Math, Science, & Foreign Language – Homeschool Curriculum Ideas for Grammar & Middle School

This year marks my 9th in homeschooling. I can’t believe how quickly it’s gone by. I remember this big guy on that first day of kindergarten. It seems like it was yesterday that I had a five year old, a two year old, and a 3 month old. I’m amazed that I lived to tell about it.

This year, I’m teaching 8th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, and preschool. Oh my! Needless to say, things are a little wild and crazy around here still.

There have been some bumps in the road this past month as we jump back into formal schooling. While I consider a lot of what we did over the summer “educational,” I didn’t make anyone do math.

This year as with the last few back to school seasons, I’ve used the slow immersion method to get us back into the swing of things. That means that I introduce a few subjects every week until we’re moving at full steam. It’s a nice, easy way to get everyone acclimated to a new routine.

Some of our first subjects to tackle this year were Math, Science, and Foreign Language. These are pretty straight-forward subjects with a  wealth of curriculum options to choose from.

Here’s a rundown of what’s working for us.

Math

We were a Saxon family for years and years. And I’m still doing Saxon with my grammar school kids. It’s a great program, very thorough and particularly hands-on in the younger years.

However for third grade and above, we’ve switched to Teaching Textbooks. I love this program. It takes the frustration out of the mother-student relationship because the CD-Rom teaches the lesson and offers immediate feedback.

For grades three through 7, Teaching Textbooks are self-grading. For Pre-Algebra and above, the student performs the solutions on paper, the parent corrects, and then there is a solutions CD-Rom to go over for understanding, if needed.

Science

I have really struggled to find a science program that worked over several grade levels. In the early years when all my students were third grade and under, I followed the science ideas recommended in The Well-Trained Mind and that was a fabulous learning time as we explored life and earth sciences as well as chemistry.

This year I discovered Apologia. I thought it was just for high school levels, but I have been pleasantly surprised. My 5th, 3rd, and 1st graders are going through Exploring Creation with Astronomy with the Notebooking Journal while my eighth grader is tackling Exploring Creation with Physical Science via the CD-Rom version.

So far so good. We’re all learning and we’re making science happen this year. It helps that I invested in an Astronomy Lab kit as well as a lab kit for Physical Science. How nice not to chase all over the house for supplies!

Latin

This year I’m teaching my kids very basic Latin. It was my plan to start this five years ago, but life happened. And I’m trying to be okay with the fact that not all my plans come to fruition.

Last year I received a review copy of Minimus which my younger boys love. They enjoy the cartoon format and following the story of the mouse named Minimus. So, they are following along with the book and CD in order to get some early exposure and having fun with a different language.

With my 5th and 8th graders, we’re using Prima Latina and finding it very user friendly. A couple days a week, we play the pronunciation CD and go over the lesson together.

This is a very elementary program, but I actually prefer it to the Minimus curriculum. It’s much easier to understand and seems to offer basic vocabulary is a very straightforward way.

An interesting difference is that the pronunciation rules differ between the two curricula. I found this fascinating, in a language-geek kind of way. A take-away from that is to choose one curriculum company and stick with it throughout the levels to avoid confusion.

I’m happy to let my younger boys are enjoying Minimus for early exposure, but they will probably do Prima Latina in a year or two.

Spanish

While I was a French major in college, we’ve come to the conclusion that Spanish is the more practical second language for our children to learn, especially since we live in California where Spanish is widely spoken.

We bought Rosetta Stone Level 1 in Latin American Spanish and all four boys are enjoying it. They get a little tripped up in their pronunciation, but I figure that will come in time.

Several of the boys would still like to learn French. (And yes, I should have been teaching them all along!) We’ll see how we can work in more language study over the years. It’s my hope that basic exposure to different languages will spark in them an interest in at least one and that they will have a working knowledge of at least one secondary language by the time they reach college.

But, you know about the best laid plans….

What are YOUR favorite ways to teach Math, Science, and Foreign Language?

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Comments

  1. My 4th grader did Prima Latina last year. It went well and I was impressed. I ordered the DVDs because I didn’t want to spend the extra time. She has started Latina Christiana this year. And I plan to try First Forms Latin (which is by Cheryl Lowe (I think they are a mother and daughter) next year. I hope you enjoy Latin as much as we have.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      That’s my plan, too. My research said that PL would give them enough background not to be lost in First Form.

  2. We tried Prima Latina and I liked it fine, but then we decided to switch to Greek. I took Latin, Spanish, German, French, and Hebrew at different times of my education, so obviously I have a love for language! We’re using Hey, Andrew Teach Me Some Greek. This summer we’ll start Rosetta Stone Mandarin Chinese in preparation for a trip to China that we’re planning on taking summer of 2012. I also have LOTS of language books, CDs and videos. My kids all like Muzzy. We have Muzzy German, but I think it comes in lots of languages. It’s really geared for very young children.

    As far as science, my 11 yr old son is studying Apologia’s General Science this year and loving it and my 9 yr old daughter is working through Nutrition 101: Choose Life. I am so impressed by her book- it teaches nutrition via anatomy and physiology. I previously taught a sports nutrition class in a local university and was always frustrated when I had students who had not had anatomy and physiology prior to my class. It’s really hard to separate nutrition (what our body needs) from how our body works. Each chapter has a power recipe to try and other activities.

