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Sneezyone

Interest-led 8th grade English... too much??

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I've hesitated to post this because I know it's not everyone's cup of tea but I would like feedback from those who can relate. This next year will be my last year at home with my peeps and I want it to be extra special. My goal is to explore a few big topics in depth with a variety of non-fiction and social science bits thrown in for context. I also want to ground DD in some hip hop history as I'm beyond tired of Gucci Mane. We're concurrently studying American History so this should tie together nicely.

SUMMER READING

DD will read and take notes on one book from each group. These notes and reflections will be used throughout the year.

  • GROUP A (Night or The Boy In The Striped Pajamas The Boy on the Wooden Box )
  • GROUP B (The Fault in Our Stars or Eleanor & Park)
  • GROUP C (All American Boys or The Hate U Give)
  • GROUP D (Flowers for Algernon or Ungifted)
  • MUSIC: American Teen (Khalid)

SCHOOL YEAR

We'd spend about two months on each of five themes--group dynamics, love and tragedy, justness, education, and comedy-- with three argumentative synthesis essays (approx. 3-5 pgs.), one commercial/filmic writing project, and one research paper (approx. 5-7 pgs.) as outputs.

The guiding question(s) for each theme would be:

  1. GROUP DYNAMICS: Why can't we all just get along? Why do good people do bad things? We will read Animal Farm, “Herd Behavior”, “Learning to Read” and “The Third Wave” from Commonlit.org to consider how power and control are gained, held, and used to affect individual behavior. Music Highlights: Fight the Power (Public Enemy) and Changes (Tupac Shakur)
  2. LOVE & TRAGEDY: What is love? (Baby don't hurt me) We will read Romeo and Juliet, “Apollo and Hyacinthus”, excerpts from Aristotle’s “Poetics”, and the Bible for clues. Musical Highlights: I Need Love (LL Cool J) and The Light (Common)
  3. JUSTNESS vs. JUSTICE: Why am I still thirsty? We will read Lord of the Flies, the “1972 Andes Flight Disaster”, "Puritan Laws and Character", and "Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs" from Commonlit.org, plus the Bible. Movies will include “13th” and "Ghandi". Ultimately, we'll explore how justness and justice are defined and upheld. Musical highlights: Tennessee and Everyday People (Arrested Development) 
  4. EDUCATION: What does it mean to be educated? What is the value of education? We will read The Story of My Life, “The Allegory of the Cave”, “Behind the Native American Achievement Gap”, “The Last Class/The Story of a Little Alsatian”, "The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: Excerpts from Chapters 1 & 7", and "A Child Of Slavery Who Taught A Generation" from Commonlit.org. Musical highlights: Everything is Everything (Lauryn Hill), Hey Young World (Fashawn), and I Can (Nas)
  5. COMEDY: What's so funny? We will read and watch high and low forms of comedy from Commonlit.org plus “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County”, watch the Three Stooges, Carol Burnett Show, and Saturday Night Live. We'll even watch situational and romantic comedies to identify satire, parody, irony, hyperbole, absurdity/farce, black humor and blue humour. Musical highlights: I Wish (Skee-lo) and Parents Just Don't Understand (DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince)

So, is what I'm thinking too much for 8th? Not enough? What am I missing?

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Wow! That looks really interesting!

It would be too much for my busy, unenthusiastic writer and my busy, unenthusiastic reader. But if I had that vision I would do it anyway! On the fly you could trim out a reading assignment if needed, or cut down a writing assignment, but even if you just read, listened, and discussed, wouldn't that be worth it?

I'm off to investigate commonlit.org and to start thinking about a summer reading list for my own rising 8th graders.

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Thanks, I think so. DD will finish 7th grade ELA in mid-May so I added an extra book for summer reading but if I have to cut because things are going long, I’ll probably eliminate the Group D book and the education unit. I’m kind of excited about the whole thing. She’s DYING to be treated like a grown up and figuring out what you think and being able to support those thoughts is a big part of being taken seriously in our family.

