Fifth Grade

I’m writing this post about fifth grade curricula at the end of fifth grade instead of the beginning. This is very Reggio Emilia, a schooling philosophy where the teacher responds to the student interests then writes the curriculum after it’s been completed. And that’s what fifth grade was like for us in terms of content studies.


Mushroom finished up all the available Beast Academy books and covered individual topics with the Key to Math series and NCERT books. He used Process Skills in Problem Solving grade 5 for the entire year. I have a post about his unusual math path here. During the final part of the year, he began Jousting Armadillos as his pre-algebra program.

BalletBoy started the year by doing Math in Focus. That didn’t work out perfectly so he switched to MEP Math. That worked much better. He is also using Khan Academy to find whatever gaps there seem to be in his math mastery.

We also did several math projects, which was a continuation from the end of 4th grade. We did a project on ratio and another on symmetry from the book Time Travel Math. We also did a long project on probability using the GEMS Guide In All Probability as a main resource.

Language Arts

We continued using All About Spelling. BalletBoy finished Level 6 and Mushroom made it almost halfway through Level 5. We decided to discontinue spelling toward the end of the year. BalletBoy is a good speller. Mushroom is not, but he hit a wall with AAS and trying a few other programs did not help.

We continued using the Brave Writer lifestyle approach to language arts in general. We finished up Partnership Writing from Brave Writer then did our own projects in the same style. You can see examples here and here. We did not use Brave Writer’s The Arrow, but chose dictation work in a very similar fashion.

Mostly we just read books of the kids’ choosing, both aloud and independently. We focused on reading one short story a month for literature. You can see more about that here. We read two books together: Island of the Blue Dolphins and Bridge to Terabithia. I chose them because they were short but meaty and both classics that they would not otherwise have read. They read them independently but we held longer discussions about them. Finally, we read and did a written narration about one nonfiction piece per week, generally a magazine article or section from a nonfiction picture book.

Content Subjects

We studied several things over the course of the year. Some of them were planned ahead through discussion, others were spur of the moment. We read, watched documentaries, and went on field trips for a wide range of topics in addition to these. However, just a few things turned into real projects and I’ve listed those below.

* Steampunk
This was a unit that the kids requested, but which didn’t last for too long. We read some literature, including part of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan series. We also did some art projects.

* Houses
This was an extensive unit. You can read more about what went into it in this post. We relied most on the book House Building for Kids and an out of print book about the history of architectural house styles from the Historic Preservation Trust.

* Graphic Design
The spine for this study was Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design by Chip Kidd. I highly recommend it. There are projects listed in the back and the text is very engaging. We also watched several documentaries, including Helvetica.

* World Religions
This was an extensive unit. We used several resources and structured several writing assignments around this unit. The books we got the most use out of were One World, Many Religions by Mary Pope Osborne, which was a very basic introduction to the major world religions, and How Do You Spell God? by ****, which was a very good introduction to the ways that religions think about the world, though secular readers should know it was from a very theist point of view. We also watched parts of several documentaries and read lots of world mythology.

* Ancient Egypt
This was a shorter study inspired by watching the BBC’s Egypt. We ended up reviewing lots about ancient Egypt, doing some art projects, and reading some articles.

* Chemistry
For this unit, we continued with our science group. We primarily used Middle School Chemistry from ACS. You can find more about how I adapted it and my review here. We tried several texts, but mostly did not find them useful. However, we loved the documentary Hunting the Elements from NOVA.

Arts, Movement, and Extras

We continued Destination Imagination. Both boys continued piano. BalletBoy joined a marimba ensemble. Mushroom continued theater. Both boys participated in our annual Shakespeare performance. BalletBoy continued ballet. Mushroom played soccer in the fall and spring.


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