the CHOC Board
a Christian Home School Resource Directory for the extended Portland Oregon metro area
Getting Started: Why and How
Know the Law
Deciding What to Teach
Deciding Which Curriculum
Planning Your Homeschool
Real World Solutions
Teaching the Three R's
Pitfalls to Avoid
Deciding What to Teach


Homeschool 101

 

HOW WILL I KNOW WHAT I SHOULD TEACH MY CHILD AND WHEN?


The Simple Answer -- It's up to you as long as child passes the required state tests 

The Scope and Sequence--It's not as standard as you think

The Schooling Philosophies--yours will determine your curriculum

 
 
The simple short answer to this question, academically, is that as long as your child is passing the legally required standardized tests (at 3rd, 5th, 8th and 10th) at Oregon's minimum required percentile*...
 

The parent's schooling style and philosophy, to a large degree, will determine what to teach a child and when. 

 
Obviously, the legally required standardized tests for homeschoolers will drive the progression of skills for your child to some degree; therefore, we at the CHOC Board recommend that a basic skills test of only math and reading skills, such as the California Achievement Test of Basic Skills, be taken rather than testing batteries which include other subject areas (such as science and social studies).
 
Math and Reading tend to be fairly generic subjects, but social studies and science can be subjects which are more prone to politically supported thinking. These latter subjects also have much greater variance in timing, coverage, and progression.
 
For information about where to test your homeschooled child, please go to our list of local providers for Educational Testing and Counseling.
 
If your child is struggling with learning difficulties, or has repeatedly dropped below the 15th percentile on a standardized test, please read OCEANetwork's article on Homeschooling Laws for Children With Disabilities.  It may also be beneficial to talk with an Educational Counselor who supports homeschooling as well as those versed in the needs of homeschooled children who benefit from Special Education.
 
Now the longer answer and discussion...
 
The Scope and Sequence
It's Not As Standard As You Think 
So how do you plan the overall course of your child's schooling for these 12 years?  That's called the scope and sequence in the educational trade. 
 
The State of Oregon does not mandate curriculum or subjects for homeschoolers (and it is the opinion of the CHOC Board that they should not).
 
As quoted from the Oregon Department of Education's website FAQ for homeschooling:
"Academic content standards and curriculum goals have been developed by the Department of Education and are available on the department’s website. These content standards provide a framework for all content areas and are arranged as standards for grades 3, 5, 8, and 10. The department’s website address is www.ode.state.or.us. Parents are not required to use the state content standards and may teach programs other than those taught in public school.  (emphasis added)
Isn't scope and sequence dangerous to leave to a bunch of homeschool parents--won't they all go off in different directions with their own ideas about what to teach and when?
 
Amazingly, there is a lot of variance in public school scope and sequence! 
If you were to look at different public school districts, especially those from different states, but even those within the State of Oregon, and even between schools within a single school district, you would see a marked difference in what is considered acceptable scope (coverage depth) and sequence (order).  You would also see a significant variation between what subjects are covered during the whole course of k-12. This stems from the fact that state standards are written broadly to allow for district customization. 
 
Of all the subjects, only reading, writing, and arithmetic seem to have a fairly generalized agreement to what should be covered when, which is probably why these are the favorite subjects mandated on the state required tests for the basic skills (However--many faddish public school programs even rearrange the traditionally accepted scoping in the basic skills). 
 
Other subjects come and go on the academic benchmarks and scopes as states and districts adjust and spin curriculum, test matter, and acceptable passing levels to reflect popular political agendas or to look good for the latest federal dollars. 
 
That's why the OSAT benchmark tests used in Oregon public schools are not acceptable tests for homeschoolers--they are not nationally normed. The OSAT has been isolated and internalized to reflect a prior legislature's experimental  "outcomes based" CIM and CAM certificates.  The Oregon CIM and CAM, by the way, are also not nationally normed and are thus falling out of favor with the current legislature as some colleges and states remain reluctant to recognize them insisting on more traditionally normed measurements.
 
