Saturday, June 5, 2010

Planning Ahead

This fall, Julia will be in 6th grade – beginning what they now call Middle School. In my mind, she’s still elementary, and she’s certainly NOT Junior High (as we called it back in the day) yet. I digress….

I’m teaching Julia school based on the Classical model. This is an integrated study of content classes like literature, history, science and Latin, studied chronologically. In addition, we do Bible, and skill classes like spelling, grammar, dictation, and math. Last year she was in the Ancient period, working through the ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece and Rome.

If you want to look at the books she studied this past year, here’s a post about that. Her books are at the end, but I’ll note that I bought & checked out MANY more, mostly historical fiction recommended by Susan Bauer.

I want to show you what she’ll be studying in the fall, as we move into the Medieval period. Here are the books I had here at the house already, that I want her to read this year. Some of them she will read carefully and write reports on; some she’ll read through with no written assignments; some she’ll look at briefly but, if they’re beyond her level right now, not struggle over. We’ll do Medieval again in 10th grade, and the more difficult works we’ll address then.

Grendel by John Gardner -- only if she enjoys it
Beowulf (I have several translations of this, and I’ll have her look at a few short passages.)
Medieval English Verse (We’ll probably just glance at a few examples, unless she loves it.)
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (I have the Raffel translation, but Tolkein’s is great too.)
Stories of King Arthur by Winder
The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White
King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by S. Lanier, one of our great Southern poets
Idylls of the King by Tennyson (Again, just a brief exposure.)
William the Conqueror by Costain
The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Pyle – a MUST
The Door in the Wall by De Angeli – another MUST
The Divine Comedy by Dante – a very brief contact with the Inferno, unless she wants more of the original
The Fall of Constantinople by Keilty
Tales from Shakespeare by Lamb – This one we will spend some time in, mostly with Henry V, Midsummer Night's Dream, or Macbeth.
Story of the Middle Ages – an old Christian Liberty textbook that may be a decent reference book for her at times.
Young People’s Story of the Medieval World – a junk store find. We’ll see.

Then I went shopping, as if that isn’t enough reading. (It’s not.)
Under Drake’s Flag by Henty
In Freedom’s Cause (Wallace & Bruce) by Henty
Jacques Cartier and the Exploration of Canada (a slim reading book)
2 Dover coloring books on Medieval Times and Life in a Medieval castle

Now, this is all rather hodge-podge, slap together stuff. My guide in her reading is Susan Bauer’s fabulous book The Well-Trained Mind. She has a suggested reading list, and I am supplementing the above reading with many items from her list. I found these books on, almost all for $1 each. You see a photo of these new arrivals above. Here they are:

Beowulf, a New Telling by Nye – This is a simpler text, age appropriate.
Otto of the Silver Hand by Pyle again
Joan of Arc (a picture book, but I felt Joan needed to be addressed)
Nordic Gods and Heroes by Colum (She LOVED his book last year.)
Saint George and the Dragon by Hodges
The Sword and the Circle (Now, this is the 4th text about Arthur, and I won’t make her wade through it all 4x. She’ll attach herself to one of these and prefer it, which is fine.)
The Canterbury Tales by McCaughrean – Oxford Illus. Classic

I also use lots of National Geographic articles. I want to be sure to cover the Bayeux Tapestry very well – love that thing!

I also want to get The Lantern Bearers at the library. She loves Sutcliff’s books. And she’s already finished Cushman’s 3 books set in Medieval times. (The Midwife’s Apprentice, Catherine, Called Birdy, and Matilda Bone)

Julia is a reader, so this is not too much for her. And she knows there’s no pressure – I don’t give her huge assessment tests on this material, so she can enjoy it without stress, and I find she retains the information better that way, which is the whole point, right? Also, remember that this reading takes the place of a standard literature/reading textbook and a history textbook, for 6th grade. It gives a good balance of fiction and non-fiction. I may supplement with Kingfisher’s book, The Medieval World, but I don’t think it will be necessary.

What else? Last year I used the Abeka 5th grade grammar book, which is thorough and good, but I found that the writing exercises were redundant; the classical model uses writing in so many of the subjects that doing all those papers in the Abeka was a bit laborious. This year, to focus only on grammar, we’ll be using Easy Grammar for 8th grade. I’m not wild about Easy Grammar. I hate the way it gives you just a smattering each day, as if it’s appealing to the fact that our kids ALREADY have attention spans of about 5 seconds. Sigh. But Julia’s grammar understanding is fine, so it will matter little. A bit of review each morning will be enough.

The only subject I was really dissatisfied with last year was science; Bauer’s recommendations of the How the Earth Works and How the Universe Works texts just didn’t work for us. Perhaps a more science-oriented mom would do a better job with them. She did a slew of fun experiments and memorized lots of info. But next year I’m using an Abeka text I already have for 7th grade. It has the standard reading/questions/tests.

She’ll use the Bob Jones 6th grade math book next year. We used the 5th grade one this past year, but had to spend SO much time catching her back up in areas she was clearly behind in, we’re still doing math. Sigh. If I’d known my 4th grader could barely add and had not retained ANY of her multiplication tables, I would have intervened sooner.

She’ll do Latin with her daddy again. They had a fabulous time – her favorite subject. She’s already using high school texts.

In Bible, I have her using Adam's curriculum for his middle schoolers. Each week she memorizes a passage of Scripture and a Q/A from the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Why? Because I’m alarmed that no one is memorizing these things anymore. If a child doesn’t memorize those key, wonderful Scriptures in elementary school, they will not stick in the head like glue when she’s 35. And Christian schools and Sunday schools are not stressing Scripture memorization and Bible knowledge as they used to.

We also do Dictation. I use stories from the McGuffy Reader. This improves her retention and note-taking skills. We use Writing Strands occasionally, but she does so many writing assignments from her reading/history it is hardly necessary. Julia also writes her own short stories, and I use those for assignments. This year I’ll use an old 7th grade Christian Liberty Spelling Book, just to check her competency there.

It’s going to be another fun year! Because of this Classical model, she loves homeschooling and enjoys the material we study. She understands and enjoys the fact that the subjects often reinforce each other, and she feels confidence that she’s well-versed in the areas she’s studying.


  1. How do you choose your scripture memory passages? Do you fit them with the Catechism question, choose what's appealing at the moment or have a systematic plan?

    Amen to the catechism memory. Our kids do it at church, at school, and at home. I'm almost obsessive about it b/c I have experienced its value in my life.

  2. Just catching up on your blog (love it!). Great book choices! Can I add 2 historical fiction suggestions for the Middle Ages? Adam of the Road and The King's Shadow (up to and including the Battle of Hastings).


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