Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Spanish , History, Poetry, and Music

I’ve provided links to what texts we use.  Most of the links are from Amazon because that’s where I find the most reviews to read from other people.  I like to read reviews.  That does not mean I bought it from Amazon, though.  I don’t get any money from Amazon or anything affiliated with any of these texts.  I am more than happy to answer any questions anyone may have about any of these texts or what we do in general!


Spanish text we picked upWe continue to have the gift of a great, steady native speaking tutor who comes to our home twice a week.  She follows an old textbook that someone gave to me a couple of years ago.  Just something I picked up along the way that seems to work.  It moves a little fast over some topics, so we supplement with exercises from several Practice Makes Perfect workbooks I picked up at Barnes and Nobles and Amazon in the past.  Our goal has Practice makes perfect textbeen to transition to thinking and speaking in Spanish during class time, but it is painful coming.  One day at a time.  My daughter’s verbal comprehension is good, and the teacher speaks in Spanish for the class.  Moving through the book and worksheets is also par on course.  It is simply the speaking application which stalls, although I know this is quite normal.  Besides our formal lessons, we have  a wonderful college student who watches the girls when she can; she is also a native Spanish speaker and tries to speak only in Spanish to them.  Both our tutor and babysitter are great people whom we consider our friends.

I have lots of Spanish resources in my home that we rotate through.  This year Spanish, like most everything else in our home, was streamlined secondary to the birth of our final baby.  If you’re working Spanish into your curriculum, you may want to check out my other homeschooling posts on this topic.  Or ask me in the comments if that’s easier.

History and Geography

Story of the WorldStory of the World by Susan Bauer continues to be our “spine.”  Actually both of my girls completely read the assigned material on their own.  They enjoy reading it and move quickly through the assigned reading.  I supplemented this year with lots Gilgamesh the Heroof documentaries appropriate to the sections they were reading.  Some of the documentaries were a bit sketchy, and some were top notch.  In addition, we supplemented with audio tapes, like The Iliad, and books, like Gilgamesh the Hero and Greek Myths from Usborne.  History is such a fun, easy topic to teach.  Actually, by now, I teach little.

Geography is taught alongside history.  As the history book circles around to the same areas for different cultures, it is easy to hash and rehash geography so it sticks.  As we rehash the geography, I also take time to ask them what other named cultures existed in the same region.


This year, we took time to simply review all the old poems we have memorized.  I wanted to expand the poetry curriculum teaching poetrybeyond simple recitation by either learning about some poets and their poems or learning about poetry styles.  I probably just didn’t have time, but I couldn’t find a poetry text which satisfied what I was looking for.  I settled on Teaching Poetry:  Yes You Can! (Jacqueline Sweeeney) and Read and Understand Poetry, Grades 5-6.

read and understand poetryTeaching Poetry:  Yes You Can! is a fairly brief paperback text which unintentionally mirrors our writing program excellently (Institute for Excellence in Writing)!  Topics hit on include similes, imagery, strong verbs, nouns and adjectives, onomatopoeia, refrain and echo, choosing titles,and structure.  The author walks the teacher through how she teaches poetry, even going as far as to provide some scripting for you.  I like it and think it’s a great little find, but if you’re looking for a student-led poetry text, this is not it.  (I was kind of looking for a student-led text this year.)  If you want your kids to view poetry as an expression of self, this is your book.  If you want your kids to learn how to best make poetry express themselves in a memorable fashion, this is your book.  The author also provides lots of examples of student-written poetry to illustrate how to incorporate her topics into writing poetry.

