7th Grade: Real Life Report

posted in: pedagogical | 21

This year has been my first spin through homeschooling 7th grade, but it won’t be my last. Lord willing, I will have four others to bring through this stage.

Therefore, this evaluation is as much for me as it is for you. Next time around, how will this plan change and how will it stay the same? Best to think through that now while the good, bad, and ugly are fresh in my mind.

Also, the lessons I learned from this first “upper school” year of ours need to be incorporated into our 8th grade plans next year.

So, let’s dive into what worked and what didn’t.



Math

We’re continuing with Math-U-See, for sure.

Math-U-See - Exodus Books

Hans has already done more than one book this year. He began in Pre-Algebra lesson 10 and is currently in Algebra lesson 15, with 7 weeks left to go in the school year.

The video lessons have been adequate 98% of the time to explain the concept and get him rolling, which I greatly appreciate! There isn’t too much work on each page (1 page per day), but what work there is we make sure is 100% correct every day. This helps them learn from their mistakes and not keep making the same mistake over multiple days before it is caught. I do the checking, though I know many delegate that at this stage to the student.

However, when I check it, I know his status, I know how he’s doing, I know whether or not he’s ready to move on to the next lesson. If I delegated the math checking, I would end up not paying any attention to what he’s doing and that would make it easy for slippage to occur – just like bedroom-cleaning and chores – I can only expect what I inspect.

Writing & Grammar

Hans has been writing a paragraph for every history chapter and science chapter he reads – three total per week. This has been excellent. I revise them (most weeks) and the next week he turns in his revised paragraphs with his new paragraphs. Because they’re typed, it’s not an onerous process. He’s a good writer, a natural with words and expressions, so this has been working well for us.

We haven’t done any 5 paragraph papers this year at all. I have plans to make up for that next year. :)

Mother Tongue - Student Workbook 1 - Exodus Books

For grammar we’ve been using The Mother Tongue and I dislike it. I think grammar is actually straightforward and clear, but this is a curriculum that complicates it needlessly. Not only does the King James style of the examples make things difficult to follow and analyze (subjects after the predicate or compound subjects split by the predicate, plus many words that have changed meaning), but they even keep old comma usage in the examples, so the students are seeing examples of comma use that are incorrect. This drives me bonkers and adds an extra layer of confusion for the students when we do learn comma rules (which, I promise, are not actually difficult; there are 10 and they aren’t hard to learn).

I don’t know what I’ll do for grammar next time around, but it will not be The Mother Tongue. Probably I’ll do my own thing again. Sigh.

Latin

For Latin, as with most things, you get out what you put in. Hans is just wrapping up LFC Primer B, meaning he’s done about half a book this year, which is our standard rate for better or for worse.

I am not sure how he’s doing, because I have not been keeping up with him. Unlike math, I haven’t been checking his work every time, and therefore I don’t know how he’s doing.

We have been reading Latin together once a week and that has stretched us both and been fun. We keep an (online) Latin dictionary handy and figure out about 3-5 sentences at a time. We stuck with Winnie Ille Pu a bit too long – it is quite beyond us, really. Fabulae Mirablis, however, has been entertaining and right at our level. I highly recommend it if you’re looking to actually use your Latin skills to read.


Latin for Children Primer B - Mastery Bundle - Exodus BooksLatin for Children Primer C - Mastery Bundle - Exodus Books

Literature & Reading

Reading The Odyssey and The Aeneid together, slowly over the whole year, was a good plan. We simply never found a scheduling niche for it to fit consistently. For about half the year we got up early – 6am – on Friday mornings and went to a donut shop half a mile away. He had a donut, I had a latte, and we talked about the themes we found in the book (I gave him two themes to look for as he read). Then we’d also go over his writing together.

That worked well when it worked, like so many things. But sometimes I didn’t get up, sometimes the weather was too cold, sometimes I plain forgot, and we never really found a consistent time to have an uninterrupted conversation.

So we only read The Odyssey this year.

That’s still not too shabby.

Besides that, Hans joined Elementary Lessons for Shakespeare. This year’s selections were Julius Caesar, Much Ado about Nothing, and The Tempest.

His optional free reading list was lengthy, mostly because I wanted to make sure I was providing a copious and broad selection for him. I picked 36 and I’ll group them in Hits, Flops, and Skips.

Hits

Flops

  • The Sea Around Us by Rachel Carson – he told me it was well written, it was just all wrong because it was all evolutionary throughout.
  • Ben Hur by Lew Wallace – we tried audio, too, but he just didn’t gel with it; Jaeger listened to it and enjoyed it, though.
  • Knowing God by J.I. Packer – he brought this to me and said he knew it was a good book, he just felt it was still a bit beyond him.

Skips

Next time around I will simply keep this list in my teacher notes and offer suggestions as I see they might be received, rather than give the list to the student.

Grammar of Poetry

Grammar of Poetry - DVD Bundle - Exodus Books

We are doing this (and logic and grammar) with friends, so the time is carved out and committed to make it happen.

