Deciding Your Curriculum
Your schooling style and philosophy will decide the curriculum you choose. Marketed curriculum will stress the scope and sequence based upon whatever the publishing company's or writer's educational philosophy is.
For a discussion of educational philosophies, please see our section Deciding What to Teach.
Traditional Style Curriculum
Generally, if you are following a more traditional curriculum from publishers like Bob Jones or Abeka or Alpha Omega, you will cover what is generally considered standard for any given grade just by following their grade-level subject suggestions in their curriculum catalogs. Keep in mind that these companies cater largely to private schools which generally have a stronger and faster scope--subject coverage--than most public schools--Abeka is scoped about 2 years faster, Bob Jones about 6 months to 1 year faster, and Alpha Omega generally meets or exceeds the average public school scoping pace.
Just looking online at these companies' curriculum suggestions and their curriculum scope and sequence for each subject at each grade level will give you a good feel for what is pretty traditional fair for each grade. You can also download or purchase their curriculum scopes which list in detail what each subject covers in each grade which is one way to decide what to do when if you are a more eclectic homeschooler--not rigidly following any one publisher's total curriculum scope but rather picking and choosing from various publishers--many homeschoolers like to pick and choose according to their family's vision and needs, especially as they gain more experience.
Links to traditional publishers and programs can be found in our Curriculum Publishers Section either listed individually or within Exodus Provisions bookstore.
Classical Style Curriculum
Classical homeschoolers generally follow the suggested scope and pacing presented in books such as the "Well Trained Mind" by Susan Wise Bauer. Well Trained Mind also offers a website with supports and resources to use the material.
The Charlotte Mason approach shares the classical philosophy that "education is learning to learn" but desires to be more child friendly. For discussion of the Charlotte Mason approach, go to Ambleside Online or SimplyCharlotteMason's site. Commonly the Charlotte Mason 6-volume series or Susan Schaeffer Macaulay's updated "For the Children's Sake" is used for scoping with the Charlotte Mason approach. We personally found Karen Andreola's "Charlotte Mason Companion" to be a useful and gentle introduction.
Many classical programs are scoped very strongly and geared to a more private/prep school audience with strong emphasis on classical literature, languages, and critical thinking skills. See Veritas Press Publishers, Greenleaf, and Tapestry of Grace for classical type publishers.
Links to classical publishers and programs can be found in our Curriculum Publishers Section
Unit Study Curriculum
There are several companies who produce Unit Studies that integrate literature, writing composition, history and science into one cohesive thread (math and phonics are taught separately).
Konos and the Weaver Company are well known for producing unit studies. Tapestry of Grace also uses a Unit Study approach, with a classical flavor.
Several companies integrate only history, literature and writing composition but do not cover science, math, and grammar. Beautiful Feet and Notgrass History are examples of those types of programs.
Links to unit study publishers and programs can be found in our Curriculum Publishers Section
Delight Directed, Unschooling, and Eclectic Styles
If you prefer to launch off your child's "delight directed" interests using "living books" (literature style biographies and fact books), encylopedias, and reference guides, or do not wish to be locked into one publishers traditional or classical scope, there are some guides available to help you set some overall academic goals as you chart your own courses.
Robin Scarlata's book "What Your Child Needs to Know When, An Evaluation Check List for Grades K-8" and E. D. Hirsch's series "What Your ## Grade Child Should Know (insert whatever grade #) are tools which give a good overview of common expectations at each grade level from kindergarten through 8th.
Scarlata would follow a strong but pretty traditional path, E. D. Hirsch's books follow what would be considered a more aggressive "prep" school or classical path.
You could also simply google "scope and sequence" and follow some school district's or private school's suggestions as to what might be a reasonable expectation of academic coverage for each grade level.
Timberdoodle, New Leaf Press and Master Books, Beautiful Feet, Greenleaf, and others as listed in our Curriculum Publishers Section provide a number of high quality resource books, activity themed curriculum, and kits for the Christian homeschool.
Our Pointers for Choosing Curriculum
If you are just starting your schooling path with young children, focus on the basics first (reading, writing, and arithmetic). It doesn't take a lot of day or curriculum to do that. Short, sweet, consistent...and make a point to add in some fun!
A good curriculum choice will give a sense of enjoyment and regular accomplishment toward your goals for both parent and child. Therefore, simpler is often best. Ruth Beechik says in her books "All curriculum works, if the teacher does." We would add to that--use your commonsense to work smart! Overly complicated or labor intensive programs usually end up being discarded. Yes, all learning and teaching takes work--but you and your child should not be exhausted by it.
Take time before purchasing any curriculum to see if it makes sense to you and is reasonably easy to implement for the family. If you don't feel comfortable with it in a reasonably short amount of time, it's probably not the curriculum for you no matter how awesome other families find it. If it is a curriculum in which the publisher states you need to spend a substantial amount of time to learn how to use it, make sure there is an excellent refund policy. However, we tended to shy away from that type of curriculum because it was usually unnecessarily complicated or poorly organized.
Amazingly, much of teaching and learning is being diligent to do what is next. Really. (If in doubt, read Ruth Beechik's books again). Creativity is fun, intense study can be exhilarating, but it is consistency that carries the days. Choose curriculum that you can be consistent with. After that, you can add things to spice it up or stretch your topics as needed.
Observe your child closely for connection with the curriculum. Children engage when they are learning. They give lots of clues when they are processing information and storing it in their brain cells. Does your child bubble along at the task or exhibit an intense resolve? If so, you can be assured the curriculum has "clicked" with them.
Watch how your child interacts with their world to see their learning style.
Kinesthetic/Hands-on learners will want to investigate with their hands and body movement. They'll want to become part of what they are learning.
Visual learners will want to see what you are teaching them, draw it, read it over your shoulder. They may even close their eyes to visualize what you have just read when asked a question about it.
Auditory learners will repeat it to themselves, sing it, talk out the problem to you. They will restate to you what they've learned in numerous different ways.
Learn to read your child's body language. You will gain insight to your child's learning style which will help you choose appropriate curriculum or adapt any curriculum to your child's learning needs.
All Rights Reserved
(Permission is given to print for personal use or link to this article if credit is given to Tammy R. Arp at the CHOC Board and our website address is shown.)