Planning: The Ambitious Fifth Grade Year

At the beginning of our fifth grade year, which lies in some vague grey area between the public school’s intended start and my daughter’s excursion back into active learning through her week at Nature Day Camp, we talked about the directions squirelflight wanted to take in her education.  After a few discussions (and some inspiration from an NPR program we had heard regarding project-based learning), we both sat down and wrote out general subjects and specific topics we wanted her to learn.

She used her list to also create Self Assessment Protocol sheets for the coming year, and then we combined our lists and came up with this:

CORE SUBJECTS – Daily Practice


  • comprehension
  • vocabulary and spelling
  • diction


  • coherence in thought
  • clarity of voice
  • handwriting


  • algebra
  • geometry
  • elementary physics


  • calisthenics
  • yoga
  • body awareness

– Long-Term Study, 1-3x per week


  • perspective
  • drawing basics
  • [graphic design]
  • [web comic]


  • theory
  • scales
  • reading music
  • piano
  • [harp]

Civics & Social Studies

  • geography
  • forms of government
  • pre-history/ancient civilization
  • situational awareness


  • chemistry
  • basic biology (nature/natural forces)


  • [foreign language undecided: either Japanese or German]

EXPANSION STUDIES – Preparation for Short- and Long-Term End Goals, 1-3x per week


  • basic tricks (e.g. hot keys)
  • utilizing currently owned software
  • navigating search engines
  • [game programming]
  • researching inspirational inventors (e.g. Tesla, DaVinci)


  • diction (see reading)
  • 1 minute monologue preparation
  • emotions through method acting
  • being able to speak about self for 1 minute

The general core subjects have been non-negotiable, although the specifics of what area she’s working on and how she learns are up to her.  The others are very general areas in which she has decided how she wants to shape her understanding of those areas, and I have resources, barebones plans, and other hazy shapes on the horizon that should help guide her along her path.

We’re keeping her subject list (and my personal goal list for the year) on GDocs–all hail GDocs!–in a folder for schooling, along with a spreadsheet outlining potential “schedules” for daily work, although I’ve already changed the schedule (no times listed) a few times, and we even broke away from the most flexible of them today.  Nevertheless, she’s already done with her work, both academic and housework, and is ready to sit down to an afternoon tea before she enjoys the early evening.

Our academic goals for her may be ambitious, but many of those non-core subjects will be taught through reading materials from the library, videos we have on hand, solo and group projects, labs, and field trips.  I am, however, very serious that she should have a good grasp on the basics of Civics and World Geography by the end of the year.  The next few years, to me, are critical for her to learn these things.

As for our progress, these last two days have seen marked improvement in her willingness to do her work.  The TEDxRedmond conference, followed by a lengthy talk about expectations, and the shared work of reorganizing her study area helped significantly.  For the next two weeks, as she gets into some semblance of a routine, we’re pulling back on the math, which proved to be overwhelming her and take up all her time.  After a bit of her time on drawing perspective (and, we hope, a Parisian-based art-architecture class in October) will help her better understand the abstract geometry concepts my partner has been teaching her.

While this is her second year homeschooling, it feels like my first.  Last year, most of the daily grind work fell to Mystyrica while I was busy in my final year at the university.  I took a hand in helping squirelflight structure her subjects, and I checked her schoolwork at the end of the day, but I wasn’t there to guide her during her studies.  Now, I’m learning to teach us both, and figuring out how to best structure my time to make certain we’re both taking care of our responsibilities.


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