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:
- 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.
- 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
- Theology, studying the Heidelberg catechism for 2 years using the version in our psalters, DeYoung’s The Good News We Almost Forgot, and Williamson’s Study Guide. This is a repeat year for me, because I began the same plan with the older set 5 years ago.
- History, reading about the Middle Ages with Synge’s Discovery of New Worlds and Awakening of Europe. For fun and a brain-break, we’ll also keep practicing CC’s timeline song and Horrible History’s Kings and Queens of England.
- Science, learning about chemistry by reading The Mystery of the Periodic Table, Exploring the World of Chemistry by Tiner, and several books in the Story of the Elements series. Again, for fun and a transition, we’ll use a song to memorize the periodic table. This is my second time around with this set of plans – I did it with the older set 5 years ago according to my Amazon purchase records.
- Geography, reading Halliburton’s Complete Books of Marvels (another repeat for me, personally) over the next two years, as well as learning our geography vocabulary by journalling through Geography from A to Z.
- Shakespeare, studying 3 plays with my 5-step Shakespeare for kids plan: Henry V, Julius Caesar, and As You Like It.
- Art Appreciation, examining 3 prints each of 5 artists. I’d be in big trouble if I left this out, because the kids love it. I haven’t picked the artists, yet, though.
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.
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).