Category Archives: Curricula

Homeschooling Grade 6 – What We’re Learning This year

Homeschooling Grade 6

This post is about what my quirky, energetic, 11-year-old son is learning this homeschool year.

Jasper loves maths, science, audiobooks, Lego and video games. He prefers learning at home, ideally while cuddling our pets, and he keeps us all entertained with his off-the-wall humour.

Jasper’s goals

If Jasper were in public school here in the UK, he’d be in his first year of senior school. This has focused his mind on his goal of going to university one day, maybe to study maths. To help him with this goal, Jasper recently decided to reduce his video gaming, to make more time for other forms of learning.


Like his sister, Jasper’s enjoying working through the Art of Problem Solving Prealgebra with me. He’s set himself a goal of covering half the book by April, and so does extra problems on his own in the afternoons. He also has an unofficial goal of overtaking Cordie in the book, which is going to happen soon.  😉

We’ve also been using Creative Constructions as a fun way to learn how to use a compass and play with angles, and Jasper’s asked me to get the AoPS Geometry book, so we’ll probably mix in some of that soon.

From time to time we also dip into the Life of Fred prealgebra books.


Jasper still struggles with handwriting, so learning to touch-type has been a priority for him. He loves Nessy Fingers, and after several years using it he’s now a fast and accurate typist.

Recently we’ve added in Nessy Writing Beach (US version here) which is a fun, dyslexia-friendly way to learn grammar, spelling, punctuation and other writing skills.

Jasper also occasionally works through the English courses on Study Ladder.

Even though he’ll be allowed to use a keyboard for his exams, Jasper knows he needs a basic level of handwriting in life, so he keeps up his habit of doing handwritten copywork from a favourite book several days a week.


Last term Jasper and I slowly made our way through Theodore Gray’s The Elements together, which we loved.

I’m often conscious of how slowly we make our way through books compared with other homeschooling families. This is partly because Jasper learns best in bite-sized chunks, and partly because we go off on so many tangents. In fact the better the book, the longer we take to read it, because it inspires so many lively conversations.

After The Elements, we moved onto Molecules by the same author. Jasper finds some of the explanations in Molecules  more detailed than he needs right now, so we’re sticking to the main body text for now while I read the small print for fun on my own.

homeschooling grade 6
Theodore Gray’s ‘Molecules’

This term Jasper’s also asked to study ‘the kind of science people in school learn’. I’m terrible at following curricula, but fortunately we have a friend who’s a whizz at bringing ‘school science’ to life.

One of my goals is for Jasper to interact with more people to improve his social confidence, so I suggested he have a weekly Skype session with Kate. He loves running up to me in the middle of a session with Kate and saying things like, ‘We’re doing an experiment! I need a glass of cordial, salty water, vegetable oil and deodorant!’ 🙂

Meanwhile, of course, we’re still doing fun experiments together. One resource we’re really looking forward to diving into is MEL Chemistry. I’ve been looking for something like MEL for years – a proper, professional chemistry kit for young scientists instead of the over-priced, over-packaged toys shops sell as ‘chemistry sets’.

So far with MEL we’ve explored redox reactions by using electrolysis to grow cool tin dendrites. I’m looking forward to sharing more about this brilliant resource.

homeschooling grade 6: making tin dendrites
Using electrolysis to make tin dendrites with a MEL Chemistry kit

Economics, politics and history

Jasper got quite interested in politics last year with the US election and Brexit, so we’ve been reading a few of the Uncle Eric politics and economics books, starting with Whatever Happened To Penny Candy. I’m not sure how I feel about some of the author’s political opinions, but I appreciate very much that he’s created living books aimed at young people. The books are a great starting place for conversations.

Meanwhile, both children and I are still enjoying The Story of the World as our jumping-off place for history. We’ve been reading this series regularly for about five years now and we’re only a quarter through the final (fourth) volume!

Yesterday I had to ask the kids if I could at least please get to the end of a sentence before replying to a question or comment. While I read aloud, the children played catch with our inflatable globe as they discussed whether or not Bolivia ought to have some of Chile or Peru’s coastline. I wonder if this happens in other families?

Jasper loves history and still listens regularly to Tony Robinson’s and John O’Farrell’s books.


Despite having a month of language classes in Spain two years ago, Jasper’s never shown much interest in foreign languages and I’ve never pushed him. But recently we were chatting about what five GCSEs he might like to do to ease his path to university (maths, English, physics, chemistry + ?) and he asked if I could teach him some Spanish.