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My dh said that if it was a curriculum I should buy it, haha! My dc are more apathetic about their studies and would still rather just be told what they have to do (and think, sadly).

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3 minutes ago, SusanC said:

My dh said that if it was a curriculum I should buy it, haha! My dc are more apathetic about their studies and would still rather just be told what they have to do (and think, sadly).

HA! My DH said, “Do you really think she’s going to care about this stuff?!” Gosh, I hope so! She practically preens when we praise her choices or rationale and, given the experiences she’s had in school these last two years w/group dynamics and relationships, the content is certainly timely. 

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My 8th grader couldn't handle it because he is a slow (but deep) reader. The reading would press on him to the point that he would no longer be able to process it.

I think homeschoolers who love books (that's me, for one) tend to get these amazing book lists and forget to leave time to process. I guess I'm encouraging you to make sure your daughter reads fast enough that she can digest the material, too. 

I see lots of public school kids around here "reading" through a ton of books without thinking deeply about them. So that is my only concern.

I could probably have handled a book list like that in 8th grade if I had an adult who had read, too, and wanted to talk with me about it. I think my daughter will be up for it when the time comes. But not my son and not my husband.

Emily

 

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26 minutes ago, EmilyGF said:

My 8th grader couldn't handle it because he is a slow (but deep) reader. The reading would press on him to the point that he would no longer be able to process it.

I think homeschoolers who love books (that's me, for one) tend to get these amazing book lists and forget to leave time to process. I guess I'm encouraging you to make sure your daughter reads fast enough that she can digest the material, too. I

If you check out the commonlit.org sure you'll see that most of the articles are short, and that they have been linked to particular chapters of the books to enhance discussion of topics that the books bring up.

After looking at the site I'm revising my assessment of whether my kids could handle it up to "probably". I'm also about to write a description for a proposed co-op middle school literature class using resources on that site. Cool stuff! 

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I don't think it's too much at all. One of my ds did a lot of overlap with that this year for 8th grade. Hate U Give was a big hit here, as was Animal Farm. (And some others not on your list, like Fahrenheit 451). He won't listen to me about music either... (sigh)... but he was ready to tackle a lot more big questions than I anticipated. This seems like a great line up and a really good framing. You should put it together and sell it on TPT when you're finished. Seriously.

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Also, in terms of the output and quantity of reading... I don't think that's too much at all. A lot of your texts are music and short stories. You're doing a lot of summer reading and then doing a lot of deep dives. Animal Farm is a good example of a short book that's perfect for slower readers actually - even my slower reader did it for 8th grade this year - Animal Farm and The Crossover were our household reads this year because they're both short and accessible. Essentially you have five themes, and three big, polished writing projects for each, for a total of 15 papers. I do think that's on the high end, but not absurd at all, especially if some of the writing project ones end up being shorter or more creative assignments.

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Phew, ok, thanks! Yes, a lot of the articles are really short one or two page pieces so it's not a TON of reading over the course of a month. The primary texts will take a while. DD isn't a fast reader either. I figured 3-4 weeks per book and then another month for the shorter articles and essays. *shrug* I'm fully prepared for pushback on the "old people music" but it's worth a shot. LOL.

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On 4/15/2018 at 11:07 PM, Farrar said:

Also, in terms of the output and quantity of reading... I don't think that's too much at all. A lot of your texts are music and short stories. You're doing a lot of summer reading and then doing a lot of deep dives. Animal Farm is a good example of a short book that's perfect for slower readers actually - even my slower reader did it for 8th grade this year - Animal Farm and The Crossover were our household reads this year because they're both short and accessible. Essentially you have five themes, and three big, polished writing projects for each, for a total of 15 papers. I do think that's on the high end, but not absurd at all, especially if some of the writing project ones end up being shorter or more creative assignments.

Oh no, not 15 papers, just four (three short, one long) plus the multimedia assignment (so, one for each theme). My standards for those will be pretty high but, for something so short, they should be high quality. I was actually worried that was too little. I envisioned them to be something of a position statement, a declaration of her answer(s) to the guiding questions.

