Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Fall Semester Homeschool Plans for the Seventh and Ninth Grades

And in the blink of an eye, they're in middle school and high school!

I wanted to make a fuss over these transitions, so big in the public and private school worlds, but life happened instead, and the kids barely even shrugged at the change from one imaginary number to another, so, like so many other things, I let it go. Better to save my energy for the momentous occasions that THEY find important, I suppose. Like birthday parties for dogs, and Family Movie Night.

We also school year-round, so one day--the first day of public schools in our hometown, and coincidentally the day that we began our morning at 3:00 am on top of a mountain--I simply said, "It's the first day of school at home. You're seventh- and ninth-graders now!" And then we made sandwiches and went hiking.

Since we school year-round, the idea of a "fall semester" is also false; unit studies come and go, and none are defined by semesters. But our current plans for the fall align as well as not to the semester scheme, so here's what we're doing for the fall semester!

English/Language Arts

Will is currently completing weekly reviews in the Analytical Grammar Review and Reinforcement book, and will do the third season of Analytical Grammar, finishing out that curriculum, afterwards. Syd is finishing up the last unit of the first season, then will do weekly reviews in Review and Reinforcement. I'll likely wait until after Christmas to start her in the second season.

I'm well capable of teaching writing on my own, but I finally decided, just today, that I simply didn't want to devote the time to creating my own writing lesson plans for high school, and so I bought the Beyond the Book Report curriculum, also from Analytical Grammar. I like the fact that the kids can use the literature that we already have planned, so it's efficient, and it's supposed to be pretty independent for the kids to do, so that will be a time-saver for me if it pans out. I'll let you know!

We use Wordly Wise for spelling/vocabulary, and I plan to continue it through all twelve volumes. Will is near the beginning of book nine right now, while Syd gets a month-long hiatus since she just finished up book four during our road trip (because yes, I'm the mean mom who made the kids do school on our long driving days!), and then will begin book 5.


The kids are beginning their second year of French lessons with their tutor, an amazing, patient, brilliant woman whom I could not love more for what she does. We use italki, and again, it's the best thing ever. Their tutor uses the Adosphere series with the kids, but while we were in Quebec a couple of weeks ago I found Renaud-Bray, a French-language bookstore, and bought several children's books in French. They'll likely begin to use those in their lessons this semester, and I'm already thinking about buying more. That's why I have a homeschool budget!

Girl Scouts

One of the many advantages to homeschooling is that I can treat Girl Scouts as a school subject worth spending part of most days on, and that's just the way the kids prefer, because they LOVE Girl Scouts. Will is finishing up her Silver Award Take Action Project in September, and both girls will be finishing up the last of their Outdoor Journey and the Take Action Project for the Media Journey in the same month--that's what it ends up looking like when one kid has her heart set on earning the Summit Award!

We also work on badges weekly, although this will be complicated a little when Will bridges to Senior Girl Scout in October and the kids are no longer at the same level. I treat badges as mini unit studies, and so it sure was a golden year when they were both Cadettes and I could streamline my lesson planning! Until then, September will be VERY Girl Scout-heavy, as Will works desperately to complete the last Cadette badges that she both deeply wants to earn before she bridges and put off until the very last minute...


Will actually studied AP European History last year, but the local high school that had agreed to host her for the AP exam reneged on their offer, and did it too late for us to find another host school--can you BELIEVE THAT?!? So frustrating and unfair and upsetting and disappointing. Anyway, by then I'd already become dissatisfied with the way that AP courses sacrifice depth for breadth, so I just cut our losses and decided that we'd simply redo the course this year. There's certainly enough material to cover to utilize two years! So Will is back again in Palmer's A History of Europe in the Modern World, and finding the review helpful and the chance to finally explore deeper to be satisfying.

Syd is taking a casual second pass through the same history, at least this fall, by simply listening to the relevant Story of the World chapters. I tried harder last year to keep her up with Will, as well as including activities at her level, and it ended up being probably too history-heavy for her, since she's not a kid who's super into history as a subject. So far this year she joins in on much of the enrichment, listens to the lectures and conversations and watches many of the videos, so I'm content to keep her study informal for now.

