Today I’m sharing our homeschool year in review. What worked and what didn’t, the things we changed and loved this year, and our old standby favorites. We have some changes planned for the upcoming year, and I will be sharing those below as well.
Towards the close of the year I prefer to begin our planning for the next homeschool year. I’ve found the end of the current year is the best time for me to have fresh eyes for the next year. I can more easily see what will need to change without being unrealistic with what we can accomplish. The close of the year is a nice time to reflect back over the year and see what worked and what didn’t. Maybe schedules need to be tweaked, habits established better, or curricula changed. We have the children fill out an ”audit” of the year to see their preferences, as well. (You can watch my entire series on how we homeschool here on Youtube.)
Finally, a few things really clicked this year, especially for me as a teacher. What works best comes clearly into light when it’s repeated enough times, I suppose. 😉 I’ve found some things that really fit well for our family, and even though I’ve tried, some that don’t. Every family is different, and my desire with this post is to encourage you to do what works best for your family, and maybe get some new ideas, but not to feel compelled to have to do what we do.
Homeschool year in Review- What worked & What didn’t
This year we had grades 1st, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 8th, 10th and 12th! This means I had all 4 forms going at once, along with our first graduate! (More of my thoughts on that in a future post 😉 ). However, I did not teach our 10th or 12th graders. I helped and oversaw some of their work, but they did history, literature, rhetoric, writing, and science with their co-op teachers, and most everything else, they worked on independently. I checked in with our 8th grader and went over his work with him everyday, but didn’t do any hands on teaching really. So, the magority of my teaching was spend with my 1st- 6th graders.
What worked + New favorites
I’m usually the type that prefers to stick with something for long enough to see if it works with different kids or another grade before giving it up. Over the years we’ve found books or curricula that work well for most of us, and I will tend to continue with those. However, there are times I try to make a book work because it fits in the right ”model”, but if it doesn’t meet these important criteria, we drop it.
- Challenges the students while maintaining their interest
- I enjoy the content along with the kids
- Can be finished in a timely fashion
- Not overly complicated
- Straightforward enough the students can work independently (when relevant)
- Affordable- or can be used again if cost is higher
It was challenging this year to teach with a baby then into a toddler along with 2 busy boys who needed lots of attention. For this reason, we kept our schedule flexible. Somedays we did our most important “mom time” work in the mornings, and sometimes we waited until naps. It just depended on the week or even the day. The kids would work on their independent work, which I oversaw as much as possible, until I could do their lessons with them.
The Story of the World Vol. 2 with Activity book
I found a printable pdf of the activity book as well as audio C.D’s of the readings. This is so helpful during our busier days, and it’s makes getting lessons ready so much easier!
This has been the only core history our boys have latched on to. They understand it, enjoy it, and I do as
well. There are plenty of suggestions for further study when we have more time, yet the main lessons are
very doable for our family, as well as the activities are just plain fun! I read aloud this book as family
history and give further assignments to the older students.
Omnibus– (history, literature, rhetoric.)
Our high schoolers have done this history with their coop group and really enjoyed it. It lends itself to
great discussions as well as critical thinking and logical essay writing. Whether you agree with the
prelude author’s perspective or not, it challenges the students to form their own conclusions in the frame of a Biblical worldview of some of the most formative books of our times.
A Gentle Feast’s booklist
We did Cycle 1 History this year, and many of the history and science biographies from the booklist were some of the boys’ favorites. Our highschoolers have also enjoyed supplementing their Omnibus lessons with books from the history selections in AGF booklist, as well. My son finished Susan Wise Bauer’s A Medieveal History of the World this year, as well as some Paul Johnson, David McCullough and others.
Apologia Science– General Science, Biology, and Chemistry
This is one I’ve strayed away from a bit in the lower forms, and usually end up coming back to it. This
year my oldest 3 did the above listed books, and it worked really well for us. It’s a comprehensive
curriculum and offers alot of ways to learn the true scientific method of study in the upper levels. With
the teacher’s manual, it has been doable to keep up through 8th grade. However, our high schoolers
have been able to continue with a proficient coop teacher, so I can’t speak to those grades’ ease of
teaching. We prefer our older students to learn under a more skilled teacher, particularly in the upper levels of science, whenever possible.
Natural histories- Thornton Burgess and Arabella Buckley
Our littles still enjoyed the natural history books written by Thorton Burgess or Arabella Buckley that we get on librivox for free. They listened to these this year during quiet times in the afternoons, to save me some time.
The Art of Argument– This was our second time through this book and it’s worked really well for us. The firs time, we did it in a coop group, and this time my son worked on his own. He’s done well enough on his own with it, but it lends itself to a group context and discussion better.
A Gentle Feast booklist-
Forms 1 -3 stayed pretty true to the pace and schedule of the booklist with selections that correlated
with our history time period. That is one of our favorite parts of the curriculum! Our high schoolers had
their literature mostly covered in Omnibus. It has a pretty heavy booklist, so I don’t usually supplement
much other reading.
We’ve mostly enjoyed the biographies and autobiographies in the AGF booklist, minus a few exceptions listed below. We’ve had alot of success using the map activites included in our history activities, a map the kids print and color in slowly, alongside map drills on seterra.com.
