Homeschooling High School Is Worth It!

Y’all.  Homeschooling high school is so much better than you could ever imagine.

I just graduated my first who will go on to follow her equine passions in college this fall and I can tell you unequivocally that homeschooling was worth it.  Every minute – the good, bad and ugly – was worth it.  Notice I didn’t say every minute was blissful or easy, but I am so very glad we made the journey to the end.

Homeschooling high school is so worth it!

Not only do we have great memories of doing life together, we’ve also had awesome opportunities to grow together in Christ, in learning, in trials and in triumphs.

As I prepare for the 10th grade year with my second child, I already see some of the frustrations that might come our way – like battling upper level math dragons and helping him see the benefit of buckling down in foreign language studies.  I know there will be struggles, but I also know that working through those struggles together will make us stronger.  I know that homeschooling through high school means my son will have a much better chance to rise above the status quo of teenagers these days.  I know that in his “rhetoric stage” mind, we still have much work to do to build worldviews and prepare him for his Kingdom work and I’m so thankful for that time.

During these years of amazing opportunity, I’ll keep blogging about our adventures to encourage you (and me) that we CAN do it!

Since this page will automatically update when any new high school post is written, you might like to pin it for quick reference.  Blessings on your journey!

Homeschooling High School: A Quick Reference to Our Journey Westward Articles


Homeschooling high school is so worth it!

Homeschooling High School Is Worth It!

Y'all.  Homeschooling high school is so much better than you could ever imagine. I just graduated my first who will go on to follow her equine passions in college this ...
Read More
How my son learned to play guitar whether a teacher was available or not.

Guitar Lessons With or Without a Teacher

I can teach music theory.  I can teach voice.  I can teach at least a little piano.  I cannot teach guitar.  And, when you can't find a steady guitar teacher, ...
Read More
My little horse lover is all grown up and preparing for college level equine studies. This post shares how I supported her passion through homeschooling over the years.

Homeschooling a Horse Lover

My little horse lover is all grown up.  This year she will graduate our homeschool and head off to college where she will major in equine science. Before her passion ...
Read More
Teaching history in high school doesn't have to be dull! This post shares how to use a spine text alongside projects to make a great interest-based course.

Chronological American History in High School

What do you do with a high school student who has been through two cycles of American history and thinks a third cycle would just be boring and unfruitful?  Well, ...
Read More
Need ideas for living math lessons? There are more than 100 here!

Ultimate Guide to Living Math Activities

(This post contains affiliate links and links to my curriculum website.) I've been touting the benefits of living math for quite some time now.  Why?  Because living math makes sense ...
Read More
Standard Deviants Accelerate is a great option for online supplementation of your middle or high school homeschooling.

Standard Deviants Accelerate: High School Lessons Online

(I received a complimentary subscription to Standard Deviants Accelerate and was compensated for my time preparing this review.  As always, all opinions are strictly my own.) My 9th grader is ...
Read More
Mango Languages is a great online option for learning just about any foreign language you can imagine!

Amamos Español! Homeschool with Mango Languages

(I received a subscription to Mango Languages for free and was compensated for my time spent writing this review.  As always, my opinions are strictly my own.) Homeschool with Mango ...
Read More
Cindy West's top curriculum choices for homeschooling high school.

High School Homeschool Curriculum: Top Picks

(This post contains affiliate links.) Ah...high school.  Why do I love homeschooling high school so much?  Mostly because my teens don't need my constant attention and instruction anymore!  Ha! While ...
Read More
JumpCourse: Online courses to help your high school student CLEP out of college classes while getting high school credit, too!

JumpCourse: Homeschool High School with Online CLEP Courses

(I received the following e-course for free and was reimbursed for my time spent reviewing it.  As always, all opinions I've provided are strictly my own and I never recommend ...
Read More
Homeschool Algebra Helps

Algebra Help for the Hopeless Homeschooler

(This post contains affiliate links and links to my business website, Shining Dawn Books.) Do you need algebra help?  I did, too. You mean the writer of Loving Living Math ...
Read More
A great list of books for teen boys from Our Journey Westward

10 Living Books for Christian Teen Boys

(This post contains affiliate links.) Teen boys.  Future leaders.  Future husbands.  Future fathers.  Hard workers.  Capable shiners of Light. Those descriptions can put a lot of pressure on the parents ...
Read More
Cindy's top 10 list of books for Christian teen girls.  Good picks!

