Saturday, July 11, 2009

Calvert 7th Grade Review

Well, I'm only 5 or 6 weeks late in writing this. I'm sure none of you was holding your breath anyway, right? This is the Calvert 7th Grade Academic Curriculum; their Scholastic curriculum uses one or two fewer novels, and some number fewer compositions.

Ryan hates math. That being said, he did wonderfully with 7th Grade Calvert math. They write their own math curriculum, and it's very well organized and comprehensive. One of the things I like is that they have a test to be administered at the beginning of the course to see what the child remembers from previous years. They then offer 10 lessons for review of anything in which he's rusty. Ryan was so proud that he didn't need any of those reviews! This was a great pre-algebra course, introducing equalities and inequalities, variables and formulas. There was plenty of geography, including the Pythagorean Theorem, complementary and supplementary angles, polygons, parallel and perpendicular lines, etc. There was also some statistics, graphing, patterns and number theory, as well as the usual math and plenty of word problems. Right after we finished the course, Ryan took the Algebra I placement test, and aced it! He's excited.

Spelling was the Scott Foresman book. Ryan finds it rather tedious, and I would have preferred it if Calvert had continued using their original spelling course. I've sung this song before, and I'm sure everyone's bored with it.

Reading was an excellent course. Scattered through the course was poetry from the book Classic Poems to Read Aloud. Neither my student nor I was much excited about Poetry. That being said, I suppose it makes him a more well rounded person, and there's a lot of good to be said for exposure to many different literature forms. The first book we read was Kidnapped, followed by Around the World in 80 days. Both of these books are beyond exciting for a 12 year old, especially one whose mother does not allow TV to speak of, and whose computer use is severely limited, to the exclusion of all video games. These two factors give my children very vivid imaginations, a necessary factor in finding the excitement in books (in my opinion). After these two books, we read The Miracle Worker. Ryan expected to dislike this book based on two factors: (a) it is a play, and (b) it's about Helen Keller. He was very pleasantly surprised by the book indeed, and was cheering for Helen and Annie Sullivan at the end! Following that was Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry, another book Ryan expected to dislike. He was surprised by this one as well. It's about a black family in the deep south prior to WWII, very well written and riveting. The last book was Anne Frank, and Ryan didn't like it at all. He found it very dull. Truthfully, I understand and don't disagree.

Composition and Grammar are somewhat intertwined, being taught from the same textbook. I found the publisher and ordered a workbook from them, so Ryan wouldn't have to write out the grammar exercises. This may somewhat defeat the purpose, but as parents we must choose our battles. I choose to have the child identify parts of speech by circling them in a workbook rather than copy the sentence and then circle the parts of speech. Another aspect of grammar is diagramming sentences. This is a somewhat tedious chore, but it's invaluable in teaching the child parts of speech. There is a review booklet included which can be used at any time during the course. It goes through everything taught in 6th grade sentence diagramming. We read through it several times, although Ryan declined to use it. Grammar included sentence and paragraph structure, including simple, compound and complex sentences. These lessons were interspersed with the Composition lessons. As a generality, the child wrote one composition every week or two, and had a large project due every 20 lessons (one month). Assignments included narrative and descriptive compositions, letters, book reports, interviewing and a research report. By and large, Ryan enjoyed the assignments - as much as a 12 year old will, at any rate.

Geography was a study of the climate, landforms, vegetation, minerals, demographics and economies of North and South America, Europe and Russia (following the same course covering Asia, Africa and Australia/Pacific Islands last year), along with map reading and an introduction to global issues. There was a lot of information in this course, and we enjoyed it.

History covered the time following the fall of the Roman Empire, and went through the American Revolution. It covered political, social (including religious) and economic changes in the world. There was even a unit on the history of the Muslim religion, an area about which most of us know painfully little. Ryan really likes history, and this course led to some great dinner time conversations with his father and big brothers, who really love the subject. Of course, as I stated in my review of 4th grade, this is a much more in depth course, and quite age appropriate.

Also included was an Art History course covering architecture. It includes everything from early architecture and pyramids to new modern buildings. They cover styles of columns, interior and exterior trim and embellishments, and styles of architecture. The is the third in the Child's History of Art series written by Calvert School, and it is a wonderful enrichment for any child's education (and some of us parental figures can learn something, too!). The course also includes art lessons based on this art history course.

Science used 5 books from the Science Explorer series: From Bacteria to Plants, Animals, Human Biology and Health (remember my rant about the food pyramid?), Motion, Force and Energy, and Sound and Light. As has happened in times past, the Science curriculum spirals into ever more detail. Ryan enjoyed every book except the Human Biology book. Oddly enough, he doesn't like Science about people, but finds it rather boring. Well, I guess we don't have a burgeoning doctor in our midst (for which the college fund is grateful). There were plenty of experiments, and, for the first time, the test service required that some experiment results be turned in with the tests. One thing that I appreciated is that when multiple books are used for a course, the child feels a sense of real accomplishment when he finishes a book and can put it away.

As with 4th grade, Calvert includes online technology lessons for 7th grade. They teach such things as word processing, desktop publishing, networks, use of the internet and hyperlinks.

