Top Secular Homeschool History Curriculum for 2023-24
The Best Secular Homeschool Curriculum for U.S. History
Homeschooling your children is often associated with religious education. HOWEVER, many parents are increasingly considering and turning to homeschooling for their children's education 🏫. Parents looking to provide their children with a comprehensive secular education. Now, to be clear, this article is NOT to weight the pros and cons of homeschooling, or whether a faith-based education vs. a secular education is better. What this article IS though, to be as specific as possible, is an article to help inform and educate those parents seeking to provide their children with secular homeschool curriculum about U.S. history.
U.S. history is often one of the first areas that homeschooled students learn about 🌎. This is because it covers a variety of time periods and events, many of which are important to the nation's history. The best U.S. history curriculum for homeschoolers, irrespective of grade level, will cover a variety of time periods and events. For example, an effective U.S. history core curriculum will feature well-curated lesson plans that will:
- Have been expertly designed and crafted by experienced educators 👨
- Provide resources aligned with the Common Core State Standards and TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards 🧑
- Utilize proven learning strategies that'll encourage student learning and retention of the subject matter 😁
- Ensure the robust use of primary and secondary sources of information 🧐
- Enhance a student’s critical thinking skills and abilities 🕵
- Present complex subject matter in relatable and easy-to-understand manner for both student and teacher 😃
- Feature lessons and units that flow seamlessly from one to the next 👍
- Utilize a variety of assignment options 📝 (written exercises, vocabulary and multiple-choice worksheets, crossword puzzles, reading comprehension activities, etc., etc.)
- Be textbook independent 📚 - curriculum and resources that don't require a textbook (or may be used with any textbook)
- Allow for maximum flexibility by making it easy to shorten or lengthen any lesson or unit, or even to switch out the order of the lessons within a unit with ease 🧑
- Include supplemental resources such as links to high quality YouTube videos 📺 produced by reputable organizations and individuals such as Smithsonian, National Geographic, the History Channel, among numerous others
- Offer a high-level of customer and product support 🙋
- Provide resources in BOTH digital 💻 and printable formats 📃
- Offer an entire FULL YEAR's worth of curriculum 🥳
Faith-Based and Secular Homeschool Options & Programs
Whether you're considering homeschool for high school level students, middle schoolers, elementary students, older students, or younger students, there are several great options of U.S. history curriculums available today for homeschool students, for both those following a faith-based curriculum, or those following secular curriculum.
For numerous religious reasons, there are those parents who wish to provide their homeschoolers with a faith-based education, an education that incorporates the use of religious material and more aligned to their own personal religious beliefs and values, there's many programs available online to choose from. Some of the most popular faith-based options that I'd recommend are found at Christianbook and Notgrass History. For many homeschool families, a faith-based education is the way to go, and hopefully the links to those two faith-based education organizations will provide you with some good options and guidance. I'd also recommend doing a simple search on google for something along the lines of "faith based homeschool curriculum", "Christian homeschool lesson plans", etc. Conducting a google search should surely yield you some good results and hopefully you're able to find something that's high-quality, affordable, and meets your respective state's standards. But, since this article's primary focus is on secular homeschool curriculum, we're going to move on to just that.
For those parents wishing to provide their homeschoolers with a secular education, you're in luck too because there's a variety of history curriculums available today to homeschool students, especially when it comes to secular homeschoolers and the subject of U.S. history. Many of these curriculums are intentionally designed to be used by students who are being homeschooled and follow a secular approach to education. there are several secular homeschool curriculum options available as well. One of the more popular options for secular homeschool history curriculum is study.com (which begins at $59.99/month💰!!). At that price point, you're looking at dropping $719.88 over the course of just ONE year 😲!! And, unfortunately, many of the other options that I've come across are priced similarly (many are even MORE expensive than study.com😬!!).
As outlined and bulleted above, there are numerous aspects to consider when searching for and considering secular history curriculum for your child/children. If you're searching for free homeschool curriculums that offer even remotely the same level of quality, I wish you luck - you'll need it.
