Homeschooling 8th grade… I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit nervous when it comes to homeschooling during the junior high years. It’s all about preparing them for the high school years — that means study skills, learning to take notes, and maybe even taking a few high school level classes to get a jump on those high school credits.
As a result, I’ve been planning and preparing for the start of this year for a couple of months now. That included reading some incredible homeschool blogs who have already covered these years to learn what worked for them – and more importantly what failed.
Note: This article is one I’ve revised throughout the year as our first experience of homeschooling 8th grade occurred. You’ll notice that as a result in some cases I’ve used different tenses. I wanted to provide as much information as I could for other 8th-grade homeschooling parents so hopefully, this helps.
Of course, if you have any questions about our 8th-grade homeschooling experience leave me a comment below and I’ll do my very best to get back to you within 72 hours.
8th Grade Homeschool Curriculum Choices
Before we begin with the curriculum choices we first look to determine what worked well last year for both myself and the child. I used to use a feedback form that I’d fill in based on questions, but now it’s more of an open ended discussion in which I take notes which I then use to form this years curriculum.
There are a whole host of Math programmes to choose from. Some are secular, and others are non-secular. Whatever your preference there’s a wide variety available, so you’re easily able to find something that suits both yours and your childs needs.
We’ve been following the secular Math-U-See programme for a number of years now, and have decided to stick with their Pre-Algebra programme for 8th grade. Math-U-See Pre-Algebra is a programme designed to prepare students to learn Geometry and Algebra next year.
The main focus is on ensuring students are both confident and fluent when it comes to adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing both positive and negative numbers, understanding and simplifying exponents, and using properties of operations, order of operations, and absolute value.
We chose the Math-U-See Pre-Algebra programme as it’s video based and I don’t feel comfortable teaching advanced maths at this level. There’s multiple different porgramme packages available to purchase depending on exactly what supplies you want / need and the budget you have available.
An alternative to Math-U-See is Teaching Textbooks who also offers a Pre-Algebra programme. Much like Math-U-See, Teaching Textbooks is also a secular programme.
However, the programme is significantly more online activity-based, this is great as it means the programme can be updated regularly without the need to purchase old outdated DVDs, however, the downside to this is that it increases the amount of screentime your kids have significantly.
I know many parents who have switched from Math-U-See to Teaching Textbooks over the past couple of years and it’s certainly something we’re going to continue to keep in mind for the future.
We have used a variety of different platforms and programmes for our English Language classes over the past couple of years and we’re planning on continuing with a combination of different services in 8th Grade.
For writing and rhetoric, we’re using the Writing & Rhetoric Book 9 from Classical Academic Press. This is a one-semester programme which is suitable for grades 7 and 8.
We’ve chosen the Writing & Rhetoric Book 9 based on our previous experience with the Classical Academic Press programmes over the years. I personally feel that the Classic Academic Press content is relatively affordable and regularly on sale.
There are 12 levels to the Writing & Rhetoric programme by Classical Academic Press. Hopefully, we’ll have the chance to also cover book 10 later in the year, but for now, we’re focusing solely on completing book 9 alongside some additional English language programmes.
Alongside Writing & Rhetoric, we’re also going to be using Writing with Skill by Susan Wise Bauer. We’ve been using this level 1 book for a year now (you can purchase the student copy here and the teacher/instructor copy here), and have found the format to work incredibly well for us.
The level 1 book covers grades 5 to 8, so we’ll likely complete it this year before moving onto level 2 next year.
The book is designed for students to work independently therefore the text is written directly to the student and the book is organized by date. Each step progressively moves the students through the workbook as they move from one day to the next.
The book covers the basics of composition, outlining, sentence skills, beginning literary criticism of poetry and prose, writing narratives and descriptions, and researching and documenting sources, the course culminates with a final project.
By using extensive literary models and step-by-step instructions on the lesson concepts, students will gain the tools needed to write with clarity and confidence.
Finally, we’ll be using the Rod & Staff English 8, Year One Lesson Plans. This can be purchased as a set which includes the following;
- The pupil textbook
- Teachers manual
Alternatively, you can purchase these items individually depending on exactly what you need. We managed to get the bundle on sale so purchased all the items together. This is my first eighth-grader so even if we don’t use all the items now, we very well might do with our other children in the future.
