Started planning for upcoming school year

I know that not all of my readers care about the intricate details of my planning for our school year, but some of you do because it helps give you ideas for your family.  And I love the comments because it helps to have like-minded people like you off which to bounce ideas. I have archived my page describing last year’s curriculum and resources and started a new page for the upcoming 7th grade year. It’s not finished yet, but at least I got it started and can update as necessary.

Last year, my primary goal was to get Dragon Rider’s reading skills up to grade level so that both boys would be able to handle the reading required for junior high and high school courses without it being a struggle. Reading is SO important for learning and good reading skills make the difference in this life-long pursuit. As a result of the Reading Assessments we did, I feel like we accomplished this goal and are ready to continue forward. We will continue doing most of what we did last year for increasing reading skills, so those will not get “dropped”, but we are moving on to a different focus. This year, the specific skills that both boys need focus on are writing, grammar, and spelling. My goal for their writing skills (and the corresponding subordinate skills of spelling and grammar) is to prepare them over the next 2 years, 7th and 8th grades, such that their writing skills will be ready for high school and they can hit the ground running, so to speak, in 9th grade. Reading and writing will become invaluable tools for learning in high school and beyond, as writing consolidates thinking done during reading and will help make the material they are covering “their own”. It’s invaluable for digesting material. The writing process must become automatic so that it is not a stumbling block to learning. You can see what resources we will be using for language arts on the 7th grade curriculum page.

My biggest task for the upcoming year is to plan out their science program. After much research, I have decided that we need to start with physics, as it is the basis for all the other sciences. Then we will move to chemistry in 8th grade and biology in 9th grade. There is a reason for choosing this order. In high school, students traditionally take science courses in order of math skills necessary, going from least/easiest to most/hardest. That’s why physics is traditionally saved for last in high school. Unfortunately, from a scientific and pedagogical perspective where each course is a foundation for the next course and each subsequent course builds on the previous course, this is backwards! I believe we can approach these courses at the middle school level from a primarily conceptual basis instead of focusing on the math, and they will benefit greatly from this. It is more important to understand how and why things work the way they do in this world – and the universe – than memorizing math formulas and do what are essentially math problems with the goal of getting the “right answer”. Then, when they get into higher levels of these courses where math has more emphasis, they won’t be struggling with the concepts and the math – the math will make more sense to them because they will already understand many of the concepts. I believe this is why I struggled in physics both in high school and especially in college – I could do the math, but I didn’t understand the concepts well enough to know what math to do! 😐 As a result, we will be focusing on physics and astronomy this year. Alex Rider is very pleased with this decision as it is where his interests most lie at this point. His favorite TV show is Mythbusters and it has developed an interest in physics projects for him. Dragon Rider will like the hands-on aspect of this year’s science course and may find that he has an interest in this area, too.

I have picked out most of the resources I plan to use for our course – books, including a book of labs/projects, the possible use of Web Quests, and I am leaning towards purchasing Adaptive Curriculum’s middle school science program for online virtual labs and study. (I can purchase this at a much reduced rate – about $50 – from Homeschool Buyer’s Co-op!) I will post the specifics of these resources on the 7th grade curriculum page over the next few days. I have also already created an overview for the year of the major topic areas to cover and the approximate time to spend on those areas. For those interested, here is our year overview for science:

  • Motion and Mechanics (includes fluid dynamics)
    • 11 weeks
    • Newton – full biography
    • Archimedes – full biography
  • Simple Machines
    • 3 weeks
  • Heat and Energy
    • 3 weeks
    • Joule – mini-biography
    • Carnot – mini-biography
  • Sound and Waves
    • 2 weeks
    • Doppler – mini-biography
  • Light and Optics
    • 2 weeks
    • Fresnel – mini-biography
  • Electricity and Magnetism
    • 6 weeks
    • Ohm – mini-biography
    • Faraday – mini-biography
  • Astronomy
    • 7 weeks
    • Galileo – full biography
  • Modern Physics – Nuclear, Quantum, etc.
    • 2 weeks – just an introduction
    • Einstein – full biography?
    • Marie Curie – – mini-biography

I am sure we will tweak this as we go through the year based on specific interests or other life events that may interrupt the “plan”, but this is my starting point for lesson planning. I can now start coming up with specific assignments of reading, labs, and  projects for each unit. I need to have most of this planning done before we start the school year so that my stress levels from working and homeschooling are diminished. Luckily, I have the summer to do this! 😉

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About Cindy

I am a wife to a wonderful hubby and mother of fraternal twin boys (born 6/28/1998). I enjoy family vacations/travels, my photography and acrylic painting hobbies, and anything else I feel like writing or sharing!
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6 Responses to Started planning for upcoming school year

  1. Carol says:

    I love how you’re planning on incorporating biographies of scientists. Check out http://www.bitesizephysics.com – His curriculum is inexpensive and offers very clear explanations with examples and experiments to illustrate. I used it last year as part of our physics class. Also I have the amusement park and forces and motion education sets from K’nex, if you want to borrow.

