High School Hits & Misses: 9th Grade

posted in: homeschooler 36

Well, we have only 5 weeks left of our first year homeschooling high school. So far, so good.

Honestly, I believe the tears sown in the middle school years are reaped as fruit in the high school years. The self-management and independence and work ethic issues we worked out when he was 11-13, and he set his hand to the plow for this year and has done so well.

One thing that helps, I believe, is that I did not overload him, although that is always a temptation with a capable, interested student moving up a level. If I had given more than 4 1/2 hours of work per day, we would have had problems. But having cut my lists back so that everything was meaty, important, and clear, he was able to work through it and manage his load to be done by 1-ish, with time for his beloved morning walk and a lunch break.

So, in the interest of transparency and reporting after-the-fact, not only posting plans but also posting reality, here is what we used in high school and how we liked each.

Math: Math-U-See Geometry & Algebra 2

We have used Math-U-See from the beginning and still love it. My husband has taken over not only the correcting of math pages but also the math tutoring for the older two boys. This has been a life saver, because I do not have the know-how to help Hans with his math this year. Plus, because my husband is correcting math each day, he knows when they need help. He calls them for math tutoring more often than they ask for it.

Having also been homeschooled with the option of asking Dad for math help in the evening, I don’t think it’s wise to leave the initiative for getting help with the student.

Because we just pick up each year where we left off in Math-U-See and work each lesson until mastery, we never finish a book at the end of the year. Each year, each student will complete somewhere between 3/4-1 1/4 of a math text, and so far, over the long haul, I have found that their progress evens out. This son was “behind” the book-a-year completion rate until 4th or 5th grade, and now he’s slightly ahead.

Having finished Geometry, though, Algebra 2 has slowed his progress rate down considerably, but that’s totally ok. We’ll just pick up next year wherever he leaves off this year.

Bible: Basic Christian Living and various titles

In addition to simply reading the Bible, this year my son completed the lessons + short answer work pages of Basic Christian Living by Douglas Wilson.

He had worked through the Bible over 7th & 8th grade with Starr Meade’s Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study, and instead of moving on to a more doctrinal and theological study, I wanted to have a year for application-thinking. When it comes to applying Scripture and scriptural principles to daily life, I always appreciate Doug Wilson, because he does so without excuses or pulled punches. He has solid reformed theology, but also an evangelical background he still respects that matter-of-factly asserts, “If the Bible says it, I believe it, and I’ll do it.” That attitude brought him to reformed theology, and it makes him a clear, straight-forward teacher in matter of faithful living.

For Charlotte Mason types, in my mind I roughly equate Basic Christian Living with Ourselves in the lineup. I think they cover very similar ideas and serve the same purpose.

Hans read the book, answered the questions, and we didn’t really talk about it. He read the other assigned books, a chapter a week, and wrote a summary or bullet point list for each chapter, but we didn’t talk about them.

Because these are conscience-forming books, I didn’t want to additionally interfere. He doesn’t need me in order to think things through – I know he will – and I knew he would grow personally through it more if left to appropriate it for himself rather than have to tell me what he was thinking.

That wouldn’t be the case for all my children, I’m sure, but for him it was the right call.

These are the additional books he read, and all of them are staying on my 9th grade list:

History: Modern & American

Hans and I both read From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun and A History of the American People by Paul Johnson. These were both amazing books and I’m so glad I read them. We had interesting conversations about them both, spilling into dinner conversations and relating to other topics in surprising ways throughout the year.

I ended up turning to the audio version for History of the American People in order to keep up, and was behind Hans in Dawn to Decadence most of the year, but instead of giving up I kept going, mostly because the book was just so good! Prereading or no, I wanted to read it – I just couldn’t keep up Hans’ pace.

These are definitely staying on my 9th grade history plan, though I’m not sure if all my 9th graders will be ready for Dawn to Decadence. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it, but it does require a strong, intelligent, theoretical, mature reader. It’s a cultural history, not an events-narrative history. A more practical-minded student might not be able to stick with it. And, FYI: details necessary to explain culture are included; it is an adult book. Nothing is sordid or detailed, but topics and mindsets necessary to explain the shifts from AD 1500-2000 are discussed. I appreciated it, and think it was appropriate, but I know not everyone would, and the maturity of the 14-year-old would also impact the appropriateness.

I also planned to use The Patriot’s History Reader for primary source historical documents, but that never happened. The two fat history books were enough.

Science: The Riot and the Dance by Gordon Wilson

This was a hit. Hans and I both hands-down highly recommend *The Riot & the Dance: Foundational Biology.

We used my spreadsheet schedule which adapted some of the written review to sketch-review assignments and also included a related Khan academy video. We stuck to the schedule all year! Big win!

No, we did not do any of the labs. Didn’t plan to, didn’t, don’t regret it.

