Not-So-Popular (But Strong!) Curriculum Choices for Middle School
Middle school curriculum serves as a bridge from the parent-led years of elementary to the student-led years of high school.
But it can be challenging to find good curricula if you don't want to purchase an all-in-one boxed curriculum. (If you do want an all-in-one, check out Oak Meadows or Build Your Library!)
Or maybe you've looked at all of the "big names" and haven't found just the right fit. Curriculum geared for a large audience can be a poor fit for families with unique needs or who are looking for something unique.
Language Arts Curriculum
- Megawords Spelling is from the same publishers as the popular Explode the Code phonics program. While many families discontinue spelling at this age, many more students still need to continue it.
Megawords is a strong, skills-based curriculum that doesn't come across as "babyish" (the bane of kids this age!)
Like Explode the Code, it's black-and-white with minimal distractions on the page and it's very straightforward. Parents are needed for parts of the lessons but it's mostly student-led.
- Analytical Grammar "starts from “ground zero” – assuming that the student knows no grammar – and continues on from concept to concept, until the entire body of knowledge which we call grammar is covered."
Divided into three sections, it's designed to be completed in 1-3 grades. (For example, Season 1 in 6th grade, Season 2 in 7th grade, Season 3 in 8th grade.) Each season lasts 10-18 weeks with material to be covered 4-5 days a week.
- Lightening Literature from Hewitt Publishing offers a great selection of literature for the middle school-aged students. The package also covers writing and composition. If you have an advanced reader, you could also choose from one of their themed high school packages.
They offer a generous two-week sample for each level, so you can get a strong feel for the curriculum.
Middle School Science
- Read, Absorb, Explore, Learn. That's the philosophy behind R.E.A.L Science Odyssey from Pandia Press. As of this writing, biology & astronomy are the two sciences available for this level. (Their elementary series may work, as well, with some tweaking.)
The samples include several chapters, so you have several weeks to see if it's a good fit for your family.
- CK-12 are free, online textbooks. Covering a variety of topics, including the sciences, these textbooks include videos and adaptive practice questions. (Some books are available for offline reading, too.)
If you expect that your student will go to public school in the next year or two, these would be a strong consideration because they align with public school scopes of sequence.
Math Curriculum for Middle School
Around middle school, many families opt to outsource math. Whether it's to a computer-based program or a live class online, there are many strong options.
- CTC Math is an online math program that many people choose as an alternative to Teaching Textbooks. CTC Math offers a free trial, so you can try it before you commit.
Another plus of this program is that you get access to all of the levels. So if you need your student to practice a lower-level skill, they can do that. And if they work quickly, they can move onto the next level of math.
- Derek Owens is a popular math (and physical science) choice for families that want to outsource their math to another teacher but don't want a live course. You have the option to pay for grading or you can grade the work on your own (answers provided).
It is a self-paced course, so your student could complete a course in less than a school year if they work quickly.
History for Middle School
- Oh, Freedom! is a program designed by a mom who believes that "The history of Native Americans, African Americans and immigrants must be more than an after-thought."
This 38-week curriculum uses literature, documentaries, and activities to tell a fuller story of the United States. Online classes are also an option.
- History of US and Story of Science by Joy Hakim are excellent choices for the middle school years. The History of US is a 10-book series telling the history of the US in a narrative fiction format. The 3-book Story of Science series approaches the history of the world in a similar format...but through the eyes of science!
No boring textbooks with these! Both sets of books include interesting stories & images to keep them really engaging. (Fun story: When Hakim was writing the books, she had kids help with the editing. When they read a boring section, they were to mark it with a big B!)