Transition from Interest-Led Elementary to Middle School Years (2012 Curriculum Fair)

Written by contributor Renee Tougas of FIMBY.

Ages of my children: (almost) 13, 11, and 9
Educational Philosophies I pull from: Leadership Education, Literature-Based, Charlotte Mason, Unschooling

Our family has gone through a lot of change in the past year. We moved to a different country and have lived in three different provinces or states in the past twelve months.

My husband now works at home and our nearly thirteen-year-old daughter is going through her own monumental life change, moving from childhood to young adulthood.

These life transitions naturally affected our homeschool routines and the resources we use.

A couple of significant homeschool changes worth mentioning:

  1. We are English speakers now living in a francophone province. There is very limited English public library service where we live so we access more online resources than ever before.
  2. My husband takes a much more active part in our homeschool since moving. Specifically in the areas of his interests – computer programming, science and technology in general.

I’ve broken down our homeschool curriculum by subject, though in application we don’t live our days studying “subjects” so much as investigating, exploring and diving into our interests.

Reading & Literature

Our younger two children are not yet confident independent readers so on a regular basis they read to me for reading practice. Graphic novels and comic books are a real hit with our 11-year-old son. Arch Stone publishes some excellent classic fiction in graphic novel form.

These two also listen to a lot of audio books. Here are a few good sources:, Sparkle Stories, LibriVox (not always such great narration or recording quality – you get what you pay for) & Audio Cloud.

I read to the kids nearly every day from a children’s chapter book of my choosing. We’re currently working our way through The Chronicles of Narnia for the second time in my homeschool career. Many of these titles are chosen from Honey For a Child’s Heart and Books Children Love.

Boy Reads Graphic Novel

Our thirteen-year-old daughter Celine chooses her literature selections predominantly from Honey for A Teen’s Heart, Youngzine community peer recommendations, and reviews (with my approval). She also accesses a lot of public domain books, which includes the traditional “classics”, at Project Gutenberg.

I am continually finding titles to both read to my youngest and recommend to my oldest from sources like Thomas Jefferson Education, Sonlight catalog (we don’t follow the program but use their booklists as a resource), and others.

Celine does most of her reading on a Kindle. You can read about how we’re using e-readers in our home in my post Becoming an (e)Reader.


Handwriting. We use Getty Dubay Italic program to teach our elementary aged children handwriting mechanics.

Spelling. I have never had success with a spelling program or even a strong desire to teach this skill separate from writing and reading in general. I changed my methods this year in order to better help our son with his reading. We use All About Spelling and I love it.

It’s logical and is easy to follow and implement. And it’s working for us.

Compositional Writing. We use everyday writing opportunities–letters, e-mail, journaling, lists, self-directed report writing (ie: my kids write reports on their own because they’re interested in the topic), poetry, story writing, etc. – and our reading together to teach grammar, vocabulary, and also spelling.

This year I am using The Writer’s Jungle to help me be a better writing coach and mentor.

The Writer's Jungle

I love this resource because it’s about helping our children “express themselves more and more powerfully over the course of their lifetimes… in written form.” (Julie Bogart)

It fits very well with our philosophy of education and homeschool methodology. I consider it a comprehensive guide for grades K through middle school.

History, Geography and Cultural Studies (World Study)

Our world study still looks quite similar to what I describe in this post. Because we no longer have access to a good library I use The Story of The World with the Activity Book more regularly as the core of our elementary history curriculum.

The kids follow their own interests using our personal library of reference and living books. We also watch select YouTube videos and online documentaries. Victorian Farm was one we enjoyed this winter.

An excellent resource for literature-based history, geography and cultural studies is All Through The Ages. This mother of all booklists has book titles for any time period in history or geographical area you want to learn about. This resource is very helpful in a literature-based, interest driven learning environment.

All through the ages

World Events. This is an area of study for our oldest and she mostly uses Youngzine, an online magazine for late elementary and middle school aged children. I highly recommend this site – safe, engaging, and appropriate content for young minds.


