8th Grade Curriculum Review

The school year is almost over, and many people are preparing to order curriculum for next year. I wanted to take a moment to share my thoughts on the curriculum I used this year for my 8th grader. In citations where I’m planning to continue using the same curriculum next year, I’ll let you know.

English/Language Arts – Reading: My eighth grader has always been a veracious reader. He did a lot of independent reading this year. Many of the books he read I aloud him to select himself. I did also assign a few classics and historical fiction titles that corresponded with what he was learning about in history. Sometimes I gave him writing assignments associated with his reading, but for the most part reading was simply reading, not really an assignment this year. I am planning to assign more of the books that my son reads in 9th grade and also have more reading related writing assignments next year.

ELA/Vocabulary – Wordly Wise 3000 Level 8: My 8th grader did the Wordly Wise Level 8 workbook this year. Since there are only 20 word lists per book, he finished this curriculum back in January. In some ways this workbook feels like busywork, and in general I don’t like giving my kids tons of workbooks to complete. But many of the activities in this book reminded me a lot of SAT vocabulary questions, so doing these workbooks not only builds vocabulary knowledge, it also familiarizes a student with analogies and other vocabulary test questions. I am planning to have him do Wordly Wise Level 9 next year.

ELA/Writing – WriteShop I: My 8th grader used WriteShop I as a writing curriculum this year. I really like the WriteShop curriculum. The skill builder activities and prewriting/brainstorming exercises helped improve his writing confidence a lot. My parents have been coming over to help with homeschool once a week all year, and my son’s been primarily doing WriteShop on the days his grandparents are here. If he was using this curriculum every day, instead of only once or twice a week, he easily could have finished both WriteShop I and WriteShop II in a single year. Instead, he will be continuing with WriteShop II for 9th grade.

Math – Saxon 8/7: We tried a lot of different math curriculum this year. You can see a full list of my thoughts on all of them here. My 8th grader has, however, been using Saxon Math 8/7 since January. Math is a subject my son has always struggled with, but he’s really enjoying the Saxon curriculum. I’ve seen a big improvement in both his mathematic ability and his overall enjoyment of math since starting this curriculum. Since he started this curriculum midway through the year, I’m planning to have him continue using it over the summer and into next fall. I’ll them have him move on to Saxon Algebra 1/2 next year (likely starting in the late fall).

Science – Bookshark vs RSO: I started the school year using Bookshark Science H with both my 8th grader and my 6th grader. In January, my 8th grader shifted to instead using Real Science Odyssey Astronomy 2. From a scientific standpoint, I’m a lot more impressed with Real Science Odyssey. The Bookshark curriculum talks about science without really teaching science, if that makes sense. The RSO Astronomy curriculum is only a single semester curriculum, which is why I had my son start it midway through the year. RSO also makes a middle school level Biology curriculum, but other than Biology and Astronomy all their curriculum are for elementary students. Despite the lack of subject options, I would still recommend RSO and I wouldn’t recommend Bookshark, at least for science.

History – Build Your Library/Build Your Own: My 8th grader has been learning about US history this year. I purchased a lot of US History books at the beginning of the year and then attempted to create my own curriculum. Build Your Library is a secular literature based curriculum that uses a teaching style very similar to what I was attempting to create myself. US History is covered in BYL levels 5 & 6. Halfway through the year, I decided to purchase the BYL Level 6 curriculum to supplement the curriculum I’d been attempting to build myself. Even though I only used a fraction of the BYL Level 6 curriculum material, I still found the material helpful. I would highly recommend Build Your Library to anyone looking for a secular literature based curriculum. While I’m not planning to follow either curriculum exactly, I will be pulling from both BYL Level 7 (Geography Elective) and BYL Level 9 (Earth Science) in my son’s 9th grade curriculum.

Civics – Painless Government: As I mentioned before, my parents have been acting as homeschool teachers for both of my kids once a week. For the first half of the year, they taught weekly civics lessons. They pulled a lot of resources from Teachers Pay Teachers and also spent a lot of time focusing on the November election. Painless Government was another resource that they used. They found the text informative and helpful when teaching the basic concepts of US Government. If you are planning to teach your kids government, I recommend this painless resource.

Economics – Economics and You: For the second half of they year, the weekly social studies lessons with the grandparents have been focused on Economics and Personal Finance. They have been using the Economics and You curriculum and really enjoying it. This curriculum has a long term simulation where students get a job, make a budget, and pay for all of life’s expenses from financing a car to getting an apartment. Both of my kids are enjoying this curriculum a lot, probably more than they enjoyed learning about politics last fall.

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