Category: middle school

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Getting Started Homeschooling Part 7- Middle School

I LOVE… I mean seriously LOVE middle school. These years are quirky and hard and fun. Your child is growing up and middle school are those in between years where one day your child is so very grown up and the next you find them on the floor surrounded by Legos or Barbies or Playmobil. It is an amazing and extraordinary time. These are not years to be feared, but to be embraced. Teaching middle school is an adventure.

I work with middle schoolers and have learned a lot about how they tick over the last few years. Sixth graders think they know everything. They are loud and overly confident (at times). They are socially awkward as they try to fit into the adult world. They linger around adult conversations and often burst in with comments that are seemingly out of place. They wiggle and have the attention span of a goldfish. Seventh graders have started to have some control over their bodies…. some control… not full. These poor seventh grade boys have bodies that are growing faster than they can keep up with. They trip over their own feet! They have realized that this thing called puberty is happening. Their bodies are changing and they are very aware of that. They can sit a little longer and hang with a deep conversation. They are forming their own opinions about the world around them. Eighth graders are moving from concrete thought to abstract thought. They are beginning to understand the world from a whole new perspective… understanding imagery, grasping abstract concepts. They are well on their way to becoming young adults… but definitely still need time and space to play.

Middle school is a really special time when they are still little, but definitely stepping out of childhood. The difference with my son from the beginning of eighth grade to the end was like night and day. The things he found funny, the energy he had, the things he occupied his time with all changed that year. He really began to come into his own and his personality started to come through in a way I had never seen.

So… how do you homeschool a middle schooler???

These are great years to challenge your child, to train your child, and to have fun with your child. In North Carolina, there are no requirements that you must teach per grade. You are the chief administrator of your school and therefore decide what your learning goals and curriculum should be. If you are not homeschooling in North Carolina, please take time to familiarize yourself with your state’s homeschool laws.

Train for Independence

For our family, I have used the middle school years to begin training my children to take responsibility for their own learning and maintaining their schedules. I begin to grade certain assignments. The first test my son took for a grade was in seventh grade. We were using Master Books, General Science. He did not do stellar on his test. I made him study and take it again. He told his dad that I gave him a D on his test. His dad replied, “Mom didn’t give you a D. You earned it. That’s on you.” He learned how to study. He learned how to take a test.

Use a Planner

I begin to teach more independence. By middle school, most students are fluent readers. They can be given an assignment and tools to complete it on their own. It takes training… just like when they were young and you were teaching them to read or to clean their room or to wash the dishes…. it all takes training. Once the training is complete, you should be able to confidently give them an assignment to complete. In seventh grade, I create an Evernotes account for my children as well as a Google account. With a Google account, they have email and access to Google tools such as Slide, Docs, Sheets, etc. Evernotes is simply a program for creating checklists, schedules, etc. Trello and Google Keep are other good options. You could also go with a good old fashion paper planner. My children learn to follow a checklist and not come to me for every little thing. I give them their entire week of assignments at the beginning of the week. The assignments are due by Friday. They learn to order their day. I have one child that budgets his time and does a little each day to make sure he completes the entire list by Friday. I have another child who tends to wait and does it all towards the end of the week. I do ask that they do math every day and not try to do that all at once. There are still times when they require instruction and involvement from me, but more often than not, they can complete an assignment without my help.

Different Learning Styles

Different children have different learning styles and ways in which they attack the world. You have some who like to follow a schedule, check boxes… those who are self motivated and those who need a little push. You have procrastinators and those who are up and at em early and done by ten! Help your child learn who they are and how they learn during these middle school years. But also remember that puberty is a beast and your middle schooler may have lost their brain temporarily and need a little extra love and attention.

Interest Led Learning

Most middle schoolers are screaming for independence. They are desperately trying to figure out how they fit into this world. Middle School is a fantastic time for interest led learning. Sit down with your middle schooler and ask them what they want to learn, do, explore, invest in… and help make that happen. Middle School years are transitional years. Do not rush to get them into high school. Use this time to teach independence, teach them how to identify what they want to learn and give them the tools to go after it! Allow space for them to grow and space for them to fail. Your homeschool should be a safe space for your middle schooler to grow.

You can still have the foundational subjects in place…. your reading, writing, and math. When you include your child in the curriculum planning, it gives them a sense of ownership. Be willing to listen to them and invite them in to the process. Help them develop or continue to develop a love of learning by showing them that school is so much more than sitting at the desk and doing math problems. Do you have a child interested in coding, check out Scratch from MIT. Do you have a Minecraft loving kid, check out Homeschool with Minecraft. Budding film maker, check out FilmSchool for Teens. Does your child want to start a business, check out Starting a MicroBusiness for Teens. Want to learn another language, learn to sew, garden, blog, build something??? The options are endless!