Still confused as to what you should teach and when?  As you can see, so are a LOT of people from professional educators to legislators.  Which, to us, confirms there is a lot of flexibility in what is "appropriate" to teach and when, and that scope and sequence  is determined largely by the prevalent educational philosophy or legislative mood of the day, so why not a loving parent's prayerful discretion concerned with their child's specific needs?
 
A General Rule of Thumb--Start with the Basics and then Expand:
Kindergarten through 6th grade is getting down the basics (reading, writing, arithmetic) and exposing the child to a broad smattering of history, science, the fine arts, literature, etc.;
 
7th and 8th are somewhat transitional, often included in the elementary grades, although 8th can swing into the high school years if a child is ready; and
 
High school is re-coverage of many of the subjects taught over the lower grades only at a deeper, more analytical level, and at a much faster pace.  High school also adds those interest skills that will be developed for the child's vocation/career needs.  (For help in preparing a child for a college path, please see our page at  From Home High to College).
 
Remember to plan your child's education utilizing all of his schooling years...you will focus on different areas at different times, as God guides to continually develop your child into a well-rounded individual with unique talents.  Some areas will go faster and easier than others; some will take more work depending upon each child's abilities.
 
Many view children as growing in educational stages. Often these stages are described as the classical stages of: grammar--facts/figures; dialetic--why/how; rhetorical--analytical/persuasive-debate.  These stages are an attempt to reflect a child's maturity and capacity for more complex thinking as he grows older from grammar to dialetic to rhetorical abilities. (And we at the CHOC board have found these stages to be generally true, however, different children will mature through them at different paces.)
 
Each schooling philosophy and method stresses different content. While it is important to stress the basics first as they are foundational to learning anything else, most homeschooling parents feel a child's educational instruction should include a broader range of subject areas other than enough readin', writin' and 'rithmetic to pass the state tests.  (And we agree!)
 
How much extra and what order is reflected in a parent's schooling philosophy. Most homeschoolers teach subjects such as history, science, arts, music, foreign language, government, geography, Bible, worldview, etc.  True education focuses on developing a child's talents so that he or she may be both an intelligent citizen in our world and more importantly be well developed in thought and character for our Creator. 
 
Scope and sequence will thus stem from your educational/schooling philosophy and your child's abilities and vocational needs, And we believe that's a lot better than a political agenda!
 
See our discussion on Schooling Philosophies below for more information.
 
 
 
Most homeschoolers would fall into one of these basic schooling philosophies. Summarized from their broadest roots, four of the most common schooling philosophies are:
 
Traditional: The belief that there is a set, core base of knowledge, generally unchanging from age to age, that every child should know to be considered an educated person; School is about being taught or gaining this knowledge base. Knowledge is usually broken down into specific subjects, ie math, English, history, science, etc., and studied individually for focus. 
 
This philosophy, not surprisingly, is behind all those traditional standardized tests and why we have a textbook market (both secular and Christian).  It also was the prevailing educational philoshopy in much of America's earlier years as a nation. Noah Webster's textbooks and dictionaries provided the foundation for America's academic standards from the late 1700's and onward for over 100 years. 
 
The Traditional approach works well with a "fact and detail" oriented child who needs clear incremental steps and logical organization to their subjects.
 
The major text book publishers follow the traditional method.  These notably are Abeka, Bob Jones, Alpha Omega, and Christian Liberty Press. 
 
(Links to traditional publishers and programs can be found in our Curriculum Publishers Section either listed individually or within Exodus Provisions bookstore)
 
Progressive:  This philosophy (which became popular in the late 1800's) believes a child only needs to learn those practical skills which he can readily apply and which are considered useful for today's society.  
 
Subjects are integrated rather than broken apart from each other to emphasize what is relevant for actual "real world" application.  Thus important knowledge is only that which is deemed useful for the application/project; what's useful varies from society to society, age to age (that's why it's called progressive--educational needs and "truths" progress with the ever changing evolution of society).
 
