A homeschool syllabus is a wonderful tool for you and your high schooler to use throughout the year. Combined with a bullet journal, these are the two tools I recommend every college-bound homeschooler keep and use for time management and record-keeping.
If you are creating a course from scratch, using a homeschool curriculum that does not provide one, piecing together a class using multiple curriculums, or if your child is college-bound and the curriculum doesn’t provide one, you might choose to write a homeschool syllabus to help smooth the process of getting into college.
I write a homeschool syllabus for every high school core course my teens take that isn’t taught by an outside teacher. Teachers normally provide a syllabus for you so I keep a copy of theirs. I don’t normally write a syllabus for an elective that doesn’t use a curriculum and focuses on a skill. Examples of this would be guitar or music performance.
Why Write a Syllabus?
Writing a syllabus isn’t difficult and it can be a good tool to help you track progress. This lets you adjust the amount of work being done each week with your teen. Between the syllabus and keeping our records in a Bullet Journal, we are easily able to catch any downturn in grades quickly to allow for more study time.Writing a syllabus isn't difficult and it can be a good tool to help you track progress. Between the syllabus and keeping our records in a Bullet Journal, we are easily able to catch any downturn in grades quickly to allow for more… Click To Tweet
We are also able to adjust due dates on projects. This allows the teen to master the material before moving on. Sometimes that means that we shift all due dates out a few days or a week. Occasionally, we have to camp on a lesson until they can understand the material before we move on.
Having a homeschool syllabus where you fill in the dates as you go (or leave the dates off entirely) and planning weekly in a bullet journal instead of planning in advance easily allows you to shift due dates. You can spend longer on difficult spots. Allowing the time to master a subject keeps a teen’s grades high and allows them to get more out of a class than they would on a timetable.
How Long Does it Take to Write a Homeschool Syllabus?
I can write a full year’s worth of syllabi in a couple of hours because much of it is cut and paste. There’s no reason to be intimidated by making one because it’s easy. I’ll show you how.
All total, I wrote 6 syllabi for this year and it took me less than three hours. I created one syllabus, then I copied it for each subsequent subject. Then I simply cut and pasted the information from online. If I had left all due dates off of the syllabi and filled them as we work through the classes, or didn’t fill them in at all, it would have taken me less than an hour for all six subjects.
It’s a Fancy, Flexible Schedule
Having a homeschool syllabus with a due date structure listed, which is really just a formalized schedule, can also help your teen learn to plan ahead. Projects and essays that take time and preparation to meet the due date. Learning how to plan ahead for due dates is a critical skill for college and career. This also helps your teenager become an independent learner.Having a homeschool syllabus with a due date structure listed, which is really just a formalized schedule, can also help your teen learn to plan ahead. Learning how to plan ahead for due dates is a critical skill for college and… Click To Tweet
But mostly, learning to follow a homeschool syllabus is good practice for college classes. It teaches teens independence, how to follow a schedule and how to plan ahead. Every college course I took was run by its syllabus. My experience is that most college professors stick to the syllabus and rarely change due dates. And most careers run on meeting schedules and due dates.
Having a syllabus makes it easier for your teen to plan what hes need to be doing every day and week as he works. It also makes it easier to plan when he can take time off and relax without his grades suffering or causing yourself undue stress.
And it has the added benefit of mom not being the go-to person. Your teen will learn to be more independent as he follows a syllabus and less prone to argue about due dates and assignments. The syllabus becomes the authority instead of mom.
I keep an electronic copy of every syllabus. If they are electronic copies for a class my kids take from co-op or online, we keep them in a single folder in Google Drive. If copies are only available on paper, I scan it into Drive. Then I throw the paper copies away at the end of the year.
This keeps everything in one location, giving one folder per year, and within that yearly folder one folder per class. This keeps it neatly arranged so I don’t have to stress if I need a copy of it years later when being asked by an admissions officer. I also keep copies of any typed and graded assignments or papers in that same folder. That way I can easily have them available should work samples be requested.
If you desire, you can scan and upload example copies of work into those same folders. This gives a completely paperless record that can easily be emailed to an admissions officer. We kept paper copies with my daughter who is beginning dual enrollment this year for 11th grade. However, I will be going to only digital this year with my son to get rid of the paper clutter. Her two years of high school work took up half a filing cabinet drawer.
To create a syllabus, I include the following information:
- Course name
- School year
- Grading scale
- Percentages of the final grade for each category
- Work outline with due dates
Course Name and School Year
I’m not creative with naming my classes. English I, II, III and IV is sufficient. I list the year by date and by class. For example, 2019-2020 Freshman year.
It is important to note in the course name if the class is Honors or AP, as they carry additional weight for GPA calculation.
I include a brief description or objective that includes a list of course topics. You can often figure out this information by looking at the table of contents in the textbook. If you aren’t sure, make a list of everything the course covers by chapter headings.
If your curriculum has a description on its website, cut and paste the course overview and/or objectives. I only write my own course objective if I have no other choice.
