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Guidance for an impromptu homeschool mom?

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Hi all!

Like so many others around the country & world I've become a homeschool parent overnight. Both my kiddo and I are absolutely loving it! I've always been intrigued by homeschooling -- when I was in college I babysat for a homeschool family and was amazed by how saturated with learning their lives were. There weren't distinct classes or assignments, but the kids were always doing educational things: reading classic literature or non-fiction books, doing art and experiments, having debates and discussions. It was wonderful to see and very inspiring but, as a single mom,  homeschooling has never been possible due to financial circumstances. Until now! 

As it doesn't seem like my 10 year old's school will be re-opening in the fall, I am beginning to make a more thoughtful plan for what her 5th grade homeschooling life will look like come autumn. We've been using a totally improvised approach I established on the fly when her school shut down in March. Each day, she does pages from several workbooks -- Orbiting with Logic, the Complete Book of Maps & Geography, and Word Roots; Life of Fred and Khan Academy for math; and a chapter from Story of the World with an activity. For science, I'm just having her read whatever non-fiction books about science-y stuff we happen to have around the house. This is working just fine but two areas that need attention are grammar/writing/ELA (she's not doing much in this domain) and science (I'm not sure eclectic reading is sufficient?) I would love suggestions for 5th grade English and science curriculum! Since I am working from home, I need materials that she can do mostly on her own. She is a super voracious reader and picks up new concepts easily.  She reads a lot of popular middle grade stuff -- Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, etc. -- but if there are any recommendations for great novels to read in fifth grade, I would love to hear them 🙂

Any other suggestions you may have for a total newbie are most appreciated! Am I doing this right? Am I missing any subject areas? Though we're having fun, I am prone to anxiety -- I am not a trained teacher and really don't want to mess up something as precious and important as my kid's education! 

Thanks so much for your wisdom -- I've already learned a ton just browsing this forum!




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Welcome! Sounds like you're both doing great!

Core subject are LA (Language Arts) and Math. Here's a big list of subjects people often draw on -- usually for Social Studies, people focus on just one topic, such as History, or also include some Geography, and may set aside that History study to do units on other Social Studies topics.

- Language Arts / English sub topics:
   * Reading/Literature
   * Read-Alouds -- optional
   * Writing
   * Handwriting (cursive practice) -- or, if not needed, start learning to type without looking
   * Spelling
   * Grammar
   * Vocabulary -- optional

- Math
- Science
- Social Studies -- sub topics:
   * History
   * Geography
   * World Cultures: Daily Life, Religions, Traditions, Holidays, etc.
   * State or Province 
   * Civics (Government)
- Foreign Language  -- optional
- Fine Arts -- optional -- performance/creation, or history/appreciation of music, art, theater, dance, etc.
- "Electives" -- optional -- ideas: Logic, Computer, Health, PE/physical activity, Religious Studies, Home Ec topics, 

For curriculum suggestions, do you prefer secular or Christian, or does it matter?


Edited by Lori D.
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Welcome and well done! Sounds like a really lovely start to homeschooling! My main suggestion would be to get your hands on a copy of The Well Trained Mind - it really is fantastic and has many practical suggestions and curriculum recommendations - including literature lists for each grade. Off the top of my head books for 5th grade, little women, the hobbit, sword in the stone, carry on Mr bowditch, Edith nesbit and Elizabeth enright books...

It sounds like you are doing a lot already, and if it's working for you both then I wouldn't feel pressure to change much. 

Science, at that age, in my opinion, the non-fiction reading is probably one of the best things you can do. If she has a particular interest, let her follow it, watch documentaries etc. Once a week or so, she could work through the simple experiments in a book like this one: https://www.amazon.com/Janice-VanCleaves-Biology-Every-Kid/dp/0471503819

For Language Arts, grammar for the well trained mind is for grade 5 and up. You can get the first 6 weeks as a free sample here: 


For writing, you could start with having her write up short summaries of what she's read, so for example if she reads a section of a science book, she could write 2 or 3 paragraphs summarizing the main points. In the story of the world activity book there are narration questions for each chapter, she could pick a few to answer in writing.

Keep reading, trust your instincts and have fun, you'll find your groove! 

