Just before Fall Break, my twelve-year old daughter decided to call an end to her public middle school experiment. She had really enjoyed the switch from home-school to 6th grade at the local elementary school but middle school was disappointing. It was just too big and time-consuming, and the adolescent culture was overwhelming (lots of swearing, fighting, etc…). So we were happy to withdraw her from school, but that meant I had to come up with a home-school plan quick.
Fortunately, I’ve already been through 7th grade with my two older sons so I had a pretty good idea what would work with her. My daughter and I first had a brainstorming session to see what she wanted to learn/do. Her requests were: more art, more history, no reading comprehension questions, “how things work,” and creative book reports with posters, dioramas, etc…
I let her decide which period of history to start with and she chose to continue on from Ancient Rome which her class had been studying in 6th grade. Since I always use living books for history it was pretty easy to come up with a list from various Charlotte Mason web sites (plus I had already read them to my boys). The backbone of our study will be Augustus Caesar’s World by Genevieve Foster.
For “how things work,” it was an easy choice to use David Macauley’s wonderful book The New Way Things Work. I still have the activity/construction set that went with it seven years ago so that will keep her busy for the rest of the semester.
For math, I showed her examples of the top three curriculum products I thought would work best for her learning style and she choice Teaching Textbooks “Math 7.” It was the most expensive option, but I LOVE Teaching Textbooks. My boys have used it for Algebra II and Geometry (very rigorous!) and they are about to start in on the Pre-Calculus.
Although my daughter did not suggest this, she happily agreed to study Africa for geography this semester. I already had a book called Trail Guide to World Geography by Cindy Wiggers which gives lots of great ideas for mapping, fact-finding, projects and activities to go with any region of the world for different age groups.
Finding which books to use is actually the easy (and fun) part for me. The hard part is laying it out ahead of time in my “Homeschool Tracker program.” It is very time-consuming at first to create lesson plans for everything but it pays off later because all I have to do is punch a few buttons to see what we need to do in any given week. I can also mark off when things have been done (I only do grades for math) and at the end of the year I can print out a nice report for each kid that shows what they did.
So even though I try to let the kids choose what to do for home-school, it’s important for me to then organize and plan it out. Otherwise it is too easy to lose direction or not have the right books/supplies on hand to make it happen. The older boys are already responsible for doing their own lessons and work, but they like me to follow up on them and give them a shove now and then. That being said, I’ve tried hard not to become a taskmaster or a slave to the schedule. It’s a fine balance between order and chaos.
So, all in all I was able to pull together my daughter’s curriculum for the semester in about 2 weeks, but I already had most of the books I needed and knew enough about “Homeschool Tracker” to input lesson plans quickly. But really there was no need to hurry, because my Plan B was to simply sit out on the porch every day reading Little Women aloud and playing educational games until we came up with Plan A.