This year we officially start middle school with sixth grade. How is that possible? But it is! We’ve settled into our relaxed homeschooling approach as it is the best way to do homeschooling for our little family. Although I would really like to be an unschooler, I know after trial and error it won’t work with my highly creative and imaginative child and her twice-exceptional needs. So I describe our homeschooling approach as parent-influenced, interest-led, collaborative relaxed homeschooling that borders on (but isn’t quite) unschooling. With lots of art supplies.
I’m approaching this year a bit differently. I don’t have a detailed plan but rather a loose outline that is part of a bigger overall plan. I have a few big goals and if we accomplish those during the next three years, I will be satisfied. My goals for middle school goals (sixth – eighth grade) include the following:
- Be on grade level in math by the end of eighth grade
- Know how to write a short essay
- Spend two years learning how to read music and play the piano to whatever level of mastery is reasonable
- Take graded classes at co-op with increasing academic difficulty
We’ll be doing lots of things as you’ll see below, but I realized if there were only a few big goals for the next three years, those were the ones.
There are other things we’ll be doing. I haven’t included social things because we’ve finally found our groove with those. Caroline has found her little tribes and activities she enjoys so that has begun falling into place. She had a really good summer socially and activity-wise with a variety of weekly activities and volunteering. I expect those will continue as we move forward so I’m much less concerned about those things than I was in the past.
Our big goal for the next six to seven years is to prepare her for probably attending community college and then an art and design school. She spent a day at David’s alma mater last spring (an art and design school) and she LOVED it. Those were her people who spoke her language. I think for financial reasons she’ll start at community college for at least a year or two. If she does end up attending art school, she’ll live at home and commute. (David and I both lived at home and commuted.) How will it all play out? I have no idea. But I think this is probably a reasonable expectation given who she is and what she excels at. (More on this in a series I’m planning about parenting an artistic child.) Time will tell and we’ll adapt accordingly.
So here are our plans for the coming months!
Caroline was diagnosed last year with dyscalculia which I haven’t written about specifically to this point. I asked if I could share that fact on my site and she said yes. I plan on writing more about dyscalculia in the weeks ahead since there is precious little out there regarding homeschooling a child with dyscalculia.
(I know some people probably thought I was exaggerating about how difficult homeschooling has been when I’ve written about it in various posts such as When Homeschooling is Hard – The Day I Called the Public Elementary School and 11 Lists of 11 Things from 11 Years of Motherhood, but dysgraphia and visual processing issues that make reading challenging and dyscalculia? It has been hard, people, for both me and her.)
We are continuing to use Math Mammoth (which I reviewed a few months ago). Of all the different math programs we’ve tried and reviewed, this is the one that Caroline likes the best. She loves using the computer, but she does not like it for math. She finds it very frustrating that she can’t go back and change her answer if she makes a mistake and then realizes it as she keeps going. Since my goal is for her to LEARN MATH and not jump through hoops on a computer math program, I WANT her to be able to fix her mistakes if she has a sudden light bulb moment while doing math. So I completely see her point.
We’re working through the Math Mammoth end of year tests and seeing where we need to fill in the holes. I had started doing this last spring, but set it aside over the summer as I sought counsel and advice from a number of professionals who are skilled with working with kids like Caroline. There were a few math programs suggested, but they are cost prohibitive for our family. Caroline is happy with Math Mammoth and we own it so it works for me.
We were strongly advised after the testing to give Caroline the accommodation of a calculator. She will probably always need one as well as extra time and a distraction-free testing environment if she does testing in the future (standardized testing, ACT, etc.). So we focus on making sure she understands the big picture and procedures of math, but she is free to use the calculator to help her with the numbers. I’ll write more on this in a post about dyscalculia.
After seeking lots of input from others, our history studies will all be videos and read alouds. We’re going to do notebooking with it in a casual way so we have a record of what we do. After each video, I’ll have Caroline write a few sentences and do an illustration about something she learned. We may throw in some lapbooks. We’ll see.
We will keep a simple timeline of everything we read and watch so she can understand how different things fit into the flow of history.
In the case of history, I’m picking at least some of the books. There are some books I think she should hear and I don’t think she would choose them on her own. For example, I’ve never been able to interest her in the “Little House” books. I finally told her that she needs to hear them once. If she never wants to read them again, that’s her choice. But they are a non-negotiable for me in terms of what I think an American child should hear or read. There are some other ones like that.
(This is an example of why I can’t be an unschooler with my child. I really do believe that there are some thing that I want my child to learn and do. I know some of them she will never pick up on her own so I’m making the choice for her.)
I’ve done very little history with her because she’s taken a variety of world and American history classes at co-op each year. She’s apparently retained quite a bit from them because she was playing stump Daddy with some historical world landmark flashcards the other day and she kept going through them and saying, “This is too easy. This one is too easy.” She found the more challenging ones and there was a good-sized pile she rejected as being too easy.
