State of The Union ~ Late Elementary and Middle Years

In the coming weeks I will be sharing our homeschool curriculum and resources for the late elementary and emergent high school years. You could call these emergent school years junior high, middle school or transition to scholar - all would work. I don't know the best definition to use, so just bear with me.

It's an exciting groove we've got going this year. More in-depth studies for Céline. New learning tools (i.e.: personal laptops and iPads), new activities in the community (Taekwondo), and lots of new books for inspiration. It's always exciting at the beginning, isn't it?

These posts won't be a series like the elementary homeschool curriculum series that (in theory) I'm finishing up. These late elementary and pre-high school years posts I have planned will be "this is what we're doing right now" type posts. Full of links and resources and probably a bunch of philosophy because I simply cannot write about what I do without writing about why I do it that way. So who knows, maybe it will become a series one day.

I've done some re-organization of my homeschool categories to make it easier to track and find homeschool related posts here on the blog. I don't direct much attention to blog categories. Mostly because I'm always tweaking them (I'm an organizing junkie).

I've recently changed an awkward "In general" category (what exactly did that mean?) to Elementary. I've also added a Middle Years category.

We are firmly established in the middle homeschooling years with Céline, and slowly entering that stage with Laurent. I define the middle years as the transition between elementary and high school, approximately 11-14/12-15 (give or take).

What exactly do I mean by "middle years"?

For us, this is a time when we introduce more formal learning lessons - slowly and as needed by child and family. It's the time when my brain as homeschooling "master" starts to think beyond stories, art, and nature as the sum total of a child's curriculum. It's the time when we start to think more seriously about our childrens' unique gifts and challenges. Working to really support and encourage their gifts and help them address their specific learning challenges.

These years are in-between late elementary and the more formal studies of high school, but they are not "in-between" in meaning or purpose. They are very important years where nurturing our childrens' love of learning is still the prime importance. And then as we get near the end of these years our childrens' own growing drive for knowledge and mastery, their God-given desire to challenge and push their limits kicks into high gear and we birth the high school years - or so the theory goes (smile).

We're in this last stage of the middle years with Céline, a transition period. It's bumpy. There isn't a clear roapmap to follow but there never is. Her education is just that - her's. And we're not going to meet her needs by following someone else's path now are we?

This school term (fall 2012) and next (winter 2013) we will be focusing on certain areas and skills that we haven't much in the past - writing and science specifically. Céline's reading level is way beyond her years and inspiring her with good books, en Anglais (in English), is my ongoing challenge. Although Céline and I are starting formal French lessons this term it will be a while before she can read the French library books that are readily available locally.

In light of Laurent's dyslexia, the focus of his early middle homeschooling years will be helping him establish reading proficiency. Also, bringing in other resources to support his learning while he gains reading proficiency. Reading and using technology and tools to support Laurent's learning are really the focus right now. And lots of time for play and exploration. As always, nature is his passion and is often expressed in his artistic gifting. The boy does art in his math. You'd be surprised the scenes that arise from multiple digit long addition.

Brienne is blissfully still in elementary years and as such I find her learning needs the easiest of all our children to support and accommodate. This is mostly because supporting a love of learning is truly a joyful enterprise. Brienne is the easy piece in our homeschool puzzle also because of her diverse learning style and her natural aptitude in many disciplines. Being the youngest, she also learns alongside her brother and sister, even when the lessons are not intended or directed to her.  If she were in school she'd probably be considered an all around "good student". (I cringe at these labels but I'm sharing it so you might understand what I mean.) 

Even though her needs are simple right now, Brienne has a special piece to her curriculum that is uniquely geared to her interests (more on that in a future post).

But back to the blog categories, most everything I've written about homeschooling up to now has been about the elementary years. I've written a bit about the middle years and I've teased those out and into a new category. As we go, more content will be added to this category, as naturally I will be writing more about these years while we live them. Eventually I will have a high school/scholar category. This seems totally unreal to me, but is truly just around the corner for our family.

I haven't made any significant changes to my Homeschool Help resource page. But I anticipate I might (someday) to separate early years from these middle years. We'll see.

