2014 - 2015 Curricula

This year our curricula choices better reflect Amber's needs with a chronic illness: a flexible school schedule, less rigid lesson plans, and incorporating more learning in less time.

Amber's 7th Grade Curricula:

Saxon Algebra 1 -
We are still absolutely pleased with the Saxon Math curriculum.  I know it's not for everyone, but it works for Amber even with our new schooling style. We truly feel that when Saxon is implemented as intended that it can be a great learning tool.  I have been re-reading over Art Reed's blog to help us get the most from Algebra I this year.

Language Arts: 
Grammar - Analytical Grammar (Season 1)
Amber did wonderfully with the BJU grammar the last few years, but it was time for a change.  Analytical Grammar has several recommended schedules to complete the three seasons in the book.  We have chosen to use one season per year. This means that we will have 10 units (roughly 10 weeks) of full grammar in 7th grade. After that is completed there will only be a day of grammar review every other week.  This is perfect for our needs at this point.  It allows Amber to continue with grammar study, but also have time for creative writing and poetry study after her initial 10 units of grammar are completed.

Writing - TOG Writing Aids
We've pretty much given up on writing as an independent course this year; Amber just doesn't have the energy. Instead we are emphasizing writing across the subjects.  After much debate about continuing with Writing With Skill for the occasional lesson or report writing guidance, we have decided to call it a day.  We've been using the Writing Aids which accompany Tapestry of Grace for writing instruction when needed.  For now this is working better for us and is much lighter weight than WWS.  However, without the great foundation from WWS we would not have been able to make this choice. 

Literature - 
Amber has done amazing in her literature studies the last couple of years.  However, we have begun to feel rushed and it seems like there is always one more book that every book list thinks we should cover. To allow for a better study, Amber will be doing a detailed literature study of three topics this year.  Never fear, many of the other books Amber should be reading will be addressed in our history studies and as free reading.
Planned Literature Books:

Poetry- The Art of Poetry  (Postponed again in favor of Greek Root Word Vocabulary)
Amber loves to study poetry and this book allows us to go at our own pace to study the elements and forms of poetry.  We read and discuss many poems with detailed discussion of just a few. The poets themselves are also studied.  We have no lesson plans laid out for our poetry topics and will complete this in our own speed.  Poetry will not start until our main grammar lessons for the year have completed.  It will also alternate weeks with creative writing. 

Creative Writing - Cover Story
http://www.coverstorywriting.com/index.htmlWhen it was finally time to start creative writing this year, we were surprised to find our previously chosen curriculum (The Creative Writer) no longer suited Amber.  It really should not have been a surprise as her learning style has changed with her chronic illness.  Still, we are sad but holding out hope that perhaps it will work in the future.  We've chosen to use Cover Story by Clear Water Press.  We don't plan to use the optional grammar portions of Cover Story, but the journal and writing assignments all sound like fun to Amber.  As a bonus, each lesson includes a video teaching component before the student begins their work.  This is so much better suited to Amber, especially when she is having brain fog days. 

Vocabulary - Greek Morphemes Lessons (It's NOT Greek to Me) 
This item was a Review Crew product, and could not have been a better fit.  Amber loves studying root words and it has dramatically increased her vocabulary.  We dropped poetry to fit this into our schedule.

History is where we have decided to put a good deal of emphasis this year and to use this subject for multiple purposes.  Our topic of the year is the Middle Ages, which includes medieval times and the Renaissance.  It is primarily European history that we will be studying.

History will also incorporate literature reading that is relevant to our topic.  Most of the books we would normally have read and discussed as a formal literature class will be done in a more relaxed format as background and additional reading for history. Our current list includes (but is not limited to)
  • Augustine Came to Kent by Barbara Willard - √
  • The Lantern Bearers by Rosemary Sutcliff - √
  • The Door in the Wall by Marguerite De Angeli - √
  • The Once and Future King by T.H. White  (Amber didn't like this at all and didn't finish)
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by J.R.R Tolkien - √
  • Magna Charta by James Daugherty - √

Our primary curriculum was originally going to be History Odyssey - Level 2 - Middle Ages. However, after I decided to rework Amber's schooling to be more suitable to her physical abilities, I needed to change history a great deal.  History Odyssey remained my basis for events to study, but otherwise we are only using their reading suggestions for the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and some literature.

