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    Notes on Planning Ninth Grade

    July 25, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    If there is one piece of advice I can give you, it is to make sure you start a number of weeks ahead when planning for high school. Everything takes longer than you expect. I sort of knew this based on planning junior high the past couple years, but truly this has been a whole new ballgame. It’s the decision making! I love and appreciate that AmblesideOnline takes a salad bar approach to the upper years, but this does mean time must be spent making choices and then, if there is not a schedule for a book you chose, creating the schedule yourself.

    Before I tell you what I chose, can I just say that I think this year is going to be awesome?? I’m so excited.

    Wow. We're in high school. The books I chose and my new process of keeping what I call pre-transcripts so that I don't lose things along the way.

    So here’s the deal: I am a little hesitant to share my choices.


    Because I think that when we get to the upper years, our choices are very personal. I chose books based upon who my child is, his strengths and weaknesses and interests. I also chose based upon what books are already in the family library, what else we are doing this year outside of AO. And the list goes on. By sharing my choices, I don’t want anyone to think that this is some sort of recommendation. I mean: I recommend AO, yes. But my personal choices may or may not be a fit for you.

    So. The choices. These were made based upon this list, and is not a complete list of what we are doing — where there were no choices, I didn’t bother to mention what we’re doing…

    • Bible: I cut both Francis Schaeffer and Brother Lawrence. I love Schaeffer and own his complete works, but my husband and I decided we wanted our children to become more familiar with the Church Fathers before leaving home. So, this year we’re spending two terms on Eusebius and then one term reading through On the Incarnation by Athanasius.
    • History: We’re still doing Churchill because we will finish all of History of the English Speaking Peoples if it’s the last thing we do.
    • Biographies: So AO says you really must assign a George Washington biography, but we’ve already read a number of them on our own over the years (plus we’ve already read the suggested John Adams biography), so I had my son look at the list and see what piqued his interest. He chose Peter the Great, Ben Franklin, Napoleon Bonaparte, and Life of Johnson.
    • Historical Supplements: In addition to all of the little speeches and documents that appear on the 36-week schedule, we added Founding Brothers.
    • Grammar: I decided to go with something completely different this time around and we’re reading Eats, Shoots, and Leaves.
    • Science: This year, we have been given an amazing opportunity. A woman from my church is teaching Apologia Physical Science to a group of homeschooled eighth and ninth graders. She is amazing. Plus, she will do labs. I am a labs loser. Truly. I keep telling her she is an answer to prayer!
    • Economics: We’re adding Wealth of Nations because we are econ junkies around here. I had a number of people tell me that I should keep this as a free read — that their children like it better as such. I’m one to listen, so I talked with my son about this. He said he wants it on the schedule because he wants me to read it with him so that we can discuss. We decided that the schedule I planned is tentative — we’re trying to get through Book 1 in one term, but we won’t be sticklers about it. If he wants to read the rest, he can do that on his own time.
    • Art: Continued with The Story of Painting because we already own the book.
    • Literature: We chose Isaac Bickerstaff and Days with Sir Roger De Coverley by Richard Steele over The Coverley Papers, and we also cut Gulliver’s Travels (because we’d already read it). Also, I would just like to say that my one splurge book was a pretty copy of Pride and Prejudice.
    • Poetry: We chose option 1.
    • Nature Study: I chose Land of Little Rain because it’s about an area near here.

    I have this big fear that I’ve planned too much, but I just decided we’ll do what I planned by plugging into my blank templates, and then we’ll do the first two or three weeks as usual: in troubleshooting mode. For us, this means that my son records how long each assignment actually takes him, and we compare that with my estimates (which are in parenthesis in the schedule). If it’s too much, we’ll adjust at that point, which probably means moving a book to free reading, or slowing down and not finishing a book — at which point my son would choose whether to finish it on his own time or not.

    Keeping Pre-Transcripts

    This is what I’m calling it: pre-transcripts. These aren’t official transcripts, but they are records that are different from before — they are divided into classes that use the legal language of our state and then weighted by credits. I am legally required to create a Course of Study for each student each year, and this is doing double-duty as pre-transcripts. Honestly, I can’t hardly remember what I did last week, so I would never be able to go back and recreate what we’ve done if I waited until the end. I keep records, but not thoroughly enough for the purpose of transcripts.

    With that in mind, I created a simple spreadsheet that has columns for the year the class was taken, the teacher of the class, a brief description (which is mostly a book list), credits, and the grade received. I don’t usually give grades, but he receives them from classes he takes online or outside our home, and that’s where I’ll record them.

