Seventh Grade, second round | 2017-2018 School Year

posted in: homeschooler 9

My second child enters 7th grade this year – crazy.

But the good news is that I was about 85% happy with the 7th grade plan I created for my oldest, so all I had to do this time around was find solutions to the parts I didn’t like.

If you’re curious what didn’t work for us in 7th grade, I wrote about that.

Middle School Priorities

As homeschooling moms, we have the ability (and necessity!) to plan not just academics, but the whole big picture for our children, taking their individual needs into account and adjusting based on all of life and not just school checklists.

So, thinking holistically, school is not just about the books and the work, but about helping the student grow and mature.

A 12-year-old student will do what he can to get autonomy and it won’t make sense to mom. It will look different for different personality types – some are more openly argumentative while others prefer subversion – but often it feels like a 12yo (or 11, or 13 – different kids hit it at different times) is a large 2yo.

However, as mothers with a monthly reminder of how hormones mess with perspective and emotions, we’ve got to take it in stride and realize it’s a season to walk with them through, not a time to despair because we thought they knew better.

So my personal priority with my seventh grader is independence with accountability.

Where possible, he can exercise freedom and independence in his work: where it’s done, when it’s done, what order it’s done in. But, there’s also structure I need to maintain to keep him accountable: work before play, work done by the end of the week, and work always looked at weekly.

If the accountability slides, so will the work – that’s not because I’ve failed to install a work ethic, but because he’s human. It’s also because he’s ripe for learning some lessons through experience about getting work done – so my priority as teacher-mother is making sure he sees natural consequences – both of getting work done early and of getting work done late, of getting work done well and of getting work done sloppily.

Rather than expect I can set things up so he has zero work ethic issues, I’m going into it knowing that experiencing consequences is a large part of his current life curriculum.

middle school homeschool

Homeschool Plans for Middle School

So the first issue in planning seventh grade this time around was finding substitutions for the books I didn’t like last time: history and grammar.

I’m pleased so far with what I discovered, especially because the history answer turned up on my own shelves already.

Instead of the World in Ancient Times series, which my oldest thought was dull and too secular, we’ll be using The Ancient Mediterranean by Michael Grant. Somehow I came across it when looking for extra reading options for my oldest in seventh grade (an extensive side reading list was another first-time-around idea I’ve cut), but he never read it. It covers early civilizations like the Philistines and Minoans and goes through the Roman Republic. It’s not a very large book, either, so he’s only reading about 1/3 of a chapter a week. I’ve not read the whole thing, only parts, but it’s well written. It’s for an adult layman, so it’s not trying to be appealing or interesting or funny to a middle school boy, which I think is a plus.


This student in particular has enjoyed ancient history and read nearly everything targeted for students already. It’s quite possible this won’t be the book for my next student (possibly Memoria Press’ ancient history options will work better for her), but it will work for this student.

I also purchased the George Grant lectures on Antiquity after podcasting with Cindy Rollins. They’re meant for high school, but as I said, this child is particularly interested in the time period, so I added them in as a supplemental option for him.

The other solution I needed was grammar. This student hasn’t really done any grammar work for 3 years – and when he did it, he was young for it. He did it because I taught him and his brother together. In 7th grade I used The Mother Tongue reprint, but did not like it. I went out on a limb this year and bought Analytical Grammar, and I am looking forward to using it, actually! The reference pages are well stated and summarized, the progression is logical and incremental, and I liked the look of the practice pages. Now, I think it’s way overkill on the amount of practice. We’ll be doing most of the book in the year, but with only 1-2 practice pages per chapter. I don’t think grammar needs to be belabored – it needs to be known well enough to be used as a tool in writing and reading.

The other difference is that my first seventh grader was still working in Latin for Children Primer B, but this seventh grader finished B last year. He requested learning Spanish instead of moving on to Primer C, and I granted the request. Buy in is good. Plus, quite honestly, I have not kept up with my own Latin well enough to be having children in Primer C – that’s what I learned as my oldest finished it up last year. So Spanish it is, using Living Language, Duolingo on his Kindle Fire, and Berlitz.