Here's a little of what I've got planned to write about in the coming month:

  • Technology - The New Literacy
  • Inspiring Science Resources
  • An overview of our current homeschool curriculum and the resources we're using
  • The Methodology to our Madness - the main methods we're using to support our curriculum and meet our learning objectives
  • Professional Development - amazing homeschool books I'm reading right now. This may or may not see the light of day. I'll probably just work these titles into my other posts.
  • The Myth of the Unsocialized Homeschooler - joining my voice to the many that have already de-bunked this myth.

So, the question is - can I publish these and finish my elementary homeschool series before my kids graduate? 

As always, I'm available for one on one coaching. If anything I've written here intrigues you and I never do get around to publishing about it, you can always pick my brain in a coaching session. Just sayin'.

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  • Diane

    Diane on Sept. 19, 2012, 7:52 p.m.

    All your upcoming posts look amazing. Can't wait to read them. I am in the same stage of learning with my 8th graders this year. We are still deciding on just how structured we want the high school years to be. She is a free spirit with lots of interest in art and drama. Blessings Diane


  • Kika

    Kika on Sept. 19, 2012, 9:30 p.m.

    I've always wanted to help organize a book club for teen girls/young women or mothers/daughters club and I wonder if it would work to do this with virtual HS friends??? Hmmm... I think there is something special about meeting in person at a cafe or in someone's home with a special treat but we don't have a huge HS group locally. What are your thoughts? How could this work and I wonder if Celine would ever be interested (like next year or in the spring)in joining something along these lines? There'd have to be a good way to host discussions. I wonder if you can do conference skyping? I think the SimpleMom team has an online meeting once a week or mos.; do you know what they use for this?


    • Kika

      Kika on Sept. 19, 2012, 9:37 p.m.

      P.S. I am currently reading "The Charge" by Brendon Burchard and really liking it. Already recommended it to two of my brothers :) So not HS related, I know.


      • renee

        renee on Sept. 19, 2012, 9:43 p.m.

        Good to know Kika! I remember Marie Forleo interviewed him and I loved the interview and added his book to my to-reads list. 


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 19, 2012, 9:46 p.m.

      Kika, I am SO all over this! You have no idea how much I love this idea!! I have some ideas up my sleeve. I will be e-mailing you privately. 


  • se7en

    se7en on Sept. 20, 2012, 12:55 a.m.

    Hi there... I love how your blog grows and changes and your constant flow of new and lovely ideas... I have to ask, since you live with an artist... I keep seeing drawing pens in your photographs and I would love to get some for our artist... but I am not sure what to get - since I will be buying and shipping I really don't want to have to do a "trial and error" experiment - so what are great and lasting drawing pens for artistic folk. We have out favourite black pens, but I was looking at coloured pens!!!


    • renee

      renee on Sept. 20, 2012, 12:58 a.m.

      I've written about our pens and markers in this post. Our favorites for all-around use are  Prismacolors. Laurent uses professional Copic markers for his art. These are his alone and are part of his "toolkit". 


  • Heather Y

    Heather Y on Sept. 20, 2012, 1:20 a.m.

    I seriously love that your kids are just slightly older than mine, so I have the privilege of watching and learning. Really looking forward to your future posts on this topic.


  • Elizabeth

    Elizabeth on Sept. 21, 2012, 1:54 a.m.

    I was homeschooled from fourth grade through ninth, and the experiences I had between the ages of 12 and 14 during that period were some of the most formative years of my education until I got to college. In great part I think this was due to the combination of relaxed interest-driven study and more formalized coursework that you described in your post.

    Some of my favorite memories from those years are starting an herb garden and learning all about the history of herbs and their many medicinal and culinary uses; baking my way through "Baking with Julia"; developing a whole history unit study on the Wars of the Roses, based around Roberto Louis Stevenson's novel and Shakespeare's play; and taking my first chemistry course using a self-guided textbook that taught basic chemistry concepts through recipes in the kitchen.

    The interesting thing to me as I look back on those years is how formative they were in shaping the direction of my adult life. I majored in history in college, with a minor in organic chemistry, and I currently work as a historian for a number of Colombian churches. And cooking and food (including herbs!) remain one of my deepest passions.

    Just a note of encouragement as you are in the midst of this special time. :)


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