An Authoritative Guide to Literature for Homeschool High School

An Authoritative Guide to Literature for Homeschool High School. What should literature look like in homeschool high school? How do you plan for college-attractive vs workforce-bound reading for your teens? Here’s a helpful guide.

An Authoritative Guide to Literature for Homeschool High School

An Authoritative Guide to Literature for Homeschool High School

At 7Sisters Homeschool, we get lots of questions about handling Literature in a meaningful way for homeschool high schoolers. To help encourage and empower our homeschooling 7th Sisters (that’s YOU), we’ve pulled together this guide that answers many of these questions. In this post you’ll find information on:

  • Should you use Literature Study Guides for all books read?
  • How can you help literal thinkers handle Literature?
  • What if you have an average-level homeschool high school student or a college-bound teen? How can you make sure their Literature studies are appropriate for them?
  • How can you create a powerful Honors-level Literature credit for teens who need a college-attractive transcript?
  • What topics should Literature cover over the 4 years of homeschool high school?
  • If you choose the topic-centered Literature approach, how does a homeschool mom know which Literature to teach when?
  • That’s all well and good, but how many books should a homeschool high schooler read each year?
  • How can you handle Literature in homeschool high school is to teach it in co-op?
  • Want some homeschool mom training for teaching literature?

Good literature inspires growth in thinking and character.

Should you use Literature Study Guides for all books?

There’s not ONE right way to homeschool Literature and English/Language Arts, but here is our suggestion. Use study guides for 6-18 books per year according to your teen’s ages, interest and abilities. Then fill out the reading list with meaningful reading or fun reading that has no educational requirement attached to it. Here is the complete list of 7SistersLiterature Study Guides.

How can you help literal thinkers handle Literature?

Some teens love literature! Some teens don’t enjoy it. If your teen is a literal thinker, the rich symbolism in some literature is going to be frustrating and bewildering. Rather than make it worse, let’s find ways to help literal thinkers enjoy literature.

When you have a literal thinker, the way you present Literature and discuss it can be a deal maker or breaker.

If you can, be gracious and not ask your teens deep, symbolic “Why” questions (those pesky inferential questions). Instead, ask more comprehension questions and practical questions. Try not to correct “NO” to any of their answers, even if they don’t make sense. Keep the opportunities for encouragement (and through that, growth) open. Here’s an important post on helping literal thinkers with Literature.

One way is to take a step back from books and get the literature-analysis ideas in a friendlier format.

Movies, for instance! Even literal thinkers tend to like movies! Here’s a post and a Homeschool Highschool Podcast episode that explain how to get your high school literature in (at least for one year) through movies. 7Sisters Literature Learning with Cinema Studies covers great movies through the lens of literature themes. Teens love it!

Sometimes teens who don’t love reading can get sold on Literature with a little help from mom and dad.

If parents (or co-op teachers) can share times they have been influence, inspired or motivated by what they read, it helps teens catch some of the vision. Here’s a post with ideas to help get teens engaged in Literature.

What if you have an average-level homeschool high school student or a college-bound teen? How can you make sure their Literature studies are appropriate for them?

You may have noticed that many Literature programs that are available would absolutely kill the love of books from an average/non-college-bound teen. Or that the material provided is full of busy work that a college-bound teen should not be doing…it is a waste of their valuable time. Here is an episode of The Homeschool Highschool Podcast that gives tips on customizing the Literature credits so that material and activities are fitting YOUR homeschool high schoolers’ needs.

One example of creating a meaningful Literature credit is in our post on British Literature for Average Homeschool High Schoolers. For your average teen, you don’t want to bore them to tears, choose demanding books and overwork them with meaningless tasks. Instead, keep reading choices meaningful, assignments short and leverage audio versions of books.

British Literature: A Full-Year High School Course
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How can you create a powerful Honors-level Literature credit for teens who need a college-attractive transcript?

For homeschooling high schoolers who are aiming for competitive colleges or who will choose an English, Communications, Humanities or History major, Honors-level literature is important for the homeschool transcript. Honors credits show colleges that your teen is capable of competing in a rigorous academic atmosphere. If you are not feeling confident about what levels are, here is a post that explains what and how.

Honors-level Literature credits require LOTS of reading and writing.

This is not a bad thing! For teens headed to college, it is important preparation. How can you make sure you are covering enough for a competitive credit? We can help guide you in creating an Honors-level Literature credit for Language Arts on the homeschool transcript with  this helpful post.

Here’s a post on creating a specifically British Literature Honors-Level course for your homeschool high schoolers.

What topics should Literature cover over the 4 years of homeschool high school?

That’s completely up to you and your teens. There’s not ONE right way to homeschool, but we can help you choose 1 of 3 different approaches.

But first, a note: It’s NOT possible to cover everything.

So relax! You and your teens can choose literature topics that are of interest. They have the rest of their lives to be exposed to other genres. You might find that your teens like to mix and match and not stick with one topic over the year.

Or they might prefer to stick with one topic for the entire school year (such as British Literature, American Literature or World Literature). Even with these teens we suggest having a basic book list that covers their core topic of interest and also add some off-topic reading (books of the Bible, fun novels, self-improvement, etc) for richness, relaxation or personal growth.

