Your new curriculum is in hand. You’re excited as you flip through it, and that excitement spurs you on. You grab your planner and work through the A.S.P.I.R.E. process, establishing your area of focus and specifying your desire for the year so you can create a solid goal.
Now it’s time to create benchmarks, and suddenly you’re stuck. Oh, maybe it was simple for math because it has an easily divided number of lessons. But you’re looking at language arts or science, and you have no idea how to divide the assignments well.
Scope & Sequence: Two Helpful Tools
The struggle here is that so many subjects don’t divide easily, typically because they don’t have easily recognizable daily or weekly stopping points. Even a course that has 36 weekly lessons might be a challenge to divide up into daily assignments.
Fortunately, there is information that can help, and it’s usually built right into your curriculum. That information is found in the course’s scope and sequence.
The scope of a curriculum is the general idea of what will be covered in a school year. For instance, if you are studying ancient history, your scope will let you know if you’re going through Rome or stopping after the Greeks. Are you hitting the highlights of all ancient civilizations or focusing on a select few?
Sequence is the order in which the information you’re studying will be presented. Continuing with the ancient history example, will you study topically by civilization or chronologically by when events happened, even if the civilizations overlap? Are you constantly both learning new topics and reviewing old ones (spiral learning), or are you mastering each new skill — with regular review for retention — before moving on to a new one (mastery learning)?
Sometimes homeschool teachers choose a curriculum based on a preferred scope and sequence. Others structure their schedule to match the scope and sequence of the curriculum they have chosen for other reasons. These preferences take time and experience to establish, so your focus for now is to begin understanding scope and sequence and learning how to utilize them.
So, what do you do with that information?
First, scope and sequence information allows you to establish how much needs to be accomplished in the year. Once you have that information, you can divide the overall goal into smaller segments, noting how much progress you need to make each semester, then breaking each semester down further into six-week blocks.
This is where your Benchmark worksheet comes into play! As you break each course down, you’ll first note on your Benchmark sheet what the last lesson is. Then you’ll find the midpoint and write that down as your 90-day or first semester end goal. From there, you can break it down further to find your six-week benchmarks.
The second aspect of understanding scope and sequence is that you are then able to assess and evaluate throughout the year. Progress can be determined in a couple of ways: by the amount of material covered and by the quality of work done during each stretch.
If you cover all of the material, but there is no comprehension or recollection of what’s been covered, you haven’t actually achieved your benchmark. On the other hand, if comprehension and quality have been great all along, but you only get through half the material in the year, your student will probably end up with more than their fair share of educational gaps.
This is why it’s so important to utilize both pages of your Evaluation worksheet as you review how each six-week block has gone. The first page helps you see how much material has been covered while the second page allows you to process the quality of work completed.
Goals and benchmarks are critical, but if you don’t have the necessary information, it’s hard to set those goals and monitor benchmark progress along the way. In homeschooling, an understanding of scope and sequence provides crucial information to help you create goals, establish benchmarks, and evaluate progress each step of the way.
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