List any pre-requisites. For example, you must have Algebra I before you take Algebra II. But you can take Psychology or American History without any previous history coursework.
List all textbooks that you use, including the author and publisher information and any other books or novels including the author’s name. All online and audio-visual resources used should be detailed, including date of access and link if it is online. Include any outside classes, video lectures, field trips and the like. Every resource you use for the class, no matter how small, should be listed.
The grading scale is simply how you determine letter grades. For example:
- 90-100 = A
- 80-89 = B
Or you can further break it down, to give the GPA advantage of having plusses and minuses. I highly recommend using plusses and minuses if your child wants to go to college.
- 97-100 = A+
- 94-96 = A
- 90-93 = A-
- 87-89 = B+
Because this does matter when you’re calculating GPA, and colleges have to re-calculate everyone’s GPA in a way that is fair to all, it’s important that this information is included both on the syllabus and on the transcript. I suggest you standardize this in your homeschool so it is easier for you to put together a transcript.
This was an issue for me when I was entering college. In my high school, 94-100 was an ‘A,’ whereas for some of the women (I went to a women’s college) I was competing against for admission, their ‘A’ was a 90-100. That put me at a disadvantage until the college re-calculated all GPAs for their admissions process.
Percentages of the Final Grade
You should include what percentage of each type of coursework contributes to the final grade. Examples of type include daily assignments, quizzes, unit or chapter tests, mid-terms, essays, final exams, book reports, projects and the like.
For example, in our math courses, we choose to make the daily work 60% of the final grade. That makes the chapter tests the remaining 40% of the grade. There is no final exam or midterm with this curriculum.
Psychology is 50% daily assignments, 30% unit exams, 10% midterm and 10% final exam. There are no essays or novels with this curriculum.
For English, we break it down further since there are more types of work in the course. Daily assignments account for 25% of the grade. Essays are 15%, Projects are 15%, Book Reports are 10%. Then we get to the tests. Unit Exams are 15%, the Midterm is 10%, and the Final Exam is 10%. This is the course we do with the most grades and grade types.
Work Completed With Due Dates
This is where I list a breakdown of the work completed. I take the main resource, list 80-100% of the chapters in the resource, and break them down by unit. Then I add any additional resources throughout the list. Don’t forget to list quizzes, tests, essays, field trips, movies watched, lectures or events attended and projects completed for each unit. Put in a tenative due date now, or fill in those dates as you go. If you do something during the summer or even a following year that would qualify for this course, don’t hesitate to list it with the appropriate dates.
If you aren’t sure how things will fall, then don’t be afraid to start the syllabus then fill it in at the end of each week when you do your planning time on Sundays. I often do this for the first few weeks when we start a new and unfamiliar curriculum. Then I can easily fill in the rest and put the due dates into his bullet journal calendar each month in pencil, so they can be shifted if needed.
Example Homeschool Syllabus
Here are two example syllabi for classes that my son is doing for 9th grade this year.
First, we use Acellus Powerschool for some subjects. With English, there are many more assignments, essays and exams than with any other subject we do.
Acellus is light on their literature and writing assignments and I prefer to assign more literature than what they give. So in addition to their program, which does cover grammar and vocabulary, I add twelve classic novels. That means twelve writing assignments a year, including essays and book reports. You can see those listed in the resources and assignments.
Because this teen loves to read and will happily read 600+ page novels in a week if I let him, I don’t consider one novel a month for literature too much for him (he also has 7 novels for history). If I had a child who struggled to read, I would consider instead doing 4 shorter novels for the year (as the curriculum does include some literature). Then assign writing assignments such as summaries of each paragraph or chapter instead of doing essays and book reports.
You will notice with this syllabus, the due dates for the writing assignments and the exams are tentatively filled in (I will change them as we go), but the projects are listed with no dates. I will fill in the dates as we come to them in the weekly log. I also do not hesitate to shift dates forward or backward as needed and record the date changes in the bullet journal.
DOWNLOAD HERE: English I syllabus using Acellus Power Homeschool
The second example syllabus is for Pre-Algebra. I included this example because I do not have a scope and sequence and a course description to copy from their website, so I had to make my own.
We are planning to cover a one-year math course in a little more than one semester in order to get him caught up to where he can be done with Algebra I by the end of his 9th grade year in August.
This requires two lessons a day plus some study time for tests. This will allow him to start Geometry at the beginning of 10th grade to be on track for Engineering courses later.
We use Teaching Textbooks, so I modified a description from a standard Pre-Algebra course from a local high school syllabus I found online since Teaching Textbooks does not include this information on their website. I found an online copy of the table of contents of the book and simply cut and pasted that into the assignments, removing the page and lesson numbers for the assignments.
DOWNLOAD HERE: Pre-Algebra Syllabus using Teaching Textbooks
I hope this has been a help to you. What do you struggle with most in writing a syllabus for your high schoolers? Leave a comment below.
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