Curriculum versus Scope and Sequence

Curriculum versus Scope and Sequence

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The words “curriculum” and “scope and sequence” are often confused with each other.  Here’s a little summary of the differences between the two.

Curriculum

A curriculum is what you choose to teach during a period of time, usually a semester, quarter, or month.  A sample curriculum might include the subjects Math, English, Social Studies, and Science.  In any given school year, each grade level in public school is assigned a given curriculum to teach their students.  Homeschooling parents often do the same to keep on track for college.  The subjects taught, however, may be vastly different between public schools and homeschools.

Scope and Sequence

Scope and Sequence is more specific than curriculum.  It refers to the breadth and depth of each subject area that you’re teaching, usually described by specific outcomes.  For example, if you are studying the water cycle, you would have a scope and sequence like this:

  • Evaporation
  • Condensation
  • Precipitation

Or if you were doing Geometry, it might look like this:

  • Planes
  • Solids
  • Points
  • Lines
  • Segments

Where curriculum defines what subjects are being taught and maybe even what grade levels, scope and sequence specifies exactly what parts of that subject will be taught so that outcomes can be measured.

Summary

Most homeschoolers are looking for scope and sequence.  They want to know how their kids are measuring up to their peers so they’re not left behind.  In reality, homeschoolers are far ahead of their peers.  When you remove all of the busywork that public school kids go through, there’s not much actual instruction left.  Homeschoolers, in contrast, learn all the time throughout the entire day.  Because they are in a receptive learning environment, they grasp concepts faster and retain them longer.  They are able to make real life comparisons and connections to what they learn.  Still, scope and sequence materials are handy when you’re worried you’re missing something.  If your kids plan on attending college in an engineering or scientific field, scope and sequence will ease your mind.

I recommend all of E.D. Hirsch’s books on scope and sequence.

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