Homeschool 4th Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Homeschool 4th Grade Curriculum – Mid-Year Update

Now that it’s February, I thought it would be a good time to take a look at how things are going with our 4th grade curriculum choices this year. (Check out my video sharing this year’s curriculum choices.) I’ve already published a couple of posts about two of our group subjects, complete with successes and failures.

Homeschool History – Mid-Year Update – where I tell you about a free printable that my fourth grader is using for his science studies)

Homeschool Science – Mid-Year Update

Today I’ll share some thoughts about how things are going with my fourth grader, along with our biggest success and biggest failure so far this year.

Something New – Mental Warm-Ups

The first thing my fourth grader does each day is work out of his Morning Work binder, which contains calendaring and copywork materials. This fall I also added a mental warm-up section. It currently contains analogies, simple word searches, and logic problems. The purpose of the mental warm-ups is to get my son to sloooowwww dooooowwwwwn. He tends to rush his schoolwork and not pay attention to details, which results in careless mistakes. I thought that starting out the day by doing work that requires him to slow down his thinking could help him in other subjects. It’s hard to be sure, but it seems like it’s helping.

Successful Change – Math

This year I moved my fourth grader from Teaching Textbooks to Math-U-See. He’d used Math-U-See in first and second grades, but I switched to Teaching Textbooks for third grade. I thought he would enjoy the lessons online, and I liked the idea of not having to check his math work.

I was so wrong! The lessons on the laptop totally didn’t work for my non-auditory learner, so I had him read the lessons and do the work in the workbook. That seemed to work well, he was getting A’s on every assignment and seemed pretty confident.

And then he had trouble one day, so I sat with him to go over the lesson and watch him work. That’s when I noticed that the confidence he had after completing a lesson was totally not there while actually doing the math work. This surprised me because, based on his grades and the fact that most of each lesson was purportedly review, he should have had a lot of confidence in doing the work.

After digging deeper, I attributed this disconnect between his lack of confidence in math last year and his great grades to the fact that new concepts do not have enough practice problems. Out of the 20+ math questions in each lesson, only a couple of them pertained to the new concept just covered, and they were often not even the first couple of problems! So there’s a full page describing a new concept, and then instead of getting to practice that concept themselves, the student is given questions that might not have anything to do with that concept.

So yes, Teaching Textbooks has a lot of review questions in each lesson, but I contend that they’re not really review because the student wasn’t encouraged to learn new material well. Instead, I felt like my student had to go through the stress of re-learning each concept over and over again. This wasn’t immediately apparent to me because Teaching Textbooks gives a student multiple chances to get a question correct before it’s marked as wrong.

When it was time to make our 4th grade curriculum choices, we couldn’t wait to move back to Math-U-See! I did change the way we use it. Instead of doing one worksheet a day, I give each of my boys two worksheets – one for practicing that week’s new concept, and the other containing review questions. So he’s doing pretty much the same number of questions that he did with Teaching Textbooks, but actually has the chance to internalize concepts before moving on.

New Favorite – IEW

This is our first year using IEW resources and I was curious about the hype. But I’m now a convert and have a deep and abiding love for IEW resources! I would say that the IEW philosophy is the educational version of “gentle parenting.” The resources we’ve used so far are intended to be low stress for the student, but still give great results.

  • Fix It! Grammar – Grammar has been a struggle with my fourth grader. While he has learned to enjoy reading, he does not have a natural bent toward a love of words. So he really couldn’t care less about parts of speech. Fix It Grammar works for him because the focus is on a developing story, not boring rules. He doesn’t have to memorize any rules because he can refer to the included flash cards at any time. And the lessons are short because he works on only one sentence a day. And it’s working! I’ve noticed that he refers to the cards less and less, and he’s learning so much. This one has been a big hit for us.
  • Student Writing Intensive (Level A) – I’ve gotta be honest – the name really scared me. I assumed that the great results people got with this program would be attributed to a high-pressure curriculum. And it’s totally not that. You can move through this curriculum as quickly or slowly as your student needs. Since my fourth grader is not a natural writer, we’re taking it pretty slow, and I’ve even purchased extra source material. I love that it teaches note-taking via the key word outlines. I have had to change my thinking quite a bit. Parents are encouraged to help as much as needed (you can’t help too much! they’ll tell you when they don’t need your help!), and to edit drafts without comment or lecture (they’ll internalize your corrections during the re-write!). This took some getting used to, but I now see the wisdom in those suggestions.

