It is August and I finally feel like myself again after surviving one of the strangest years and my most difficult year of homeschooling yet. I'm so glad that we had a LONG break from early May until early August that we filled with two out-of-state camping trips, our usual cottage camping at a state park, and lots of trips to the pool, playgrounds, and state parks nearby.
But we did have to return to "official" homeschooling eventually and I would rather start in early August, take many days off, and finish early than be slogging away at our 180 days come June. So we started last week and even though there are going to be some small tweaks to come, it went very well. Here is what I have planned for my 11-year-old sixth-grader:
Daily Checklist / Flexible Timetable for Student in Form IIA
Last year, I wrote a bit about Peter and how I do my planning for 34 weeks of lessons, which includes one week of exams at the end of every term, split into two 12-week terms and one 10-week term. Peter thrived working from his own daily checklist so he will follow a similar schedule this year.
The biggest change to his schedule is that I have removed several subjects in an effort to simplify our homeschool. I felt like we all needed more breathing room if we were to have plenty of time for individual pursuits AND lots of nature time AND piano. It goes without saying that the whole family's mental and emotional health, which heavily depends on my mental and emotional health, is more important than studying a foreign language . . . or really any one subject.
This year, there will be no formal spelling lessons, no "extra" subjects like typing, and no foreign language study. It is funny because when I first was dreaming up his schedule I wanted to include coding, german language study, and once-a-week beginning Spanish.
After some space to envision what our homeschool could look like, I nixed all those ideas. I know that including language study at this age is valuable and I also know that Peter could and would do it all on his own as he did last year. But it just didn't seem like the homeschool I thought was best for our family.
Of course, Peter is welcome to work on a foreign language, practice typing, or really dive deep into any subject. And I'm leaving extra room for that in our schedule. I just won't be the one requiring or enforcing it. This will leave me room to be the one who finds needed resources, helps with troubleshooting, and runs interference with the toddler ;-)
Plans by Subject
I love to consult Ambleside Online, a Catholic Charlotte Mason curriculum, A Gentle Feast, Wildwood Curriculum, A Delectable Education, Sabbath Mood Homeschool, and Heritage Mom for book ideas, but I put our plans together in my own way. I have tried to note in [ ] whether I'm using a free book or how much I paid for each of the resources we are using. I am committed to homeschooling with free or really cheap books as part of our journey to be debt-free while living on one income. I have also listed all of the subjects we do as a family here.
This post contains affiliate links. Read my full disclosure to learn more.
Peter is an avid reader for pleasure. This year I have scheduled him to read through the full version of The Illiad (Fagles translation) at a rate of 15-16 pages per week. He will also do 20 minutes of assigned reading per day alternating between novels and the biographies listed in this post. I plan for him to read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and then Watership Down by Richard Adams [both library books]. After that, I'll pick some other novels.
We will also read one Shakespeare play per term as a family.
Peter knows a fair amount of grammar but he hates doing a lot of handwriting so has always resisted this subject. I tried to choose something straightforward without a lot of writing. He will alternate between all of the language arts pages of Brainquest Grade 6 [$5.18 from Target with coupon] and Sentence Diagramming: Beginning [$10.40 with Amazon promo credit].
The sentence diagramming book includes permission to make copies for family use, so I made a digital copy in the hopes that I will be able to reuse it for future kids.
Once per week, he will select a sentence to copy in cursive into a wide-ruled composition notebook.
Peter will work to recite beautifully, usually memorize, three pieces per half-term of homeschooling (about 6 weeks). He will get a chance to recite them for all of us at our family poetry tea during break weeks. I choose a poem and passage (or another poem) and he chooses 1 poem. I align my choices with the term's poet, Shakespeare play, or history as possible. This year I chose:
The Cloud by Sara Teasdale
The Illiad lines 1-15 by Homer
The Star by Sara Teasdale
Prospero monologue from The Tempest by William Shakespeare
Going for Water by Robert Frost
Whoso List to Hunt, I Know There Is a Hind by Sir Thomas Wyatt
Tree at My Window by Robert Frost
Once more unto the breach dear friends, once more from Henry V by William Shakespeare
The Chimney Sweeper by William Blake
I heard myself proclaim'd from King Lear by William Shakespeare
The Ecchoing Green by William Blade
To Althea, from Prison by Richard Lovelace
Social Studies: History & Geography
I describe all of the history plans here, including once-a-week entries in a Book of Centuries.
Peter will read one chapter per week in Richard Halliburton's Book of Marvels: The Orient [$16 from Living Book Press] and watch the companion videos from Wonder and Wildness.