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Great advice offered above. To start transitioning your daughter to more classic works of literature (not that there is anything wrong with HP or PJ books— they’re entertaining and help establish her as a reader), I recommend downloading free audiobooks via your public library and getting her into the habit of listening to them for an hour a day or more.

Just in the last month or two, my 5th grade DD has listened to A Cricket in Times Square, The One and Only Ivan, Treasure Island, Island of the Blue Dolphins, The Railway Children, and she’s in the middle of another E. Nesbit book that is a collection of fairy tales/stories, entitled The Magic World. She listens while building with LEGO, playing with slime, sketching/coloring, etc. We generally treat listening to audiobooks as a reward for finishing her written schoolwork, so she looks upon it favorably.

It does wonders for their vocabulary, attention, and ability to follow longer, more complex sentences. My 5th grader is the youngest of four and the audiobook habit has stuck with all the older girls, too. They burn through books while driving, doing housework, gardening, etc. It’s a good life habit to develop!

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My just-finished 5th-grader worked on Treasured Conversations for writing/grammar review, Spelling Power for spelling, reading classics at her leisure from our bookshelves (currently reading Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea--loves!), and Ellen McHenry's Carbon Chemistry&Elements this past year. 

Our writing trajectory is Writing With Ease 1-3, MCT Island, Treasured Convo., more MCT and Killgallon, Writing With Skill 1-3 (7th-ish - 9th grades) + Kolbe Academy JH lit. (7th/8th), spelling from 3rd grade to JH.  If I were pushed to find a different writing program, I'd try Classical Academic Press first.

We like to run through McHenry's science programs in those middle years.  She's engaging. 

Interestingly, DD did a slime recipe from a science lab kit, and after having made so much on her own, she knew it was a bad recipe and why it failed.  I mean, she and DD14 have made copious amounts of their own slime and have become slime aficionados.🤓👩‍🔬  In all the "fun", they've learned quite a bit about the reaction of basic elements, what makes for a good feel/consistency. 

DD16 loved A Wrinkle In Time at that age--she still loves sci-fi and futuristic books.  Lots of engaging books to choose from!

There are many paths to the same destination.  GL!! 

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I agree with others about Ellen McHenry's science stuff...my kiddo is just reaching middle school but I've looked through her stuff and it's amazing.

Sometimes also it's fun to combine science and history.     I did this with Greek and Roman history (if you haven't gotten to these sections in Story of the World, I have a chart I made that showed how we aligned science topics with that...Greek history and earth science lined up really well).


But there are some curriculum that also combine science and history (unfortunately my kiddo wasn't the right age for most of these at the time, but they looked really cool).

The Science Through History Curriculum by Jay Wile (a Christian curriculum)

The Story of Science (a secular curriculum...for 6th grade and up but I feel like it would work for a 5th grader too.   I know someone who did it with their daughter in 4th grade).

There's also some good shorter unit studies on science related to specific eras/civilizations that would work well for your child's age (I've used parts of both of these)....
The Science of Ancient Egypt (you can buy the whole set or just get individual chapters on subjects like Pyramids, the Nile River, Mummification.   Those are listed later on in the page).
Experimenting with the Vikings (This one is free...and amazing.)



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In addition to The Well-Trained Mind, I would also very highly recommend Susan Wise Bauer's other book, Rethinking School.  This book discusses more ways to "flex" all of the options available to you.  Since you will be still working while homeschooling your daughter, you will probably want to consider all of your options.

Best wishes to you!  And stop back in at this forum as much as you need to.  It's a great place.

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Re Science:  Eclectic, interest-led science can definitely be enough in grade 5.  There have been many past threads on the non-necessity of formal science curriculum for K-8 on this board you could look through for more details.

My kids are finishing up grades 5 and 6.  Our science has been fully child-led.   We haven't used a formal science curriculum.  We are a science-literate household, with lots of books and sciency toys, loose-parts, and materials freely available, and lots of unstructured time to mess around with it all.  I introduced science podcasts (Brains On! is a favourite), which the kids happily listen to in the car (and often choose to listen to during free time).  We get outside a lot, and do a lot of informal outdoor ed type activities.  We go to all the visitors' centers and museums when we travel.  It's all added up to produce kids who are very science-literate, and it's all happened in a very organic way that doesn't feel like school. 

Edited by wathe
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