Our Homeschool Year: Fourth Grade & Sixth Grade Blocks – Simply Convivial

posted in: extra 9

Of course, the bulk of our time blocks goes to the older students. I can hardly believe this is Hans’ 7th year of “official” homeschooling since the time he started reading at 5. Though they do have more work than their younger siblings, none of it is onerous and they still should be able to do it and have plenty of free time every day for their own pursuits and hobbies if they don’t dawdle.


The blocks in our homeschool week

Elementary Students


My two older students this year would be 6th & 4th grade, though grade levels apply not at all in the way we do things.

Independent Work

So while I am working with the middle set (where is the baby-toddler going to be during this time? Getting into people’s business and making messes, I’m sure. I’m going to attempt to interest her in a single-toy-in-the-pack-n-play time. That worked for my other daughter, but not at all for my third son. We’ll muddle and get on.), the two older boys will start their checklists. This year, their independent work consists of

  • piano practice
  • xtramath.org drill
  • finish math page if necessary
  • exercise (I’ll put options up on the board like pushups or running around the block)
  • read Bible (this is self-directed; they pick what they read)
  • writing homework (what to do each day will be on their list)
  • fill in a blank continent map with country names (once per week, each continent once per term – on the day they have map work, they don’t have penmanship and they are allowed to look up it up, but they have to do it on their own)

Then after our one-on-one time (explained below), they also have “EHAP your stuff” on their list. They aren’t done until their stuff is put away.

One-on-One Tutoring Time

After teaching the 6yo & 4yo, I will attempt to get them to play with and occupy the baby-toddler. That very well could be asking for trouble; we’ll see. Then I’ll take a quick break – use the bathroom, move around (go outside for a minute or two if it’s nice), drink ice water, and even have a square of chocolate if I need it. Then I’ll correct the boys’ math pages and call Jaeger for his tutoring time. After his, I’ll come up for air for a few minutes and then plunge back in with Hans.

On the agenda for tutoring time is

  • go over math mistakes
  • 2 lines of cursive practice (I have to watch at their elbow or they don’t form their letters correctly or well)
  • sometimes writing tutoring
  • Latin work

For this all to happen before lunch, each boy is limited to 30 minutes. We’ll tackle the above list in order and however much time is left after math and the less-frequent writing help will be used in Latin work. I augment Latin For Children with extra writing & translation, and this year want to start more reading.

These students are not done for the day until their math is 100%, and they may have to do another draft on their writing if needed. So, after their tutoring time, they may or may not be done, depending on how well they worked.

At the boys’ request, we will also reinstitute “Monday Meetings” during their Monday tutoring time. Because some of the daily agenda & pep talk stuff will move to the agenda segment of Circle Time, going over the week’s plans won’t take so long and can be added in.

During our Monday Meeting time, I will

  • give them their weekly school checklist
  • have them pick a book or two they intend to read that week and write it on their list
  • tell them an improvement I saw in some aspect of their work the week before
  • suggest an area to focus on improving this week
  • have them write their own improvement goal for the week (playing a piano scale perfectly, doing math without complaining, etc. – but the choice is their own)

It only seems right, then to also have a “Friday Follow-up” during their tutoring time where I will

  • look over their list and get it ready for filing
  • ask them what the hardest part of the week was
  • ask them what the best part of the week was

Basically, I want to impart some of my own learning and implementing of organization principles and habits to them from the beginning (because why not?). We’ll see how it goes.

Elementary Lessons

For content areas this year we will be “co-oping” again with our friend-neighbors who live about a block away. We both have 5 kids who get along exceedingly well and who are all similar ages. Twice a week my friend will take the middle set (the 6-year-olds and 4-year-olds) while the youngest ones nap and her older two (10 & 8) join us at our house. She reads picture books for an hour to the younger ones (she’s a saint; I’ve never been able to manage that myself!) and then they get free, open-ended play without the older ones interfering.

And with the younger ones not even in the house (and the baby napping), we do Bible, history, science, and sometimes artist study or literature. This year we’ll be studying the New Testament & Acts, the modern period (Reformation to now, so definitely a brief survey!), the periodic table and elements, and Shakespeare.

Last year our lesson time consisted mostly of me reading aloud (I have never read aloud so much ever before), and some written or oral narration (I still wasn’t good about that). This year I toyed with the idea of simply assigning all the history reading, but I realized that if I did that, I would – no matter how much I resolved otherwise – not keep up. And my own knowledge of modern history is pretty weak, so if I want to learn it myself (and I do), then we’ll learn it together by my reading aloud. The kids usually color while listening and that puts my coloring book collection to good use. However, this year I want to take better advantage of having four kids all hearing and learning the same thing. I’m not good at getting narrations out of them and they aren’t that good at narrating (my own fault), but they love to quiz each other. So I have a couple quiz-like games to do regularly where they do the question-making as well as the answering. I will facilitate and correct and make it happen, but they will be reviewing and narrating in a way by coming up with both ends of the “quiz.” I’ll post more on how that works after we do it a few times and I iron out the kinks.

We’ll also work at some related memorization:

Our books for Elementary Lessons will be

Story of the World - M. B. Synge Collection - Exodus Books

I’ll write more about how we’re doing Shakespeare in the coming weeks. It deserves a post all its own.

