|Copyright 2005 Julie Shepherd Knapp
The Homeschool Diner's Guide to
How Do I Know What to Teach and When?
by Julie Shepherd Knapp, copyright 2006
Guidelines for Grade-Level Content and Standard Scope and Sequence
Many parents seem to believe that there is a nation-wide curriculum -- that the schools in, say,
Philadelphia are teaching the same things to 4th graders as the schools in Santa Fe... but it just isn't
true. Even with the growing adoption of the (hotly debated) Common Core curriculum, there is a lot of
variation between school districts, even in the same state!
There is some national consistency in the grade levels at which particular skills are taught, which aligns
to topics covered in standardized testing, but the overall "scope and sequence" (what is taught, when,
and how) varies quite a lot.
That said, it seems unnecessary for homeschoolers to be overly concerned with what their particular
local schools are teaching, and whether or not they have covered the same ground. There are,
however, some cases where homeschoolers do need to keep tabs on the content of each grade level.
Families who are homeschooling temporarily, with the intent of putting their child back in school for the
next school year, will be concerned that their child hasn't "missed" something while away from school.
In this case, it might be a good idea for the family to enroll in a school-at-home program, maybe even
one that offers the option of enrolling in a public charter school.
In some states, homeschoolers are required to test their children and submit their standardized test
scores to their school districts, and, in a few states, homeschoolers must score above a certain
percentile. These parents will want to be sure that their children have learned a majority of the things
that will be on the test.
A common way to prepare for tests like the "Iowa's" (ITBS) and the "California" (CAT) is to use
standardized test review and prep materials that are designed with the ITBS and CAT tests in mind.
One example is a grade-level workbook series by McGraw-Hill, called Spectrum Test Prep, available
at the large book store chains. These workbooks provide parents with an idea of how their children will
do on the tests, and also give the children some practice with test-taking -- it even has a practice sheet
for filling in circles for your name and address! Even if you don't actually take a standardized test, you
an use these workbooks for year-end review or "gap check". Spectrum also makes test prep books for
several state achievement tests... but most states exempt homeschoolers from state achievement tests.
Students may prepare for the SAT and ACT tests using similar workbooks found at local book stores
and with online resources such as those at Number2.com which has free online tutorials and practice
sessions. Tutoring services, such as Sylvan Learning Centers, also offer SAT and ACT prep courses
for a fee.
Other than the two situations described above, most homeschool families either rely on their packaged
curriculum for what to teach next, or build on a natural progression of skills, moving on as their children
achieve mastery in each topic. As for content -- that is entirely up to each homeschool family. For
example, some children love the Middle Ages and study about knights and castles in 1st grade. Other
children have more interest in, say, ancient Egypt, or World War II. Homeschooling allows these
children to follow their passions, rather than be tied to only what is taught in the public school social
If you are still curious as to what they are learning in the big brick school down the street... here are
some resources that suggest what be taught at each grade level and present some generalizations
about what is taught by public schools.
The Core Knowledge Series by E.D.Hirsch, Jr. - a curricular scope and sequence which provides a
clear outline of content to be learned grade by grade, based on the series of books entitled "What
Your -th Grader Needs to Know", emphasizes a sequential building of knowledge, avoids topic
repetitions, can be used as a general guideline for learning that homeschool parents can supplement
with other materials
Ruth Beechick - in her book "You CAN Teach Your Child Successfully" educator Ruth Beechick
describes her approach to a Christian-focused, literature-based, eclectic style of homeschooling that
encourages unit studies and pulling together curriculum from the library. She also wrote the "Three
"R's" Series" for teaching K - 3rd at home. Her books include when to teach various topics within the
general subject areas.
The WorldBook Typical Course of Study - (K - 12) a website that presents a summary of US
Standard Scope and Sequence (what topics public schools cover in each grade level)
Check the website for your local school district. Often the grade level content will be discussed
there. Your state education website will probably also have content guidelines published on their
website. Here is an example school district in Minnesota, the Edina Public School District, that has
a wonderfully clear summary of their K - 12 grade level content.
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|People learn something every day,
and a lot of times it's that
what they learned the day before
-- Bill Vaughan