights. Along with his sister he attended a few “star parties” or large-scale stargazing events attended by experts and enthusiasts with a wide array of telescopes.

One thing that’s important at this level is that your teenager has an output of work which at the high school level should include essays, labs, and essential assignments and projects which engage them fully and challenge them to broaden their horizons. When you homeschool not everything has to be done traditionally but there should be enough work done to earn a credit. This course of study began in the spring of what would have been his eighth grade year, went on through the summer, and ended in the winter of what was his freshman year and for it he earned one full science credit and a half lab credit.

Although this study was rich and eclectic the cost was actually quite manageable which is important to point out as I know cost is a factor for many of us. We got the Great Courses used on Ebay for a very affordable price, and all of his books were used copies that we found on Amazon. The Coursera class was free and my son was lucky enough to receive a scholarship for the astronomy camp which is what made it possible for him to participate. Participation in the local astronomy club was very affordable, and they lent us a telescope for six months free of charge. My point here is that even if you are on a tight budget like I am there are resources out there for you to create a meaningful academic experience for your child.

This is just one example whereby a student-led course can lead to a gratifying pursuit in the high school years. Not every class is going to be like this; not every credit earned will be earned like this. Still, it is a wonderful thing that we have the opportunity, as homeschool parents, to craft at least a few high school courses in this way, and it is wonderful that our teens have the opportunity to learn through an engaging and memorable process.

High School Plans – A little of this, a little of that, with a good deal of flexibility thrown in


Flexibility is the key this year to the older boy’s school plans. Because we are not sure yet if it will be a year of doctor appointments or not, I am trying to formulate a plan for him that will allow for changes as needed. We have a strong year planned, and he and I are both happy with the choices we have made. What we have is a variety of classes, some online, some parent taught, and some in person. A few of the classes are AP classes, but we are not sure he is going to take the APs. If he has a good deal of time this year to study he will take them. If not he will do the classes but not stress about the AP tests. In addition there is one class he is signed up for (AP Computer Science) that we may drop if he is too overwhelmed. He can easily take that class his junior or senior year if necessary. 

2014 Plans – 

English – He will be taking a writing course from the Well Trained Mind Academy, and he will spend the year reading and studying British Literature with his sister and me. We have an amazing book list planned, and we are all looking forward to discussing the books together. In addition I am hoping to lead a teenage book club again this year which he will be part of. 

Math – He is moving on to pre-calculus this year and is working with Thinkwell math. Along with this I am hoping he will be able to work with a tutor. I know he will do better if he has someone to correct his work and someone willing to discuss math theory with him to his heart’s content. I haven’t found anyone yet as we are on such a tight budget, but I am fairly confident that I can find some young college student who would be willing to help out for less as we live in a college town. 

History – The boy is signed up for AP European History through Harari College. The twins were signed up with Harari this summer, but they had to drop most of their classes due to all the doctor appointments we had. We thought we would have all the time in the world for summer school, but it just didn’t work out that way. From their short time in the school though we were all impressed with it, and I knew the kids would want to go back to it. This fall the twins will take AP European History, and they are both looking forward to it. If you are on a budget and looking for some great classes I highly recommend you look into Harari.

Science – He is working on physics this year with Kinetic Physics and several courses from The Great Courses. This course he will be primarily doing on his own. He is planning to take the AP, but if it is too much he won’t. Either way he is looking forward to science. 

Foreign language – He is studying French again this year. He may take this through Harari if it is offered, otherwise we have another online class lined up. Languages aren’t his strong point, but my goal for him this year is to get him to a place where he is comfortable with the language and enjoying learning it. 

Electives – AP computer science which he is taking through an online class that is being offered for free. In addition he will be working with my step-dad on this as needed. This is the first class he will drop if he is unable to do all we have planned. 


Guitar – He started guitar last year, and he has discovered that he loves it. He has an amazing teacher and practicing brings him so much joy. I imagine he will always play guitar, and I am so happy that he discovered something that makes him so happy. 


Art – The twins go to their grandmother’s studio once a week to work on art with her. I am not sure what they enjoy more, the art or the coffee shop they stop at. Either way it is a fun time for all three of them. 


Astronomy – He is a member of the OC Astronomer’s Group which he and his sister have been part of for nearly a year now. The group holds monthly lectures, which the twins always find engaging. The group also has star parties and other activities that they can take part of. 

This is his year, and I am very satisfied with it. The boy will be in a few online classes, a few mom-lead and grandparent-led classes, and a few teacher/tutor-led classes. He will be taking classes that both meet high school requirements and follow his passions. It would not be possible to have an education like this if we weren’t homeschooling, and it wouldn’t be possible to have so much flexibility if we weren’t homeschooling. I have always been so grateful that I can and do homeschool, but this year, our eleventh year, I am appreciating it more than ever. 

