24 September 2007

Back to School

After successfully completing our first week of sixth grade last week, we are now almost done with the second. I feel much more on top of things this year, this being our second year of homeschool, even though I procrastinated quite a bit on getting the syllabus ready. (I didn't finish until the middle of last week!) I think I put it off so much because I was a little worried about this year's topics. For example, how do you explain the Enlightenment to an 11-year-old in a way that is interesting to them? Or, is Dickens really appropriate for 6th grade? We're also doing a study on the origins of Judaism and Christianity, which I feel needs to be done with care in order to engender tolerance and respect for other religions. Following that is an in depth study of Greek mythology (fun!) and the Iliad and the Odyssey. Then comes Dickens with the Industrial Revolution, followed by reforms such as the women's suffrage movement.

All in all, some pretty serious subjects. It's almost like this year my son will officially become an older kid and begin to take some of the weight of the world onto his shoulders. This was worrying me. And then he and I sat down and talked about the schedule for the year. After not completely finishing everything last year until well into July, he had some definite ideas about how to avoid that this time. I did some renegotiating of my work schedule so that I'm home three days during the week rather than two. We cooperatively came up with a daily schedule that will allow us (if followed faithfully) to finish everything by May:

Monday - Math, Science, Reading (textbook)
Tuesday - Math, History, Writing, French
Wednesday - Math, Science
Thursday - Math, History, Art, Writing
Friday - Math (lesson + test), History, Poetry

Literature and history reading assignments are worked on every day, and PE and Health are incorporated into daily life. Monday and Wednesday are the days I've been working, so on those days he does the subjects he can do without me present. I was excited to find quizzes and activities online for the textbooks we're using for Reading and Science. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with having a schedule. Last year we didn't start with 'official' days for specific subjects until towards the end of the year when we realized we needed to get caught up.

Learning French was a last-minute decision. I had been wanting to teach it to him and had purchased a beginner text "on a whim," so when I casually brought it up during schedule-making, he agreed enthusiastically. (Much to my surprise!) Another pleasant surprise so far has been that my staunchly anti-Art child has now done two art projects. I guess it helps when it's on the schedule! Here's one of them:

This is called Bubble Aquarium, and it's from a textbook called With Art in Mind. Even though it is from Bob Jones University Press, there are only two references to God or the Bible in the whole book (easily skipped.) It has simple lessons that show examples and list supplies needed. Perfect for my Art-hating kid. Luckily he doesn't mind looking at art, just actually doing it.

As for Dickens, I found myself greatly relieved when I did my Lexile rating research. Turns out that Dickens is right in line with my son's current reading level and is just about on par with Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. So, we'll be reading (out loud since I've never read these two) A Tale of Two Cities and Hard Times as planned. Now, I'm still a little worried about the sections on Romanticism and the Enlightenment. We're to study the ideas of Descartes, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, and Rousseau, and how their ideas affected history. I'm open for suggestions on how to approach this in a non-yawn-inducing manner!

I mentioned I've been worried about introducing these heavy topics. After working with him these past couple of weeks on preparation, and then seeing him try things he's been resistant to in the past, I must admit that maybe he is ready for the added responsibility that this knowledge will bring.