2019-2020 School Year: 6th & 4th Grade Plans

posted in: extra 11

Ok, so back to school year plans. It’s that time of year, right?

It’s always good to remember that grade levels are a modern category without a correlation to reality.

6th grade and 4th grade are the grades that correspond to my middle children’s ages. I really do wish people would ask for kids’ ages instead of grade.

It would be more accurate, if grades were a thing, to say both of them were 5th grade. And I do my best to plan according to reality. So here are their combined 5th-ish grade homeschool plans.


Both the 11-year-old and 9-year-old are in Math-U-See Delta, learning fractions. They are, in fact, in the same lesson, with much drama and competition ensuing.

However, math is one thing we do not do together, even if they are in the same lesson. They each need to work at their own pace and deal with their own struggles to gain mastery most effectively.

They’re starting the year off half-way through Delta, because we always simply close the book where we are when our school year is over in mid-May. Then, in July (or June this year), we pick the book back up, go back 2-3 lessons, and start again.

So, I have an Epsilon – the next book in the series – for both of them on the shelf. Each will get where they get, and I’m happy with both of their progress.

They will also do daily xtramath drills until they pass all levels.


We finished – by which I mean we’re done, not really completed – Latin for Children Primer A after 2 years of using it. Four students in, when I found myself contemplating giving up Latin, I finally admitted defeat not with Latin, which I’ve enjoyed when using other programs, but with Latin for Children.

I am not a textbook type. Even with the video lessons, LFC was meant for a teacher, and it just didn’t really work for us. Even on my third time through, I felt like I was missing something that would make it click, and my students’ retention and understanding has always been poor.

Instead of giving up Latin, we’re switching programs.

Brandy Vencel has raved about Visual Latin for years, and it seems to fit the bill: more engaging video lessons meant to communicate the entirety of the lesson, plus a few worksheets that don’t teach but simply reinforce with practice the lessons on the video.

We’ll do about a lesson a week, but my plan is simply to master the lessons as we go rather than finish the program this school year. To help us master the material, we’ll use the provided Quizlet practice games and also use Picta Dicta for fun, independent vocabulary practice as well.


One of my goals is to raise readers. I think being a reader is one of the marks of an educated person, so if I’m educating, I’m raising readers who read. Readers read on their own, when books are not assigned. So I only assign reading when I need to guarantee a particular book is read slowly and carefully, when I see a reading rut developing, or when I see no reading happening by choice. Assigning reading is a tool to help develop a reader, but someone who reads assignments only is not actually a reader.

So, I view assignments as a crutch that is best when not needed.

Here’s what I’m assigning for these kids this year, and why:

  1. Bible reading challenge – I don’t want to leave Bible reading up to chance. I want to help my kids build the habit of daily Bible reading, so I assign it. We all enjoy doing the Bible reading challenge together.
  2. Reading time – on their checklist, they have “read 30+ minutes in one of your selected books.” Each term, they’re choosing 2 books off our personal shelves in each of 4 categories: biography, tales (not fluff fiction), history, natural world.

Then I’m helping them build habits of attention and keeping by adding the assignment: Add to your reading journal. This is a personal exercise, and supposed to be fun, but build the habit of keeping that I believe most readers desire, even if they don’t actually do it.

Now, you’ll notice content-subjects are noticeably absent, but that’s because that reading happens via read-aloud during our twice weekly group lessons (more below).

Related: Raising readers who read

Homeschool Writing: handwriting, composition, spelling, grammar, and copywork

I do my best to choose activities that count double or triple in the language arts category.

For spelling, handwriting, and copywork, dictation fits the bill: Each Monday I slowly dictate a verse or two from Psalms or Proverbs (click here to copy my master list), then they practice any words they had trouble with. Two days in the week they practice the passage by copying it and by practicing any words individually they think they might miss. On Friday, I dictate the selection again and usually they have the spelling down.

By the end of the year, my goal is to have them taking their dictation in comfortable cursive. At the very least, my son needs to at least learn the habit of putting space between each word.

You learn to do so by correcting the work each time you haven’t done it correctly. Basic, simple, doesn’t require a workbook or complicated process or silly games.

Last year I used Spelling Wisdom, which was good. However, I found that by the end of the week they nearly had the selection memorized, so I wanted to choose selections worth memorizing this year.

