Education is not and must never be considered as purely utilitarian. It is about forming the human person, equipping him or her to live life to the full – in short it is about imparting wisdom. And true wisdom is inseparable from knowledge of the Creator, for “both we and our words are in his hand, as are all understanding and skill in crafts” (Wis 7:16).”
Pope Benedict 16th, Address to Teachers and Religious, 2010
Discipleship: Knowing God Our Loving Father provides an excellent way for students to delve into the Old Testament. In each chapter, students read passages from the bible. They highlight important verses that relate to themes such as covenant, family line, sacrifices, God’s law, etc. Next, they read the text, which helps them better understand the Old Testament and how it prefigures the New Testment. To draw my children’s attention to the most important points, I made guided reading questions for each chapter. You can download them here, and the answers are here. Each chapter also includes a virtue to work on, a prayer to memorize, a blurb about a saint, review questions, and sacred art. Available at Lulu.
Friendly Defenders Flash Cards – Here’s an easy introduction to Apologetics. Have your children memorize one card a week and discuss it with him. Memorizing these will prepare your children to defend the faith when they go to highschool and college. Move on to Vol. 2 if your children have completed Vol. 1.
Heroes of God – Stories of 11 saints who courageously bore witness to the faith, even to the point of martyrdom. The early teenage years is an important time to instill and inspire a desire to be a soldier of Christ.
Fabiola – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: This is one of my all-time favorite books. Fabiola tells the historically accurate tale of young early Christians such as St. Agnes, St. Cecilia, St. Sebastian, and St. Quadratus. The first few chapters are a little slow, but once you persevere beyond that, it’s hard to put the book down. The faith and fervor of these courageous young saints is very inspiring.
Screwtape Letters – To fight the Enemy, you need to know his tactics. This brilliant satire by C.S. Lewis is a collection of letters from a senior devil to a junior temptor. Read with your students and discuss using our free study guide.
Decision Point is a FREE confirmation prep book by Matthew Kelly (you just pay for shipping.) There are supplemental videos availiable online, but we just read the book and discussed the contents. It covers topics you and your teen really need to talk about, such as making good choices, being the best version of yourself, the quest for happiness, negative thinking, how to pray, how to read the bible, the power of habits, friendship, the nature of real love, the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit, etc. This is one of the most comprehensive Confirmation books I’ve come across, and it’s very well geared towards young teens. I highly recommend it.
Dressler Geometry – My mother-in-law taught highschool math for twenty years at a private school in New York City. She swears by this book. Both of my two older children have been able to teach themselves Geometry with this text. One caveat: the answer key is just a small booklet; it is not a solutions manual. Be sure your kids have access to a mathy parent/grandparent/tutor if you use this text.
Alternatively, you might want to look at Saxon Geometry.
GRAMMAR AND WRITING
Voyage in English, Grade 8, 2011 ed. – text, practice book, test book, and Gr. 8 Practice/Assessment Key. This is an expensive but excellent program. I have not seen many grammar programs that are as thorough or analytic. The Daily Maintenance exercises in the Practice book provides daily practice with diagramming and continual review. To reduce the cost, look for a used textbook at Amazon. My kids read the textbook on their own and do the exercises in the Practice book. Thus there is no need for the Teacher’s Manual, which is very pricey.
For writing, use one of the Theme Based Writing Lessons by the Institute for Excellence in Writing. If your students have been using IEW’s books since 3rd grade, they are probably ready for one of the level C books, such as Advanced U.S. History Based Writing Lessons. If your student is new to IEW, begin with one of the level B books.
Sadlier Vocabulary Workshop Level C, 2005 Ed. – student book and teacher’s manual. In addition to enriching your students’ vocabulary, it also prepares them for standardized testing. To save the books for younger siblings, I have my kids write the answers in a notebook. This gives them additional practice in spelling the words.
Each week my children copy and memorize a new verse. At the end of the week, they recite as much of the poem as they can. This is an excellent way to fill your child’s mind with beautiful language patterns and imagery as well as sharpen his memory.
The Harp and Laurel Wreath – This is a wonderful collection of poems presented by level. Encourage your students to start memorizing some of the poems by Shakespeare or to spend the year memorizing an epic poem. Pay attention to how well they enunciate the words. Both of my two older children memorized Horatius by Thomas Babington Macaulay. What a great achievement to be able to recite, from memory, an epic poem!
Reading 8 for Young Catholics: Thinking Skills – This is a wonderful introduction to literary analysis using short stories and an excellent preparation for highschool English. It can easily be done in 16 weeks. Highly recommended!
The Christian Novel Study Guides are another excellent way of helping your student to recognize literary devices in the novels they read. These guides allow a student to complete a study of a book in about two weeks, are discussion-based, and compared to other guides, they are very affordable. Generally, we choose guides and novels that relate to what we are studying in history.
Depending on the student, we use Cambridge Latin (text only) and/or Second Form Latin. If your student is new to Latin, have him/her begin with First Form Latin. For more info, check out my post: For the Love of Latin.
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY
For History, see the following:
Gr. 7-8 Ancient and Medieval History Plans with free notebooking pages!
All of the Young Explorer books by Apologia are great for delving deeply into one subject. You can order experiment kits for any of the books at Setonbooks.com
Many homeschoolers have posted quizzes on Quizlet for each of the chapters in this books. This is a great way for your students to learn the science vocabulary.
The Fallacy Detective – This best-selling book teaches you how to recognize and identify bad reasoning and false logic, which are so prevalent in today’s media. Students in the analytic stage of learning will appreciate finding the fallacies in various, often humerous arguments. My older children and I have enjoyed this book — we usually end up laughing at some of the arguments. The lessons are short and succinct, and there are exercises at the end of each lesson.
ART AND MUSIC
Draw and Write Through History series. Choose a book that corresponds to the time period in history that your child is studying.
Paint by Number Museum Series – If your child has the patience and interest, this is a great introduction to painting.
Little by little, build a collection of classical music and play it for your kids. If you have a designated time for listening to classical music (ie. during breakfast, in the car) you will be more likely to stick with it.
If you can, encourage your children to sing in a choir or learn a musical instrument. It is so enriching and worth the time, money, and effort.
Finally, if your child is interested, give him/her a guitar along with The Hal Leonard Guitar Method. All-Star taught himself to play using this book.