Wednesday, August 19, 2009

What We Are Using for 7th-8th Grade Curriculum

Our family belongs to the Providence Home Educators co-op, which has been a huge blessing to us for the past three years. One of the benefits is that I only need to plan lessons for 78th-8th grade English, and not all of the other subjects and grades. That's a trade-off, of course, because that means I have a less control over what curriculum my children will be using all year long. Fortunately, we've been pretty much pleased with what the other teachers have picked for their classes. This is what our 7th and 8th graders are doing this year. Please note that for history and English, these two grade levels are in the same classes. They are in separate math classes, and can choose science classes based on what is being offered that year.

Please note that the web links I have provided here are mostly for Christian Book Distributors. You can see the book cover, table of contents, and sample chapters at this web site. However, you may also wish to check which often has lower prices.

Science: Apologia General Science and Apologia Physical Science by Dr. Jay Wile, who is a gift to the home school movement. I love Apologia! This is what I have always chosen for elementary school (Flying Creatures, Underwater Animals, Astronomy, Botany) , middle school and high school science (Biology, Chemistry and The Human Body), co-op or not. They are specifically written for home school use, but there is nothing amateurish about them. Click here to see the entire Apologia line-up at CBD, including lab kits, CD-ROM's, etc.

Math: McDougal Littell 2007. Course 1 is for 6th grade, Course 2 for 7th, and Pre-Algebra for 8th. We also order the solutions manuals. You can find very helpful on-line, interactive student activities at I have mixed feelings about McDougal Littell. Generally, I like it, but it can be frustrating at times for certain students. It is very colorful and covers the material well. Just don't assign every problem of a lesson or it will take forever!

History: A Beka text books provide structure, ready-made assignments, built-in assessment, and complete material. I like this, even though it can get a little dry all by itself. Adding hands-on projects can really spice it up. You can also read corresponding historical fiction and biographies to round out your program. We alternate back and forth between World History and American History. This year it is World. Sometimes we do the Geography program in conjunction with the History.

English: Mwah, ha, ha! This is MY domain! English is a little less cut-and-dried than the other subjects because we need to cover grammar, literature, writing, and other skills. I am also prefer a more "Charlotte Mason approach" -- learning English with whole, living literature. I want to talk about big ideas and themes, and how we can apply them to our lives! But I also want to make this manageable to my students and their parents.

I am breaking up English into its various components here:

Grammar: I've tried various grammar curriculum (Cozy Grammar, Easy Grammar, and BJU), without much satisfaction. I think I've hit on something good this year. All-in-One English by Garlic Press is basically a review of foundational grammar. This is necessary because some of the students aren't really proficient in this yet. The lessons are uncomplicated. The answer key is in the back. It's not a huge hunking book, which cuts down on the intimidation factor, but it is substantial enough to cover the necessary stuff. I assign an average of two pages per day.

Literature: I choose literature that roughly corresponds to whatever they are learning in the history class, so this year it is world literature, starting with the ancient times and moving toward the modern. We're starting off the year with several weeks of "Bible as Literature" including the Life of Joseph in Genesis, Psalms, Proverbs, and either Esther or Daniel. Then we will read the novel The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare, which is set in the time of Christ. I wrote my own study guide for this which includes comprehension and life application questions. I'll try to post it here soon. After that, we will do a unit on The Song of Roland using a few lessons from Medieval Legends (Imitation in Writing series) by Matt Whitling. The two weeks before Christmas, we will do a unit on the life of Christ which includes art, music, poetry, literature, and creative writing. You can find last year's unit here: Advent Assignments. In the spring semester, we will do the Scott O'Dells' novel The Hawk That Dares Not Hunt by Day, an adventure about Bible smuggling during the Reformation era. I have also written the study guide for this. Each student will also read a biography from the Heroes of the Faith series. I have a huge collection of these that I am going to loan out. We will also do an Easter unit with a similar format to our Christmas one.

Writing: Our writing assignments often correspond with the literature we are reading. We are going to do at least one major creative story writing project based on Proverbs, a medieval legend, a Christmas poem, a news article, a personal narrative, a biographical sketch, and some devotional writing. I will emphasize using descriptive language, organizing ideas, and revising/editing.

Other: In the fall semester, we are doing what I call "Learning English with Greek and Latin" (LEGAL for short). It is spelling and vocabulary with English words derived from Greek and Latin roots. I am developing this loosely based on the English from the Roots Up by Joegil Lundquist. In the spring, we will do the Young Peacemakers curriculum on Christian conflict prevention and resolution. This is a vital communications skill!

That's all, folks!

Virginia Knowles

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