Rougher Still: Plans for Fall 2010 (Age 9)

My plans for my older son, now 13, are pretty much set.  Plans for my younger, who will be 9 this fall (4th grade by age) are less certain.  He’s more of a challenge now — less independent (than I want him to be, than I think he should be) in areas that he fears making mistakes, like math and composition.  I’d like to see his independence increase come fall, but how to gently assist that I’m not certain.  Anyway, here’s what I have planned so far.

Math: Singapore 5B, 6A, and 6B are on the schedule for fall, including the Challenging Word Problems, which are pretty darn, well, challenging, by this level.  We’re both happy with Singapore in content and format, and he’d like to finish it up next year.   With my older, we moved directly to Jacob’s Elementary Algebra after Singapore.  It’s a progression that worked for him, but I’m not sure it’s what I’ll do with my younger.  Possible next steps include Art of Problem Solving, Volume I  or continuing with Singapore’s next level (New Elementary Math).  As always, ideas and comments are appreciated!

Science:  Since my older’s doing chemistry this fall, my younger’s interested in going along with that plan.  Whew.  I’m considering Ellen McHenry’s The Elements:  Ingredients of the Universe and it’s sequel, Carbon Chemistry.  Both are heavily activity based, which, honestly, isn’t my favorite way to teach.  That may be part laziness on my part, but my boys learn quickly, and several times I’ve put far more effort into creating a material or setting up an activity only to find they master the information so quickly that the material is barely touched and the activity is unnecessary.  So I’m undecided here.  Again, ideas are appreciated.

History:  With Story of the World IV behind us (well, in about 6 chapters it will be), we’re ready to move away from the chronological approach to history and onto thematic and topical studies.  My younger has no interest in the music history program his brother will pursue and has plans of his own.  He’s determined to study World War I and World War II in greater depth.  He avoids holocaust study because, as he note, it’s just too disturbing.  I’ve no desire to explore that topic with a nine year-old, so that’s fine with me.  However, he long ago exceeded my knowledge of those wars and their times (and so many other historical periods and events), and I’m not sure how to proceed.  He’s unwilling to watch many of the videos about those wars for fear of running into video including blood, and while I don’t desire to expose him to that much violence, I’m stumped at how to assist him in this study.  Now for the chorus:  Ideas are appreciated!

Language Arts:  We’ll move on to Michael Clay Thompson’s Town series, the second level of his amazing language arts collection.  I’m hesitant about using Paragraph Town with a child who rarely agrees to write a single sentence, but having watched one non-writer (reluctant would be too kind a word), I’m fine with a watch and see approach.  For reading, I’m planning on using Suppose the Wolf Were an Octopus, another Royal Fireworks Press publication.  None of us care for the read-and-answer-the-content questions approach that followed me through school and still seems to be the basis of most literature curricula, and the questions posed by this intelligent series reach far beyond content alone.  Handwriting practice continues with the second of the cursive series from Handwriting Without Tears.  My younger says he’s forgotten how to make some of the cursive letters.  Shocking, given his writing frequency (note maternal eye roll). 

The Rest:  Piano continues with 30 minute lessons weekly and daily practice.  Like his brother and I, Tang Soo Do lessons twice a week keep him on the path for black belt.  He has no interest in competitive sports at this point.  We’re abandoning Spanish for an assortment of reasons, which I’ll delineate in an upcoming review of Spanish for Children.  Spelling plans are lacking, and I’m still not convinced that focused study on spelling is terribly valuable.  Or, perhaps, I just hate directing spelling instructing.  That, too, is another post. 

Join me in the chorus one last time:  Ideas are appreciated!

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13 thoughts on “Rougher Still: Plans for Fall 2010 (Age 9)

  1. My daughter (also 9 this fall) likes me to read aloud (and then we both study) ‘A Realy Short Story of Nearly Everything’ by B. Bryson, for science. I am also not ambitious with hands on science, indeed too often it takes SO much effort for something that can easily be illustrated by a few photo’s.