    Also, that I don’t lose them, I copied over the minimum requirements for graduating from high school in our state, and also the A-G Requirements for the UC system. I honestly have no desire for my children to attend a UC school, but I think keeping their requirements in mind will be helpful along the way.

    Something I learned in The High School Handbook that I found helpful was to accord 10 credits for a one year class. In the words of the author:

    Ten credits can be more easily divided up into small units as part of a course than 1 credit can.

    This was waaaaayyyy helpful when I was thinking through AO, where certain courses are done over all 4 years, for example. If I give a few units for Art each year, by the end of all four years, it’ll equal a full 10-credit course, which I think is about right.

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  • Reply Erika August 2, 2016 at 6:27 am

    I used Apologia science for my high school years and loved it! First time I had ever enjoyed science. Definitely keeping it in mind for my own kids.

  • Reply SarahD July 26, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Planning year 9 (lite) here too! Also switching up the theology books. Took out brother lawrence and put in a book on the Trinity–delighting in the trinity by Michael reeves. My year 9 student is a 10th grader and is doing the Romans year of Old Westetn Culture with Mr. Callihan which ends with two units on early And nicene Christianity, so he will be reading the church fathers too.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 4, 2016 at 7:55 pm

      I would love to see your Church Fathers booklist, Sarah!

      • Reply SarahD October 15, 2016 at 6:21 pm

        It’s the same as the ones listed at Roman roads media under the Romans reading list, last two units.

  • Reply Lisa July 26, 2016 at 12:10 pm

    Hi Brandy, I imagine your’ve seen this book, but I’m linking it for another reason. When I planned 9th grade for my son, this opened up thoughts a lot of salad bar items. Obviously you’ve done this and done it beautifully–I loved your choices. This book helps with the rest of their education. It’s often important for college to document the voluntary activities, the non-traditional sports, the community learning that goes on. This book opened my mind to those choices. Whether you want to use it any other way is another thing entirely. Any way, have a great year! Here’s the link

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 2:17 pm

      Actually I *hadn’t* heard of this book, so thank you! 🙂

  • Reply Julie Zilkie July 26, 2016 at 6:05 am

    I, too, am starting Year 9, and have no idea about transcripts, etc. Is this a book you would recommend for helping figure all of this out. I have not come across this information anywhere. Of course, I haven’t really been looking for it either. 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 9:14 am

      For now, I’m just sticking with the handbook I linked in this post. There are so many transcripts options, and I feel like I need to have more direction on where my child intends to go to college before I try to prepare any, so for now I’m focusing on meticulous record keeping {I am not a meticulous person, so this is an auspicious goal!}. There is quite a bit about transcripts in the handbook, but I will probably buy something — maybe even software — depending on what we end up needing…

  • Reply Carol July 26, 2016 at 4:13 am

    Churchill & Apologia Physical Science have worked well with all our children so far.
    A good amount of well-written historical fiction prior to starting Churchill helped them to keep everything in place, which seems to be the main problem children have with his books. Reading the Church Fathers – great idea about doing them while still at home. They’re a bit harder to get into when other things like full-time study or work starts filling up their lives. Good to read over your plans 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 10:35 am

      I am so glad to hear that Apologia has worked well for you! This is the first time we’ve used it.

      I’m hoping we’ll whet his appetite for Church Fathers and then he can continue on his own. I’m trying to decide where to reschedule Schaeffer in future years because I don’t want to miss him…just delay him. 🙂 Any suggestions?

      • Reply Carol July 26, 2016 at 7:52 pm

        Our 16 yr old just finished ‘The God Who is There’ – he’s doing bits of AO year 11 in conjunction with a Liberal Arts certificate (we have to use alternative pathways for uni entry here if you want to continue homeschooling all the way through highschool); ‘How Should We Then Live’ – use this with everyone at some stage during highschool. Schaeffer was just so helpful to me as a young Christian in my late teens that I tend to defer to him (love C.S. Lewis for the same reason). I also think of the Theology & Worldview selections as one & the same for our purposes so haven’t always done both in the same term. Not much help am I!?

  • Reply Amber Vanderpol July 25, 2016 at 1:26 pm

    Yes, Y9. Eek!! I’m working on that this week. I am feeling pretty anxious about it, honestly, although I’m sure once I get going it’ll be fine. The part that is stressing me out is the transcript issue… I haven’t read about that at all yet so it just all seems like one big black box.

