Homeschool Curriculum Picks for 3rd Grade and 5th Grade
Aimee Otto | July 14, 2022
I begin every school year praying over each child and seeking God’s direction for where to focus our attention in our homeschool. Inevitably, there are some subjects that don’t make the cut. There are lots of things I’d love to include that you won’t find on this list (foreign language, grammar, Latin, typing). It’s not because these aren’t subjects I value. It’s because I try to be ruthlessly realistic about what we can accomplish during a given year. I’ve learned that for us it’s much better to under plan and have time and space to add more things in later than to be overly ambitious in my planning and have us all feeling defeated because we tried to cram too much into our days.
My husband, Nick, and I both work outside the home so we share homeschooling responsibilities. Each day I write out a simple spiral notebook checklist for each child outlining what schoolwork they need to accomplish that day. Then Nick helps the kids with their daily work in math, science, and language arts in the mornings while I work, and I do literature and history readings, art, music, and outdoor adventures (plus any morning work that wasn’t completed) in the afternoons while Nick is working. Here’s what we plan to use this year:
We’ve used Saxon Math in our homeschool since the beginning. I grew up using Saxon as a middle school and high school student so I’m very familiar with it, and I know it did a great job preparing me for college math. If and when we run into problems, we’ll make a change, but for now Saxon Math is our default. This year we have one child using Math 6/5 and one child in Math 3.
Since we do math all year-round we spread each lesson out over two days. That allows my husband to alternate focused time going over a lesson with one child while the other child is completing a problem set working with new concepts they practiced with Dad the previous day. We only assign 50% off the problems Saxon provides which means one side of the workbook page in levels K through 3 and doing every other problem for Math 5/4 and up. In my experience a willingness to adjust the program to suit your family’s needs is vital to success with Saxon Math.
Both children also practice their math facts each day, either using the speed drill that comes with their Saxon Math program, the Pet Bingo app (my favorite free educational app), or playing a game from our Math Facts That Stick books.
At some point throughout the year everyone needs a little break from this routine (usually in February) so at we take a month off from Saxon, and both kids spend their math time playing a game or reading through the next Life of Fred book in the series.
My third grader is still working on finishing up The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading. Though she’s reading well on her own, I plan to continue with the remaining lessons both for the confidence it gives her and because it helps me spot areas where more review is needed. At this point each lesson only takes about 5 to 10 minutes. I could probably require her to do two lessons per day, but sometimes less is more. I’d rather keep our reading time light-hearted and fun with a child that feels successful than pushing to get through the book a few months faster. This child is also working her way through Spelling You See for spelling practice.
Our fifth grader’s main source of Language Arts instruction this year will be Vocabulary from Classical Roots (Grade 5). For each lesson, we do a pretest to check if my son knows how to spell the words. From there we read over the words and their roots together. Then he makes flashcard for each word and does the written exercises. When he is confident he knows how to spell and define each word, we do a final spelling and vocabulary test.
I also assign my fifth grader to read 15 minutes of a biography each school day and keep a reading journal about what he’s read. I pull together a stack of biographies that I think will be beneficial for him, and he is free to read whatever he chooses from that stack.
When he finishes the vocabulary book, if there is still time left in our school year, I plan to have him start working his way through The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasons and/or some review of Spelling Workout Levels C and D.
Science has been an area where we’ve struggled to find materials that we love. (Judging from the response to this podcast episode we’re not alone!) This year we’re going to give Biology for the Logic Stage Student from Elemental Science a try. My kids do science together, so this will be targeted primarily at my 5th grader with the 3rd grader assimilating what she can. I like that this program includes a good mix of hands-on experiments, written work, readings, and videos. I’m hoping it will turn out to be the program that meets our science needs! I’ll let you know how that goes.
Literature + History
We study literature and history primarily through read-alouds with a healthy dose of map and timeline work woven in. Our afternoon read-aloud time includes Scripture reading, singing hymns, prayer, memory work, and history readings. Before bed we have a literature read-aloud that the whole family enjoys together.
There are a few places I look for ideas as I plan our history and literature studies:
Roger Lancelyn GreenPuffin Books / 2008 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$6.74
Retail Price$8.99Save 25% ($2.25)
Patrick O'BrienCharlesbridge / Trade PaperbackOur Price$7.29
Retail Price$8.99Save 19% ($1.70)
David MacaulayGood Night Books / 1982 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$8.49
Retail Price$16.99Save 50% ($8.50)
David MacaulayClarion Books / 1981 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$11.69
Retail Price$12.99Save 10% ($1.30)
This year we will be studying the Middle Ages. We’ll use Famous Men of the Middle Ages from Memoria Press as our spine with additional readings from books like these:
- King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
- The Making of a Knight by Patrick O’Brien
- Castle by David Macaulay
- Cathedral by David Macaulay
- Adam of the Road by Elizabeth Janet Gray
- The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
- Chapters on Charlemagne, Alfred the Great, Anselm, and Francis of Assissi from Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History by Richard Hannula
Here are a few titles on our list as literature read-alouds this year:
Louisa May AlcottPuffin Books / 2016 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$7.29
Retail Price$8.99Save 19% ($1.70)Availability: In StockStock No: WW366081
Laura Ingalls Wilder, Garth WilliamsHarperCollins / 1971 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$7.39
Retail Price$8.99Save 18% ($1.60)
Marie McSwiganPuffin Books / 2006 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$7.19
Retail Price$7.99Save 10% ($0.80)
Barbara RobinsonHarperCollins / 1988 / Trade PaperbackOur Price$5.995 out of 5 stars for The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Softcover. View reviews of this product. 15 Reviews
Retail Price$7.99Save 25% ($2.00)
- Little Men by Louisa May Alcott
- On the Banks of Plum Creek by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Snow Treasure by Marie McSwigan
- The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton
Art + Music
We choose one artist and one composer to study each year. This year we’ll be focusing on the art of Monet and the music of Bach. I really like the Opal Wheeler books for learning about famous composers. We read the book and play the musical selections mentioned in the story.
For art we will read biographies about Monet, do Monet-inspired art projects, and try to fit in an art museum visit or two.