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Help me think this through (school related), please!!

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I know this is a chit chat forum, but I feel like there are more people on here who have gone through the entire HSing so can give me a better bigger picture opinions.

I am trying to map out middle school for my oldest, how will be in 6th grade next year.  Here is what I am thinking so far for the next  3 yrs.  We do secular homeschooling

Math - AOPS - pre-algebra, algebra, geometry

LA - AAS and EIW (levels 6, 7 and 😎 - is this enough?  I am slowly working through English from the Roots up and some other vocab books with all three kids as well.  Should be adding anything else?

Science - biology, chemistry and physics.  Most likely Elemental Science with lots of add-ons

History - I am completely lost!  We are barely through SOTW book 2, while doing BYL level 2 this year.  He can do so much more!  Do I continue with SOTW and BYL in order or skip to level 5 of BYL and moves into American History. Not that it matters, but I will most likely give him books from BYL to read either on his own or we'll do it together (he still loves it when I read to him).  And he will "catch up" World History in high school?

Geography - we just do a "country of the week", sometimes it takes longer.  We also do some art and music.  We haven't done any Social Studies bc I still can't figure out what exactly that means but we have plenty of discussions and readings about govt process, various economic events and cycles, etc.  What else??

So, would love love love opinions, suggestions and comments.  Thank you

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I have a "master plan" I keep on my computer. It changes, but it keeps me on track.  Some of the notes I have on my file are:
6th/7th/8th: increase literature study & introduce literary elements. I have two plans laid out, one with ELTL and one with Moving Beyond The Page for this age group.

History: we'll be using Creek Edge Press task cards for a base because this year (4th) my youngest will be working on outlining.  The task cards will allow us to use whatever resources and go a little deeper during middle school while putting the bulk of the responsibility on him.  My job will be to schedule Reading Like A Historian exercises and work with him on those, preparing for the harder/deeper work in Jackdaws.  This summer I am going through SOTW4, creating a lesson plan, and looking for underlying themes that run through chapters so I can highlight the comparison and contrast of things like economic systems, legislation, government protests, human rights awareness....geography and social studies are wrapped into this as we have a chance to discuss how countries and borders have changed.

We'll still do an organized science, but I will be tying the two subjects together with Hakim's The Story Of Science, breaking the 3 books up over 4 years.  I haven't decided yet if I want to get the history timelines from Pandia press, but they are very handy and are broken into bands that include scientific achievements, so I think I might.

The last semester of 6th grade in my house will get Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery.  It's 17 chapters of beginning logic told in story form.  By 7th we'll start to slowly go through another book (undetermined, maybe Art of Argument).


This is just my plan.  I started with which skills I thought were important for this logic stage compared to grammar and started with those:
-learning how to examine evidence
-relying on notetaking and outlines to create a paper
-understanding various vehicles and elements authors use
-creating a logical argument
-slight increase in personal responsibility
-understanding the interconnection of events in history

Everything else?  It can continue what we've always done.  I look ahead to high school and college and figure if we keep plodding on our upward path, we'll get there.


So.........................what is important to you?  What skills do you specifically want to focus on in middle school?

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I'll throw in just a few comments, but just know as long as you are plugging along and your child is learning, you are doing it right! Just because it's junior high doesn't mean you will suddenly mess up.

I have 4 dc and AOPS has worked for some and not others. It was not a fit for my oldest--who went on to major in math in college! If it works, it is a terrific program. But, one can be good at math and AOPS can be a big fail.  

From looking over your stuff, I would add in some literary analysis and current events. Use dinnertime to discuss what's happening in the world--it doesn't need to be something formal. 

And as for what skills we focus on in middle school, I use that time to make sure my kids know how to do laundry properly, to cook meals for themselves, I show them how to put gas in the car, start and use the lawn mower and other tools--lots and lots of life skills. How to balance one's bank account, explain retirement accounts and insurance in depth--all kinds of information. Instead of a "you should" stance, I focus on the facts so that there's no pressure and we have so many good moments and conversations in junior high. In high school, the workload ramps up and there's not as much time for that sort of thing, plus there are more distractions--driving, friends, thoughts about what to do after graduation--so life skills has a front seat in our house in junior high. 

Lastly, you can never go wrong with good books. When life happens and I am unavailable for a short time, I assign reading. 🙂

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My advice is to go with what works for him, what you like, and not to fret too much.  If you’re list is that, you’re fine!

