Our Homeschool Curriculum

The boys are in 7th grade for the 2010-2011 school year.  Below are the things we're currently using in school this year (as well as what we used for 6th grade last year).  I'll highlight the Christian-based things in purple.  The secular will be in green.  Also, I'm adding a plus or a minus to show whether I would buy this particular item again. 

Language Arts:

1.  A Reason for Handwriting (Cursive F) + (6th grade) I originally chose this because the boys didn't get much experience with cursive writing when they were in school.  I quickly discovered that the twin with the most horrible print handwriting...actually writes quite beautifully in cursive!  This is more of a pratice book for kids who already have the basic skills.  On Monday through Wednesday they write a few letters and words (that will be in the Bible verse for that week).  On Thursday, they write the Bible verse on a lined sheet from the back of the book.  This serves two purposes...they're writing a phrase in cursive AND there is a perfectly good verse from Proverbs for me to use as their memory verse that week!  Takes about 10-15 minutes each morning to complete.
For 7th grade we aren't using any handwriting curriculum.  One twin doesn't need it and the other...well, he can type on the computer, right?!

2.  Daily Language Review  + (6th grade)The boys did something similar in public school.  Each day, there are some sentences to edit for punctuation, spelling, capitalization or grammar errors.  There are also language arts skills such as singular/plural forms, synonyms/antonyms, comparative/superlative forms, abbreviations, parts of speech, etc.  Each section only takes 10-15 minutes at most.  All of the answers are in the back of the book, so they're easy to correct if you get stuck.  I use this to reinforce what they're learning.


3.  Caught 'Ya!  Giggles in the Middle  + (6th-8th grade) We dumped the vocabulary workbooks for a while and used this exclusively because the twins were learning new words every single day with this one!  The book is designed for using all three years of middle school.  It's full of teaching tips and good grammar guidelines, but the kids are reading a STORY.  While they're learning valuable editing skills.  How cool is that?  Here's how to use this program:  Every morning, the teacher writes a passage from the story on the board.  The kids then copy that into their notebook EXACTLY like it's written.  (ie: wrong!)  And then they spend about 10 minutes looking over the passage and making corrections. (The book will tell you how to have them edit.)  THEN:  the teacher goes to the board and asks the KIDS to correct her passage. They can either come up to the board and make some corrections or call them out from their seats. Mine try to out-do each other by finding more errors than their brother.  Every error that they DON'T catch, they mark in their notebooks with a marker and write the reason or rule in the margin.  I can't tell you how much I love this book!  The boys have learned so much about proper usage, parts of speech, when to start a new paragraph, just about anything.  There are even prompts for journal writing included.  Oh, and a section for you to print off all the grammar rules and explanations in case you need to refresh your memory.  Like me. We will definitely be continuing this next year.

For 7th grade the boys are also participating in an IEW (Institute on Excellence in Writing) writing course with our homeschool co-op.  I'll write more about it once we've got it sorted out, but it looks exciting!

4.  Spectrum Writing ---  (6th grade) I picked this up to provide the boys with extra practice in their writing skills.  Although it HAS been helpful, they really don't like it.  Every time I make them take it out they start moaning and groaning.  I use it as torture when they won't sit down and get busy.  On the plus side, it's full of basic writing techniques and instructions.  Lots of prompts.  Good for a kid who has trouble coming up with ideas for writing.  This workbook might be good if you need something to fill in the gaps.

5.  Wordly Wise 3000  + (6th grade)  Well, this one is ALL vocabulary, which boys don't necessarily appreciate.  Especially 12 year old boys.  However, I really do like this book.  The kids get a LOT of practice using the fifteen words every week and it's challenging.  In fact, when we first began using this book, my two muttered about it being "too hard."  They got used to it pretty quickly, though.  The tests?  Different than what they were used to.  They aren't just multiple choice-pick the right definition.  The tests use synonyms and antonyms, sentence completion and other methods for the child to prove they know their words. Recently the publisher has added a section on their website with games the kids can play using their words each week. (Unfortunately, my boys think the games are boring.)  I will be purchasing the next edition for 7th grade because strong vocabulary skills will make for better SAT scores. 

