Sixth Grade Curriculum Choices

Sixth grade. Middle school. It sounds a little daunting. It’s also very exciting. Liam’s very keen to branch out beyond the three Rs, and wants to explore topics I would never have considered for him. To me, he’s all science, all the time. Yet he’s surprised me with a passion for grammar, an earnest desire to learn Latin, and a request to study ancient Rome. Perhaps there’s a bit of me in this child after all!

prealgebraMath: Jesse is going to take over math this year with Liam. Although we haven’t hammered out all the details of how that will actually work, I think Dad will be doing the lesson/explanation time in the evening, and Liam will be working on the exercises during our school time. I plan to tag team the exercises with him, both to support him and to give myself a refresher. We’ll be using the highly recommended Art of Problem Solving Prealgebra for our text.

large-caesars-english-ii-clasical-education-edition-studentLanguage Arts: Imagine my surprise one day last school year when Liam told me his favorite subject was grammar! Needless to say, we’ll be sticking with the same excellent grammar and vocabulary program. Last year I used Michael Clay Thompson’s materials for these two subjects, but I was concerned the writing program wasn’t meaty enough. So I turned to another homeschool staple to cover that subject. It was dry as dust. Liam’s writing did improve slightly, but it was also formulaic and voiceless.  This year I’ve decided to completely embrace MCT’s language arts program – grammar, vocabulary, poetry, writing, and the Search Trilogy for literature. I think this program is a great fit for Liam, and I’m excited to see where his writing is a year from now! To round out language arts we’ll use a bare bones spelling workbook.

latinLatin: I was slightly taken aback when Liam announced he wanted to learn Latin. I don’t know Latin, how can I teach it? And also, WHY??? He pointed out that he was already learning Latin stems in his vocabulary program, and loving it. He also declared he would almost certainly going into a scientific field, and so much of scientific terminology is rooted in Latin. He tried out an online Latin course this summer, both to see how keen he truly was on the subject and to buy me some time. He’s really enjoying learning the language and wants to continue. I’m stepping out of my comfort zone and planning to start with First Form Latin from Memoria Press. We are a secular family and this is a Christian company, so I’m a little hesitant. However, the material isn’t overtly Christian, and it comes highly recommended by several people I truly trust.

ancientromeHistory: Studying Latin has sparked Liam’s interest in all things Roman. So naturally he requested to study Ancient Rome this year. Unlike most homeschoolers, we’ve never covered this time period (we only started homeschooling last year, after all!), so I’m happy to comply. We’ll be using The Ancient Roman World by Oxford University Press, along with plenty of documentaries and library books.

aristotleScience: We’ve owned the Joy Hakim Story of Science series for several years. I knew I wanted to use this series for middle school science, but was a little daunted with the task of fleshing these books out into a full-blown science curriculum. Luckily, Gifted Homeschoolers has an online class that does just that. Liam will be taking their class based on the text Aristotle Leads the Way. If it’s a success, we’ll continue on. If I feel I could do just as well on my own, well, we’ll go that route.

horizonsFrench: As with Harry, Liam will be reading books and watching films and documentaries in French. We’ll have conversation afternoons. I’ve also selected a college text, Horizons, that we’ll cover slowly over the next two years. Liam already knows most of the contents. The text serves as an outline for me to follow and a good refresher on some finer points. Within the next year or so I expect I’ll need to find a French tutor to help him advance even further.

Music: Liam will continue with weekly piano lessons. The progress he has made in the last year has been astonishing. One of the best spur of the moment decisions Jesse and I ever made was the day we decided to go buy a piano!

PE: He’ll continue with weekly swimming lessons. His instructor keeps telling me he should join the junior swim team – not a competitive team at all, but a group for the better swimmers to work on form and technique. We may give that a try the next session.

This weekend I need to iron out lesson plans for the first couple weeks of school. We start Monday!