We took some major detours with my rising junior and senior, and I was convinced all through the 6th-8th range that I was screwing things up. To be fully transparent, they’re not aiming for pre-med or law or similarly competitive programs, but they are piling up college credits while earning a lot more high school credits than they need and working impressive volunteer jobs. Plus some paid jobs, having fun with friends, and driving me bonkers.

I’m big on having a good, solid plan, but also on being flexible and remembering there is no single perfect plan to begin with! There are lots of ways to get where you need to go.  Enjoy the ride.  In as much as a parent of a middle schooler can. 😉 

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For English, I'm not sure if there's any literature study in there? If not, that'd be my top priority to rectify. I've found Excellence in Literature easy to manage and solid quality. It is lovely if you can include an "extra" kid in it, so it's a good opportunity for cooperative learning if you have a local child you could add to the study. 

In order to excel in EiL, your child will need to be able to write essays, however. (IMHO, one of the strengths of EiL is the opportunity to write a lot of essays . . . as well as shorter works.) If that skill isn't yet mastered, of course, that's a top priority as well. 

My very favorite English resources are the Michael Clay Thompson materials, and now is a great time to use some, too. 

For English, I'd look at:

6th: MCT Town Level. MCT Literature pack of 3 novels (beginning about 2 months after beginning MCT). 

7th: MCT Essay Level. MCT Literature pack of 3 novels. 

8th: EiL (any level, probably just the first one). 

For Math, note, AoPS Algebra is a "2 year" book because it includes both Alg1 and Alg2. You can totally jam PreA, A, and Geo into 3 years if you desire, but just be warned you're going to be pretty slammed, especially given the age of the child. Unless they are an utter math whiz. If they are NOT a super duper math whiz, I'd seriously reconsider that schedule. My kids *are* math whizzes, and I wouldn't have pushed quite that hard at those ages. At those ages, you have time to linger and explore, so that's what I'd do. I'd consider:

6th: AoPS PreA (daily) + Patty Paper Geometry (once a week)  [Patty Paper can be done anytime before your "real" geometry course.]

7th: AoPS Counting & Probability (Semester1) + AoPS Number Theory (Semester 2)

8th: AoPS Algebra 1 +/- Algebra 2 (1st half of Book or entire book, depending on student ability)

** Option: If you're determined to have your child finish the Algebra book by the end of 8th grade, then I'd likely have him begin it during the 2nd semester of 7th grade, and finish during 8th grade. If it comes easily and quickly, it's possible he could finish during the first semester of 8th grade, allowing time to take Number Theory the last semester of middle school. If he's not super duper speedy, this pacing would allow 3 school semesters (plus potentially 2 summers) to complete that "two year" text.

History: No more SOTW. For goodness sake, that's aimed way too young for middle school, IMHO. I actually liked the SonLight cores for history (and reading material) for elementary through middle school, although as a secular homeschooler, I did have to omit a good number of books and edit some others (and some assignments). That said, the US History Core (used to be called 100, not sure what it's leveled now, but it using the History of US series by Hakim) is very solid and has very little religious stuff to edit out since the main spine is secular. I honestly never found another history curriculum outside of SOTW and SL that worked well for us, so I'll leave it to others to make other suggestions. (But, if you decide you want that 100 level core, message me if you're interested in buying used, because I've got it on my shelf waiting for me to get my act together and sell off all the SL cores -- I'll make you a good deal, lol). 

Science: I don't know enough about Elemental Science to judge, but, personally, I LOVED Spectrum Chemistry for a first high school level science. My youngest did it in about 7th grade and did great (but she was already solidly in AoPS algebra). I'd do that no later than 8th grade. I never used it, but I'd seriously look at Rainbow Science for 6th-7th by the same publisher, just based on how good Spectrum Chemistry is. (They do have a religious angle in their materials, but it is VERY slight in the chemistry program. Just be ware, and get out your sharpie . . .) If you need/want a really "lazy" science year that is still solid, I found the Galore Park series "So You Really Want to Learn Science" very solid and very easy to get done. The missing link is there are essentially no labs in that series, which is lame. So, you really should take the time to add a hands on book / lab program of some sort. Easy enough to do if you have the time. But, if you have the time, you might want to go to the Spectrum/Rainbow materials . . . *I* used the Galore Park materials for a year or two in middle school when we wanted/needed a lazy/easy science year but also needed to nail down the basics. It does great for that. 

