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If you are a homeschooling parent of a first time middle schooler, it can feel pretty big.
Those early days of building basic skills are gone.
It’s time to hone a different set of skills.
The resources you choose can help you and your middle schooler to reach new milestones.
Are you ready?
Choosing Curriculum that Builds Necessary Skills
Curriculum is defined as the courses that are taught by an institution or a set of courses which make up an area of specialization.
I have a masters of science in curriculum and instruction for secondary education. Which means I learned how to write courses for middle and high schoolers. I have a specialty in doing just that.
As homeschoolers, we tend to define curriculum as the items we use for teaching our courses. But really, the curriculum is the entire course or the whole path before us.
As Sarah MacKenzie, in Teaching from a State of Rest reminds us,
Curriculum isn’t something we buy. It’s something we teach. Something we embody. Something we love. It is the form and content of our children’s learning experiences.
Ultimately, we want the resources we choose to be those which will help build into our young adolescents.
This post is all about “curriculum” choices which have been successful for our middle schoolers.
Criteria for Middle School Curriculum
The first thing to consider is what subjects you plan to cover in any given grade of middle school. Then you’ll need some criteria for what’s appropriate for your student.
You can begin to involve your student in the curriculum decision process. Some students in middle school will have big opinions and others may still be agreeable to what a parent chooses on her own. Know your student!
- Skill Goals– What does your student need to work on refining before high school? This could be individual skills or over all responsibility.
- Style of Instruction– This goes along with how your student wants to learn. They may not want the same style for each course, but they will want what matches them best.
- Content– Does it meet your requirements for what the student is to learn? That’s an obvious one! This can also mean is there objectionable content. However, I would avoid dismissing curriculum at this point based purely on small objections or sections of content. The older your student gets, the more they need to be given the tools to discern material and separate content from their values- in the sense that they need to practice upholding their values in the face of content they might not totally agree with. Keep this in mind when choosing 8th grade curriculum in particular.
At the end of the day, your consistency in teaching and mentoring your student will outweigh what you use for your teaching.
Middle School Math Curriculum
- Math on the Level– We started using Math on the Level when our second child (now approaching her senior year) was not a good candidate for traditional math approaches. MOTL allows you to go at the pace of your student introducing concepts as they are ready and practicing on what they need most. Combine this with a regular dose of math adventures and other games and resources, and math has become one of her strong points.
I highly recommend this program if you want an alternative approach to math with all the resources you need to get the job done. The bonus is having at your fingertips several ways to teach the concept. I use this material regularly even though it is no longer our primary math program. A fabulous reference for your homeschool shelf!
- Life of Fred– This is the mainstay of our homeschool math. You can read more about how we use Life of Fred in this post.
- Horizons– for practice problems through 6th grade. Early on we used Horizons with our oldest, but I’ve held on to the materials because they are a great resource for extra problems when I need them- particularly as we prepare for standardized tests.
- Family Math– this book covers math concepts in a creative and interactive way. You can easily see the level of each activity and even pick and choose activities to meet your student’s needs.
- Family Math the Middle School Years– same hands on, interactive activities as Family Math but with an eye for algebraic skills. This is especially useful for illustrating concept that use Algebra.
Middle School Science Curriculum
- Ck-12 Science Texts– Ck-12 is an open source textbook website out of California which offers texts for middle and high school sciences as well as many other subjects at this point. In the early days, you could download a mobi (Kindle) file of a text book and use that in conjunction with the online material. It is a free and easy choice for college prep science texts.
However, with in the last year they’ve made some changes which make it less easy to use. The mobi files are no longer available (though I’m glad we still have them!) and the entire website is much easier to access and work with using the app (I’ve only used the Android version). That means handing over my phone to my middle schooler. Additionally, it now filters content using your state standards. Which is a shame. I can’t just see a text book and its resources. I have to give them my state in order to see content.
- The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way– Volume 1 in the Story of Science which is a story timeline of the discoveries in science.
- The Story of Science: Newton at the Center– the second volume in this series
- The Story of Science: Einstein Adds a New Dimension– Volume III in the Story of Science
- The Way Things Work Now– a fantastically illustrated book which offers explanations of machine and working items in many different categories. It’s a foundational text for middle learners who want to explore.
