Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Our Mid-Year Check In

We're a bit past the half-way point in our first full year of homeschool. My oldest is in the first grade), and so I did expect that I would be making some changes once we got in our groove. Little did I know, I would be doing a major overhaul.


My biggest change has been with the schedule. I set up our homeschool to run 5 days a week from August to May (36 weeks) with a few breaks in between, coinciding with our extracurricular activities vacation schedules, which coincided with our local public school systems schedule. Big mistake. This worked at first, but we ran into a major problem. My husband, 9 months out of the year, has every Friday off or works only half-day. I thought that I would be able to homeschool while he was home on Friday (he could watch the boys for me while I gave Bridget my undivided attention) and it would work perfectly. As it turns out, my husband did not like the idea of watching the boys by himself and not being able to go out and do things as a family. Bridget did not like the boys spending so much time with Daddy while she had to do school.

I gave in and put my family first, which is something I should have done all along, and we enjoyed many day-trips/weekend trips together. Which meant that everything I had scheduled for Fridays was pushed back to the following week, and we kept getting further and further behind. This was a major scheduling blunder on my part.

The light at the end of the tunnel continued to get dimmer, until I finally decided to re-do the entire schedule. I switched our school year to 42 weeks, schooling on a 6-weeks-on, 1-week-off schedule, except during Christmas and the beginning and end of our 'summer term' where we have two weeks off. So far, this is working well. Our breaks come right when we need them. We're still not completely back on track, but I am pleased with our progress and feeling less overwhelmed.


I have not made any changes in our curriculum, meaning I have not purchased anything new to replace something that didn't work. We are still very happy with our choices and they work well for us. I'm glad about that considering I spent many, many hours researching curriculum choices. I have, however, not been covering a couple of subjects due to lack of time and poor preparation. I may try again next year, but who knows.


Spelling Workout A
Spelling Workout B

We started off strong in spelling and completed the first 5 lessons of book A with no problem. They were very simple lessons. Once Bridget began working on lesson 6, she had some trouble. Bridget could read some, but she became easily frustrated and mentally shut down. Realizing that this would be a major problem moving forward, I stopped spelling lessons immediately and we did a "reading boot camp" of sorts. We borrowed a few Dick and Jane books from the library and her reading abilities improved greatly. We did this for a couple of months and we finally started back on the spelling workbooks after Christmas. I don't think we will get to Book B this school year, but Bridget has set a nice pace for herself and has been completing lessons faster than I expected. Looking back, she simply was not ready.


First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Level 1
First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind Audio Companion Levels 1 & 2

The lessons are short and simple, which I appreciate. We are behind some, because I had scheduled grammar for Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and you've already read how well our Fridays turned out. But we're sticking with this curriculum. Bridget enjoys the picture narrations best.

To be honest, we have not even opened the audio companion. I purchased it because it was a great deal at the time, but we do not own a CD player other than the desktop computer or in the minivan. It is on my list of things to buy.


First Grade
The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading
The Harp & Laurel Wreath (Poetry and Dictation)
BOB Books

We have not completed The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading like we should have. Our daily lessons became weekly lessons, though we were still reading either BOB Books or Dick and Jane books from the library. I have every intention of finishing it but life happens. Often.

With a 1-year-old, "Morning Time" did not turn out how I had planned and so The Harp and Laurel Wreath got dropped. I am trying to find a way to work this in for next year, as Bridget and I enjoyed it when we used it for kindergarten. The little one will be two by then and hopefully much more manageable.

My First BOB Books: Alphabet
My First BOB Books: Pre-Reading Skills

At the end of January, George turned four, so I began reading My First BOB Books with him. He loves being read to but had no interest in learning to read the letters himself. I am not worried about it at this point, as he will only be starting "Pre-K" with us in August. He has another two years before he needs to be able to read for school.


The Complete Writer: Level 1 Workbook
Zaner-Bloser Handwriting Grade 1

The Complete Writer workbook was written for a 4-day-a-week schedule, and it is the only subject that we are fully caught up on (we never got behind!). I love the format and have already purchased the level 2 workbook for next year.


First Grade
Math-U-See Alpha

We still love Math-U-See.

George really loves counting, and he's very good at it for his age. He also recognizes patterns easily. He does simple math (using pictures, not numbers) and explains it to me well. The Easter Bunny gave him a workbook to further work on his math skills.

History & Geography 

Story of the World: Ancient Times
MapTrek: The Complete Collection

Story of the World was one of the main reasons why I had to overhaul my schedule and expanded to a 42-week school year. I was trying to cram 42 lessons into 36 weeks and it was not working. History lessons felt rushed because I was trying desperately to keep up. We're still behind where I need to be even for the 42 week schedule, but it is running much more smoothly and we are back to enjoying it.


Elemental Science: Biology for the Grammar Stage

Biology for the Grammar Stage is broken up into 3 units: animals, the human body, and plants. Bridget has a huge interest in learning about as many animals as possible, and the curriculum was lacking in that. It is set up for a 36-week school year and so when I re-did our schedule, I also expanded the animals unit and made my own notebook pages. We still do some of the science demonstrations from the animals unit along with the coloring pages. The human body and plants units will probably stay the same, except done later in the school year. We will be covering plants during the summer, the same time that we'll be working in our garden! I also plan on using Elemental Science's Earth Science and Astronomy curriculum for second grade, because I like their format and lessons overall.

Art Skills and Appreciation 

Drawing with Children

This totally didn't happen! We did not do even one lesson from this book. We just never had the time. Maybe in the future (summer perhaps?).

Music Skills and Appreciation 

John W. Schaum Piano Course Pre-A The Green Book

We did not have the time to do a weekly piano lesson like I had planned. The youngest was either sleeping or wreaking havoc. He either wants to climb onto the piano bench with big sister and pound on the keys or have me hold him while he throws his body weight down towards the piano trying to escape my grasp (but screams if I put him on the floor).

Lately, however, Bridget has taken up an interest in teaching herself the tunes to her favorite songs. After dinner some evenings, I have left Liam in his high chair to finish eating while I help Bridget at the piano. She's now reading some notes, does well with using the correct fingers, and also understands how to count out the correct beats. It is not the piano lesson I had envisioned, but it works for us.


I have learned that homeschooling is not what we sometimes expect it to be. We can plan and schedule and hope that things work out, and sometimes they do. So far, the new schedule is working great for this stage of life. I have every intention of using it for next year. Subjects will get harder for Bridget as she moves up, and I know that I will have to allow for that. We will also be welcoming new students into our classes; George begins Pre-K in August, and Liam will soon be participating in various subjects as well. It won't be long that I'll be juggling a 6th grader, a 3rd grader, and a 1st grader each day, planning group lessons and assigning work appropriate for each student. 

Homeschooling is anything but predictable!

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