This year we’ve followed the general outline recommended in Telling God’s Story and focused on the life of Christ for our Bible instruction. We don’t use the instructor text or activity book.

We’ve been listening to the gospels using Faith Comes By Hearing, a free audio download and also used Truth and Grace Memory Books for some memory verse ideas and to teach the Christian catechism.


This is the most straight-out-of-the-box part of our homeschool curriculum.

Our younger two use Teaching Textbooks, which works well for their learning styles. Our oldest uses Math U See. Once we found the right fit for each child, we’ve experienced success (progress and positive feelings about math) with each of our children. These are done largely independent of my instruction or assistance, a big plus for me.

Science & Technology

Computer Science & Programming. My husband is in charge of this area.

He and Celine used Learn Python the Hard Way to start. Celine is currently doing a free, independent course offered by Udacity with Dad as tutor. Damien uses day to day life applications to teach all our children computer science and different technologies, at the level they can understand.

General Science. Science is a very seasonal subject in our home. What we study and how we do it changes with the seasons. We do nature study with guide and reference books, build and take stuff apart, mix and make, and use online resources for inspiration, teaching and further research.

When Celine finishes her current computer science course we may consider a general science curriculum for the fall, if she’s interested. I would appreciate any recommendations.

spelling tiles

The other main “subjects” in our homeschool are domestic arts and homemaking, entrepreneurship, creative and fine art. Also physical and outdoors education.

Listing these last in no way indicates their importance in our homeschool; it’s simply that we haven’t used any specific resources for these studies this year. One exception this past winter being Mary Corbet’s Needle n’ Thread, a craft blog, where Celine studied embroidery.

What are your family’s favorite online resources? How have transitions in your life affected your homeschool curriculum?

About Renee

Renee is a creative homemaker and homeschooling mama of three. She loves to write, take pretty photos, and be in nature with her family. Her mission is to nourish, encourage, and teach; build relationship and create beauty. FIMBY is where she tells that story. Drawing from her years of experience and training, Renee also offers individual and personalized Homeschool Coaching.


  1. Your curriculum looks so much like ours. One difference is that we use Saxon Math, and have enjoyed it for years. My older kids have really enjoyed using the Apologia science curriculum, especially their Biology program. We purchased the whole kit and enjoyed doing the dissections and the microscope work. Although it contains quite a lot of very Christian discussions, we found its information easier to fit into our world view than other textbooks that leave God completely out of the picture.
    Jen @ anothergranolamom’s latest post: Fall in Love With the World Challenge

  2. I would also highly recommend the Apologia science curriculum We have used a different science every year looking for that right mix. Apologia turned out to be perfect. It is a textbook. The younger grades use notebooking. We loved it :). Good luck. I’m going to look into some of your curriculum

  3. Kathleen K says:

    Oh goodness. I thought I’d be first to recommend Apologia science! We’ve been using the elementary books in our homeschool. I let the boys pick the one we’ll study (they don’t need to be used in order). It is easy enough for the 6 year old to understand yet contains enough information and activities that older ones won’t feel it is too “babyish.” The activity book adds SO much to the text, that we always get it too. Our oldest is completing the General Science this year. He’s been able to do almost all of it by himself. We find the text interesting and engaging. I also appreciate that the experiments can be completed with household items in an average kitchen. No laboratories required. There are companies that sell lab kits if you want the convenience.

    We also use TT for math…were with Saxon for 8 years but found the middle grades weren’t meeting the needs. Some have said that TT is too easy, not rigorous enough. But husband and I agree: better to master some math than to not understand most. We love TT and plan to use it for several years.

  4. Thank you for such a comprehensive rundown! I have been furiously taking notes while reading. Especially loving Udacity…gets my wheels spinning!

  5. Thank you for such a comprehensive run-down! I have been furiously taking notes for next year! Especially love Udacity…gets my wheels turning!

