Fall 2018 / by Ivey Deitz

How does a homeschool parent know what to teach and when to teach it? What do children need to learn to prepare them for their future? What resources are available to make sure your homeschool is on track as your children progress through middle and high school?

A parent can feel clueless as their children advance in their school years. They may worry about whether they should cover a certain topic to prepare the child for what lies ahead. For example, should your homeschool do only the basics: reading, writing, and arithmetic? Is learning cursive important? How much should be done each year with history or science? What do I do about foreign languages? Feeling comfortable with children in the younger years is more common, but time can seem to fly by, and high school, and eventually college and careers, are right around the corner. Do you stick with what you what you have been doing, then figure out down the road that there is an entire subject that you should have been learning all along?

Questions about scope and sequence were recently asked on one of the Facebook homeschool groups I follow. I chimed in, along with a few other veteran homeschool moms from the Hickory area. The responses below were compiled, in no particular order, from the site and show the advice of different individuals.

  • Base your high school classes on the North Carolina graduation requirements. Do not be too strict but use the requirements as a guide. For example, one of the four needed English classes could be focused on an interest of your child—such as sports, space, and science fiction. Not all literature has to be classical. In math, if the child is planning to go to a four-year university, you may want to teach the higher levels. But if a child is planning to go to a community college or directly into the workforce, subjects like consumer math, business math, or stewardship might fit. You can have a basic list of what you need to accomplish each year of school but be flexible with each child and base their education on who they are and their plans for the future. You have to be a student of your child to help them look at the second part—whom they hope to become. Watch them, pay attention to what they like, even if you think it is not something they can use later in life, like still building with Legos in high school. Maybe that says the child will be an engineer! Follow their cues and tailor their classes to their interests to help get them to get where they need to be. And relax. You will not make a mistake, really!
  • Adjustments can be made down the road. Your students are not stuck in one place, to one plan, and their lives are not ruined if you do not give them a certain class in high school or have them take a certain college-bound test. They can do it later if they need it—when they need it. If they want something, they will do it when they want it. Sometimes, we have to back off and let them take the long road.
  • When you have a middle schooler, prayerfully assess his strengths and weaknesses, compare them to the North Carolina graduation requirements, talk with him directly, and come up with a plan. There are strength-finder type tests available to use if you need assistance.
  • There will always be gaps—and hindsight is 20/20! Teach your children how to learn— teach them character/morals/faith and equip them with the vision of the future that they The results will be amazing.
  • Putting together curriculum from several different sources and changing curriculum yearly can be difficult. Follow through with one company. You can start out by teaching your children yourself, but if you hit a wall in a subject, then you can move to the company’s online curriculum and become an assistant to your child’s learning. This move will keep you on track for all K-12 and avoid some gaps. This strategy works well with one student. If you are teaching multiple children, you can use this method to teach more independent learning, helping more with the younger children, and leaving the heavy lifting for the older, and keep to the same boxed sets. A benefit of using this method is to have the curriculum purchased for the first, and not having to get anything more for the younger children except some workbooks.
  • Trying to stick with one curriculum may be difficult, since each child may learn very differently. Some homeschoolers may not have issues with putting curricula together and finding what works best for their family. To do this, use a list of suggested classes from books discussing what to learn when, or the North Carolina graduation requirements. Look for a scope and sequence list online to follow.
  • Get a catalog that sells homeschool curriculum—one that is listed by grade levels. Follow that as you are putting together classes for the coming year. Easy!
  • Check out NCHE’s curriculum page at https://www.nche.com/helps/curriculum/ and use it as a guide.
  • Read articles on homeschool scope and sequences, then make a skeleton framework based on them. Pull ideas together from various sources. Yes, there will be gaps, but there are gaps in everyone’s education, even public and private schoolers.
  • Look at packaged grade-level curriculum sets for inspiration. You do not have to use them exclusively but take the aspects you like and create a plan.
  • Keep the basics in mind: reading, writing (including grammar/spelling) and arithmetic, plus history and science. It helps to stick with the same curriculum for certain subjects, like math, or ones that you do not feel confident teaching. You may not want to do a boxed set for every subject but having the continuity with some subjects helps to avoid gaps. You can make adjustments over the years to any curriculum to make it fit your child and their strengths/weaknesses, so do not throw the baby out with the bathwater when you hit a wall with what you are using. As for other subjects, pick what works for you as a teacher, as well as what your child needs. There are no mistakes. You will not mess up your child, because who else loves them more than you and are working to see the best for them?
  • A foreign language may not be necessary if your students are not attending a four-year university. If they are, you may want to do a couple of years in high school. However, if that is not your child’s bent, put it off and they can usually take what they have not had in their first year at the university. If they do have a knack for languages, start early. With other subjects, like history, start at the beginning and work through to current events. In some cases, this can take all twelve years of school, and topics can still be missed. There is too much that has gone on in the world to think you will ever cover it all in the few short years we have as homeschool parents. Keep to the basics.

To sum things up, every homeschool family is different. Each child will get a different education, even within the same family. There will always be gaps. Take a general list of subjects for each year; you can find a list in a lot of places. Then, pick the curriculum/teaching style that is best for you and your children and go for it. You will not make a mistake! You will not ruin your children or their future!


Ivey Deitz, wife of thirty-one years to husband, Doug, is retired after being a homeschool mama for fourteen years to two godly young men, Jesse and Matthew. She is the current GREENHOUSE editor. Ivey helped start the NCHE conference mentor program, organized local homeschool conferences, sat on the board of several local support groups, as well as being an NCHE regional director, and continues to assist homeschoolers in her local area.