Middle school. For me it was where I began to like school. It was my seventh grade Science teacher, Ms. Wilson, that I remember first inspiring me. Before this time, I struggled to make C’s. I don’t know what happened in seventh grade. Maybe it was that great teacher. Maybe it was just age. But I became a learner. I learned how to memorize lots of information for a test, how to get all of the work done, and how not to lose the work that I had done. And I learned that I liked being successful in school. It was a big turn around for me.
Because of that time, middle school is my favorite age to work with in school. Of course my kids don’t learn like I learned. They are much more natural, hands on, curious learners. I also don’t have the same goals for them as I had for myself. I want them to be life long lovers of real learning. To meet this goal, I need to find the balance between what they need to know and what they are passionate about learning. This year my “middle schoolers” will be in seventh and fifth grades by age, but are likely not exactly there. That’s one of the joys of homeschooling. It is perfectly fine if they are ahead in some areas and behind in others. In fact, I don’t actually use grade level assignments unless we are participating in a program that requires it. Then we go by age.
How do I know that they are learning what they need to know? Two ways. First, every couple years we use a standardized test or graded assessment to see where they are. Second, I keep in mind what I need them to be able to do by about grades one, five, nine, and upon graduation. It is just a broad idea list, but so far it has worked well and saves my sanity.
So here is the tentative plan for my middle school kids this year. Like I’ve said before, things change once we get started and find out what is working or not, but this will be our starting place.
- Participate in Bible devotions with the family.
- I plan to get back to a slightly more structured Charlotte Mason approach this year. We will be studying the Middle Ages using Story of the World and supplemental books from the library. We will also be working on our map skills as we identify the areas that we encounter in our studies and in our books.
- My older boy will be reading Apologia’s General Science. He loves science, but the book’s reading level is a bit high for him, so I imagine that I will be reading some of it to him. We may take two years to read it.
- My younger girl will continue with her science kits, microscope, outdoor nature discoveries, and great library books about such things. I may help her start a nature study sketch book if she is interested. We will all definitely keep watching Bill Nye, Magic School Bus, Nova, and other science programs.
- Everybody in the family will do daily reading. I have been trying to get them to record their books, but I am seeing that it is taking the fun out of reading itself, so I may scrap that idea and just let them read. I also plan to read aloud to them some novels. I have not chosen them yet.
- I want to give cursive handwriting a try again this year. My daughter has taught herself for the most part, but she is very artsy and I believe when enjoy learning to make her words more beautiful. There is talk of buying a quill pen and ink to make this fun. My son has writing issues, and we have not had good success in the area of writing in the past, but I am hoping that another year of maturity and fine motor skill development will have helped. I have seen big progress in his printing this year. We will also continue to encourage plenty of typing practice through e-mails, chatting online with family members, and composing stories. I have not yet decided whether I will purchase a good cursive handwriting copywork book or use another option.
- Copywork of some kind is a must. We use it to learn proper punctuation, spelling, and sentence and paragraph formation. Again, because of writing issues, this will be minimal, but a little writing done well will get the job done.
- And then there is Math. I am still completely undecided about math this year. I know we need to make big changes. We were using Saxon, which I love, but the kids are very overwhelmed and frustrated with math. The further and deeper we get, the more they hate it. I am considering Math U See, but I need more time to make that decision. For now, they are doing review work in their summer workbooks.
- I want to add in more formally a study of composers, artists, and poetry. I plan to read to them from Short Lessons in Art History, Meet the great Composers (with a CD), and have some poetry parties with crafts included.