We’re using Compañeros, which I chose because the student book comes with a CD. (You can only get the audio companions for most languages books with the expensive teachers’ edition.)

There are masses of free resources available online to supplement our book work, although we have to be careful to select those that teach European Spanish. We especially like the lessons and games at Spanish Games.

If Jasper’s interest in Spanish continues, I’ll probably also invest in Mira!, the textbook English schoolchildren Jasper’s age use.


Everyone in our family is doing a Udemy course at the moment.

Jasper’s is Learn to Code by Making Games – The Complete Unity Developer, which is teaching him the programming language C# using the Unity game development engine. He’s hoping that by the end of the course he’ll be able to design 2D and 3D games for web and mobile. (Confession: I don’t understand much of what I just wrote.)

Jasper’s main task in the course so far has been to copy lengthy chunks of code which (I know from the WordPress coding course I’m doing) is hard. A single misplaced curly bracket or missed comma causes the whole programme to fail, and trying to discover where you went wrong is like looking for a needle in a haystack.

But the intense focus and attention to detail the course  requires is great for Jasper’s development. I’m also really impressed by the fact that he works hard to find his own errors before he asks his techy dad for help.


Finding outlets for Jasper’s intense energy has been an ongoing challenge during the years we’ve been home-educating. His sensory issues have prevented him taking part in activities like scouts that his sister enjoys. Team sports don’t work for the same reason.

Because it takes a huge amount of focus and emotional energy for Jasper to join in any group activity, I’m incredibly proud of him for what he does achieve. For instance, he’s been doing group homeschool figure skating lessons for over two years now and recently completed the final level (eight) of the Basic Skills Programme. He’s now working towards his Bronze award.

Jasper’s also been going to a gymnastics class for 18 months, and recently started a martial arts tricking class (a fun cross between parkour, gymnastics and martial arts), which both he and Cordie love.

I’m also very proud of Jasper for sticking with piano lessons for over a year. He even started practising a bit between lessons recently!

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I think this is the most comprehensive post I’ve ever written about Jasper’s learning. There’s always so much to say about my busy, extroverted daughter who loves to chat about her passions and dreams. Jasper, meanwhile, is my child who quietly taught himself to read, write and spell by playing video games, who astounds us all with what he learns from YouTube videos, and who recently set about reducing his screen time with a sense of commitment and self-discipline that left me with no concerns about his ability to achieve whatever he sets his mind to.

I don’t know what Jasper’s future has in store, but I’m looking forward to watching it unfold. In the meantime I’ll keep doing what I’ve done for the last six years: chatting with him about what he enjoys and where he wants to go, and offering resources and activities I think he’ll enjoy.

What are you and your learning this year?

I’d love to hear from you!

If you’d like to follow along with the second half of our unschooling journey, don’t forget to leave your email address in the box below. You can also like Navigating By Joy on Facebook.

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I’m appreciatively linking up with Kris at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

homeschooling year 7

What We’re Learning This Homeschool Year (Grade 7)

homeschool year grade 7 - girl listening to kitten's heart

How’s your 2017 going?  Despite my best intentions, my other blog has been taking up all my energy for the last few months. But the new year seemed like a good opportunity to share what we’re up to, starting with my busy 13-year-old.

My 13-year-old’s goals

Cordie wants to go to university when she’s 18. Here in England the most straightforward route to uni is to sit GCSEs, which are the exams schoolchildren take at 16.

Although schoolchildren commonly sit eight or nine GCSEs,  most homeschoolers only take about five, spread over several years. At the moment Cordie plans to take maths, English (both compulsory), French, physics, Spanish and/or chemistry.


At the start of this academic year we started working through a GCSE textbook, but after years of hands-on maths we found that approach far too dull. So we switched to the Art of Problem Solving, which we’re  loving.

I’m happy to say that what I wrote here on this blog four years ago has more than come true:

Let’s Play Maths [the wonderful book that inspired our maths play] suggests different approaches for the teen years depending on whether a child has had a good taste of the “Aha!” factor during the elementary years.  Once a teen is ready for textbooks:

“Don’t be fooled by your own experience of dry or tedious math classes: textbook mathematics is still math the mathematician’s way, as mental play.  But it is no longer the play of a child dabbling in the shallows… No, this is the play of the athlete, who works hard at training and enjoys seeing his muscles grow firm, who can’t wait to test himself against a new and challenging opponent.”