10 Living Books for Christian Teen Girls

(This post contains affiliate links.) Raising Christian teens isn't so hard when you have a little help.  The Bible, a supportive church and great living books for Christan teen girls ...
Read More
Student Led Classes for Home School

Homeschooling High School: Student Led Curriculum

My Mahayla is a junior now.  (Where does the time go?)  Being homeschooled with a Charlotte Mason style education her whole school career has not only taught her loads and ...
Read More
Rock Star Essay Review

Online Writing Course: Rock Star Essay

(I received this course for free in exchange for an honest review, and I was compensated for my time.  This post contains affiliate links.) Don't Be Afraid of High School ...
Read More
Modern American History Course Plans | Our Journey Westward

High School Modern History Course

(This post contains affiliate links.) Modern History For us, modern history goes from 1860 to the present.  That's a lot of territory with a lot of happenings to cover in ...
Read More
High School American Lit | Our Journey Westward

Our American Lit Selections

(This post contains affiliate links.) High School American Lit I love meeting the particular needs and interests of my children in our homeschool studies.  Once my children reach high school, ...
Read More
Philosophy Adventure Review | Our Journey Westward

Philosophy Adventure Review

(I received a preview copy of Philosophy Adventure: Pre-Socratics in exchange for my honest review.) Christian Philosophy: Isn't That An Oxymoron? For most of us who studied philosophy in high ...
Read More
High School Science @Cindy West (Our Journey Westward)

Homeschooling High School Science

(This post contains affiliate links and links to my business, Shining Dawn Books.) Is Homeschooling High School Science Intimidating? Yes, it can be.  I've found so many wonderful resources to ...
Read More
Logic in the Homeschool - Cindy West's favorite resources for various age levels

My Favorite Logic Resources

This post contains affiliate links.  Read my entire disclosure here. Why Logic? In the teacher's lounge at co-op this week, we talked about the importance of adding logic into your ...
Read More

Economics in the Homeschool

  (This post contains affiliate links.) Sadly, the formal study of economics is left out of most of the curricula I've run across in my 11+ years of homeschooling.  An ...
Read More
Co-op Classes for Older Students | Our Journey Westward

Co-op Class Ideas for Older Students

(This post contains affiliate links.) Many homeschool moms who teach co-op classes develop their own curriculum.  Me, too, for the most part.  However, I've found it a little more difficult ...
Read More
High School Nature Study | Our Journey Westward

In-Depth Nature Study for a High School Student

Nature study doesn't have to stop once high school rolls around! In fact, we're enjoying it with more depth than we ever have before.  Simply think of nature study as ...
Read More

The Four Year History Cycle: Slightly Revised

You may have heard me say before that we follow a four-year cycle of chronological history in our homeschool.  Well, we used to.  My littlest man will be in 3rd grade this coming school year and we’re just now getting into ancient history – year 1 in a four-year cycle.  I still plan to follow a four (or five) year cycle, but he’ll only go through it twice before he graduates – several years from now – which is one less time through the cycle than most classical models.

In order to deeply soak in all of history, I'm opting for a more relaxed study of world history - while still using tried and true curriculum.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Why only twice through the cycle?

My big kids didn’t really need the 3rd cycle by the time they got into high school.  We had studied world history thoroughly twice before and they had a really good grasp.  Of course, we didn’t just skip history during high school.  We still, in fact, stuck with the original plan and completed the 3rd cycle, but it took on much more depth and breadth.

Additionally, I felt like sometimes the big kids and I rushed through great literature or missed some key events trying to fit a particular era into a year’s worth of study.