Not sure where to start as far as curriculum???

First, I would encourage you to figure out what homeschool philosophy appeals to you? Check out THIS POST.

Second, get your basics in place. What are your plans for math, literature/ language arts?

Third, ask your child what they want to learn and seek out materials to help you.

Here are a few of my favorite resources:

SchoolhouseTeachers.Com– This is an online program. You sign up for a membership and gain access to over 400 courses from preschool-high school. You can click on middle school and on the subject you are looking for and see all the courses they have to offer. It is self paced and from a Christian worldview. They have a new feautre called “School Boxes.” These are currated courses by grade that puts together your curriculum for you and takes out the guess work… all included in your membership.

Easy Peasy– This is an online curriculum. It is free… yep… free!

Khan Academy– This is another great, FREE option. There are tons of different homeschool helps to find through Khan- academic and elective. They start in early elementary and go through high school.

Progeny Press– I recently discovered this company through the Homeschool Review Crew. They look at secular literature through a Christian worldview. Their study guides are thorough and meaty… lots of good stuff.

Enjoy these years. They are precious. They are hard, but don’t have to be impossible. You don’t have to write off your middle schooler as a hormonal mess. Remember that you are the grown up here… lean into the chaos and love on your child. They still need you. They still want you. I remember a game night with our youth group when my second was in sixth grade. Most youth activities, she was off with her friends, not giving me a second thought. This particular night, however, a storm moved through and the thunder was very loud. As we were playing games, she found her way to me and sat in my lap until the storm passed. Neither of us made a big deal about it. It was a sweet moment. She needed me and I was available.

Other topics I’ll be covering in this “Getting Started Homeschooling Series” are:

elementary schoolhighschoolmiddle schoolProduct Review

Exploring the U.S. Life-Saving Service- A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

Unit studies are a perfect fit for a delight directed style of homeschooling. They give you the freedom to explore unique topics and tie in a variery of academic disciplines. We were recently given the opportunity to review Exploring the U.S. Life Saving Service 1878-1915: 17 Student Workshops with 120 Activities from Rebecca Locklear. The unit study is all about the U.S. Life Saving Service which was the forerunner to the U.S. Coast Guard. Comprised of eight member rescue teams, this service would row out to ships in distress during violent storms to rescue those on board. If you have a child who is an outdoor enthusiast, loves to learn about survival skills, enjoys hiking or boating, or just loves to learn about unique pieces of history, this downloadable unit study from Rebecca Locklear is a great fit!

The study is divided into 4 units with 17 workshops:

  • Unit 1: Life at the Station House
  • Unit 2: Working Together
  • Unit 3: The Culture of Character
  • Unit 4: Relevance Today

Each worksop begins with listing the objective and the materials needed to complete the activities. It also shares grade appropriate goals (as seen below):

The book begins with a thorough look at the history of the U.S. Life Saving Service. The old pictures are fascinating. This would be an excellent unit to include in a Post-Civil War to World War 1 Unit. The book is rich with maritime history and information.

As I mentioned at the beginning of the post, Unit Studies are fantastic for connecting the various disciplines. Just look at the variety of activities included in the Exploring the U.S. Life Saving Service book. Not only are many activities included, but many types of learning styles and interests are addressed. This book will appeal to your logical thinkers, your artists, your actors, your wiggly learners, your book learners, and everything in between. It would be really great to use at a homeschool co-op as it provides for a lot of collaborative learning. In fact, I think it may be best used in a co-op setting with multiple children. The hands-on activities include designing a logo for the U.S. Life-Saving Service, make gingerbread in a jar, performing a skit (the script is included in this curriculum), playing a game, designing and creating an anchor, making smelling salts, role playing, completing a cold water experiment, and more.

Pictured above is a matching activity included in Unit One: Life at the Station House. The activity is a game to be played after learning about how the people of the day identified and hunted for food. My kids and I read through Unit One together.

This 117 page text includes history, science, writing, cooking, art and more-all in one book geared towards grades 4-12. The author has a personal connection to the U.S. Life Saving Service in that her great-grandfather, “Skipper” Eldredge, devoted 15 years of his life to this service.

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Homeschool In The Woods Composers Activity Pak- A Review

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way.