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Oh, I see. I think I'd do those and then shorter writings for each thing as you go - I mean, I assume you would need to do some writing processing. After I posted that, I was thinking about it and thinking, actually, that is a bit much. One paper/big assignment per theme would be better. But I think three big assignments and process writing would be plenty as well. We've only done about that much in terms of big, polished output. BalletBoy did a lot of really short writings and only a couple of big papers this year, plus two polished presentations. I've been really focused with BalletBoy on answering "short essay" questions. So, questions that take a paragraph answer. These are way hard for him and he's improved dramatically this year. He can actually whip out a longer paper easier (not necessarily a great one) than these shorter things.

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Good thought. I had a sketchy idea of a graphic organizer-type thing to help keep track of what she's learning from and thinking about each piece. I hadn't thought about doing a written summary but she could easily turn that table thingy into a 1/2 page doc. DD is pretty good with short answer but tends to meander with longer essays so my plan was to push her on that.

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The amount looks great -- I'm assuming they are not overly sensitive? I read Lord of the Flies in 12th and it was still pretty tough.  I think it was the hardest book for me that year and we also covered Beloved and Heart of Darkness! Lots of tears and sadness for awhile. :-(

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I absolutely love it! I've been plowing through books over here trying to design our studies as well, and I'm designing English and history/geography courses along the same lines. I don't post about it because I feel like I'd get crickets. LOL

The only thing I would change is that I would swap The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for The Boy on the Wooden Box, because I despise the first and love the latter. It's also more similar to Night in that it is also a memoir by a survivor.

And now to steal your notes and Frankenstein them into my own stuff... Music...yes...

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My kid needed a graphic organizer for all the characters and relationships in Hate U Give. Just a note.

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6 hours ago, SanDiegoMom in VA said:

The amount looks great -- I'm assuming they are not overly sensitive? I read Lord of the Flies in 12th and it was still pretty tough.  I think it was the hardest book for me that year and we also covered Beloved and Heart of Darkness! Lots of tears and sadness for awhile. :-(

Nope, not sensitive to fiction. Documentaries, oddly, are another story.

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11 hours ago, Alte Veste Academy said:

I absolutely love it! I've been plowing through books over here trying to design our studies as well, and I'm designing English and history/geography courses along the same lines. I don't post about it because I feel like I'd get crickets. LOL

The only thing I would change is that I would swap The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for The Boy on the Wooden Box, because I despise the first and love the latter. It's also more similar to Night in that it is also a memoir by a survivor.

And now to steal your notes and Frankenstein them into my own stuff... Music...yes...

Thanks! I think I will make that swap. I only included it b/c she was familiar with the story already but it isn’t much of a challenge. PS, you should share so others don’t feel so alone either. I’ve been scouring the boards for something like this to see if I was on the right track!

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1 hour ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

My 8th graders couldn't handle Night. 

If you don't mind me asking, was it the language or the subject matter? DD isn't especially squeamish but is not my strongest reader.

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Subject matter.  The scenes are incredibly intense. The descriptions gave me nightmares and are hard to shake. We have taken kids that age into the Holocaust Museum in Richmond, VA and that is pretty intense, but Night has to be one of the most graphic novels on the Holocaust that I have read. I want to expose my kids to that level of intensity, but I don't want to do it before high school.

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47 minutes ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

Subject matter.  The scenes are incredibly intense. The descriptions gave me nightmares and are hard to shake. We have taken kids that age into the Holocaust Museum in Richmond, VA and that is pretty intense, but Night has to be one of the most graphic novels on the Holocaust that I have read. I want to expose my kids to that level of intensity, but I don't want to do it before high school.

Ah. We went to the Holocaust museum at Dachau last year with the kids and they were both OK with the images and location. I'll do a little pre-reading but I think it will be ok.

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22 minutes ago, mom31257 said:

Following; love the music idea combined with lit

 

Usually we do poetry but the music should fill that void. :)

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3 hours ago, Sneezyone said:

Ah. We went to the Holocaust museum at Dachau last year with the kids and they were both OK with the images and location. I'll do a little pre-reading but I think it will be ok.