So our 7th grade course of study this year includes:

So instead of a screenshot, I thought I’d make a quick little video tour of his Trello checklist:

As I mention in the video, he has quite a bit of leeway in deciding when he does what. Not that he gets to spend the morning playing and choose to do his work in the evening (business before pleasure), but that he gets to choose which day he’ll work on what assignment.

When my oldest was in 7th grade, about half of the Fridays in the year we got up early and went out to a donut shop a mile from our house. We went over his narration paragraphs and talked about The Odyssey. In the car there and back we also talked about what was and wasn’t working for him, and it wasn’t so much that I solved those problems for him as that him noticing and identifying trends helped him learn how to manage his time better.

So this year I’ll be doing that for this seventh grader, also. It’ll be a special seventh-grade transition-to-independence practice.

Art of Argument and Grammar of Poetry we’ll be doing once a week as a class with others in the fall. I have the video lessons, so they’ll watch the lessons as a group, then we’ll do the activities together and I’ll assign and check homework.

homeschool books

When that class starts up in the fall, it will also include a chunk of time with Shakespeare (reading Taming of the Shrew, Macbeth, and Romeo & Juliet), Plutarch (Publicola & Cato with Anne White’s guide), and Art (using Story of Painting, prints, and Khan Academy videos).

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Read more about middle school in our homeschool:

9 Responses

  1. mystie
    | Reply

    Membership created from mystie’s import.

  2. Rachel C
    | Reply

    I have just started using Trello and started using the comments in the same way you do but was curious about something. What do you do with his narrations or summaries that he completes in Trello? Do you leave them in Trello permanently or do you have a plan to take a few out and print them (maybe at the end of a year)?

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I did pull some out to save. Some of their writing, too, they were doing on the Word Processor and saving. Mostly, though, the benefit is from the activity and I don’t really expect to go reading through old narrations in the future and I don’t have to keep records for the state. I’m not a saver personality, so it doesn’t bother me to just leave it there. It’s done, over, and time to move on, in my book. :) On the other hand, it is nice to see some narrations from the beginning of the year and compare them with those from the end of the year – sometimes it doesn’t feel like there’s progress, but when you put previous work side-by-side with current work, the progress becomes evident.

      Another way I can quickly save narrations in an app (Trello or Slack) is to take a screenshot of it and send the screenshot to Evernote – that’s my favorite way of saving a particularly good or funny selection. :)

  3. Laura
    | Reply

    I’m hoping it’s a typo that your son is going from Zeta straight to pre-calculus. Otherwise I feel like a total homeschool mom failure.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Oh my! Ha! That’s quite the typo! Zeta to Pre-Algebra, which is the next book in the series. :) He’ll have spent more than a full year in Zeta by the time he’s done – no mom failure feelings allowed!

  4. Heather
    | Reply

    we LOVE Dr. Grant’s lectures!!!! I’m gonna try Jensen’s Grammar but I almost bought Analytical Grammar.

  5. Anne
    | Reply

    Aren’t Joy Hakim’s Story of Science books fabulous! We read them aloud as a family, and we simply can’t get enough of them. :)

  6. Brenda
    | Reply

    I am curious to know why you like the Hakim books so much, given some of the comments I’ve seen in your posts – like, in this one, you mention your son thought a book was “too secular,” and in another post you said he didn’t like a particular book because there was too much evolutionary thought. We have read through the first Hakim book and I find her writing to be a bit harsh towards Christianity. And I think there is no doubt that she holds to secular evolutionary theory.
    Interested in your thoughts.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      If there was something comparable from a Creationist or a better single-volume option at a popular adult level, I would replace it. I knew both the science and the history picks for 7th grade I made for my oldest two years ago were secular and evolutionary, but I also knew my oldest (and my second-oldest now starting) are educated enough to spot it and roll their eyes and move on. I replaced the history because I found something better since I planned it for my oldest.

      But I think the perspective of seeing scientific inquiry and discovery in historical flow and context is super valuable, and worth wading through secular assumptions. If I didn’t think my student would be able to notice and differentiate and discard the secular evolutionary bits, I wouldn’t assign it or I would make it a subject we did together one-on-one.

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