So… we *could* have been finished with school last week, but since we were lazy towards the end, it will be this week… I *think*…or maybe next year. The goal is to be done before the end of May, and like those people that you need to tell that dinner is going to be two hours earlier than it really is going to be served, we need two weeks notice for the end of school… apparently!
This post has been a work in progress as I crossed off what we didn’t use and added my thoughts to what we did use (so I would remember later on!). Also I should add that if I’m critiquing something in the negative it’s *mostly* for user error. I’ve come to the stage of motherhood where I don’t really have time to learn new tricks. If it’s not instantly easy, it’s not going to happen. So I may drop the greatest curriculum in the world that we do every once in a while for something that I can accomplish every day.
To be clearer, for example, let’s talk chocolate.
I know the Nestle Toll House cookie recipe by heart. Every.Single.Word.
So I know exactly what ingredients I need at the grocery store; I know exactly what measurements of these said ingredients as I hold a fussy baby and give a math times test; and I know exactly how many cookies each batch will make and how long they will cook — so basically I’m a cookie making robot. No thought, sleep or coffee required.
Grammar, math, and writing curriculum need to follow this model.
I may say something didn’t work for us — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t Mrs. Fields million dollar recipe that went around the internet! It just means that I’m a Toll House girl tried and true.
So take my critiques with a grain of salt… or a teaspoon of salt since that’s what Nestle’s calls for.
Another point for this year in particular: Sometimes I alternate intense grammar and intense writing in years where I think I can handle both. Both grammar and writing involve each other, so neither is completely neglected. I want to point out that this was a writing year. Writing assignments went well for the older kids and was satisfactory for the younger kids. I have some more that I want to do with the younger guys, but as they are home more often during the summer, I can do some more writing with them then.
I think the only real weak link this year was Nature Study and Science. In the past, we’ve done those really well, but I think we exchanged doing History very well and for doing Science/Nature Study not so well. I’ve been thinking about how I can improve that for next year.
So breaking it down by subjects…
— Religion —
Dan does religion at night with the kids when he comes home. He did a combination of Baltimore Catechism, Angel Food and Catholic Readers, Saints Books, and Bible reading with the boys. Father VW gave Bobby a subscription to MagnifiKids which we read in preparation for Sunday Mass each week. I did CHC’s Communion Prep with Michael, and he read a saint book every day/week during certain times of the year.
Religion Thoughts on the year: this all went well, next year, I’d like to add some sort of flash cards next year for memorization because some of their definitions are a little fuzzy. More than flashcards, I’d like to return to our Catechesis of the Good Shepherd presentations. This year with essentially two babies, I couldn’t fit them in. I also would like to rotate taking my kids to a holy hour or holy half hour. The fruits of a holy hour are immeasurable. :)
— Language Arts —
- started 100 Easy Lessons and we do them once or twice a week, and we are more than HALF WAY THROUGH. Truth be told, he could be done, but his brother who is 15 months older needs more time and I don’t want him to feel hurried.
- We did a lot of Montessori’s Pink series as well.
- started Bob Books, but Philip prefers Easy Readers and just finding the words he knows
- Explode the Code A, B and C.
- Seton Kindergarten Handwriting (because of all of my children, Philip is the advanced writer/reader, so I started Luke and him in K handwriting)
- almost finished 100 Easy Lessons
- continuing Bob Books
- Explode the Code B, and C and Explode the Code 1 (Luke exceeded my expectations!)
- Spelling: Words Their Way (we’ll start the Red Series) – we just did a couple of the Red Series WTW
- we did a lot of Montessori’s Pink series as well
- Poetry: Robert Louis Stevenson poems – just did a couple
- Seton Kindergarten Handwriting – LOVED this. TONS of practice for my Luke.
OVERVIEW: for these two boys alternating all sorts of pre-reading (whether it be 100 EZ, Explode the Code, Pink Series, etc) was the key to success. Doing one thing over and over again did not hold their interests. Alternating these things did. Luke has VERY weak muscles for writing and can’t seem to hold him wrist and arm in the right position. The thumb, pointer, and tall man are in the right positions, but he doesn’t hold back his ring finger and pinky as he writes. This year he tried holding a penny in those fingers to help him (advice compliments of my friend Luci!). His arm gets tired easily and we’re trying to work on building up those muscles! He is definitely improving, but writing is his weakness. Philip, on the other hand, is an amazing reader and writer; it’s unlucky that the child that has struggled most is just above the one that excels the most. Philip doesn’t have perfect pencil grip, but has perfect handwriting, spells easily and reads easily. It’s a challenging combination. I have been very pleased with both of their progress this year, but especially Luke’s in reading. Okay… onto Michael’s Language Arts…
John Paul (6th – he’s a young 6th grader, so our current plan is to have him repeat this grade)
OVERVIEW: Bobby and Michael got weary of Writing with Ease towards the end of the year, so I let them do their own writing. Truly, I only do Writing with Ease to make sure we do narrations, dictation and copywork, but if the boys are motivated to do this in a book their reading that works for me.