I have long loved using lapbooks in our homeschooling. Lapbooking is a great hands-on way for students to research and learn all about a specific topic! It’s basically just a file folder filled with fun little “mini-books” that contain interesting information about your overall lapbook topic. They’re hands-on and make any subject a little more fun!

Home School In The Woods offers a variety of products for digital download (perfect while we are quarantine-schooling!). We were given the opportunity to review the Composers Activity Pak.

The Composers Activity Pak is designed for grades 3-8. The pak contains six different activities and comes with all the instructions, materials, and downloads you need to complete them. Outside of the downloads you will need scissors, paper, printer, glue, and a file folder.

The six lap book activities included in the Composers Activity Pak are:

  1. Periods of Music
  2. Keyboard Vocabulary
  3. Collection of Composers
  4. Pieces with a Purpose
  5. Music Appreciation
  6. Composers Timeline

In addition to the lapbook activities, you can find

  1. “The Orchestra” File Folder Display- showing orchestra seating from four different periods
  2. Composer Cards- match various composers with their information and popular works, making it a fun way to become familiar with the music and the masters.

When you receive the Composers Activity Pak, it comes as a zip file. This is simply a way to compress files and take up less space when sending them over the inter webs. Zip files must be extracted, or expanded before you can access the content. CLICK HERE for instructions on how to do that. Once the Composers Pak zip file has been expanded, you’ll find it is very well organized and easy to follow. The PDFs for each activity are in separate files, making them easy to find. Instructions for each activity are included and very easy to follow.

Guess what else is included (do you feel like you’re in an informercial yet??? But wait… there’s more!)?? Access to MP3s of 23 pieces and movements. You can listen AND illustrate a picture to go with each piece!!!

Full disclosure… with all the madness of the worldwide pandemic and trying to adjust to a new normal, we have not yet finished even one of the lapbook activities. However… with all this extra time at home, we for sure will be slowing down and appreciating the music and activities included.

If you are looking to add Music Appreciation to your Homeschool, look no further. You can find all you need in one place with Home School In The Woods Composers Activity Pak. Seriously… this is an amazing deal that will enrich your homeschool life.

You could choose one activity a week to work on and spread your unit study out over 8 weeks. At the end of the 8 weeks, you’ll have a beautiful lapbook recording your journey.

With this being an election year, be sure to check out The Hands On History Lap Pak- US Elections from Home School In The Woods!

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Building Challenge Round Up and *Free* Printable

I thought the days of Lego were long gone in our house. My oldest, who is turning 15 this weekend, packed up his bricks and sent them to the playroom a couple of years ago. He used to spend hours building, making stop motion videos, creating, exploring. I cried when he was done.

We recently remodeled our playroom to turn it into a giant bedroom for my three girls to share. The Legos were still there, but in tubs, sealed and pushed under the beds to make room for other things… American Girl, Barbie, and the like.

Our family has started watching Lego Masters on Fox. I will give a heads up that while this show is *mostly* family friendly, there is some language here and there… and some colorful backstories. With that being said, we have thoroughly enjoyed the challenges and watching the builders create. They are having to pull from creative as well as scientific thinking to accomplish the tasks given.

As you can imagine, watching the show has sparked a renewed interest in the bricks I thought were forever forgotten. I have been hearing the distinct sound of rustling through the lego bin coming up from the girls’ room.

During this time of social distancing, let me do some of the leg work for you and share links to some really creative building challenges.

Lego Duplo Pendulum Painting

Lego Brain Puzzles

Lego Tic Tac Toe

Rocket Cars

Wind Racers

Zip Line

Secret Codes

Self- Portrait

Marble Maze

Nerf Targets

Upside Down Challenge

Spinning Tops

A few other challenges could be: a bridge that holds 3 pounds, a robot, an aircraft, 100 bricks, bricks of only one color, a structure 12 inches tall, something to wear, a boat that floats, a national landmark. The possibilities are endless.

Challenge your builders to complete 20 challenges in 20 days.

They can keep up with their creations with this FREE Record sheet. You could take a picture every time a challenge is completed. Print your pictures and put together a book at the end of the 20 days!

Click the text BELOW the image to download the FREE Record Keeping Printable.

Click here to download your free printable:

Here’s a fun idea you could use to build community: Set up a Facebook group or Google Hangouts or a Zoom meeting… have your kids meet once a day or every couple of days to share their creations. Issue the building challenges to the kids in your community and see what they come up with!!!

Need more ideas for challenges??? Check out my No Prep Building Challenge Printable Pack on Teachers Pay Teachers. It includes 100 building challenge cards, a challenge checklist, a certificate of completion, and a record keeping sheet (different from the one above).

