Design-a-Study Guides

Welcome to my Build Your Own Homeschool Library series where I'm sharing with my readers some of my favorite books from my homeschool shelf. Please note that all the posts in this series contain my own opinions, and I have not been compensated by any publishing company for any of the content.


Design-a-Study guides, by Kathryn Stout, are excellent resources for homeschoolers who don't want to use prepackaged curriculum but still want some guidance in lesson planning. They are also especially useful for parents teaching multiple children at a time.

The guides provide both a framework of objectives and detailed methods for teaching several basic subjects effectively, including math, history, spelling, reading comprehension, writing, and science.

Here are some of the Design-a-Study guides that are available. (If you click on the titles below, you'll be able to see the inside of each book at at the Christian Book Distributors website. Once you're on the book's listing, simply click on Additional Views under the book image to see sample pages.)

  • Natural Speller:  allows you to customize a curriculum for grades 1 to 8 that teaches commonly misspelled words, Latin and Greek word parts, abbreviations, contractions, homophones, numbers, and more.
  • Critical Conditioning: shows you how students can build comprehension by carefully analyzing various elements of fiction and nonfiction works.
  • Comprehensive Comprehension: from researching a topic to shaping the final essay, helps young writers, grades K to 12, develop and hone their descriptive, persuasive, narrative, and expository writing skills.
  • Maximum Math: outlines age-appropriate objectives, offers specific direction for lessons, and helps you select manipulatives and related materials you'll need to teach the concepts.
  • Science Scope: provides a list of skills, topics for discussion, and interesting topics that are part of most science curricula.
  • Guides to History Plus: providing a series of questions on a number of cultural and historical topics that should be answered when looking at any civilization or people group throughout time; outlines are included, as well as objectives by grade and topic, and extensive lists of recommended resources (including games & videos) arranged by time period.

How we use the books

I used Science Scope as a basis for our science curriculum the first year we homeschooled, referring to the guide as the source of topics to study. We then used library books to teach the concepts. Maximum Math helped me plan basic activities for my kindergartener, and it gave me direction when I was making sure my sixth grader hadn't missed any important concepts when we were adjusting his math curriculum. I've also used several of the other guides intermittently over the last five years.

I've found that even reading through each of the guides helps me formulate objectives for each subject, even if I don't refer to the guide throughout the school year. They have also been helpful in reassuring me that my kids are on the right track.

Where to find the Design-a-Study Guide books

Christian Book Distributors is an excellent resource for purchasing new guides. You can also find used copies at low prices on

View a subject-by-subject list of all the posts in the Build Your Own Homeschool Library series here.

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