It’s a great program, and I enjoy Matt Whitling’s teaching on the DVD. The exercises are straightforward and clear, and there’s plenty of poetry composition with just the right balance of freedom and structure.

This program is definitely a hit that will stay.

Logic

Art of Argument - Bundle - Exodus Books

Seventh grade is the perfect age at which to study fallacies. Just sayin’.

The conversations on the DVD are not very energetic or the most compelling, but it’s still nice to be able to sit in on class conversations and not have to gin them up ourselves. The workbook is fun and doesn’t have a lot of busy work. We use the written answer sections simply as springboards for our own class discussion and oral review.

We also mix things up with occasional debates, which the room full of 6th-8th graders loves.

CAP’s Art of Argument is another hit that we’ll keep in our 7th grade rotation.

Bible

Most Important Thing You'll Ever Study - Exodus Books

Hans is using Starr Meade’s The Greatest Thing You’ll Ever Study, a study guide through the entire Bible. He will finish the first two volumes by the end of the year and do the second two next year.

The lessons are not laid out in school-day chunks at all, but rather in sections based on the Scripture to be studied. This is great, but makes scheduling it a trick. What we did – and it’s worked very well – is to schedule “Bible study – 30 minutes” 4 times a week on his checklist. He sets a timer for thirty minutes and does the next thing in the book (whether that’s read a lesson, read assigned portions of Scripture, or answer questions) until it dings. Then he puts his bookmark where he left off and picks back up next time.

When he’s done with this study, he’ll have read the entire Bible himself, with the help of introductions, explanations, and questions. I love it.

History

Hans enjoyed his history books and we’ll wrap them up on time, also. He’s already finished with Herodotus for Boys and Girls. His paragraphs based on the chapters from these books have shown an understanding of the history, and I’ve been very pleased with them.

He also has a Book of Centuries, but remember how up in the math section I said I shouldn’t expect what I don’t inspect? Well, Hans had trouble for a large portion of the first history book with not having actual dates and so being confused about where to put events in his book of centuries. This turned into ignoring that he was assigned to do it. And I only checked periodically. When I checked, he did it. When I didn’t, he didn’t.

It is a great Book of Centuries, though, and I have been enjoying keeping my own as well (about as consistently as Hans).

Science

We started the year planning to read through The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way, one chapter a week, writing a paragraph on each chapter as he went. This went swimmingly and he actually finished it by Christmas. So now he’s in the second volume and since one of his history books is complete, I’ve assigned 2 chapters per week instead and we’ll see if we can’t make it through all three volumes in one year instead of two.

Next time around, I’ll plan on the three-volume set being a one-year study rather than a two or three year course.

Yes, that’s right, middle school science that was entirely reading and writing. I don’t have a problem with that. Do you? :)



Overall, seventh grade has been awesome.

This year Hans has grown taller than me, his voice has changed, and he’s started wearing collared shirts and tucking them in with a belt. He’s growing up, but still runs around with nerf guns and sits on the floor tinkering with Legos. He tried testing the boundaries and arguing and all the other emotional outbursts around school and chores when he was 10, and for now has settled in and accepted his fate for the most part.

His workload was manageable, which helped. If he stayed focused and worked off his list, he could finish all his checklist by lunch.

With that hope set before him, and knowing that his evening computer time would be forfeit if he argued or fussed, and having the option to take a walk should he need to cool his heels, he mostly showed up and did the work.

Knowing the expectations and knowing he had free time coming helped prevent him from becoming discouraged. I think it’s very easy to start piling things on at 7th grade, but they are going through so many changes at this stage, that it’s better to keep the list reduced but concentrated – more than ever, this is no time for busy work. Twelve-year-olds want their work to be meaningful and don’t need any additional stress than their growing is already giving them.

He had a solid year, and I’m proud of the work he’s done.

21 Responses

  1. Catharina
    |

    Sounds like a great year!

    Every year I get the same kind of shock when all Americans homeschoolers are starting to talk about the end of the school year. 7 weeks! We still have 18 weeks to go :-(

  2. Catharina
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    ETA: my oldest is in 7th grade too, so even though some things are really different (more foreign languages), it’s really fun to read your hits and misses.

  3. Laura
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    What is Elementary Lessons for Shakespeare? Is it a class?

  4. Annie
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    This all looks great. Quick question, I want to have my 5th grader do the same writing of paragraphs off her reading that you’re having your kids do, but it seems too open-ended. Can you write a guide to what this looks like in your home. How detailed? Do you start with a question to be answered? Is it more like a written narration? I struggle with having realistic expectations.

  5. Jennifer
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    If you want to read Latin together I highly highly recommend Lingua Latina. You won’t even need the dictionary. Sounds like it’s been a great year!

    • Mystie Winckler
      |

      Oh….that does look good! Thanks, Jennifer!