It is a very short book. I would suggest pre-reading it in its entirety.  It isn't what is being described but how graphically. Some 8th graders could handle that level of description of the depravity, but it is not a decision I would make without being directly informed myself.

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I've read Night. It would be okay for both of my current 8th graders, though just because of how they are and how they think, there are other Holocaust books and narratives that I think would probably connect with them more.

In general, I think we wait too long to introduce topics like slavery, the Holocaust, the genocide of Native peoples... all the horrors of the 20th century. I think there's a lot of "my child is too sensitive" or "we have to protect the children" attitudes - more than there used to be. Of course, that doesn't mean that Night specifically is right for all 8th graders. It is an intense book. I do think neurotypical kids should have some in depth exposure to the Holocaust by around 8th grade though.

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I have no earth-shattering insight into your line-up, but just wanted to pop in to say that I'm doing something similar for summer reading with my rising 8th grader -- that is, giving her a choice of this-or-that book, plus a write-up. I realize that since all the books will be on the shelf, she will probably read BOTH books, but that's also part of the strategy. ;) There must be something about almost-8th graders that makes us feel compelled to give them choices! :) Good luck with your plans and your final homeschool year.

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OP: This is such a thoughtful, genre-spanning Big Ideas list.  It looks wonderful to me, esp. since your children are fine with intense literary content. 

I don't see female authors in the "Love/Tragedy" theme: maybe think about this?  Offhand, I'm tempted to suggest Anne Lamott's "Operating Instructions" -- a different sort of love, and different class of tragic element, not sure if it would go over well.  Maybe Sappho's poetry, if it would suit.   But I find myself almost always disappointed by the classic [male] authors on love generally: women are dominantly objects and not experiencers; those females who are experiencers of love in the classic authors are so often projections of the same vision of love as the male lovers; love is so often constrained to the erotic realm;  and so much is limited to teenagers or very young women, and girls younger or women older than that range seem to be portrayed as non-ideal, either growing toward the preferred age for "love" or grown past it. 

Just my thoughts on one section of your plan, which is much more comprehensive and varied than one I could have generated!

On 4/17/2018 at 9:39 AM, Farrar said:

In general, I think we wait too long to introduce topics like slavery, the Holocaust, the genocide of Native peoples... all the horrors of the 20th century. I think there's a lot of "my child is too sensitive" or "we have to protect the children" attitudes - more than there used to be. Of course, that doesn't mean that Night specifically is right for all 8th graders. It is an intense book. I do think neurotypical kids should have some in depth exposure to the Holocaust by around 8th grade though.

 

I sort of agree.  I think we wait too long to introduce the topics in the history cycle.  The twentieth century seems so horrible because all the histories acknowledge the horrors, and also because of the sorts of weapons involved.   The children haven't been taught much about the mining conditions behind, say, the bronze and iron ages; or the details of the "conquering" wars in their ancient history texts (the book of Lamentations in the Hebrew Bible gives some sense of what a siege was like for the besieged); what Caesar did do his more intransigent rebels; or the actual protocol for training a Spartan warrior and the status of the helots.  Or the total warfare practiced by tribal peoples (most warfare was not total, but systematic exterminations happened and seem to be a disturbingly persistent theme in human war). 

The trouble I've had is that if we include these details, my children dread history, because it becomes a horrible experience that leaves them with really ugly images & thoughts, and I need to raise children who will be history-engaging adults.  So I tend to refer to the general concepts and emphasize that there is a high level of historical violence which we are not delving into.    I imagine a lot depends on the sort of children one has and one's particular situation ... my boys' grandmother, who lives upstairs, is a Holocaust survivor, and I myself had a very violent childhood, so we are fortunate to have some awareness built in. 

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On 4/26/2018 at 9:07 PM, serendipitous journey said:

OP: This is such a thoughtful, genre-spanning Big Ideas list.  It looks wonderful to me, esp. since your children are fine with intense literary content. 

