As we head in to summer I am trying to get a jump on planning for next school year. We school year round, 9-10 week terms with 2-4 week breaks in between, so 4th grade will resume in a couple weeks. We likely won’t start 5th grade until the end of September.
I’d like to use this space to reflect weekly on what worked well for us this year, changes we need to make, and what we might try for next year. For instance, we are considering purchasing a curriculum for the first time. Up until now I have created our lesson plans and activities myself, with some input from my dad, based on the subjects Elena is interested in.
Each year we tackle a science and a historical period, in addition to writing, math, art, and handwork (sort of like crafty home-ec time). This year we also added French, and had planned on studying piano as well but that sort of fizzled out.
Elena’s 4th grade studies have been nothing like mine were (anyone else remember that Oregon Trail video game?) with the possible exception of times tables. Ugh. I still don’t like them, and I already know them. Fortunately for both of us, Elena picks up math more easily than I ever did. For our math studies we use worksheets from the same curriculum that the public schools here are using (they’re available for free online) combined with math games and “real life” math. The real life math involves any area of life where math is useful and/or necessary. Scaling recipes up or down. Budgeting for a toy or activity. Creating a quilt pattern.
So for us 4th grade has been these areas;
Math: multiplication, division, place values and decimals, geometry
Science: chemistry (not my strong suit, but she’s enjoying it)
History: Rennaissance Europe, we’ll be looking at Tudor England also
Writing: essays and reports, calligraphy
French: focusing on vocabulary and basic phrases
Handwork: mostly cooking and embroidery, but other stuff too
We made some changes part way through the year in how we structure our lessons/days. Elena asked for more control over her studies, so in many areas she is doing more independent work. Which fits nicely with having a new baby in the house, I’ve been pretty distracted. But I feel also runs the risk of schoolwork not getting done or mama getting out of touch with what she’s working on.
Elena will be completing her final project for chemistry over the summer. She’s working on it with her daddy. Their assignment is to build some sort of vehicle that is powered by a chemical reaction. They’ve started by testing how energetic different chemical reactions are, we may do some graphing with that data, and will be moving on to design when we finish our summer break.
One of my struggles as a teacher-parent has been how to teach a subject that I am not personally familiar with. It hasn’t been as much of an issue when she was little, I can cover the basics easily or pick them up quickly enough to pass them on. Now that she’s older though, and interested in all the details, it becomes more of a challenge. Which is one of the reasons I’m thinking of purchasing a curriculum for next year. On the other hand, she is intellectually able to understand quite advanced material (high school/college) so maybe I can let her teach herself from textbooks and such. Sort of point her in the right direction, and then try to keep up. It’s something I think will evolve as she grows and her interests change.
Are you a homeschooling parent? What works well for you?