In lieu of "map drills," he will alternate Book of Marvels with selected worksheets from 180 Days of Geography for Sixth Grade [$12.09 from Rainbow Resource Center (my new favorite place to buy books and supplies, fyi!)] This book includes permission to make copies for family use, so I made a digital copy in the hopes that I will be able to reuse it for future kids.
We will read 1 life per term as described in my family subjects post.
This year Peter's math time is increasing from 30 minutes to 40 minutes per day. He will finish up a few remaining chapters in AOPS Prealgebra and then begin working through AOPS Algebra [$45 used from homeschool Facebook group].
I am also in the process of trying to find a math tutor/mentor for him--not to advance him in math, but to be able to explore more advanced ideas and/or work on math competition prep together.
Peter will study a new science each term with the following books and materials:
Astronomy: Stars: A New Way to See Them by H.A. Rey [$1 book sale find] with activities from Astronomy for All Ages by Phillip Harrington [already owned], continued from when he studied astronomy in 4th grade.
Physics: Secrets of the Universe Set by Paul Fleisher [gift from grandparent] along with experiments and activities from or inspired by the text.
Botany: The First Book of Plants by Alice Dickinson [$13.73 from Amazon with gift card] along with experiments and activities from or inspired by the text. Side note--after looking at this slim volume I convinced myself that we needed more for this subject so I started looking at all these courses, classes, and textbooks. Then I realized that all of them covered the same material as this straightforward book. They just took way longer to do it! This book has tons of information and I think it will be an excellent overview of the subject.
Peter will read for 20 minutes per week from his choice of book on this list:
Term 1: Weeds, Water Plants and Grass, Small Mammals
- Wicked Weeds by Amy Stewart [library]
- Animal and Plant Life Spans by Alice Hopf [free archive.org ebook]
- Pond and Marsh Plants by Olive Earle [free archive.org ebook]
- Grasses and Grains by Theresa Greenaway [free archive.org ebook]
- Wild Cousins of the Dog by Alice Hopf [free archive.org ebook]
Term 2: Fruit Trees and Bees
- Bees, Wasps, and Hornets and How They Live by Robert Mclung [free archive.org ebook]
- The Honey-makers by Margaret Warner Morley (first part) [free Google ebook]
- I plan to add some more titles about fruit trees
Term 3: Wildflowers and Weather
- Flowers and Their Friends by Margaret Warner Morley [free Google ebook]
- Eric Sloane's Weather Book by Eric Sloan [already owned]
- More titles as needed.
He will also listen to me read some other books about these topics in morning time.
When we remind him (we fell off this habit this summer!) Peter records a short daily observation in his nature journal. In the past, I've required him to paint something in his notebook weekly, which he didn't love.
This year I impulse purchased Exploring Nature Around the Year to help us branch out our journaling in a way that would better suit logical, straightforward Peter while not making me have to plan it all out myself.
Exploring Nature Around the Year is 365 days worth of nature journaling prompts, which is way too much for our purposes. But I went through and selected 2 prompts per week of homeschooling for Peter to add to his journal. These prompts, which only sometimes require drawing, will replace his weekly paintings.
Wild + Free
We will continue to participate in our year-round all-weather nature group at a rural property. This group would suit Peter more if there were more older children (he is almost always the oldest one there) but it gets us out in nature to observe wildlife and the seasons. Last year we found baby racoons, snakes, turtles, a skink, countless newts, tadpoles, insects, bones, Peter built a rustic urinal (thanks, Bear Grylls), and the kids caught fish in the pond. I count it as physical education and science on our schedule.
Art & Music
Artist study, music appreciation, and folk singing will be included as part of morning time and handicrafts, drawing, and art will be included in afternoon occupations as described here.
Peter will continue to study piano through Hoffman Academy. He is currently at the end of the program so he waits for new lessons and materials to be added to the in-progress unit 14. Sometimes he is desperately in need of new material so he finds other songs to work on, like Für Elise, which he practiced this winter. He continues to practice about 6 days per week for 20 minutes.
Peter expressed an interest in learning to play the trumpet so I contacted our local public middle school and they are allowing him to join the other sixth graders for band class on two days of their six-day cycle. This is going to be a whole new experience for us in many ways!
Honestly, this is an area that every member of the family could use to work on! Some items on the agenda this year for Peter:
- Swimming lessons (summer)
- Presidential Fitness Challenge @ Home - We are all going to be learning the exercises and setting some personal goals towards completing this challenge.
- Ice skating (winter)
- Hiking, biking, and frequent walks around our town
And that sums up our plans! I hopefully left enough time for Peter to pursue many of his interests this year while still serving up the rich feast of a liberal education.