I have to admit I was just a little bit (okay, a lotta bit) concerned about having a 7th grader this year. Junior high… almost high school.
Yeah, there were a few freak out moments about homeschooling 7th grade. But I’m learning that there’s no reason to be scared of these years – we still have to work, discuss, and find a routine and schedule (and curriculum!) that works for both us.
First Term Review
We’ve finished our first term. (We homeschool in 6-week terms, taking a week off between each term. It’s a schedule we’ve used for a few years now and it works so well. Having that week to catch up on housework, appointments, and other life tasks create a nice natural routine.)
Things went well with a few bumps – which is to be expected!\
7th Grade Homeschool Scheduling
I have to attribute much of our success to our schedule. It’s taken us awhile but we’ve found a routine that works for us. We aren’t strict about, it’s more like a general daily routine. Here’s what it looks like:
Wake up between 7:30-8:30 – use that time to wake up (we aren’t morning people here – lots of lying around trying to pry our eyes open). When we are sufficiently awake we get ourselves ready for the day, do a chore or two, and read our Bibles.
We’re ready to get breakfast and start our morning meeting around 9 am. I spend about 1-1 ½ hours a day with TJ, going over independent assignments, discussing subjects we work on together, and doing a bit of reading aloud while she works on a project.
After our morning meeting, she grabs her agenda with her assignment list and gets to work, tackling the subjects she does independently. This is my time to do a bit of housework, laundry, or meal prep.
Around 11:30 or 12pm we take a lunch break until 1 or 1:30 when we take a little time to sit and read. TJ chooses literature from a book basket and I read a good book (from The Well-Educated Mind list or something non-fiction). After our reading time, TJ gets back to work on her assignments while I do some online work.
Around 3:30 or 4 pm we break for a short ‘tea time’, chat about the day, and TJ finishes up any last minute assignments (depending on how much she dawdled that day).
To finish out the day, we make sure all the homeschool things are put away before moving on to free time and dinner prep.
This fluid schedule works, largely in part because she’s reached a more independent stage. That’s not to say it’s without its bumps. I’ve been letting her tackle science on her own but we’ve discovered she’s just not ready for the textbook and workbook method without a little more preparation.
But we’re working on the issues and finding a good daily rhythm.
7th Grade Curriculum
Our schedule! Giving TJ some independence is working well.
For the most part, our curriculum choices are working well. We’ve used some of them for a few years so have found a good rhythm that works for us.
History is going very well. We’re following The Well-Trained Mind history plans for the Logic stage, using The Story of the World as our ‘spine’ and adding in outlining, a timeline, mapping, extra reading, writing, primary sources, and the occasional history project. I created a weekly history schedule and TJ follows that, doing the work almost completely independently.
I’m so glad we came back to Writing & Rhetoric. I wanted to try something different last year and it really didn’t work for us so we are back to this series – and TJ is as happy as a clam. She loves the discussion, interaction, and creative lesson format.
What’s Not Working
Independent science isn’t working so well. TJ’s not used to a textbook-based science program and I made the mistake of just handing the book and workbook to her and told her to follow the schedule.
Well, that didn’t work so great! So we’ve backtracked and she sits beside me while she does the work semi-independently. We’ll work up to full independence at a slower rate when she’s ready for it.
Second & Third Term Reviews
It’s hard to believe we’ve finished our third term now – this school year is moving right along (with a few bumps along the way). For the most part, things are going well. We’re making good progress and staying on track.
We’ve taken a little more time off than I anticipated. I had planned a shorter Christmas break because we took a week off in early December to attend a family wedding. But, once that first week of Christmas break rolled around I really wanted a second week off. So we took another week off and I’m so glad I made that decision – we really needed the break. And, hopefully, it doesn’t set us back too far (I’d really rather not be homeschooling in July!).
Planning a School Year
Over our years of homeschooling, I’ve tried many different tools and planning products, but I always come back to one simple system (paper, pen, and highlighter – pretty low-tech stuff!). I have three pages in my teacher’s binder that keep me on-track:
I use this page to record our actual homeschool days. Here in Quebec, we have to school for 180 days so this simple pencil and paper method shows exactly that – I check off the days that we’ve homeschooled, highlight our days & weeks off, and keep a total of the days and school terms.
We follow a ‘sabbath school’ model – homeschooling for six weeks and then taking a week off. Each of those six weeks is a ‘term’ and I plan six of them over the course of the year. Because of various events (like weddings!), some terms may be broken up a bit – but each one is approximately 30 days long, giving us 180 school days. This school calendar shows me exactly which term we’re in, how many days we’ve completed, and how many we have left to go.
