I gotta be honest. This was a tough year. I felt the pressure of being pulled in too many directions with a high schooler, two middle schoolers, and an elementary schooler.
It was too difficult for me to homeschool the way I normally like to do things. I like to create my own curriculum by pulling ideas from various sources. I hunt for ideas on Pinterest and from fellow bloggers. But that was too hard for me to accomplish this year and meet everyone’s needs while working a part-time job.
Looking back, I should have selected more “open and go” curriculum this year.
But what can you do?
Despite the difficulties, it was a successful year and everyone made progress in academics and life.
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At the beginning of this year, I read Minimalist Homeschooling. It was very helpful to set a clear mindset for the year. I sorted out my goals and organized my top priorities for the coming year.
After a look at the overall testing results in our home, I decided that science and math would be our focus this year. When something had to give, it would be English, History, and Geography that would take the backseat.
We rocked out our commitment to math and science, which felt great despite having to push the other subjects to the backseat at times. It was an intentional choice so I continually reminded myself that this is how it had to be.
This brings me to the first thing that went well this year.
Homeschool Review: Math
Mr. D Math was the number one curriculum addition to our school year. In addition to saving my teaching sanity, Mr. D’s self-paced math courses kept my kids on track and built their confidence in mathematics.
I can not say enough good things about this online curriculum. Without a doubt, we will continue to use Mr. D math self-paced classes next year as well.
—-> Check Out Mr. D Math <—-
NOTE: I am curious about the online classes because I hear great things about them. My kids like moving at their own pace though so we will stick with self-paced for now.
I planned to do some projects and real life math activities in addition to our normal curriculum, but that didn’t happen this year. I’ll be keeping my eye out for ideas at the curriculum fairs and online.
Homeschool Review: Science
Mr. Q’s High School Chemistry got the job done for high school chemistry but we definitely encountered some difficulties. The curriculum covered all of the basics of a high school chemistry course and all of the labs were easy to complete in the kitchen with basic ingredients.
The curriculum didn’t stand well on its own. We required outside sources to deepen our understanding. I was not impressed with the explanations in Mr. Q’s guide for several chapters. I had to do a lot of my own research in addition to contacting him for explanations.
Thank goodness we found Tyler DeWitt and his incredible chemistry videos. His straight forward, complete explanations helped us make it through this year.
In the end, Mr. Q’s curriculum got the job done and we had fun! In the future, I will look for a more detailed chemistry book with detailed answer keys.
Mr. Q’s Elementary Chemistry worked well. It was easy to use, fun to complete, and kept my boys interested in Chemistry all year long. We did the reading at home and then gathered with friends once a week to complete labs. It was such a fun and informative year.
We skipped a lot of the worksheets because they were repetitive but they did reinforce the vocabulary. (crossword puzzles, fill in the blank, word scrambles)
Science Classes. Our local science museum offers science and technology classes for homeschooled kids. David and Patricia took advantage of several classes: 3D printing, HTML, coding, and more. These were a huge hit and I plan to keep them on my radar next year. I’d love to find more short term commitment opportunities outside of the house that they enjoy as much as these classes.
The boys also participated in a science fair with our local homeschool group. We have never done this before but decided to dive in because this was our year to focus on math and science. It was a ton of fun!
Homeschool Review: History
Civics. My high schooler took a civics class outside of our home with a local conservative radio talk show host. It was a fantastic experience.
While I don’t share many of his political views, I felt that it was a good opportunity to learn about a topic from someone who is passionate about the information. She really enjoyed the class and it provided a platform for great discussions at home. His passionate enthusiasm was definitely contagious.
CNN 10 continues to be a daily staple in our home so that our day begins with current events. My kids remain informed and it continues to be one of the small things that makes a big difference. It’s easy to implement over breakfast and it is completely fine if we miss a day.
History. We didn’t have a formal plan or curriculum for history this year for my three younger kids (8th, 6th, and 4th). Over the years, we have studied so. much. history. that we took a break from a formal plan. Of course, we encountered history in our books during the year and at museums and historical sites.
Curiosity Stream is a service we subscribed to this year and the documentaries worked well for us to explore historical and science-related topics. We will continue with this service again next year.
I am looking forward to diving into a more formal plan next for history year. We are thinking about Medieval or Modern History though we haven’t decided for sure.
