Educational Buzzwords: Course of Study Revisited

The course of study can be confusing. Many homeschoolers only consider it from year to year. I prefer to look at it in the big picture. In my course catalog you can see a list, by grade, of courses required for each year. Simply put, this is a course of study – a planned list of courses required to complete the program. Most college catalogs have this also.

I enjoyed this step, while I was thinking about the courses I offer, because it forced me to really look at what I wanted my students to cover. Now, you’ll notice, of course, that the document is not complete. I’m still working on it and I’ll post newer versions along the way, but it’s just one example of how to work through all this information.

You may also notice that I haven’t planned out any details yet of what each course entails. That will come later as I plan the syallbus, scope and sequence, and lesson plans.

Just a side note here: I have been thinking in these terms for quite some time, but my computer crashed last fall and I lost quite a few of the documents I had prepared, so my revisiting of these terms is helping me to rebuild my ideas.

So, once I have my courses decided and have written out my course of study for the program, it’s time to move on to the next step – the goals and objectives. As I’m doing this, my course descriptions may change, but this overview I’ve started with is a general outline.

Another side thought here: You may only have one or two students, and they may be several years apart, so you may want to only consider each individual student. You may also have taken your student out of public school, so you’re starting in the middle. Either way, you do need to consider what they’ve already studied/learned, but you don’t need to really break it down into detail like I’m doing. I have four students and they’re all very close together in age (total 5 year spread), so I tend to have large chunks planned out all at once. Generally, I’m only planning one new grade at a time. For the 2011-2012 school year, I will have a 6th grader, 5th grader, 3rd grader, and 1st grader. Since they have always been homeschooled, I don’t have a lot of work to do for my 5th, 3rd, and 1st graders, because I’ve done the planning in previous years.

Anyway, if you’re following along, start by thinking about the big picture of what you want your students to study. Your course of study will probably fill in as you think about this. I’d also suggest, especially as they get older, that you consider giving them some chances to choose what they study. As I’m planning a year, I ask each kid to tell me at least two new things they want to learn about. I also tend to do this at Christmas time, even if we haven’t covered everything I had planned yet, because things change. In my case, this gives me a selection of topics to cover (anywhere from 5-8 unit study ideas). I’m hoping this year to be able to teach them each to study at least one thing on their own, too.

Once you’ve looked at the big picture, start giving each course a title and a brief description, and think about what types of materials you might use to cover the topic. We’ll be moving on to goals and objectives next (personally, the toughest step in the process), so your ideas will start to take shape and you will be well on your way to having a well thought out curriculum for your homeschool.

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