 

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58 minutes ago, Dynamite5 said:

as for what skills we focus on in middle school, I use that time to make sure my kids know how to do laundry properly, to cook meals for themselves, I show them how to put gas in the car, start and use the lawn mower and other tools--lots and lots of life skills. How to balance one's bank account, explain retirement accounts and insurance in depth--all kinds of information. Instead of a "you should" stance, I focus on the facts so that there's no pressure and we have so many good moments and conversations in junior high. In high school, the workload ramps up and there's not as much time for that sort of thing, plus there are more distractions--driving, friends, thoughts about what to do after graduation--so life skills has a front seat in our house in junior high. 

This is phenomenal, thank you! I'm making rough long-term plans for DS10, who will start 5th in the fall. I am going to make up a life-skills list to round out the academic stuff. Thanks!

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Oh guys, this is sooo helpful, thank you!!

Question - I keep seeing "literary analysis" brought up - what exactly is it?  (I think once again not have gone through school in US, certain things confuse me).  Besides MCT, any other solid curriculum out there?  I am not sure if I was missing something, but we tried MCT island and only have gone through 2 books and it didn't seem like he was picking up anything there.  May be we were doing it wrong....

ETA:  I just re-read your post @StephanieZ and I see you suggested EIL - thank you!!

 

Edited by SereneHome

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4 hours ago, HomeAgain said:

I have a "master plan" I keep on my computer. It changes, but it keeps me on track.  Some of the notes I have on my file are:
6th/7th/8th: increase literature study & introduce literary elements. I have two plans laid out, one with ELTL and one with Moving Beyond The Page for this age group.

History: we'll be using Creek Edge Press task cards for a base because this year (4th) my youngest will be working on outlining.  The task cards will allow us to use whatever resources and go a little deeper during middle school while putting the bulk of the responsibility on him.  My job will be to schedule Reading Like A Historian exercises and work with him on those, preparing for the harder/deeper work in Jackdaws.  This summer I am going through SOTW4, creating a lesson plan, and looking for underlying themes that run through chapters so I can highlight the comparison and contrast of things like economic systems, legislation, government protests, human rights awareness....geography and social studies are wrapped into this as we have a chance to discuss how countries and borders have changed.

We'll still do an organized science, but I will be tying the two subjects together with Hakim's The Story Of Science, breaking the 3 books up over 4 years.  I haven't decided yet if I want to get the history timelines from Pandia press, but they are very handy and are broken into bands that include scientific achievements, so I think I might.

The last semester of 6th grade in my house will get Harry Stottlemeier's Discovery.  It's 17 chapters of beginning logic told in story form.  By 7th we'll start to slowly go through another book (undetermined, maybe Art of Argument).


This is just my plan.  I started with which skills I thought were important for this logic stage compared to grammar and started with those:
-learning how to examine evidence
-relying on notetaking and outlines to create a paper
-understanding various vehicles and elements authors use
-creating a logical argument
-slight increase in personal responsibility
-understanding the interconnection of events in history

Everything else?  It can continue what we've always done.  I look ahead to high school and college and figure if we keep plodding on our upward path, we'll get there.


So.........................what is important to you?  What skills do you specifically want to focus on in middle school?

I think that's my main problem - I don't know.  As I mentioned, I come from a very different background in education and while I learned all the things that you mentioned - I really don't remember how and when I learned them. Also, some things like writing a research paper came very naturally to me, so even though I never technically learned that I did fine in college.

I just don't know how to teach that!

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22 hours ago, SereneHome said:

Oh guys, this is sooo helpful, thank you!!

Question - I keep seeing "literary analysis" brought up - what exactly is it?  (I think once again not have gone through school in US, certain things confuse me).  Besides MCT, any other solid curriculum out there?  I am not sure if I was missing something, but we tried MCT island and only have gone through 2 books and it didn't seem like he was picking up anything there.  May be we were doing it wrong....

ETA:  I just re-read your post @StephanieZ and I see you suggested EIL - thank you!!

 

 

If your child doesn't yet write competent essays, and MCT isn't a good fit (which the Town and Voyage levels would cover), then you definitely want to find something that works well to teach essay writing (and the component skills of writing good paragraphs) before getting to EiL, because EiL is great for practicing essays (and shorter pieces), but it doesn't teach them. 

