Saturday, May 7, 2011

Winding Down

It's always been my August tradition to share what we plan to use in our coming school year.  Michelle suggested that it might be helpful to her (and maybe others) to have an end-of-the-year wrap-up, discussing what worked and didn't work for us.  For the first time in our four years of formal schooling, I felt like we hit our stride this year.  I had been worried that the year would be crazy with the addition of Alaine  in  early fall, but  home-life became no louder or crazier than it already was! 

(Before proceeding, perhaps you should first read the plans I had made for this school year.)
We continued using TruthQuest: American History for Young Students.  What I love most about TruthQuest is that it is essentially a large booklist of chronological topics in history.  I choose the topics, I read the books aloud, and we all learn history together.  No grade level segregation.  Before our school year began, I mapped out a list of topics I wanted to cover in the following nine months and found out what books were available at my library. When we began in August, I essentially had the entire year in pencil. I do. not. make daily lesson plans, but I had an order to the year.  We did not read TruthQuest's brief commentary.  We only used it as a resource for books.  I'm finding that as we move chronologically closer to the present that it is harder to find quality books to go along with our subject matter.  It seems our library is simply not keeping the older, meatier books, but trading them in for newer, watered-down selections. 

I started using Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons for Maddie last summer.   We loved it until about three-quarters of the way through when it became tedious for her.  She is now working through a cheapy phonics workbook from Target and is thriving!  Gavin began the year with Explode the Code 5, but over winter vacation when we were taking an extended school break, reading suddenly clicked for him and we were able to shelve the phonics books for good.  Makes me a little ticked off  (not really!) that I worked with him on reading for 4 years and he finally gets in when we are not in school. 

Math was a roller coaster this year.  You see, we have always used Making Math Meaningful and I thought I liked it.  I liked that it was very hands-on.  I liked that it focused on understanding concepts before  learning to compute them.   However, it wasn't meeting our needs anymore.  We had trouble with the second grade book last year, but we powered through.  We did okay with the beginning of the third grade book, but then we hit a wall.  When we got to the multiplication chapter, Gavin was frustrated and I was frustrated and we both dreaded math every day.  Gavin loves math, but he didn't love this.  After trying to power through again, I decided that it was silly to stick with something that wasn't meeting our needs.  After talking to other moms and sending out a plea on Facebook and doing  multiple online searches, I settled on Kumon Math Workbooks.  We began mid-year.  They fit our budget and they have proved perfect for us.

A few months into the year, we developed an unofficial schedule for the "extra subjects" :
Monday, poetry
Tuesday, art
Wednesday, nature
Thursday, music
Friday, worldview
And if we had to miss school one day of the week?  We doubled up or talked about it in the van or skipped it for that week.  No biggie. No stress.

It is only May and I'm already thinking of and planning our next school year.  What did you use this year that was wonderful?  Or what did you have to scrap?  I'm making my list and I've love to have your input.

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  1. We're "officially" starting school with Emahry in the fall.

    We're planning on trying a couple of free or inexpensive programs including a free Funnix Begin Reading Computer Program, the Raising Rockstars Preschool Curriculum (mostly free at and a few Kumon Workbooks. Right now I'm looking into Numbers 1-30, Simple Addition and Drawing.

    We'll also be continuing our calendar time each day and using that time to work on some skills (counting, simple graphing, money, months, days, greater than, less than, etc.)

    I'm hoping to have everything ready by the end of July (even though we won't start until September) since we'll have another little one joining us in August.

  2. I thought that you had used Before Five in a Row with one of your children. Did you ever continue into Five in a Row? If so, what are your thoughts?

  3. Yes, we did use Before Five in a Row. I used it with Gavin and Maddie, and then I did again wiht Maddie and Owen.

    And yes, we used Five in a Row for about a year. We really enjoyed it (with some modifications) but we decided not to continue with it beyond that year. I'll write a post about it for you soon (hopefully this week).

  4. Great post. I'll be back with our review when I have a bit more time. I love hearing about what worked for you. I think I'm going to look into using The Truth Chronicles next year with my kids. We also just order Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We are currently using The Reading Lesson but I wanted to give another phonics program a chance. We decided on Beautiful Feet for History for next year. The idea seems very similar to TruthQuest. Stories that bring history to life in real way without using textbooks!

  5. Yes, the concept of Beautiful Feet is very similar to TruthQuest! We've used the Beautiful Feet geography book. I have the American History one, too, that I got for FREE at a curriculum swap.

  6. Such a wonderful idea.... thanks for sharing what you have loved this year. :)


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