We are instead using the Heritage History British Middle Ages and Christian Europe collections for the majority of our history reading.   I have selected chapters and books from those collections to go with each major topic we study.  Depending on Amber's needs each day she may complete various types of assignments or readings.  Not every reading I have selected will be used, but we have the option for additional reading on days that Amber is tachy or simply too exhausted for much else.  I love the Heritage History collections.  There is so much to choose from and it is all good quality writing.

We also decided to add more project based learning in our bid to require less book work and include more topical application. We are also incorporating our art lessons into history.  To this end we are utilizing two resources from Homeschool In The Woods - Project Passport: The Middle Ages and Project Passport: Renaissance and Reformation.  We absolutely adore just about everything from Homeschool in the Woods.  Honestly.  We haven't always had time to use as much of each product as we would like, but have enjoyed each one.  Right now the plan is to use a goodly number of the projects included in these resources along with the audio tours, newspaper writing assignments and timeline.  I've also planned other history projects based on ideas I've gleaned from around the Internet. 

While those are our three main resources for history this year, we have tons of other resources that will be used as reading or project information on specific topics, including some videos. (You should see my Amazon wish list).  History is always more fun when you can include some historical movies and we like to reserve those for Amber's sick / exhaustion / brain fog / food reaction days when book work is not possible.

Sample of History Resources: 

http://www.tapestryofgrace.com/year2/Addendum:  After realizing that I most probably, even with all of the resources above, had not planned out enough for an entire year of history I went in search of additional items.  What I found was that I had basically recreated Tapestry of Grace through all the above resources, even going so far as to use many of the same reading assignments.   Instead of continuing to reinvent the wheel, so to speak, I just purchased Tapestry of Grace.  While we are using the lessons that I so painstakingly planned, we are also supplementing with some writing ideas, discussion points, and additional resources from Tapestry of Grace Year 2.  When we run out of my planned lessons we will continue on with only Tapestry of Grace.

Missouri History:
https://www.aophomeschooling.com/switched-on-schoolhouse/electives/state-history/12sosmoAs a last minute addition to our curriculum, we decided to add Switched on Schoolhouse Missouri History.   This is something that we plan to complete over a several year period.  It is entirely computer based and gives us something that Amber can do on days when she is having a hard time concentrating on more intensive subjects.  We do not have any time or days specifically set aside for Missouri history.  It is just as we desire to complete some lessons. 

We already studied Missouri History in fourth grade, but a review of Missouri's public school graduation requirements reminded me that they have to pass a Missouri Constitution test for graduation. The public schools also must study Missouri history / government for at least a small period every school year 7th grade - 12th grade.  Amber does not have to meet these requirements to graduate - homeschooling rules in Missouri are very friendly.  However, it wouldn't hurt if she did some equivalent state history work slowly over a few years. 

After trying to desperately make it work, we have taken the plunge and left behind the Elemental Science curriculum.  It was just too dry and boring for Amber at this point.  We enjoyed many of their products, but Earth Science & Astronomy for the Logic Stage did not work for us.

We are now using Real Science 4 Kids Focus on Middle School Astronomy and Geology.  None of these include weather though, so we've added in a few additional weather resources to create our own weather module.  We are also supplementing the Real Science 4 Kids curriculum with online video lessons, readings from science books we have at home, Netflix / Amazon Instant Video resources, and anything else that fits our topics. 

Foreign Language -German
Amber decided she preferred another language over Latin. She did take 2.5 years of Latin, and I'd rather her take a language she enjoys as to fighting over the lessons.  Amber's new language of choice is German, and thankfully, this is a language that I speak.  We did trials of online and computer based curriculum, but neither of us was pleased with them.  We actually could not decide between two different curriculum, so we are trying them both out this year to see which will work better for Amber.

