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Homeschool Planning with a Master Course of Study

Homeschool Planning with a Master Course of Study title with partial spreadsheet

(Last Updated on November 30, 2023)

I’m a list person. I love lists. If there’s a problem for me to solve, the solution will probably involve a list. And, if it’s a list in the form of a spreadsheet, all the better!

Now, even if you’re not on the same page as me about lists being the answer to life’s most pressing problems, please hear me out. 

There’s one list – and, yes, it’s a spreadsheet *giddy squeals* – that has helped me plan out our homeschool years more than any other resource I’ve made or bought. The best part is, it’s *EASY* and *FREE* to make and highly customizable. 

Without further ado, allow me to introduce you to the idea of a Master Course of Study!

What is a Master Course of Study?

I’ve written before about putting first things first when it comes to your decision to homeschool. If you missed those posts, you can find them here and here.

But after you’ve done the “first things”…. then what?

If you’re like me, you probably want to jump right into buying awesome curricula, school supplies, and activities to use with your kids. But, before getting into those details, it’s sooo helpful to create a big picture plan first.

A “Master Course of Study” is just that – a big picture plan or outline of the subjects your students will study over the course of their education. It’s basically a framework (in my case, a spreadsheet) to organize your short and long-term planning. It will help you plan out what to teach and when. And it will help you keep track of what you’ve done and what you’re tentatively thinking of doing in the future.

Why is a Master Course of Study Helpful?

I realized I needed something like this as soon as I started really looking into what subjects to teach (beyond the 3 R’s and my state’s homeschooling requirements, that is). I’m an over-analyzer, so the freedom homeschooling offers quickly became paralyzing when I was first starting out. There were just too many options and ideas!

What does “Language Arts” really cover? Do we need to teach grammar every year? And what does “Social Studies” include? Does my kindergartener need full-blown history lessons? And what about Latin… and vocabulary… and Spanish… and art history… and nature study… and pottery lessons… and typing… and cursive… and coding… and… and… and…

(take a deep breath)

I knew I needed some way to make sense of all this to have any chance of moving forward in a non-crazy-making way. What better way than…. a list! 

How to Create a Master Course of Study

To get started creating this master list of classes, I took some time and brainstormed all the possible subjects I thought I might someday need or want to teach. This included subjects…

  • required by the homeschooling laws in my state (find your state laws here).
  • I remembered learning in school.
  • I came across in my homeschooling research.
  • listed in curriculum catalogs (the Rainbow Resource catalog is very thorough).
  • outlined in Scope & Sequence documents (like this one, for example).

Once I had this overwhelmingly comprehensive list, I organized it into a spreadsheet. With columns for each school year and sub-columns for each student, I could now start making sense of all the ideas floating around in my head.

Master Course of Study spreadsheet with labels

Now, when I found a great idea for a certain curriculum, I made tentative notes in that subject row for the appropriate grade. I was also able to start narrowing down my subject list for each grade as I prayed and researched more about what to teach when. 

This spreadsheet serves several purposes for me:

Current Planning

I use this to plan out each school year and make sure all my bases are covered. I can also go back and see what my first child did in past years to help me think of what to use for my younger kids. In the screenshot below you can see a few of the subjects and what my tentative plans are so far for the coming school year. This way all my ideas are in one place and I can see how each curriculum I’m considering will fit into my big picture plan.

Master Course of Study spreadsheet showing Current Homeschool Plans and curriculum

Future Planning

I’m a visual person so it really helps me to see my plans. For example, I slated Story of the World Volumes 1 through 4 over four years so I can easily see what grade each of my kids will be in when we’re covering each volume. I can also keep notes of curricula I find that sound great, but that my kids aren’t old enough for yet. When we get to that year, all my previous research ideas are waiting there for me!

Master Course of Study spreadsheet showing Future Homeschool Plans and curriculum

Keeping Records

I’m lucky I can remember what I had for breakfast let alone what curriculum I used to teach health four years ago. If I ever had to prove to authorities how we covered subjects, I know I can check this spreadsheet and the information is all there.

Reducing Anxiety

My mind can rest easier knowing I’ve accounted for all the subjects somewhere in my future plan. I’m ok seeing “N/A” for “government/civics” in kindergarten since I know I haven’t forgotten it – it will be covered in later years. And I don’t feel pressured to keep adding every shiny new curriculum that I see advertised since the well-thought-out Course of Study gives me confidence that we won’t have any critical gaps (Note: There will always be some gaps, but as long as they’re not critical – like forgetting to ever teach math – you’ll be fine). I even add in non-school-subject things like required medical exams and driver’s ed just so I know I won’t forget them when the time comes.

You can download a *FREE* list of the subjects I have in my Master Course of Study by clicking the download button below! 

Whether you create a Master Course of Study spreadsheet like mine or keep track of the information in another way, I strongly encourage all homeschool parents to find some way to organize your ideas and keep records of the work you’ve done (even if your state doesn’t require it)!

(There may be affiliate links in this post – click here to learn more. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

If you’re new to homeschooling, I encourage you to check out my book, Think About Homeschooling: What It Is, What It Isn’t, & Why It Works! In it, I break down the stereotypes and explore the true benefits and possibilities that home education offers families. Click here to find out more; you CAN homeschool confidently and successfully!

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Homeschool Planning with a Master Course of Study spreadsheet