Course of Study
This page is probably the most important for staying on-track throughout the year. Before the school year starts, I make a spreadsheet covering all the subjects we’ll be covering that year. It’s divided into columns – the first shows the week, the second is blank for filling in the date, and then there’s one column for each subject. Each row includes a week’s worth of assignments.
When I’m planning the year, I estimate how many pages, chapters, lessons, etc. we’ll cover in each subject and type that into my spreadsheet. Then I’m able to see at a glance how long each subject will take to complete.
During the school year, as we finish each week, I add the date to the appropriate row and a small checkmark beside the completed assignments. As the year progresses, some columns may have more or fewer checkmarks, if we took a week off from those particular assignments.
This spreadsheet is so useful because I can see at a glance those subjects we’ve been slacking on (so I know we better not skip any more work!) or I can see that we are ahead of schedule in another subject so I can surprise my daughter with some lighter assignments that week.
This is the most time-consuming part of prepping for the school year, but it’s also the most useful part of my planning.
The last page of my planning tools is a 12-month one-page calendar. At the beginning of the year, I highlight all the important events and vacations and then highlight our ‘sabbath week’ after each term. From there, I can determine how many extra days off we can take without eating into our 180 school days. I make a note about how many of these ‘floater’ days we have. Then, throughout the year I make note of any of these extra days as they are used.
With this page, I know how many days we have left to homeschool and can quickly see when we have an upcoming vacation (or if we have any extra days we can take off as we want).
A Look at Our Second Term
We are fairly well on-track as far as assignments go. TJ will be finishing up her current level of CTC next term so I’ve been looking at resources to use before she tackles pre-algebra next year. We’ve settled on the ‘Key to’ series to shore up all her skills with fractions, decimals, and percents. I also picked up a drill book to continue working on multi-digit multiplication and long division – something she needs more practice with.
Planning tools – keeping records of our school days and assignments really helps me stay on track.
Logic – we are really enjoying The Art of Argument and TJ has started making references to it when we read or see a commercial (learning in action!).
Most subjects are coming along well.
What’s Not Working
We’ve had some issues with incomplete work. During a particularly busy week before Christmas break, I slacked off on checking assignments every afternoon only to find that TJ had only been making a half-hearted effort to complete her work. So, instead of a light school week the following week she had to re-do the previous week’s assignments plus the regularly assigned school work for that week. And I’ve learned she is not ready for checking her own work.
All-in-all it was a good term and TJ is making good progress in her skills and abilities. But I need to remember that kids this age will often take the ‘path of least resistance’ so I need to stay diligent to keep her on task and make sure she’s completing things to a good standard. It’s a learning process for both of us.
Wrapping up the school year
Another school year complete! We had our ups and downs (mostly ups, thank goodness). It was really a year of growing independence — TJ has moved to doing almost all of her work independently. We still have a daily morning meeting to go over some things together before she starts on her list of assignments.
What worked for us
This was the first year TJ has written down her assignments in a daily agenda. Up to this point, she’s had checklists and lists I’ve written for her. It’s worked very (when she doesn’t lose track of it) and it’s something we’ll continue next year.
Most subjects worked well for us though we had our sticky moments — especially with science. She’s not ready for complete independence — I still need to check that her assignments are completed to my standards (we have some issues with messy handwriting and lazy work) but she’s making good progress at working more independently.
The hardest part of 7th grade…
I think the hardest part of homeschooling 7th grade is the growing and changing teen. Some days they are more ‘adult-like’ and other days they are decidedly not. Some days they are very responsible, doing their work diligently. Other days… not so much.
While I’m ready for my daughter to have more independence, and she wants more independence, it’s been a bumpy road. She’s easily distracted by music, the family dog…
…and the joys of 7th grade
Watching your child grow into adulthood is such a blessing. Our best days had some great discussions about current events or books. Instead of the early years filled with direct instruction, these years are all about discussing things and watching the teacher-student relationship change. Now I’m more of a facilitator instead of a direct instructor. There’s a bit of nostalgia for reading lessons spent curled on the couch but I have to admit that I love this time of transition just as much.
Finding the right balance
The middle school years are all about building independence. I’ve made some mistakes along the way – letting TJ have too much independence when she wasn’t ready for it (I’m still learning that lesson!).
But these years are also about focusing on your relationship. Pretty soon, those little birds will be flying the coop and one of the many benefits of homeschooling is the opportunity to forge strong family relationships.
Middle schoolers are going through big changes and it can affect the family. Sometimes homeschooling takes a bit of a back burner as you focus on forming those strong bonds.