Originally Sent: 9/12/2013

HSLDA Homeschooling a Struggling Learner

September 12, 2013


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What + When=Scope + Sequence …

By Faith Berens, M.Ed.
HSLDA Special Needs Consultant

Recently, I read the children’s picture book The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth (based on a story by Leo Tolstoy) to my 10-year-old daughter. In the book, young Nikolai wants to “be a good person” but admits he does not always know the best way to do it.

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(As a homeschool mom, I can so relate—I want to be the best teacher I can be, but sometimes I feel at a loss as to how to best go about getting concepts across! I’d like to also add that this book was a great springboard to discuss spiritual truths from a biblical worldview such as how we have God’s word to guide us, His Holy Spirit to lead us in righteousness, etc. So, we also looked up Scripture to help answer young Nikolai’s questions.)

Anyway, back to the story … young Nikolai sets out on a quest (which eventually takes him to Leo, the wise, old turtle) to find out: “When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?”

Similarly, many parents often ask our Special Needs Department’s consultants, “How do I know what are the ‘right’ things to teach or the most important skills and concepts? What does my child need to learn, and when should I teach it to him? Or what do I have to teach my child, and when does he need to learn it?” Basically, what parents are looking for is what educators and curricula publishers refer to as a “scope and sequence.” The “scope” refers to the topics, content, or skills to be studied and the “sequence” refers to the order of study.

One of the many beauties of home education is we, the parent-teachers, have freedom and flexibility to teach our children as the God-created individuals they are, rather than have them held in captivity by a predetermined set of “common” standards. So, while parent educators do not necessarily need to have a scope and sequence for textbooks or home education programs, it can be a helpful tool in terms of evaluating what children know (or may not know) at any given point in time of their development and education.

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In my opinion, it is important to “follow our children”; by this I mean, take into account the child’s needs, interests, developmental stage, and readiness when planning instruction for them. However, keep in mind that a scope and sequence can also be a very handy tool for laying out yearly teaching plans. That being said, our curricula, materials, and scope and sequence are tools—they should neither restrict nor control our teaching—we do not have to be a slave to them.

Below are some resources that I hope you find helpful in discovering the answers to the questions regarding what may be taught and generally when such things “should” be introduced:


• Cathy Duffy’s book, Christian Home Educator’s Curriculum Manuals, contains a general scope and sequence of skills and content to be introduced and taught across the grade levels.

Teaching Children by Diane Lopez is a scope and sequence book that is based on Charlotte Mason’s methods. This book offers details, lists, and teaching tips for students grades K-6.

You Can Teach Your Child Successfully by Ruth Beechick provides insight and guidance for teaching students grades 4-8.

What Your Child Needs to Know When by Robin Scarletta is a scope and sequence that is based upon what children should learn in order to do well on standardized tests for grades K-8.

• Rebecca Avery’s Teaching Tips and Techniques, available through Alpha Omega Publishers, while not really a true scope and sequence, this book does list the types of skills needed prior to formal learning and provides a very thorough look at how children learn. This book is full of wonderful ideas for children who need “readiness” skills and for those who are slower in developing skills.

Questions Answered

So back to young Nikolai’s questions, which may be similar to yours:

When is the best time to do/teach things?
When your child shows interest and readiness.

Who is the most important one?
The Lord and others—teach children to love God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength and to love and serve others.

What is the right thing to do?
The things that God lays on your heart to do and teach. Listen and obey Him and also follow what is right for your child and your family’s home education plan. No two children are the same, and our homeschool plans will be different.

As we all seek to find the answers to our most important questions about our lives, our children, our homeschools and plans, let’s remember to seek the Lord and His wisdom for surely He will make our paths straight and the answers clear.

Take joy in the journey,


• • • •

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