Tag Archives: history

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!


Part 8: Finishing Our Third Grade Curriculum

Finishing up the ever-exciting commentary on our third grade curriculum!  <Smirk.>

Our third grade year is coming to a close in a few weeks.  Third grade was fun.  My daughter seemed to start as a young child and emerge with the makings of a young lady.  All of her prior skills sharpened, and she enthusiastically took on more complicated things and demanded more independence, every now and then reaching back to feel if I was still there.  Although intensely longing for her independence, when she reached back for my reassurance, I grabbed that precious, small but growing, hand and hugged it to me with all the strength, love, and guidance that I have.


My oldest daughter began learning cursive in first grade and we hit it really hard in second grade.  In third grade, we have been just been fine-tuning print and cursive handwriting along the way.  Why did we start cursive so young?  Let’s just say “backwards letters.”  I read somewhere that children struggling with printing backwards may do well with cursive, since you “can’t make cursive letters backwards.”  The concept in practice worked moderately well, but let me tell you, you can make cursive backwards!

For third-grade handwriting, I simply picked up a workbook or two at McDonald’s (no, kidding, Office Depot or somewhere like that, just nowhere “fancy” and certainly not expensive!) to remind ME how to make the letters, and we worked through them.  If I didn’t like the way some letters were presented in the book, I’d teach her my own way, or both ways and let her pick.  As long as she CAN write nicely and CANwpid-IMAG0516.jpg read cursive, I’m good.  We also picked up a cursive Jokes and Riddles practice book because my daughter has a great funny bone.

Aside from the handwriting workbooks, we just incorporate handwriting practice into other lessons.  For example, there will be times when I ask grammar to be done in her “best” handwriting.  Sometimes it is stunning.  Other times, well, you can clearly see my daughter hates the physical act of handwriting.

Aside:  Now, by the end of third grade, my daughter is finally, on her own, catching and correcting it when she makes backwards letters.  Usually, they say the formation of backwards letters should disappear by the end of second grade, so it was a bit disconcerting to see this still around during her third grade year.  However, my husband clearly remembers that he, too, had this problem as a child, so we just watched her closely for any other signs of learning barriers.


We have satisfactorily used The Story of the World (Susan Wise Bauer) for the last three years.  We are on Volume 3:  Early Modern Times.  The history book contains 42 concise, fairly interesting lessons, and we cover 0-3 lessons per week.  I also buy the Activity Book, which has maps, coloring pages, suggested reading, and hands-on project ideas.  There is also a “test” booklet, but we did not buy it because I like to quiz my children aloud to assess learning.  The activity book is chock-full of stuff to keep you super busy if you choose.  If we tried to do much in the way of supplemental reading or projects, we got behind this year.  In first and second grades, we had less other school material to cover, and we really threw ourselves into history and the recommended reading and projects.  Now that my daughter’s curriculum has broadened due to increased learning capacity, we stick basically with the history book lesson and move on.

Generally, I read the chapter aloud to both of my school-aged kids at the same time, making commentary, asking questions, and having the kids go to the map and show me the places we’re reading about.  (I invested in a huge wall map and I think it helps their geography knowledge a lot.  Well, at least it helps mine.)  While I read, they look at and/or color the activity pages.  Conversely,  they’ve got CDs with the lessons read aloud and you could check them out from the library or maybe purchase online.  This would free up some hands for supper making.  We rented them from the library sometimes, and the kids liked the break from mom.

There are four volumes of The Story of the World.  It is recommended to do one volume each year, and at the end of four years, begin the cycle again.  I believe I will stick with the curriculum, and hopefully begin incorporating more supplemental reading and projects as the girls gain independence.  Perhaps, then, in high school I can add in testing from the booklet.  I don’t know.  We’ll see.


Probably like most home school families, we count extracurricular activities as PE.  We have participated in formal dance, tae kwan do, gymnastics, basketball, and swimming activities.  Weight-bearing activity and sunshine are important for the physical body, and so anytime I can get my kids to play outside, we do.


I have two main religious homeschooling goals to accomplish before my kids leave my house.  One, that they know it is the love of Christ which bridges all divides they’ll ever face.  Two, that they learn some Bible history.  Currently we’re working on both, but we have far to go on the Bible history.  This year we memorized and wrote out all the verses on Sing the Word from A-Z and have been working through Egermeier’s Story BibleSing the Word has been enjoyable for us, and I love learning the memory verses to catchy music and singing, sometimes dancing around the room as we learn them.  Egermeier’s Story Bible brings the Bible alive on a personal level for the children, and even me.  Miscellaneous fun reading comes up on St. Patrick’s Day, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, as well as other days.  One book we all particularly enjoyed this year was Dangerous Journey:  The Story of Pilgrim’s Progress by Oliver Hunkin.  Spellbinding!

I guess that’s it.  I have not formally taught arts and crafts this year.  My kids do that on their own, above and beyond anything I could ever dream of or do.

If you care to comment, please do!  Or e-mail me with any questions about what we used for our third grade curriculum.