I'm going to now go more in-depth on each one of those bullets and explain and outline with a brief description on exactly why each bullet is so crucial is the search for great secular curriculum.
Expertly designed and crafted by an experienced educator
This probably goes without saying, but you wouldn't go to someone who read a bunch of articles on WebMD over a licensed doctor for medical advice would you? Okay, maybe you would. I'm certain that at some point you'll end up regretting that decision. It may not be today or tomorrow, but at some point, in the future (probably the near future), you'll wish that you had went to the expert (the doctor) 🚑. Personally, there's only two things that I care most about when it comes to my children: their health, and their education. I obviously want nothing but the best for them and will do all that's within my power to help ensure that they grow up healthy and obtain a quality education. That doesn't mean I'm going to sacrifice everything from a financial or emotional standpoint to provide them with that - what I will do, and I assume you too since you're reading this article, is to provide them with every opportunity I can to ensure the quality of their health and education. For example, limiting the amount of junk food and fast food they eat, making sure they don't sit in front of the TV all day long, etc. Likewise, when it comes to their education, I'm not going to forgo saving for our retirement to pay to send our children to all-too-often overly priced private school. It's ALL about balance, and I believe that you shouldn't have to pay in the neighborhood of $1,000 (or even more!) for access to well-curated curriculum designed and created by an experienced educator.
Resources aligned with your respective state standards (Common Core, TEKS, etc.)
Another one that's fairly straight forward. Any great secular homeschool curriculum will be aligned to state standards. Whether that's the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) or your respective state's standards, ensure that whatever state you're in, the curriculum is aligned with it. For example, my 5th and 8th grade social studies/history year-long curriculum bundles are aligned with BOTH the Common Core State Standards -AND- the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills). It probably goes that without saying, if you provide your child with curriculum not aligned to your state's standards, you're doing them a great disservice and, setting them up to fail 🤦
Incorporated use of Proven Learning Strategies
The public school system, for its many successes and failures, has been constantly evolving. Namely, when it comes to the implementation and experimentation of numerous learning strategies. The results have been mixed, at best, but there have been a handful of successful and proven learning strategies that have arisen out of the decades of experimentation. For example, students reteaching their learnings to someone else. Immediately, or soon after, a student learns something, they're much more likely to comprehend and retain what they learned if they then re-teach what they've just learned about to someone else (for homeschoolers, that could be teaching what they learned to their parent, or even a sibling, either younger or older than them!). Another example of a proven learning strategy is the application of what a student has just learned to create something that showcases their learnings and comprehension, or lack thereof, of the subject matter. This is commonly done in the form of an activity, a big history project, a highly detailed research paper, etc. I'd highly recommend ensuring that whatever curriculum you provide your homeschooler(s) with, they incorporate the use of PROVEN learning strategies!
Use of Primary and Secondary Resources of Information
Read through ANY of the state standards that are our there are you're guaranteed to quickly realize just how much the use of primary and secondary sources of information are emphasized. There are several different reasons for this, but some of the main reasons are that the understanding and comprehension of the information provided by both primary and secondary sources are essential foundations for successful learning, especially when it comes to the subject of history! Help make history your child's favorite subject with resources that cleverly intertwine primary and secondary sources of information right into the important historical topics, events, and figures that they're learning about!
Growth of Critical Thinking Skills and Abilities
History is often one of the most difficult subjects for students that have yet to acquire, or appropriately use, their age-appropriate critical thinking skills and abilities. Effective curriculum will help address this for students who are struggling when it comes to critical thinking using presentations, assignments, and assessments that incorporate a repetitive manner of asking critical thinking questions. Students will naturally become less resistant and fearful of questions that challenge their critical thinking skills and abilities, all the while, as they improve and grow those very same critical thinking skills and abilities. It's also equally important that any effective history curricula also encourage and promotes the growth of critical thinking skills and abilities for those students who DO HAVE age-appropriate (grade level) skills and abilities.
