Our 8th Grade Plan

I’m about to teach Eighth Grade for the 5th time! This time around I’m using old favorites and brand new resources.

Textbooks:

  • Saxon Math 87
  • Grammar for the Well Trained Mind Red Set (year 2)
  • Writing With Skill Level 1
  • Wordly Wise 3000 Book 8
  • Spelling You See Level F
  • Memoria Press Geography 1 (The Middle East, Africa, Europe)
  • Memoria Press Geography 2 (Sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Oceania, & the Americas)
  • Story of the World 1,2,3,4
  • Sonlight Instructors Guides G and H
  • Memoria Press Introduction to Classical Studies (Bible, Greek Myths, Famous Men of Rome)
  • Getting Started With Spanish

Literature List:

  • The Bronze Bow
  • Adam of the Road
  • The Door in the Wall
  • Poetry & Short Stories- American Literature

Science List:

  • MEL Chemistry Kits (affiliate link, if you use it we both save $)
  • Science Conservation, Robotics & Technology 

Extra Stuff:

  • Timeline (homemade with figures from Sonlight Core G and H)
  • World History 1 Lap Book ( Sonlight Core G)
  • Read Alouds from Sonlight Level G and H

You can see just about everything on one page: here. You’ll support this blog with a few cents that I’ll earn on commission from Amazon.

One thing that I am doing this year is a completely planned 14 week Summer School. We start on Monday and we’ll be finishing up Saxon 76, and our Science program. We’ll also be studying the States and Capitals, The Hobbit, Grammar, and I picked up the program Myself and Others from Memoria Press in order to study a bit of Manners, Safety, and Nutrition.

I’ll update a bit on Instagram using the Story function if you’d like to follow along.

Memoria Press Nature Study: A Review



C. S. Lewis once said that second things suffer when put first. This is exactly what I saw in my chemistry classroom, where much of the time, rather than teaching chemistry, I had to teach the math they should have known but didn’t because they had spent too much time being taught science in elementary school and too little time being taught math.
If they had learned math, they could have done chemistry, but because they were required to do science and math, they didn’t know their math, and therefore couldn’t do chemistry.


Cheryl Lowe, Memoria Press

Why make time for nature study?

  1.  This may be the only time in their education where you have the luxury of time to spend memorizing the specific details,  knowledge which isn’t as as common place as it once was.
  2. These science materials are meant to be covered in approximately one hour each week.

You can certainly schedule more time in and complete multiple books in a year if you’ve got a kid that is a whiz at memorization. 

The best part of this schedule is that if you feel strongly about a more rigorous science curriculum you’ve got time for that as well. Spending a couple hours a week studying nature is win/win. 

“The future will belong to the nature-smart—those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”
Richard Louv  author of Last Child in the Woods and The Nature Principle

To be clear, Memoria Press takes either a creation or neutral approach to science depending on the materials. If you are a secular family there are some things you’ll need to leave out, edit on the fly, or prepare to discuss with your kids.

In K-2nd science/nature study is included in  the enrichment guide for that grade. Memoria Press also sells Supplemental Science Sets that in my opinion, are excellent and unique in the classical curriculum market Hint: you can/should buy the books used (or hit the library) and save a lot of money.

Third grade-Seventh grade studies rely heavily on nature studies and those programs (along with Literature) are where MP shines. If you follow the Charlotte Mason method this is the kind of study you may aspire to put together on your own using something like Anna Comstock’s Handbook of Nature Study. You could spend hours researching and writing lesson plans or you can choose a subject, buy the set and dive in. For another $2 you can even purchase lesson plans to break down the work day by day.

You can use the books in any order, but I’d say that Mammals is the easiest and Trees is the hardest if you are choosing where to begin. MP lists a grade range and so they are perfect to use in a group or to combine your kids that are within a couple grade levels of each other. If you do combine you’ll want to require all the work from any child that matches the grade level requirements and less for younger/more for older.

In years 6-8 traditional science is added with the Tiner books, which are not secular at all. They are a good introduction to textbook science with a narrative to read and a guide filled with questions that contain more than just simple What did you just read comprehension questions. It’s not busywork and it won’t take hours to complete. The downside for us would be the biblical slant. Not everything printed in a book or newspaper is necessarily scientifically accurate, so for us the Tiner books are also a lesson in critical thinking when we’ve used them.

We finished up the books with the Tree Study last Fall and I’m wishing we had one more year of books to use before high school. We may go through and do a review of all the books since I own the flashcards and materials already.

The Joy of Saxon Math

Homeschoolers as a group do better than public school students do, but when adjusted for socio-economic status, do less well in math than expected. Direct Instruction works for increasing math success. Saxon math is a Direct Instruction program. Because of its scripted nature, Saxon math is easier to implement in the homeschool than some other, popular programs, especially when many homeschooling mothers are not confident about their own math skills.

saxonkSaxon math is a complete K-12 program. Grades K – 3 are written very differently from the rest of the program. They’re teacher intensive, highly scripted, and incorporate lots of manipulatives–hallmarks of high-quality direct instruction math programs. Saxon 5/4 through Calculus (3rd edition) is written to the student, allowing students with good verbal skills (like most homeschoolers) to work independently.

