Right now, for my rising high school freshman, I am designing a literature course.
As a starting point I used detailed high school syllabuses which can be found on the Internet. Even my own town's high school publishes a lengthy syllabus online. I have been comparing different local school's courses and each seems to center around three works of literature: Romeo and Juliet, The Illiad and then a third book which seems to be either To Kill a Mockingbird or The Good Earth. The only thing that is confusing is the schools list extra books as optional but doesn't exactly say how many of those are read and how. I am wondering if those are the books that are assigned for summer reading.
I saw an interesting note on the AP English courses offered locally, that the schools require ALL the readings be done over the summer before the course starts. I was a bit surprised about that and bet it is because the students and their families may complain that the reading load is too hard to balance with their other coursework as well as extra-curriculars. However, to read all those books in about 10 weeks in the summer seems nuts to me, but who am I to judge?
In any event, my son protested when he heard he'd have to read some literature that he doesn't know anything about. (This opposition to things when he doesn't even really have a reason to oppose them is something I've been dealing with for years. It helps the situation if my son feels he has some say-so in the content and when I'm offering some flexibility rather than doling out a canned course. That's one reason we've always avoided a 'school in the box' homeschool curriculum. Due to the highly customizable education that homeschooling CAN provide I see no reason to resort to cramming or force feeding him the standard fare. I try to take advantage of our freedom by actually exercising that freedom.)
I was telling a homeschool mom friend how my son wants to keep on reading fiction and literature in the style he currently likes which has been dystopian literature. She suggested I develop a dystopian literature course.
I began researching the idea on the Internet and see this is offered as a 300 level college course at different colleges. I have been reading through them and have decided that my son will study dystopian literature as a freshman. By looking over the various reading lists I am seeing similarities. I have already begun compiling a reading list and have made a couple of purchases.
When the books arrived from Amazon my son attacked them. He doesn't want to wait for the fall to begin. He is reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep in full text graphic novel format and he likes the short story collection of dystopian literature Brave New Worlds edited Ursula LeGuin.
It takes more work to custom design a course but if the homeschooled student who was resistant to learning is suddenly more interested and even enthusiastic and happy, is it not worth the extra time and energy on my part?
I have also begun reading some of these stories and am looking forward to teaching myself about this topic in order to teach and learn alongside my son.
Just today my son asked if he can read Farenheit 451 as a friend of his was talking about what a good book it was. That was on the booklist I have made but I'd not yet told my son so. I'm happy he suggested reading it first!