High School English Lessons – DIY Curriculum

English Lessons high school

Ten Things In My High School English Lessons

In high school every lesson can be an English lesson. Encourage your child to use good writing techniques in all their work. Expose them to different genres using different subject matter and writing styles.

The high school years are when you can begin to consolidate many of your child’s English skills.

Here are 10 things you can work on that will help you pull your own English curriculum together.


If you haven’t done much grammar now is the time to do a more intensive grammar program. Their English skills should be at a level where they can understand these concepts.

We used Winston Grammar as a refresher on our grammar. It is intensive and we learnt all that you would need to know for high school with this one guide.

We also us a grammar guide.

Australian Grammar Guide


Encourage independent reading and allocate books in their homeschool day. Don’t be afraid to use living books as your textbook. Encourage notebooking to record what they have learnt. Increase the difficulty of their reading materials, include classics, poetry and academic essays. Check their comprehension through discussion and narration. Novel study guides and book reports can also be used sparingly.

Don’t be afraid to continue reading aloud.


Poetry is an acquired taste for some children but it also helps a child understand the delicacies and versatility of the English language. In our home they read a poem a day from some of the many poetry books we have acquired. We also encourage our kids to participate in our local homeschool poetry recital once a year.

The Grammar of Poetry, Video Course DVD is another good course for teaching your child all the technical aspects of poetry. We have used the DVD that goes with the set and found it good.


Continue with dictation lessons of more difficult texts. If your child seems to be having spelling problems consider using a spelling program for the revision of spelling rules.

Hand Writing

Sometimes we find that our highschoolers prefer to do most of their work on the computer and avoid handwriting. If you think they still need some handwriting practice why not try some calligraphy? Our Latin Copywork works well for that. It isn’t babyish but still requires careful strokes and concentration.

Shakespeare & Drama

Shakespeare - english lessons homeschool

Shakespeare is difficult but it is a good addition to high school studies and adds to cultural literacy and challenges them as the Elizabethan language is decoded for them. I don’t want my kids to be scared of Shakespeare. We don’t study all the Shakespeare plays but we do try to put one in each high school year. This year it is Hamlet. Last Year it was King Henry the V. The year before that it was Romeo and Juliet.

We often read aloud the plays together and have had friends around to read as well. Each year we try to see a play professionally acted out.

I think when we are planning our children’s school lessons it’s not always about what we like, we are also trying to stretch their minds and expose them to different genres. I wouldn’t encourage homeschoolers to cut it out of their curriculum because they just didn’t like it.

I wouldn’t say we love all Shakespeare per se but we do love working out the clever language usage, the twists and conquering the plays. In some way it has the satisfaction of solving a complex math puzzle.

Much Ado About Nothing is funny. The Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson movie version, with some Keanu Reeves, and we like it a lot, especially since we read it as well.

Success with Shakespeare usually requires some effort on the part of the teacher to help the child understand the play. If you start with a good prose version of the play like the Tales of Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb then your child (and you) will understand the plot and it will help you decipher the more difficult language. Another resource that is very helpful, if you are looking for a Christian guide, is The Brightest Heaven of Invention.

The more you read Shakespeare the more enjoyable it gets!

Literature Appreciation & Writing Exercises

In high school my kids are writing for many of the lessons but I want to start adding some style to their writing.

I move from narrations only and  begin extending our children’s writing skills, and this usually requires some extra teaching.

We use IEW or The Institute of Writing Excellence for these lessons and then we require practice in note taking, writing techniques and some creative writing tools.

We have also used these writing and literature appreciation resources.

  • Wordsmith by Janice B Cheaney (Year 7-9) Giving your children tools for being a better writer. It will take you a year to work through this resource. You don’t need the teacher’s manual.
  • Wordsmith Craftsman by Janice B Cheaney (Year 9-10) Teaches essay writing skills.
  • Bob Jones University Fundamentals and Elements of Literature. They are fantastic. Highly recommended for the literary child. The discussions are thoughtful and meaty. The assignments require good thinking and writing skills. I found that I could just let my daughter work through the book and use the teacher’s manual as needed. We did the some of the tests and I read through and “graded” her assignments. The links below are the best place to buy this for shipping to Australia.

    Public Speaking

    Finding opportunities for public speaking is often hard to do when you homeschool. However it is a good skill and even preparing a timed speech or reading speeches can help prepare your child. If a suitable occasion presents itself encourage your child to try.

    Notebooks and Journals

    It seems to me that Charlotte Mason had children keep a notebook for just about everything. One notebook that I think will be a keepsake for your child is having a personal journal. Another literary treasure that she encourages is a Book of Common place for writing quotes and memorable literary works and ideas. I keep one of these myself and I love to re-read it.

