Saturday, January 3, 2015

A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts

Welcome to the first week of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair hosted by Susan @ Homeschooling Hearts and Minds and Chareen @ Every Bed of Roses.  This is my third year participating and every year it seems like we are doing something different than the year before.  Just as I get a handle on our daughter's needs life changes and her needs do too.

Unexpected Homeschool: A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts

A short introduction for anyone new. This month we started our 4th year homeschooling our only child, a 7th grade daughter named Amber. We prefer a Classical education model, however Amber has developed a chronic illness that is still (after almost two years) being diagnosed.  We do know that it is an autoimmune disease that results in dysautonomia.  All that to say it makes her heart work incorrectly, she is exhausted most of the time and on some days has a brain fog so thick that you wonder if she's even aware of her surroundings.  Other days she's sharp as a tack and lives up to the results of her standardized testing. 

This week we will be taking a look at how our family handles 7th grade Language Arts.  In the past this post would have been full of the various curriculum components we use to fully educate Amber in a Classical model.  However after the dysautonomia diagnosis during the summer of 2014, we reviewed and made quite a few changes to our homeschooling plans.  The primary goal in it all is for Amber to learn when her brain is working best and when her body has energy left over from breathing and staying alive.  This means we no longer have time for an array of curriculum, but must make the most of every available school moment.  We combine a lot of learning points into one session or topic.

We started the first semester of 7th grade simply with Analytical Grammar, loose plans for literature, and a German curriculum as our language arts.  Amber is one of those people who truly likes to diagram sentences and would work on grammar all day if I let her.  Analytical Grammar provides three different schedules based on when you start the program and your student's needs.  We have chosen to use each season of Analytical Grammar as a year of school.  In this schedule we work through the entire season, which is 10 weeks of daily grammar, until it is complete. Then the remainder of that school year there is only one day of grammar review every other week.

Although it took us all of first semester to complete the 10 weeks of the first season, we love the schedule. It kept us from feeling behind and will also allow time second semester for other language arts topics while still having our toes in grammar occasionally.

Unexpected Homeschool: A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts
Morning lessons, including grammar, are usually done in bed before her heart goes crazy from being more upright.

New to us this year is Tapestry of Grace for our history studies, yet if you've ever looked at Tapestry of Grace you know it is much more than history.  I love the literature recommendations in TOG, but there just isn't time for Amber to complete them all.  Instead, I've selected three items for Amber to study over the course of her 7th grade year.  We have already completed Beowulf and will be moving on to Canterbury Tales and a few selections from Shakespeare in second semester.  We've found that occasional project based learning is helpful with Amber's brain fog. In addition to traditional discussions for literature, I've gathered resources from various locations, including TOG, to utilize on some of Amber's more foggy days. 

With grammar completed, second semester we are putting more emphasis on poetry, creative writing and research report writing.  We previously used Writing With Skill on a daily basis, but Amber simply does not have the time or energy for a separate writing curriculum anymore.  We chose instead to include more writing across the other subjects.  Amber does write almost daily and we are utilizing the Writing Aid portion of Tapestry of Grace to guide her history and literature writing assignments, but we still do not always follow even those assignments exactly. 

In 6th grade we started using The Creative Writer for Amber's creative writing lessons, and will continue with it this year too.  We also used The Art of Poetry last year as part of a multi-year poetry study and will again continue on with that curriculum in the second semester of 7th grade.

Even though we plan to work on a larger sized research report this year, it will actually be assigned through Amber's science lessons.  We will be using a combination of resources including Tapestry of Grace and Writing With Skill to guide the research process.  Given Amber's many doctors' appointments and sick days, we will spend most of second semester working on this research report.

Unexpected Homeschool: A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts
Grammar on the go and writing her history newspaper articles.  We are trying writing across the subjects this year.

Finally, Amber started German as a foreign language this year.  While I speak German and have a minor in the language, it has been quite useful to have an upper level curriculum for our use.  We also found that the three years Amber spent studying Latin were not done in vane.  We do not work in the German curriculum every day, but we do daily German conversation practice.  Amber will actually earn 1/2 of a high school credit for her lessons this year and that is all due to the Prima German curriculum we chose.  In truth, I selected two different curricula to try but we never had time for the second one.  I really think it might be the better of the two, however I also teach German at our homeschool co-op and they use the Prima curriculum.  I haven't had time to prep two different German curricula, so we never had the chance to evaluate the geni@l klick.

