My second son is entering 8th grade. Technically, he has entered it because we began last week.
Usually I have all my decisions made by June and all I need to do in the summer is pull the materials and plans together for execution.
That was not true this year.
We had one piece still under discussion and only received the information we needed to make a decision last week: Our older two boys, 13 & 15, will join NCFCA. NCFCA is a national homeschool speech and debate club, and our local club is about 5 or 6 years old.
Because I do my best to keep the boys’ work concentrated and condensed, I don’t think the time and work commitment required by the club will infringe on our planned studies, but I’m also holding it all with an open hand, knowing we can adjust as we go.
So here are my 8th grader’s plans apart from NCFCA that are subject to adjustment based on actual work load later in the year.
Math & Logic
Again, we are continuing with Math-U-See: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. He is in the middle of Pre-Algebra and I have Algebra 1 waiting on the shelf for him. We go at whatever pace mastery requires, which means some lessons take 2-3 days and some take 2-3 weeks. When our school year is over, we stop where we are; when the school year begins we pick up a few lessons back to review and continue moving forward.
Last year he did Art of Argument in a class setting (with the video lessons), and this year he will begin Introductory Logic with the video instruction. My oldest had to do it on his own, but this son gets to do it with 2 friends, our neighbors and cohorts. Once a week at Kirsti’s house (while Elementary Lessons is happening at my house) her two oldest and Jaeger will watch the video lesson, and discuss while working the exercises together as a group activity. It will take a year and a half to two years to finish the book this way, but it’s the pace that fits this year.
Of course Morning Time is a large part of our Bible program. That is where we get to know, love, and meditate on Scripture itself, worship through song and prayer, and learn doctrine through catechism.
However, we also always do some other additional learning of Scripture and doctrine in our studies. Jaeger began The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study by Starr Meade last year and will finish that program this year, working through the prophets and New Testament. The four volume set includes background and summary information through the Bible, assignments for reading through the Bible, and short answer questions to complete after the readings. It’s one of the most workbooky things we do, but having a guided through-the-Bible program makes it worth it.
Seventh grade is a medieval history year and Winston Churchill’s Birth of Britain is our spine for that. However, there is more to the Medieval world than Britain, so to develop a bigger sense of the period, we’re also using these titles as supplemental reading, spread out over the year:
- Shortest History of Europe by John Hirst
- How the Irish Saved Civilization by Thomas Cahill
- God’s Battalions: A Case for the Crusade by Rodney Stark
- Here I Stand by Roland Bainton
Of course there are other books that would round out a medieval year, but I picked these for this student based on what he’s already read and the fact that he enjoys reading history (even though he claims to only like WWII and the Greeks).
This year I’m combining a class with my two oldest and their friends and teaching 3 Great Books to 13-15 year-olds. We’ll read and discuss Virgil’s Aeneid (Fitzgerald translation), Dante’s Inferno (Esolen translation), and Beowulf (Heaney translation).
As we slowly read, discuss, commonplace, write, and illustrate our way through these amazing works, we’ll also spend time in class on Plutarch, studying the lives of Demosthenes and Cicero (with Anne White’s guide, of course), and on Shakespeare, enjoying Much Ado about Nothing, Richard III, and King Lear.
Clearly, it’s going to be an amazing year.
The second part of the group class I’m teaching will be with those students who have not done any essay writing. We’ll move from writing nonfiction paragraphs to writing 5 paragraph papers (better than reports, but not exactly essays), learning about clarity and style through practice, self-editing, and revising after feedback.
We’ll start off class with a little diagramming together as grammar review, also.
Earlier this year a friend sent me a link to Novare Science and I chose science spines from there for both my older students. When my oldest did 8th grade, we did a logic stage level of Elemental Science and it was a dud for us. The experiments felt contrived and unnecessary, and the bulk of the knowledge came from looking things up in the Kingfisher Encyclopedia. Meh.
So I had to find something new for 8th grade science and Novare Earth Science was the ticket. It covers several different topics in one book: basic astronomy, weather, water cycle, volcanoes, geology – it’s all related to earth, yet it has varied topics.
My son’s assignment – twice weekly – is to read a section and add an entry into his science journal. The entry must contain a drawn chart or illustration (can be copied from the book) and also words needed to explain the drawing. He has enjoyed this structure for working through the book.
So a chapter takes us about 2 weeks at this rate and so I also have him choose and begin to read another book (of his choice) on that chapter’s topic. He can pick from our home library or find something at the public library. The second week he is assigned to finish the book he chose and add another entry with something he learned into his science journal.
This is week 2, and so far this is going really well for him.
Last year this son began Spanish and we did a self-study book approach, plus the Duolingo app. This year I found inexpensive online classes for him to use on Udemy. I chose 3 different Spanish classes, each with short lessons, and spread out the work so he does that online for about 15 minutes a day. Plus we’re still using Duolingo for practice also.
As I mentioned at the beginning, we’ll be doing Speech and Debate this year, so that’s one outside commitment.
He also will have a weekly piano lesson and daily piano practice. He’s apprenticing, basically, as a church accompanist, so most of his practice centers on hymn playing. Plus, we gave him an organ for his birthday, so his free time activity is learning a new but similar instrument.
And for physical training, he’s been doing swim team in the summer and will continue with fencing in the fall. Fencing is actually similar to dancing, swimming, or karate – each movement needs to be controlled, intentional, and practiced. Our older son has been doing it longer and I’ve noticed that he carries himself with more ease and confidence since getting into fencing.
I do enjoy having teens, although they keep me on my toes and keep me honest. They know when I’m not following through on my end, and we all know that even though each of us is responsible for our own selves, mom must lead the way – and not as chief hypocrite, but as chief cheerful doer-of-the-duties.
May we all do so, more and more.