Motivating Your Writer


I have two kids who love to write and one who struggles with it. In the beginning years my son and I would do most of his school orally to help him along. When he got older I slowly added more and more writing to his days to build up his confidence and stamina (he use to struggle with the physical act of writing). Now that we are in the high school years, he and his sister work on a great deal of academic writing, but I try to balance this writing with creative writing. The reason for this: I have learned over the years that this is best way to motivate my son and to build his confidence.

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One of his favorite outlets for writing is RPG Maker. RPG maker is perfect for kids or teens who enjoy making video games and telling a story.

It also has the added bonus of importing your own graphics which is perfect for my son. He spends hours on his computer creating his own characters.

Twisted Mind Reborn RPG

Ultament Feind

If you are interested in RPG maker they do have free trials. I recommend trying it out first to make sure it is a good fit for your child because it is somewhat pricey.

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Another activity that motivates my son is group writing with his siblings and Google Drive. The kids have made some fairly complex stories together this way. If you are interested in learning about this method check out my previous post here.

The other activity we do is timed free writing based on a random prompt. We normally do this as a family, sitting around the table together with tea and muffins. I usually just make up a prompt, but yesterday I stumbled across this great Tumblr with writing prompts for teens.


I was so excited to use a new writing prompt. I made the kids some pumpkin muffins, the kids made tea, and we sat down to eat and write. I set a time limit because it seems to free the kids. They have the opportunity to write whatever they want about the topic in ten minutes. Then we share our writings with each other. Spelling doesn’t matter, grammar doesn’t matter, length doesn’t matter, it is just an exercise in getting down one’s thoughts and ideas. It is quite fun and another way I am able to motivate my son.


Astronomy Camp


Tru spent the last week at Astronomy Camp in Tucson, Arizona. This camp is offered through the University of Arizona, and it is a great opportunity for teen astronomers to receive hands-on experience in something they love. Tru was so excited to be going to camp, but he was nervous too. It was his first experience of being away from home for so long, but he did great on his own.

The camp is very academic and the kids were scheduled from morning through the night. I was surprised and impressed by how much they got done. Here is the schedule from just one day that they were there.

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The kids stayed in dorms on top of Kitt Peak surrounded by a variety of telescopes and learning opportunities.


This is the dorm Tru stayed in.


The view from Kitt Peak


One of the telescopes they got to use.


The solar telescope which Tru loved.

The campers also had an opportunity to ask a question to an astronaut on the International Space Station. This was the first time in the camp’s history that campers had this opportunity. Unfortunately not everyone had a chance to pose a question, but Tru was lucky enough to be able to. He was very nervous about asking his question, but he did it.


Tru waits to pose his question. This photo is from a news article that you can see here. Credit to Kelly Presnell.

Tru had a great time, but he was ready to go home by the time we picked him up. He was so tired, as were most of the campers. I was ready to have him home too, but thankful for the opportunity he had, which would not have been possible without the scholarship that he received. Over 50% of the students there also received a scholarship, so if you would like your child to attend but do not think you could afford it I encourage you to apply. It was a life-changing experience for Tru, and I can’t recommend it highly enough.

Summer Plans


Things have turned around for us here, which is wonderful. Tru’s eyes have cleared up enough that he was able to go to Astronomy Camp which is where he is right now. He left for camp on the 4th driving to Tucson with his Grandfather. He had a great time on their road trip, and then on the 5th he was delivered to camp at the University of Arizona  All the students and councilors had orientation and after that they drove up to Kitt peak where they will be staying. I haven’t heard from him, but I hope he is having a great time. I leave to pick him up on the 10th, and I can’t wait to see him.






Autry  had her vocal chords looked at by an ENT doctor yesterday. She was sure that there was damage on her vocal chords, but they looked great. They were swollen from the sore throat she has had for weeks, but there is no damage at all and she is all cleared to sing again. She is going to be starting speech therapy to learn how to talk in a way that is good for her vocal chords. She is looking forward to her speech therapy, and I think she is going to learn many good techniques to help her.


In other new we are leaving for Chicago in the third week of June. We will be staying through August 5th which is when Autry will be picked up from Interlochen. All the kids are looking forward to getting away for a while, and they plan to spend hours swimming, jumping on the trampoline, and eating ice cream. All in all we have a great summer planned, and we are all looking forward to it.


Checking In


Tru trying to do school last week, but he wasn’t feeling too good.

I was so excited to get back to school, and I had all these wonderful (at least in my head) posts that I wanted to write. Interesting, insightful posts about the new curriculum we would be using, and the new direction we were on. Then my daughter became sick. A few days later Tru caught the bug, and a few days after him my youngest fell sick. He ended up in the emergency room Saturday night because he felt like he couldn’t breathe.


Decca loved his oxygen mask and decided to act like a zombie while it was on. He made me take a picture.

Yesterday the boys were still quite sick, and I was feeling quite down about everything. Today they are a little better, and I think we are finally on the road to recovery. I am going to spend today and tomorrow cleaning the house and getting us back on a schedule.

And in a few days I hope to get back to blogging. Until then…