Turning Educational Materials into a Course aka Creating a Syllabus

When my homeschooled kids were small, we followed an animated online curriculum. When we hit middle school, they declared it childish, so I put them into a series of homeschool classes to keep things interesting. After a couple of years, they begged to do academics at home again to return to learning at their own pace.

Enter high school homeschooling. Year 1 of putting my first child through high school level work consisted of me micromanaging the pace at which he finished the work, as there is a ton more material and a lot of long days trying to keep up with him and his younger sister.  Year 2 of homeschooling high school students, my children sat me down for a talk.

“Can we just get a syllabus please?” My son asked. “Like in college” I inquired.  “Yes”, he said, we can pace ourselves, and you can help us when we ask for it.  Considering the fact that I was also working from home, writing web-content at the time, this arrangement worked swimmingly. I just had to figure out how to write a syllabus.

Here is how I did our first syllabus:

Example 1: Textbook – video- test:

First, I look at the table of contents of the textbook, history for example.  This US History textbook by Prentice Hall has a digital table of contents you can look at HERE.

In this case, there are 33 chapters. Knowing that there are approximately 40 weeks of instruction in a “school year” I divide the chapters into 1 lesson a week, leaving a few weeks for assessment and breaks.

After I have decided how much work will get completed each week (in this case, 1 chapter a week), I then look for online videos to go with the reading materials. A Youtube or Google video search surprisingly has a ton of videos that will match up to most of the subject matter in a textbook.

Just looking at chapter 15 for example, about westward expansion and the American Indians, I found no less than 10 options. So if on Monday, we read the chapter, on Tuesday, we watch videos, on Wednesday, we need to write an essay, and on Friday, we take a test often found at the end of the chapter. Some textbooks also have online tests to go with the textbook. (Yes, I skipped Thursday, we did in-home lessons 4 days a week, and saved day 5 for enrichment classes and activities).  By the way, here is the chapter test for the same textbook and chapter online.  My kids and I liked the online assessment because after they took it they could screenshot it and send me the completed text with grade and all.

To sum it up,

Week 15:

*I deliver the full year syllabus, week 1-35 to the children via a Google Doc.  I kept a printed copy in a binder for myself and write their grades in as they finish each chapter. For some subjects, this is the portfolio page for the class.

Example 2: Self cobbled curriculum. 

Language Arts in the same year would probably cover American Literature, to keep things simple.  While the student is learning about westward expansion they might also be reading THE SON BY PHILIPP MEYER, a novel about a family in the American West.

Language Arts, however, would be less structured than history.

Instead of weekly lessons, there might be monthly lessons.  For us this syllabus looked a little like this:


  • Read: Axtell, James. The Invasion Within. New York: Oxford University Press, 1985.
  • Jennings, Francis. Empire of Fortune. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1988.
  • Schwartz, Seymour. The French and Indian War 1754-1763. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994.
  • Write:  Choose an essay from Sparknotes French Indian War review:
  • Practice: Chapter 1 Greek and Latin Roots Workbook

*Students would show work at the end of each week for review, accountability, editing, and suggestions.


Andrea Hermitt Education Specialist on The Momager LifestyleAndrea Hermitt is a veteran homeschooler who has taught her two children from early elementary through high school. Both were accepted into several colleges and received scholarships. One holds a Bachelors degree, and one has a Masters degree. Ms. Andrea, as she is affectionately known, counsels homeschooling parents in setting up a program that works for their children, and helps students work toward their college goals.



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