Highlights and Challenges of Homeschooling in Sixth Grade

If you have been working with the Christopherus curriculum for a number of years prior to sixth grade, it can be disconcerting to go from a comprehensive yearly syllabus to a free rough download for the middle school years, reinforced with audio downloads and some recommended books (including some excellent unit studies) to purchase. It is now up to you as a homeschooling parent to expand on the main lesson guidelines to meet your own family’s learning rhythm. All these changes require some research and flexibility in teaching from a homeschooling parent. Do remember, however, that your child is still only in sixth grade, and it is important in all main lessons to maintain a lively, imaginative curriculum. This is one reason for the middle school years biographical approach to history and a phenomenological approach to science.

There are good reasons for switching the curriculum from a detailed syllabus to a rough guide during the middle school years. As the Christopherus website notes, the ages from 12-14 mark a decided shift out into the larger community. The child learns by degrees to reach out to others in the community for teaching and learning resources. There are still very clear curriculum guidelines for these years, but the rough guides incorporate a range of materials and a need for flexibility and individuality during these grades.

While it is important to have a good breathing rhythm in your main lesson schedule, you may want to present a main lesson unit in a different order than it is outlined in Donna’s Rough Guide to Sixth Grade.  If a wonderful Geology resource/teacher is not present until later in the year, then work the schedule to maximize your use of available teachers and resources in the community.

One  helpful feature on the sixth grade bookstore list on the Christopherus website is the link to the Sixth Grade Checklist, where you can see on one page all the recommended material and books available on the website that are needed for sixth grade. One update to that checklist is that the Key To Workbooks are no longer at keypress.com but are available online through the McGraw Hill website: www.mheonline.com.

I have taught Waldorf inspired sixth grade a number of times with my own children and in co-op classes on individual topics. So, here are some of my thoughts on a few highlights and challenges of the sixth grade year.

In general terms, children in this age group are beginning puberty and a lot is going on in their bodies. I remember my eldest saying frequently that he just felt so strange. Muscles and bones have developed, hormones are changing and the child is stronger and more earthy. Children can also be more clumsy as they get used to their heavier, changing physical forms. It has been said that Roman history is a perfect fit for the sixth grader since she/he is more practical and wants to claim the world. Donna’s unit study on Roman History is excellent for this main lesson. Concepts of cause and effect also become important and the child can sometimes see topics from a rather fixed black and white perspective. This is one reason that sixth grade students work with charcoal and produce black and white drawings, examining light and shadow. As Donna notes in her audio download , these type of lessons work sideways to help balance the child at this age away from rigid or fixed thinking. Another important craft lesson is in woodworking, learning to gouge a bowl or spoon, which helps the child, as Donna notes, to “mould matter”, working against resistance to form a harmonious shape.

Breaking things down from the whole into components becomes increasingly important during these middle grades as well, especially in the science main lessons. I highly recommend Donna’s From Nature Stories to Natural Science  for great insights on how to work with the sixth grade science main lessons, which are Geology and Physics I ( sound, heat, light, acoustics). She also has additional suggestions for a Habitats/Ecology main lesson and suggestions for biographies of naturalists and inventors. Another good resource for Physics teaching (as well as for math) is Eric Fairman’s  A Path of Discovery, Volume Six-Grade Six. Our family also used the Physics is Fun series. Sixth grade is such a perfect time to begin the study of the physical nature of the Earth with the main lesson in Geology. I heartily agree with Donna that it is important to do field trips ( to study formations, visit a cave) and have a good rock testing kit to identify specimens. This keeps the Geology main lesson material lively and interesting. My daughters also did lovely crystal formation veil paintings for that unit. Several of the sixth grade resource books in Physics and other topics are also available as free downloads from the online website http://www.waldorflibrary.org.

The math main lesson on Business Math also continues the practical emphasis of grade six. You and your child can have the opportunity in this lesson to really look at the business of managing money. The primary text used here is Mathematics Lessons for Sixth Grade by Ernest Schuberth. I think this is a wonderful resource for teaching this main lesson and for math generally. Some families, however, have found it a bit difficult to organize the materials from the book so I am going to give you an outline below for a possible 3 week lesson plan for the main lesson on Business Math.



OVERVIEW CONCEPT: This  3 week unit covers percentages, formulas and graphing in the context of understanding basic business concepts about money and banking, including simple interest; borrowing; lending; savings; buying and selling; profit and loss; and mark ups and mark downs. On day one, concepts are presented and on day two concepts and explorations are written up in the main lesson book with some homework assignments.

Week One: The introduction of basic concepts of money, graphing and percentages. Teacher prep-read Schuberth book, pages 25-44.