Biggest Failure – Code Ninjas

Even though I made a living doing software development, we enrolled my son in Code Ninjas because I thought he might have fun meeting other kids with similar interests. Unfortunately, the location we chose was not well-run, which caused several frustrations. Also, the kids were required to attend for either one hour or two hours at a time, which was super boring for my son – partly because of the uninspiring environment, and partly because of the distractions around. Add to that my opinion that it’s way over-priced for what you get, and we decided to cancel our membership after a couple of months.

Since then, I’ve had him working in his Coding with Scratch workbook (similar) once a week. It has been a much more positive experience. He spends the same amount of time or more that he would have at Code Ninjas, but he is learning more and having more fun with coding. And we don’t have to drive anywhere! #introvertwin

Biggest Win – Cub Scouts

Yes, I’m counting Cub Scouts as part of our 4th grade curriculum choices! We liked the idea of putting the boys in Cub Scouts both to make friends and to learn responsibility. I’m glad to say it has exceeded our expectations! They are learning so much, everything from respectfulness to health and safety. My husband and I have a deal that he handles the Cub Scouts since I’m busy with homeschooling, so it has been great for the boys to spend that time with Daddy. It has been more involved than we expected, but we’ve seen it as an opportunity to take part in a positive community experience.

I’ll probably have another update at the end of our school year (this summer, since we school year-round). I hope that you enjoyed this peek into my fourth grader’s school year so far!

(You may also be interested in how my preschooler’s and first grader’s year is going.)

4th Grade Curriculum Update

** This post contains affiliate links.

Homeschool Workboxes for Fourth Grade

Homeschool Workboxes for Fourth Grade

When I first considered homeschooling my kids, one of the big things holding me back was the idea of teaching all subjects to all of my children while also being constantly available to each of them. As an introverted, highly sensitive mama, I knew that I would get overwhelmed very quickly. My husband, knowing me as he does, was concerned for me, too.

I had a nursing baby at the time, so I decided to start researching homeschooling by watching YouTube videos so that I could see how other moms got it all done. One video, created by Erica at Confessions of a Homeschooler, introduced me to the homeschool workbox system. Suddenly, homeschooling seemed possible! Even my husband agreed to be all in on homeschooling if I homeschooled “like that.” 

So from Day One, I’ve implemented a version of the workbox system in our homeschool. It has evolved over time to meet our specific needs, but we continue to love it.

Organizing with Homeschool Workboxes

Homeschool Workboxes for Fourth Grade

Like Erica, I use a drawer system as our homeschool workboxes. While my younger children use the Seville Classics Large 10-Drawer Organizer Cart as workboxes (check out my first grader’s homeschool workboxes), my fourth grader uses the IKEA drawer unit at his desk. It has five drawers, and each drawer is assigned to two different subjects and labeled appropriately.

Homeschool Workboxes - Subject Labels

I printed the labels onto Avery Sticker Project Paper, cut them apart, and placed them on the appropriate drawers. I love this sticker paper because it’s repositionable, so you can get them just right.

Lesson Plan

A key aspect of my fourth grader’s homeschool workbox system is his list of work. Each week, I print out the work I have planned for him from Homeschool Planet (an online lesson planner) and put it on his clipboard. Each evening, I make sure he has what he needs for each subject in his drawers, and I highlight the items that he can do independently.

