This year I educated an 11th grader and a 7th grader. (I also supervised a 12th grader doing all their work at a local community college.)
My 7th grader has dyslexia, which affects both reading/writing and math. Her accommodations include extra time for reading, supplementation with audio books, evaluation of written work only on content not on mechanics (unless the lesson was specifically on writing mechanics,) and allow the use of a calculator/math fact reference sheet.
We used Life with Fred for math. She did Pre-algebra 0 with Physics in the fall and Pre-Algebra 1 with Biology in the spring. This series was new to us, and we definitely had a learning curve. It took my student almost the entire first semester to trust that her confusion at the beginning would resolve into understanding by the end. However, she has made her peace with it and plans to continue in the series next year.
A note on math: lots of people families, parents and kids have math phobia. Our family tends to be good friends with math and are not interested in a gazillion problems. We used the Singapore Primary series for grades 1-6 and found that gave all my kids a good grounding in problem solving, though sometimes they needed extra work for math facts. The curriculum I used for my older kids’ middle school/high school is no longer available. Life with Fred is very different, but good in its own way.
She read Susan Wise Bauer’s The Story of the World Part 2: The Middle Ages for history, and we supplemented with short biographies of key figures:
- The Lives of Extraordinary Women (Kathleen Krull)
- Who Was Ferdinand Magellan? (Sydelle Kramer)
- Joan of Arc (Diane Stanley)
- The Bard of Avon: The Story William Shakespeare (Diane Stanley)
- Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England (Diane Stanley)
- Ten Kings and the Worlds They Ruled (Milton Meltzer)
- Ten Queens: Portraits of Power (Milton Meltzer)
- Johan Gutenberg and the Amazing Printing Press (Bruce Koscielniak)
- Marguerite Makes a Book (Bruce Robertson)
In the past when I’ve taught the Middle Ages for middle school, I’ve also included Leif the Lucky (Ingrid and Edgar Parin d’Aulaire)and Isabel, Jewel of Castilla: Spain 1466 (Carolyn Meyer.)
Our study of English (or language arts) gets broken into its component parts, both receptive and expressive. We spend a lot of time reading/listening to literature. A lot of the mechanics of sentence structure, grammar and mechanics are passively absorbed through good literature, and then are practiced in writing.
This was the second year we had a weekly Poetry Tea (HT Julie Bogart of bravewriter.com.) This was one of my favorite parts of the week. We choose poems to share, or wrote poems, and ate treats while we did it. We got bogged down a bit at the end of the year, but we will definitely resume poetry tea come fall!
This 7th grader definitely prefers non-fiction to fiction, but we managed to read some good books together. My goal for literature is to share time together, imagine lives that look different from ours and discuss big ideas. All the books on these lists meet those goals.
We started with a unit on graphic novels:
- Sunny Side Up (Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm)
- Swing It, Sunny (Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm)
- March, Vol. 1 and 2 (John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell)
- New Kid (Jerry Craft)
- Stargazing (Jen Wang)
I hadn’t ever studied graphic novels before, and we had lots of interesting discussions of how the visual media change the narrative and point of view. All of these books deal with serious issues that required thought and compassion and left us wanting to be better people. If I taught this unit again, I would add three films in:
- Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
- The Mitchells v. the Machines
- Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
These films include straightforward storytelling and visuals, as well as more graphic novel-esque illustration, and they do it to add a subtext that complements the themes of the films. While Scott Pilgrim is PG-13, what my youngest has seen at 13 is vastly different from what I would have let my oldest watch at 13. Just saying. You know your kids best.