Based on our homeschool students’ interests, we’ve developed 3 different ways to look at Literature topics:

Approach #1: Mix and match “boxed” curriculum

Some teens don’t like being locked into one topic for the year but moms don’t want to feel overwhelmed trying to pick out the appropriate Literature for their teens. That’s why 7Sisters developed the ELA series. Here’s a post explaining how we handle mix-and-match students with our no-busywork, don’t-kill-the-book, success-oriented comprehensive English/Language Arts program.

Overview of ELA Bundles
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Approach #2: Make your own reading list with a variety of genres all in one interest areas or a mix. Here are some posts with good ideas for make-your-owns:

If you’d like to create your own reading list with lots of different genres, but all within the topic of American Literature, no problem!

Here’s a how-to post with 8 Types of Reading Material for American Literature.

If you want to create your own reading list but include some specific ideas to explore, think about ideas that help develop teens’ character or challenge their thinking. Adolescence is a good time for exploring and growing and Literature can help share these things. Here are a couple of suggestions:

Here is a post about Literature that forces homeschool high school students to discuss difficult ideas.

Homeschool high school students are often mature enough to read more about discerning between good and evil. This is a difficult topic but Literature can help by putting a little distance between your teen and the issues in this world. Here’s a post with tips for handling this type of Literature.

Here is a post with more encouragement about how to deal with tough topics in American Literature.

Another topic that teens sometimes wrestle with is money and class systems.

That sounds very serious, but can be addressed if you add a couple of Literature Guides to accompany books like A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or the heartwarming play (yes, plays count as literature): Uncle Vanya. Here is a post to help.

The Hobbit Literature Study Guide
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Another topic for a mix and match Literature year would be allegory.

Homeschool high schoolers are old enough to really be able to explore and understand a good, classic allegorical story. Here is a post with ideas for reading allegory:

Tall Tales!

So many modern teens have never read a tall tale. They don’t know who Paul Bunyan, Pecos Bill or Calamity Jane are! They are missing an important piece of our American identity! Here’s a post to help with Tall Tales.


JRR Tolkien and his buddy, CS Lewis introduced 20th century readers to the old-fashioned myth-fantasy novel and opened the door for that endlessly popular genre today. Book series like Harry Potter or Enders Game owe their gratitude to the work that these authors did several decades earlier. The Hobbit was the first of all. Homeschool high school students should really try to have a high-school level reading of it. Here’s a post that explains why:

Character development

If you are choosing a mix-and-match approach, you might want to choose several inspirational books that can be used for character development. A good study guide helps in that, especially if the guide is NOT preachy or full of busywork, like the Literature Study Guides. Your teens will find inspiration in books like The Hiding Place and Mother Teresa’s biography: Something Beautiful for God, Brother Andrew’s biography:God’s Smuggler  and Chuck Colson’s autobiography: Born Again.

Another kind of book that should be considered is what we call “Classics”, which generally means “anything old”.

Sometimes teens shiver when you ask them to read anything written before the year 2000, but books that have endured for decades or centuries or even thousands of years (like the Bible, per se… or myths like Epic of Gilgamesh) are well worth reading because they give glimpses into enduring themes, ancient cultures and great characters with their adventures. Here’s a post from philosopher (and homeschool graduate), Dr. Micah Tillman on the importance of reading old books.

When reading older books, it is important to have a good study guide. Some of our homeschool high schoolers’ favorites have been Epic of Gilgamesh and 7Sisters’ user-friendly guide to Republic of Plato.

Of course, there should be some absolutely fun books.

In my opinion, everyone should read one of PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster books. Teens are old enough to get a kick out of these zany adventures of an English gentleman in the 1920s and his valet. Try Right Ho, Jeeves! 

Approach #3: Cover one big topic per year using “boxed” Literature Study Guides with real books.
Here are some of the favorite topics of our teens in courses vetted by hundred of homeschool high schoolers over the years:

Great Christian Writers: A Full-Year High School Literature Course.
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Great Christian Writers

This is a balanced course with historic books and modern authors, short books and more challenging books. The most important thing about Great Christian Writers is the high level of inspiration in this full-year course.

C.S. Lewis Studies

Put together a program of your choice with the Chronicles of Narnia, Screwtape Letters and the Space Trilogy. Life-impacting reading and guides.

World Literature

We live in such an interconnected world these days. It is good for teens to understand other cultures and peoples. That’s one reason why it is good for homeschool high schoolers to have a solid but no-busywork World Literature course. Here is a post that explains how to use 7Sisters’ popular World Literature full-year course to build an inspiring Language Arts credit.

British Literature.

Many homeschooling families don’t consider high school to be complete unless their teens have earned a credit in British Literature. (We 7Sisters agree…although we do know that there’s not ONE right way to homeschool high school!) There are endless choices of books to read, of course, but if you choose 7Sisters’ British Literature full-year course your teens will experience a variety of genres, interesting reads and don’t-kill-the-book study guides that they will enjoy. (We skipped the books that suck the life out of a reader’s soul by being too depressing.) Here’s a post on making British Literature interesting.

