Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part II

Here are some pieces of our ninth grade curriculum. I’d be happy if anything I write helps you in your decision-making process for your own curriculum! I know I scour reviews and blog posts as I look for ways to teach.

Mathematics: Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics (Second Edition)

I selected the Second Edition of Saxon’s Advanced Mathematics because I want the program the way John Saxon designed it, with geometry integrated. Newer editions break away from integrating geometry.

Back in my school days, I used Saxon math from sixth grade Math 7/6 through senior calculus, and so I use my own positive Saxon experience to help teach. Art Reed’s valuable newsletters on his website also helped me tremendously: which books to select, how to address transcripts (You might find it interesting that my own high school transcript titled my year in the Advanced Mathematics book as “Trigonometry,” but when I read forums now, it is discouraged to call the class “trigonometry!”), how to handle bumps in the road using Saxon math, and other fascinating stories to get lost in!

Saxon’s math curriculum routinely defies all mass education norms, and his book Advanced Mathematics (second edition) is no exception:

  • It is not designed to fit neatly into a 180 day school year. (Was math designed for school–or school to teach math?) It is intended to take 3-4 semesters.
  • It mixes material from four different math classes: geometry, advanced algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus. (I did supplement geometry with a mix of some extra on-line materials I found for proofs and geometry terminology.)
  • It is incrementally and cumulatively taught such that material from the first lesson will be phased out and then brought back many lessons later for review. It’s not “learn and forget” with Saxon!
  • It continues to be graphically “boring.”
  • Its story problems contain advanced vocabulary and are quite humorous, if you get Saxon’s kind of humor.

My ninth grader seems to pick up math easily, and she has pushed through the Saxon books at a good pace, arriving at Advanced Mathematics. She does half a problem set one day and the other half the next. Since every student deserves a little autonomy (Ha! Such freedom!), she gets to pick if she does even problems one day and odds the next–or if she does problems 1-15 on the first day and then problems 16-30 on the second day.

In years past, since she grasped math quickly and fluently, I would selectively allow her to skip problems (which she knew how to do in her sleep while running from an axe murderer). However, when these old “easy” problems were brought back for review 15-20 lessons later, she had to do them to keep retention. Saxon discourages skipping problems, and I understand why.  This year, we have not skipped problems (and have even added in some extra geometry problems).

Composition: Time for Writing

We tried something different this year for writing, since I’m not a very good writing instructor. I tend to go a lit-tle crazy marking up my kids’ papers. They go a lit-tle crazy defending their work. It gets a lit-tle crazy around the house. (Best to find a new way, yes? Yes.)

We tried out two classes at Time for Writing, a program offering on-line writing classes. (I actually used it for two of my students this year.) How was it? I think that both students increased their writing skills, and I only had to put up with a lit-tle grief– instead of a lot!

  • Work was graded by a teacher, not me.
  • Concise, sequential lessons
  • Helpful deadlines
  • The classes are priced at $119 for 8 weeks, which divides out to be about $15 a week.
  • When I had to correspond with teachers, they were very helpful, kind, and seemed to like communicating with the students and their parents.
  • Actual grades were assigned.
  • Grading seems to be done on a rubric.
  • Variety of writing topics
  • Immediate start date
  • Can extend or pause a class a little bit if needed
  • Most of the actual work is paper writing. There is not much busy work, although there are reasonable on-line assignments and quizzes.

Now what about more of the cons?

Well, if you have a student who struggles with significant writing blocks, I do not suggest this program unless you have a writing tutor or the ability to work cooperatively with your student yourself. For a writer who is afraid to write (or who is motivated to start and has great ideas, but gets writer’s block as soon as she has to type, handwrite, or dictate words), this will still be a tough class and will not address that stumbling block.

However, if you have a student who has no problem getting started with the writing process when he or she puts his or her mind to it, but just doesn’t appreciate your awesome parental feedback or believe in your deadlines, then this certainly could be the program for you. It provides those things! It just doesn’t provide any help for writing block.


We used Institute for Excellence in Writing’s (IEW) Speech Bootcamp. Loved it! A small group of students met every Friday morning for one semester. The course comes with DVDs, a teacher’s workbook, and a student’s workbook. We followed the syllabus closely. It was clear and easy to follow. Very well designed and user-friendly! The videos were fun and painless to watch.