Literature: early modern lit class

Our 8th/9th grade literature & writing class has been going very well. Our class of 6 has read Pilgrim’s Progress, Emma, Oliver Twist, and is now in the middle of Huckleberry Finn. I chose 3 themes to discuss for each title, including the theme of friendship across all four titles. The students have kept a basic commonplace book and been able to give examples to make points about themes, so I’ve been pleased. My goal is to get them talking rather than to talk myself, and that’s mostly worked.

They’ve also written one 5-paragraph persuasive, literary analysis essay per book title, which has gone well. It’s about the right amount of work – 6ish weeks from start to final product, with lots of revising in between.

My plan was to base my lessons and instructions off the Lost Tools of Writing. I wasn’t using the workbook assignments, because we were learning strategies while writing papers for our lit class, not having a class entirely on writing alone. This did not work. We did start our paper brainstorming with an ANI chart and pulled details (without the sorting activity) from the ANI into our outlines, and I did use the “nominalization” lessons in our revision process (Make the subject and verb active rather than saying “This is…” or “There are…”).

Other than that, I found Lost Tools complex and difficult to navigate and adapt. I wouldn’t use the program straight because it starts by instructing students to write so basically and formulaically that it’s bad writing, then revise from a bad basic draft. That process might work if you have a very writing-phobic student or if you’re starting persuasive writing too young (when the student doesn’t yet actually have anything to say), but 8th/9th grade students can come up with an opinion and defend it, however poorly, and I think it’s a better process to let them write a draft saying what they have to say in their way and then revise from there.

However, my method does make the feedback and revision process more complicated and time-consuming for the teacher, because what each student needs to hear along the way is unique. It would be too exhausting to keep up with a class of 15 or 20. But my class is 6, and their clarity and cohesiveness and personal style have improved markedly over the year, which is always gratifying to see.

Logic: Intermediate Logic 

Hans finished out the Logic program in February and thoroughly enjoyed it. The last part was more on binary and programming logic, which Hans found “practical” – it was interesting, anyway, and a nice change from truth trees.

I was bad about correcting the exercises, but did have him orally narrate each chapter and that worked well and demonstrated that he understood what he was learning through the DVD lessons.

We will be using this logic series again with my second son next time around – it was a hit.

Language: German

Learning languages through a book is a questionable practice, but we ran with it this year. Because German was his own choice, the motivation was (mostly) there, and I checked that the work was done but I have no idea how conversant he is (or should be) with German.

I figure any learning he’s doing at this point will make going on with it easier if that’s what he chooses to do. My personal goal is simply that he exercise his mind via vocabulary and grammar in another language – and that goal was accomplished.

Next year, however, we’ll switch up methods and do online course work with videos (and audible instruction).

Overall: A Strong Year

Overall, we had such a good year! Hans had about 4-4.5 hours of work each day (more on class day), and that seemed to be enough for meaty work, but not so much he got bogged down, discouraged, or tired. It left him plenty of time to develop hobbies (Disc Golf and fencing) as well as mess about with friends, practice the piano extra for church accompaniment, listen to audiobooks and podcasts of his own choosing, work in the yard (for pay), and, in general, be an interested and interesting person in his own right apart from his school checklist and mom-assigned work.

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36 Responses

  1. bookwyrmdev
    | Reply

    I enjoyed reading about your hits & misses!
    LTOW came to a sad end here as well. I really though I could teach it, but no…I couldn’t.
    What online German do you plan next year?

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      We’re going to try Udemy classes. :)

  2. Melissa Greene
    | Reply

    This is fabulous Mystie! You’re one year ahead of me and I love reading your reviews since I typically use a few of the same books. I look forward to chatting with you more about this at GHC in OH ;-) Thanks for the post!

  3. Amber Vanderpol
    | Reply

    I’m glad you posted this, Mystie, I always enjoy reading your end of the year reviews. It looks like he had a really solid year with some great books. I own LTOW, looked at it and thought, “there is no way this is going to work well in my homeschool.” I too had the hard time with the idea of writing poorly at the beginning and revising from there – I knew that was not a strategy that would work well for my oldest. I wanted so much to like the program though!

  4. Heidi Coleman
    | Reply

    Hi, you mentioned that you worked through a lot of the work ethic/independence/self-management issues when Hans was in middle school. Do you have any blog posts about that that I’ve missed? My oldest is now 11, and we have sooooo much work to do in that area. I’ve told him -and meant it- that if all he learned this year was a good work ethic, I would consider the year a success. It didn’t happen… Any advice would be appreciated!
    Btw, as a fellow homeschoolee-now-homeschooler I love your blog and recommend you to all my homeschooling friends; thank you for sharing your wisdom with all of us!

  5. stefanimons
    | Reply

    That’s exactly how I was planning on using LToW! Went back to the drawing board… I think we’re going to try Excellence in Literature for 8th grade now to marry Literature and Writing (already very familiar with the IEW style), with one book of Writing & Rhetoric thrown in on the side.

    | Reply

    Speak to me of this spreadsheet for The Riot and the Dance. We had planned to use Khan for biology next year, but I dig the idea of combining them. Did you share this already?