- The Way We Work Now– David Macauley illustrates human systems and tells how they work. We used this as part of our middle school life science and some for high school as well using illustrations to learn the human body.
- Science Activity Books– these are organized by topic or by scientist. You can find activities and labs for Einstein, Edison, the Wright Brothers, Galileo or just about anyone else who made significant contributions to science. Not only will you learn the science, but you’ll learn about the life and times of the scientist.
History Curriculum for Middle School
- Adventures in the Sea & Sky– We are big fans of the literature and non fiction book packs and plans from Winter Promise. We have used many of their programs in both middle and high school. They are a great transition from unit studies to more traditional paths of learning. Adventures in the Sea & Sky focuses first on exploration and navigation in the sea and progresses through flight and into space travel. So much history and science in one big adventure!
- Quest for the Middle Ages– Each Winter Promise theme has a module for both middle and high school if you choose to purchase it that way. Having both makes it nice for older and younger kids to work together through a particular theme. We typically do Quest for the Middle Ages in 8th grade.
- Mystery of History– Probably what I love best about Mystery of History is the connection between Biblical and secular history. It puts all the pieces together for you. We use MOH as one of many perspectives in both middle and high school.
- Story of the World– Not only do you get a simple narrative on history, but the activity book that goes along with each of these volumes has enough in it to keep any middle schooler busy.
English Curriculum for Middle School
- WriteShop I– for 6th to 10th grades, WriteShop is focused on breaking down the writing process for the learner. It’s heavy on the preparing to write side of things. We’ve used it in early middle school.
- Brave Writer– The Writer’s Jungle was an informative addition to my writing teacher toolbox. It’s a wonderful resource on the ages and stages of writing to help you coach your writers. There are also other specific curriculum resources for you that will make your job easier.
- Cover Story– a middle school writing curriculum devoted to creating a magazine based on a topic your middle schooler enjoys. The DVD lessons are extraordinary.
- Literary Lessons from the Lord of the Rings– for grades 8-12, a good overall literature program based on the book by Tolkien. There are unit studies on many topics in addition to enjoying the book and writing about it. It includes vocabulary quizzes and tests as well.
- Byline– this one is new from the authors of One Year Adventure Novel. It’s designed for grades 8-12 and covers a historical approach to essay writing.
- Excellence in Literature 1– for 8th grade introduction to literature, reading and writing with the classics. I purchased all five volumes and have my kids skip around. This volume is meant for grade 8.
Art Curriculum for Middle School
- Mapping the World with Art– this is for ages 10 and up and we enjoy using it for high school art as well. It’s geography and art all wrapped into one and a lovely part of our day!
- Mixed Media Art Courses– we adore these self paced courses from Alisha Gratehouse and each course has about 20 projects inside. New this year are the art appreciation courses.
- Chalk Pastel Tutorials– these lessons are simple and require few resources. They have been a favorite, especially for my kids who don’t love art.
Unit Studies for Middle School
We still use a unit study approach in middle school, splashing into the topics we want to hit on our way to high school. It is possible to learn purposefully in this manner during the middle years. We’ve also found some resources that are a good bridge to more traditional high school courses.
- Beyond Five in a Row– a unit study program built on chapter books. This is really our mainstay middle school curriculum.
- Above & Beyond Five in a Row–
- Lion Preparatory Academy– This one is out of print, but I can’t resist mentioning it in case you get your hands on a copy. I look for copies twice a year at library sales as the author is local to me. When I see them, I snag them and use them in giveaways!
- Prairie Primer– a comprehensive study of the Little House series and still wonderful for the middle school years
- Amanda Bennett Unit Studies– her original four week studies are perfect for middle school students. We have one child who did many of them during his middle school years.
Other Middle School Posts at Blog, She Wrote
Managing the Internet in Your Home– are you ready for what comes your way with technology? This posts shares how to filter content and control access on the internet.
The Myth of Independence– a post and podcast all about what it means for kids to be independent.
Love It or Hate It! It’s Actually Time for Middle School– Everything you wanted to know about your middle schooler and how to approach the middle school years. A great companion to this post on curriculum.
The middle school years are perfect for adding layers and watching them grow.
So, what resources will you put together that will make up your middle schooler’s curriculum or the path that you want to illuminate for them?