Geography. I had a formal plan for Geography that flopped this year. This subject was sacrificed because of my busy schedule and being pulled in too many directions (as mentioned at the start of this post). We have studied world geography for years so I am not overly concerned about dropping this one, but it is usually so much fun and I hope to return to it next year.
We did kick off the year using Around the World Stories (so fun. so easy) and books from around the world. I wish we would have continued, but we’ll just pick it up another year.
Homeschool Review: English
English felt scattered in many ways. The biggest problem I encountered was that I had to read books ahead of my kids for work. It was a struggle to reread it with them and keep up with other titles for work as well. I planned to get more done for work this summer, but in the end, I actually decided to move on from working with Brave Writer.
In general, our language arts plan worked pretty well for my 4th and 6th-grade sons. We used the Brave Writer Arrow guides as our spine all year long and had a great time celebrating the books each month in our boys Book Club.
My 8th grader enjoyed her year of graphic novels. We had some great discussion at the start of the year, but I did drop the ball on good discussion once spring arrived. We definitely felt the lack of a book club and a formal language arts guide to help us along.
She writes a ton on her own all of the time so we much formal writing. I did want to introduce her to essay writing so she read a few personal narrative essays and then wrote one of her own. This was a great introduction to the essay format. We also used a few formal questions for some of the graphic novels for her to record her answers for literary analysis practice.
My child in high school used a combination of Brave Writer boomerangs, Brave Writer online classes, and a combination of activities I found online from other high school English teachers.
Overall, her year was a success! I do think she could have used some more instruction in academic writing, but that might just be worry talking and not reality.
We have definitely felt the lack of good book discussion since her book club ended two years ago. The Brave Writer Literary Analysis class filled in the gap, but that was only for one title. She needs more literature discussion so we decided that next year she will take a local British literature class.
I didn’t use a formal writing plan with my kids this year. We dabbled in freewriting, played with language, and the older girls had a few formal writing activities.
A few of the English resources we used this year in addition to our Brave Writer courses and curriculum:
- Paragraph Writing for High School – I plan to purchase a middle school level one for my boys next year.
- Breakfast on Mars and 37 Other Delectable Essays – Essays can be FUN to read and this book has been a fun one to read to my kids while discussing essay writing. I will definitely use it with my boys next year.
- Less is More: Teaching Literature with Short Texts – We followed the poetry section pretty closely for a time period this year.
- The Creativity Project: An Awesometastic Story Collection – So fun to read these throughout the year.
Homeschool Review: Other Subjects
Art. Last year we rocked out art like nobody’s business. This year it took more of a backseat. We dabbled in lessons from chalk pastel and projects from Masterpiece Society. I suspect we’ll continue to dabble in art this summer using the Summer Mixed Media course and the Summer Camp chalk pastel lessons.
We also continued to make good use of the local art museum. We enjoyed several exhibits this year, including artwork by Georgia O’Keefe and John James Audobon.
Spanish. Both of my girls took a Spanish class outside of our home. It worked out well and my oldest will continue with Spanish Two. The part what didn’t work was having them in this class together. I did it for my convenience, but it wasn’t a good situation. It was too easy for them to compare to one another. Next year my second child will be in a public charter school so she will take her Spanish courses at school.
Music. We continue to dabble in SQUILT though we haven’t been consistent. We have almost finished the Baroque Era guide and I suspect we’ll continue it through the summer. It’s fun. It’s easy. And it will give us something to do in the morning to create a little routine.
Christian Worldview and Theology. Kayleigh read Night by Elie Weisel , Tattoos on the Heart by Greg Boyle, and Everybody Always by Bob Goff for our theology discussions this year. The best part about the way life lined up this year was the Bob Goff came to speak at a free YMCA event downtown so we were able to go hear him in person after reading his book. It was incredible. I’ve added Inspired by Rachel Held Evans to our summer reading plan.
Leadership. My oldest read another title (Learning How to Learn) for her Leadership class. She will learn more leadership skills at a two-week staff training this summer. I have added Wolfpack by Abby Wambach to her required reading for this course and I think she’ll read it this summer.
NOTE: A high school credit can be earned over the course of all four years when you are homeschooling. Both her Leadership and Christian Worldview and Theology courses are being completed this way.
Every year brings its own challenges. And this past year definitely had plenty, but we pushed through and had a solid year. Next year I’ll have scheduling challenges with one in college and one in high school, but I’ll also have less on my planning plate with only the boys at home full time.