Fall 2012 – Homeschool Plan & Curriculum for J (8th/9th Grade)

It’s that time of year that most homeschoolers are firming up their curriculum plans, finalizing lesson plans, and preparing schedules for the new school year.  Here, it’s a little different.

Over the years I’ve learned not to plan too much, because most of the time life happens and we change things up anyway.

I’m a firm believer in taking advantage of the windows of opportunity that come up in everyday life, and letting the kids soak up learning while they are engaged and interested.

an interest led education - studying fish breeding

Following his interest in Fish Breeding

Considering we’re in our twelfth year of homeschooling, you’d think I have it figured out by now.  But you know each child is different. And I believe that one size does *not* fit all.

One of the biggest benefits we have with homeschooling is the ability to customize education to our children – to their learning styles, to their interests, to their goals.

So, I’ve learned to take my cues from the kids, facilitating their interests.

But I do keep in the back of my mind a eye on what learning opportunities are available and what learning is taking place. And of course, I have to document it all for my olders, as most of their projects will end up on their high school transcript.

Here’s my thought process for J this Fall.  Technically, according to the school system where he receives Speech Therapy he’d be an eighth grader. But J has decided to start in on earning high school credits this year, so that is factoring into his plans and choices.

For the sake of convention, I’m going to try to boil this down to subjects, even though the reality is that his learning will be mostly real life- and project-based.  So here goes:


J hit a readiness wall with Math last year and we’re waiting for development and motivation to coincide again before he moves on. So instead we’re recognizing how much math is involved in his every day life and in the games that he plays.

Games and projects are excellent tools for building the mathematical thinking needed for higher level math. So we let him explore his love of games, spending hours playing, strategizing, and socializing over board games, card games, dice games, computer games, and video games. The mathematical thinking and strategy skills that comes out of these games will be helpful later.

J is not interested in pursuing college, so his real life education is focused on business skills.  He currently runs his own small business, and is learning all kinds of practical business math skills in the process.

When he’s ready, he may decide to return to Khan Academy‘s math program, or re-pick up Life of Fred. Though I do have the Murderous Maths series on my wish list, that might just tickle his funny bone enough.  We’ll see.  I have plenty of games, projects, and math living books accessible, and who knows what will come up out of his current projects.

Oh, and what until you see all the math that’s in his current science projects :)


The most schooly thing J currently has on his schedule for fall is a Robotics class through Landry Academy. He’ll be using the Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robotics kit to create robots, program them, and meet challenges. This is one cool kit and I’m sure he’ll be driving his dog crazy with his creations.

Though, his goal is to eventually build a robot that will do the dishes for him. :)

Science is really big around here. So the other few projects in the works are an ongoing conversation and project about whether the energy from lightening can be captured and harnessed as an alternative energy source — which leads to lots of research into understanding how lightening works (physics) and how electricity works (also physics).

He’s waiting for Kgirl and I to get to the Lightening section of the physics course we are taking so he can join in at that point and learn more. And we have three different Snap Circuit kits for kids plus another two electronic circuit kits laying around for him to tinker with.

We also have ongoing discussions about the feasibility of various alternative aka “green” energy sources, so laying around is Home Power magazine, instructions for building your own solar panels – which we might try this year – and a Thames and Kosmos Physics Solar Workshop Kit. Oh and there’s the Back to Basics book that J and the youngers are devouring.

Oh, and then there’s his current interest in Herbal Medicine, which is all about botany and chemistry. He’s had fun researching different herbs, identifying what we already have, and researching how each are used. The last we discussed was adding more herbs to the garden and looking at what it cost to buy a distiller so he can create his own essential oils. (eek that business mind is at work again!)

Did I mention computer programming? That’s another ongoing project – developing computer games. So he’s got the computer science covered too. :)


J loves to read, and shares and discusses books with both his older sister and his dad. He doesn’t do audio books as much as Kgirl does, so he doesn’t come close to her volume of books (over 100 titles a year), but he’s no slouch – reading at least 2 books a week. So, we’re good.

Also, there’s a Biblical Worldview class he really wants to take, so if he gets into the class, he’ll also get a full Literature credit there too. So he’ll be covered either way.


Motivation and developmental readiness has coincided just in the last few weeks. His willingness and ability to overcome his written expression learning disorder to articulate on paper his thoughts is so high right now.  He’s spending hours and hours writing by hand the storyboard and specs for a computer game he’s been dreaming up for the last year.

He does a huge amount of communicating with other gamers with the online strategy games he plays. Has to write with boy scouts. And, he’s also writing quite a bit in the course of his little business – inventory, lists, prices, signs, etc.

Oh, and then there’s his AirSoft review blog, where he researches AirSoft equipment and writes about it on his blog.

This is just about as practical and real world as writing gets. The writing is real. He’s motivated. And the feedback is natural and built-in to the process. Can’t get better than that.


For books and read alouds we’re still, as a family, working our way through the Sonlight World History book list and the Sonlight Eastern Hemisphere book list. We couple this with  a variety of documentaries and historical dramatizations streamed from Netflix and Amazon Instant Video. One of my top picks for this fall is the Empires series from PBS.

