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  • Jennifer Schmit

4th Grade Ideas

A friend of a friend has two soon-to-be fourth graders and wants to start homeschooling next fall (and this summer). She is pretty sure that she doesn’t want her homeschool to look like school-at-home, but otherwise she doesn’t know where to begin.

Here are my recommendations:

This summer offers a great opportunity to ease into the homeschooling way of life by combining summer trips with educational opportunities. Fourth grade history in California has a focus on state history and the missions, so I suggest spending this summer (and into the Fall if you’re having too much fun to quit) studying California state history and the Westward expansion.

A literature based approach, combined with field trips, is the way to go.

For example, there is a book called The Queen’s Own Grove in which a family moves from England to a home with an orange grove in Riverside, CA. With a grandmother who resembles Queen Victoria and a black sheep cousin local to Riverside, many shenanigans ensue. It’s a fun read for the whole family, plus you can combine it with a trip to Riverside to see the Heritage House.

A quick search online will return many more historic field trips in Riverside, too.

Similarly, Scott O’Dell’s Island of the Blue Dolphins can be combined with summer beach camping, and Sid Fleischmann’s By the Great Horn Spoon with a trip to San Francisco or the Gold Country near Sacramento. California history is much richer than assembling a pre-fab mission kit!

A great project to complement your state studies is to make a scaled map of California. Start with a decent but small-ish map of California, either from an atlas or one printed off of the internet. Then get a nice big piece of poster board, butcher paper, or other card board for your new BIG map (if you’re a Costco shopper, you can bring home the giant pieces that are layered between the products on the pallets).

Measure the small map carefully, and note the dimensions for the different outlines of the state. Use a protractor to measure the angles. Then decide how many times bigger your new map will be; this will be your scale.

Places you visit or would like to visit, places you read about or watch a movie about, can all be marked on your new map.

How about adding some science to the history, literature, geography, and math? Easy. You can start with collecting sea shells, visiting tide pools, and counting local birds. Then hit the library for books that will help you identify what you find.

Summer stargazing is fun, too, and can be combined with a trip to the Palomar College Planetarium for a look at the night sky. Or how about a trip to the La Brea Tar Pits or the San Diego Natural History Museum in Balboa Park?

This is the way I homeschooled my kids. It’s not for everyone, but it worked for us. During the regular school year we included some school-ish looking things like math and handwriting workbooks, but most of our days were focused on reading great literature together and working on projects. It’s a great way to foster a “let’s find out” attitude and a life-long love of learning.

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