I would LOVE, LOVE, LOVE to see what creations your builders dream up. If you post on Instagram, be sure to tag me: @thedelightdirectedhomeschooler

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Our Fieldtrip to the Civil Rights Museum

Sometimes, I do not know how to approach the topic of civil rights and race relations. I am a white woman. I grew up in the South. I grew up in a home where racist jokes were a norm. I had a confederate flag in my room. I would have told you it was about heritage and not hate… I cringe at the very thought of it now. I remember on more than one occassion, after relating an incident that happened at school… like a fight… or once a car accident I was in on the way to school…being asked, “Was he black?” As if that would explain all… was he black? Because that must have been the root of it all.

After the car accident I was in on the way to school… when a car pulled out in front of me and slid into my lane, causing me to crash into it… and thus causing the car behind me to crash into me… I came home and was asked, “Was he black?” I finally challenged that question. No… no he was not. And what difference does that make? No… he was not. He was, in fact, a rich white guy that lived a few neighborhoods over. I asked to stop being asked that question… because it would never make a difference.

Why am I sharing this? I don’t know… I think because I want to not be just some other white person whose indifference to issues of race perpetuates a system that has failed humans. I want to think that in some small way, I am breaking a cycle. I knew the jokes I heard and the comments that came were wrong. I said no… this must stop.

But I still feel completely inadequate and ill equipped.

My husband and I met with some of his friends a few years ago to have an honest conversation about race relations. We tried to reach out to other friends and it seemed that simply because we were white, we were seen as an enemy… a naive, racist enemy. I am thankful for those friends who sat with us. I’m not sure how they felt walking away from us. We just wanted a space where we could ask questions, share our heart, and know how we can make steps to help in racial reconciliation.

It was a long and challenging coversation. I am thankful for it. At the end of it all, our friend said, “Two things- Don’t be racist. Stop racist talk.”

Don’t be racist.

Stop racist talk.

In an effort to educate and continue to create a new narrative for my children, I am requiring them to take a Civil Rights course in middle school. We use the Civil Rights course offered through Schoolhouse Teachers. It combines reading, videos, and other resources to share the history of Civil Rights in the United States.

Every six months, we go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital for my cancer warrior’s bi annual appointments. We just went a couple of weeks ago. We had a little bit of time between appointments so we headed over to the National Civil Rights Museum. This was my second time visiting the museum. We went a couple of years ago when my son did the course. This time was my 7th grade daughter’s turn. Her little sisters came as well.

The museum is located in the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He was in Memphis to support the sanitation workers who were on strike. They were protesting unequal wages and work conditions. He was assasinated when he stepped out on the balcony on April 4, 1968. The hotel has been rennovated and transformed into the Civil Rights Museum.

The museum is set up chronoligically. The first display you visit is one of the history of the African slave trade. There are images, videos and scupltures that help paint the picture of such a dark time in our history. My girls would get excited when they recognized something they had read or heard in other contexts. We listen to to a lot of Adventures in Odyssey… there are several stories surrounding black history throughout the series. That is where my girls learned about the Underground Railroad and Fisk University, among other things.

The displays at the museum do have a lot of reading which made it a little hard for my younger two. My eight year old really liked the displays that included phones she could pick up to hear interviews and explanations of different events. I loved hearing the interviews with actual people and not just historians recounting events.

My girls had a hard time understanding why black people weren’t supposed to sit on buses or go to school with white people. That is just not the world they have grown up in. They cannot understand the level of hatred that throws fire bombs into a bus or sprays children with high powered hoses. In a way, visiting the museum made my kids grow up a little and lose some innocence. I hope they will always be appauled by what they saw.

There was a story of a 12 year old white girl who stepped up to take water to the freedom riders who were burned and hurting when their bus was set on fire. She did a very decent human thing- she saw a need and took steps to care for others. Because she was 12, she was too young to be put on trial or taken to jail for giving help. My girls got so excited about the thought… they started imagining what it would have been like to be there and help her as she helped others.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

Martin Luther King Jr.

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King Jr.

A question I try to ask my kids after we visit a museum, watch a movie, read a book is, “What do you think the creator of this wanted you to know?” My son said, when asked about the Civil Rights Museum, “The history of our country… the good and the bad… things we shouldn’t repeat.” My 7th grade daughter said, “The work of Martin Luther King Jr. so we can keep it going.”

Do you have a Civil Rights Museum near you? I highly recommend taking your kids. Start a conversation with them. Learn the history. Create a new narrative.

What resources do you have for helping your kids understand the Civil Rights Movement? Comment below and share the wealth.