Homeschooling Upper Elementary: Grades 4-6

What does homeschooling look like in the upper elementary years?

The upper elementary years can be the golden age of homeschooling. The reason? Your children don’t need you quite as much for everything as they did when they were little. But then you also don’t have those expectations of middle school and high school kind of pressing down upon you. The best part? Kids who are in these grades are really interested in a lot of things, so they’re fun to teach!

Homeschooling Upper Elementary: Grades 4-6

How Homeschool Changes From Early Elementary to Upper Elementary Grade Levels

The first thing about these upper elementary grades is that  you do start getting a little more independent work from your child, but I want to caution you. This is a big, huge caveat. Sometimes we think, “Oh, they’re in fifth grade. Now we can just like turn over everything to them and they’re going to do it. And it’s all going to be great and wonderful.”  You’re in for a rude awakening, if that’s how you think it’s going to happen.

Every once in a while, there is this rare child that can completely take on independent work with no involvement on your behalf, but for the most part, we are still going to have to be present and right there with our kids for much of their school day. For example, your child might be able to take their math book and complete a math page, but they may still really need help with their writing or vice versa. They may be able to go off and do their writing assignment by themselves and just come to you to edit it, but they really struggle with math and need you sitting there with them.

One of the biggest fallacies alive in education today is that we can help our children too much. That we’re doing it for them, if we’re kind of giving them the answers. If your child is legitimately struggling with, let’s say writing a paper, my good friend, Andrew Pudewa, from The Institute For Excellence In Writing Andrew Pudewa, from The Institute For Excellence In Writing, says this all the time. You can not help a child too much by giving them a word to put on their paper, by helping them construct a sentence, by even helping them start a paragraph. What you’re doing is not feeding them the answers, you’re modeling for them how this works. It sounds like, “So let’s work together. I’m going to choose a word. And then maybe you have a word that you would suggest, or you would like better. Or could this sentence sound this way? Or would you like to say it in a different way?”

In these upper elementary years, you are working together as a team. You’re working together as partners. You’re not feeding them the answers, you’re modeling the learning for them. Denise Gaskins, the author of Let’s Play Math was on my Your Morning Basket podcast and she said the exact same thing about mathematics. Model for them, show them, sit with them, and partner with them on how to work the problems. Don’t just put the book in front of them and let them struggle along because you’re afraid that you’re giving them the answers.

Now, if they don’t need that modeling help, let them do it on their own. That’s where independence comes in. The most important thing is that we always want to be building them up and making them feel successful. Not in a false, everybody gets a trophy way, but in a I’m your partner, I’ve got you, we are going to make sure that you know how to do this kind of way.

Homeschooling Upper Elementary: Grades 4-6

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What Subjects To Teach In Your Homeschool: Grades 4-6

What subjects do you need to teach in your homeschool for grades 4-6?

Reading and Spelling

By this point, most kids are able to read fluently on their own, and they’re moving from this instructional reading phase into reading for information phase. Although most kids have stopped reading instruction in these grades, I will share that I had two children who continued to need reading support in these years because of dyslexia.

If your child is not moving from that learning to read phase into the fluent reading for information phase at this point, and if you suspect that there’s something wrong, I encourage you to get a bit more information and support.  Homeschoolingwithdyslexia.com is a great place to start.

Find out more about Homeschooling With Dyslexia HERE. 

For the most part however, in these years, reading instruction is done. You may or may not have a child who is still doing some spelling. It depends. If your child is a good speller, you don’t need spelling anymore. If your child still struggles and misspells quite a few things, and doesn’t seem to grasp the phonics rules of spelling, then keep some spelling instruction in the mix.

Mathematics

Every child’s going to have mathematics in these years, and this is where it gets a little more difficult. The mathematical processes (think long division) are increasing in number and complexity. This is the point where I would encourage you to make sure that your child has memorized their math facts. It’s going to make upper elementary math so much easier.

If you have a child who’s struggling with math, you may not complete the whole math page in a day. There is nothing more daunting to a child who is staring down an entire page of long division problems. I know this not because this is how my children necessarily felt –  I know this because this is how I felt when I was in fifth grade. It was a long time ago, and that memory is still with me. What I do for kids at this stage is say, “I’m gonna set the timer for 30- 35 minutes. That’s how long you’re going to work on math today. If you get the whole page done great, if you don’t, you know what, we’re calling it good enough.”

We will open the book tomorrow and finish the math page then.  Another option is to assign only the odd problems or the even problems. Do keep in mind that this work fatigue is real, even for these older kids. If you have something that’s taking more than 30 or 45 minutes, you might want to let the timer decide when the lesson is over, and not whether or not they’ve completed everything for that day.

Grammar and Composition

Other than the basic skills of reading and math, these upper elementary years are the time to begin adding in some simple grammar and composition for school-aged kids. My favorite programs for both of these things is IEW, the Institute for Excellence in Writing. They have some wonderful writing programs that really help parents learn how to teach writing. They support you every step of the way. They also have a delightful grammar program called Fix-it Grammar, that is just the right amount of grammar, one sentence a day for your kids.

Find out more about The Institute For Excellence in writing HERE.

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History and Science

What about all the extra subjects? For early elementary learners, we talked about following your kids’ interests and for history and science and learning about the things that interest them. The good news is, this really doesn’t change for 4-6 grade. Keep following those interests!

Look at different unit studies and at different things that they like to read. Find a science program that really appeals to them and is very hands-on. Skip the workbook pages. Once again, in elementary, we’re still building up that love of learning by following their interests. Even in the upper elementary years, there’s nothing that says your kids have to study American history in fourth grade or chemistry in fifth grade.

Keep following their interests and doing the things that you love and enjoy most of all.

Homeschooling Upper Elementary: Grades 4-6

What Your Child Really Needs In The Upper Elementary Homeschool Years

Finally, what does your child really need in the upper elementary school years, as they are making this transition from easier work, into more difficult things like the long division and the composition?

What they need more than anything else is you.

These years are a time to continue to work on building those relationships, as they move into puberty and start dealing with all of these changes in their mind and body. You want to prioritize relationships and love of learning in the upper elementary school years. In this timeframe, the academics really just lay a foundation head into the middle school and high school years. There’s plenty of time for math, so bank that relationship currency now.

As I said at the beginning, the upper elementary years really can be the golden age of homeschooling. I hope you enjoy them and enjoy your kids.

 

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