In a nutshell, this is our approach to 7th grade language arts.  It's not going to be the right plan for everyone, but it works for our chronically ill child.   If you are interested in a more detailed explanation you can view my 7th Grade Curricula page.

Come back next week to see how we are implementing Math, Science and Logic this year!

Other Weeks from the 2015 Curriculum Fair
Unexpected Homeschool: Logically Speaking: Math, Science, and Logic for 7th Grade Unexpected Homeschool: A More Simplistic Approach to 7th Grade Language Arts Unexpected Homeschool: And All the Extras

Please check out how the other members of the 2015 Virtual Curriculum Fair are tackling Language Arts with their children.

If you'd like to join the fair this week, use the linky below.

Some graphics created using elements from StoryRock


  1. Thank you for this. Our language curriculum is quite full but I have had to make the decision to place much more emphasis on phonics and learning to read in order to help my struggling reader. I guess the privilege of home education is that it can be tailored to each child.

  2. This is such a nice curriculum that you prepared for Amber. I'm a new homeschool mom who is struggling very much with everything homeschool! My daughter should be in the 6th grade but because we fell behind, she's still in 5th grade. I still have no idea when semesters should start and finish, I don't know how or what to teach her, and I feel like a complete failure! I have written to you once before in the hopes that you would reach out to me to give me some insight and guidance but I never heard from you. Christy I would truly love it if you could reach out to me and possibly let me know how you go about doing these things for your daughter. I need someone to help guide me and I have always found your blog to be so inspirational to me so I figured you would be a huge help ... hoping you are able to reach out to me. Happy new year to You and Amber.

  3. It's great that you are able to tailor a program to Amber's needs and provide her with a quality education while simultaneously accommodating her in her illness. This is one of the strengths of homeschooling---no child needs to be left behind just because they don't fit into a set schedule.

    I pray that you are able to find answers to her health issues and healing.

    And thank you for joining the VCF. :)


  4. Hello. Thank you for sharing your story. I have a question. We are considering homeschooling our 7th grader and the the TOG looks interesting to me...for many of the reasons you stated - having a connection to literature and analytical thinking about the stories and events. My question is that I am not sure what year to start with because I cannot find an age correlation. Also, I saw that you are only studying two of the novels. Are any of these works included in the curriculum, or are they a separate purchase? (we are overseas, so local libraries really isn't an option). I look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Hi! Tapestry of Grace comes with four year plans and each year plan contains lessons for four different age ranges: Lower Grammar, Upper Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric. So, by purchasing any year plan you can work with four different levels of children.

      Within those four levels, the difficulty is basically the same across the board. So, you may choose to start with any year you want, then simply choose the level within that suits your child.

      For example, we started in 7th grade with Year 2 (Middle ages, Renaissance, exploration era), because we had just studied ancient times. Amber completed Year 2 at the dialectic level over both 7th and 8th grades because we supplemented quite a bit. She is now using Year 3 (early modern) for 9th grade, and we are using the rhetoric level.

      In 10th grade Amber will use Year 4 (modern) at the rhetoric level, and in 11th grade she will use Year 1 (ancient times) at the rhetoric level. Then we will return to Year 2, but this time use it at the rhetoric level. Since I already own the Year 2 plan, I don't need to purchase it again. Instead I just need to read the plans for the rhetoric level instead of the dialectic level.

      Most of the works are a separate purchase. Some of the high school literature is available in their Poetics add-on. Many of the dialectic level books (middle school) are in the public domain. We found them at Heritage History. Tapestry of Grace also says you can substitute quality books on similar topics, you will just have to decide which portions of the books to read each week. We did that sometimes and used books from Heritage History that were on the same topic. We purchased the library pass to Heritage History that allowed me access to their entire site. The books there are free to read online, or you can download them in various formats with the pass.

      Tapestry of Grace is very much a buffet type of lesson plan. There is more than any one student can do in a year. It is there so you can select what suits your child and their needs.