One of the big questions about homeschooling is what to teach your child. I’ve researched extensively on a proper curriculum based on the learning style I want Mica to adapt. I wanted to be ready with a lesson plan before diving into homeschooling. I wanted to have a clear picture of what the schoolyear ahead would be like. I wanted to be confident that Mica will learn everything she needs to learn. We’re five months into this and I’m fairly comfortable with what we’re currently using. Most books are suggestions from The Well-Trained Mind.
I also want to point out that I’ve learned that it’s ok to switch curriculums in the middle of the schoolyear. If you’ve started with one and feel that it’s not working for your family, go ahead and make the necessary changes. Trying out things is part of the process – how else will you know what will work and what will not?
Moving on, here are the subjects we have every week and the books and resources we’re currently using. (BTW, Mica is in 6th grade.)
1. Mathematics (1 hour everyday)
We use Saxon Math. To determine Mica’s skill level, she took a placement test that’s available in the Saxon website, and from there we determined that she was ready for Saxon Algebra 1/2 (Pre-Algebra) which is usually studied in 8th grade. The Saxon homeschool kit comes with the student’s textbook, a test packet, and an answer book (which just shows the answer, not the solution). I like how Saxon continually reviews Math concepts throughout the book to ensure that students doesn’t just learn and forget.
Mica tries to finish one lesson a day, Mondays to Thursdays; and on Fridays, she takes a test.
Aside from just learning textbook lessons, I want Mica to understand how math can be used in the real world. For this, she does an activity with Troy every Friday from the book Family Math: The Middle School Years by Virginia Thompson and Karen Mayfield-Ingram.
2. Language Arts
Our Language Arts program is divided into Handwriting, Spelling, Grammar, and Writing.
Handwriting (15 minutes a day). To practice Mica’s handwriting and teach her how to write properly, legibly, and neatly, we use A Reason for Handwriting. (She’s using Cursive F.) The book contains border sheets that she can color and collate at the end of the year. I bought both the student book and teacher’s manual, but in my opinion, I could have done without the teacher’s manual.
Spelling (15 minutes a day). We use the Spelling Workout Series by Modern Curriculum Press. (She’s currently working on Level F.) We do a lesson a week – pre-test on Mondays, post-test on Fridays, and in between, Mica does the exercises in the book.
Grammar and Writing (1 hour a day). We use the English 6 Rod and Staff Grammar book. The set comes with the student’s textbook, the teacher’s manual, a worksheet book, and a test packet. I love using this LA course – it teaches formal grammar and writing/composition. And each lesson includes oral and written exercises of both current and past topics. From time to time, it also includes pop quizzes.
The only thing I don’t like about the Rod and Staff Grammar is that it sometimes refers to the Bible for sample sentences, and when it does, it uses the words “thy” and “ye” which confuses Mica.
Writing (2 hours a week). To give her more training in writing, I supplement the writing course in the Rod and Staff Grammer book with Writing Strands. I like how this book talks directly to the student.
Other Skills. As part of her Language Arts program, we do dictation twice a week. I read a paragraph from a book she’s reading and she writes down the paragraph as I dictate it. We also do memory work – right now, we’re working on Robert Frost’s “A Road Not Taken”. To develop her speech and audience skills, she will have to present the poem to an audience.
3. Logic (3 hours a week)
We use Critical Thinking by Anita Harnadek for Mica’s logic program. Troy is the one currently teaching Logic to Mica (since I’m starting to get overwhelmed). The book isn’t bad, although at the end of Book 1, Troy and Mica feel that the examples and exercises are not well made.
4. Social Studies (3 hours a week)
Our Social Studies program is divided into History, Geography, and Current Events.
History. History is a tough one. How do you make an 11-year old appreciate history and not get bored reading about it? I’ve changed resource materials three times before sticking to the one we’re currently using. The book we’re using is The Story of The World by Susan Bauer. Now, some comment on how the book gives little distinction between myths and actual history but I think it’s the “story-telling” that keeps Mica interested – so I see this book as just something “to get her feet wet”. We supplement the book with Usborne’s Encyclopedia of World History and online resources. I also created a blank timeline for Mica to fill up as we encounted important dates – it’s several sheets of paper taped together and rolled in a scroll.
Geography. We use the Geography Coloring Book by Wynn Kapit. It’s fun and informative. I supplement it with blank maps online, and for the US states and their capital, Troy created a fun application.
I expand on the Geography program by letting Mica outline the countries of the different continents, as she encounters it in the coloring book. For every country, she writes down the type of government, current leaders, demonym, language, currency, and major exports (among other things).
Current Events. At the start of each Social Studies session, I ask Mica to read a news article online. One of her favorite sites is Time for Kids.
Memory Work. One of the things that Mica needed to memorize for Social Studies are the US states and their capitals. She’s currently trying to memorize the US Presidents in order.
Phew! I’m beat! And I’m only halfway done describing Mica’s curriculum. So there’s more coming tomorrow.
I noticed that you are using John Saxon’s math books. Having taught the books in a rural high school from algebra 1/2 through calculus, and later accepting a position as the Homeschool Curriculum Director for Saxon Publishers, I decided to write a book for homeschool educators so they could get the most out of John’s books.
I have also started a math tutorial series for algebra 1/2 through calculus. If you or any of your readers need advice or assistance, please visit my website at http://www.usingsaxon.com. The monthly newsletter articles contain valuable information and advice to enable homeschool educators to save money by using the correct Saxon math books, whether new or used.
You’ve got brains and beauty!
You are one smart cookie* I didn’t study pre-algebra until I was a freshman in highschool.
Keep up the awesome work :)