Remember, you can always design your own course. Most homeschoolers don’t pick just one type of course to meet all their needs. They may select an online course with a teacher for Algebra, a local co-op class for biology, a packaged course for English, and develop their own reading list for history.
This includes courses from providers such as Sonlight, Alpha Omega, Apologia, and KONOS. These generally include all of the teacher and student material. It can be difficult to find strictly secular curriculum. I have a list of resources for American Literature here and a list of secular science courses here. Many homeschoolers use free online courses available from colleges such as the MIT Open Courseware. Other universities such as Yale, Carnegie Mellon, and UC Berkeley have their own free courses available. Some of these will include video lectures and online text while others will simply be a copy of the syllabus. HippoCampus is a free source for a variety of topics and includes a detailed reading list, homework assignments, and online explanation. Many homeschoolers use courses from the Teaching Company to meet college requirements. There are no teacher guides or assignments to go with the courses but you can assign your own papers or use them to prepare for SAT Subject, AP, or CLEP exams.
These classes can be online or by mail. The student is responsible to an assigned teacher and receives grades from that teacher. You should be aware that “free” online programs are often charter school programs that would obligate you to follow public school rules and accountability. This is not always the case, though. For example, Florida residents can take classes at the Florida Virtual High School without cost whether the student is in public school, private school, or homeschool. Taking a class does not affect their overall status. Some of the classes are synchronous meaning that they follow a regular school calendar with specific deadlines for assignments and sometimes required attendance at chat sessions. Others are asynchronous which simply requires the student to complete the material within a certain time frame.
There are a wide variety of providers of distance classes. In Texas, Texas Tech and UT Austin provide high school classes and even diplomas through their distance education programs. Oklahoma State offers German classes through the AP level. There are programs like Oak Meadow and Keystone that provide accredited comprehensive high school degrees as well.
You can also find a growing number of private or independent online class providers. Some focus on providing courses within a specific framework such as classical, Christian, or gifted; others just focus only on one subject area such as writing or math; while others offer more non-traditional classes such as Civil War instead of US History. The quality of these classes can vary dramatically with the teacher so it’s a good idea to talk to others to identify the good instructors and which to stay away from.
Students in Texas can enroll in community college courses beginning their junior year and take classes for dual credit. This means they receive both high school and college credit for the same class. In Texas, homeschoolers can such classes online through the StateU program which is provided by Lamar University and the University of Texas at Arlington. UT Austin also allows high school students to take some of their online classes as dual credit.
However, an increasing number of colleges are only allowing students to count the classes for either high school credit or college credit but not both. Another option is early admissions for community colleges. Classes taken under this option generally don’t qualify for free or reduced tuition as is the case for many dual credit courses, but it might allow the student more flexibility in selecting courses.
Many local communities will have individuals who offer classes for homeschoolers either through a homeschooling organization or on an individual basis. This can be a great option for a parent who doesn’t want to teach a particular subject. Also, homeschoolers often form co-operatives where the parents teach different classes as part of the student’s participation.
Advanced Placement (AP) Classes are high school courses that are taught at the college level. Students taking the class should be prepared to take the AP Exam offered by the College Board. Any class that has an AP designation must be approved by the College Board. Homeschoolers can submit their own AP Course plan or can enroll in an online AP Class.
You may not want to use AP Classes for all four years of English, Social Studies, or Science since these are college level courses. These classes generally assume the student has completed the equivalent of one year of high school credit for the subject.