The programme has 124 lessons which are broken up into 11 chapters;
Chapters 1 & 2 – Sentance elements & structure. Objective complements, elliptical sentences, and compound-complex sentences are introduced.
Chapter 3 – Capitalization & punctuation concepts such as dashes, parentheses and brackets.
Chapters 4 through to 10 – Re-enforce what has been taught in earlier grades and introduce retained objects, dangling participles, and relative adverbs. Problem words are discussed, and there’s plenty of sentence diagramming.
Chapter 11 – Composition lessons introduce persuasive arguments and teach effective sentences, paragraph construction, proofreading, outlines, story writing, sentences, paragraph construction, proofreading, outlines, story writing, and poetry at deeper levels.
Worksheets – The 42 worksheets can be copied as needed, and include chapter tests as well as a final test.
History & Georgraphy
For history this year we’ve opted to go with Abeka. As my younger children are now moving into grades 2 and 3 they are requiring more assistance from me. Luckily, my 8th grader is able to learn independently now, however, I knew I still needed to “give over the rains” just a little if I was to gain any free time this year.
Having read the reviews extensively, we went with Abeka as the programme is comprehensive and requires very little preparation on the teacher’s side.
You can buy the programme for the year or just the semester depending on your budget and requirements. We opted to purchase the full year including the tuition/lectures and books which was rather expensive (just over $500 if I remember correctly).
I didn’t mind paying the $500 as this programme also covers Geography, and honestly ‘outsourcing’ the two indervidually would have likely come to a similar amount anyway and still required some preperation on my part.
The programme is also incredibly extensive with 170 lessons each between 40 and 50 minutes in length, however, it’s worth noting that it’s also incredible sercular, with specific lessons on how God’s influence in people and nations determines their course in human history which I understand might not be right for everyone.
For other inspirational History projects be sure to check out my post; Fun History Project Ideas & Hands-On Activities.
For science this year we’re continuing with Apologia sequence. We’ve been using this programme for two maybe three years now, and have found it works well. My 8th grader works independently on this programme, covering a module every two weeks.
We’ve been using the base set which includes a softcover textbook, Solutions and Tests Manual with one set of Test Pages, and the spiral-bound Student Notebook. Much like other courses, you can buy these elements individually should you only require specific areas of the course.
This set has been specifically designed to be the first course taken during junior high and was specifically created to give middle school students an understanding of the basic world that surrounds them.
Right now our two-week modules are broken up into six days of reading and note-taking, two days for completing the study guide and one day of taking the test – using the notes as reference.
Foreign Language is an elective subject for 8th graders in our state. However, we’ve chosen to get a head start on high school credits with French. We’ve opted to use the Breaking The French Barrier: Level 1 Beginner (French Edition), and have been following the self-study program together.
The Breaking The Barrier language programmes are based on the premise that the fastest way to learn a language is with a solid understanding of grammar.
The content is available online or physically with CDs sent directly to your door, and require minimal teacher/parent involvement, and no previous language experience on the parents/teachers part – although I’ve opted to give it a go and learn French myself too.
Right now we’re on level 1, although we hope the programme will be sucsessful enough that we look to move onto level 2 next year.
Update: Sadly, Breaking the French Barrier has been a failure for us this year. Unfortunately, it’s just a little beyond what my 8th-grader can do on their own without coaxing through every worksheet. Instead, we’ve switched to a few apps to continue practicing the basics and we hope to come back to Breaking the French Barrier next year now instead.
This is another elective, and something that I know some parents and schools focus a substantial amount of time on given the ever evolving world of IT. Right now, we’re continuing to only focus on typing practice, and it’s not as much a programme or curriculumn as it is playing a handful of typing games once a week.
One of our favourites is Dance Mat Typing which is available on the BBC Bitesize website. The game consists of four levels and each of the levels has three stages. Each stage builds on previous lessons and introduces new letters as you progress. At the end of each level, you can test your typing speed and get a fun reward.
We’ve also recently purchased some of the LEGO Education sets, specifically the WeDo 2.0 Core Set 45300. This is a physical product that we’re hoping will remain relevant enough for our younger children to also use in a couple of years time.
