Saturday, May 31, 2014

Looking Ahead in School: some plans for Grade Eight

It is early yet, but I do have some plans laid out for Dollygirl's Grade Eight.

More or less, it's Ambleside Online's Year Eight, which focuses on the Renaissance and Reformation period up through the 1600’s.  You can see the AO plan here.

The biggest change we will make is to continue using H.O. Arnold-Forster's History of England in place of Churchill's history.  We own Churchill; the Apprentice used it; I've re-examined it; and I still think we'll be better off with the younger-focused book, particularly if Dollygirl is to do her own work in history.[UPDATE: we used A-F in the first term and then transitioned into Churchill.]

We'll also use Van Loon's Story of Mankind, and George Brown's vintage high school textbook Building The Canadian Nation.

For geography, we have a choice of Christopher Columbus or Cartier Sails the St. Lawrence in the first term.  In the second and third terms, I am looking at Journey to the Source of the Nile (Ondaatje), about an attempt to follow in the footsteps of nineteenth-century explorers. Another book with more Ontario interest is The Bruce Beckons, about the Lake Huron area; and I'm hoping to re-subscribe to Canadian Geographic, which is a good source of stories on current issues.

Science will include Apologia General Science, for a study of human physiology, and Physical Science, the modules on the atmosphere, water, weather, etc.  We will also read through Parker's book Exploring the World Around You, which unfortunately is a bit on the dry side, but I make everybody here read it because it contains important concepts and vocabulary about ecosystems.  The physiology study will be supplemented with Exploring the History of Medicine (same series, more interesting) and Dr. Paul Brand's book Fearfully and Wonderfully Made.

Charlotte Mason had students at this level study plant life in detail, almost every term.  The English students used Marie Stopes' book on plants; in the late 1920’s, some international substitutions were offered, including First Studies of Plant Life (Atkinson) for the U.S. students.  (Both books can be viewed at  I found that a book we own,  ABC's of Nature, covers many of Stopes' plant topics, so we will probably use that for grade eight. But I like Stopes' chapter "The Geography of Plants," and I am hoping to include that later in the year.

We will be using most of the English and literature resources listed on the AO website.  Our choice for grammar is The Easy Grammar Plus, the second half of the book.  For "composition" we will use some of Jill Dixon's Write With the Best Volume II, mainly the parts on essay writing.  I like the fact that the lessons use Paine's "Common Sense" and Bacon's "On Education" as models, and the emphasis on essay writing also ties in well with the Unsolved Problems chapters in Whatever Happened to Justice?  (We usually get through just some of those chapters in the third term,  and I have the girls choose one "hot topic" to write about.)  Dixon also encourages students to read through Strunk and White's Elements of Style, so we will do that.

The devotional books for grade eight will be the ones from the Year Seven list, not the Year Eight, since she hasn't read any of them yet. One addition to Bible studies will be read the Reader's Digest book The Bible Through the Ages.  It's a good overview not only of Bible history but of how methods of communication changed over the centuries, from the oral tradition through hand-copying and later to printing. 

And those are the plans so far!

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