These two are also ready to begin composition skills. My daughter has done a little already, but it’s been a gradual, slow start. This year we’ll dig in and review then move forward and get to a 5-paragraph fact-based report in the last couple months of the year. I have my own process for this, based loosely on IEW and refined by over ten years of teaching beginning writing. You can learn more about how I teach writing without a curriculum here. This year we’ll take our writing topics from our current history, science, and geography lessons.

We’ll also use Our Mother Tongue with our writing lessons to practice grammar and punctuation.

We’ll meet as a small class with two other friends once a week and they’ll have both a writing and a grammar assignment to complete.

Group Lessons: Theology, History, Science, Geography, Shakespeare, and Art Appreciation.

Twice a week we’ll gather with friends to do the bulk of those subjects that spread a wide feast of knowledge. This is our sixth or seventh year, and it’s 1 1/2-2 hours formatted like another morning time, but this time with specific children only and not the whole family.

This year, through short lessons, we’ll learn about

I would like to start Plutarch with this crowd, but we have our time slot and it’s just not going to fit. Such is reality.

Piano & other skills

Both students are in weekly piano lessons and have 20 minutes of practice daily on their checklists as well.

Nature study has a smaller place in our plans than before due simply to schedule changes and needs as a family. We’ll do more with browsing and copying from field guides and nature books, more neighborhood and backyard observation, and one planned hike outing per term.

My older daughter is also learning typing skills using Typing Club online and my son is not, to his chagrin. Age should come with some privileges.

Using a checklist is also a skill, and we practice that by using it daily and checking it daily. It’s not a magic bullet. It’s another skill to be taught how to use and then to be accountable to using until it’s habit (like after 5+ years). Need to know what to do? Look at the checklist.

Related: 5 Tips for Making Homeschool Checklists Work

It’s another rich year, and I’m looking forward to learning alongside my kids, even in the books that are repeat for me. You know you’ve hit the jackpot when repeating books is a pleasure – it means you have good books and you’re really a reader (according to CS Lewis, anyway).

Click here to return to our 2019-2020 School Year Overview

11 Responses

  1. Mary Spak
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing. What is xtrapiano?

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      Oh! That’s our family shorthand based on xtramath for a couple apps that drill note names: Rhythm Cat, Treble Cat, Bass Cat. I put them in a folder on the iPad called “xtrapiano”

  2. Claire
    | Reply

    Interesting. We are using Greek for Children A (It’s going to take us 3 years at the rate we’re going) and I would describe it the way you describe Visual Latin: “engaging video lessons meant to communicate the entirety of the lesson, plus a few worksheets that don’t teach but simply reinforce with practice the lessons on the video.” So now I’m curious whether LFC is set up differently or we just have different experiences.

    Also, I think there may be something missing here: “…geography vocabulary by journalling through xx.”

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      Yeah, I think LFC could be described that way, too. But my kids – and I tried with 4 – never understood the lessons well enough to apply the information or retain it. I needed to teach it over again myself, and I was not equipped to do that. Using the book, I felt like I was missing something. I think it was too abstractly presented. Plus, the workbooks never had enough room for my kids’ handwriting. They were very busy visually.

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      I fixed the book title I left out, too. :)

  3. Erin Gray
    | Reply

    We started Visual Latin this past year with my 9 and 11 year olds, it is great! We only made it through 11 lessons, because it gets really hard all at once and we basically spent the last two months of school just reviewing. My kids both like it though, and we will be continuing on with it. We are also doing Halliburton, and I’m going to do Chemistry with my older, still deciding on a curriculum for that.

  4. Laura
    | Reply

    My oldest did Latin for Children her first year of Latin, and the comprehension just wasn’t there. I asked around, too, and we did Latina Christiana her second year of Latin. It was so much clearer!! I hope your switch is a good one, too!!

  5. Rachel Carpenter
    | Reply

    Can you share with me your lesson plans for Theology and Geography? Also, I have a question on the kids reading journal entry. Do you require a quote, illustration, or both? Do they also read a book club book? If so, is that reading extra outside of school hours?

  6. Karen Head
    | Reply

    I would like to know how you journal Geography A-Z. What do you require the kids to do? I think it would be great for my daughter to learn the terms, but can’t imagine just copying definitions.

    • Mystie
      | Reply

      I’m going to have them copy the terms (1-3 per session) and draw an example after we look at a few real-life examples either on our wall map or a quick Google search.

  7. Angela
    | Reply

    Thank you for sharing your plans! I have two questions. First, on their checklist, they have copywork AND handwriting. Are those separate things? Are they copying the dictation selection, and also another selection? And second, what do they put in their reading journals?

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