If not we’ve found that Lego toys seem to hold their value particularly well so we’ll just sell the kit and move onto something new and more suited to our younger children as and when it’s required.
We were originally looking at the Mindstorms but chose the Lego Education WeDo set after reviewing our options online. The Lego website has a good breakdown of the differences between the two programmes so you can find the right one for your family.
Next year we might move into some basic coding. I’d love to know if you have any feedback on coding curriculums or courses for junior high/middle school children – let me know in the comments below.
Art is another elective subject that we choose to include in our 8th-grade homeschool curriculum. In fact, in our opinion art rarely feels like school at all which is of course, fantastic!
Over the past couple of years, we’ve used a number of different free programmes online, a simple Google of ‘Best Art Programmes For Homeschoolers’ brings up a whole host of incredible websites.
However, the best resource for art at home at any age seems to be Youtube, so much so we’re going to continue using the video platform for the majority of our art education this year. Our favourite Youtube art channels include;
- Circle Line Art School
- Drawing Pop Art for Kids
- The Art Sherpa
- Art for Kids Hub
- Muffalo Potato
This year we’re also going to be introducing additional historical and artist based learning, this will be more text book / curriculmn programme based and include more projects like our Leonardo da Vinci Art Projects For School Kids.
Having read the various different options we’ve opted to go with Atelier who have an award-winning online curriculum alongside some incredible learning art kits.
We’ve purchased the level 5 programme which is suitable for children between the ages of 8 and 13, we could have possibly gone for the level 6 programme which is suitable for children between the ages of 9 and 15, however, as we’ve never used Artilier before I wanted to be sure that the learning specification was attainable for my 8th-grader.
This is another elective that you can choose to study in 8th grade, in our case, we’ve always looked at music rather casually and haven’t pursued it as part of the curriculum. Instead, we’ve mainly focused on learning an instrument, although we may bring in the history of music into our history curriculum at some point too.
Right now, we do music ‘after school’. In the past we have paid for tutors however, this quickly became incredibly expensive, especially with three kids. So, like many homeschooling families we opted to save up the money and purchase a second hand piano outright.
We now use this with SimplyPiano which has a 7-day free trial and then costs $119.99 per year. Alternatively, you can pay $89.99 for six months, or $59.99 for three months.
The app allows us to fit piano ‘lessons’ around our everyday life without sticking to a schedule, allowing my 8th-grader to learn at their own pace as much or as little as they’d like with no additional costs involved.
If you are looking for a curriculum-based music experience then my friends who also homeschool recommend;
Basic Music Theory – This is a newly released book and as such is available in physical format but also on Kindle and Audible. The chapters are short and easily digestible. After each chapter, there’s a study guide which includes questions and reviews key points from the lesson.
A Young Scholar’s Guide to Composers – This book is a fantastic introduction to the major eras of classic music and the 26 famous composers who are representative of those eras. This is a secular multi-sensory educational course which uses a combination of traditional learning, hands-on activities and listening which is suitable for children between 4th and 8th grade.
Health & Physical Education
This is another elective subject that you can choose to study in 8th grade. Much like music we’ve always looked at physical education casually and haven’t pursued it as part of the curriculum. We aim to have at least 30 minutes of targeted physical education each day.
Depending on the weather, the time of day and how we’re feeling this can be done in a number of different ways including trampolining in the garden, watching a fitness focused kids Youtube channel or going for a walk.
This is another elective for 8th graders, and not something we’ve covered specifically. However, my friends who also homeschool recommended the 7SistersHomeschool who have an extensive range of drama resources including royalty-free scripts, one semester and one-year courses on acting and directing as well as CDs and DVD lessons.
The majority of homeschool co-ops also get together to host drama camps or drama classes. This can be a great way to meet other homeschooling parents and kids in the area and take the pressure of teaching a subject you might be otherwise unfamiliar with. I use the HSLDA website to find nearby homeschooling co-ops.
Another popular elective for 8th graders is food. While we casually teach/get our kids involved with cooking and baking we don’t follow a food education curriculum.
However, this is something that is often taught in the majority of homeschooling co-ops – I know our local one runs this programme. I use the HSLDA website to find nearby homeschooling co-ops.
