Homeschooling High School: Student Led Curriculum

Student Led Classes for Home School

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 loads of real knowledge, but given her a passion for learning.  She especially loves history, literature and horses/farming.

Homeschooling High School and Following a Student’s Passions

Since Mahayla has been learning in natural ways with real, living learning – especially living literature – from the beginning, we’ve tried to keep as much as possible similar in the upper years.  So, once she entered high school, many of her classes have still been very much CM inspired.

That’s a tad scary.  The urge to turn everything over to the expert textbooks can be overwhelming when you consider the magnitude of these upper level years.

We have turned to some textbooks – and have loved the ones we’ve used!  (Apologia and Saxon, for example)  However, the subjects that inspire her biggest passions haven’t been found in textbooks.  She naturally wants to forge her own trail with library books, research, field trips and projects.

Instead of forcing her to fit into a particular curriculum, we’ve been allowing at least some of her classes to be student led.  How does this work?

1. Charlotte Mason Style Classes We’ve Designed

Together, we’ve chosen living literature, good research materials and expected papers and projects to prove understanding.  Sometimes, we’ll pick and choose some meaningful activities from various curriculum we have around the house, but choose not to use any one curriculum as-is.  The key is in allowing the student to have a say in how this type of class is put together.  Two of those courses this year include:

Modern American History

American Literature

Homeschooling High School Student Led Course

2. Completely Student-Led Classes

This year, for the very first time – but certainly not the last – we are allowing Mahayla to chart her own course in the subject she is most passionate about…AgriScience.

Below is our outline for planning and keeping on track with her studies.  Just about any class could be developed using the following guidelines.

Her responsibilities:

  • Create a list of potential agriscience subjects to study.
  • Once approved, outline the subjects to be studied each month of the school year.
  • Each monthly agriscience subject will need to include an high school level informational book, notes taken from the book, a lab activity (in the field), and a project to show-what-you-know.
  • Keep a weekly list of what’s been completed.
  • Meet weekly with mom for accountability.

My responsibilities:

  • Approve the subject list and order of study.
  • Approve the books before reading.
  • Meet weekly to look over notes, talk about projects and help tweak the learning path.
  • Provide opportunities for things she desires to do, go, and/or buy to make the course meet her expectations.

We’re only a month into this entirely student-led course, but it’s going SO well.  Mahayla is incredibly happy to be studying a subject of such interest – ahem, that means no complaints.  And in our weekly meetings, I’ve been impressed that she’s pushing herself harder than I would likely push if I were the one planning the lessons.

Have you encouraged student-led courses for your homeschooling high school student?  I’d love to hear about them!

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Homeschool High School


  1. Blessings! says:

    Hello. I popped in from a post on pinterest while blog surfing. We homeschool to. My beloved husband and best friend is an engineer by career and we both went to public school. We decided to select a curriculm when it came time to progress in math. Teaching our two growing blessings to read was much easier than potty training. *big smile* My point here, I’m getting to it I promice, your living math… … I found your living math spot and your have triggered my interst. If you wouldn’t mind and could find the time, I am interested in what all that includes. I thought I would give a little lead in so you know where I am comming from. Thank you for sharing your homeschooling plans here for others to read and learn from. Sincerely, Mommy of two growing blessings & so much more!

  2. Pingback: Gossip Moms » The Hottest Homeschooling Blogs
  3. Thanks for your comment. Living math has been such a blessing in our homeschool. You can learn more about how we add it into our school days via my e-book, Loving Living Math and/or my blog category of living math lessons. You’ll love adding living math! πŸ™‚

  4. This our 1st year homeschooling high school. I must admit, I have been dreading these years, but so far so good. ((knock on wood, lol!)) There is a website that has been a wealth of info more me called, “Lets Homeschool High”. Might be something to check out, since your in the same boat as I am πŸ˜‰
    Anyways, I have never really considered myself to have a “learning style”, but we do like to do Unit Studies based off of our children’s interest. We have not really started any this year, as we just started a week ago, but I am sure she will come up with something that interest her soon.

