By middle school, it starts to feel like time is ticking down until your child is no longer in your direct care, so many parents will take their student’s education plan to the next level. The truth is, that you still have a little time to forgive yourself for a tough year, but you definitely should be revving up for the high school years (trust me, they aren’t as scary as you may think). So, what should be covered during these important middle school years? I use our state’s requirements as a guide for general subjects to cover:
- Basic communication skills (reading, writing, literature, and fine arts)
- Mathematics and science
- Social studies (history, geography, and government)
- Health and physical education
Math, reading, writing, and grammar will really be set based on your child’s skill level and learning style. The Well Trained Mind (offered at most, if not all libraries) lists a number of different curriculum publishers, and then gives reasons why a family would choose one curriculum over another. For example, if I want my children to learn math independently, I would choose Teaching Textbooks whereas Saxon Math would be a better fit if we want to do it together and prefer an “old school” approach to math. Even if you don’t use The Well Trained Mind to follow their homeschooling philosophy or schedule, the book lists and suggestions are invaluable.
Most parents fear science, and honestly, I’ve always outsourced science in one way or another for my oldest daughter. It’s just never been a dragon I had time to face, and she really has enjoyed a more traditional classroom environment for science. Outsourcing is always an option, and then the specific type of science is chosen for you. If you choose to do science at home, don’t feel you need to stick within the subjects of biology, chemistry, physics and earth science each year.
Middle school is still a time of exploration, and it can be fun to cover a topic for 6-9 weeks at a time. Maybe you want to start with some nature study in the fall, astronomy in the winter, physics in the spring, and the human body in the beginning of the summer. As your student nears the end of the middle school years, spend about a semester on each topic, so you can dig a little deeper and follow their ability and level of understanding. There are lots of kits you can purchase that will explore various aspects of a scientific topic. Keep your eye out at Barnes and Noble and peruse Amazon to see what’s available!
Looking back, it surprises me that most schools separate geography and history from the very beginning. Once a child is in high school, it makes sense to separate these two subjects, so that it can be explored individually in-depth. However in middle school I would argue that history, geography, and government should really be intertwined.
Again, The Well Trained Mind offers some great suggestions on how to mix all of these subjects easily, and even suggests the literature that follows the same time period that is being learned. For many though, The Well Trained Mind isn’t a good curriculum fit for their family. Here’s a nice guide to some history curriculum that won’t be religious or Euro-centered as many others you will come across.
Health and physical education
Taking charge of middle school health is one of the great benefits of homeschooling! While I understand the position of the schools in our day and age, I believe far too much, is disclosed to kids at a young age. Homeschool kids are not 100% protected from being exposed to inappropriate conduct, but it’s at a far lesser extent that letting them know the fine details of the birds and the bees, which can normally wait until a later time. Health can be nutrition, understanding real food vs. processed food, information about a child’s changing body, first aid and CPR.
Physical education can be sports played through community complexes in your area, a gym membership with varied activities, or even signing up for sports teams through the public school in your area. Health and physical education weave so easily into everyday life, that all you’re required to do as the homeschool teacher, is record the lessons you talk about in everyday life, and provide some supplemental resources like documentaries, worksheets, books, and hands-on activities to make those concepts stick. Not everything written by a homeschool publisher, needs to be used in homeschool.
It’s easy to get sucked into wondering what you’re going to do for the entire time your student is in middle school, but don’t fret too much about the years ahead. Have a reasonable plan, and focus on the details of the current year. Many homeschool families take it one year at a time, and choose their resources each year. Some families may keep it the same, like their math curriculum, and some may change as time goes on. You are not committing to one publisher when you buy the first book. Keep your plan in mind and stay flexible!