At the same time that we're studying European history, we're also studying, a little more casually, other aspects of Europe. The kids are doing Draw Europe as a daily memory work exercise, so that it will take them several months to complete the entire book. We also take time some weeks to study specific works of European music or art, and both kids are reading lots of European literature. I try to key these into the time period that we're studying in history that week--if I could find a music or art appreciation curriculum or literature study that fit, I'd use it, but until then I'm compiling it piecemeal.


I LOVE Math Mammoth for the early grades. Syd is just about to begin Math Mammoth 7, and that should take her through the school year to finish. Will is still slugging her way through Art of Problem Solving's Introduction to Algebra, which is an Honors Algebra curriculum for the ninth grade. I supplement it with Art of Problem Solving's Volume 1: The Basics, which is a math competition manual that I use for review and reinforcement. Will does best with LOTS of problems to work through!

Physical Education

Will needs to have at least two credits of this on her high school transcript, so I've planned fall PE out a little more than I do most times. I've combined several Girl Scout Outdoor badges at the Cadette and Senior levels into one Hiking, Backpacking, and Primitive Camping curriculum, and that's what we'll be finishing up this fall. 

I'm also likely going to use Will's horseback riding lessons and enrichment as another PE credit, but I need to think that one through some more.

Syd advanced in ballet this year, and is now taking seven hours' of classes weekly, and that will ramp up even more when Nutcracker season starts!


We're still working through the CK-12 Biology flexbook, using it as a spine around which I've created an entire honors biology study. It's a rigorous curriculum, very experiment-heavy, and I expect it to take the full school year to complete.

Every now and then I add in another, shorter science or STEM study. We completed a very successful three-week study of the physics of roller coasters over the summer, for instance, and right now we're in the first week of a 5-6-week study of meteorology, focusing in particular on hurricanes. For our spine we're using Air Environment, which is volume 3 of the Civil Air Patrol's Aerospace Dimensions module. Our other key materials are the guidelines to earn a Girl Scout Hurricane Relief fun patch, and this AcuRite Home Weather Station which is the coolest thing ever and Will and I, in particular, are kind of obsessed with it. We work on these other science units concurrently with honors biology, because I believe in doing lots of science!

Service Learning

Volunteering has taken a backseat for a while, unfortunately. The kids and I are volunteers at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, but we have to wait for opportunities to appear in the schedule, and then hope that they fit into OUR schedule, which oftener and oftener it's seeming like they do not, grr. Over the summer, though, Will volunteered at the public library for a program with our local hands-on science museum, and the person whom she worked with encouraged her to apply as a volunteer there. She did, so we'll see if that's something that happens this fall.

Of course, a lot of Girl Scouts is volunteering, and both kids have been very busy with various Take Action Projects for various Journeys and Higher Awards. That will calm down a little when Will bridges... until Syd starts working on earning HER Silver Award, that is!


The kids still do lots of cool and weird things every week--work on Junior Ranger badges by mail, watch CNN10 every day, do handicrafts with me, etc. Will's going to try out Police Explorers this fall, and we're all three of us going to take some art classes together. I'm continuing the four-day school week that I started over the summer, with the goal of using that fifth day to take a day trip, do something different, or otherwise mix the week up. I've also changed the work plans that I give the kids every Monday from a simple list of tasks organized by day, to a three-part list: there's a section of tasks that must be done every day (this week, for example, it includes French practice, checking the hurricane reports and the weather from our little weather station, and making progress on Will's Silver Award TAP and the TAP for their Media Journey, both of which I am SO ready for them to be done with!); a section of tasks that simply must be complete and correct by the end of the school week (Syd's math packet, which she is going to be so sad about on Friday because I haven't seen her so much as pick it up yet, and their grammar, and their biology reading, etc.), and then a much smaller list of tasks that I want them to do on a specific day. I break down Will's AP European History work by day to make it less overwhelming for her, and we do the hands-on science activities on a specific day so that we're all together and have the supplies. But the kids have a lot more responsibility on them to organize their own work schedule this way, and there might be some sucky weekends before they get the hang of it.

So that's our semester... for now. As you can tell, it's constantly evolving, and will look different in October, when ice skating begins, and even more different in November, when Nutcracker rehearsals get really crazy, and will go all to hell in December, for the obvious reasons.

January will save us, though. We get a lot of schoolwork done in January!

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