  5. Homeschooling high school is so much fun, Keri. πŸ™‚ Welcome!

  6. Heather Hurt says:

    Is living Math… for High School also? My dtr is in 9th grade and state core standards require Algebras and Geometry… What do you do for Mihayla, if you don’t mind my asking? Thanks in advance!

  7. Heather, living math can certainly be for high schoolers! I still focus on about 4 days of textbook work and one day of living math for Mahayla (11th grade.) Living math includes real projects like calculating the amount of cattle mineral we need for x number of feed for the next 3 months, for instance. Also, helping with our checkbooks, bills, stocks, etc. We still included a lot of logic as well. This only tips the iceberg, but I hope it answers your question!

  8. Popping over from the Pinterest party.

    This style of high school sounds wonderful. Sadly, here in the UK, the exam system is such that for high schoolers we have to follow a very prescribed curriculum even using specific texts from the exan board. We are starting these a little early so that we can fit in more interest led learning about the subject but it is a challenge.

  9. Sarah, welcome! I hope you find time to fit in some interest led learning after the exams!

  10. So nice to see other families that are teen-led during high school! We followed my daughter’s interests as much as we could, especially in english, history and activities, and that has made all the difference. She is so motivated to learn and is now enjoying her first year in college. Loved this post! Betsy @ BJ’s Homeschool – Our Journey Toward College.

  11. Betsy, I’m so glad to hear college is going well! More proof that student-led homeschooling in high school CAN work. πŸ™‚

  12. Love the interest led classes you and your daughter have created Cindy! She’s going to benefit so much from having a hand in her own education – self-education is a huge part of CM, so you guys are spot on πŸ™‚

  13. Thank you, Meredith! I’m writing a soon-to-be-published post about a new course that’s being student-led by my freshman son. I LOVE the opportunity we have to hand the reigns of education over a little bit at a time.

  14. Hello, Cindy. I am so excited to have stumbled across your blog. Oddly enough, unbeknownst to me, my daughter had also stumbled across your blog within a week of my discovery. Needless to say we are both thrilled to hear about your “delight directed” courses – specifically about horses and Ag science. I am wondering if you have any resources, suggestions, and book titles you can share to help build these courses for those of us just venturing out into more student-led learning. Thank you so very much!

  15. This is a life saver. I have been homeschooling my children for 7 years now and my kids heads have been all in the books this year and I am sad to say, they are now so unmotivated to learn anything. My husband and I are changing the way we are doing school after Christmas and we want to focus more on child led learning. I have been searching for what it could look like in a day and this is what I came across. Thank you! I have literally taken notes from this. My children are deschool as of right now and I can’t wait to get back started with them and follow their interest.

  16. Candace, I can’t tell you the joy that filled my heart to read your comment! Let me know how next semester goes. πŸ™‚

  17. I am thinking about going this direction with my youngest three….currently 5th grader, 8th grader, and 9th grader. All 3 are very nontraditional learners. This has been a tough homeschool year (out of the 8 years that I have homeschooled) due to my oldest daughter’s spinal fusion surgery, anxiety that all three children are dealing with, and many medical bills. Could you recommend resources, websites, curriculum, etc. for me?

  18. This blog entry was a blessing last night.

    My other kids have done some student led learning because what we were looking for wasn’t really available. Your post encouraged me to let my youngest finish her year with equine science in the same way. We originally signed up for a class but it wasn’t quite going to the way we thought it would go. I started trying to find other, more put together resources and that wasn’t working. She is volunteering once or twice a week at a horse barn and planning to take riding lessons once she can drive herself there (that will be in the next couple of months). All of that plus adding in a few books of our own seem like the perfect fit. Thanks again.

  19. That sounds like a great plan, Daneale!

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