    • That’s a great book, Paula. My older read it a year or so, and that would be a good read to do with my younger, too. I like experiments, but I don’t like fussy stuff as much — games to teach a point that’s pretty simple to begin with. I’ll also admit some boredom with the standard elem and middle school science experiments. My older has quite a complex chem set-up. Now THAT I like!

  2. I think your plan is coming along quite nicely! I can’t help much with the WWI and WWII resources for a 9 year old. I agree with your comments about Literature – I think the “Suppose the Wolf…” is a great place to start! I would also read MCT’s “Classics in the Classroom” and “What Stories Does My Son Need? A Guide to Books and Movies That Build Character in Boys” by Michael Gurian and just start making a reading list for literature. Have him do oral narrations frequently on the books, discuss the ideas using the other books as guides, and on occasion apply a Paragraph Town exercise to one of his literature books.

    As for spelling, I probably wouldn’t be worrying about it too much except that I have a son who has dyslexic tendancies and can’t spell well enough for the spell-checker to figure out what he wants to say! He spells on about a 2nd-3rd grade level and he will be starting 7th grade this year. So, we are going to use Megawords to give him some focused study in this area (we are also using the MCT LA series, starting with Island which we have dabbled in some already.) I work full time and can’t sit and do a one-on-one spelling program with him, so I am hoping that Megawords and MCT’s vocabulary series) will be plenty of word study that he can do mostly independently (we will actually do a lot of MCT’s books together with his twin brother.)

    I have my resources lined up for next year, but now I need to start planning out my science program in more detail because I am creating it on my own. I would love to have most of the lessons planned out for this ahead of time, so I need to get busy with it!

    Great job!

    • Thanks, Cindy, for your thoughts. I’ll look for the Gurian book (I think I had it out from the library at a point), and “Classics in the Classroom” is one of my favorites. As for spelling, my older son started a new spelling program each September, and we left it on the shelf by November. And that’s in our persistent years. Benign neglect continued, and his spelling improved. A year of tutoring (mild dyslexia and severe dysgraphia) helped quite a bit, or at least that year he improved his spelling. Either way, I haven’t bothered with spelling for the past few years. So why bother with his nondsylexic, nondysgraphic brother? At one point, I thought if he could spell better that he’d be more willing to write, since misspelling words bothers him.

      Megawords is a good program (tried that one, or at least owned it), especially for the dyslexic child. Good luck with that one!

      If you plan your science out (and mine will be planned each week at least an hour before the boys have class), consider posting what you do. I’m always looking for inspiration.

      Finally, all I can say to working full time and homeschooling is good luck! I have a dear friend doing the same, and it’s a rough go. Sounds like it’s worth it for you and yours. Yay!

  3. Thanks for this much awaited post Sarah! I’m afraid I can’t help with ideas much because we are in a very similar situation! I will be updating my Year 3 plans soon because over the past 2-3 weeks I’ve drawn up a rough guide for us. We haven’t been good at doing any chronological history and will continue to jump around like we’ve been doing these past 2 years (enjoying it actually so I won’t reinvent the wheel there).

    For Math, we’re going with Keys To and Singapore too. In fact, with kiddo being about a year younger than your son, I’m very keen to see where his path with lead after 6B. He’s supposed to complete 4B in fall and move on to 5A. We’ll likely skip 5B because we’ve been doing some of the content through other materials already. Or somewhere along the way, we’ll dump it all and go back to Thinkwell or something else LOL. It’s so hard to say 🙂

    Just one idea for Elllen McHenry’s Elements…I’d bought it and hoped we’d complete it weekly but like you’re predicting for your guys, mine read it in three or four sittings and is completing some of the activity pages on his own. I’m also not into doing the hands-on parts with him…and it’s definitely (no doubt about it) laziness on my part.

    So, we will keep unschooling science since that’s working the best for us so far.

