Notes from the Junior High: Week 3

Hello from Suzanne at the Academy! Welcome to our weekly blog where we share what we’ve been working on in junior high. Let us know what’s happening with your middle schooler in the comments!

We’ve just finished up Week 3 of our semester—can you believe it? I have really enjoyed welcoming back our returning Academy students and getting to know the new students that have joined us this year. At this point, we’re settling into our weekly routine of classes, independent work, and Friday Enrichment fun, and I’m excited about everything coming up later in the semester! (I’m less excited about the fact that I managed to sprain my foot while attempting to walk and look at my cellphone at the same time—you’d think I’d know better, but it turns out I don’t—but the kids have been very patient with me as I hobble around the classroom and only use the portion of the whiteboard I can reach while sitting down.)

We start each morning with Math and Spanish (led by our math and Spanish expert, Jason), and then I get to take over with Literature. This year, our focus is on U.S. Literature, and our first book is The Witch of Blackbird Pond, a historical novel set in colonial-era Connecticut. We’re about two-thirds through at this point, and we’re all on Witch-Watch, keeping an eye out for witch references, and trying to figure out why the book is named after a character who doesn’t actually appear until nearly halfway through.

After lit is History, and we’ve taken a whirlwind tour through colonial-era North America. This past week was all about the start of The Big Breakup (between Britain and her American colonies), so we got familiar with King George III, the Sons of Liberty, and a whole bunch of tax laws. (Sample class soundbite: “So who would like to be a stamp tax collector for King George? Charlie? Okay, now who would like to be a Son of Liberty and threaten to burn down Charlie’s house?” The only problem this approach, by the way, is that now whenever I ask the class how they might respond to a political problem, their first response is “BURN DOWN THEIR HOUSE.”)

Then comes lunch (the most important part of the day) and after that Amy begins the afternoon with Chemistry. Last week was all about getting introduced to the Periodic Table, with the help of a “code-breaking” exercise that requires students to decipher information about the elements.

Writing is the last full class of the day. This is the first year we’ve broken writing out separately from language arts (giving us more time for literature and for practicing writing skills), and it’s been great so far! The students have been doing some creative writing and getting their first experience of “workshopping” (sharing their writing with peers to get helpful feedback) by swapping stories and working on alternate endings.

Next week will bring more Witch-watching, the “shot heard ‘round the world”, the continuation of chemical code-breaking, along with our usual math, Spanish, writing, and study skills practice. Have a great week, everyone!