I like "Elegant Essay" by IEW for a short course covering the basic building blocks of essay writing. But, you do need to teach good paragraphs before plunging into essays, IMHO. The Lively Art of Writing, by Payne, is a solid little book about the basics of writing. You could use Lively Art of Writing and Elegant Essay in 6th grade, along with reading and discussing at least 6-10 good books, introducing literary analysis ideas in discussion . . . Then move on to EiL in 7th or 8th grade if desired.

FWIW, the Island level of MCT is very elementary (but very good, IMHO). Were you using all the books? I wouldn't go back to Island, but I'd start with Town, using ALL the books. Together, they make up a very powerful program, IMHO. 

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All I would say on the math is keep an open mind on pacing.   I had a kid that hit algebra very early and it benefited us to circle around a bit, do some deeper problem solving rather than pushing through levels.  AoPS can be a very time intensive curriculum.  My oldest actually took 2 years to get through the AoPS algebra (6th/7th) which was great use of time in middle school and really set him up well for success and deep understanding of concepts.  Make sure the maturity develops to write out problems in such a way that a college prof would be happy with the answer.  We pulled a variety of resources.  Some kids aren't AoPS kids and that's ok too.  I'm using some different resources for my 2nd kid which has been a good fit for her.  

There are disadvantages to getting through a high school math sequence too quickly or too young.  My kid that did that is a graduating senior and has done great, got a great ACT score, etc.  I have a BS in math and tutor in that area.  I much prefer younger kids to do a deep and wide math approach than to race through levels.  That deep conceptual understanding and ability to solve out of the box problems can be the difference between struggling with higher level and math and soaring in it.  

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You might pop over to the high school board. I think I remember a thread from a few years ago where someone asked basically the same question you did. It might be linked in one of the massive pinned threads @LoriD. kindly put together. I’ll see if I can find it. 

I think the most important thing to focus on is ensuring your child has the basics of [core subjects] down cold — math facts with conceptual understanding, writing good sentences/paragraphs, reading/comprehending well, learning to outline and take notes. 

I’ve never regretted slowing down to ensure mastery and true comprehension. I have regretted moving too fast even when a child seemed to understand. 

Edited by brehon
Tried to tag LoriD.
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14 hours ago, StephanieZ said:

 

If your child doesn't yet write competent essays, and MCT isn't a good fit (which the Town and Voyage levels would cover), then you definitely want to find something that works well to teach essay writing (and the component skills of writing good paragraphs) before getting to EiL, because EiL is great for practicing essays (and shorter pieces), but it doesn't teach them. 

I like "Elegant Essay" by IEW for a short course covering the basic building blocks of essay writing. But, you do need to teach good paragraphs before plunging into essays, IMHO. The Lively Art of Writing, by Payne, is a solid little book about the basics of writing. You could use Lively Art of Writing and Elegant Essay in 6th grade, along with reading and discussing at least 6-10 good books, introducing literary analysis ideas in discussion . . . Then move on to EiL in 7th or 8th grade if desired.

FWIW, the Island level of MCT is very elementary (but very good, IMHO). Were you using all the books? I wouldn't go back to Island, but I'd start with Town, using ALL the books. Together, they make up a very powerful program, IMHO. 

He has done some writing with EIW, level 5, but I don't think they hit paragraph writing yet.  I will take a look at your suggestions, thank you!

I keep seeing references to IEW all over this board so I think it's time for me to take a serious look at it.  We just went from WWE to EIW, and I thought that would be enough

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Just to add to what’s here middle school is a great time to really delve into an academic interest through competition. My kids really benefited from participating in Math Counts and Science Olympiad. It really stretched them academically. The are similar events for history etc. 

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14 hours ago, hshibley said:

Just to add to what’s here middle school is a great time to really delve into an academic interest through competition. My kids really benefited from participating in Math Counts and Science Olympiad. It really stretched them academically. The are similar events for history etc. 

Hmmmm....my kids are not strangers to competition, they have been doing chess tournaments for a few years now, but I will ask for sure.

I would love to get them into debate, but not sure there is a middle school debate team in our local school

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On 5/25/2019 at 11:13 PM, SereneHome said:

He has done some writing with EIW, level 5, but I don't think they hit paragraph writing yet.  I will take a look at your suggestions, thank you!

I keep seeing references to IEW all over this board so I think it's time for me to take a serious look at it.  We just went from WWE to EIW, and I thought that would be enough

 

FWIW, I really like Elegant Essay by IEW, but the rest of the materials ... I think are a bit lame. I've used them for a few years with a couple of my kids, but really don't think they were terribly helpful.

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