Last week, my daughter was working on her To Kill a Mockingbird essay for literature class. She texted me, “I’ve decided the Ewells are the worst people in all of literature.” I responded with, “Even worse than Daisy & Tom (The Great Gatsby)?” She answered, “YES”. I love that my teenager can get so wrapped up in the characters of a book. For us, homeschool high school English equals literature. Books. Books. Books. Books make me happy, and sharing them with kids makes me even happier. If you are looking for homeschool high school English curriculum resources, I have some suggestions.
I teach high school literature at our homeschool co-op, and it’s my favorite time of the day. I run the class very casually, more like a book club. Honestly, I cannot tolerate worksheets, reading comprehension quizzes or doing some kind of seek-and-find for literary devices. How can I expect the students to? Sure, we cover them, and they know what they are, but authors don’t write books so students can dissect them and identify elements. They write books to entertain, challenge, and enlighten. I read the books along with the students, and we talk about them. What did they like? What didn’t they? How would you feel if you knew someone with those attitudes? Did this book change you? With that in mind, here are several resources that help me teach literature.
Homeschool High School English Textbooks
Windows to the World – I recommend this book with a huge caveat: it has a very Christian worldview, and secular homeschoolers will struggle with certain sections. However, the author does a good job of using short stories to introduce students to literary analysis and essay writing. The book teaches students how to annotate a reading, identify plot structure and literary devices, find the theme, and identify symbols. Students will be able to recognize these elements, but it is not the central focus of their literature studies. I modified this to use with my older high school students, but think it would be best for an 8th or 9th grader as an introduction.
Excellence in Literature (EIL) – Our homeschool co-op uses this curriculum for high school literature. Written directly to the student, the student can complete this course on their own. However, you’ll still need to grade the assignments, and it’s always good to talk about great literature with your kids. The curriculum offers five textbooks (Introduction, Literature & Composition, American, British, and World Literature). The entire curriculum follows the same format: an introduction to the literary work, information about the genre, and tons of links to related topics (music from the time period of the book, for example). I like this curriculum because students have three writing assignments per book – two shorter research based assignments, and a longer, analytical essay. You can swap out texts based on the student and her interests, and the curriculum provides the framework to make that possible. I do this regularly, and I just apply the normal assignments to the new book.
Literature is probably the easiest high school class to save money on. You can buy the textbooks above, or you can use the resources I’ve listed below and your library card for a free course.
Free Homeschool High School English Resources
Sometimes, you just really need help in understanding literature. What appears to be a simple story, is so often, a metaphor for something much deeper. Or, you need help identifying the theme. Or, you’re just plain lost and have no idea what the book is even about! Learning Guides are a great help for all of these; be sure your student reads the actual book and doesn’t just read the guide!
- Schmoop and SparkNotes – Both of these websites know their audience: high school and college students. The sites are written in a casual, teen friendly tone with lots of references to what can be going on in a typical teen’s life. They’re good sites with helpful information, but they definitely have a different tone than other guides.
- LitCharts – This site has a free section and a premium, but the free section is usually sufficient. I like this site because it focuses on the themes in a work. Themes are given an icon and color scheme, and then you can follow that theme through the book. You can also get quotes from the book based on the theme.
- CliffsNotes – Good old CliffsNotes. Those black and yellow striped books have been in bookstores forever. This website offers free access to most of their books.
- Glencoe Literature – Published by Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, this website offers a PDF Study Guide for many books. The guide begins with a biographical introduction to the author, followed by an introduction to the novel. Chapters are broken into sections and each one has a pre-reading activity, vocabulary, active reading question (worksheet format), and a responding section which includes literary analysis.
Homeschool High School English – Essay Writing
- Purdue Online Writing Lab: MLA Formatting and Style Guide (Purdue OWL) – Never heard of MLA? Neither had I until I started teaching high school classes at our co-op. MLA is the citation style required on most college essays in the humanities. It defines the paper’s format, quote citations, and works cited (what we old folks called a bibliography). As preparation for college, Excellence in Literature requires student work to be in MLA format. EIL includes information in their textbooks, and also offers A Handbook for Writers as a standalone text. But, since the book is often somewhere else, I rely on Purdue OWL to help me check MLA standards.
Homeschool High School English Additional Resources
- Crash Course – My kids enjoy Crash Course videos, so I try to use them when possible. They have three Literature courses, which I use as a supplement, usually after we’ve read a book.
- Robert C. Walton’s Classic Literature Notes – My new go-to source for essay prompts. He has PDF study guides for over 200 works of classic literature. Each PDF has an author biography, plot summary by chapter, notable quotations, and a substantial list of essay prompts.
- Teachers Pay Teachers – TpT has a huge amount of literature resources for high school. Try searching by individual books. One of my favorite literature resources from TpT is Laura Randazzo’s Character Cell Phone Activity. It’s a generic activity, in that you can use it for any book. I used it yesterday in co-op, and got an enthusiastic (and non-sarcastic!) “Yay!” – that’s saying a lot for a group of high school students at the end of the day. 😄 I also have a couple of literature resources in my TpT store.
- Book Selections – Check out Popular High School Classics, College Bound Reading List, and 100 Fiction Books All Children Should Read for lists of books to read.
I hope you can find some useful homeschool high school English resources in this post! Do you have anything you would add to this list? I’d love to hear from you.