American Literature

Of course, teens need a year of American Literature. There’s so much to choose from, so 7Sisters has chosen a variety of accessible, inspirational books that are musts in understanding the American experience. This is an excellent way to give your homeschool high schoolers a solid American Literature experience.

Online courses

Your teen can take Literature courses online- either self-paced (asynchronous) or live. 7Sisters offers a self-paced, one-semester course on Shakespeare that makes studying Shakespeare fun- really!

American Literature High School
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If you choose the topic-centered Literature approach, how does a homeschool mom know which Literature to teach when?

You’ve heard this answer before: It depends. Really, there’s not ONE right way to teach Literature and there’s not ONE right order to teach Literature in.

That’s really helpful because you can:

  • Pick an order that fits your teens’ interests. Ask them. Say: Here’s a list of topics, which Literature topics would you like to cover during high school? Which year would you like to cover them? OR
  • You can let all the teens work on them together. High school Literature topics can be covered in multi-grades at once. This makes Literature a fun topic to do together as a family or at homeschool high school co-op.

That said, it is nice to know what other homeschooling high school families have done. Here’s a post that explains a “course of study” for high school Literature.

That’s all well and good, but how many books should a homeschool high schooler read each year?

The answer is: It depends! It depends on age, grade, abilities, goals and interests. Here’s a post that goes into detail on how to decide the number of books a teen should read each year.

One way to handle Literature in homeschool high school is to teach it in co-op

Homeschool high school co-ops are an excellent way to handle Literature. If you’ve never had the joy of inspiring teens to enjoy Literature and ideas and themes from Literature, you are in for a treat. Not feeling confident? 7Sister Sabrina will coach you through some tried and true basics in this post:

Literature discussions in homeschool co-op

If you use Literature Study Guides, even an non-literature-expert mom can handle a lovely classroom discussion. However, it’s nice to have a basic set of questions that teens can come to expect during Literature discussions. Here is a post with 10 terrific questions for literature discussion in homeschool co-ops.

Using study guides

If you want to cover a literature topic and use a literature study guide program, here are some posts on how to use our literature guides in homeschool high school co-ops.

What literature topics can be covered?

What literature subjects can you cover in homeschool co-ops? There’s no end to it. If there’s a genre of literature that your teens are interested in, dive in!

Need some fun ideas for American Literature activities for your co-op? Lots of fun with this post.

American Poetry Reading and Writing
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Want to teach British Literature in your homeschool high school co-op?

That is a great idea! There is so much to discuss and so many ways to enrich the discussion with video clips. Here is a post with a week-to-week breakdown of one way we 7Sisters have taught Brit Lit in our high school co-op.

Poetry is a marvelous Literature genre to teach in co-op.

Teens often feel intimidated until you have some silly fun with it together in the group. Here is a post on how to have fun with American Poetry in homeschool co-op.

When you are starting out and you have some teens who are intimidated by the idea of an in-depth study of literature, go easy on them.

Give them concepts in a fun, accessible format: movies! Here are some posts on using movies to teach literature concepts:

One of my homeschool high schoolers favorite co-op classes was our year with the writings of CS Lewis.

They loved discussing the symbolic and philosophic ideas in the books- especially the delightful ways Lewis put very grownup ideas into the Narnia stories. We couldn’t have done that without good Literature study guides, which is why 7Sisters produced them. Here is a post chock-full of ideas for covering Narnia in co-op.

World Literature Full-Year Course
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Another great course for homeschool co-ops is Great Christian Writers. It is so delightful to discuss light theology, service and sacrifice in a group setting. Teens are at the perfect age to imaginatively climb into Joni’s chair, smuggle Bibles with Brother Andrew or practice the presence of God with Brother Lawrence. Here is a post on how to make the most of 7Sisters’ Great Christian Writers full-year course in homeschool high school co-op.

Want some homeschool mom training for teaching literature?

7Sister Sabrina has done a lovely workshop to equip moms to teach Literature more confidently (and enjoyably, which is the 7Sisters’ philosophy). Each of the 4 sections of this training covers a different aspect of teaching Literature and cover it in a simple, understandable way that you can actually use. The whole 15-page document costs only a couple of dollars, so is well worth the investment.

Teaching Literature Workshop Document

Hopefully you are feeling empowered now to handle Literature with your homeschooling high schoolers. Whether your teens prefer to learn on their own or in a group setting, Literature can be fun for anyone when presented in a don’t-kill-the-book manner. Keep 7Sisters’ Literature study guides on hand to help with that. Contact us if you need coaching or have questions! Your teens are going to be successful Literature learners and gain some tools for successful adulthood, too.

If you’d like more ideas for homeschooling high school, you’ll enjoy this post: An Authoritative Guide to Homeschooling High School.

We have a great post on Inspiring Biographies for Literature Class and Personal Growth. 

Follow our Pinterest board Literature for Homeschool High School.

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An Authoritative Guide to Literature for Homeschool High School

Vicki Tillman

Blogger, curriculum developer at, counselor, life and career coach, SYMBIS guide, speaker, prayer person. 20+year veteran homeschool mom.

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