Online High School Curriculum | Penn Foster High School

Online High School Curriculum

Curriculum Details

Our online high school curriculum consists of 16.5 core credits and 5 elective credits for a total of 21.5 credits. The core curriculum consists of 4 English credits, 3 math credits, 3 social studies credits, 3 science credits, 2.5 arts and humanities credits, and 1 health and physical education credit.

At the start of most of your high school courses, we offer a quick video to introduce the course and the material you will be learning. Here is a preview of the welcome videos for Basic English and Math:

Curriculum Details

Program Goal and Outcomes

Program Goal

Students will be able to demonstrate they possess the necessary knowledge and skills to enter the workforce or to continue their education at a college.

Program Outcomes

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate 21st century skills such as the ability to use technology to complete learning tasks and to communicate effectively
  • Use critical thinking and reasoning skills to complete learning tasks in English Language Arts courses
  • Use declarative knowledge and demonstrate understanding to complete learning tasks in English Language Art courses
  • Use critical thinking and reasoning skills to complete learning tasks in science courses
  • Use declarative knowledge and demonstrate understanding to complete learning tasks in science courses
  • Use critical thinking and reasoning skills to complete learning tasks in math courses
  • Use declarative knowledge and demonstrate understanding to complete learning tasks in math courses
  • Use critical thinking and reasoning skills to complete learning tasks in social studies courses
  • Use declarative knowledge and demonstrate understanding to complete learning tasks in social studies courses
  • Apply fundamental mathematical skills to solve real world problems
  • Utilize writing skills to complete writing assessments
  • Demonstrate the ability to complete entry level lessons from Penn Foster career modules, academic level electives, or general level electives


Orientation .5 credit

In this course you’ll develop the necessary skills to ensure your success in the program. This course also teaches you how to stay successful, ensuring you complete your studies and start preparing for a successful career.


  • Understand how to use your Student Portal.
  • Access the Penn Foster Community and use it to find answers.
  • Connect with Penn Foster on various social media sites.
  • Examine methods that will allow you to obtain greater financial independence
  • Describe how to build stronger personal and professional relationships
  • Identify career options and career resources
  • Effectively use a computer and critical computer programs


Human Relations 1 credit

This course will enhance your interpersonal skills and lead to success in your future career or post-secondary schooling. 


  • Describe how to build and maintain positive relationships.
  • Explain how a positive attitude affects human relations.
  • Discuss how to work with supervisors.
  • Explain the productivity equation.
  • Describe the relationship between frustration and aggression.
  • Describe how to avoid being late or absent.
  • Discuss how to identify and repair injured relationships.
Reading Skills 1 credit

This course will improve your reading skills so you can interpret and thoroughly understand the written word.


  • Scan written passages to locate information.
  • Use context clues to determine the meanings of words.
  • Correctly use words that have multiple meanings.
  • Identify the topic and supporting details in a paragraph.
  • Identify and explain the various ways in which paragraphs are organized: with examples, with explanations, by cause and effect, and in chronological order.
  • Apply the following reading skills: making inferences, separating fact from opinion, detecting bias, and drawing conclusions.
  • Describe how imagery is used in poetry.
  • Define and identify similes and metaphors.
  • Define and explain the elements of fiction: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and theme.


Basic English 1 credit

This course will help you improve your English skills so you can effectively communicate in your personal life, in the remainder of your studies, and in your career.  


  • Describe the four steps in the writing process.
  • Define, describe, and provide examples of the different parts of speech.
  • Identify the principal parts of verbs and verb tenses for both regular and irregular verbs.
  • Discuss the difference between an adjective and an adverb.
  • Identify prepositional phrases and the objects of prepositions.
  • Explain the difference between coordinating, correlative, and subordinating conjunctions.
  • Explain the main components of complete sentences.
  • Identify and correct sentence fragments and run-on sentences.
  • Provide agreement between subjects and verbs.
  • Explain the proper use of the different parts of speech.
Practical English 1 credit

This course will enhance your language skills by expanding your vocabulary, mastering word usage, and strengthening your writing.


  • Explain why language is important and describe how communication skills can affect your life.
  • Explain how the eight parts of speech are organized to communicate meaning in phrases, clauses, and sentences.
  • Apply your language skills in conversation, vocabulary, word choice, spelling, pronunciation, and writing.
  • Use modifiers, prepositional phrases, and conjunctions correctly.
  • Correctly use apostrophes, hyphens, and periods.
  • Recognize and use the various elements of sentence structure.
  • Correct common writing mistakes.
  • Write sentences that have effective beginnings, concise wording, parallel structure, and active voice.
  • Create a unified, coherent composition with an introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Write effective, appropriate, business letters, friendly letters, courtesy letters, formal invitations, a letter of application for a job, and a resume with a cover letter.
Written Communication 1 credit

This course will refresh your understanding of the basic parts of speech and will focus on the importance of organizing your time effectively to create a document from the first draft stage to the final draft stage. 