Day One : What is Money? ( and how is it useful?); look at U.S. Dollar and Quarter.

Day Two:  Copy and label important parts of the dollar and draw an enlarged quarter and label features. Homework: Two paragraph essay on Usefulness of Money. ( Can also do optional calculations on p.27 and/or work in Key To workbooks on Percent concepts)

Day Three: Consumption or Purchase Money : Discussion of the concept of barter economy and trade economy

Day Four: Help the child create an outline based on your day three discussion. Homework is to write a 2-3 paragraph report on Barter and Trade Economy. First paragraph should discuss straight barter and second paragraph the trade economy. Third paragraph discusses main differences between barter and trade ( trade is more regular and uniform and includes a middle person and barter is more casual and direct).

Also do the calculation questions on pages 29-30 from the book and/or work in Key to workbooks. Idea here is to practice how to find a percent in relation to fractions and decimals and some work in calculating an increase or decrease in percent. Perhaps illustrate tipping at a restaurant by going out to eat one evening!

Day 5: Continue to work through Schuberth problems as given and/or focus on Time Accounts ( pages 33-39). Homework: Child does a Time Account ( Settlement) chart and does proposed homework on page 44 ( family time account chart).


Weeks Two/Three: Focus concept is on simple interest calculations and loan money (banking). Teacher prep -pages 45-78 and supplemental material as needed.


Week Two:

Day One: Discussion of the history of banking ( Knights Templar to today). Perhaps take a visit to a bank.

Day Two: Help the child create an outline and draft on the history of banking ( maximum 4 paragraphs). First two paragraphs on medieval banking and second two on modern banking and borrowing. Stress the relationship between debtor company, depositors, and bank.

Day Three:  Write the  final draft of banking report into MLB and work on a picture depicting banking relationship with a debtor company. Left side has depositors at bottom  with an arrow leading to bank in middle and the debtor borrower on top. Right side shows diagram of debtor company with arrow pointing down, showing repayment of loan to bank and then bank’s repayment to depositors. Text gives interest formula: I=PxR ( and plug in some dollar figures)

Day Four/Five: Do some simple interest calculations together. MLB can show an illustration of Interest Repaid to Depositors over time -360 days; 180 days; 60 days with different amounts of capital ($1,000; $2,000; $5,000.)

MLB can also illustrate a simple interest problem (example: Alex deposits $5,000 at 5% interest on March 15. On 9/10 he needs funds to buy a used car. How much money is available to him to buy the car? Show answer using I (interest)=P (principle) x R (rate) x T (time). P= $5,000.; R= 5% or.05; T= 180 days ( full interest is 360 days so 180 days is 1/2 or.50) Show the math in MLB. Amount available is $5,125.


Week Three covers checking accounts and gift money and can also describe promissory notes. (pages 87-91)

Days One and Two:  Explore together how a checking account, deposit and withdrawl slips, debit cards and ATM’s work. Describe credit cards if desired. Show these items physically and actually go to the ATM if possible.

For homework, take a sample check and deposit slip and fill it out and put into MLB with a brief explanation of process at bottom of page.

Day Three: Discuss gift money (pages 56-7) with homework to write a paragraph describing free money or gifts for good causes or for individual help.

Days Four/Five: Discuss the flow of goods and money in commerce with the idea of notes; profit/loss; mark-up and down (discounts); commission and tax. You can do some problems together or use the Key To workbook, primarily book 3 of Percents and Decimals.  ( In general you can do about 10 pages of Key To per assignment and work through the books systematically starting with percents and then decimals. This will take a number of months and will be done three times a week as part of math skills, along with any other main lesson).


Much success to you on your homeschooling adventures in Sixth Grade! ~Barbara Benson


Posted on November 16, 2015 in 6th Grade, Barbara, Family Life and Parenting, General Homeschooling, Older Children

  • Cathy says:

    Thank you for this. I’m about to start planning for sixth grade so it is very timely for me.
    McGraw Hill will not ship the Key To…. books internationally, so customers outside the USA will need to find another supplier if they want to use these books for maths. As I haven’t seen the books other than a few sample pages online, I am worried about buying US math curricula which is non-metric, and very America-centric in it’s word problems and pictures – such as using US money and cultural references. Money is particularly a problem because our smallest coin here is 10c. I am wondering what impact this has on the percents books which seem to be quite money-focused and cover things like tax and tipping, neither of which we have here. Do you have any advice on this?
    Thank you,

  • Barbara Benson says:

    Hi Cathy
    If you go to the website of Key To- keycurriculum.com, they have a link to a list of international distributors. Barbara

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