Content that is presented in a relatable manner (easy to digest and comprehend, prevents student frustration
This OFTEN-overlooked component of assessing any curriculum can easily determine how well or poorly a student performs with it. Any curriculum that's worth its weight will (at least) attempt to make it's learning content relatable to the student in an effort to make the content more easily digestible for the student. There are numerous ways and manners in which to do this and over my all too many years of experience 🤪, I've come to find a number of ways to help engage the content I'm teaching on to peak even the most difficult of kiddos interest. Curriculum should be able to reach and hold the attention of any student, whether a student is a visual learner (those that learn best when information is depicted to them via graphics & images, charts, diagrams, symbols, etc.), auditory learner (who learn best when they can listen to the information being presented to them), reading & writing learner (learn best when they take notes and use text-heavy resources, ie., worksheets, presentations, etc.), or a kinesthetic learner (hands-on learners that learn best when all of their sense are engaged)!
Seamless flow of content
The worst thing that can happen with any curriculum is not having it "flow" well. This is especially important when it comes to the subject of history. Ok, so this one is a bit of a mouthful so be with me here. Typically, you'd think you'd just go year-by-year, decade-by-decade, century-by-century, BUT that is all too often extremely difficult (if not impossible!) to do. The reason for this simple: the core themes (or topics) that are taught in history often span numerous periods of time. As an example, when we think about U.S. history, an important theme is Westward Expansion (the spirit of Manifest Destiny!). However, Americans have been expanding westward since before they were Americans - when they were colonists and subjects of the British! We typically think of Westward Expansion as the time between the Louisiana Purchase and the Lewis & Clark Expedition (in the very early 1800s) to somewhere in the 1850s (shortly after Mexican Cession and the California Gold Rush) - which covers the better half of an ENTIRE century and overlaps with numerous other important historical themes such as the issues of sectionalism that eventually culminated in the outbreak of the Civil War, the "Age of Jackson", the causes and effects of the War of 1812, etc., etc. So, as you can probably see, it can be quite challenging to produce history curriculum that flows well because it's virtually INEVITABLE that there will be some bouncing back and forth between various time periods. The best creators of history curriculum will address this by organizing and synthesizing their content in a concise and seamless manner by structuring the subject matter in a way that presents it in main THEMES ...while also taking into account and considering the chronological order of events (when something occurred)
Variety of Assignments
This one is two-fold. #1 - Curriculum that provides a good amount of variety when it comes to assignments allows the teacher/instructor that much more flexibility when deciding what to assign. That's pretty straight forward. #2 however, is just as important, and not quite as straight forward. Think about from the student's perspective... did you ever have a teacher who handed out assignments that were always, say, true or false worksheets, or maybe they always assigned word searches or multiple-choice worksheets. What did that do to you as a student?? Did it excite you as a student? Did it motivate or inspire you to learn? Did it facilitate your learning and comprehension?? I'll go ahead and guess that it probably didn't. As with pretty much anything in life, people generally have a greater chance at exceling with something when they approach it from multiple angles. The same applies when it comes to learning. The more we're able to break up the monotony of something, in this case, the variety of assignments available with any given set of curricula, the better the chance we have to teach our young children about the many important concepts, themes, events, and figures throughout history.
As we move further into the digital age, textbooks are (thankfully!) going the way of the dodo bird. I still remember the absolute insanity of having to pay HUNDREDS of dollars for a single textbook (many times over) while in college. It was maddening, frustrating, and SAD all at the same time. NOTHING prevents people from the pursuit of an education and improving themselves like exorbitant, egregiously over-priced educational resources such as textbooks. As such, well curated history curriculum will be textbook independent -AND- should you already have a textbook, be able to be applied to the content in that textbook.
