I was talking with my husband about how 7th grade seems like such a big jump academically. When we were in school 7th grade was the first year of Junior High; there was no such thing as ‘middle school’. We begin homeschooling our first 7th grader this fall and I have been planning, looking over materials, and choosing what direction we want to go. I decided to share a series of blog posts on my thoughts through this process over the next few weeks.
Mothering a large family brings new dimensions to homeschooling because I live with children all along the age spectrum. This fall some of my children will be learning their first words, others learning their letters, some to read, others to write, and it goes all the way up to one taking those essential reading, writing, math, and reasoning skills of the elementary years and applying them in new ways. It is refreshing because I have moments to delight and wonder with little ones over their discoveries in the middle of days spent in deep discussion and stretching moments with older children.
Where to Begin Planning for 7th?
If you ask ten different homeschool families you are likely to get ten different answers. This post details our answer. I began with simple questions:
- What are my child’s goals?
- What strengths and weaknesses are we working on?
- Now what will we actually study?
Ech question is important and so I will address them separately in their own posts. For today let’s talk about number one.
My husband and I sat down with Makayla to chat about what she is interested in, jobs she might like to have one day, and things she wants to do. We emphasized that it is okay for these to change but we want a direction to explore for 7th grade. We’ll re-evaluate for 8th grade, and so on.
She was excited to realize that homeschooling allows us to make time for focusing on her interests and goals. After some thought and discussion her three interests for 7th grade are as follows.
Makayla has been drawing daily in the last two months so this came as no surprise. When we asked for more details she explained that she wants to draw more realistically, instead of everything looking like a little kid drew it. She is interested in illustrating books. We talked about how important communication skills will be, hearing an author’s vision, making several representations of that, and working with feedback to change drawings. She is not interested in painting at the moment, she wants to focus on drawing and adding color with pencils.
Makayla’s latest writing project, one she keeps coming back to, is writing a fiction book series about a set of characters she has living in her head. For the first time she is enthusiastic about writing, has a clear idea of where her story is going, and wants to learn to write and edit a book. She wants to explore the process of writing and publishing a fiction book.
Her third focus is running a small business as an animal breeder. She’s leaning toward breeding cats but has interest in rabbits and dogs as well. Academic areas we will work on for this include science, research, and math. This will segue into business and communication skills, advertising, and more.
Why This Step is So Important
Have you noticed that your children are not perfect copies of you or your spouse? Mine certainly are not! Makayla is an individual who has different gifts, talents, goals, interests, and passions than her father or I. Of her three current goals only one would be something I personally would pursue for myself. None are things her father would choose.
Without seeking my child’s input I could easily plan a homeschool year that neglects their interests and focuses on areas they don’t currently see a need for. Makayla is at an age where if school isn’t relevant she is unmotivated and conflicts over schoolwork arise. One blessing of homeschooling is the ability to keep education relevant to the student. No, they may not adore a subject, but if they can see how to use it in real life they’ll slog through.
Having taken time to learn Makayla’s goals I am stepping out in the right direction with the rest of my planning. I know that, for this year at least, she would choose plenty of time to write and draw instead of extra history reading. I know her diligence will be applied to math and science when I can show her how it brings closer the dream of becoming an animal breeder.
Other things to think about
I want to begin exploring my connections to find people who have experience as an artist, a fiction writer, and an animal breeder. These people will hopefully find time to share with Makayla what they do, as well as the things she needs to learn and study. Trying out jobs that sound interesting can be eye-opening. Better to discover now that she hates or is bored by a job than to spend years preparing first.
Exposing a child to options needs to continue. For example Makayla is focused in on writing a fiction book but I will look for ways to expose her to related jobs. Magazine writer, editor, newspaper columnist, blogger – those barely scratch the surface. What about writing advertising, travel guides, non-fiction publications, poetry, curricula, or even journaling?
Have you done this essential step with your older student? Did you learn of interests or goals that surprised you? Are you ready to look at strengths and weaknesses next?