Sunday, January 22, 2017

High School History & Science without Textbooks (VCF Week 4)

We're back for the fourth week of the 2017 Virtual Curriculum Fair.  The official theme for this week is: Exploring Our World, Social Studies and the Exploratory Sciences.  For Amber's freshman year of high school that means a combination of American History and Western Civilization, Government, and Botany.

Unexpected Homeschool: High School History & Science without Textbooks

Exploratory Sciences:

Last week I talked about how Amber is pursuing some non-traditional high school science courses and detailed out her second semester forensic science course which is more math related. However, first semester she began a botany course that is definitely more of an exploratory science.

Amber and I both have a great aversion to biological science. I tried to hide from Amber in her early elementary years of private school that I was entirely disgusted by all of her biology units. I didn't want to bias her against any topic.  Yet after we started homeschooling I found that she hated every single biological science unit from first grade up through the part of fourth grade she was in her school, and unfortunately the schools seemed to prefer biological sciences over physical ones. She still, to this day, laments the way life science was emphasized in school.  It seems she is more like me than expected.

We focused on physical sciences when first homeschooling, but made a heroic effort with a rather rigorous biology curriculum in middle school. So we decided that as long as she had some biology based science in high school, then a standard biology course was not necessary. Our grand plan hit a snag when I could not find a curriculum we felt would work for botany.

Eventually, we decided upon creating our own botany study plan based heavily on the middle school botany from Guest Hollow. We used a lot of the reading resources in the Guest Hollow schedule and some of the projects. We dropped the reading sources that were not strictly science, and upped the difficulty with summary reports on each reading and other research projects. I also adjusted the Guest Hollow schedule from a year long to a semester-ish course. We feel our end result was more appropriate for high school than any other botany curriculum we found, even those marketed for high school, while still fitting Amber's needs.

Unexpected Homeschool: High School History & Science without Textbooks
Botany core books - minus experiments and supplements.
History & Government:

If you hadn't noticed yet, we favor more reading, narration, and discussion over workbooks in our homeschool. This is why Tapestry of Grace has been a good fit for us the last few years. This school year is our first time using the Rhetoric level though, and it's going quite well. We enjoy their buffet type of plan that provides us with an array of primary reading assignments and secondary substitutes along with map and timeline work. It also is structured so that I can add in my own supplemental items without throwing off the entire schedule. Additionally, as the teacher, I appreciate the complete guide they provide for the Socratic discussions. A little up front planning each school year, and this becomes open and go for me throughout the entire year.

Our progression through Tapestry of Grace put Amber in the Year 3 schedule for this school year, meaning she was studying the 1800's in both the United States and Europe. At first I was a bit concerned as to how I would credit her this history course, but of course Tapestry of Grace has it all documented for the parents. They give you various options on how you could credit the course based on how much of their plan you use.

We decided to use the Year 3 schedule as 1/2 credit of American History and 1/2 credit of Western Civilization.  Next school year, with the Year 4 schedule, Amber will earn the other 1/2 credit of both classes.

Amber is also working on separate government credits through Tapestry of Grace. She will work all four years of high school studying not only the government of the United States, but political systems through out history. At the end of high school we will credit her with 1/2 credit of American Government and 1/2 credit of Comparative Political Systems. The readings and assignments for the government based credits are separate from her history assignments through Tapestry of Grace and will give her a great foundation in understanding the principles of government throughout time.

History & Government core texts, minus the many supplements and projects.


Amber truly thrives best without standard text books and we've found there are many resources to guide us along the way to creating mostly literature based science and history.

Next week I'll be talking about the beauty in our homeschool - the arts.

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 talking about Exploring Our World this week:

Note: all links will be LIVE by Monday 1/23 at noon EST.


  1. I love how you explained how you took a traditionally middle school curriculum and explained how you modified it for high school.

  2. Isn't it funny how interests develop? My oldest thought he would hate biology, but after doing biology last year, he decided to study zoology this year. This was a bit of a challenge for me since a high school zoology course doesn't exist, so we cobbled something together. On the other hand, he had little interest in Physics when he studied it and I thought he would love it. ;)

  3. You are inspiring in the way you approach her needs and interests. Thank you for sharing so clearly what you are doing and how you are approaching it. - Lori

  4. HEY... we have that same philosophy book!!
    It's so good that you are able to work around disgust level and still get the work done that you need to. :)