  • Recognize and use both formal and informal English for letter writing.
  • Begin to write an essay.
  • Organize your writing time effectively.
  • Plan a writing project from beginning to end.
  • Locate books using the card catalog and on-line catalog at the library.
  • Use your own experience, that of others, and library research to provide material for writing projects.
  • Organize your ideas effectively in an outline.
  • Write your ideas in detail, following a logical order and sticking to your subject.
  • Express your thoughts and feelings more easily, more accurately.
Literature 1 credit

This course will allow you to experience literature actively and become involved both intellectually and emotionally. 


  • Read more effectively—for both knowledge and enjoyment.
  • Use new vocabulary to discuss, write about, and understand literature.
  • Explain the characteristics of the different genres, including the short story, novel, poetry, drama, nonfiction, and essay.
  • Discuss works by writers such as Shakespeare, Fitzgerald, London, Twain, and Thoreau.
  • Analyze novels, short stories, poems, dramas, and other types of writing.
  • Understand and explain the objectives and accomplishments of the various writers.
  • Seek, find, and enjoy many additional examples of fine writing.
  • Identify various literary figures.

Additional Course Material:

  • Great American Short Stories
  • The Call of the Wild
  • Great Short Poems
  • Songs for the Open Road: Poems of Travel & Adventure
  • Civil Disobedience and Other Essays
  • Great Speeches by Native Americans
  • Narrative of Sojourner Truth
  • A Midsummer Night's Dream


General Math 1 1 credit

This course will provide a solid foundation so you are able to successfully use mathematics in your course, life, and career. 


  • Name the four mathematical operations that can be done with whole numbers.
  • Solve word problems involving a combination of mathematical operations.
  • Convert fractions and mixed numbers successfully.
  • Find the least common denominator of unlike fractions.
  • Perform mathematical operations with fractions, mixed numbers, decimals, and percents.
  • Define various mathematical terms such as decimal, mixed decimal, repeating decimal, and circulating decimal, proportion, and percent.
  • Identify the units of measurement used in both the English and metric systems.
  • Measure length, liquid and dry volume, capacity, and weight in the English and metric systems.
  • Convert one type of measurement to another.
Consumer Math 1 credit

This course will allow you to apply your math knowledge to areas of your everyday life. 


  • Estimate results quickly.
  • Accurately figure the amount of money involved when discounts are stated in percents.
  • Make smart consumer decisions.
  • Calculate yearly interest rates.
  • Understand the importance of a budget and how to prepare one.
  • List the factors to consider before buying a new or used car.
  • Discuss the options available regarding your personal insurance.
  • Determine when you’ve saved enough money to start investing.
  • Explain the difference between common stock and preferred stock.
  • Explain why it’s important for you to plan for your retirement.
General Math 2 1 credit

This course will review the four mathematical operations so you are able to use them at an advanced level. 


  • Use the rules of the order of operations to solve multistep problems.
  • Solve word problems using equations.
  • Use the four basic operations with positive and negative numbers.
  • Give examples of monomials and polynomials.
  • Simplify polynomials by combining like monomials.
  • Simplify and solve one-step and multistep equations.
  • Identify and name various components of geometry.
  • Identify different types of quadrilaterals and triangles.
  • Calculate the area of squares, rectangles, triangles, and circles using appropriate formulas.
  • Apply the Pythagorean theorem to find the length of a missing side in a right triangle.
  • Compute the volume of cubes, cylinders, and rectangular solids using the correct formulas.
  • Solve equations using the principles of geometry.


Earth Science 1 credit

This course covers a large number of topics that are concentrated into four main areas of study: geology, oceanography, meteorology, and astronomy. 


  • Define Earth science and explain how it relates to the sciences of geology, meteorology, oceanography, and astronomy.
  • Describe specific characteristics of Earth, such as its shape, size, and subdivisions.
  • Differentiate between igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic rocks.
  • Explain the difference between renewable and nonrenewable resources.
  • Define earthquake and explain how earthquakes are measured and predicted.
  • Identify the various types of volcanoes and explain where they form.
  • Define climate and explain the characteristics of the different climate zones.
  • Explain the movement of the planets in the solar system.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Earth Science: Geology, the Environment, and the Universe

Biology 1 credit

In this course you’ll gain insight into the origin of life, the relationships among all living organisms, and discover how your own body works.