I don't see female authors in the "Love/Tragedy" theme: maybe think about this?  Offhand, I'm tempted to suggest Anne Lamott's "Operating Instructions" -- a different sort of love, and different class of tragic element, not sure if it would go over well.  Maybe Sappho's poetry, if it would suit.   But I find myself almost always disappointed by the classic [male] authors on love generally: women are dominantly objects and not experiencers; those females who are experiencers of love in the classic authors are so often projections of the same vision of love as the male lovers; love is so often constrained to the erotic realm;  and so much is limited to teenagers or very young women, and girls younger or women older than that range seem to be portrayed as non-ideal, either growing toward the preferred age for "love" or grown past it. 

Just my thoughts on one section of your plan, which is much more comprehensive and varied than one I could have generated!

 

I sort of agree.  I think we wait too long to introduce the topics in the history cycle.  The twentieth century seems so horrible because all the histories acknowledge the horrors, and also because of the sorts of weapons involved.   The children haven't been taught much about the mining conditions behind, say, the bronze and iron ages; or the details of the "conquering" wars in their ancient history texts (the book of Lamentations in the Hebrew Bible gives some sense of what a siege was like for the besieged); what Caesar did do his more intransigent rebels; or the actual protocol for training a Spartan warrior and the status of the helots.  Or the total warfare practiced by tribal peoples (most warfare was not total, but systematic exterminations happened and seem to be a disturbingly persistent theme in human war). 

The trouble I've had is that if we include these details, my children dread history, because it becomes a horrible experience that leaves them with really ugly images & thoughts, and I need to raise children who will be history-engaging adults.  So I tend to refer to the general concepts and emphasize that there is a high level of historical violence which we are not delving into.    I imagine a lot depends on the sort of children one has and one's particular situation ... my boys' grandmother, who lives upstairs, is a Holocaust survivor, and I myself had a very violent childhood, so we are fortunate to have some awareness built in. 

 

I somehow missed this post but I thank you very much. I could certainly use a woman's perspective on love and tragedy so thanks for illuminating that blind spot!

I've been so geeked over this whole thing that I played Childish Gambino's "This is America" video for DD today. I intended it to be a teaser for what we'll do this summer and into next year and she observed and identified a lot more things/themes than I expected. She called it 'deep' and said things like..."Wow, that violence was random" and "I think he means we're trapped."  So, yeah, just very pleased about how this is coming together and excited about what's to come. Is it weird to be ridiculously excited to explore ideas and talk to my kiddo the way I talk with my peers? LOL.

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This sounds terrific. No specific feedback other than to say I wish you were local (to me) and could let my DD13 join in your journey. I’d wash your laundry or make you meals or clean your house to compensate!

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46 minutes ago, fourisenough said:

This sounds terrific. No specific feedback other than to say I wish you were local (to me) and could let my DD13 join in your journey. I’d wash your laundry or make you meals or clean your house to compensate!

 

Ha! If we weren’t straddling states next year, I’d love to do it with a coop or small group. It’d be nice to have more kids and perspectives.

You should come up with something! What about a year-long look at heroism for 9th that includes epic poetry, dystopian novels, martyrdom, social activism and current events. You could add in some scientific readings about response to fear/trauma, etc. It’d be great with ancients and biology!

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On 5/13/2018 at 10:39 AM, Sneezyone said:

 Is it weird to be ridiculously excited to explore ideas and talk to my kiddo the way I talk with my peers? LOL.

If it is, I'm right there with you. I love the discussions I have with my kids. It is my greatest joy in homeschooling. My 10th grader is working on her last paper of the yr. She is analyzing Perelandra. Her insights are deep and complex, and she has made connections that went right over my head. I love it!!!

My just returned home rising college sophomore and I spent last night looking through the Great Books. She wants to come up with a reading list for herself this summer bc in her words, "This is where I learn what I want to think about, not in my college classes." I am excited to have her home again bc I enjoy our conversations so much!

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