We're sticking with Wordly Wise again for 7th grade because it works for us!  The guys do well with the way it's laid out each week, we still pull our spelling lists from the vocabulary words and they actually use the words they've learned!!

6.  Easy Grammar Plus + (7th grade and up) We moved on to this program once the twins finished with the Daily Language Review workbooks.  This book is appropriate for 7th graders through high school.  It's more difficult than the workbook they finished, but we're moving a little more slowly and we don't use it every day.  Yet.  It includes perfect tense, gerunds, infinitives, irregular verbs (which my southern, country bumpkin kids are struggling with) pretty much anything you can think of.  Lots and lots of practice and explanations.  Also, you can purchase a Daily Grams workbook to have them practice a little bit each day.  I'm happy to report that the boys are experts at identifying prepositional phrases already!  We will continue using this one since it IS for 7th grade and above and technically they're still in 6th grade. 

7.  Spelling Wondering what we're doing about spelling?  Well, several things.  Sometimes I use the Wordly Wise vocabulary words and sometimes I pull them from whatever novel we're reading as a "class."  Every once in a while we pull spelling words from science or history lesson.  My boys are fairly good spellers.  When they want to be.  Although I like the looks of Sequential Spelling, I probably won't buy it for them.  It would have been a terrific book for Darling Daughter, though!  She's a horrible speller. 

This year we've added Greek and Latin "stem" words to the vocabulary mix.  The boys study 20 root, suffix, prefix-type words every week and we build on them throughout the year.  This is a huge help to the kids when they're in high level sciences as well as when they stumble upon new words while reading.  They tend to piece together meaning much easier!

8.  Reading  We've done a few novel studies as a group this year.  So far, we've done a Novel Ideas study guide on Eragon that I purchased through Curriclick.  I found this to be a great way to get the boys to think about what they were reading.  It includes short response questions, vocabulary words, sequencing activities, character analysis and writing prompts. Other books we've studied are: The Giver and Amos Fortune, Free Man

For 7th grade - During the first semester, we completed a novel study on Night by Elie Wiesel.  Along with reading Night, the boys worked on this novel study from Glencoe publishing, read and researched various books about the European side of WWII, studied the Holocaust, found some online interviews with the author that were very moving.  This book is a heartwrenching and powerful firsthand account of all the author lived though as a teenager when Hitler's Nazis moved into his town, took over, rounded up Wiesel's family, friends and neighbors, loaded them onto trains and deposited them in concentration camps.  Lots of intense discussion was prompted as the boys worked their way through Night . Because of the subject matter, I wouldn't recommend it for any child under about thirteen years old; you should definitely use your own judgement as a parent.

For the third nine weeks, we're doing a similar study on Johnny Tremain by Esther Forbes.  And finally, we'll be reading The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane.  So, yes, this year will be spent reading about and analyzing the stories of three very different boys from three very different times and their accounts of three very different wars.

On their own, their each reading books of their own choosing at their own pace.  They both love to read...thank goodness for second hand book stores and paperback swaps!!



History:

1. Mystery of History, Volume I: Creation to the Resurrection   + (any grade level)
Christian curriculum that presents the history of the world beginning with its creation by a personal God.  This is a pretty thick book, but don't be intimidated!  It can be easily adapted for any age.  In fact, at the end of every lesson the author lists activities for each age range, elementary through high school, that allow children to dig a little deeper and gain a better understanding.  The book moves chronologically through history with lessons on the Sumerians, Hammurabi, the Shang Dynasty, and Tutankhamen mixed in among Abraham (who was a Sumerian, by the way!), Joshua, King David and Elijah.  It presents other world religions and suggestions for resources to do further research.  The boys have learned about Hinduism, Buddhism, Egyptian gods, Confucianism, and a little bit about Greek mythology.  History arranged this way has certainly made them more interested in the ancient world.  The book also includes map work, timelines to make, exercises and activities, quizzes and tests.  On the website there are all sorts of other resources, like cds with reproducibles, audio versions, coloring books, timeline figures, anything and everything to make it come alive for your kids.  There is even a yahoo group for each volume if you want to talk to others and get ideas.  We have already bought Volume II for next year, but I'm not sure we're going to be completely finished with Volume I.  We may overlap a little.  But that's OK.