Ok, here’s where we started something new this year! We tried the IEW FIX IT! Grammar curricula for the first time this year, and loved it so much! We did books 1 & 3 and they were a huge hit. I ended up buying the pdf versions of all of the lesson books, and the corresponding teacher’s manuals. This makes it a very affordable option for using multiple times. My boys loved grammar for the first time! The lessons are complete sentences that build on top of each other to form an entire story that the student copies down. It requires only 10-15 minutes a day and builds applicable grammar skills to the context of a real story. Each lesson also includes a rich vocabulary word.
Life of Fred– This still remains our math curricula of choice and we now have worked all the way through Algebra 2 in it. It is math program the teaches the students in a mastery method. The students master each math fact before moving on, while learning to find the formula and solution on their own through challenging story problems.
Our oldest daughter really wanted to do geometry this year as well, but she wasn’t able to finish it alongside a very challenging chemistry course, which also required a lot of math. She might continue on in the math program after graduation, though.
Explode the Code – We’ve been continuing with Explode the Code and I’ve seen a lot of progress in how fast the boys are picking up reading. The self-paced style is so doable for our family dynamic. I don’t have time to sit and teach long phonics lessons with each child. I work with them through the first few books and teach reading with Bob books now primarily. The 2 that were learning to read when we started seemed to to be reading chapter books independently much sooner. We have done all the books in the series until they’re ready to start grammar around 5th grade.
The Little Red Writing Book- Our oldest son really enjoyed working through this book and was able to apply a lot of it to his other writing. He worked independently with it, and it was challenging but doable. Our oldest daughter didn’t get as much from it, when she did it, but I don’t think it felt as relevant to her, as she isn’t as interested in creative writing and storytelling like our son is.
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I’ve had to give up some books that just haven’t worked as well in our dynamic or with our specific group of boys especially. I’m usually the type that prefers to stick something for awhile to see if it works with different kids before giving it up. Some books are better fits for different kids or in different years, so I’m not too quick to give up on something. But, after several times teaching through a book that hasn’t worked in different years with different children, we drop it.
Genevieve Foster Histories These core history books in the booklists from A Gentle Feast haven’t really worked for us. I really wanted to make them work, but they were written more factually then it seems from the outside. They do not have that exciting story landscape the way The Story of the World does and didn’t capture the boys’ imaginations. We’ve had to drop them and stick with The Story of the World for now. I enjoyed them fine, but the boys just couldn’t connect with them and I felt like narrations were challenging for them, which shows me they’re not grasping what was read.
Older kids helping– I had assigned my high schoolers to work on math with one of their younger brothers once a week, to free up some time for me to work more on the reading lessons. Unfortunately, with their full high school load, this ended up not working out. They had a hard time being available when the littles were ready, and when they were available (afternoons for example) the littles were NOT interested in doing more school. I ended up just needing to do it with them in the mornings as ofter as I could, which meant we are a bit behind where I’d hoped we’d be at the end of the year.
The Way Things Work– I love this book, but it didn’t work well for me to teach to multiple students, and mine weren’t ready to really jump in on their own. I think it is a great reference book, especially for boys that are interested in the particulars of mechanics, and the boys had fun reading through it, but I don’t think we really grasped enough from the book to make it a core book for our science base.
Hollings Geography books– Paddle to the Sea, Seabird etc. For some reason, I love these books, but the boys haven’t. They will listen and narrate, but I’m choosing to drop these books, too, just because I would rather put more time towards our other books we enjoy together more. We do a lot of map work and reference so a specified geography program isn’t as necessary for us, except some of the biographies we’ve enjoyed from either the Ambleside or AGF booklists.
Simply Grammar– All of our boys despised this book. Maybe it would be better for younger girls. It works well enough, but it wasn’t challenging enough and felt dull.
Shurley English- We really enjoy the chants and songs we learned with the Shurley curriculum, but the FIX IT program from IEW has given the kids the insight into understanding grammar in contexts outside of the curriculum. I felt like with Shurley grammar the kids can do the work, but had a difficult time applying it to other sources.
Homeschool Year in Review- What we’re planning to change next year
C-Prep– We are looking into have our 3rd born take some C- prep classes that are offered here. He’ll be beginning is first year of high school and I want to give him the same opportunity our older 2 had to learn from other teachers and be challenged by a bit of healthy competition and fun with classmates. Particularly science, as we won’t have a coop class available to join, as far as we’ve found anyway.
Visual Latin– I have not been able to maintain a Latin curriculum with the kids alongside teaching the core subjects, but I’m very interested to try this online option next year. It looks to be more self-paced and engaging and I’d love the boys to have this base in their education! It also is an affordable option at only $25 a month for unlimited viewing and streaming of all of their offerings.
Apologia Science for middle school– We’re going back to Apologia for the Form 2 science next year. We will use the journals offered alonside it, as well. Simply because it is works the best when teaching multiple children and all our kids love it!
My hope is that you’ve found some inspiration to try a new idea or to continue on with what’s working currently for your family. Either way, I hope you feel encouraged to press on in this high calling we have to teach the next generation about the amazing world God has made!
Thanks for joining me today!