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  1. #1

    Default Pre/Ancient History - 5th grade social studies?

    So, I'll be homeschooling my rising 5th grader this fall. The current intention is to return him to public school...eventually. Hopefully for 6th grade? (But that's dependent on coronavirus, so who knows?) So I do want to be mindful that he more or less learns what he'll be expected to know in later grades. And of course I want to present the information to my kiddo in ways that pique his interest and make the experience appealing. I happen to think the time periods we'll be covering for social studies next year are fascinating - I'd like to pass that sense of wonder onto him!

    Per our state/district guidelines, 5th grade social studies is all about prehistory/ancient history. Even with secular curricula, I haven't found a single thing that bundles prehistory (rise of humankind-type stuff, spread of humanity outward from Africa, Ice Ages, etc) and ancient history together, but I can develop a unit of prehistory on my own if necessary. I don't mind doing some prep work, of course, but with a full slate of subjects to cover, I'd honestly rather purchase curricula and supplement/tailor for my kiddo than have to come up with it all whole cloth in the next two months.

    So far, I've got a shortlist of History Odyssey - Ancients (Level 2) and cherry-picking ancient history units from Moving Beyond the Page (1 from age 9-11, the rest from age 10-12). I've downloaded the samples and have started looking them over, but don't really know which (if either) to choose. Thoughts on either of those would be very much appreciated!

    I'm open to other suggestions if there's a Social Studies option out there that people really love?

    And definitely fully secular, please - I don't mind tailoring, but I'd rather not have to *fight* the curriculum.

    About my son - he just turned 11 and finished 4th grade this week. (We redshirted him into an additional year of preK, so he's a year older than most of his classmates.) He's a smart cookie, loves to learn new things, is really quick to pick up information/make connections, and will often seek out further details when he hits a topic that interests him. But he doesn't particularly like to put in a huge amount of effort when he isn't all that interested in the topic. (Can't entirely blame him.) What doesn't come easy frustrates him and/or brings on anxiety, instantly. He reads voraciously and enjoys the creative idea-generation that precedes writing... doesn't usually love the physical act of writing itself. (He's got some remnants of fine motor delays - OT at school bumped him up to 85-90% of where he needed to be, but didn't quite get him all the way there. Writing isn't painful for him, thankfully, just a bit slow - and, as I mentioned above, he doesn't tackle "hard" things with much enthusiasm.) He likes hands-on projects, but absolutely loathes anything that falls under the category of "art." Though he does like to doodle simple stick figures telling cheesy jokes and making sarcastic wisecracks in the margins of his assigned work.

    Any thoughts/suggestions on curriculum options for my kiddo would be great. Thanks!

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  3. #2


    You might want to check out the Big History Project. While it goes back further, it would cover ancient history.

    You could purchase a DK History Timeline and fill in with interesting books and documentaries about each era. I am not using a curriculum for history because I find most of the problematic.

  4. #3


    I also havent found anything I really like for ancient history. (Am about to try to fight with SOTW, for the second time, with my youngest.) Piecing things together sounds fine to me. I havent looked at all the things you mentioned, but since you grasp the idea that youre going to be “teaching to suit”, I think you will do fine.
    How is your son at typing? My youngest has big OT issues, and finds typing far more enjoyable. He types everything, except for when hes practicing his handwriting. (Even typing “answers” to worksheets on blank documents.... since Im the only one looking at it, it works fine.) If he is doing something simple, like filling out a worksheet, he could also dictate the answers to you. Again, youre not in a school situation, you can give him the one on one attentuon there. You could also do the writing (or typing) for him.... if the goal of the assignment is to build narrative or compositional skills, there is no reason to compound it with fatigue or fine motor issues.

    Its great that youre planning to stay on target with the state’s educational plans for the 5th grade. Dont sweat too much about it, though. States are used to things being taught differently in different districts, and kids moving around. The problems with the patchwork education was the reason for the Common Core State Initiative - which it seemed to utterly fail at. Learning topics that interest him, that instill his enjoyment of learning, that will benefit him more than drilling into him the names and dates of the rulers of Mesopotamia.

    You got this!
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  5. #4


    Thanks, Mariam. I took a quick look at the Big History Project site, and it's really interesting. I'll have to figure out how to incorporate some of that into what we do next year! I appreciate the suggestion!

