Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Our curriculum plans for 2010-2011 (6th grade)

Not Back to School Blog Hop

Yesterday, I shared my plans for my 8th grade daughter. I started with her because I have fewer loose ends in her plan.  I have a very good start for my son, who is entering 6th grade, but there are some subjects that aren't fully decided yet.

Language Arts
I know the above may look a bit busy, but Language Arts is a focus for this year.  It has been a focus for the last couple of years, actually, as we remediate this struggling area.  I have seen much improvement lately, which is very encouraging.  My son, age 11,  is an excellent reader, grade levels ahead.  But his writing skills are woefully behind.  He fits the term "stealth dyslexia" perfectly.  Anyhow, we discovered IEW materials last year.  While I had known about them for a long time, I never really paid much attention. I wish I had. This past year ds started the Level A and will finish it up soon.  However, I don't feel he's ready to move on quite yet, so I'll be using IEW's All Things Fun and Fascinating and Medieval History-Based Writing Lessons to cover the same content in Level A.

For the last two years we've been using All About Spelling and absolutely love it.  We took a break for summer and will continue in the fall.  I didn't want to halt spelling entirely over the summer, so I picked up IEW's Phonetic Zoo Level A, which can be used independently (in stark contrast to AAS).  I think it compliments AAS nicely and I'll have ds continue, since it isn't very time consuming.  I also like to use SpellQuizzer to practice words that are consistently wrong.

For handwriting, we will continue with Peterson Directed Handwriting.  This is a program I never would have known about if not for my participation on the TOS Crew.  I had all about given up on writing, but now have some hope that this can be a functional area.  We'll also continue with typing skills using Keyboarding Skills put out by the same people that publish Explode the Code (EPS).  This program is the old style top spiral-bound flip books with no bells and whistles.  I found that the fancy computer programs were too distracting.  Ds has actually been through the book once, but I think a quick run through might be a good idea since I've noticed his finger placement on the keyboard needs some correcting.

We've used Pathway Readers for years.  Ds doesn't need much help with reading, but I like to have him read aloud to me somewhat regularly to correct pronunciation and work on general enunciation and voice inflection while reading. I like the short passages and simple stories, usually with a moral attached. Megawords will help with vocabulary and spelling as well.  I'll work this in as we have time.
Now grammar is the one I'm really having trouble with.  We used Winston Grammar last year, which is straight-forward, has minimal writing, and seems just about perfect for our needs.  However, things just didn't seem to stick long-term.  I added Michael Clay Thompson's Grammar Island into the mix toward the end of the year.  However, what I'm seriously considering for this year is going back to The Bridge to the Latin Road, a review item from two years ago.  I liked it when we used it, but the writing requirements were too much for ds at the time.  I need to give it another look now.  It is based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, which is geared toward dyslexics, and I seem to recall it being mostly grammar.  I need to make sure I don't bog ds down with numerous time-consuming programs, though. We have so many programs on our shelves (many, many more not listed above) and so many areas that we need to work on, that is is hard to not overschedule for this subject.

Lastly, I just purchased a reasonably-priced used Linguistics Development Through Poetry Memorization, an IEW product.  I'm not sure if we'll use it, but I think ds will benefit from the memorization and speaking required. If I don't use it this year, it may be something for the future. This item is hard to find used at a decent price, so I picked it up when I had the opportunity.

Whew...let's move on.

I've been using Math U See with my son since the beginning, with the exception of one year of Singapore.  This year he's doing Zeta, which overs decimals and percents.  While fractions went well this year, I think I'm going to add in the Life of Fred Fractions just as a supplement and review of the previous year's material. I had actually planned to have him go through it this summer, but it just didn't happen.  He'll use Mathletics and Math Score for drill and practice.

A few years back, ds did the Pre-Level Chemistry while big sister did the Chemistry text.  I had planned for him to go through the Level 1 books sooner than 6th grade, but last year he wanted to work though Apologia's Young Explorers series.  He's done all but two in the series now, and two won't last him the full year (he likes to read them on his own, and he's doing so in about 2-3 weeks per text).  Since I had RS4K sitting my shelves already and he's never used them, I decided to use what I have rather than buy something new. I can beef them up if needed, but they may be fine as is. One thing I've been wanting for ds is more online classes.  He's done a couple short-term classes and they have been good experiences. 


Things are a bit fuzzy for history, though for good reason.  So we can concentrate on other subjects that need more work, I've decided not to lock us into a firm history plan.  Plenty of historical fiction will be read, likely from Sonlight Cores 3 and 4, to coordinate with the Sonlight 100 my daughter will be studying.  We also have All American History that we dabbled in last year and may go back to this year, though at a slower than normal schedule. I also have Story of the World, Volume 3 (he read Vol 1 and 2 last year) that he may do informally. All this to say, I really don't have a strong plan, but have many, many options sitting on my shelves should I decide I really need something more structured.

When I started the Lighbearers curriculum with my daughter last year, I thought it might be too much for my son.  However, he started sitting in and answering questions I presented my daughter.  Since I didn't get very far into the program, I plan to start from the beginning and fully include him as well this year.  I still need to find some sort of Bible study.  In the past, we've always used AWANA as our Bible curriculum, but my son will not be going to AWANA this year.  Instead, he has decided to attend the junior high group at our church.  I think the youth group may actually have a study they do, and I'll likely wait until fall to find out what they cover.

