Khan Academy began offering free course material many years ago, and it used to be difficult to navigate through all of the options to find exactly what you need. And then it was difficult to know whether or not you had adequate coverage for a subject. Over the years, they have vastly improved their system to the point where it addresses most of its original limitations. Khan Academy can help with math and language arts for grades two through eight, but they have much more substantial content for high school. The website says, “Right now our small team is focused on our core priorities, which are to create content for core academic subject areas spanning K-12.”
You can access courses without signing in, but creating an account allows the system to track progress. When you sign on to your account, you will choose a grade level. Then you can select up to five courses under the categories Math, Science, Reading & Language Arts, and Arts and Humanities (history is in this category), as well courses from a few other categories, such as Test Prep, Computing, Life Skills, and Economics. There are usually a number of course options listed under each category at the high school level. You can easily switch courses and even add courses from another grade level.
It’s not always clear how much content there is for a course—whether it’s enough to qualify for a full course credit. Most high school math, science, and history courses appear to have content worth one credit. Some courses that are listed are still under development, and they are identified as beta courses. Beta courses might not have sufficient course content, and they might lack some course features.
The high school level has the largest number of fully developed courses. Math is covered with courses for algebra 1, algebra 2, geometry, trigonometry, and precalculus, plus AP® courses for calculus and statistics. There are also more-specialized math courses, such as a course titled High School Statistics. Under science, there are courses for biology, chemistry, and physics, AP courses for those three topics, and other courses such AP College Environmental Science. None of these are lab courses. The category for Arts and Humanities for high school lists nine courses that include both U.S. and world history, art history, and government, as well as AP courses for those subjects.
Math courses for grades two through eight are complete, and there is some math content for younger students. There are no complete language-arts courses for any grade level, but Khan Academy has English Language Arts reading & vocabulary courses in beta versions for grades two through nine. A course titled Grammar appears to be suitable for about grades seven through twelve.
The courses are often very plain in their design. The course presenters generally use a computerized whiteboard or blackboard to illustrate their voice-over presentations. A single lesson might have one or more videos or articles to read. Some courses include interactive screens, such as a sixth-grade lesson on negative numbers that tells the student to move the dot to a particular number on a number line. Every lesson has a set of practice questions. Questions are most often presented in multiple-choice format, but math courses below high school use a variety of styles for questions. (Most lessons have four questions, but I spotted a few with more.) Students can have a second or third attempt to answer a question they miss, but their score still reflects the question as missed. Some math questions have solutions available. However, students can retake a quiz entirely to replace their previous score.
The courses are set up with a certain number of mastery points (sometimes labeled as energy points) that can be earned as students answer the questions. They can also earn points from the periodic quizzes and unit tests. Students can skip around in the courses, and they can try to answer questions without watching videos. The latter is helpful when a course covers topics students have already mastered in previous courses. It looks like most of the courses offer a Course Challenge, a test to see if a student has already mastered the course’s content.
The courses are secular. Some courses are balanced to present various viewpoints. For instance, the U.S. Government and Civics course includes presentations by people with contrasting points of view on topics, such as the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion. However, science courses teach about evolution without offering contrary viewpoints.
The courses are now very easy to navigate, and they offer excellent content for free. One thing lacking is directions for the student as to how much lesson material they should complete in one day. It’s often more than one lesson. Homeschool Planet has created lesson plans to solve that problem, so you might want to consider using them.