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.
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:
- Math: finishing MUS Zeta and starting Pre-Algebra
- Bible: personal reading + Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study, vol 1 & 2, by Starr Meade
- History: The Ancient Mediterranean by Michael Grant, listen to George Grant Antiquity lectures, Boys’ & Girls’ Herodotus
- Science: Story of Science, vol. 1 & 2 by Joy Hakim + nature study
- Literature: Iliad & Odyssey by Homer (Fitzgerald translation)
- English: written narrations for science (2 paragraphs per week), Analytical Grammar, Grammar of Poetry
- Language: Spanish with Living Language, Berlitz, and Duolingo
- Logic: Art of Argument
- Music: Piano
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.
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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