Read and Understand Poetry, Grades 5-6 is organized by poetic themes, rather than topics to learn in poetry.  I was looking for something more structured along the lines of “Meter–what is meter?”; “Rhyming patters–what are the types of rhyming patterns?”; “Form–what is form?”; and so on.  This book hits on that, but not in a logical, sequential fashion like I wanted.  Instead, the book presents poems based around a theme, and then tells about the features used in that particular poem.  Nice, but not what I was looking for.  (At the end of the book, there is a little summary of terms, but still not what I was looking for.)  My kids actually like the book, and we will keep working through it slowly through next year.  My fifth grader felt it was just at the right level for her, and I’d have to agree.  I would stick with the recommended grade levels.  The book uses multiple choice questions and also open-ended questions to “test” understanding.  At the end there is a glossary of terms and poets.  This book is very much like what I would have used in my public school education (although now it meets the beautiful, magnificent, sure-to-make-our-kids-smarter requirements of Common Core–don’t we all feel better?).


Violin was a new endeavor, and my daughter loved it.  She has lessons once a week.  They’re loosely Suzuki method.  She continues to dabble in piano on her own, moving forward in spurts.  Last year we used piano theory books, and I liked them a lot.  But this year, although we still have them, I didn’t make time for them.  They got a little advanced for me, and so I need to find the answers or someone who can tell me the answers!  My daughter is also playing guitar now this summer.  It really all just sounds so beautiful.  I’m so lucky to have such music in my life.


We kept it narrowed down to dance, ballet and tap dancing.  And of course the music lessons.


That’s about it for our fifth grade curriculum!  This was the year where independence took off!  It was refreshing for me!  Take care and may your homeschooling endeavors flourish!


8 thoughts on “Our Fifth Grade Curriculum: Spanish , History, Poetry, and Music

  1. Athena

    Thanks for the in-depth review of Read and Understand Poetry. I’m planning to buy it (also love reviews) but have been “burned” in the past – meaning I’ve bought curriculum that I never used. If you want structure, there’s Barron’s Painless Poetry. I also use Immersed in Verse by Allan Wolf though it may be like Teaching Poetry: Yes You Can!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Dear Athena, My kids liked Read and Understand Poetry. We will keep using it because it’s fine. I liked it because I could say, “Go and do poetry.” And they could go and do it without me till I got around. A little more information for you…As I mentioned already, each unit is arranged by a theme of life (say like “heritage” and “war” and “nature”). Within each unit there is about 5 poems on this theme. Each poem starts off with a “teacher” page with all the stuff I like (poetry background, elements of poetry, and then also vocabulary, and tips for reading the poem) that would be great for when mom/teacher can be involved. Then the poem is presented on the second page of the section for that poem. Then the poem is followed by a multiple choice worksheet and then a more open-ended type fill in the blank worksheet. So each poem has four pages allotted to it this way every time. The poems included are nice poems. I like them (but I’m not hard to please here). I feel they do stress multi-cultural awareness (which I again don’t mind, but I felt it very large in this book). I hope that helps. If that triggers more thoughts, let me know! And of course, it is black and white, except the front cover.

      Here are the links Amazon links to the books Athena mentioned in case someone is chasing poetry curriculum:



      Thanks for those ideas! I appreciate it. Painless Poetry might be like I’m looking for.

      I hope you’re having a good week! Take care!


  2. Athena

    Dear Terri,

    I really appreciate your taking time to give a more in-depth review in your response, the reason being the high cost of shipping to the UAE (obviously). Plus, it saves me time – it takes me a long time to make up my mind because, again, of the shipping cost, and then I have to look at the sample pages offered for viewing by CBD and Rainbow Resource.

    Right now, I’m trying to decide between Read and Understand Poetry, the Grammar of Poetry (which has DVDs but I’ve discovered that DVD-based courses only makes us late), Memoria Press’ poetry curriculum (which I can’t remember at the moment but it has its own teacher guide), etc … But I think I’ll go with Read and Understand for the same reasons that you like them.

    We’re having a good week … it’s the break between our third and fourth quarters. Well, maybe not so good – I hate computing grades and making report cards. Take care, too!

  3. Athena

    Oh my – just saw this! I’ve decided to get the ebook version from evan moor’s website because i’ll be using it again with my youngest (no sense buying it twice). Thanks anyway!


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