Bobby liked narrating and copying from the Hobbit. Michael liked all sorts of books and topics. This worked to keep them writing. I haven’t decided what to do with the unfinished WWE materials — in other words, should I use it as summer work or just drop it.
John Paul *really* clicked with WWS. (I blogged about this). Now that we’re in the last weeks I want to disclose what we are going to skip. She assigns *multiple* papers at the end. He’s finished up one. We’re going to skip the next two and then finish up with the poetry assignments. WWS far exceeded my expectations for the year, so I have no trouble dropping some of those papers.
Okay, just a word on spelling. Words Their Way definitely falls into the Mrs. Field’s cookie recipe category; however, I see enough Toll House in it to keep trying it. It’s just that I don’t have it down automatically yet. I have some ideas for changing it because truly the downfall of ANY spelling program with me is giving the kids a test. So next year I’m going to have the kids give each other their tests. Problem solved.
— Math —
- Luke (K): Right Start A – (we gave Philip a workbook too, but he was not ready for Right Start at the same pace as Luke). Luke does very well in math.
- Michael (2nd) Right Start C — this is the hardest year for me to do with Right Start because there are sooo many lessons, but Michael flew right through it! He is my oldest student doing it, so that may have helped as well.
- Bobby (4th) Right Start E – Bobby came into his own doing RSE — he did really well. He really enjoyed the geometrical lessons at the end of the year.
- John Paul (6th) Saxon 7/6– John Paul is almost done and doing fine in 7/6. He does all these lessons on his own, and just asks me if he has trouble… which is infrequent. Little mistakes are his nemesis – we’re working on getting rid of them.
OVERVIEW: Satisfied with our plan. Not much more to say! I’ve got Right Start down. I even know which lessons we skill because even though they might be fruitful; they don’t fit with our crazy busy scheme. Like cutting out a thousand triangles (or something like that). Saxon is pretty much the same. I throw the books at John Paul; he corrects his work and then we chat about what he got wrong. There are a few lessons that I do with him from start to finish, but not many.
— Science —
OVERVIEW: Really wish I had done more. These are my thoughts for next year. I need to figure out a way to do history in a more manageable chunk, so that we can get to science…. which we also love.
— Literature/History/Geography —
We followed Jessica’s (at Shower of Roses) history lead. We went through three units of American History. And then we stopped! I can’t decide if we should pick it up this summer, next year… but three units was more than enough for this year. They loved it, but it was too intense for me. This wasn’t a Toll House vs. Mrs. Fields kinda thing — this was a “there aren’t enough hours in the day” kinda thing. I need a break to sit and think about what to do about history for next year. :)
- Sea to Shining Sea Student book and Teacher’s Manual – we didn’t really have time to read from this book
- Age Level Historical books (what I have and then more from Emmanuel Books) – we got to all the books in the units and loved all the books we picked out. Sorry no time for lists.
- Homeschool in the Woods Timeline Traveller History packs starting with New World Explorers – these packs were awesome but wayyyy intense since the little kids wanted to do this too. In fact, Luke (of all people) luuuuuuvvvved this, and regularly would like to look at his own little lapbook. Which in and of itself makes me glad we killed ourselves to do this.
- Timeline Binders and timeline figures – Ummm, yeah. We’re so-so on getting timelines accomplished.
- Geography puzzles – We’re really good at this.
— Read-alouds —
Here’s some that I can remember off the top of my head:
- Carry On Mr. Bowditch
- The Secret Garden
- The Railway Children
- More history books that I just can’t remember
- Fairy Tales
- Aesop Fables
- A gazillion picture books
— Other —
- Prima Latina from Memoria press – we did the DVD’s and are only halfway through. The downfall to this program was that I kept forgetting where I hid the DVD’s… you know the “Safe Spot” thing. I didn’t want them accessible to the two-year old, so I would stash them. A really dumb move for the sleep deprived. And then when I couldn’t find them I would think: “Meh, Latin was a bonus anyway.”
- Art: Seton art lessons — The kids loved them. But we only did them occasionally, because the History plans had plenty of art type lessons, and I could only take so much of toddlers, walls and loose crayons and a baby who would eat them.
- Music listen to classical music every morning. Dan is a master at putting classical music every morning.
— Supplies —
All the usuals were all big hits:
So that’s it. And since we’ve finished the math books, I really can feel that that’s the fat lady singing on our school year. And every thing else will be left in its dust… or resumed next year. Summer “school” is a remote possibility, but I guess not completely out of the question on a 95 percent humidity, 100 degree day.