What did I do with the big kids?  I used Story of the World through the first cycle (with some unit studies.)  The second cycle was strictly project-based unit studies with lots of literature.  And during the third cycle, we took on all kinds of text curriculum, project-based research, video curriculum and literature.

Our four year history cycle will be slightly revised.

Little man and I are going to take our time and bebop through chronological history in a much more relaxed (yet, still rigorous) way.  We’ll begin with Creation and work our way through the 21st century on our own time – and then start the process over again once for good measure and more depth.  The decision feels really good.

You might wonder what in the world we did for history if we aren’t beginning our chronological tour until 3rd grade.  Well, we spent 1st grade focused on cultures around the world (with a focus on missionaries) and 2nd grade taking a tour of the good ol’ USA (with lots of literature which gave us an intro to American history.)  Now that Eli is entering 3rd grade and a good reader, we’re finally ready to hit history harder.

Story of the World will be slightly revised.

I love Story of the World and that’s the curriculum I plan to use during our first 4 (or 5) year cycle.  When I did SOTW with my big kids many moons ago, we did EVERYTHING – all the projects, all the worksheets, all the literature.  I spent HOURS reserving books online and traveling to and from the library.  This time around, we’ll do SOTW on much more relaxed terms.

We’ll hit the text, narrate with the comprehension question, complete the maps and work on our timeline.  We’ll probably only complete the occasional hands-on project (because that isn’t his thing) and I’ll only choose the best of the best living lit books to go-along.

It’s nice to get to a point in your homeschooling journey when you realize relaxed learning is just fine.

These books will be on our informational shelf.

I’m still deciding on the final “best of the best” elementary living lit list to take us through our upcoming ancient history year, but I’m already beginning to gather a pile of informational books that will follow us through the entire first 4 (or 5) year cycle.  We’ll use these to “see” the history we’ve been studying and dig a little deeper at times.

I love that each of these are chronological resources which will help build Eli’s understanding of change over time and relate particular things/events/people with their eras. Since each of the books are colorful and kid-friendly, they will be on his pleasure reading shelf so he can dig in whenever he gets the urge.

Note: Many of these books have at least a mention of evolution-based beginnings. Some of them will also discuss gods and goddesses (which is part of ancient history.) I always read through these types of books once with Eli (if just quickly) to discuss any potential issues before putting them on his read-alone shelf.

What about Eli’s 2nd cycle in middle and high school?  Good question.  We’ll have to see what floats our fancy by the time Eli reaches middle and high school.  I’m sure I’ll keep you posted.  😉

As we jump into the first ancient history cycle this coming August (or maybe September), I’ll be sure to share our journeys with you!  Until then, I’ll be thinking about which timeline we’ll be using this year and gathering must-do lessons from my ancient history Pinterest board.  I’ll also be considering which of my “top 10″ ancient history living books Eli might be ready to read in 3rd grade.

Oh, I do so enjoy lazy summer days of curriculum planning!

More Than Just a Dinosaur Unit Study

My little man and I just finished a Creation-based dinosaur unit study that led to some amazing rabbit trail learning!  What started out as a great “boy topic” to end 2nd grade with a bang, turned into so much more.  And, without my pre-planning, it’s given him a great foundational understanding of events leading up to ancient history – which is our focus next school year.

The best science & history unit study of the year - hands-down!  Dinosaurs + so much more.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Dinosaur Lapbook

My original plans were to simply go through the free Creation Based Dinosaur Lapbook and Printables from Homeschool Share.  The prepared study was perfect for a 2nd grader and I already owned the “spine” book, What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs? by John Morris.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

Dinosaur Literature

While the lapbook study was a fantastic start and would have been plenty, what usually happens when you allow time for a few rabbit trails is even more fantastic.  After reading What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?, Eli was just full of excitement – so we kept reading!  And beyond dinosaurs, we were led into a world of earth science and history – covering Noah’s flood, fossils, the Ice Age, separation of people groups at the Tower of Babel and their travels across the world, extinction, natural disasters and weather.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

The Great Dinosaur Mystery and the Bible by Paul Taylor and Dinosaurs of Eden by Ken Ham were somewhat similar to the spine book, but much more detailed in their explanations.  All three books covered things like creation, the fossil record, records of dinosaurs in the Bible, records of dinosaurs post-flood, and theories about dinosaur extinction.  Each book has a slightly different style of writing which is why I purchased all three.  After reading What Really Happened to the Dinosaurs?, we only touched on bits and pieces of the other two books for further investigation of certain topics.