Third Grade Curriculum Choices

I put a lot of time and effort into choosing the right curriculum for each boy this year. I know their learning styles better, their strengths and their weaknesses. Harry is my live wire, my loose cannon. He is in constant motion, finding it nearly impossible to sit still in a chair for even five minutes. He is quick to anger, and yet the most friendly and outgoing member of our entire family. If he were in traditional school, we’d be having meetings about him distracting the rest of the class and bandying about labels. He’s brilliant. He’s a challenge. And he has more personality than anyone I’ve ever met.

Last year, second grade, was our first year homeschooling. We survived. In some areas I’d venture to say that we thrived. Harry’s reading has flourished. We had to backtrack nearly a year in math due to…. an unfortunate situation with his first grade teacher in his former school. He’s now completely caught up and ready to tackle third grade math. He didn’t enjoy it, but I still consider the progress he’s made a great success. This year, Harry learned to play the piano. He learned to swim. He’s gone from little kid to full on boyhood.

I’ve put hours and hours of thought into choosing this year’s curriculum for this boy, taking extra pains to respect his strengths and his struggles. This is our plan for the coming year.

beast-3aMath: Insert heavy sighs and dragging feet any time I mention the word “math”. Math is the thorn in Harry’s side. And I’m 99% sure it’s not an ability problem. It’s a mindset problem- Harry’s mindset being that math means worksheets and drudgery. And, if I’m being fair, last year was lots of worksheets. So perhaps it’s not a mindset problem at all. It’s the approach that’s the problem. So we’re going to turn math on its beastly tail and take a fresh approach. Beast Academy combines a textbook in graphic-novel format and a workbook that is light on rote memorization and heavy on applied learning. I see a lot of buddy math in our near future, but I think this is a huge step in the right direction.

large-grammar-islandLanguage Arts: Last year Liam and I tried out Michael Clay Thompson’s language arts curriculum with phenomenal success. Initially, I had planned to hold off on MCT for Harry until fourth grade, but decided the level one package is right on target for my less-is-more, fewer worksheets, more content child. MCT has grammar, vocabulary, writing, and poetry components. Once we’ve covered the basics of grammar, we’ll also dive into MCT’s literature program for this level, the Mud trilogy. To round out LA, I’ve got a generic handwriting book for (short) daily practice and a generic spelling workbook.

gombrichScience and Social Studies: We’ll continue to be primarily interest-led when it comes to science and social studies. Not a day goes by that this kid doesn’t take in a NOVA, or several Crash Course videos, or lose himself in a nonfiction book. In addition, I have a generic geography workbook, just to be certain we hit the basics, and we’ll read our way through E.H. Gombrich’s “A Little History of the World.” 

Parlez-vous français?

Parlez-vous français?

French: This is the subject that elicits heavy sighs and dragging feet from me. I love French, I’m glad my boys learned it when they were young. But I don’t know where to go from here. We read books in French, we watch movies, we are trying to remember to spend at least one afternoon a week speaking solely in French. I feel the need for a more targeted approach. I just haven’t found what that looks like yet.

Music: Harry will continue taking piano lessons. Practice time is the best part of the school day, as far as he’s concerned.

PE: We’ll continue with weekly swimming lessons. And I’m seriously contemplating adding aikido this autumn. Harry would really benefit from the extra physical/mental workout.

It’s always a work in progress, but I think I’ve struck a good balance of rigorous academics whilst respecting Harry’s personality and learning style. Most of the books are in place, or will be by this time next week. Our new school year starts the first Monday in August, less than a week away.

minds wide awake

Our species needs, and deserves, a citizenry with minds wide awake and a basic understanding of how the world works.

~Carl Sagan

Our goal is not that the boys speak five different languages, nor that they nab perfect SAT scores. Not that those aren’t options, of course. Our goal is both more and less lofty. It is that they learn to learn, and that they love to learn. That they approach the world with creativity and expectation. And that their minds be wide awake.

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