Fine Arts
  • Guitar lessons
  • Theater production (spring)
While he's played piano for 3 years, somewhat happily, my son has had an interest in trying guitar.  After starting music lessons after our 18 month break from piano for financial reasons, I thought the timing was good to try something new.  A friend loaned us a guitar that her son had outgrown for as long as we needed, which was a huge blessing.  His first lesson was last week.  He loved it!

My son doesn't have the theater bug as badly as my daughter (as in he doesn't constantly surf the 'net for local auditions), but he really enjoys our annual spring play through our homeschool group.

Physical Education
  • Karate
This will be ds's fifth year of Shotokan karate.  He will also attend at least one tournament and likely have another belt testing before the year is over.

  • First Lego League
  • Lego Moviemaking Class (in-person)
Our participation in First Lego League last year was entirely driven by my son's obsession with Legos.  For those of you who have done FLL,  you know the competition is about much, much more than Legos.  This is great, because it gives ds opportunity to practice other skills while being sucked in by those little bricks.

This fall, he'll also be taking a Lego Moviemaking class with the a Star Wars theme.  How cool is that?  Talk about combining interests!

I'm really resisting adding a "Things that I'm unsure about or want to do but not sure how to fit in" category as I did with my daughter.  There certainly is plenty in that category for my son.  However, I'll consider this year successful if the only thing we do it move forward and closer to grade level in the writing and spelling area.  I really want to keep that a focus, so will resist the temptation to dream adding more to the schedule.

My two biggest challenges with homeschooling are over-scheduling and wanting to try every program out there. While the Language Arts department looks a bit overwhelming, I think I have a very good plan of focusing on one needed area, sticking with the tried and true in others, utilizing already owned materials, combining with my daughter's studies, and keeping flexibility in non-essential areas.  Now to just figure out a schedule for it all!

Make sure you visit the Not Back-to-School Blog Hop over a Heart of the Matter to read how others are planning for Curriculum Week this week.


alecat said...

Thank you for your post. Very inspiring. :)

I like the IEW products you found. The poetry especially sounds great!
I'm trying to decide what we'll use for Lang. Arts in 2011. Thankfully I've bought some items 2/hand to look already.

I've put up my contribution to this bolg walk too. :)

Catherine (aka alecat, Australia)

Nichole said...

That looks like an awesome year! The Grammar Island books look interesting. We're not at the grade-level for it yet, though, so I have plenty of time to think about it!

MarshaMarshaMarsha said...

Overscheduling and trying out many things... yup, that's me! Especially with Language Arts, that subject was the death of me with my oldest. We did Switched on Schoolhouse last year and liked it. I am excited about starting Classical Conversations and have accountability on completing IEW and memorizing grammar facts (*yawn*).

Life of Fred looks interesting. I hopped over to their site to order the one on Fractions. We are using MUS and are trying to go year round with it in hopes to finish Calculus by the time they graduate high school. Do you think Life of Fred could be a complete math course on its own?

Heidi said...


I'm not sure what grade level your kids are at, but I think Grammar Island can be used much earlier than listed, especially with kids with a Language Arts bent. It has a simple appearance, but is meaty as well, making it work for multiple ages.

Heidi said...


My first thought on Life of Fred as a stand-alone was no. However, there is now a Home Companion and I've been told it works better as a stand-alone in combination with that resource. I don't have any experience using it with the Home Companion, so I can't say for sure. I think most use it as a supplement, though.

Sheri said...

ya know that looks pretty darn good. I am focusing a lot of the year on my son's need to improve and "get" the reading thing-he is dyslexic and geez 3rd one in a row-oi.
We're doing L of Fred too for my oldest-if it gets the info into her head-I am considering it as a full course. We'll have the companion too-but since I have yet to order it/use it...I too have no idea of how beefy this is. :0)

I am off to read your cat whisperer post...looks interesting-LOL

Jennifer said...

I'm currently using Grammar Town with my 10yo dysgraphic son. We completed Grammar Island and Sentence Island. I am now looking at Bridge to Latin Road, and wondering what your thoughts are? Did you return to it? Is it possible to blend the two programs? I am very guilty of overscheduling LA as my son is falling farther behind. We already do IEW SWI-A, too, and English from the Roots Up & MCT's Building Language. I like MCT's books in the sense that I am understanding grammar better, and it seems to be sticking with my son, but his writing style is very annoying and obtuse at times. I don't want to give up some of the clarity of concept that we do get, but would like something at least as clear. I'd like to streamline our LA basically. The Bridge to Latin looks writing intensive, which I'm not sure would be a bad thing or not.

Heidi said...


I never did go back to Bridge to Latin. I still like what we used of the program, but I just couldn't get it to fit with everything else we had going on.

We stuck with IEW, adding in the online classes they are now offering. The online classes include the Fix-It and stretch the program a bit more. I also went back to Winston and redid the first level. It was more successful the second time around, but we still have retention issues. We completed Word Works and will be moving to the Advanced level soon. I like that Winston does not require any writing, so it works nicely to get the grammar in without taking away from the writing required elsewhere.

The other program we still use is Phonetic Zoo. I eventually plan to go back to AAS for more reinforcement, but he has been progressing nicely with Phonetic Zoo.

Heading into next year we'll be using IEW SWICC-B, Winston Advanced Grammar, and Phonetic Zoo C as our foundation. I'll be adding other resources, but these three programs are what we seem to be the most successful at consistently using and the most effective for retention.

I hope that helps a little.