Sunday, January 8, 2017

Customizing High School Language Credits (VCF Week 2)

Welcome to the second week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair. The general theme for this week is "Playing with Words", which applies to both English Language Arts and Foreign Language classes for my high school student. Having a daughter who intends to major in English means we spend a good part of each week in formal language instruction.

Customizing High School Language Credits (VCF Week 2)

Although our daughter, Amber, is involved in many activities and co-op classes merely for enjoyment, the majority of her at-home lessons focus on earning high school credits. We spent a fair amount of time the summer before she began high school planning courses and strategizing how best she can achieve her goals.

Amber's curriculum and learning must all be structured to compensate for or accommodate her multiple chronic conditions that do affect her physical stamina and mental acuity. Many of the positive changes we have made to our schooling methods in the past year were based on recommendations from Amber's occupational therapist. (See her complete curriculum list here).

English Language Arts: English 1

We have chose to use a mixture of curriculum and products to create a high school level English 1 course for Amber. While it would be a dream to find everything she needs in one package, the reality is that is unlikely to happen. Instead, we focused our energy on finding sufficiently rigorous curriculum that provide the flexibility needed for Amber's daily physical and mental fluctuations.
Writing: Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW)
Grammar: Fix It! Grammar from IEW
Vocabulary: Latin Morphemes Lessons (Latin and Loving It)
Literature: Teaching the Classics method, plus a few Memoria Press guides for Shakespeare and poetry.
Customizing High School Language Credits (VCF Week 2)
Working on Fix It! Grammar

Amber has been using the IEW writing program for a couple of years now and we have continued through the standard path provided. After finishing a previous grammar program, we floundered looking for one that suited Amber, but finally found it in Fix It! Grammar. I had Amber take the placement test and then backed her up one level, just to ensure she gets the most from it.  She will continue with this product the next year or so until she finishes all the levels available.

I had not intended to formally include vocabulary in Amber's English 1 credit, but she honestly loves studying Greek and Latin Morphemes, so we are continuing with this curriculum. When it is complete, we will make decisions on purposeful vocabulary lessons.

Literature is one of Amber's absolute favorite subjects, but finding a curriculum that fit all of our requirements seemed impossible. We have successfully been using the methods set forth in Teaching the Classics for the majority of Amber's literature this year. Still, I wasn't all the confident on my ability to lead her through Shakespeare or even the poetry she adores. So, we are using an old favorite, Memoria Press, for Romeo and Juliet and American Poetry.

During our initial planning I did fall into the worry trap, concerned about how we would complete all of language arts each day, or even each week. Then, thinking back to my own high school honors English courses, we did not do any of these topics daily.  We had on-going literature assignments, between which we worked on grammar, related vocabulary, and writing style. Our writing assignments were usually based on our current literature project and not independent writings, unless it was a course entirely devoted to writing.

I decided to structure Amber's English 1 course in the same way. She always has a literature project going, but we may not work on it during our class time every day. We alternate grammar and vocabulary while giving emphasis to writing most weeks. This has been very successful so far and thus we will continue with this schedule for the foreseeable future.

English Language Arts: Creative Writing

Amber decided she wanted to earn two creative writing credits, separate from her English credits, over the course of the four years of high school.  We have started the first credit by using One Year Adventure Novel. Although Amber isn't as far along in this as she would like, she does love it and is improving. She has set it aside at times for a couple of other writing projects, but we always come back to the curriculum. 

Foreign Language: German

Over the years, Amber has taken several foreign languages and enjoys learning new languages. She's been studying German with me for a couple of years already, and is continuing with it through high school. Unfortunately, our previous curriculum was discontinued and we've now had to switch over to Portfolio Deutsch from Klett-Langenscheidt. This curriculum was one of my original contenders, but it is more expensive than our previous set. Since I also teach German at our co-op, we went with the least expensive set to make book purchases easier for my students. However, Amber and I have been much happier with Portofolio Deutsch than our previous curriculum.

Extras - Speech

What is speech, besides words?  I made the decision to use the IEW Speech Bootcamp at home with Amber, but the opportunity unexpectedly arose to teach it at our co-op last semester.  This was a fantastic video course that put the students at ease while giving them the basics of speech presentation and writing. After going through the course with a small class, I'm glad we had the chance for Amber to take speech with a group instead of at home with just me.

Next week I'll be talking about how unique science topics and math have been working out for us in high school, so far.

Miss a week? Take a look at some of the other posts from the 2017 Curriculum Fair.

Virtual Curriculum Fair 2017 - Keeping Our Homeschool Organized

Please visit my fellow homeschool bloggers who are writing about Playing with Words this week:

All posts will be live by Monday, January 9th at noon EST.


  1. There is a lot of info in this post! Thank you so much for sharing. I am starting high school with my oldest in the fall and need all the information, help, advice and tips I can get!

  2. Yes, trying to do it all every single day is a fast way to go crazy, even if you aren't dealing with health issues. My high schooler looks at what he wants to accomplish each week and goes from there, doing lots of reading some days and lots of writing other days. Thank you for sharing what is working for your daughter. :)