School Plans 2014-2015: The Middle Schooler

Dear Reader,

I am really ahead of the game this year in planning for the fall thanks to having an upcoming high schooler. I am looking forward to actually scaling back a bit with my other kids. We have always done a lot together as a family, and we still will, but as my high schooler does more on his own, I feel I have some freedom to gear the rest of our work to the interests and level of my other kids too. Here is what my middle schooler will be up to in the fall:

Math – My daughter is a March birthday and because she was an early and voracious reader we have always treated her as being a year ahead of where she would be if she were in the public school. That means she will be 8th grade this coming year. But I am beginning to regret this “promotion” (and I can’t take it back since she knows her grade and would never stand for doing 7th twice). Math is a subject which just is not that easy for her. She did Algebra I this past year using Math-U-See. This is, I know, not bad for a 7th grader, but I am just not sure how much of it she really got. She managed to do the problems but I don’t think she gets the whys or could reproduce her work out of context. So I am going to have her do algebra again using the Life of Fred, a narrative math curriculum which we love. She knows this now and is not pleased not to be advancing but I think it is what is best for her and, honestly, she wants to be an artist and I am not sure she is going to need to ever get to calculus so I feel no need to rush her forward.

History – Our procedure for history is to read a spine book together as a family and to have each of the kids read books more at their level on their own. We will be doing the American Revolution this year (and hopefully a bit more). Our spine continues to be H.E. Marshall’s This Country of Ours. My current plan is to have my 8th grader read Guerber’s Story of the Thirteen Colonies as well as some fictional accounts like Toliver’s Secret.

Science – Since it is her last year before high school and her older brother will be doing his own thing for science, I want to make this an enjoyable year for my older daughter. She is an artist through and through and so I am planning a nature journaling curriculum for her. I have made a list of lessons for her. Twice a week she will draw in her journal and twice a week she will read nature related books. Our drawing projects are taken from Barry Stebbing’s Nature Drawing and Journaling and from Irene Brady’s Illustrating Nature. Her readings will come from Edward Way Teale’s Circle of the Seasons and from Mary Holland’s Naturally Curious. I am hoping she will also be able to help lead the nature walks we take biweekly with other homeschoolers, most of whom are much younger than my kids.

Language Arts – My high schooler will have a literature component; my middle schooler will not officially, but we still manage to cover quite a bit. We try and go through some Shakespeare every year. This will take the form of selecting one play, reading a short narrative version of it from Lamb’s or Nesbitt’s books, memorizing some passages using How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare by Ken Ludwig, and listening to or watching whatever versions or excerpts we can find. I don’t think we are ready to just read through a whole play yet, and, frankly, I don’t think that is a very enjoyable way to approach them anyway. Plays were meant to be seen and heard, not read through. We will also occasionally read poetry. This year we will be looking at one poet or short story author a month. This is mainly for the benefit of my older son who will be reading more of each author’s works (see this post on my high schooler’s plans), but the younger kids will get a taste too. This child is quite a natural speller and a voracious reader so I think I may giver her a break on formal spelling and grammar this year. We will do prepared dictation each week from Simply Charlotte Mason’s Spelling Wisdom.

Fine Arts – Of course my daughter’s science this year will include a lot of drawing. She also just does arts and crafts on her own constantly and even makes things to sell (visit her blog!). As a family we will continue to look at pieces of art using Adventures in Art from Cornerstone Curriculum and to listen to classical music using the Classics for Kids radio broadcasts.

Foreign Language – My daughter had been studying French which was her own choice. It seemed like a good one for  a budding artist as France is a place she might want to go some day. However, we have tried three French curricula and none of them has been great. They all get quite boring after a while. So I think that instead I am going to have her do Spanish with her two younger siblings. They will be doing year three of La Clase Divertida (she has done the first three years in the past and so is able to keep up with them). I am also thinking of adding Cherrydale Spanish to this. We may have a family trip to some place Spanish speaking (and with many Spanish speaking relatives) in 2015 so this seems like a very practical language for us to learn right now.

Bible – She reads her Bible daily on her own and we also do some together as well as family worship most days.

Geography – I have them play geography games online or on the iphone (our latest favorite is Stack the States). These constitute our “map drill.” We also plan to use  Simply Charlotte Mason’s Visits to North America though we may skip the Holling books in favor of something else.

That’s all I can remember right now. It seems like plenty to me!



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