Denise Gaskins’

We’re using the Art of Problem Solving PreAlgebra (plus the free accompanying videos). AoPS Prealgebra covers topics Cordie learned a while ago, but to a depth neither of us has ever explored.

Although AoPSPreAlgebra doesn’t cover  the entire GCSE syllabus,  we’re confident that after Cordie’s worked through it she’ll have such a thorough understanding of mathematical concepts that she won’t have any trouble picking up the extra topics she’ll need for GCSE.


English language GCSE is required for university entrance. Cordie’s preparing for it by taking this correspondence course.

She’s had top marks for all her assignments so far, although the tutor has warned that she writes far too much for every question so it looks like her main challenge is going to be containing herself!


As with maths, our years of hands-on science combined with Cordie’s voracious appetite for watching science videos on YouTube has prepared her well for the challenge of covering the rather dry GCSE syllabus.

Fortunately we have a homeschooling teacher friend who’s a genius at bringing the syllabus to life.  Cordie’s twice-weekly Skype sessions with Kate are the highlight of her week. Last term they explored science generally. They’ve decided to focus on physics this year so that Cordie can sit her GCSE in January 2018.

Cordie’s also learning environmental science at her weekly homeschool group. The teacher is another experienced and inspiring former homeschooler who brings the topic to life with hands-on activities, project work and presentation opportunities. She’s covering the environmental science GCSE syllabus so Cordie may sit the exam at some point, although she’s not relying on it as a core subject for uni entrance.


Cordie loves languages. She’s listened to her hero John McWhorter’s  books on language  dozens of times and she talks about studying linguistics at uni one day, although of course there’s plenty of time for another passion to prevail.

She’s learning French and Spanish in very different but complementary ways.

She learns French with three other homeschooled girls in a weekly class taught by a former schoolteacher. Rachel is super-organised and well-versed in GCSE requirements, so Cordie’s getting lots of practice writing the endless postcards about her holidays that GCSE seems to consist of.

In contrast Cordie learns Spanish via a combination of intensive courses in Spain (we go about twice a year), weekly Skype conversation classes with a native speaker friend, and grammar with me.

This contrast in the ways she’s learning is really opening Cordie’s eyes to the different ways we can learn languages, which is helping fuel her interest in linguistics.


Music is Cordie’s current passion. After going to five rock concerts last year she’s switched from classical guitar, which she’d been learning for six years, to acoustic and electric.

She’s having lessons with a teacher who used to front his own band, although mostly she teaches herself via free websites and apps.  She’s also doing this course in songwriting and music production on Udemy. (NB Udemy has regular sales, when even their £200 courses cost £10.)

As often as she can, Cordie gets together to jam and compose with her guitar and bass-playing BFF, and when they can’t meet in person they’re making music over Facetime. Hearing the house filled with music and seeing the way it lights Cordie up is such a joy.

Sport and social

Exercise and physical fitness are really important to Cordie. She’s continuing gymnastics and ice-skating and is training towards getting her black belt at karate in the spring.

This term she’s also starting a martial arts tricking class which will bring together her karate and gymastics skills. (Her dad and I are looking forward to seeing some Matrix-style moves, although hopefully not off the top of any tall buildings.)

Cordie’s recently become a Scout patrol leader and she’s looking forward to another full year of expeditions and activities with her busy troop, including several days hiking along the Jurassic Coast later this month, and a week in Austria in March.

This will be her last term at Stagecoach, where for the last ten years she’s learned singing, acting and dance. She wants to continue singing lessons and she’s considering joining another drama group, but I’m in no hurry to fill up the space in her diary!

Are we still unschooling?

Just writing about Cordie’s busy week leaves me feeling rather exhausted, but my whirlwind of a teenager thrives on it.

If she was my only child, I might worry that I’d somehow pressured her into taking on all these activities.  But as I’ve often said here, the opposite is actually true – my role is usually to gently reason with Cordie about whether she really has time to take on yet more commitments!

For me, unschooling means supporting my children in whatever ways they want to learn. As you’ll see when I write next time about what Jasper (11) is up to, unschooling can look very different even within the same family. I take that as a sign that I’m doing it right. 🙂

How’s your homeschooling year going? I’d love to hear from you!

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I’m appreciatively linking up with Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

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