2017-8

History: US History. In the past I have wrapped US history into our world history by period, but I recently discovered that didn’t count for Colorado’s high school graduation requirements. This year, we studied US History and added in what’s happening around the world at the same time for context.

Our 12th-grader took US History at the community college. This turned out to be a great choice for him, both in terms of learning how to write college papers, and in terms of college credit. He also learned his way around a college campus and how to navigate other teachers’ expectations and quirks.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades I’m shook things up. Instead of reading the spines we’ve used in the past (The Story of the World by Susan Wise Bauer, and Genevieve Foster’s The World of George Washington, etc.), I was planning to use investigative strategies I learned from Yohuru R. Williams’s excellent book, Teaching US History Beyond the Textbook. I wish I had done a better job with this, but I have a ways to go.

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I purchased an assortment of collections of US history primary sources called Researching American History (found at Rainbow Resource Center) for the kids to use in their research.  I don’t expect my 4th grader to pull from multiple sources, but for the older kids, I have asked for at least 4 sources per project. This culminated in National History Day projects (which they entered in the contest through their enrichment school) that took them all to the state competition.

I assigned US history books (biographies, autobiographies, novels and picture books) for them to read independently, and they will presented their findings (travel brochures, PowerPoint presentations, reports, posters, comic books, movie trailers, plays) to each other every 2-3 weeks.  This worked to varying effect… like all kids, they were not always the most gracious audience.

We played Timeline regularly to help us cement a mental timeline. We watched some good US history movies (our favorites were Hidden Figures and All the President’s Men.)

The History Colorado Museum had some great exhibits we visited.

Geography:

For 12th-grade, Jonah read Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography and Woodard’s American Nations: A History of the Eleven Rival Regional Cultures in North America. Both provoked great discussions about how the natural resources (or lack of resources of a region) help determine the political struggles of that nation/region.

For 8th and 9th grades, we studied US geography in the context of history, incorporating historical maps and states’ geography.  For my 4th grader, we will worked through 36 states week by week, hopefully incorporating some out-of-state travel. We like these coloring books and games for geography.

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English (Composition/Grammar/Spelling/Punctuation):

My 12th grader did an essay-writing intensive (aka, writing tons of college and scholarship essays).  His US history class also had weekly writing clinics and lots of assigned papers.

For 4th, 8th and 9th grades, we will used Spelling Power for the first time. It as good. Additionally, they each had a daily grammar review with a one-page grammar exercise. I’ve tried lots of Charlotte Mason-esque “gentle” or “natural” grammar reviews, and they don’t seem to work for us. I think the problem is me. Anyway, this year we’re trying something less oral and more written (and formal).  The Spectrum series of test prep books works well for us to teach writing concepts in small chunks, which we then try to reinforce with writing assignments.

English Literature:

Shakespeare: This year we read The Winter’s Tale. It’s one of my favorite Shakespeare plays and seems to flirt the line between tragedy and comedy. It covers serious ideas of betrayal, suspicion and grudge-holding, but it has a happy ending. Something for everyone.

Poetry: We didn’t read as much poetry as I would have liked… it always seemed to get shoved to the bottom of the list.

Read-alouds: We had a limited time all together as a family for reading now that my oldest has two days each week on campus, and the kids are still attending their once-a-week school.  We did revisit some old favorites that my youngest had missed out on (Because of Winn-Dixie, the Percy Jackson series) and added some new favorites, including Greenglass House and I Love You, Michael Collins.

Independent Reading: A significant portion of my younger kids’ literature will be historical reading, including Phoebe the Spy, Little Britches, Steve Sheinkin’s The Notorious Benedict Arnold, The Port Chicago 50, King George: What was his problem, Lincoln’s Grave Robbers, and Most Dangerous; the Little House on the Prairie series, Elswyth Thane’s Williamsburg series, Elijah of Buxton and The Watsons Go to Birmingham by Christopher Paul Curtis, and Gary D. Schmidt’s The Wednesday Wars and Okay for Now.

Picture (Art) Study:

Our picture study was somewhat haphazard. We used postcards of famous pictures and watched The Monument Men, but beyond that didn’t spend a lot of time on art study.

Math:

12th grade: AP Statistics. 9th grade: Singapore NEM Level 2 (continuing). 8th grade: Singapore NEM Level 1 and the Life of Fred: Geometry. 4th Grade: Singapore Primary 4A and 4B.

Bible: We reread Gospel of Mark (again) and a few epistles.

Science:

We started school by driving several hours to watch the total eclipse. My husband was completely skeptical, but we brought a friend who was as excited about it as I was (and significantly younger and cooler than I am), and his enthusiasm was contagious. It was definitely a highlight (see what I did there?) of our year.

12th grade: Chemistry with Lab at the community college

9th grade: Veritas Academy’s online Chemistry and Biology through the enrichment school.

8th grade: We used biology modules from Science Fusion, including Cells and Heredity and Diversity of Living Things. It wasn’t my favorite (or hers).

4th grade: We did weekly nature study with a focus on plants, although we started with the total eclipse.

Foreign Language:

12th grade: nada.

4th, 8th and 9th grade all took Spanish through our enrichment school. Hooray!