Emma has completed the first nine weeks term of her ninth grade year, and this is a report on our curriculum choices thus far. We have made a huge leap from a living books, Charlotte Mason styled homeschool to a more traditional textbook and tests approach. Another change is my involvement in Emma’s studies. In the past, I did a lot of reading aloud to Emma and a fair amount of planning and supervising. Thus far in high school, Emma has been doing all of her reading on her own, writing her own weekly schedules, and managing her time. In these 10 weeks, I’ve seen Emma develop a mature attitude towards her studies that is highly gratifying for me as her mom and teacher. I’ll share about that in another post. This post centers on the curriculum.
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First of all, we are sticking with our original choices, even the ones we were unsure about and are still not totally in love with.
I was intimidated by of the rigor of this program, and it has proven to be just as challenging as I expected. In fact, Emma has spent more time on science than any other subject. Apologia Biology is her first textbook ever, and it took her many weeks to learn how to use it.
She didn’t want my help with reading, and she used the audio version only once. She said the MP3 reads the book too slowly and caused her attention to wander. So she toughed it out and did the reading.(Yay!)
We are following the schedules at Donna Young. We also found a microscope at a yard sale for just $10, so I bought the slide set that goes with the curriculum after all.
Emma says that the book is very detailed and has lots of tough vocabulary. We have not used tests until this grade, and studying for them has been another huge adjustment for Emma. Her first scores were not fantastic, and I allowed her to review and retake the questions she missed. Each test has been a bit easier as she experimented with ways to read, study, and take the tests. In all, her first nine weeks grade was a B.
I’ve seen her struggle a bit with the information, but I also perceive a sense of satisfaction that she has figured out how textbooks work and how to learn with them. It’s a bigger victory because she did it on her own without my help. Plus I’ve heard her use some of the information she has learned in day to day life, so I know it’s sticking.
Emma says that the Christian material in the book is normally at the end of a section of content. It feels natural and is interesting. (I add this bit because she does not feel the same about her history books.)
Notgrass World History
This was the material I was least sure of. And it has not been a huge hit. Emma says Notgrass history is dull, condescending, and preachy. Plus she says the book is trying too hard to be Christian. It feels forced.
I guess an appetite for living books makes it really hard to digest Christian textbooks.
Maybe it sounds like we aren’t Christians. We are. But most of the books we have used in our lessons to this point have not been explicitly created with that label or for a Christian homeschool market. They are just good books. I guess that those bits of morals and Bible truth were things that we discussed on our own initiative instead of expecting our books to lead us.
On my part, I have been very disappointed in the literature schedule. In fact, when I opened the books, I had to call the company to ask what I was missing because I couldn’t find a literature outline. And that’s because there is not a single document, page, or appendix with a clear plan. Instead, the reading assignments are integrated into the student book with general directions at the end of the chapters. It will say, “Begin reading Julius Caesar and plan to be finished by such and such lesson.” In the next lessons, it will remind the student to continue reading, but there is no schedule. This means that we have to sit down with all the books and create our own outline, writing down approximately how many chapters she needs to read each day to stay on track with the plan. I expected to have a clearer plan laid out for me, so this was disappointing. We spent some time at the beginning of the year, hunting through the book to find the assignments at the end of the chapters so we could make our own schedule.
Worse, the reading is not balanced across the weeks. Some weeks have no reading scheduled whatsoever. That boggles my mind. Emma says that some weeks are intense with lots of reading, and other weeks have nothing. I don’t understand a schedule like that. So it’s a definite con for us. I really don’t understand why Notgrass wouldn’t create at a minimum a PDF file you can download from the site with the entire year’s literature outline.
With all that said, you may be wondering why we are sticking with it. I told Emma we could change, but she wants to keep going. She says it’s easy. So there’s honesty. And that’s okay. We are taking a get it done approach for history.
This CurrClick Psychology class has been not as in-depth as Emma wanted. It is a one semester, introductory class, so it is what I expected. But I am glad that I let her take this class first thing in ninth grade so we know how much she is interested in the topic. I will definitely be pursuing a more challenging, full credit psychology class for her, probably this one that has a live online option. I like the accountability of a live class, and I want to keep using online classes for high school.
Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1
Math is another subject that takes Emma a lot of time, but Teaching Textbooks remains a good fit for her. She has learned some needed study skills through trial and error with algebra, and I’ll mention those in another post.
Art & Arabic
Emma takes art at a local homeschool tutorial. It has been good, but I can see that Emma is exceedingly beyond the other students her age in both drawing and a knowledge of art history. But the class is great for keeping her accountable to practice with regular projects.
I guess we studied too much fine art and did too much drawing over the years. (wink)
Arabic is going well, too. Because of scheduling problems with her teacher, she doesn’t have a lesson every week, but she studies on her own when she can’t. She has a real knack for language, and I constantly embarrass her in public by pushing her to practice her Arabic whenever I see people who look like they might be from the Middle East. Yes, I’m just like those Chinese people that always pushed their children on us to practice English. Of course, I’m more subtle about it, and I never force her to do it. It’s just a joke with us.
Areas We Will be Shoring Up
We did not do as much writing as we should have, and that needs to be a larger priority for our remaining three terms. Fortunately, Emma is already a strong writer, so it will be easy to accelerate in that area.
In truth, we have spent this first nine weeks adjusting to a totally new approach to homeschool. And just like public school kids need time to adapt, Emma did too.
Our choices have worked out well so far, and despite a few negatives and challenges, we are content with what we are using. There is no perfect curriculum.
This post is pinned along with others like it on my High School Curriculum Pinterest board.