Alternatively, there are some food education curriculums available. Real Food Nutrition & Health by Food Renegade is a popular one which comes in either an e-book or paperback format. The US department of agriculture has also put together the website Choose My Plate which has educational resources, tools and games to educate young people on healthy eating.
Another elective and one I’m sure I’ll be doing with my younger two is archaeology. Currently, this isn’t something my 8th-grader is interested in.
However, there are a vast number of resources available for homeschooling families who have kids interested in completing archaeology curriculums.
A great elective alongside archaeology is fossils. There aren’t as many resources available online for fossils when compared to archaeology as a whole.
New Path Learning has a couple of free study guides and worksheets available that can be printed off. Meanwhile, Better Lesson has a free module which includes a warm-up, activity and wrap-up. Sadly, this is something that can be completed in under 2 hours.
I’d love to know if you’ve found any additional fossils educational resources suited for 8th graders – let me know in the comments below.
Finally we have wood technology. Again, this isn’t something my current 8th-grader is interested in, however, I’m pretty sure it’s something I’ll be covering with my younger two children in the near future. Once again, our homeschool co-op covers a lot of wood technology which is great as it minimises the amount of equipment we have to buy and store.
If you’re looking to cover wood technology at home then I’d suggest purchasing the incredible PLAYmake (honestly, we might get one of these just for home use it looks so much fun!). This small piece of kit is the worlds first kid-friendly workshop.
The short strokes of the jigsaw allow for precise cutting through softwood, however, the blade can only vibrate and therefore doesn’t injure the skin.
8th Grade Homeschool Goals
Before you start purchasing all of your curriculumn items for the year ahead, it’s important to plan your goals. This is something I do with each of my three children at the start of every year. This gives us an anchor so we know exactly what to focus on based on our goals.
My 8th grader is of course prepraring for the high school years, so it’s my job to prepare them for the challenge that next level of their education is going to bring.
Therefore our focus or goals for this year are going to be on the core subjects for English Language, Math and Science. However, alongside this, we’re going to add in a couple of courses that will count towards high school credits such as foreign languages.
I have a whole post dedicated to setting homeschool goals which is filled with information and different scenarios to help you set SMART goals for your homeschooled kids this year. Whether you’ve set goals in the past or not, this post is sure to bring up some thought-provoking ideas helping you to set and achieve everything you want from homeschool education this year.
Daily Schedule For 8th Grade Homeschool
Since publishing this post so many of you have come back to me and asked to see what our daily schedule looks like. The core daily schedule for all of my homeschool kids is the same, the only difference tends to be the subjects, subject levels and whether the subject is indepdently learnt or requires teaching.
9am – We start our day with a morning meeting. During that hour we go over any assignments and work on a few subjects together. As one of my 8th grader’s goals this year is to improve their writing, we spend the majority of this hour reviewing and practising this.
10am – We have a two-hour morning loop which allows us to cover subjects that we don’t cover every day but that we would like to keep in rotation. For our 8th grader, these currently include; logic, poetry, geography and art.
11am – One hour of working on maths independently while I prepare lunch.
12pm – Lunch.
1pm – One hour of independently learning History. Prior to 8th grade, this wasn’t independent, however, we’ve since moved onto a new programme that allows my 8th-grader to learn this subject independently while I tidy up after lunch and teach some of the younger kids.
2pm – One hour of independently learning science. This is an independent learning programme we’ve been following for a couple of years now so my 8th-grader is confident in their abilities and the teaching style of the programme.
3pm – One and a half hours of English language, this includes read alouds, worksheets, vocabulary, grammer, and poetry depending on the exact topic we’re covering that week.
In the late afternoon / early evening we’ll often do some typing games, physical activity (either as part of a team, independently or as a family) and music.
With our dedicated daily schedule, we are able to cover the bulk of our work four days a week. This gives us an extra weekday for catching up on things that go unfinished or outside activities and errands.
The one thing I’m noticing though is that we need that dedicated school time to fit in everything on our 8th-grade homeschool schedule and have to save extra activities for later. Our school day takes more time at this age and I have to guard that daily time and keep outside commitments from creeping in.