We’ve spent months figuring out how best to teach 3rd and 6th grade to our kids next year. As a teacher, Brian was able to gather curricula and lessons from other teachers in the district (if you are reading this, thank you!). As a researcher, I thought it would be pretty straightforward to find whatever additional curricula and resources we’d need. Turns out, the policy and research papers I’d been reading aren’t much help for this project and I was quickly overwhelmed by how much information exists about what and how to teach: standards (if the common core scares you, just try to sift through the hundreds, literally hundreds, of different state and local standards out there), curriculum and lesson plans (multiply number of standards by the common core), plus countless papers and guides and methods on what great teaching looks like and how to best teach children. In the end, we borrowed from a lot of different places and settled on the fact that we would have to learn as we go. Some of the most interesting conversations about what and how to teach are in the homeschooling community listservs, blogs and other social media sites. These are people who are having to figure it out for themselves and support one another–something teachers don’t have as much time and freedom to do anymore.
We settled on set curricula for math and ELA. For both 3rd and 6th we’re using EngageNY and our district curriculum as the foundation. For texts, we’re using Singapore Math for our 3rd grade daughter, who loves math and wants to move quickly and be challenged. For our 6th grader, who has a book in his hand at all times and is more frustrated by math, we’re using Mammoth Math and Life of Fred. For ELA, we also have set curricula for both grades, borrowing mostly from MCPS, plus a plan for journaling and a whole lot of reading. We have a ton of novels that we’ll probably have to pare down or transfer to Kindle before we go. We’ll be borrowing e-books from our home library, and visiting as many local libraries as we can (as a big fan of libraries, I’m hoping to see and document as many Carnegie libraries as possible, and to take advantage of the Little Free Library network).
For science, we asked the kids what they wanted to learn and we agreed on Anatomy and Physiology, Fire and Electricity (which we recognize could be a danger to us all–those of you who know the gas can story will especially appreciate this) and the Science of the Paranormal and Extraterrestrial (big plans to test some pretty outrageous 6th grader theories–Area 51, here we come!). We have a few books and DVDs on these subjects, plus we’ll be using a few great science sites like NASA and the Jason Project. And we expect to find plenty of other lessons along the way in our national and state parks. The same is true for social studies, where geography and history will be part of our everyday travels. We have a pretty good collection of maps (U.S. and a histomap) and we’ll be trying out resources from sites like iCivics and Constitute and Courts in the Classroom when we can get online. We’ll also be doing crosswords, solitaire, Scrabble, and learning a lot of card games. Plus, we are planning to learn to play the guitar and to knit a sweater (or at least a sock), and to master all sides of the Rubik’s cube. Plenty more plans but that already feels like a lot. We’ll keep you posted on how it all goes. If you have ideas, please let us know!!