    • Cindy says:

      Thanks, Carol!

      I have looked at Science Jim’s materials in the past and Alex Rider wasn’t too impressed with them. He says it’s “too easy”, which says to me he is looking for a bit more interesting/challenging material. However, I will definitely keep his materials in mind, particularly for Dragon Rider, who may not be ready for the challenge level that Alex Rider is.

      Thanks for the offer to borrow the K’Nex! That would be awesome! I may have to just stop by your classroom and pick those up one day! Are you there around 6 PM at all, or are you usually gone by then?

  2. Cindy says:

    For the Trail Guides that we used this past year, Paths of Exploration, the targeted grades are 3-5, but it is easy to accomodate both grades 2 and 6. Here is an excerpt from a post on the Learning Series Yahoo Group that I just wrote this week about using Paths of Exploration for 2nd grade:

    >>>So how hard is it to supplement POE for 2nd graders, POS for 3rd etc…?
    He is very smart in a lot of ways but has problems with speech and reading.
    <<<

    I don’t think you will have to supplement much at all for 2nd graders. For reading, if the reader is too advanced for him, you can read it aloud to him and do some shared reading for practice. Continue to use whatever reading program you are using for your 2nd grader in addition to POE. If you are not using a reading program, just be sure that he gets LOTS of reading aloud practice with you with books that he likes/chooses. About 10-15 minutes per day reading aloud to you on a consistent basis will improve his reading skills by leaps and bounds by the end of the school year! By that time, doing POS (Paths of Settlement) for his 3rd grade year, you will probably find that he will do fine reading the POS readers aloud to you as specified in the lessons and it will be great fluency practice. From that point on, I don’t think you have to worry about supplementing reading anymore. As for speech, you just work on that separately if he needs remediation. POE has the students practice oral narration most of the year – this is an excellent way to work on speech and reading comprehension!

    As for other skills necessary for the program, you just do as much of it orally as you need to instead of having him to everything as pencil/paperwork. Kind of follow along the 3rd grade “trail markers” in the POE book and only assign what you think he can do successfully. He will get a lot out of the read-alouds and discussion that you do with both him and the older child. Pick and choose and you will be fine.

    I don’t think you will have any problems using it for 2nd grade and I think it would be a lot of fun for your youngster. The littles will pick up a lot, too, just by being exposed to some of it. Based on what you mentioned on your blog, they will love all of the color and cut/paste activites. My boys have no tolerance for coloring and little for cut/paste, but they are almost 12 yo! 😉 I do have them do the art lessons anyway, and definitely the mapping exercises, but we rarely do the cut/paste stuff that you all will love!

  3. you are on the ball Cindy! We are looking in to the math program you use and also considering the trail guides for future use. The website says start at grade 3, but rainbow resources says grade 2. What are your thoughts?

  4. Cindy says:

    No plans for public school for high school. Dragon Rider has told me all along that he never wants to go to a classroom school again, and Alex Rider knows now that he would be really bored in high school and hate having to use textbooks! 🙂

    We will be adding Megawords to the MCT LA stuff because they need something that they can do on their own- mostly, at least. AAS doesn’t allow us to do that.

    Our Trail Guides stuff won’t start shipping until late July, so I am trying to get all of the other stuff lined up and ready before then. The science books will be arriving today from Amazon and the Megawords should be here shortly. We already have the MCT LA books – at least until we finish the Island level and move into the Town level. And we already have all of our math until Alex Rider finishes Pre-Algebra 1 and moves into Pre-Algebra 2 from Life of Fred.

  5. Tracey says:

    these ideas sound great~ 🙂 are you planning for the boys to go back to public school for highschool?
    your science for next year sounds good and LA too~ I know the author Katie who writes the nature unit studies~ 🙂
    Does Grammar Island also do spelling? or were you staying with AAS still?
    Isn’t planning fun! lol ~ well sometimes it is~ we just got all our new things in this week so now it will be my job to go through everything and tweak it and add to it etc… fun~ lol 😉

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