    Enjoyed reading this 🙂

    • Suji,
      Sounds like things are working for you and your son, at least if your blog is any indication! I’m a believer in sticking with what works. For history, my younger’s been jumping around to his interests for years, but I just keep reading Story of the World along the way. History is his Thing, and almost all his learning has been independent. Well, I drive to the library and bookstore and find the videos on Netflix…

      My older used some of the Keys to, and your comment reminded me that we have Keys to Algebra (first two books). I completely forgot that was on the shelf. It’s a decent diversion, but he’s just so focused on finishing Singapore that it was hard last year to budge his focus. Ah well.

      Thanks for the heads up on Elements. I had a feeling he’d devour it too quickly to be worthwhile. I imagine I’ll just end of piecing it together like I did last year. Heck, even if I don’t do a thing, he learns at an amazing rate. Hey, maybe that’s the way to go…

      I’ll be looking for you Year 3 description soon!

  4. I’ve recently discovered your blog and must say that it’s like looking in a mirror. My kids are 8 and almost 12 and we are going through the same curriculum decisions.

    My son completed Sinagpore 6B in 4th grade. In 5th we did Key to Algebra and Ch. Word Problems (incidentally, have you been able to find those anywhere any more? I’ve been copying problems from my son’s old books by hand for my daughter…). Son went to a one-year environmental program for 6th grade where the math was at grade level. This year we’re going to do Art of Problem Solving Algebra 1. I have it in hand and am thrilled with it, and though it is untested with my son, I’m sure he’ll like it, though he might complain about the harder problems (and they are HARD. Get the teacher’s manual).

    I have a question for you about MCTLA. We have successfully used Rod and Staff language arts books up til now. I did get for my language-gifted daughter the Sentence Island book, which she enjoyed as a supplement to R/S. R/S might not be terribly exciting but it is comprehensive and very inexpensive. I intend to use R/S 7 next year for grammar but would consider vocabulary and writing curricula from there (we’ve dabbled in Classical Writing Aesop and Homer in previous years combined with narration-style writing based on history). Where do you suggest we begin in either of those categories given that background? (He’s also taken some Latin already.) One other complication — I’d like to use writing topics that correlate with our Tapestry of Grace Y3 studies. Is that easy to adapt?

    Thanks!

    • Karen,
      It does sound like we share some things in common. I’m using AoPS for my older this year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if that leads me to use Algebra I with my younger next year (or later?). It’s on the not-so-short list. My older did the Intro to Counting and Probability class last winter and was not too happy. He really needs face-to-face interaction to stay involved (Thinkwell wasn’t ideal for him either), and he’s a reflective thinker. Never seeing his answer posted in class really got to him, despite reassurance. Perhaps a year of it at home will get his nerve up to try again.

      Regarding Singapore, they have their new line of Challenging Word Problems out here: http://www.singaporemath.com/Challenging_Word_Problems_U_S_Ed_s/148.htm

      MCTLA: As you probably can tell, I’m a huge MCTLA fan. We’ve tried other grammar programs (not Rod and Staff, but I am familiar with it), and I’ve found nothing as holistic and rigorous as the MCT materials. It fosters a true understanding of grammar that is reinforced in the other books in the series, and the information sticks. The writing curricula is fine stuff as well. As a writer (or aspiring writer) and English Comp major many, many years ago, I find it utterly amazing. I’ve taught things to my boys that I didn’t learn until well into college, lessons that get to the heart of good writing. My MCT reviews (links are on my home page) go into some more detail about the various levels. Sentence Island is quite gentle but carries essential lessons that could be useful to many older writers. It was a gentle start for my 8 year old. Paragraph Town is a big leap, and it would be fine for most older kids. If nothing else, it creates a base of “MCT speak”. I’d probably start there with your older. While there are suggested assignments, I alter them to fit what my kids are studying in history or science. It’s not a poblem at all. MCT emphasizes writing about what is interesting to you in Essay Voyage, stressing that learning something new when researching for writing makes the writing process more interesting and important.