The first curriculum is prima from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.  I stalked this website for weeks before deciding to order, just to find out that as a homeschooler I could not order.  After several emails with their customer service I found that I can order over the phone and should have actually been able to order the whole time.  There is something wrong in their database that has it marked as schools only.  If we like this curriculum it should take Amber up through high school, if the described level 4 ever becomes available.  Unfortunately, after receiving it I immediately had doubts.   I can't put my finger on what it is, but I looked around again.

The second curriculum is the one that I had originally considered but decided was too expensive without being able to see better samples. It is published by Klett-Langenscheidt and called geni@l klick.  For some reason when I first looked at it the publisher's website the teacher's guide was not available except as their new digitized instructor's toolkit, which costs more than the whole set should cost.  I ended up seeing a recommendation for this curriculum that suggested ordering it from Amazon.de.  The audio CDs are also included with the books sold at Amazon.de where they are separate at the publisher.  It's quite strange. The overall cost with international shipping (too bad Amazon Prime shipping doesn't work for me overseas) wasn't a great savings using Amazon.de, but the inclusion of the CDs in several books  made it worth the international purchase.   I really think this curriculum might end up being my favorite, but it still costs more than prima.

Christ Light from Northwestern Publishing House -
Amber is in confirmation this year at church, so we there will be regular religious instruction at church along with homework.  However, we also plan to continue our Bible studies using Christ Light from the WELS publishing house.  I still wish that our Missouri Synod Lutheran publishing house had better homeschool curriculum, but the fact is that they do not and I'm not paying a fortune for a full blown Lutheran school religion curriculum when the Wisconsin Synod Lutheran publishing house puts out such a great option. 

Fine Arts

In our attempt to lighten Amber's schedule we will not be including any additional music appreciation lessons during our regular school.   Amber does take weekly private flute lessons and practices daily. We have dropped piano for the most part due to time constraints. Amber did take 5+ years of piano, but enjoys the flute more.  She plays piano well enough to pick it back up on her own if she chooses.  Band did not work out this year, but Amber is preparing to audition for a youth symphony next year (assuming her health will let her).

We joined a newly formed homeschool group in January of 6th grade.  After being cajoled into taking drama, Amber loved her drama class so much that she will be taking it again this year and even may audition for a part with more than 3 lines.
Update:  Not only did Amber perform as Mary in the Christmas pantomime (no lines!), but auditioned and won the part of Susan in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe!  

Last year Amber took art classes away from our house all school year, even during her sickest point.  For a while she was even taking two concurrent classes.  This year she is not as interested in art and we will let her have some time away from it.  There will still be artistic pursuits in our history and literature projects as well as in our every day life.   
Update:  For second semester Amber signed up for Photography Art at our homeschool co-op and LOVES it.  She is learning more about photography then creating art projects with her photo assignments.   Low key art with learning and fun. 

Physical Education
We did not previously set aside time during our regular school day specifically for physical education.  Amber had been a ballet dancer until January of 6th grade when her physical condition did not allow for it anymore.  She is having a lot of trouble with activity still and does not tolerate any amount of heat.  

Amber was enrolled in a homeschool P.E. class at our homeschool group for this school year, but never even started the class. She was diagnosed with POTS and probably AAG in July prior to classes starting.  Her physical activity is now limited by her condition.

However, part of the therapy for POTS is a very specific and detailed physical training program.  For the first 3.5 months walking (flat grade) is not even on the list of activities as it is all supine exercise.   We have to track Amber's heart rate for the entirety of her exercise each day and have warm up, base pace, recovery, and cool down times to meet. 



  1. Sounds like a fantastic plan! My daughter (9th grade) is also learning German so I'll be interested to hear how you like geni@l. We will be starting Saxon Algebra I later this year as well. My kids don't exactly LOVE Saxon but it's thorough and easy to understand so we're sticking with it!

    I must admit I had never heard of any of these disorders. I'm so glad you have found a way to accommodate your daughter's health needs while letting her pursue her interests. Have a great year!

    1. We hadn't heard of the disorders until Amber was diagnosed. They are basically forms of dysautonomia - malfunctions of the autonomic nervous system.