Dinosaurs by Design by Duane Gish was perfect for dinosaur research and comparison.  It covers many types of dinosaurs and was the only book we needed for the suggested “research report” assignments from the lapbook.

The True Story of Noah’s Ark by Tom Dooley just seemed right to add into the mix because it’s such a big part of the story of dinosaurs and fossils…especially as a precursor to the book below.

Dry Bones and Other Fossils by Gary and Mary Parker was a fun book that teaches fossils as they relate to the world-wide flood in easily understandable terms for kids.  Love this book!  (It’s what spurred on many of our nature walks you’ll see below.)

Life in the Great Ice Age by Michael and Beverly Oard is another really good book!  The first half places you right alongside a cave-dwelling family-tribe who live just south of the great ice wall somewhere in Europe.  You learn all about their lifestyle, challenges and reasons for living as they do.  The second half of the book takes an informational turn as it explains more about the ice age as a result of the world-wide flood and how people groups were spread all over the world during this period in history.  Fascinating!  It was just a little above Eli’s level, but he hung in there with full interest from beginning to end.  I felt like this book was a fabulous ending to the whole dinosaur/flood/fossil study and left us off with the perfect background information as we step into ancient history studies next year.

Dinosaur Nature Study

And then God steps in and provides you with almost unbelievable opportunities to dig deeper into real life examples of what you’ve been learning.  (I find this happens all. the. time. with nature study, by the way.)

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

After some recent flooding, we went for a nature walk looking for signs of the flood.  Much to our surprise, we found a ditch just full of layer upon layer of drying mud left behind by the flood waters.  In that mud we found several things buried – like the wood in the photo above.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

These layers in which we found things buried were formed after only about three days of minor flooding.  Have you heard Buddy Davis’ song, Billions of Dead Things?  The song asks, “If there really was a worldwide flood, what would the evidence be?”  Then it answers, “Billions of dead things, buried in rock layers, laid down by water, all over the earth.”  To us, seeing this process begin to happen in real life over the course of just a few day was uh-mazing and further sealed our belief and understanding of the “evidence” of Noah’s flood.  God is so cool.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

Of course, we had to go on a fossil hunt during our study.  Central KY is a great hunting ground for fossils!  We are so blessed to live on a farm where we can find pretty spectacular samples regularly.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

During our study, it just so happened that we took a field trip to McConnell Springs in Lexington.  Through all our readings, we had discussed many times about results from Noah’s flood, like rock layers and caves and even underground water.  It was very exciting to be able to look at God’s creation with a fresh pair of “glasses” that day!

We also have plans to visit Carter Caves in Olive Hill very soon!  I’ll be sure to add pictures to this post.  Oh, and of course we’d visit the Creation Museum if we hadn’t already been there a million times.  It’s a no-brainer field trip for a dinosaur unit study!  And, oh my goodness, I almost forgot that we took a trip to the zoo during this unit study simply because they were having $5 days.  What a wonderful blessing to discuss diversities and similarities, adaptations and habitats, and what life must have been like on the ark.  And, best of all notice how many animals have characteristics of dinosaurs!

Dinosaur Learning Activities

Here and there between lapbooking, reading great books and nature walks, we found some time for a few other activities.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

This cookie fossil dig wasn’t very scientific or realistic, but it sure was fun – and yummy.  Basically, we used (gluten-free) chocolate chip and oatmeal cookies to represent metamorphic and sedimentary rocks, respectively.  Eli was supposed to dig out the chocolate chips, raisins and nuts as gently as possible to do as little damage as possible to the the “artifacts.”  He plotted the “artifacts” on a to-scale map, too.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

One of our books prompted us to complete an experiment to see if various types of soil have a consistent sedimentation pattern and whether or not those layers tend to contain similar items like rocks, twigs and plant material.  The results of the experiment were further proof of the fossil record and a worldwide flood.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

We completed some “typical” school projects, too.