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I will have Virginia Lee forward the spreadsheet to you. :)

      • Gwendolyn
        | Reply

        Could I get this too? I’d love to see how you combined them! Thanks!

        • Kristin
          | Reply

          I would love a copy of this too!

      • Michelle Hobbs
        | Reply

        Hello Mystie! Could you, please, send me the spreadsheet for The Riot and the Dance? I am considering using it for my 9th grader next year. Thank You!

        • Courtney Pulley
          | Reply

          Hi Mystie! I just bought The Riot and the Dance today! I would love to see your spreadsheet! Thank you!

      • Karen W
        | Reply

        I’m looking at using Riot and the Dance. Is it possible to get this spreadsheet, please?

      • Julia Huntley
        | Reply

        I would love to have a copy of this spreadsheet as well, please!

      • Tricia
        | Reply


        I just ordered RATD for my new high school student. Is it possible to get a copy of the spreadsheet? I would be so grateful.

  7. Gwendolyn
    | Reply

    Can you elaborate a little on what you loved about The Riot and the Dance? I haven’t been able to find much in the way of reviews for this book online. I’m looking for a thorough yet engaging high school biology text for someone who is not pursuing a science field. Is it more readable and less textbook-y? :)

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      It is both very readable and a textbook. It covers the same ground that any standard high school biology text covers, it includes terms and tests and quizzes (which you don’t have to use, of course). But it’s written in a very engaging style by a single author who loves his subject, so it is a living book although it’s not written in story form or casually.

      • Gwendolyn
        | Reply

        Thanks for elaborating!

  8. Hillary
    | Reply

    Looking at AO Year 7 for next year and seeing Ourselves on the schedule… I noticed you roughly equated Wilson’s book with that. Would you use Wilson’s book as early as 7th grade (our house’s AO years match kids’ grades at this point), or keep Meade’s Most Important Thing there and hold off on the application/living book until 9th grade as you did this year? I haven’t read Ourselves or Basic Christian Living myself. Yet. :) Is it a matter of whether the particular child needs doctrine or application emphasized?

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      You could use Wilson’s book that early if you wanted, but I wanted my kids to have worked through Scripture itself first before honing in on application as their Bible study (and I wasn’t replacing AO’s selections per say; I start from my own outline and fill in from various sources including AO).

      • Hillary
        | Reply

        Thanks, that answers my question. I’m trying not to overwhelm my rising 7th grader so your answer gives perspective.

  9. Melissa
    | Reply

    Hello Misty! Wondering what the pace for you to finish A History of the American People in a year was. Considering using if with my soon to be High Schooler along with other great American lit reads.

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      He read between 20-30 pages a week. There are 143 headings in the book, so we read approximately 4 per week.

  10. trotters41
    | Reply

    Hi Mystie! I am curious if you also are familiar with Jay Wile’s Biology and could compare it to Riot and the Dance? I really liked Wile for Physical Science last year (I have a science background myself) and was planning to use him for Biology this year, but your and Brandy’s reviews have me intrigued! Since R&D is so new, there isn’t much online comparing the two. Perhaps you could shed light? Thanks! Also could you send me the spreadsheet with the Khan video? ~Elizabeth Trotter

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      I haven’t actually looked at the Wile textbook, so I can’t compare the two. I have heard that the Wile is a very traditional textbook feel and R&D has a “poetic knowledge” and wonder/love feel to the excellent writing while covering the same content. R&D is written by someone who loves strong, beautiful English as well as biology. It was also easy to adapt to a narration/notebook approach.

      • trotters41
        | Reply

        Thanks for the feedback! I think my main concern is whether the biochem is too advanced for a 9th grader who hasn’t taken actual chem yet.

      • trotters41
        | Reply

        Hi Mystie, would you mind sending me the spreadsheet you created for The Riot and the Dance? I’m at emarietrotter@gmail.com. Thanks so much!

  11. Danielle Witczak
    | Reply

    Would you by any chance be willing to share your spreadsheet for R&D?

  12. Kristi Spangler
    | Reply

    I have ordered R&D based on your good reviews and look forward to use it with our rising 9th grader. Might I also have have a copy of your spreadsheet, please? Thank you ~

  13. Keri
    | Reply

    Also wondering if you are still offering to share your spreadsheet for the Riot and the Dance?

    • Mystie Winckler
      | Reply

      Yup! I’ll send it right over.

  14. Rachel Carpenter
    | Reply

    May I also get the spreadsheet for R&D? :)

  15. Amanda
    | Reply

    Hi Mysite! Looking ahead to next year and am in the initial planning phase. I would love to get a copy of your Riot and Dance plans. Pretty please! :)

  16. Mandy
    | Reply

    Thank you for taking the time to write about your homeschool plans and experiences. If you would be willing, I’d also like to have a copy of your spreadsheet for The Riot and the Dance. Thank you!

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