Saxon math works. It’s been around in the homeschool community for many years, and has been the subject of efficacy research since 2005, including a randomized, controlled trial. Saxon has its critics, and they are fierce.

One of the main critiques of Saxon math is that outside of the K-3 program, there is no instructor edition. Instead, there is a student text, solutions manual, and a test and worksheet set. With less instructor support, parents who are less confident in math might not be able to help their student if they don’t understand the instructions in the textbook.

saxonA frequent complaint is that there are less challenging word problems in Saxon math. Part of that is the nature of direct instruction: “the optimal success rate for fostering student achievement appears to be about 80 percent.” (Rosenshine, 2012) So yes, the word problems will seem easier.

This is in stark contrast to something like Art of Problem Solving, whose entire raison d’être is to have students grapple with perhaps 10 difficult problems per week. Many parents ameliorate this issue with Saxon math by adding in something like Singapore Math Challenging Word Problems.

However, given that Saxon math has ~40 practice problems and ~50-100 drill problems daily, students quickly run out of time to add in more math. Many parents find their students working slowly because they haven’t mastered the material to automaticity, and so they let their students skip problems, but that runs counter to the delicately scaffolded program in Saxon math.

However, perhaps the main reason that conventionally trained math teachers typically dislike Saxon math is that “only about ten percent of each lesson is new material.” (Englemann, 2007) This means that 90% of the lesson is review from prior lessons. The interleaved, interval-spaced review means students solve problems without explicit conceptual organization. While this is fantastic for making it stick (Taylor and Rohrer, 2010), it feels more difficult. A skilled teacher can assist with knowledge organizers, but without an instructor’s edition, parents might not be able to help students “sort” the concepts mentally.

Given all these critiques, I am still a fan of Saxon math. While I appreciate concept mapping as much as the next person, what I’m most concerned with is, “Can my daughter do math, efficiently and on grade level?” Saxon ensures that her math gets done right.

It’s not easy to transition from a math exposure curriculum, where you study a concept annually and then have brief end-of-chapter reviews. The first day of Saxon math, my daughter spent 45 minutes doing 100 single-digit addition problems because she hadn’t learned them to automaticity. That was in addition to the actual lesson set, which took another 45 minutes. It took her 9 months to master the daily drills enough to get them done in 10 minutes. But she made a year’s worth of progress in the first 5 months.

Enabling all children to be on grade level, to be proficient, is what Direct Instruction curricula do best, and why I highly recommend Saxon math to the vast majority of homeschooling parents.

Put a Ring On It

“I wish I could go in there like Moses and part the waters, and carry everyone to freedom on my ark.” said my friend Nadine.

I laughed and laughed at that. We were chatting about homeschoolers who won’t consider any curriculum that espouses or includes mention of any faith. That is a totally legitimate viewpoint and if it is your line in the sand, have at it. Go you!

Not all secular homeschoolers feel this way. People like to label themselves (despite not wanting to be put in a box, we often put ourselves in one) But why are we afraid to use curriculum as a tool, rather than an identity?

On one hand, it is convenient to slap a label on our “brand” of home education. If you meet at a park day and you introduce yourself as a Lit Based homeschooling family, your new friend won’t expect you to be as happy as she is over her new workbook program. And you know she’ll cringe at the sight of your box day. But aren’t we all lucky to have these choices? That’s part of the reason that most of us educate our kids at home, so that we have these choices in their education.

I’d go out on a limb and say that you might identify with whatever the curriculum company that you bought from tells you that they are. It’s quite a good sales technique and make no mistake, you are purchasing a product.

What they don’t mention is that their plans and books are just that. You can take them apart and use them any way you want to. Ever heard the phrase Every Tool’s a Hammer? I hadn’t until I read Adam Savage’s new book and it got me thinking about how curriculum is a tool, not a methodology.

Adam says things like, “don’t wait until everything is perfect to begin a project, and if you don’t have the exact right tool for a task, just use whatever’s handy.”

His book is about creating a culture of people who know and want to make things- “makers” It’s the same culture we’re in as homeschooling parents. His advice holds true for us all well.

I’d like to ask you to take some time to plan out where you’d like your kids’ education to end up. Do some reading about educational methods and take a good hard look at the kids you have, before you spend money on the latest box of homeschooling goodness. Don’t worry about the religious beliefs of whomever wrote it or is selling it.

We’re planning more posts about curriculum we like, why we like it, how it works, and why we can ignore any faith based elements that may be included in it. We hope you’ll stick around and see what Good Enough Homeschooling looks like for us.