    I’ve decided to not use AO science – I can’t handle how late it comes out each year. Perhaps it my oldest was a year younger… I’m going to Nicole William’s science immersion at CMI and I’m hoping I’ll have a pretty firm direction after that. I actually enjoy labs and such, but I have no idea how to plan upper year science so as to appease the powers that be.

    I appreciate you sharing how you’re doing the tracking as well as the book – thanks for giving me some ideas as to where to start!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 9:23 am

      I think the planning will be fine, yes! One of the things that made my process take so long is that I started to rethink some decisions I had made and ended up making changes — which means I had to go back through my spreadsheets and adjust. I’m glad I took the time, though, because I’m happier with it than I would have been had I not adjusted it.

      It was hard for me to choose not to use the AO science {though I agree with the lateness of the hour!} because I feel like it is such an ideal, but I ended up deciding that I needed to have other priorities — a class with his peers, a chance to see guys from church an additional day per week — I’m realizing how important friendships are in the teen years, and how difficult it has been for my oldest that his closest friend went back to school last year. So I’m hoping science doubles as socialization…for lack of a better word. 😉

      • Reply Amber Vanderpol July 26, 2016 at 8:26 pm

        I totally get the science choice! I’m really struggling trying to find some good options for getting my daughter together with other girls her age. Living rurally definitely makes it quite a challenge! I have a few leads, but I’m waiting for things to shake out to see what is actually going to work.

        I’m deep enough into the planning that I feel like it is going well – found the flow point, I guess. Now if I could just make the books get here faster so I could start actually scheduling and doing my reality checks! 🙂 I have a feeling I’m going to be up the wire with the planning… next year I’m definitely going to try and start this earlier. I used to start too early, but this year I’ve pushed too far the other way!

  • Reply Anna July 25, 2016 at 11:12 am

    I’m actually thinking of doing Schaeffer all three terms, but some Church Fathers at some point during high school would be good, too.
    I love and have that edition of P&P!
    And you have given me encouragement to do Apologia if hubby and daughter agree. I’ve been wishing I could just do it – frankly I love the idea of AO’s science, but labs and figuring out credits is stressing me out. And they don’t have the Year 9 recs up yet. Maybe my scientist hubby can do labs with her…
    Haven’t decided on all our Lit and Biographies yet, but I want her to read Fierce Convictions (Hannah More) in Term 3 – it will be an incentive for me to finish it, and nice for her to read about a woman for a change. 😉
    I like your spreadsheet idea, too. It’s good to see what you’ve chosen even if it’s different from ours. 🙂

    • Reply Alyssa July 25, 2016 at 4:29 pm

      You’re not using the annotated P&Prejudice?

      • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 9:20 am

        I’m not. I know I might regret it … I like annotations, but not for initial readings. It’s like why I don’t have notes in my Bible — it’s hard to focus. I have at least two children who are the same way, so I decided to go with a plain text version. I might pick up the annotated version eventually because I have heard good things about it.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 10:40 am

      Now you have me googling Fierce Convictions!

  • Reply Isabelle July 25, 2016 at 9:11 am

    Thank you so much, this is so helpful for me!! Just curious, what are your plans for foreign language?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 9:12 am

      My original plan, back when high school was still a few years away, was to buy the Learnables curriculum and do Spanish because we are surrounded by Spanish speakers. I didn’t realize then that my oldest child was SO taken with the classical languages. Because of that, his foreign language study is to finish up Latin {well, finish the Latin grammar, anyway — I don’t know that “finishing” Latin is a good way to put it}, and then maintain it while trying to learn Greek by graduation. I mentioned to him that Duolingo might be good to try and pick up at least a little more Spanish. For now, he’s taking Latin from Dwane Thomas at

  • Reply Melissa Greene July 25, 2016 at 8:00 am

    I love that you decided to share your plan Brandy! I think it’s extremely helpful for others to see the flexibility of AO and how you rearranged and made choices based on the needs/desires of your personal family situation. I totally hear what you’re saying about recommendations, but on the flip side, as a blogger and someone who has been homeschooling a while (entering 10th year), I personally feel a small sense of responsibility to show new or unsure homeschoolers the flexibility homeschooling affords our students. There is no one size fits all and we should be making plans to fit each individual student as well as our family. Bravo to you!

    It sounds like you have a good handle on high school. One thing I wanted to share is a free online transcript calculator that I used and it worked well. I have the link with other homeschooling high school info here….

    I love seeing other plans. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 26, 2016 at 10:45 am

      Melissa!! That post was super helpful. Thank you!

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