5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op Syllabus

5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op Syllabus

5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op Syllabus

This week we’re all about co-ops for homeschool classes.  I’m a big fan of using a syllabus to keep the class on track. For instance, here is an old syllabus from one of our co-op Latin classes.5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op SyllabusA syllabus is technically an overview of the course of study for a subject.

Some people are organizational mavens who create a super-detailed syllabus…and then intimidate everyone else by trying to adhere rigidly to it no matter what life may bring.

That doesn’t sound like much fun to me.  I’ve already adjusted a syllabus for one co-op class this year and completely re-done it for another!

Flexibility is important, but if you don’t have a plan at the start you don’t have accountability for yourself or good communication of your expectations for the other families who are participating in the co-op.

One other plus to using a syllabus — your college-bound kids will already be proficient at following one before they meet their first professor freshman year!

One of the best Literature studies for co-op is 7Sisters Literature Study Guides for The Chronicles of Narnia. which leads to wonderful discussions.

The Chronicles of Narnia Literature Guides

Here are 5 easy steps to creating a syllabus for your homeschool co-op:

1.  Decide what your overall goal is.

Are you trying to complete a textbook?  Cover a certain number of key units?  Log a certain number of hours in experiential learning?  Complete a certain number of projects/presentations for each kid in the co-op?  Prepare for a particular event, like a geography fair, or a holiday celebration, or a festival?  If you begin planning with your overall goal in mind, you are scheduling your syllabus backwards from the finish line.  (Have you downloaded our time management resource, Scheduling Backwards?  Click here for a .pdf that will help you tame your calendar!)

2.  Divide your goal by how many co-op meetings you have.

If it’s a textbook, divide the chapters.  It it’s hours, divide the hours.  If it’s projects per kid, take the number of projects times the number of kids and divide that by the number of co-op meetings you have available…..then figure out how you will fit x number or presentations into each co-op!  It it’s preparation for an event, think backwards from the date of the event and split up the major pieces of the assignment appropriately.

5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op Syllabus3.  TALK to your fellow co-opers.

Find out any family trips that are planned, problems with scheduling that anyone foresees, level of commitment to the co-op.  It’s very frustrating to create a syllabus and have projects or field trips or activities planned and then discover that two out of your 5 families weren’t planning to be there that day.  It’s less of a problem to factor in those absences early-on than it is to handle it unexpectedly down the road.

4.  Type it all up in a simple, 3-column format.


If you don’t have specific homework assignments nailed down for every meeting yet, that’s okay.  Especially if you are team-teaching, you have to leave spots that say things like, “Complete Mrs. Groop’s assignment” for a homework slot that isn’t yours to decide.  It still provides an overview of what everyone can expect, with calendar dates running straight down the left margin for easy reference.

5.  Distribute it multiple ways.

Email it to everyone; post a copy on a group, or on a bulletin board if you meet somewhere public; hand everyone a printed copy.  Keep a couple of extra copies in your own co-op notebook.  Syllabi have a way of growing legs and walking away!  They often have to be replaced for students…and their parents.

5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op SyllabusUsing a syllabus cuts down on confusion among the members of your co-op.  It means fewer last-minute cancellations.  And it provides greater planning structure for you as the teacher.

A deeply inspirational Literature study for teens is 7Sisters’ Great Christian Writers course.

Great Christian Writers: A Full-Year High School Literature Course. 7SistersHomeschool.com

One last thought:

Are you organized and love this stuff, but you’re not the teacher for co-op this year?  Your friend who is super-creative and fun and a wonderful teacher is, but she also is random and hard to coordinate with.

Why not offer to create a syllabus for her?  You two can have a cup of coffee together as you gather the information you need to pull a syllabus together.  Remember that she is not required by law to follow it to the letter!  So don’t get huffy if she deviates.  But you may find you really blessed her by helping that way.


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5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op Syllabus


Sabrina Justison

20+ year homeschool mom and curriculum developer for 7SistersHomeschool.com. Fred's wife. Writing, drama, music, blogs, kids, shoes, coffee, & books in varying orders on various days. He is God, He is good & He loves me.

2 Replies to “5 Easy Steps to a Co-Op Syllabus”

  1. I like a syllabus, but I don’t always like the process of creating it. On the plus side, I brainstorm and plan in one, two, at the most three sessions depending on whether the inspiration is flowing or not. On the down side, when I am teaching in the middle of the year, I wonder where that inspiration went and can frequently be heard lamenting, “WHO assigned all of this stuff I have to grade!?!…oh I did.”
    Oh summertime inspiration, how you trick me into doing hard things!

  2. I need to have a syllabus so I know how much to cover each time. When I team-teach with someone, we sit down and create a basic syllabus together and then assign which parts we are each doing.

    I like to keep it simple: the date, what we are covering in class and the homework assignment.

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