  6. a. borealis
    |

    Oh my goodness. This: “testing the boundaries and arguing and all the other emotional outbursts around school and chores when he was 10”. I have a 10yo boy and this is exactly where we are at. It’s like some kind of gremlin bursts out of him and he’s having tantrums like he’s 2 again! Oh my. I am so encouraged just knowing it isn’t “just him”. (Part II: I really need to get a book on developmental milestones for his age.)

    Also. This: “knowing that his evening computer time would be forfeit if he argued or fussed, and having the option to take a walk should he need to cool his heels”. Wow – great ideas. I need to work into that. At this point, I send him upstairs to his room to reconnect with himself, but going outside, especially now that that is feasible in our area of the country right on the verge of spring, is a very good idea – to see and hear nature around him – I would think it is very grounding.

    Our children are also allowed screen time in the evenings only – and what a great way to leverage that privilege. (I love having the day completely clear of those sinkholes.) (And it is so refreshing to not even have it as an option.) Revoking that privilege when they lose control of themselves and make life difficult is right on the money. I will keep that in my back pocket for future reference.

    • Aimee
      |

      Check out Boot Camp 9-12 by Hal and Melanie Young. We just finished going thru it. It is a 5-week webinar done live with the Youngs, and it deals with that age bracket, what changes they are going thru, and how to deal with it. It was great!! Our 4th son (out of 8 boys!) is 11, and I wish we had heard this when my oldest son was that age. But at least I know how to handle this stage with the rest of them!

  7. Amber Vanderpol
    |

    I think your very last paragraph was the most important! I’m definitely noticing that with my 8th grader – I’ve had to back off on some of the work I was expecting just because she can sometimes be a lot more tired. I don’t think it is because we’re doing too much other stuff, school or otherwise (generally!), but just that her body needs a lot of energy for growth right now. And yes, there is definitely no tolerance for busywork, that’s for sure!

  8. Kirsten D
    |

    I enjoyed reading through this and getting a glimpse into the life of a boy older than either of mine are. Your wisdom again reminds me of my mom, who was puzzled when I went through a rough spot around 13-14. I’d been mostly eager to cooperate and would remember the list of 3-4 things she’d ask me to do in the mornings until then, when I started forgetting things like crazy. It was bugging us both, and I so appreciate that she didn’t just get upset about it – she stopped to figure out what was going on, since I was as puzzled and frustrated as she was! She finally realized I was just getting a lot busier with high school work and needed some sort of planner of my own to keep track of everything, and I got a good lesson on problem solving at the same time. :-)

    For English, have you ever heard of Hearthstone Grammar? (http://www.cfeeschool.com/category/Grammar.html) I can pull out my old books if you have specific questions, but these were what we did in high school and they were awesome. The high school English teacher we asked to glance at them said some of the diagramming and such were things he didn’t see taught until college, but it was so easy and straightforward to learn – nicely done from a Christian perspective, too! Just an idea — feel free to email with any questions or if you’d like to see a sample of the book that can’t be found online.

  9. Kirsten D
    |

    I love your idea of setting a timer and just getting as far as possible several times a week in the Bible curriculum – I have that same set I’ve been wanting to get through the last few years, but keep getting bogged down since it seems impossible to get a whole section done between interruptions. I’ve been making it too complicated, as usual. :-) Just sit down, get as far as I can, and put in a bookmark! Aha!

  10. Cameron
    |

    Great post. I really appreciate your thoughts. I’d love to know the 10 easy comma rules you mentioned in your analysis of grammar! Where might I find that info.?

  11. Andrea
    |

    As always, Thanks for your transparentcy, realness, and willingness to let up peek inside your life!
    Quick question if you are willing to share. Are you planning to go to any on-line classes- live or prerecorded- in the future? If so, which subjects are you thinking of? Just curious as another mom-to-many. The more I get in the older grades the harder I find it to keep up with grading the paragraphs and papers and reading all the books in order to have meaningful discussions. The Lord has blessed you with great abilities and you have faithfully stewarded you mind and time over the years— the the benefit of MANY! Well done. If you are willing to share anything on those topics in the future, it would be great! THANKS!

    • Mystie Winckler
      |

      Hi Andrea! Online classes are definitely an option on the table, as well as local classes. Once my oldest is 16, we might consider some classes at the local community college as well.

      For next year I am looking into Dwane Thomas’ live Latin lessons. Brandy has raved about them. In high school I’d certainly consider outsourcing math in some way. Online or outside classes provide not only the help with the teaching load, but perhaps even just as importantly, the outside deadlines mean the work actually happens. :)

  12. Erika
    |

    The link to your book of centuries is not working for me. I would love to see what you are using.

  13. Cathy aka The Attached Mama
    |

    Once again, I love your blog. Homeschooling mamas love details, details, details. And I personally eat up posts like this for breakfast. Keep on keeping on! You are doing great Mystie!

  14. Stephanie
    |

    This is awesome, Mystie! Thanks for sharing. I have been trying to decide what to do about science. I would love to do The Story of Science, but science textbook publishers make me feel like we need their books in order to give our children a good foundation before high school science. Do you feel The Story of Science has accomplished that? You seem happy with it, so I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!

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