  • Describe the characteristics of living things.
  • Discuss the basic principles of genetics.
  • Describe the structure and function of DNA and RNA.
  • Identify the components and functions of major human organ systems.
  • Explain the factors that influence population growth.
  • Describe how communities are organized and how they develop.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Miller & Levine Biology

Physical Science 1 credit

This course covers a variety of topics in modern science that affect everyday life, from energy and heat to sound and electricity.


  • Calculate velocity, acceleration, energy, and power.
  • Apply the rules of light refraction, heat transmission, and Newton’s laws of motion.
  • Identify properties of gases and solids.
  • Explain the difference between the terms temperature and heat.
  • Calculate the amount of heat energy lost or gained by a body.
  • Describe how heat energy is used in internal-combustion engines, jet engines, and rockets.
  • Determine amplitude, frequency, period, and velocity of sound waves.
  • Compare the sounds produced by various musical Instruments.
  • Analyze formulas of elements and compounds.
  • Balance chemical formulas.
  • Calculate molecular mass.
  • Explain colors as the effect of wave characterization of light.
  • Explain the effects of static electricity, light reflection, and magnetic fields.
  • Recognize characteristics of insulators and conductors.
  • Analyze a basic electric circuit.

Social Studies

American History 1 credit

This course covers all aspects of American History from the 18th century to the present day.


  • Describe and discuss social and political influences that led to popular revolt and the onset of the American Revolution.
  • Describe the era of American westward expansion.
  • Outline key events of the Civil War and discuss its long-term effects on American society.
  • Describe and discuss the rise of industrialism and the increase in American urbanization after the Civil War.
  • Describe the Progressive Era of the early twentieth century.
  • Discuss America’s role in World War I.
  • Explain the nature and likely causes of the global Great Depression and describe Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s efforts to address the Depression through the New Deal.
  • Describe the turbulent period of the Cold War, including the Korean War, the civil rights movement, assassinations of prominent political figures, and the divisions related to the Vietnam War.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: United States History

Civics 1 credit

This course covers what the basic purposes of government are and how modern governments differ from one another. 


  • Describe the different types of government and give examples of each.
  • Summarize the process used to ratify the Constitution.
  • Describe the three main parts of the Constitution and explain what each part includes.
  • Describe the process for amending the Constitution.
  • Describe the powers and responsibilities of the three branches of the federal government.
  • Outline the process by which laws are made.
  • Summarize some of the landmark cases handled by the Supreme Court.
  • Briefly describe the ways in which state and local governments operate.
  • Explain the rights and responsibilities of citizens in a democratic nation.
  • Summarize the process for electing a president of the United States.
World Geography 1 credit

This course details the essentials of geography. Topics include the physical, human, and economic geography of Europe, Russia, and neighboring regions; East Asia and Southeast Asia; South Asia, Northern Africa, and Southwest Africa; Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia, Oceania, and Antarctica; and Latin America and North America.


  • Explain basic terms used in the study of global geography and describe the differences between physical geography and human geography and the nature of geographic regions.
  • Discuss basic concerns of geographers, such as climate and environment, cultural influences, and population demographics.
  • Use maps as basic tools for the study of geography.
  • Discuss the national, ethnic, and linguistic regions of Europe and outline European material and cultural influences around the globe.
  • Discuss the physical and human geographic features of Russia as it exists today in relationship to the wide variety of ethnic regions and nations that were part of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics prior to 1991.
  • Describe the physical and human geography of East Asia, including Mongolia, China, North and South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan.
  • Describe the physical and human geography of Southeast Asia, taking into account the extent to which ethnic and cultural differences differ across the continental and island regions of this part of the globe.
  • Discuss and describe the physical and human geography of Latin America, including Mexico, Central America, the Andean states extending from Venezuela to Chile, Brazil in relationship to the Amazon basin, and the southern states that include Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina.
  • Discuss the physical and human geography of sub-Saharan Africa, describing, in general terms, the variety of nation states in this region that gained independence from European colonial domination following the end of World War II.
  • Describe and discuss the physical and human geography of Southwestern Asia, also thought of as the Near and Middle East.
  • Discuss and describe the physical and human geography of North America, distinguishing regional and cultural differences across the wide expanses of Canada and the United States.