Some items, like his morning work, Bible, and reading, are almost always independent work. If I need to teach a new math, spelling, grammar, or writing lesson (typically on Mondays), he’ll have to wait for me to work with him. But then he can usually do most of the work in those subject on his own for the rest of the week.

There are times that I have to change up the plan. In that case, I’ll either write in the change on the print-out, or print it out again and replace what’s on his clipboard. It’s not unusual for me to have to reprint the plan at some point during the week.

What’s in the drawers?

Please watch the video above to really get into the nitty-gritty of the contents of my fourth grader’s drawers, and our Curriculum Choices video for more information about our curriculum choices. But here’s a quick description of each drawer:

Bible / Handwriting

This top drawer contains my son’s glasses, Bible, Word of Life Devotional, Handwriting Without Tears Cursive workbook, and a drawer organizer. I love the drawer organizer because it sits on top of the edges of the drawer, allowing me to put his cursive workbook underneath. The drawer organizer holds items like pencils, highlighters, a pen, and scissors. Pencils tend to get left all around the house, so I wrap each child’s pencils with washi tape that’s their color (yes, I color-code my kids) so that I know who left what out. I’m hoping (really, really hoping) that this accountability will help them to learn to clean up after themselves.

Morning Work / History

This drawer contains my fourth grader’s Morning Work and history binders, his Scripture copywork notebook, and usually a book related to the historical topic that we are currently learning about.

His Morning Work binder contains calendaring sheets, assigned copywork, and mental warm-ups. And isn’t this binder cover the cutest?!

We do a lot of our history together as a group, along with age-appropriate notebooking. The history binder contains my son’s completed notebooking pages. I plan out history a couple of weeks at a time, so I’ll print out whatever notebooking pages he’ll need over the next couple of weeks and put them in a file folder in this drawer. When I prep his drawers each night for the next day, I’ll pull whatever pages he will need from the folder and put them on top of the folder.

Math / Science

This drawer contains my fourth grader’s math binder, graph paper notebook, science lab notebook, and science folder.

We’re using Math-U-See, which does come in a workbook, but I re-order the worksheets into a binder to fit our needs. Sometimes I’ll assign another resource (like the Multiplication Dot-to-Dot workbook you’ll see in the video), so I’ll add those supplemental resources to the drawer on the days he’ll need them.

I’ve been treating science very much the way I’ve been treating history, with group work supplemented by notebooking pages. This drawer holds notebooking pages when we have them. Once they’re completed, he adds them to his science folder

Spelling / Grammar

This drawer contains a Boogie Board that we use for All About Spelling. I’ve also put together a Spelling Practice binder with worksheets for practicing his All About Spelling words. The other materials we use for All About Spelling are a teacher’s manual, which I keep with my other teacher’s manuals, and the All About Spelling app, which we use on my iPad.

We also keep my fourth grader’s Fix It Grammar student book and notebook in this drawer, along with a plastic envelope for the Fix It Grammar cards that we’re currently using.

Writing / Reading

This last drawer holds my fourth grader’s IEW Student Writing Intensive materials, along with some additional reading if he doesn’t have a book in his history drawer. I prefer to have him read out of a book that he can hold in his hands, but sometimes I need to resort to an e-book, so I keep my old Kindle in here for his use. (I love this thing! It was a Valentine’s gift from my husband during our first year of marriage. He knows I prefer electronics to jewelry. 😉 ) I’ll eventually switch him over to the newer Kindle, which is waterproof!

I hope this peek into my fourth grader’s homeschool workbox system was helpful! The labels that I use for his drawers are available for download, so go ahead and grab a copy today!

You may also be interested in:

Homeschool Workboxes for First Grade

Homeschool Workboxes for Pre-K

Videos you may find helpful:

Homeschool Curriculum Choices 2018-2019
How We Use All About Spelling

Homeschool Workboxes for Fourth Grade
Homeschool Workboxes for Fourth Grade
Homeschool Workboxes for Fourth Grade

** This post contains affiliate links.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial