I finally made a chart of all the grade name possibilities.
Most of them didn't end up appealing to me, even though I thought for sure they would. But it turned out I wanted something that made the curricula sound fun. Like a title.
So, after listing out what I would call each grade in different systems, I've settled on two options that I really prefer.
One is naming each year's curriculum after a different computer game level. This seems counter-intuitive to the anti-screen-time crew, but it actually works really well. I watch my kids play games, and they use skills in games that should be applied to school--they are persistent, figure out challenges, do research online or collaborate (or both) to find answers and solve problems, they use repetition to master skills, they go back and do it again and again, adding a little challenge each time, until many hours later they've finished the game. They learn, they practice, they master, they think, they puzzle, they work together, and they apply the knowledge and "publish" their results. Isn't that what school is, too? Then they take what they've learned from it and make their own game. (I know most kids don't do that part, but mine do). Besides, the entire curriculum is on the computer!
The other option I'm really liking is to just make up titles for the different years, based on the thread that runs through each year. Yes, I'm THAT kind of curriculum designer. Even though each year, each kid does different, standard subjects, I find that I've grouped them in ways that have a kind of knowledge theme running through them. For example, the eighth grade year covers the inner workings of things--and the student takes Human Biology and Anatomy for science, US Government for social studies/history, Linguistics for the languages course, audio technology and reinforcement for the music class.....all subjects that deal with the workings of things (bodies, countries, languages, sound technology). The second grade year is about how small things add up to make big things--the science is a course I've written that starts with sub-atomic particles and zooms out until the study is ecology and the interactions of organisms, the language arts is how parts of speech and punctuation function to make writing easier to understand, the social studies is the tools historians use to gather information and how those tools can be used to write my personal history and find the history in the world around me. Using tools or parts to understand the world I interact with regularly. Every year has a something that ties it together. Fourth grade happens to be subjects Benjamin Franklin was heavily involved in--Physics, US History, and the fun things about words and language (idioms, word roots, etc).
So I have two lists now that I might use. Trying to puzzle it out and decide which titles to go with.
I'm interested in what you think:
The public system: Joy School (which I call Playschool), Preschool, Kindergarten, First Grade, Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade, Fifth Grade, Sixth Grade, Seventh Grade, Eighth Grade.
Computer Game Level Names: The Bear Basics, Well of Wishes, Awakening Wood, The Engine Room, Emerald Hill Zone, Magma Opus, Omegamatic Warp Drive, Island of the Wicker People, Curse of the Pharaohs, Ancient Catacombs, Perfect Chaos (or maybe Castle of the Grand Intellect or Fribbulus Xax).
Names I made up: Playschool; Preschool; A Child's Garden; Pieces, Processes, and Wholes; Zooming Out; Thereby Hangs a Tale; Benjamin Franklin's Pies; The Dichotomous Key; The Museum and the Lab; Artifacts; Inner Workings.
Names I stole from Shakespeare, just for fun: A Summer's Day; Such Stuff as Dreams are Made On; We Happy Few; What a Piece of Work; By Any Other Name; Thereby Hangs a Tale; Method in Madness; All the World's a Stage; Her Infinite Variety; The Short and the Long of It; Foregone Conclusion. I'm not planning to use these, though.
Again, I've revised my thinking. These won't exactly replace the names of the grades. Instead, we'll do grade names the same way public schools do: exclusively by the child's age. These are names of the curricula, so they can be divorced from the grade level and the calendar. Think of them as titles, rather than levels. What would you use? Or would you use something else?