Additional Course Material:
Textbook: Essentials of World Regional Geography

Health & Physical Education

Fitness and Nutrition 1 credit

In this course you’ll learn the key components of nutrition, cardiorespiratory exercise, safety issues, and stress management techniques.  


  • Explain the relationship between calories and energy.
  • Explain how carbohydrates, fats, and proteins fit into a healthy eating plan.
  • Select healthy ingredients and preparation methods.
  • Analyze food labels, recipes, and menus for total calories, fat, protein, carbohydrate, sodium, and fiber content.
  • List the advantages of cardiorespiratory fitness.
  • Recognize symptoms of common injuries and identify how to prevent them.
  • Explain the different types of stress and how they impact the body.
  • Recognize physical and psychological symptoms of stress.
  • Identify stress reduction techniques and common stressors of daily life.
  • Explain how fitness benefits your physical and mental well-being.


Career Electives
  • Appliance Repair (1 credit)
    Get a head start toward a business of your own repairing home appliances. Includes details on using tools, testing electric appliances, relays, and motors.
  • Auto Repair Technician (1 credit)
    Learn about the automobile repair field, engine parts and operation, and engine types. Includes a practical exercise.
  • Basic Electronics (1 credit)
    Learn the fundamentals of electricity. You’ll study conductors, insulators, batteries, circuit analysis, Ohm’s law, and multimeter usage. Includes practical exercises, practice kits, and learning aids.
  • Bookkeeping (1 credit)
    Experts show you the basics you need to get into this moneymaking field. Learn about the accounting equation, assets, liabilities, owner’s equity, and much more.
  • Catering/Gourmet Cooking (1 credit)
    Learn how to make money in your own food catering business. Topics include an introduction to catering, the dynamics of the catering business, food styles in catering, and alcoholic beverages.
  • Child Day Care (1 credit)
    Experts explain everything step-by-step: the benefits of child day care, licensing requirements, managing staff, and details on child growth and development. Features Ages and Stages Chart and Student Observation Guide.
  • Dental Assistant (1 credit)
    Demand is on the rise around the U.S. for skilled Dental Assistants. Your Career Key elective includes information on dentistry and dental assisting, terms and anatomy, dentists and the law, and basic dental examinations. Learning aids and special supplements included with your program.
  • Desktop Publishing and Design (1 credit)
    This exciting program will introduce you to one of the fastest-growing computer career fields! Master the electronic publishing process, the elements of design, and the kinds of graphics and illustrations desktop publishers can create. E-scale/pica ruler, font guide, proportion scale, and special supplements included at no extra cost.
  • Dressmaking and Design (1 credit)
    Get an introduction to sewing and start toward a moneymaking career in dressmaking. You’ll learn basic sewing, how to select fabrics, proper care of garments, and more. Includes practical exercises and learning aids.
  • Electrician (1 credit)
    Learn how to get started as an electrician, work with electrician’s tools, and the basics of wiring in this fascinating program. Electricians make great money and demand is high in the construction and maintenance fields.
  • Floral Design (1 credit)
    Turn your love of flowers into a moneymaking business. You’ll learn the basics here—care and handling of flowers, classifying flowers and plants, and the principles of design. Your elective program includes a bow tying DVD and learning aids.
  • Home Inspector (1 credit)
    Learn some of the most important parts of the Home Inspector’s job. Discover the opportunities in this great field and how you can work part-time hours and earn full-time income. Learning aids and special supplements included.
  • Interior Decorator (1 credit)
    Be the one friends and neighbors rely on to make their homes look great. Lessons include how to meet a client’s needs, design with furniture, and more. Client/Needs Analyzer and furniture template included.
  • Medical Administrative Assistant (1 credit)
    Get a look at what it’s like to work side by side with doctors in the rewarding health-care field. Topics include learning strategies, time and stress management, interpersonal communication, and law and medical ethics. Includes supplements on speaking and communication skills.
  • Personal Computer Specialist (1 credit)
    Get a closer look at this booming field. Topics include using and understanding Windows, understanding software, and adding software to your computer.
  • Pharmacy Technician (1 credit)
    Skilled Pharmacy Technicians are in demand all around the U.S. Learn what it takes to be a professional in the field and get details on drug information sources, drug development, and drug manufacturers. Learning aids included.
  • Small Business Management (1 credit)
    Provides an introduction on how to prepare to start your own business and learn the basics of a business plan. Discusses market research and business connections.
  • Small Engine Repair (1 credit)
    Learn the basics of engine repair, including tool usage, small engine parts, operation, lubrication, cooling, and ignition systems.
  • Teacher Aide (1 credit)