J also has a huge interest in weaponry – across the ages. His latest acquisition – a birthday present from his sister – is a gorgeous book illustrating the various weapons through out the ages, which he’s studying intently.

Also, another birthday present, is the computer game Civilizations V, which is bound to trigger more research projects and history discussions.

Physical Education

In addition to playing competitive baseball, For PE this year, J has coaxed his dad into  ”let’s get fit” sessions. Three mornings a week, at an hour way too early for me, they are either biking or swimming laps at the community pool. The bonus to this is, that J really loves getting that one-on-one time with his dad – and an arena where he can “beat” Dad at sports :)


And finally bible. In addition to his personal bible study and youth group, J is really hoping to take a biblical worldview class. It’s an opportunity that may or may not be open to him, but he feels he “needs” for the future.  Not something we require, but will wholeheartedly facilitate, especially as a young man entering the business world.

So that’s it. J’s plan and homeschool curriculum for the Fall. It’s off-the-beaten path, but it works for us. We’ll see how it all goes, what paths and rabbit trails we go down. But as long as he’s learning, I’m happy to facilitate!

To learn what other families are choosing for their homeschool curriculum this year, check out the Not Back to School blog hop Curriculum week.

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9 Responses to Fall 2012 – Homeschool Plan & Curriculum for J (8th/9th Grade)

  1. Joan says:

    Shannon, I LOVED reading this – sooo many similarities between J and my seventh-grader-ish Sarah. She also is planning a business-based future rather than college (though she’ll need some particular training – she wants to be a pet groomer) and I find it really changes the types of things we focus on. She is a financial whiz despite hating math, which I find funny! :)

    I can’t wait to check out some of these ideas – especially Murderous Maths, which sounds like my kind of title. Sarah’s actually at a Lego robotics camp now and might considering taking that as a 4-H project next year too!

  2. Shannon says:

    How funny, they do sound very similar. No wonder I loved reading through your site the other day!! I love the fact that the kids don’t have to wait to pursue the interests of their hearts.

  3. Sparklee says:

    Wow, I am SO impressed with how you enable your son to follow his interests and learn from real-life experiences! Good for you (and him!) Very impressed that he already has his own business as well!

    I think my 10-year old would be very interested in that dishwashing robot!

    I had never heard of written expression learning disorder–how was he diagnosed? Curious because I have an extremely reluctant writer here.

    It sounds like you have a great year ahead of you! Enjoy learning together!

  4. Shannon says:

    LOL – I think my entire household will be happy to have a dishwashing robot. It’s amazing how dishes don’t seem to do themselves.

    It’s not uncommon to have reluctant writers, usually all falls into place somewhere between 10 and 14, on the later side for most boys.

    J’s learning disorder was diagnosed last year through the school system, when it was obvious that it was more than just normal reluctant writing. The reason for the dx was to get the right wording to see if there were more ideas we could do to help him, and to have written proof for testing modifications for any standardized testing he may want to do in the high school years.

  5. Patti says:

    We’re going to be watching and doing comparitive study to PBS Empires this year also. I enjoy reading what you are working on… the Weaponry study would definitely be something up my kids’ alley and I will probably incorporate that. My 10 yo is starting Archery through 4-H this year, my 12 yo is novice skateboarding and we’ll be at the bowling alley a LOT this year. I’m also going to be teaching them how to create websites then their own blogs. Blog Fridays they’ll be typing away on various given subjects or venting how they feel.
    I’m feeling very positive this year! After 3 nighmarish years back in the public school system full time – we are returning to homeschool. We tried but it just didn’t work for any of us. I am going to keep my seat on the district finance committee and take the boys to my meetings with me where they will learn about balancing budgets and how to be involved with trying to make things better by using the system. Maybe with a lot of pushing we can make things better for OTHER people’s kids at the district.

  6. Patti says:

    Even I would be interested in the dishwashing robot! If J can make one that puts away laundry too I’ll buy it!

  7. Kelly K says:

    Okay, first I enjoyed this. Secondly, I feel woefully inadequate in what I’m providing for Rian as he hikes many of the same interests but I’m not able to creatively coax them out as you’re seemingly able too. We read your page together and hopefully he’ll be able to give me ideas to help him.

  8. Shannon says:

    Kelly, I think that you read this with your son speaks volumes – of great things! Your heart and mind are well equipped to facilitate your son’s interests, as you are listening and watching how to do this. At this age the kids are very capable of exploring and owning their education. It’s not so much as I coax these things out of J, as he reveals them to me. As he asks questions or shares his thoughts, or expresses interests, I pay attention, share my thoughts if he’s open to them, and look up resources that might interest him and share those with him. I give time, space, respect, and a listening ear. And he gives me respect, shares his thoughts and his projects, and feels safe asking questions and sharing ideas. I’m not sure if I’m explaining the back and forth, give and recieve, and the relationship well. I’ll think on it more and see if I can explain it better.

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