  6. #5


    Thanks for the quick reply, Alexsmom - my son's still at the one-finger hunt and peck phase. I'm going to try to get him to play some typing games over the summer to see if we can't improve his keyboarding skills, but assuming he starts the school year where he is right now, typing is about as slow as writing. You're right, I was thinking more like a teacher and less like a homeschooler - I can absolutely take dictation for him on some assignments, to keep his ideas flowing without the writing slowing things down. But I do hope to help him build his endurance with writing and/or typing!

    And I promise not to drill him on the names and dates of the rulers of Mesopotamia.

  7. #6


    I have two readers and my general approach is they pick a general area of interest, I get as many interesting books out from our library about all aspects of that area of interest as I can, they read and read, and then pick more specific things within that area of interest that they want to research or do a project on.

    One book we have for finding general areas of interest is the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History. It does not have a lot of information in it, but enough, and there are weblinks online with videos and extras. It has prehistory in it.
    NZ homeschoolers (school year runs start Feb to mid Dec).
    DD 12 (year 7) and DD 7 (year 2).
    Fourth year homeschooling.
    Part-time freelance science copyeditor.

  8. #7


    Here are some typing resources in case youre interested. Between my boys, I learned that them having the right mindset and motivation (that this will help them type faster and easier) was needed for them to take it seriously.
    Dance Mat Typing by the BBC is online, free, and doesnt require logins. It may be a little juvenile for him, though. was recommended by our OT as another free source, but since Dance Mat worked perfectly well we never went to it.
    Handwriting Without Tears has a typing course, but as it wasnt free, we didnt need to venture there. Their handwriting workbooks are great, though!

    *It isnt that free is super important to me, but I havent found that expensive programs are any better.

    You may also find the BraveWriter philosophy helpful for reluctant writers. She is gentle, and at least used to have a wealth of information on her blog.
    Homeschooling DS13, DS6.


    My spelling was fine, then my brain left me.

  9. #8


    Just put the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History into my Amazon wishlist - thanks for the suggestion, NZ_Mama! It's good to have a starting point, even if I have to find other materials that go deeper.

  10. #9


    I appreciate the typing resources, Alexsmom - thanks again. We did some work with Handwriting Without Tears when he was younger, I didn't even know they had a typing course, so that's good to keep in my back pocket if the other stuff doesn't help him along enough.

    I was looking at BraveWriter, but didn't love the reading selections for 2020/2021. (Nothing bad about them per se, just not as much to my son's tastes as I'd prefer right now.)

    I'm thinking I might pull down the prehistory unit study from Build Your Library and start there in September, with some additions from other resources, including what's been suggested here. Leaning towards Moving Beyond the Page for the rest of the year worth of ancient history, because they have such a great variety of assignments (from what I can tell from the sample) - we can pick and choose the ones that my son will enjoy most, or benefit from most, given the situation. I think we can easily find activities he'll enjoy in there.

    So I think Social Studies is more or less sorted! I'll have more curricula questions soon, no doubt - I'm on a roll, here!

  11. #10


    With Bravewriter, I think AM is referring more to the general how to do things than the specific books + accompanying writing guides.

    My daughter was (is) a reluctant writer. She was really horrible just out of school at age 8, and then we mostly followed the Bravewriter philosophy and she got great. This year I tried to up her writing expectations and she blew up again, so we have backed off a little.

    So for Bravewriter we used the writing project products:

    Then we did poetry teatimes (there is a free guide and then you can just do it on your own, you do not need the poetry teatime companion), movies, freewriting (started with one sentence and built up), copywork/dictation (occasionally buying Bravewriter Arrow single issues but mostly just making it up myself), narration (we use the Build Your Library narration cards), art appreciation etc.

    It worked really well for us.

    From our experience of Build Your Library, it is very writing heavy in the tasks, but you could just use it as inspiration and to get book lists and skip a lot of the tasks (we skipped so many that it just became not worth it when DD11 did their level 4 a couple of years ago).

    Have you printed out samples of Moving Beyond the Page and tried them? I would suggest that to see if you like them. We found that involved a lot of writing and also a lot of arbitrary crafty stuff that my kids did not enjoy.
    NZ homeschoolers (school year runs start Feb to mid Dec).
    DD 12 (year 7) and DD 7 (year 2).
    Fourth year homeschooling.
    Part-time freelance science copyeditor.

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Pre/Ancient History - 5th grade social studies?