    We also used Saxon until switching to Teaching Textbooks this year for my 4th and 6th graders. They are studying TT 5 and Algebra. Saxon served us well (they were 1 and 2 yrs ahead respectively) so I’ll stick with it for my younger kids until 5th grade or so. My younger daughter also uses Singapore workbooks, but not exclusively.

    You can tell I love talking about what we’re studying! Fun topic!

    Celee

  3. We have Apologia Exploring Astronomy and love it too!
    Laura

  4. Julie Cole-Marie says:

    Hey Jess –

    Love your blog! Just wanted to let you know that Teaching Textbooks has many holes. While the kids love it and find it accessible, test scores are rarely above Basic, and typically fall into Below Basic or Far Below Basic. I have used it from 4th grade all the way through Alg. 2 and the results have been consistently low (from a standards-based education viewpoint). If my homeschooling parents really want TT, I usually have them enrich with the online ALEKS math program.

    • Jessica Fisher says:

      Thank you for that input! (And good to see you here! I hope your dad is okay.) I had heard whispers that TT wasn’t “advanced” by a long shot. Does ALEKS cost? I’ve never heard of it.

  5. Oooh, so for language geekiness, how’s this: the difference in pronunciation is probably Germanic Latin vs. Romantic Latin. I learned that in high school choir when we sang “Regina Coeli” for contest in the Germanic Latin because another school was doing the same song in the Romantic! I then went to college with a guy from that school and we happened upon the subject at one point…man oh man was it weird to hear him singing that song differently!

    But in the end, the pronunciation differences don’t mean much with a dead language and won’t affect how your children learn it–it’s just a fun tidbit to have! :D

  6. Great recommendations! The classical school I taught in used the Prima Latina and I believe also the Apologia science textbooks. I’m a huge fan of Saxon, though, and would be hard pressed to ever use anything else:) And I did a lot of research on the best language methods a while ago, and Rosetta Stone simply can’t be beat (according to everyone else’s experience!).

  7. Lorrie B. says:

    We also began using teaching textbooks for math this year. The kids and I are not math whiz’s and DH did not really have enough time to consistently help them, though he is kind of a whiz. We tried Switched on Schoolhouse of couple of years and found it helped them, because it was more interesting for them via the computer. They were still “not getting” things though. A friend told me about TT and I checked out the website. The kids did a sample lesson and really liked it. My 7th grade daughter said it was much better than SOS. So, we are doing TT for her and my 4th grade son. I really like the thoroughness, and the lesson plan book allow me to quickly review something the kids did not quite get in the lesson. My daughter noted that there is a lot of review in the lessons too.

    We did Apologia Astronomy 2 years ago. (I guess it was 5th and 2nd grade) The kids really liked it. I liked that you could do so many hands on experiments with household objects. This year DD (7th) is doing general science. I first tried to do her and DS (4th) together, since my son loves science and is good reader. That did not work though, it seemed overwhelming to him so I have ordered the Anatomy book. I love the idea of the notebooking journal. We got one for anatomy. They did not have them when we did Astronomy.

    Oh, I researched TT and read that as far as testing goes, students may score slightly behind for a while; but if they complete all the highschool programs, they should be on target. I really like the thoroughness of the lessons and the clear way they explain everything.

    Good Luck!

  8. Right now I am HS my step-daughter, who is now a senior, and my four year old, who is now in Pre-K. The oldest was pulled from public shool when she hit high school. We started with Time4learning math. We then went to Rod & Staff Math. I tried to use “The Easy Spanish” with her, but it was a no go. She had been in public school too long to adapt to new learning style. We are using Sonlight K for my 4 year old. It has it;s own science. We chose Horions Math K. For spanish, I am Bilingual. I talk to her in spanish. She also play GoGolingo. http://www.gogolingo.com. I’m so glad to have found it. Not sure if I will use the Easy Spanish w/ her yet. I know that won’t use Rossetta Stone!!!! Most courses don’t teach students how to SPEAK the languages. So I haven’t figure the best course of action yet.

  9. Happy Housewife was the first blogger to recommend Teaching Textbooks and now I’m sold. I read all the comments and it sounds like you’re good so long as you finish the entire curriculum (in response to previous comment saying it was too basic). I mean, math is math, right? TT sounds good for my 9th grader since he is “average” at math and not a whiz, so could use the friendlier format and conversational instruction and a slower pace w/ probably benefit him. Since we are homeschooling for the first time after we move at the end of the year I am trying to make my curriculum decisions! Thank you for this post!

  10. We just discovered Apologia and are starting the Astronomy next week… looking forward to it, I’ve heard great things about it!

  11. Where might I find these home school programs for myself and my grandchildren used? thankyou

  12. I am new to homeschooling and I really did not know where to start or how to fit everything in. Recently I found some great tips on successful homeschooling that really helped me out. It was $17 to download this e-book but totally worth it! Here is the link: Frustration Free Homeschool!

  13. I actually followed the Bluedorn’s advice in “Teaching the Trivium” and waited until my daughter was 10 to begin formal math training with her. It really worked, she is in 9th grade now and doing algebra. At age 10 she caught up to grade level math probably within a year. I found the following math games and thought I’d share:
    Making Math More Fun gives you an entire package of Fun Math Games for Kids – Math Board Games, Math Card Games, Math Print and Play Games Sheets and Loads of Math Games Ideas.
    Looks good, you can check them out at http://tinyurl.com/25jqnlm
    Thanks for your helpful blog!

  14. We’ve moved to Teaching Textbooks this year too. Really liking it. I bought the next grade up today since Sprite is moving quickly through the level she’s in.

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