1.  After discussing the concept of “habitats,” Eli designed his own dinosaur habitat diorama.

2.  We completed a pretty thorough poetry writing mini-unit as we studied dinosaurs.  Each day for about two weeks, I used Writing Poetry with Children to teach him  how to write a new type of poem – cinquain, triplets, haiku, limericks and shape poems (pictured above.)  We used the theme of dinosaurs for each poem.  You can see another picture of his poems below.

3.  We completed several fun worksheets and simple activities from a book called Dinosaurs Whole Language Theme Unit by Mel Fuller.  Pictured above is a hands-on “test” of vocabulary from our study.  I just cut up the vocabulary and definitions worksheet for Eli to match.

More than just a dinosaur unit study - covers floods, fossils and the ice age, too!

We didn’t work on the dinosaur unit study every day, so in all it took us about a month to complete.  What a GREAT month it was!  Don’t miss a creation-based study of dinosaurs with your children!  It’s very God-honoring and seriously super-cool!

Oh, and don’t think a study of dinosaurs/fossils/Noah’s Flood/etc. is just for early elementary ages.  Most of the literature books mentioned above can easily be used with kids all the way through middle school!


Smart Phones Make Field Trips More Powerful

Field trips have the power to open new worlds to our children. Art and music come alive when students are able to see and hear classic works in person. Science and history become more than just facts when students engage in active learning. No matter where the field trip is, experiencing  something can offer an entirely new understanding.

Are you ever challenged to find great field trip destinations?  Thanks to Google’s free FIELDtrip app, you won’t have any problems discovering nearby hidden gems.

Find new places to explore and learn more about those places with a little help from your smart phone.

Google Helps You Explore the World and Your Own Backyard

Thanks to the hikers and explorers who’ve strapped cameras to their backs, we get to see places digitally that we may never see in person. You may be familiar with Google Maps to learn about faraway places, like the Taj Mahal or the Grand Canyon.  You can even add a whole new level of exposure to these places as you explore the surrounding areas using Street View.

And while Google Earth offers some wonderful learning lessons for your littles, what’s nearby is a bit easier and that’s where FIELDtrip comes in. Thanks to local experts teaming up with Google, you can learn more about the area you call home than ever before. Explore your neighborhood like never before. This app works with such ease that kids may even end up wanting to use it without any instructional inspiration.

The app allows you to select topics of interest, which include:

  • Architecture
  • Historic places and events
  • Lifestyle
  • Cool and unique
  • Art and museums
  • Foods, drinks, and fun

You simply select the topics you’re interested in exploring and the app does the rest. Information cards pop onto the screen automatically when you walk near one of the sites listed in the app. Thanks to this function, virtual field trips become worlds to explore, trips to plan, and adventures to take.

Take a FIELDtrip Walk and Discover New Places

One of the exciting features of this app is how it will open your eyes to things you never noticed in your own neighborhood and city. Take your smartphone with you when you go for a walk and watch the information cards pop up, helping you discover new and unique places to visit. You may also find historic buildings and monuments you didn’t know existed.

During planned field trips, use the app and you’ll be amazed at the additional information it provides. If you pass a place you want to visit but don’t have time at the moment, you can mark it as a favorite and return to it later.

See More Than Just the Main Tourist Attractions

This app is also an excellent way to add active learning to vacations. Simply pull up the FIELDtrip map and let the cards show you what’s nearby that you might want to check out. Soon you and your family will have a new appreciation for the each new city you visit.

Suppose, for example, that you and your family saved for a trip to Orlando, Florida, but you don’t want to just visit the theme parks. While you’re in town, you could visit the Wells’ Built Hotel, listed on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and used during segregation as a home for African-American performers. The FIELDtrip card on the hotel gives additional information on the hotel and links to other open buildings around the city if your children are interested in seeing other examples of historic architecture.

