Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Curriculum Review: 7th Grade

As I plan the coming academic year, I'm encouraged to see that it looks like coasting after this year. I think we made it intact, but we did end a course early. Even though I write these up, I work closely with Ben. If the student is not engaged, they won't retain as much, and so we have already talked about what worked and what didn't and planned next year.

Bible-- God's Great Covenant New Testament 2 by Classical Academic Press. This is the final offering in this series and we have enjoyed all of them. This year I skipped the teacher's guide which I found overkill. It made me work harder because I had to find the answers to worksheet questions; however, the quizzes and answers came in a download. As in the previous books, this focuses on what is in Scripture and avoids a lot of controversy. The focus in New Testament 2 is on the book of Acts and the Missionary Journeys of Paul. We spent several days a week on this together (1st, 4th, and 7th grade) reading Scripture and the chapter, and learning memory verses. Each lesson has a worksheet, and then a quiz. (5 days/wk)

History/Humanities/Literature-- Story of the World Vol. 3 by Well Trained Mind Press. This is so much more than history and we use it to guide our reading, literature, and do some art and cooking projects from the activity book. I have no idea why anyone would use this as a stand-alone without the activity book which is what makes the series what it is. The reading lists alone make it worthwhile. It is so adaptable for multi-level use. In 7th grade, Ben is doing more independent writing so he summarizes each section in written form. He did more independent reading this year and will do even more next year. Again, the resources of a blogger including these notebooking pages and timeline cards were very useful. This year, the timeline cards went on our world map instead of in a line and we identified them with a place. (4-5 days/wk)

Math-- We went with Horizons Pre-Algebra and it was a good choice. Perhaps my favorite aspect of this text is that each chapter (not lesson) introduces a new person who uses math in their line of work, from a HVAC tech to a youth pastor. Each of the story problems for that chapter will solve problems they would encounter in their job. The Teacher's Guide provided helpful instructions as to what should happen in a teaching day and instructions for the student. It does assume that a knowledgeable instructor is doing the teaching. This is a rigorous text; math-challenged students would probably be lost or have to spend a lot of time on the subject. It involves Algebra and Geometry; we are well into graphing flips and transformations. For the first time, I had Ben use the optional worksheets and introduced him to the concept of "homework." I am officially in over my head. I did more prep this year to assure I knew how to solve these problems myself. (5 days/wk)

Grammar--We used Rod & Staff again. This is a challenging, rigid, grammar program. It works well for someone like Ben who likes structure, understands difficult concepts quickly, and is happy to work with me. I couldn't recommend it for a student who wants to work through grammar independently. I assess his understanding as we read through the lesson and then we do the class exercises orally. If he understands the concept, we skip the written exercises. There are worksheets for select lessons and he does those. The world view is a bit legalistic at times and there is an emphasis on archaic language, that we often discuss. This is a busy program; so if you have trouble skipping some material and exercises, it might drive you over the edge. (4 days/wk)

Writing & Rhetoric--I continue to love Classical Academic Press's Writing & Rhetoric series. Creative and rigorous, Ben has thrived in this series. He finished up the Commonplace book that he started last year and started working on the Encomium & Vituperation course. This taught him to write an essay of praise or disapproval. The final capstone on the year is the careful process of writing his first research paper. (3 days/wk)

Spelling & Handwriting--Ben worked through Spelling Workout G. I have given up on a formal handwriting program with him and this program allowed me to require that he write his spelling words in cursive. It was something. I loved the way this built on where certain words come from and focused on categories. (E.g. words that are Latin derivatives, words from Music, etc....). This was a challenge for Ben this year and I watched him looking up words whose meanings he wasn't sure of. While you could stretch each of the 36 lessons over a week, we found he could do a lesson in one day a week. It was a challenging and he learned a lot. (1 day/wk)

Science--Real Science 4 Kids has made me enjoy teaching science.
We used the Focus on Study Bundle and finished Astronomy from last year and completed Chemistry. I appreciate the interesting, colorful text, and the lab book that has manageable experiments while clearly teaching the scientific process. All grades were involved in star-gazing and chemistry labs. Ben made a folder in which he found and compiled information on each lesson that he could study from for quizzes and tests and there is an assortment of interdisciplinary suggestions for additional research. (2 days/wk)

Spanish--We started the year with great intentions. We used Classical Academic Press's Spanish for Children Primer B and mid-year had to make a change. I don't abandon a program easily. When we started, Kyrie was excited to learn Spanish. And she worked hard last year and did well with Primer A. Ben was never as enthusiastic, but he was learning. We were not very far in to this book, when the grammar was well beyond what I had in two years of college Spanish. The teacher was engaging and humorous, but we were all a little lost and exhausted. (I actually would love to do this program again personally; it picked up where I left off and I was ready.) I switched mid-year to my old Conversational Spanish text that I used in high school. We had a lot more fun with that. I opted to end Spanish in March so we could finish strong in other subjects. (4 days/wk)

Logic--Once again, this topic is so fascinating to us as parents that we made it a night course so we could be involved. Our text was the Argument Builder which is the follow-up text to the Art of Argument. These could easily be taught as a semester course and done the same year, but worked well for us to do as a group one day a week with Ben doing writing and responses another day. I thought it was some tough stuff for a 7th grader; Ben ate it up and did well. For most, it would be better in 8th grade, or even early 9th. This is just a text and teacher's guide without the DVD option. It can be taken online which Ben would have enjoyed. We are glad he did it with us. (2 days/week)

Art/Music--Our music education was minimal this year and next year I am determined to have Ben take piano again. We did make it the Detroit Youth Symphony. Ben continued with the Feed My Sheep, which is a 4-year curriculum. Even though the fonts are a little outdated, this is good instruction that teaches various principles of drawing, but encourages creativity. I was impressed with what he learned this year. (1 day/wk)

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