- The Vanderbeekers to the Rescue (Katrina Yan Glaser)
- Beowulf the Warrior (Ian Sertalier)
- Sourdough (Robin Sloan)
- Heist Society (Ally Carter)
- Uncommon Criminals (Ally Carter)
- Perfect Scoundrels (Ally Carter)
- A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver (E.L. Konigsburg)
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson)
- A View from Saturday ( E.L. Konigsburg)
- Crosstalk (Connie Willis)
- The Mysterious Benedict Society (Trenton Lee Stewart)
Independent reading/audio books included:
- A Single Shard (Linda Sue Park)
- I Am Malala (Malala Yousefi)
- Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH (Robert C. O’Brien)
- One Life (Megan Rapinoe)
- Jesus for President: Politics for Ordinary Radicals (Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw)
- Make Change (Shaun King)
- White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (Robin J. DiAngelo and Michael Eric Dyson)
We do a lot of “composition” out loud, and she writes a ton of emails for her environmental advocacy work. We continue to use Susan Barton’s method for reading and spelling. My student hates it but continues to make good progress with it.
Middle school science continues to stump me. We love science around here but have yet to find a program that meets my expectations. She took a general survey of science with a traditional textbook and labs through our homeschool school, and she enjoyed it. However, it was mostly reading a chapter and answering questions. Her teacher did include a report on how an animal fits into the bigger food web, and she had to invent a Rube-Goldberg machine. It was a super-cool project, but it nearly did us in.
We studied botany by visiting the Denver Botanic Gardens, caring for our own garden, and studying plant families. We watched documentaries (that I somehow failed to save, so I can’t tell you about them.)
She used Duolingo Premium most days, and then we watched some favorite films we knew well in Spanish in order to hear larger stretches of spoken Spanish. This could work with lots of different languages. Next year she wants to switch to French. Why not?
We managed to study a few artists this year: Norman Rockwell, Jackson Pollack, Leonardo Da Vinci and Pieter Breughel the Elder.
My thoughts on and methods of picture study (Charlotte Mason’s term) can be found here and here. We did make it to the Denver Art Museum for their fantastic Norman Rockwell exhibit.
She continued her weekly cello lessons online over Zoom.
This year of pandemic was a challenge and gave her many opportunities to navigate disappointment, uncertainty, isolation, doubt, and grief. Additionally, she cooked a whole bunch, read a lot about different environmental topics, and worked tirelessly as an environmental activist.
She took AP Physics 1 online through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers.
She took AP Calculus AB online through Pennsylvania Homeschoolers.
We studied AP English Literature and Composition (see curriculum guide at the College Board) at home. The course is organized around seven major concepts:
- Plot and Structure
and spends time analyzing the literary devices (eg., imagery, word choice, point of view, metaphor, simile, and symbolism) used to achieve those ideas. As long as you are able to study those things through the books you choose, the curriculum allows you to choose the books/play/poems you want to study.
- Crosstalk (Connie Willis)
- The Merchant of Venice (William Shakespeare)
- Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie)
- Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)
- Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
- Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
- The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (Anne Bronte)
- Persuasion (Jane Austen)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God (Zora Neale Hurston)
as well as lots of poems.
Barron’s AP English Literature and Composition was a useful supplement, especially to work on how to take the multiple choice part of the exam.
I loved this class. We had some great discussions on big ideas:
- Ambition v. humility
- Science v. ethics
- Responsibilities of a creator/parent
It was fun to read so many gothic novels in one class. I love using old AP exam questions as springboards for discussion, and the FRQ framework gave her lots of writing practice.
She also took an excellent English class at our once-a-week homeschool school.
We did an introduction to economics (mostly macro, though some micro) in the fall. I used TED talks and Crash Course Economics (thanks, Adrienne and Jacob) to introduce all the general concepts. I prepared for spring semester, too, but we just didn’t get to it. Health challenges and an otherwise too heavy load made it wise to pause at the semester. For the second half, we will read Kate Raworth’s Doughnut Economics and Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy. The early history of economics seemed to be more normative, while the last two centuries of economics have been purely descriptive: this is the evil of how western economies function. The two books above give a solid counterpoint to what is and imagine what can be.
This was her second year taking a weekly Spanish lesson a tutor from Celas Maya Language School, and the more she does, the more she wants to use Spanish in conversation at home.
Many, many hours of ballet. Pandemic disappointments. Weekly harp lessons. Working to overcome health challenges. It was a hard year, and I am so proud of her.