How to Design a Curriculum for Any Subject

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Have you ever searched for the perfect curriculum and been disappointed when Google searches don’t turn up anything you want to use?  If so, then you might be wondering if you can design a curriculum.  Yes!  You absolutely can create a custom curriculum for any subject and any grade level.

I was given plenty of flexibility when I was a classroom teacher.  As long as the required state objectives were met, I could teach pretty much anything any way.  I loved creating curriculum for my class . . .  which led to me creating homeschool curriculum a few years later.

how to design a homeschool curriculum written above colored pencils

There is nothing overly complicated about designing a curriculum.  It just requires a bit of research and a chunk of time.

What is ‘curriculum’?

Curriculum simply means a course of study.  It can be a educational program that includes all subjects for a year or just one subject. 

I am an eclectic homeschooler, so I prefer to use a wide variety of curriculum rather than a boxed set.  This lets me choose, or create, the best resources for each of my children.

I designed complete grade level curricula for my children when we first began homeschooling.  The process isn’t much different than designing a curriculum for a subject.  Just create a plan for each subject, overlapping where it makes sense, and then combine them all.

Why would I want to design a curriculum?

There are quite a few reasons that someone might want to design their own curriculum.  Maybe you don’t like any of the curriculum options that are on the market.  Perhaps buying a prepared curriculum is out of your budget (multiple curricula for multiple kids can add up fast!). 

Some people just feel called to create a truly custom education.

I have created many curricula for my children over our 8 years of homeschooling.  When my daughter was in elementary school I created science and history curricula based on major time periods that she found interesting. 

I have never purchased a geography curriculum.  Instead, I combined interesting geography resources so that the lessons would actually stick.  Most recently I designed a year-long marine biology science curriculum because I couldn’t find any options that felt right for my family.

How to Design a Curriculum for Any Subject

Homeschool curriculum development does not need to be complicated.  Anyone can do it!  Check out these curriculum planning ideas to help you design a curriculum.

I recommend designing your curriculum in a Google or word document.  It is so much easier to add new topics and move things around when you just need to copy and paste.

The steps to design a curriculum are:

  1. Set objectives
  2. Map out main topics
  3. Break main topics into smaller key areas
  4. Create a timeline
  5. Find resources
  6. Determine assessment methods
  7. Create lesson plans

Set objectives

‘Objectives’ is a fancy way of saying your goals for the curriculum.  What do you want your child to know by the end of the course? 

The objective can be mastering a skill or gaining understanding of a concept.  For example, one objective for a marine biology curriculum might be understanding the human impact on the ocean.

Map out main topics

After the objectives are set you can decide the main topics.  These are the big overarching content areas that will be covered in the curriculum. 

The main topics make up the skeleton of the curriculum. As an example, the main topics of our marine biology curriculum were:

  1. the living sea
  2. coral reefs
  3. islands
  4. estuaries
  5. bays and lagoons
  6. sub-tidal soft bottoms
  7. sandy beaches
  8. rocky shores
  9. tide pools
  10. kelp forests
  11. open ocean
  12. abyss
  13. polar seas
  14. environmental ethics
  15. career exploration

Break main topics into smaller key areas

Next, divide the main topics into smaller areas. 

This is where you note the details that you want to teach. 

Keeping with the marine biology example, let’s look at the smaller topics for polar seas. We studied marine mammals, land/marine animals, plant life, food chain, and migration.

Design a curriculum with these homeschool curriculum development ideas.

Create a timeline

The curriculum timeline is the order in which topics will be taught.  Sometimes there is a natural progression, but other times you have a lot of flexibility. 

Creating a timeline before even teaching the first lesson will keep the momentum going because you always know what is next.

After you create a timeline you have officially created the scope and sequence for your course.  Scope = what will be taught. Sequence = when will it be taught.

Find resources

Finding resources is the fun part of designing a curriculum.  Don’t get me wrong, it can be time-consuming and intimidating, but it is also a lot of fun finding resources that your kids will enjoy. 

It is like treasure hunting for the homeschool mom. Depending on the subject, there are a ton of resource options:

  • Books – Search your library and discount sites to save money.
  • Videos – Educational documentaries are great, but shows like Magic Schoolbus are great for elementary-age kids.
  • Hands-on Activities – Pinterest is a great way to find hands-on activities for a variety of subjects.
  • Outside classes – Are there any classes that align with your topic nearby?  Check local museums, park associations, and homeschool co-ops.
  • Field trips – Field trips help kids apply what they have learned.

I keep all a list of the resources for a course in a Google drive.  This lets me easily add new resources as soon as I discover them.

Determine assessment methods

Every homeschool family has different thoughts on assessment methods.  It can even vary within the same family by grade level.

Assessment doesn’t have to be scary or complex.  It is simply determining whether the objective have been met.  Did you child learn what you wanted them to learn?  Most homeschool families do this intuitively.

There are many assessment methods to choose from:

  • Create a test (multiple choice, fill in the blank, or essay)
  • Hands-On activities
  • Worksheets ( has some great options)
  • Verbally questioning
  • Project
  • Writing exercises
  • Discussion topics

It is a good idea to save assessments if your state requires you to keep a homeschool portfolio.

Create lesson plans

Thanks to all of your hard work in all of the above steps, creating the lesson plans is the easiest part of designing a curriculum. 

Follow your timeline and plug in the resources for each topic. I keep a lesson plan binder and write down assignments for each day.

I love the flexibility that comes with designing a truly custom curriculum.  Have you ever tried to create your own curriculum?

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  1. Great article! It’s helpful and interesting. I am not currently homeschooling but I have given it great thought. I look forward to reading more of your content!

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