Writing Class

I’ll be doing writing class again this year, after much internal (and some external) debate. Rather than give up a quiet time this year for the class, we’re giving up an hour of our weekly play group time Wednesday mornings to make sure writing happens. I’ll teach beginning sentence diagramming, mechanics, and also tutor their writing. I’ll be taking them from one paragraph writing to five paragraph writing over the course of the year.

Our Mother Tongue - Exodus Books

I’ll be teaching from Our Mother Tongue by Nancy Wilson for diagramming and pulling practice and homework sentences from early readers and picture books. I’ll use Evan-Moor Paragraph Editing to practice mechanics (just learning by correction as they wrote last year didn’t seem to stick very well, nor translate into better first drafts). And I’ll be drawing on a few resources (mostly IEW, but also my experience teaching writing) to help them improve their writing.

The two most important factors for improving writing, I think, is copious reading & listening to good books (you need thoughts in your head in order to write!) and just lots and lots of practice with feedback. So my main writing-teacher strategy is to give them opportunities to practice and give them feedback (which they have to use to revise and turn back in, not just read and forget). It’s important to me they learn how to write a good outline, use topic and conclusion sentences (I’m really picky about these), and have every sentence in a paragraph relate to that topic sentence (cohesion – it’s a hard one to teach).

I’m hoping the class format will work to allow the students to work on a paragraph to edit in class while I rotate students around going over their feedback with them to make sure they understand and to model what I’m talking about. I do that with my own boys with each draft (they usually go through two or three before their final one is acceptable), and I’d like to be a part of that process with each of my students (I might have anywhere from 3-8 students, including my two; not positive yet).

So, that sums up our late-elementary plans.

I did my best to cut out any idea that wasn’t essential and keep it simple but challenging. I think we’ll accomplish that. You can rest assured I’ll keep you updated as we go!

9 Responses

  1. kellyinpa
    | Reply

    You have certainly been very thorough in your planning. Sounds like a great year for you and the children. What a blessing to have a friend/neighbor to trade children and lessons with. I’m still in planning mode and probably will be until the end of the month. I will be reading over this series again, I’m sure, as I make our homeschool plans.

  2. Catharina
    | Reply

    I love your idea of Monday Meeting and Follow up Friday! I’m so going to steal this! Thanks!

  3. Gina
    | Reply

    I love this! My oldest is going to be in 5th grade this year, so I think I’ll be using the idea of independent work and tutoring. It sounds so freeing for me, and a great way to help her learn more responsibility.

    I’d like to know how you decide which books to use for history and science. I struggle there. Thanks!

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Hm, I am not sure how I decide, really. I find as I browse options online, usually one stands out. I look for a narrative history overview to read out loud, one that uses quality language and isn’t cheesy and doesn’t talk down to kids. On their own, my boys do a lot of extra history reading: biographies, books that didn’t quite make the read-aloud cut, etc. And I own all four SOTW on audio that we listen to “for fun.” I prefer getting a lot of different angles on history rather than relying on one source; one benefit to that is there’s less stress on picking the “best,” and I just have to pick the one I can tolerate reading out loud all year. :) So, I also, then, pick the one I like that the boys might be the least likely to read on their own.

      For science, I just decided learning the periodic table would be cool, and started online book browsing. There really weren’t that many options, so that made selecting them easy. Brandy recommended the “Story of” books right when I was starting looking, which was providential. I don’t think I’d have found them otherwise.

      Later on I’ll be posting about the other books I bought for free reading, but it might not be until October.

      • Gina
        | Reply

        Ha! So it really can be that easy. ;) Awesome, I tend to stress about choosing “just the right one!”, and now I think I’ll relax a bit. :)

  4. April
    | Reply

    Hi Mystie!

    Wow, great plan! Looking forward to your reading list. Love the Monday Meeting and Follow up Friday idea too. My youngest two are the same age as your oldest two so your school and book posts have been very useful. Would you consider writing a post with more detail on this year’s writing program? I have heard of IEW, but have never seen the curriculum. It sounded expensive and complicated, but I do struggle with knowing how and what to do for a writing program. I liked your last post on writing where you talked about outlining Aesop’s Fables. If you could expand on this topic it would be most appreciated.

    Thanks for all your wonderful posts!!! I found you last Oct from the 30 days link up and yours is one of my favorite blogs.

  5. Karen @ Simply
    | Reply

    How wonderful to have good friends to share studies with! And we will probably be doing something very similar to the Monday/Friday meetings with my oldest. I’m looking to have a quick meeting at the first of the week to go over the week with my 16yo, see if she has any questions, etc. Then we would have a discussion meeting at the end of the week to discuss the week’s work, for me to check the work for the week, etc. I’ve also considered doing all of this in one meeting instead of two separate meetings where we’d get together maybe Monday mornings, discuss the previous week’s work (which would give me the weekend to grade things), and then look at the upcoming week. I have to make a decision soon! :)

  6. ah0302
    | Reply

    That is so great that you have friends close by that are so similar to you and that you can help each other out! I also like your block approach. We are doing something sorta similar this year. I’m not making daily lesson plans, but more of a master list that will get done within blocks.

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