    Start learning the skills you need to be a valuable member of the classroom team as a teacher aide. Topics include skills for the effective teacher aide, child development and human behavior, how children learn, and enhancing children’s self-esteem.
  • Veterinary Assistant (1 credit)
    Start learning the skills you need to become a Veterinary Assistant. Topics include introduction to animal care, animal behavior, handling and restraint, and veterinary terminology. Includes access to an audio CD, pronunciation guides, and flash cards.
Academic Electives
  • Algebra 1 (1 credit)
    A study of basic operations with signed numbers, monomials, and polynomials. Also includes formulas, equations, inequalities, graphing, exponents, roots, quadratic equations, and algebraic fractions.
  • Algebra 2; prerequisite Algebra 1 (1 credit)
    A study of algebraic functions, ratios, proportions, logarithms, variations, progressions, theorems, matrices, determinants, inequalities, permutations, and probability.
  • American Literature (1 credit)
    Includes a study of literary terms, structural elements of genres and interpreting selected works to read more effectively for both knowledge and enjoyment. Discusses what it has meant and now means to be an American as shown through each major period of American Literature. Discusses each major period of American literature.
  • Art Appreciation (1 credit)
    Note: Reproductions of paintings in the text and online supplements include nudes; these pictures may be offensive to some students. An introduction to various forms of art throughout history, from prehistoric to modern; also discusses elements of design, symbolism, and purposes of art to enable students to evaluate the meaning and quality of individual works. Learn about the most important artists of each era, as well as the cultural influences that shaped their approaches to painting, sculpture, or architecture.
  • Calculus; prerequisite Algebra 2 (1 credit)
    Explains the derivative of a function and the applications of derivatives, the integral and how to use it, and methods of integration.
  • Chemistry; prerequisite Algebra 1 (1 credit)
    A study of the structure and reactions of matter. Discusses elemental symbols, chemical reactions, and the role of energy in those reactions. Also covers organic and nuclear chemistry.
  • Geometry; prerequisite Algebra 1 (1 credit)
    A study of the properties of points, lines, planes, and angles; polygons and triangles; circles; solids.
  • Music Appreciation (1 credit)
    Note: The music text contains references to various aspects of the personal lives of composers; this material may be offensive to some readers. Covers appreciating music; roles of composer and listener; principles of music theory and instrumentation; historical periods; varying styles of music.
  • Psychology (1 credit)
    Provides an introduction to the roots and the development of modern psychology. Discusses states of consciousness, and theories of intelligence, development, and personality. Also, looks at gender roles, stress, psychological disorders, and social factors that affect people in groups.
  • Spanish (1 credit)
    Includes articulate speaking, active reading, and comprehensive listening. Covers the details of Spanish vocabulary and grammar, and improves fluency through listening to and creating stories. Enables you to learn and use the language for business situations and other purposes.
General Electives
  • Business Math (1 credit)
    A review of basic math skills and principles along with a study of various business math topics such as income, maintaining a checking account, interest, installment buying, discounts, and markups.
  • Economics (1 credit)
    Compares and contrasts the economic systems that people use in various parts of the world. Discusses the function of money, the law of supply and demand, and the role of banks and government within capitalist economies.
  • English Communications (1 credit)
    Explains how to avoid grammatical errors when writing sentences and paragraphs; how to make words work for you; and how to improve your image by using the right word in the right place.
  • General Science (1 credit)
    A look at the basic principles of the entire spectrum of the sciences, including physics, chemistry, and biology. Explores atoms and molecules, light and sound, electricity and magnetism, astronomy, the rise of life on Earth, human anatomy, and genetics.
  • Microsoft Word and Excel (no software included) (1 credit)
    Learn how to use Microsoft® Word™ 2013 to create, edit, and illustrate documents. Learn about the most widely used spreadsheet program, Microsoft® Excel.® Excel® can perform numerical calculations and is also useful for non-numerical applications such as creating charts, organizing lists, accessing data, and automating tasks.

You are required to take five credits in electives.

Computer Specifications
You will need high-speed internet access to begin your program. You will need access to a Microsoft® Windows® based computer running Windows XP® or later or an Apple® Mac® computer running OS X® or later, and an email account to complete your program with Penn Foster.

We reserve the right to change program content and materials when it becomes necessary.
Microsoft, Windows, and Windows XP are trademarks of Microsoft Corporation registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions. Apple, Mac, and OS X are trademarks of Apple, Inc registered in the United States of America and/or other jurisdictions.

Sample Lesson

To view a High School sample lesson, click here.

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