      For vocabulary, the first book is really quite gentle. It’s a big leap to Caesar’s English I, but, in my opinion, that’s where the real vocabulary meat is. The main point of Building Language seems to be introducing to the learner to the existence of stems and their role in language. If your child has studied Latin, there’s probably no need for that first. I hope that helps a bit. Thanks for commenting!
      Sarah

  5. I forgot to mention that I also have in hand the McHenry Elements and Carbon Chem. They look to be shortish but nevertheless rigorous. I hope to look at them in more detail tonight.

  6. We were rather stuck when our DD finished Sing. 6B at the ripe old age of 9. The toughest part was that she really didn’t like math all that much, so an ambitious math program wasn’t an option.

    I corresponded with Richard Rusczyk of AOPS back then, and he didn’t recommend going direct to AOPS algebra. Some people do it, but he recommended working through the MOEMS problem solving book (a math competition book) instead,then come back to Algebra I and work through it at an independent pace.

    As it happened, we dithered around with various stuff, taking about a year “off” effectively, then landed on Life of Fred. She finished Beginning Algebra and will do Advanced Algebra in the fall. After that I think we’ll switch to some of the Counting/Number Theory books from AOPS for a while. I saw Rusczyk speak in Reno — he was great!! — and he really brought home the importance of problem solving and discrete math, and said that the tendency to emphasize calculus as the high point of pre-college math is a real mistake.

    Regarding history: if your son is interested in military history, could you do a study of, e.g., biographies (maybe several biographies from different points of view, generals/COs, infantrymen, pilots, different countries), or focus on something specific like aircraft/weaponry, or geography and military tactics? The risk, I suppose, is getting too clinical about warfare and making the weapons and strategy seem exciting and cool while leaving out the serious consequences, but if you have a sensitive child, maybe a tiny bit of attention to that is all it would take to create balance.

    • So sorry we missed Reno! It’s been a few years since we’ve been to a summit, and I have some parental withdrawl.

      I’m familiar with Rusczyk’s issues with early Calculus, and I’ve shared them with my older son. I’m pretty sure I can stall him out another year with AoPS material, but if he presses, I’ll let him run with the calc. My younger is obsessed with keeping up with his brother’s timeline, and changing materials for him might be the way to bump him off that track.

      My older used Life of Fred Advanced Algebra for a bit before switching to Thinkwell’s College Algebra. I wasn’t thinking of LOF as a stepping stone to another Algebra course at that point, and that may be a better vantage point from which to see it. And I should just go ahead and order the first MOEMS book. That would fit this year.

      Oh, please here my sigh across cyberspace regarding history. He’s obsessed (and I don’t use the word lightly) with weaponry and tactics. Got an hour? Ask him how he would have approached the crusades. I’m a peaceful woman and have one peaceful child. I know the power end drew him to weapons and war initially, but now he’s just facinated. I try to keep any weapon focus on swords and the like. The guns give me the heebejeebees.

      My mother mentioned the country-based approach, and my younger’s buying in to that. Biographical accounts are also worth a whirl. He’s an odd mix of sensitive and fearful and war-facinated. He considered a career in the military down the road but things that sounds just too dangerous. Thank goodness for his cautious approach to anything that might cause bodily harm.

      Thanks, as always, for your ideas. I’ll be watching your blog to see what unfolds for you and yours.

      Sarah

  7. At the talk I attended, his point was not that calculus in high school is a big mistake, but that it is overemphasized at the expense of other kinds of math — especially the kind of math that is a foundation for computer programming.

    He said that he sees kids who are doing calculus in 7th grade but haven’t learned good problem solving skills, just how to copy what’s happening in class. His view is that acing the AP Calculus exams are not a good indicator of math ability. In other words, rushing through lame curriculum is not the same as advanced learning, or learning from curricula that was designed for the highly gifted learner. (His view is that AP courses are for average learners.)

    Which, to be fair, is often the only option for math whizzes in schools. That’s why he’s a big proponent of math circles, math clubs and math competitions, as a way of mitigating the bad math curricula in schools. As homeschoolers, we have a choice.

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