Science is also going to be primarily videos this year. Again, this is the best way for Caroline to learn and I’m embracing that. She’s expressed an interest in doing science experiments and “blowing things up” for science activities so we’ll see what we can find. LOL!
I’ve mentioned before that we have a nice telescope now and she’s had a lot of fun with that. As long as the weather cooperates this fall, David and Caroline will continue to take it outside. She’s taught herself quite a bit about stars and planets through several books she has and uses for reference and reading.
Writing and Spelling
Caroline has an extensive vocabulary and is a very good speller. We’ve never done formal spelling with her, primarily because I realized early on when she hated phonics that it didn’t make sense to her. When she asks how to spell a word she’s writing for some reason on her own or typing in a game chat, she almost always can spell it for me or come within one letter. Even when she misspells something, the mistake usually makes sense in that she’ll substitute one spelling pattern that sounds the same as another. So as long as she continues to spell well in the way that works for her to learn, I’m good with it.
This year I’m not putting much emphasis on writing. We’ll start with doing the writing on the notebook pages and that’s it. As the year progresses, we’ll see how things go. By the end of the year, I’d like her to be able to do an academic middle school class at co-op next year that requires some writing but not a lot.
We’re also going to attempt cursive again. This is also one of those things I think she needs to know. She also now sees the value in it and I think she’s ready to tackle it and stick with it.
We’ll continue working through Beautiful Feet History of Classical Music this year. We started it for the review and then stopped over the summer.
I would also like Caroline to continue trying out the piano. Ideally, I’d like to get a teacher to come to our home, but I’m not sure if that will work yet.
Caroline will have gym at co-op once again this year. She loves this class and it’s great for her as an only child to play team games. She’ll be one of the oldest kids in the class this year so it will be a good opportunity for her to experience that role as well.
This summer she took an introductory archery class and did very well. She hasn’t decided if she wants to continue. I would like her to do so, but this is one decision I won’t push her on.
Art will also be at co-op. This year she’ll be moving from an elementary level art exploration and being graded on participation class to a middle school class with more expectations. This will be the first time she’s been “graded” in a class and I think it will be a good experience for her. She will benefit from being evaluated by others and learning to meet the expectations of other adults. (Update: She’s taking two art classes after dropping the drama class.)
Caroline is really excited to take her first drama class. After seeing the middle school productions at co-op both at Christmas and in the spring, she is excited to be a part of the class. This is a huge step for her, but given her imaginative mind I think she will enjoy it. Caroline went to the first class and decided it wasn’t for her. I’m completely fine with her opting to drop this and add a second art class.
So that’s a peek into our year!
Learn more: Relaxed Homeschooling: What It Is & How It Works
Hi Sallie. Thank you so much for outlining your plans and goals for 6th grade. I too have a 6th grader and we are also quite relaxed this year compared to other years. It’s a big paradigm shift for me. I also have 2 sophomores who started at the local high school this year. My older two were very self-motivated and high-achieving in our homeschool, which matched my personality well, but my youngest is a completely different learning style. I’m a former classroom teacher, primarily 6th grade. For many reasons, it’s been hard for my 6th grader and me to find our groove this year. I haven’t written or even thought about goals for middle school so I love seeing your outline. My son and I will have see what we come up with that satisfies both him and me. I will enjoy being on this journey with you over the next few years. Thank you for always sharing and encouraging us with your personal stories.
Thank you for your kind comment. I’m glad you found this post helpful. I’ve gotten to the point where I struggle with how much to share about what we are doing (or not doing). I feel like our family homeschools in this netherworld where we don’t really fit into any paradigm neatly. It works for us and it works for Caroline, but it makes it difficult to translate into blog posts that others will find helpful. So much of my homeschooling approach is intuitive and that flies in the face of listing curriculum and planning and so on. But it works.
Two days ago, Caroline FINALLY grasped a math concept that has eluded her for years. Even last spring she didn’t get it and it is typically an early elementary concept. She totally gets it now. I think I have been rejoicing almost hourly since then. I cannot fully express the true joy and thankfulness I feel that she gets it. Progress. It might be slow, but we’re getting there.
I’d love to hear more about your sixth grader if you are willing to share. Strengths? Interests? Weaknesses? What makes him different from your older kids?
This post is so helpful to me as a relaxed homeschooler to a fifth grader. Thank you, Sallie!
I’m so glad it was helpful! Thank you for letting me know!
This is SO encouraging. My 11 year old is anti-workbook/textbook/course… So, he learns from documentaries and apps. He learns very fast, with little effort. I just need to accept that he doesn’t need to be “traditional” to learn. I love hearing about other people are doing it that way, too.
I’m glad you found this encouraging. I think there are quite a few homeschoolers who homeschool successfully this way. We don’t hear about them as much because it doesn’t make for great blogging. LOL! Seriously. It’s a lot easier to blog about homeschooling when you have detailed plans, specific curriculum, and/or a very specific homeschool approach to share. When your learning is really organic, it’s much more difficult to blog about it.
It sounds like you have learned what your son needs so far. Just keep studying him and you’ll get there each year!