    Writing For Real Life

    When your children need to write emails or fill in forms teach them how to do it and help them to do it themselves. Turn emails in to lesson opportunities. Help them prepare essays and teach them how to lay out their work.

    Putting Together Your Timetable

    I’ll share with you how I pull my high school English lessons together.

    I start by splitting the year into four terms. Then:

    • I allocate three books each term for them to read on their own each school day. It usually includes a historical fiction, a poetry anthology, a non-fiction living book on a relevant subject they are studying.
    • I also read aloud from a few books about one hour per day. We usually read our history together mostly because I really like this topic as well.
    • The kids do some calligraphy while I read the fiction story.
    • They notebook their science, geography and history lessons.
    • They read from a poetry anthology daily. Once a year we have a poetry recital with our homeschool group.
    • I only attempt Shakespeare one term and I coordinate this with a play we will see.
    • We alternate grammar and dictation lessons and do two of these each a week.
    • Once a week I make a writing assignment based on person we are studying in history and I expect them to use the skills that they have learnt through IEW. I mark it using the IEW checklist.
    • Once a fortnight I get together with a friend and we do one or two IEW lessons together.

    Get How To Homeschool High School Guide.

    Homeschool Highschool

    If you are looking for a complete homeschool program where we’ve done all the planning and resource collection then check out the My Homeschool High School courses.

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  1. Gill  April 4, 2016

    Hi Michelle, I’m so glad to have stumbled onto your site. I use Ambleside online for a large part of my curriculum and life has been too busy with little ones to make all the adjustments I want – I like your suggestions. I have a 13 yr old son who struggles with writing and so far we have mainly done narrations, finally he is doing a little more than one paragraph. I am considering using some of the IEW materials but was a bit overwhelmed by all the options, are there any you would recommend to start with? Thanks, Gillian

    • Michelle  April 5, 2016

      I was confused at first also. The Student Writing Intensive is what we did and I thought it was excellent. We did B and C. They are similar but the concepts go deeper. Whilst expensive, I still thing they are worth it.

      • Gill  April 5, 2016

        That’s great, thanks Michelle! I’ll need to give it some further thought. My original plan had been to use Analytical Grammar’s ‘Beyond the Book Review’ which covers writing an essay and a research paper. Just wondering whether you ever looked into these?

  2. Nicole Booyse (Nikki)  February 9, 2016

    Hello Michelle
    I am soooo totally happy to have happened upon your blog and you info page!!
    I have started home schooling this year , it took a lot of thought and prayer to make this decision ! We went to many informative events and meetings and I totally felt I needed to get my children out of school and to enhance their lives and their wholeness and give them the best of both worlds!!

    But now I am between a rock and a hard place on what curriculum to use for them so that they don’t lose out on the best schooling possible!
    My oldest is 16/ Gr 11 this side of SA! And my youngest 10 gr4thus side!
    I am really struggling to find curriculums that would do them justice at this time in their lives , especially my oldest!!
    Please could I ask you for assistance and guidance! It would be greatly appreciated!
    Kind regards
    Nikki Booyse

    • Michelle  February 10, 2016

      Hi Nikki,
      have you looked at Open to Study and Open Uni for your oldest. Two of mine where able to do these at 16. At this age you need to start looking at what they want to do when they finish school and work backwards. What holes need filling in. What skills do they need to have.
      Smiles Michelle

      • Nicole (Nikki)  May 22, 2016

        Hello Michelle
        Thank you so much for your input! We have finally found something that my daughter, Britney has fallen in love with and coping beautifully! The standard is higher than we encountered at her previous school and she is just loving the way the virtual class room works! She has achieved very high marks and we are so impressed with her enthusiasm!
        We went with the GED online and with that she is also applying to do early childhood development !
        She is hoping to do some Au Pair work before she settles into her working career which is Events planning and management! So what I am loving about the home schooling option is that she has more time to complete other courses that will help further her qualifications in a shorter space of time than waiting to be 18, then study 4 or 5 years and still have no other qualifications!
        I am also so blessed to have been motivated by people like you and the other amazing stories I have read on this blog!
        Thank you
        Have a fantastic day
        Love Nikki

        • Michelle  May 26, 2016

          Thanks for telling us what is happening. It’s good to read how each individual carves out a plan that meets their child’s needs.

        • Gill  May 26, 2016

          HI Nikki,
          I’m glad your daughter is loving her course. I am interest in GED online as I have not heard of it before. I just looked it up and it appears American. I was wondering if there are any links you could recommend so I could investigate further?


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