Grade 7 - yes, we're using Mystery of History II.  Also a geography book, and a good atlas!

2.  Adam and His Kin  +  (any age)  This is a thin, soft cover book that we used mostly during the earlier part of the year.  It's mostly concerned with the first eleven chapters of Genesis.  The author does have another book concerning world history, but we haven't bought it yet.

3.  Other resources for History:  We've used various things such as Answers in Genesis, National Geographic website and magazines, The History Channel documentaries, atlases, maps, biographies, fiction, our Grandaddy's personal accounts (for WWII lessons) and the Bible. 

Science:

1.  Exploring Creation with Zoology (Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day)  +++  (elementary grades)  What can I say about Apologia's science curriculum?  We LOVE it.  My boys have become miniature marine biologists this year!  This book arrived last summer and the bright, colorful pages and well-written text drew them right in.  They didn't even wait until school officially "began."  We've learned about whales, seals, jellyfish, sharks, shrimp, coral...and things I didn't even know existed!  There are experiments and projects, all sorts of possibilities.  Everything is presented from a Christian view-point.  The website offers newsletters, notebooking journals, online classes that kids can participate in, and curriculum is available all the way through high school...including advanced physics and lab equipment.  We've enjoyed this book so much that not only have we bought the General Science curriculum for 7th grade, but we also purchased the new Human Anatomy and Physiology book!  Even though it's meant for elementary grades, I think we'll get a lot out of it!  It looks SO amazing!

Grade 7 - We've moved on to Apologia's General Science, and let me just say that the first chapter...whew!  It's intimidating! Definitely a big step up from the elementary level books.  Some really cool experiments to grab the boys' attention right away, but then ALL those scientists to memorize!  But hey!  I've learned a lot!  We're also doing this course as a part of our co-op so the boys will do many of their experiments as a group with other 7th & 8th graders and we'll write the labs up here at home along with the other daily work. 


Math:

Teaching Textbooks.  One twin is doing Math 7, one is finishing up Math 6.  Neither of them are math geniuses and both of them are doing quite well.  This program is very interactive and engaging.  They don't dread doing their math.  (OK, well, maybe one of them does, but only because he tends to lean toward the lazy side.) What I like about Teaching Textbooks is that the instructor gives the lectures in a way that my boys can understand.  And they can view the lessons over and over.  If they get stuck on a question, they can try again.  If they can't figure it out after two attempts, they can choose to have the instructor work the problem for them.  My very poor math student is earning A's all by himself.  He's well prepared to move on to the next level.  We'll be getting Pre-Algebra for next year.

OK so I changed my mind.  I didn't buy Teaching Textbooks for this year.  Instead, we've moved on to Life of Fred.  I've kept the Teaching Textbooks 7th grade math just as a back-up in case there's something one of them struggles with.  But I've purchased the first three Fred books (Fractions, Decimals & Percents, and Pre-Algebra with Biology) and we're using those plus a mixture of daily worksheets and quizzes and such for reinforcement of concepts and extra practice as needed.  One of my boys grasps new math concepts quickly and easily.  The other needs to do it over and over and really understand what he's doing and why.  Fred explains things in a way he can "get."  He really, really hates it if he doesn't pass the Bridge on the first attempt, but it only happens once in a while.  We love Fred!  Fred ROCKS!