Planning the High School Years – Part 5

If you’ve been following along with the Planning the High School Years series, you know that we’ve already covered creating a list of planned courses, keeping a transcript, and creating a high school portfolio. You’ve also gotten some great resources for free English and Algebra courses. In this post, as promised, you’ll get some great resources for free science and history classes for your high school students.


Free Science Courses

There are many different topics that high school students (especially those headed for college) need to take: Biology, Earth Science, Physics and Chemistry just to name a few. The lab sciences can be difficult to do at home, especially when you don’t have a lot of money to spend. Unfortunately, there isn’t a completely free way to conduct labs; there are inexpensive ways, but they are a necessity.

Free Biology Courses

Boundless has a great Biology textbook that can be used for a high school course. The text includes lessons, flashcards and quizzes. This site has a variety of other texts that are great for both high school and middle school students, and their content has grown in a small period of time! It’s a great resource for homeschoolers.

For advanced students, check out the free Biology courses offered through OpenCourseWare at MIT. The hardest part is selecting which course to use. There are several different Introductory Biology courses, as well as Cell Biology, Genetics, Molecular Biology and more.

Free Earth Science Resources

For the first free Earth Science course, we return to MIT courses. The course here is actually an Environmental Earth Science course, which covers how the elements and weather affect the earth and its resources.

Here is a free high school Earth Science textbook that you can have your child use. It’s available to read online at WikiBooks, or download the PDF files from the first link.

For those of you who like to piece together your curriculum, there are free earth science lesson plans that you can use. Some students work better using a variety of lesson plans; but these can also be used in conjunction with a free course or textbook.

Free Physics Courses

For juniors and seniors, Physics may be a requirement, especially if your child plans to go to college. My favorite site, MIT OpenCourseWare, has a selection of free Physics courses. From introductory classes, to quantum physics and string theory, you’ll find it here.

The MIT courses aren’t for everyone; Khan Academy has free Physics videos that can help students master specific Physics topics. It could be used in conjunction with a free Physics textbook. WikiBooks also has a free Physics textbook that can be used.

Free Chemistry Resources

Chemistry is a hard subject to teach. For obvious reasons, lab time is a necessity. There are many different home chemistry experiments that will work wonderfully with younger children, but with high schoolers, a chemistry set is vital.


MIT has free chemistry courses that will be perfect for advanced students. I think this is the one I’m going to try; if my daughter is unable to keep up, I will switch to something else, but it seems like one of the introductory courses MIT offers will work perfectly.

If you’re looking for a free chemistry text, the “About” site has pages of relevant information. I’m not sure if you could really count this as a full text, but it may work for an introductory high school chemistry course.

Education Portal also has a wonderful free introductory chemistry course that will be perfect for a high school student. One thing I like about their site is that they offer reading text as well as learning videos, and I personally believe that the more ways a person hears something, the better he or she retains it.

Free History Courses

This section isn’t only for history; I will also include resources for US Government and Economics. The following sections will contain free resources for learning about US History, ancient civilizations and World History.

Free US History Resources

I mentioned Boundless as a resource for Biology above, and would like to mention them again for their US History text. Like the Biology textbook, the US History course also has flashcards and quizzes. Their flashcards are really unique too, as Boundless uses a rating system to schedule how often each card should be reviewed. Definitely worth checking out!

One of my favorites, MIT, offers two separate History courses: pre-1865 and post-1865.

For a free US History text, the US History site is the way to go. The only thing I don’t like about their site is that there are no assignments, activities or discussion questions. It’s just straight reading, which, honestly can get pretty boring, and hard to retain. Hippocampus.org is another one of my favorites for free courses. They have “regular” US History courses and AP US History, each broken into 2 single semester courses.

If you’d like a more relaxed format, Have Fun with History is a great option. You’ll find info by topic, a variety of activities and videos. I haven’t used this site, but it looks like there’s a lot of great information on US History.

Finally, the Digital History site has some great resources. At first, I wasn’t going to recommend that site because the last time I was on it, the site was a mess, and it was difficult to find things. However, they have since updated their information and it’s easier and more user friendly now. Their lessons range from pre-1492 to 2012, so it’s well up-to-date!

Free Western Civilization Resources

Education Portal has an informative free Western Civilization course. Remember, one of the great things about taking a course on Education Portal is that if you pass the associated test, you can receive college credit for the course! This is the only course I could find for this subject. Everything else was independent topics, such as Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, etc.


Free World History Courses

Coursera has a free world history course; typically, I have a hard time using the courses on Coursera, not because they aren’t of high quality, but because they are on a set schedule and taught by a “live” professor. There are plusses and minuses to this; of course, it means that someone is on hand to ask questions, and your student will be able to participate with other students, and have in-depth academic discussions about the class material. On the other hand, it also means you have to wait until a session is scheduled. The next one is currently scheduled to start on September 15, 2013, so if you’re interested for your high school student, sign up quickly!

There’s a pretty well formed World History course at learner.org as well. There are 26 units, and each consists of written text and video. It includes discussion questions, and “big picture” questions to keep the overall theme in mind. All in all, I really like this course.

I also want to mention World History for Us All. While much of the later lessons are still in development, what is there is fantastic! I encourage you to check it out and see if it will work for your student.

Free US Government Courses

I think it’s very important to teach our children about how our government works. In just a few years, they will be the next generation of voters! With that in mind, IMHO every single student in the United States should be required to take a government class. HippoCampus has a couple different free American Government courses. One is an American Government class, and the other is an AP US Government and Politics course.

A very informative and well written source of knowledge on our nation’s government is thisnation.com. This online text is broken up into separate topics, and includes discussion questions, research helps, historical documents and “assignments”. Honestly, I think that every American citizen should go through the course on this site!

The US History site also has a free American Government textbook; the only thing I don’t like about it is that there aren’t any questions to reinforce understanding. But it does have a lot of great information, and you can always write your own questions or simply have discussions with your child about the material.

Free Economics Resources

Wow, this post has become very long! Last but not least, Economics. MIT, of course, has a variety of free Economics courses. Options range from microeconomics to macroeconomics, public finance to economic crises. Here’s a free Economics textbook, if that’s how your student learns best.

I hope this post was helpful to you. In the next high school planning installment, I will have free resources for foreign language classes and Health. Be sure to subscribe to our newsletter so you keep up on all of the newest and latest free homeschooling resources!

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