  6. Thank you, Renee! Your philosophy is so similar to mine and I appreciate the look ahead to what is available for us in the future.

  7. we too love apologia. it’s always great to hear what you are up to renee!
    heather’s latest post: 27 :: april

  8. Now you gave me an idea here.. Thanks a lot for sharing the post here then.. I am sure a lot of people can relate to this especially those who are home schooling..
    Dhyann’s latest post: disabled cars

  9. First year homeschoolers, so no great recommendations yet! i AM STILL TRYING TO MUDDLE MY WAY THROUGH! We did switch to Teaching Textbooks and like that, and love Brain Pop for extra help with Language Arts and Math. We do Science and History at our local homeschool co-op, and my 12 year old likes the History of the World History. I am looking for curriculum recommendations for Language Arts for next year (7th grade)….
    Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site’s latest post: How Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Affect Sleep

    • If you want to build your own language arts curriculum Jimmie from Jimmie’s Collage has a short e-book:
      Designing Your Language Arts Curriculum
      It’s only 3 bucks and it might give you some ideas.

      I’m sticking with The Brave Writer materials because they fit so well with our lifestyle and philosophy but there are so many ways to teach language arts (which I suppose is the overwhelming part!)
      Renee’s latest post: Ready, Set… May (& We’re Going To Montreal)

      • Thank you for the reply Renee! It is overwhelming! I don’t really have any help or support locally either. 🙁 I have bookmarked Brave Writer, but have not really looked into it in depth yet. Is it a complete language arts program?
        And thank you for the ebook link!
        Debbye @ The Baby Sleep Site’s latest post: How Moving Homes Can Affect Your Child’s Sleep

        • It’s not complete in the way you are probably thinking (though I don’t want to assume what is complete in your mind). It’s more a guide for how to coach, assist, facilitate, mentor, etc. writing in your homeschool, with lots of hands-on practical tips and tricks.

          When people ask if a homeschool resource is “complete” they often mean “does it hold my hand from a through z?” And I can’t say The Writer’s Jungle does that. But for me, and our goals, it is complete because I don’t want someone telling me what to do but how to do it. That’s what it teaches me – the how.

          Brave Writer does have language arts programs. You can check those out here:

          I tried the sample Arrow program that comes with The Writer’s Jungle but it was too prescriptive for our family. But it might work well for your needs.

          Now, in the case of All About Spelling, which I wrote about in this post also – that is a complete spelling resource. Handholding all the way, which is what I need for that.

          If you ever want more in-depth assistance I offer homeschool coaching. I understand having no local support! You can read about that service here:

          Renee’s latest post: Ready, Set… May (& We’re Going To Montreal)

  10. Hi Renee…I love your blog and I love this post! Thanks for the tip about the graphic novels. I am going to order a few today for my reluctant reader. I am always looking for new ways to inspire her to enjoy reading. I had no idea I could find graphic novels for a beginning reader!

    • Wendy, stay tuned at FIMBY for my post about reluctant readers, there is sometimes more to it than “reluctance”, as I’ve learned. And yes, those graphic novels are great. The ones I linked to in this post are not beginner, beginner but if you look around at Arch Stone’s books I’ll bet you could find some.
      Renee’s latest post: Ready, Set… May (& We’re Going To Montreal)

  11. We are making a major move from the city to the country (family farm) 2 states away. School is difficult through this transition, but because our core curriculum is online (Time4Learning) at least my daughter has that as a constant in her life, she can access is no matter where we are, as long as she has a computer and an internet connection. Another online resource that my daughter enjoys is Learning Games for Kids, she gets to spend time playing, but also learning. I greatly enjoyed reading about your choices in homeschooling materials. Thanks!

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  13. How did you choose an All About Spelling level to start at since you originally studied spelling via reading and writing ? My DD reads above “grade level” but spelling isn’t on par. I have been consider All About Spelling but have no idea where to begin.

  14. Thanks for sharing. Do you do all these subjects daily?

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