Using Tech for Good

Technology like this can provide homeschool families with remarkable tools to assist in the learning process. The ability to successfully use technology is also an important life skill to ensure students are prepared for when they enter higher education or a full-time job. In either of those settings, technology will be a constant.

By seamlessly weaving apps such as FIELDtrip into lesson plans and into the kind of active learning that children enjoy, homeschool parent-teachers have the opportunity to use virtual field trips to teach, not only about the world around them, but about the technology that is vital to the future.

Sarah Pike is a college writing instructor and freelance editor. She’s a fan of book clubs, researching the intersections of health and technology, and finding the best coffee shop in any city she visits. You can find Sarah on Twitter at @sarahzpike.



Easy Elementary Science Experiments

Most of you know by now that I’m the author of the NaturExplorers series of science curriculum.  That means, yes, we do much of our science in the field – literally.

While we can cover A LOT of science through nature study, there are some topics that are just learned better through indoor experimentation and text lessons.  I’m thinking specifically of topics like electricity, magnetism – you know, things that you just don’t encounter very often in nature.

Science kits save me time and frustration during the elementary years.

You probably also know by now that I’m not much of a textbook/workbook kind of teacher.  In the past, when my older two were in the elementary grades, we did science unit studies for those topics that didn’t fit well with nature study.  These were so much fun as the three of us worked together!

My big kids are in high school now.  Eli (2nd grade) doesn’t have a partner in learning like my other two did with each other.  While we still do science unit studies, they look completely different than those of my big kids.  It’s just not as fun to “go all out” without learning partners.  His units are much more relaxed and often just unfold as we go along.

We still use A LOT of living literature and living non-fiction books to guide our learning.  But unlike the big kids, we now use a lot of technology to enhance our understanding, too – like YouTube videos, for instance.  And since it’s just him, I let his interests guide us in our studies so much more than I used to with the big kids.

Now for the tell-on-myself-a-little part of this post.  Since I’m less planned than I used to be with science units, we don’t always get down and dirty with good, old-fashioned experiments.  But…I’ve found some tricks that have taken my science experiment guilt away.  Completely.

Easy Elementary Science Experiments

Elementary science experiments are easy using inexpensive prepared kits.

(There are affiliate links in this post.  While I received this kit for free, I only recommend it because it worked.)

I love using prepared science kits.  After going through The Science Kit by DK Publishing from start to finish this year, I have no worries that we didn’t do enough experimental learning.  The best part, I really had to pre-plan almost nothing!

Besides supplies that are easy to find around the house, The Science Kit came with everything needed to complete around 50 elementary level experiments.  And, while he and I worked through the experiments together, the full-color, step-by-step flip-book was easy enough for him to use by himself.

Elementary science experiments are easy using inexpensive prepared kits.

I would let him pick and choose lessons from the experiment flip-book (which stands on its own for easy reading during experimentation.)  Once we finished an experiment, we would simply place a check mark on the page showing it had been completed.

A book, Explore Science, came with the kit and provided another 50 or so experiments with more detailed explanations about the topics.  Since some of the topics went along with the experiments from the flip-book, I would often go right into Explore Science after Eli finished a flip-book experiment.  The experiments and explanations found in Explore Science were less Eli-led and more mom-led – mostly because there was more reading to do with more materials to gather.

Elementary science experiments are easy using inexpensive prepared kits.

Once we completed the entire kit (flip-book experiments and experiments from Explore Science), we had around 100 experiments under our belts!  That sounds like it might have taken a lot of time, but it really didn’t.  Since many of the experiments only take minutes, we could do several in a day.  In all, we spent about a month bebopping daily through the kit.

I’ve used science kits for years and years.  I even put them on Christmas and birthday wish lists because the kids love the kits for fun as much as I love them for education.  Here are a few of my favorites…

Tell me how you make sure to make science experiments happen in your homeschool.