We added in extra, too: fun speech exercises; some psychology to think about that interferes with our ability to be ourselves in front of a crowd; watching and discussing some famous speeches and speakers; and a scientific presentation. Parents and siblings were invited to class to watch the students’ speeches.

This was a fun class. I liked the IEW Speech Bootcamp because it was so well planned and put together. As a teacher, I could have just followed the workbooks and videos without too much planning. Adding in more was super easy to do without interfering with the flow of what Andrew Pudewa (the Speech Bootcamp teacher) was trying to accomplish.


Ninth grade has been lots of fun, and it’s stimulating to see the teenage spunk and spirit culminating and exerting itself.

What I have written is not all-inclusive of what we read, do, or learn. We round out our curriculum with history, grammar, music, PE, and classes offered in our community.

Guess that’s all I have to say for today! If you have any questions on our use of Saxon math, Time for Writing, IEW Speech bootcamp, or anything else I’ve mentioned, ask below!

Take good care!

6 thoughts on “Ninth Grade Curriculum, Part II

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      Time for Writing provides a good course outline, good rubrics, good deadlines, good feedback, and concrete grades. For a motivated writer who just needs structure and grading from someone besides mom, I think it’s good. For a shy writer, I think a live teacher or a program that shows how to pull thoughts out and put them down and coaches through worry would be way better! I think most of the reviews on-line are pretty accurate, so if you pick through them and match up learning styles/problems, then you can decide if it’d be helpful. One class (paragraphs) my daughter really liked a lot and the other (media) she did not find as well-constructed or instructional.

      Correspondence with the teachers was really helpful for any questions or concerns.

      The Spanish class is great. He’s offering Spanish II this year. You can’t leave his class without knowing Spanish! And he’s firm but kind and funny. A bit intimidating at first, but excellent at teaching and has a heart to help kids learn!

    1. thehomeschoolingdoctor Post author

      The lessons include: self-introduction speech, narrative speech, descriptive, and persuasive speech.

      The material is exceptionally well-organized into 12 lessons. There is a teacher’s manual and a student’s workbook. The teacher’s manual allows minimal preparation time. It is laid out really, really well.

      The student’s workbook is also laid out well. It gives a place to take notes on Andrew Pudewa’s information as he lectures on the DVD. It also gives outline suggestions for composing the different types of speeches.

      The teacher’s manual and student’s manual come as PDFs. I had no problem downloading them and printing them. The only extra copying I had to do for the program was to copy critique templates for the students.

      In general, the format follows as such:

      First, the class watches Andrew Pudewa teach on the DVD (entertaining AND pertinent material) about a giving speeches and giving a particular speech type. About 40 minutes if I remember right???

      Then, they watch students give those particular kinds of speeches on the DVD. Your class evaluates those students on their speeches and you discuss critiques together, learning by critiquing.

      Next, your class members prepare their own speeches (usually over a few days or over the week) and present them. The classmates evaluate each other.

      This can be done in a boot camp style like Pudewa does or on a different schedule (ours was once a week for a semester). The sessions are organized into 12 sessions. They are VERY well organized. VERY.

      I think an elementary school student would be bored watching the DVDs (but anyone reading this feel free to chime in!). They might feel a bit long and the topics a bit dry. (But The IEW site says 6-12 grades. My class was 9th, 10th, and 12th grades. It seemed perfect for these ages. They were adequately entertained without much boredom.) Also, the course does use critiquing others as a way to emphasize learning points and student growth. My elementary thinkers are a bit more black and white thinkers, so having them mature to be able to critically evaluate pros and cons really well helps in this class.

      I did not mention in my post that the material has Christian content in the speeches. The workbooks seem pretty neutral, but the DVDs carry Christian messages.

      The structure of the class is so strong and so well-knit, that it’s actually easy to insert more material as you see important for your class. I left extra class time on our meeting sessions to insert extra. It’s rare to have a course so well put together that you know exactly where you can insert extra information smoothly!

      I would like it if he expanded this speech boot camp, I liked it so much!

      What did I leave out?

      Have a good weekend!

  1. CWilliams

    Any idea where someone can get a copy of IEW Speech Boot Camp? I’ve been searching everywhere and can’t find a new or used copy.


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