Getting started homeschooling or even just planning for the new school year can seem like an overwhelming task . . .

Questions may be swirling in your head like . . . “What does my child need to learn, and when should I teach it to him? How do I know what are the ‘right’ things to teach or the most important skills and concepts? Or what do I have to teach my child, and when does he need to learn it?”

Let us introduce you to a great resource: Meet the scope and sequence.

Educators use this versatile little gizmo (it can be a chart, a list, or even a well-developed table of contents) as a guide for what specific skills and content are to be taught and when to introduce and teach those.

  • The “scope” refers to the topics, content, or skills to be studied
  • The “sequence” refers to the order of study or the order of which the topics and skills are introduced

Home education allows you to follow your child’s needs, interests, developmental stage, and readiness when planning instruction for them. One of the many benefits of home education is that you, as a parent-teachers, have freedom and flexibility to teach each of your children as a unique individual rather than be hemmed in by a predetermined set of “common” standards and timelines. 

That being said, utilizing a scope and sequence can be a very handy tool for laying out yearly teaching plans. Keep in mind that your curricula, materials, and the scope and sequence are tools—they should neither restrict nor control our teaching—you do not have to be a slave to them.

Home education, as an individualized educational plan, also allows for appropriate pacing. Whenever your child is ready to move on to a new concept or needs more time to demonstrate understanding, you’re free to adjust the pacing of the scope and sequence to meet that child’s needs.

What does this look like in real life?

For example, if you have a child who is not mathematically inclined, you don’t need to insist that he does 100 math problems a day. You can assign half or a third of the problems to him. If he tires easily, you might work some of the problems orally with him. This is one of the beauties of homeschooling—you can tailor the curriculum to fit the child.

On the other hand, if your daughter is a whiz at math and she demonstrates that she knows the current material, why should she have to do 100 problems that she already understands? Let her move on!

This flexibility applies to grade levels as well. If you are using a curriculum with graded textbooks, you are free to meet your child’s needs by using a 4th grade book in a specific subject and a 9th grade book in another subject—even though she is 10, 11, or even 12.

Have a 6-year-old who is an excellent reader? Don’t make him suffer through 1st grade readers. Move him up to a level that will challenge and interest him!

Using a scope and sequence in lesson planning

Scope and sequence charts can be helpful as you determine what concepts a curriculum covers, and when. Many authors or companies will provide their own scope and sequence information for their curriculum, so check their websites. Sometimes you can determine the scope and sequence simply by looking at the table of contents and thumbing through the book.

The information from scope and sequences can actually be a help as you develop your lesson plans. Just keep perspective and don’t let the tail wag the dog!

Here are some great resources that can help in planning what to teach and when!


  • 102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculumby Cathy Duffy has an excellent chapter entitled “Who Should Learn What, and When.” This book provides scope and sequence information and will give you real substantial help in choosing curriculum. It is well worth the price. 102 Top Picks will also help you find curriculum to support a biblical worldview, although it is helpful to anyone looking for curriculum counseling.
  • Typical Course of Study by World Book provides lists of concepts and material that should be covered in preschool through 12th grade.
  • K–6th Grade “What Your Child Needs to Know” Series by E.D. Hirsch: What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know, What Your 1st Grader Needs to Know, What Your 2nd Grade Needs to Know, and so on, right through the 6th grade give an overview of what most children are ready to learn at common age milestones along with suggested teaching tips, reading lists, and age-appropriate activities. You can find these books on and NOTE: Originally published in the 1990s, a Common Core preface has been added to more recent editions of these books. (Earlier editions can be found on and possibly at local libraries.)

Wrapping it all up

So remember, while as a parent educator, you do not necessarily have to follow or have a scope and sequence for textbooks or home education programs, it can definitely be a helpful tool in terms of evaluating what your children know (or may not know) at any given point in their development and education.