A Curriculum Plan for Middle School
This year we are approaching homeschooling a little differently. This is our fourth year (gasp!) and I am just starting to feel like I've found my feet and we know what we are doing. I've recovered from the initial shock of having to homeschool out of crisis, and have let go of my need to keep up with everyone around me. This year my kids are technically in 6th and 7th grades, and are 11 and 13 years old. We are having the most fun and genuinely enjoy being together and learning together.
My planning process this year started with exercises that helped me to see each of my kids where they are right now and what lights them up. I also got super intentional about what I want for them from a big picture perspective and decided to create learning goals and themes around the hopes and dreams I have for my kids, recognizing that they are individuals that are figuring out their own way too. That polarity is not easy to manage, but it isn't hard either once I let go of my ego fears of messing them up completely.
Instead of organizing our year by traditional class subjects, I set intentions for areas to focus on. This idea sparked after listening to a homeschooling podcast with Melissa Wiley. The themes we are going to explore this year are:
- Building Leaders of the Future: How can we be good citizens of the world prepared to engage meaningfully in change? Scientific thought, systems thinking, interconnectedness.
- Mindful Living and Wellness: What skills do we need to live a happy life? Mindful living and wellness, health, self-awareness, life skills, the science of the brain, etc.
- Love of Learning (and Good Books). Creating a language rich environment. Immersion in great literature. Developing effective communication. Building mathematical fluency and confidence.
- Imaginative Play and Creativity. Developing creative and divergent thinking skills, playing with storytelling, exploring passions, and spending time outside being bored.
- Encounters with Beauty. Music and art appreciation - including plays, art lessons, piano, museums, etc. Nature study and outdoor recreation.
This helped me to prioritize what is most important for us to learn right now. While it felt good to setup these intentions, I wasn't sure how that would translate to monthly or weekly lessons. So the next thing I did was set monthly intentions across subjects that fit more neatly into curriculum categories and conform to the requirements of the homeschool support program we participate in.
This might feel a little circular, but the planning ended up being very different than the past. For example, for Science this year I was planning to do of one quarter of Biology, one quarter of Chemistry, and one quarter of Physics (because I had age-appropriate curriculum and it is what you typically study). Instead, I decided to merge Social Studies and Science and create a course I would love to take and I think the kids will be excited about. I'm calling it Becoming a World Citizen for now - it pulls on biology, ecology, evolution, agriculture, civilization, systems thinking, interconnectedness, climate activism, and designing cities of the future. This feels different than picking a workbook or curriculum for the year and seeing how far I can make it through. I always end the year feeling disappointed that we didn't finish everything and my focus each week is on how much we can cram in.
Once I did this, I moved to a trello project board to break it down into specific lessons. This allows the year to flow and gives me the flexibility to change my mind as we go along, keep track of links and resources I wanted to use, and access our plan from any of my devices at any time (including the library when I'm trying to remember what we were going to do next). I like that it gives me checkboxes to work through too. I think that sense of progress is important for moms who aren't getting outside validation.
So far this is working well. Each month I revisit our intentions and adjust. I'm technically doing fewer lessons than before, but they feel more impactful and we need the extra time in our day to relax and reset. I made our trello calendar public so you can see how I use it.
Here's how this plan translates to resources and subjects:
- Math: Life of Fred, Pre-Algebra series and Beginning Algebra. AOPS Prealgebra for support when we don't understand a concept the first time. Algebra Lab Gear to make concepts more tactile for my kinesthetic learner. xtramath.org to drill math facts daily. And Beast Academy for fun days and review of other concepts in preparation for standardized testing.
- Language Arts: Bravewriter Lifestyle. Boomerang monthly book picks for reading aloud. Finish Faltering Ownership writing projects we didn't cover last year. Supplementing with Annotating Literary Elements and Trees in the Forest from Rooted in Learning and exercises from Making Thinking Visible. Academic writing practice from Big History units (below).
- Becoming a World Citizen (Social Studies & Science combined): Big History Project Units 5-10 are the spine of this course and I am supplementing with RSO Biology 2, some lessons from BFSU vol 1-3, and A People's Curriculum for the Earth.
- Health: Adapting lessons from MindUP Curriculum for 6-8, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook, Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook, and Growth Mindset Coach and Playbook books. Hardwiring Happiness, The Whole-Brain Child inform many of the lessons.
- Creativity: We are going to work our way through Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain and plan to spend lots of time outside playing in nature. I'm coordinating many of the lessons in health each month to match up with the chapters in this book (see post it notes above). The kids are taking art and piano lessons each week. We listen to classical music sometimes and visit our art museum as frequently as we can. I'm also planning to read Creative Schools to help with ideas. We quit testing and quizzing last year and that is helping us move from measurement to creativity. I'll also draw on The Art of Possibility and Creative You for these lessons too.
The nice thing about breaking the intentions down into themes each month is that it isn't about individual lessons as much as a concept. If we've touched on it at all, I can feel good about working my way toward my intentions and trust that we will come back to this in the future at some point and that it is enough for right now. While I haven't read all of these books in advance, I plan to read some each month to keep things fresh and help me have content to draw from for our juicy conversations. I'm trying to use my intuition to guide us on what is enough each day and when I should push. This is big work for this recovering perfectionist!
We are more excited than ever for our school year. Hope yours is off to a good start.