Homeschooling: 4th Grade Curriculum

Conversations online can be interesting, and get you thinking.

Being my fiery self I had posted this screenshot on Facebook about how much the average school district spends per child versus homeschooling.

A friend also shared this capture, and it brought out an almost anger over it by someone else on their post.

They argued that you could not teach a child for so little.

Yet, I have taken on Alistaire’s education this year for around $200 to 300. Granted, I was able to reuse a few things from my other child’s education, but even if I hadn’t had that, I’d only have spent a $100 or so more. (Btw, our tiny school district on the south end of our island spends more than $15,000 per child.)

I was told by this person I must be giving a subpar education, and that my child must be behind. Nope. Not at all. Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars if you want to, and that is your choice. For that person, they feel their children must be in paid for co-op classes and be taken constantly on expensive field trips, along with pricey curriculum that they buy yearly. Those things add up. If you want to do it, go ahead!

For us, we don’t have a co-op option on our island that isn’t church based. I teach a secular curriculum so that sets us apart from many of the homeschoolers here. For field trips, the forests, the beaches and the trails are either free to use, or require a $30 yearly parking pass. The couple museums here are donation run. We don’t spend our days driving into the city. We spend it on our island.

Last year while I homeschooled both boys (3rd and 5th grades), I started off with an expensive curriculum. I had decided to go all paper based and picked Oak Meadow, as it is secular. But because we were straddling both homeschooling and the hope of school going back into person, I also kept them up to date on the programs the school was using online (which we were given access to by the district last year). Oak Meadow was a fine curriculum, but I felt it was lacking in depth, in the way 1 stop shopping often is. It was a huge box of books, but as we got into it, I realized we had to go find a number of books to finish the curriculum (to expand on the sections). A big issue was the regional library system had only a couple of the books on the list, so we had to buy them (the books were often older books). Ouch. I didn’t realize I would have to supplement so heavily with it, it wasn’t obvious when I bought it. That added up on Amazon quickly.

So, what exactly am I teaching him for 4th grade? 

It’s a wild mix. From my experiences the past 2 school years, this is what I found worked for us. First, I looked at what the state wants him to learn (as in, what he is required to know) and then what I want him to learn. Overall what the state wants is actually really low. I teach both types of math (Common Core and old school) because if he were to go back into school, he must know CC. Even if it is the stupidest version of math…..

Because I want him to straddle both worlds (public school and homeschooling), I bought access to an online program that some schools use. IXL is often used for math, but I found out they offer a wide range of subjects. For $159 a year it covers Math, Science, Social Studies and Language Arts. You can add on Spanish for $5 a month as well. They offer monthly and a year plan. While not everyone likes online education, this is one I can use to show where he is to the state we live in. I have a track record, if you will. And he enjoys IXL, and was comfortable using it. Oddly as we got into the Social Studies I have found myself learning things I never was taught in 4th grade. It is really well put together, and quite in-depth. This was the biggest chunk of what we spent money on. We work on this daily. He can see his progress as he completes sections, and I can also direct him using my parent access. It’s full featured. Yes, it is online, but we use his online time wisely. But as I said, I can use it to prove to the state that he is learning and show where he is sitting.

Daily Math sheets. If your child has been in public school, they may have used the weekly sheets the teachers print off. 4 days of the week they do 1 line of math (4 questions), then on Fridays they take a test page. These printouts are very affordable, and can be printed off at home, or at the local library (many public libraries let you print for free each week now, ours gives us 75 pages of B&W a week). We use this one from Teachers Pay Teachers, it was recommended to me by my older son’s 4th grade teacher in fact, back in 2020. It comes with the answer keys. It costs $15. I bought it in 2020 for when the school closed – he was doing it in class before. When I pulled our youngest child from school they were doing this exact one, so he slid right into it. The TPT website is a vast resource of affordable digital buys that you can print, with even freebies to find.

Harcourt 4th Grade Spelling Practice Book. You might recognize these if you have a child in public schools in younger grades. It’s set up for a year worth of spelling, and has 3 pages a week the child does. It teaches how to read cursive as well. The book comes with teacher keys, if you have the PDF. Some school districts will provide the PDF of this, if you poke around. I choose to do spelling as it helps with recognition of the alphabet, but also keeps his writing up. Handwriting is an endangered thing, with children on computers and tablets so much. And let me put this not so lightly….public schools are getting rid of spelling in some areas, under a misguided belief that spelling is racist.

Epic Books – an online reading website. You can set up a free account and read one book a day. There is a yearly subscription as well, some books are only available under that. But it’s a nice alternative for children to read with, and is available as an app as well. We may well pay for the yearly version, as he loves it.

Scholastic Success With set of books for 4th grade. These paperback books are a set of 7 for $41.90 on Amazon. I bought this set for the end of the school year in 2020 for my then 4th grader. Alistaire is using the set this year as a complement to his other education. The set can be bought individually, or all together. It includes: Grammar, Writing, Reading Comprehension, Math, Addition/Subtraction/Multiplication/Divison, Reading Tests, Math Tests. I orginally found these because a teacher a few years back was photocopying the pages as daily work. They might not be glamorous, but they are affordable and teach state requirements. And children are used to them. Oh, and they come with teacher keys in the back.

Scholastic Super Science World Of Wow is a book with science articles and hands on activities that covers Life, Earth and Physical Science. It’s not deep, but captures their attention and is a fun way to bring more science in. If your child has received the 4 page Scholastic magazine in class, they might like this. It is aimed at 4 and 5th graders. (They make one also for younger children). We paid $8.99.

PE. Our current focus is 1 mile a day for both of us. Gets us both outside and if it’s really bad weather, inside on the treadmill. Some of our best conversations have been while walking. Sometimes we go hiking. Free.

Garden Time. In the school district we left they had one bright area – working at the school farms. But, we live on a homestead. So many days he spends an hour or so with me working on our farm. Be it working with chickens, harvesting produce, planting seeds and working on compost, he is seeing how the natural world works and learning skills. And it gets us outside. Free.

Culinary. At least once a week, invite them into the kitchen. Cooking and baking are science. Delicious science! And life skills. And it’s a break from the grind.

Library Visits. Yes, you may be required to mask up for this. But you will get by. We go 1-2 times a week to the public library. We have 5 locations on the island, so spread it out. The library system offers a punch card for every visit from a local coffee chain for a free kids drink, so bonus! Be mindful though, the new books being put out are sometimes questionable of late. Free.

Writing The Alphabet. It’s easy to overlook this, as something only little children do in Kinder and First grades. But don’t overlook it. Have them practice writing the alphabet, lower and upper, and reading it out loud every week. Free.

Cursive. Kids really fight this, but it’s good for their brains to learn the dead writing of Boomers. It’s fancy. And it improves handwriting. Free to low cost, if you buy a book for practicing.

Random Google Time. Let’s put it this way: Your child asks a question. Explore it! The other day he asked me what was after a Trillion. Well? We both know now. And it’s free to do. Use whatever search engine you prefer.

Craft and Art Time. One thing our library does is offer monthly art kits since the pandemic started. We pick up the school age and the teen kits and have craft time. We do coloring, drawing and more.

The US Constitution. It is never too late to start studying it. Free to teach. Bonus question? What is the most important of the Amendments? The 2nd as it protects the rest of them.

And sometimes you just find a corner in the house and build Legos. Or read a book. Or ponder the world.