The lesson manual for 7th grade is written to the student, but I kept it and read the material to my son, except when it was a very long introduction to a new topic or a new book. He didn't like reading the lesson information to himself, and I feel that doing the introductions, and acting as teacher, kept me more "in the loop." I'm sure there are people out there who are happy to hand the manual off to the child, and just ask the discussion questions, but I like to control my environment and my child's education. The lesson manual is a really invaluable tool. Even for someone not trained as a teacher, it gives me the confidence to believe I can teach every single thing in this curriculum to my son. His excellent grades, as given by the Calvert School Advisory Teacher (I pay extra for this service, very happily), prove that I am right. If you have any questions about this, or any Calvert course grades K through 7, leave your email address with your comment, and I'll try to respond. And Paula, I'd love to see you write what you thought of Calvert's 7th grade interactive program!


Dan said...

I was happy to discover your blog today. I was unable to find a contact link. I hope it's OK that I'm contacting you through a public comment. I've developed an educational program for Windows called SpellQuizzer that helps children learn their spelling and vocabulary words without the battle that parents often have getting them to sit down and write them out while the parents dictate to them. The parent enters the child's spelling words into the software making a sound recording of each word. Then the software helps the child practice his or her words. It really helped my children with their weekly spelling lists.

I would appreciate your reviewing SpellQuizzer in Modern Day Ozzie and Harriet. If you are interested in hosting a giveaway of a SpellQuizzer license I'd be happy to supply a free license to the winner. You can learn more about the program at There's a video demo you can watch at Finally, there's a page targeted to homeschooling families at I'd be happy to send you a complimentary license for the software. Please let me know if you are interested.

Thank you very much!

Dan Hite
TedCo Software

The Blonde Duck said...

This is so fascinating to me.

Paula said...

Outstanding summary, Marjie! Did you post this on the Calvert forum as well? This would be a great help especially as it seems as though there will be many new middle school families this year.

Since we used the same course, it's always a delight for me to hear about Ryan's experiences. Some of the things he enjoyed, my son didn't and vice versa. Overall, though, this was a great year. I love Calvert's Reading/Literature program. He's not home right now for me to ask him his favorite, but I'd have to say that my favorite book this year was Around The World in 80 Days. It was such a great segue to follow along on a map and learn about geography along the way. I really love how Calvert lessons are somewhat integrated with each other. The math course was superb. As you know, my son's twin attends private school, and I'm forever comparing their curriculum with Calvert's. She was in the honors math class, and Calvert's book was far superior. Diagramming sentences was the bane of my sons existence. Even so, boy oh boy, he really knows his grammar inside and out(and now I do, too!). Consequently, his writing skills are sound. The new Science program was wonderful. I can't say enough good things about Calvert AND homeschooling. Both provide an amazing adventure and learning experience for both students and families! Again, GREAT review! :-)

noble pig said...

It sounds like a great homeschooling progam and most importantly that the boys are doing well. I am always impressed with homeschooled children's education and that it is an option everyone can turn to if it suits them. Bravo Mom.

Channon said...

I had to giggle. I clearly recall Ann Frank being the first book I had to drag myself through. I can only imagine how much more painful it was for a young lad.

And while I do realize I'm preaching to the choir, how on earth would one cover the (history) timeline you did this year without mentioning religion? It is interwoven with the social history, and I just don't know how one would paint a clear picture without it.

Violin Mom said...

Marjie, Thank you so much for posting these wonderfully thorough reviews. These are such encouragements to me, especially at a time when I am feeling burnout. We are enjoying 4th grade, but I get overwhelmed at times. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I really appreciated reading your experience w/ the calvert program. I am getting ready to homeschool my daughter for 7th grade. We have all the calvert books we have accumulated through friends but I don't have the lesson manual to help me plan each day. If you are finished with yours would you consider selling it? My contact is Thank you very much for your time.

Dee Dee said...

Hi, I'd love your opinion. I have done Calvert for some of my older ones, but I am trying to decide for my younger daughter. I NEED to make up my mind.
She is behind. A number of reasons: we lost structure the last 2-3 years; also her diabetes & hearing loss have had an effect.
So here I sit trying to choose: She "should" be in 5th, her brother will be in 3rd. She WANTS desperately to do 5th, but I am not sure she's up to it. I've gone over the placement test with her in part. Finally decided to print it off & sit her down with it. She's doing the composition & asking for help spelling words. I don't intend to send it in or use ATS due to time & financial factors. The way I see it, I can do 4th & have her play catch-up & hopefully start 5th in Feb. or we can do 5th & I will be constantly running interference to help her w/ the concepts she really doesn't know yet (but maybe she can do it).
Then she can just do 5 lessons a week. I wouldn't say her reading comprehension is up to 5th grade level.
And now I am wondering about Scholastic 5th instead... what do you think?
Thanks : )

Dee Dee said...

I'm sorry, guess I am in the wrong place since this is a Calvert 7 review!
But as long as I am here....also, should I keep her in 4th Horizons or just go to Calvert math to make all the same?