This philosophy is why those standardized tests and our educational institutions are constantly tinkered with today. 
 
The positive aspects of this philosophy are seen in Unit Studies as this method teaches skills together for a practical purpose rather than disjointed and isolated without practical application (ie, building a birdhouse requires the application of math, reading, research, natural science, etc., integrating all those skills for a purpose). 
 
The Unit Study Method can be useful for a practical-minded child who is goal oriented, prefers a more open-ended approach, and needs to see concrete application to make his studies meaningful.
 
Unit Study publishers are many and varied. Konos and the Weaver are two of the better known. There are many smaller publishers for topic specific units.
 
Links to publishers and even free unit study programs can be found on our Unit Studies section on our Handy Links page.
 
Classical This philosophy (which has been around since the Ancient Greeks) stresses education is about learning how to learn, and more importantly how to think; It stresses wisdom has been passed down through the ancients and previous sages of societies (the classics). 
 
Much emphasis is given to reading works by the classics to develop rigorous thinking skills and good communication to support your own arguments, as well as studying the arts, history, languages and mathematics of prior societies; much less emphasis--if any-- is placed on learning contemporary practical skills. 
 
Many of our founding fathers received a classical education, and it was the standard method in many of our early universities and private prep schools. 
 
The Classical method can be good for a child who prefers more abstract thinking and likes to focus on and discuss the why and deeper meaning of subjects.
 
Classical publishers are wide and varied as well.  Many of the "how-to" books discuss implementation of this approach. The more popular are The Well Trained Mind, the Charlotte Mason approach (a more modern derivative), Veritas Press, and the Thomas Jefferson approach.
 
Many literature based history programs follow a classical flavor such as Greenleaf Press, Tapestry of Grace, and Beautiful Feet Publishers.
 
Links to classical publishers and programs can be found in our Curriculum Publishers Section either listed individually or within Exodus Provisions bookstore.
 
Unschooling:  This is a modern approach.  It believes a child will learn what he needs to learn as he goes about his normal life relatively unhindered by outside expectations since a child will learn best when he feels the need to learn it or is interested in learning it. 
 
The assumption is made that the child will naturally have a broad spectrum of interests throughout his "school" life and will naturally desire to learn about them (and not fixate on computer games or avoid helpful subjects he dislikes).  The "teacher" is merely a facilitator helping to provide materials in areas the child is interested in. 
 
Common sense dictates this approach would need to be carefully guided by a wise adult and not taken to the extreme of many popular secular unschoolers. 
 
We prefer the modified concept of "Delight Directed Education" as defined by Greg Harris of enriching your child's studies by adding topics or interests that "delight" him (ie, he must learn how to read and he loves dogs, choose books about dogs to read; his love of stamp collecting can be used to teach him geography). 
 
Children who need lots of hands-on activity and "fun" subjects to keep their attention, or need a more personable approach to help learning come "alive," often benefit from a Delight-Directed style of education.
 
Since unschooling seeks to follow the child instead of any set curriculum, many resources can be used.  Our Handy Links page includes lots of resources for free material and references.  New Leaf Press and Master Books, listed in our Reference section, in particular provides a number of high quality resource books for the Christian homeschool.
 
Eclectic homeschoolers blend several schooling philosophies Many homeschoolers find some good points in each philosophy and choose to blend several styles, which then makes them "Eclectic" homeschoolers. 
 
Most families implement the approach (or blend of approaches) which best fits their overall family temperament rather than trying to implement a style for each child.   Also, if it makes sense and fits the parent-teacher, then the parent-teacher in turn can always adapt it to a particular child's learning style or needs.
 
Remember, Education is much more than Academics 
True education is much more than facts, figures, rigorous thinking, or practical job skills but is rather a whole-life discipleship of a child that develops his mind, heart, character and talents to honor God.  The greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself, for this is the sum of God's law. 
 
 
the CHOC Board
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(Permission is given to print this article for personal use if credit is given to the CHOC Board and our website address is included.)