Flexibility of Content
Whether it’s through online courses and online classes or in-person classroom learning (or a hybrid of both!), the flexibility to either shorten or lengthen any given lesson or unit is truly INVALUABLE. How often have you found yourself wishing you had more time to complete something, all despite your very best efforts to meticulously pre-plan everything? It's happened to me WAY more times than I care to admit... actually, that pretty much happens to me daily 😝. On the opposite end of that spectrum is maybe when you wish to spend some more time on a given topic/lesson, GREAT!! Well-designed curriculum will help you do that too. No matter if you're looking to shorten or lengthen a piece of content, the best curriculum will help you make that possible with minimal difficulty or effort on your part!
Ample amount of Supplemental Resources and Content
In addition to presentations, assignments, and assessments (tests/exams), high quality curriculum should include a comprehensive list of supplemental resources and content. One good option that I like to utilize are lesson and topic appropriate videos on YouTube. There's several individual creators who post some great, thought-provoking videos to YouTube (some of which are history teachers themselves!), along with well-known organizations and corporations such as the History Channel and numerous non-profits such as American Battlefield Trust, PBS, Smithsonian, and various historical societies and associations who ALL regularly produce and post excellent videos. I include many of these video links as supplements to my very own lessons included in my various year-long curriculum bundles! Students LOVE them!!
Superior Customer and Product Support
Another one that should go without saying, but just think back to the very last time you made a purchase, and the product didn't work as you thought it would (or should). When you reached out to get support, how did that go? Was it as simple as sending an email directly to the creator of the product?? Probably not. And that's the standard you should hold any organization selling curriculum up to. If they don't have their direct email to the creator of the product plastered all over their product page, their sales page, basically all over their website, then good luck when it comes to reaching out to them for any help or support when it comes to using their product.
Content in Multiple Formats
This is becoming an ever-increasing important component when it comes to curriculum and learning content. Aside from the health repercussions of the COVID pandemic, the outbreak also revealed just how valuable it is to have resources that can be used in both a digital format and a more "traditional" printable format. This is likely to continue well into the foreseeable future and in my opinion, any organization that charges a premium for content in both digital and printable formats is truly revealing what their motives are: revenue and profit. Their motivations aren't helping educators or students - it's as simple as that... of course, IMHO (in my humble opinion) 😉
Curriculum designed for use over an ENTIRE YEAR
Piecing together resources from different creators brings me mental agony just thinking about it! I've been there, I've tried it, it's NOT fun. I ALWAYS recommend entire curriculum bundles vs. individually piecing resources together. The amount of time you'll save (aside from the stress and emotional anguish) will more than offset any difference in price. EVEN IF you purchase a year-long curriculum bundle and you aren't exactly thrilled with the product you received, which, let's face it, happens to all of us, I'd argue that you're still better off than if you'd gone the other route and decided to either create all of your own resources (which is beyond extremely time consuming), or decided to purchase individual resources as you go along. This all ties into another of my important considerations above, "Seamless Flow of Content". If you're unable to, or simply struggling to piece together lessons on U.S. history, imagine how your student(s) are feeling? Think they notice the disorganization? The difference in the way resources are presented to them? Of course, they do - and this unfortunately has an adverse impact on their learning which is the absolute opposite of what anyone wants, right???
To sum it up in its simplest form, the most effective American history curriculums for homeschoolers will provide you and your kiddos with ALL of that I've gone over with this article!
There are very few decisions we make as parents that we take as seriously as our children's education. No matter what path you decide, I wish you nothing but the best in the pursuit of the best choice for your child. I'd be truly humbled and appreciative to be afforded the opportunity to help however I may should you decide to purchase a curriculum bundle from me. Obviously, I believe my bundles are a great option - and with that said, please know that should you choose to purchase from a different provider, or decide to create your very own resources, I applaud you for doing what you feel is necessary to provide your child with the best, most comprehensive education you possibly can 🥰
Check out my year-long history curriculum bundles!
If you have any questions, concerns, or feedback for me, I'd LOVE to hear from you! Please email me directly at [email protected]
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