Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Another Year of School

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We have a little more than a week of the new school year under our belts. This is our first year with FIVE students and it's the first time I've added a new student without feeling overly nervous.  Perhaps it's because Alaine, our little kindergartener, has being joining us at the table for the past several years so other than becoming an "official" student, nothing has changed.

Maddie (6th grade), Owen (4th grade), Ben (2nd grade), Alaine (kindergarten)

I've  had more anxiety comparing photos of Gavin from the beginning of last year when he was entering 7th grade... to this year, entering 8th grade.  The change in his face and maturity is startling and it's a sobering reminder to me that our years are limited.

Mentally I divide our school year into two semesters because of the schedule we've chosen to adopt.  We always begin in August and work until the week before Christmas.  Then we take a long break until the first of February so we can enjoy Brian's winter break from work.  After we resume, we work through until mid- or late-May. This year we are expecting a baby at the end of January so I am undecided how we will structure our winter break.  (Work in January and take off February instead?  Take off January as usual, plus a week or two in February? Have the kids work in February on their independent work but take a break from the rest?)

Regardless, I have a primary goal for our first semester. I want to foster a sense of independence in my older learners.  I have no plans to require them do all their work alone, but  
  • I want them to have the ability and confidence to work independently while I'm busy with the new baby.  
  • I want them to have the initiative to move onto the next thing without needing to ask.   
  • I want them to follow a schedule and stick to their tasks. 

With these goals in mind, this is a look at our curriculum choices for this year:

We are continuing with Saxon math which has proved to be a good fit for us.  Owen loves math, Gavin tolerates it, and even Maddie who borders on despising math has admitted that Saxon is preferable to other programs she's used. 

Saxon is designed to be self-taught, and this year with Gavin beginning Algebra 1, I'm also allowing him to self-check his work.  Owen questioned how that can be fair.  "Can't Gavin just see the answer and change what he wrote on his paper?" he asked.  I explained to him that in upper-level math, simply seeing that the answer is 40 doesn't mean you know how to get to that result.  Gavin still has to do the calculations to arrive at the correct answer.

We do not begin Saxon in the early elementary years.  I'm using a mixture of cheap workbooks and busy bag activities to teach Alaine basic kindergarten and first grade math skills.  Ben is using the math sections of  Second Grade Big Workbook after his success  with the first grade workbook last year.


We are also working towards independence in science.  Maddie and Owen are using Christian Liberty Nature Readers three days a week.  They read for a set amount of time each day.  When they reach a review section, we discuss the questions together before they do a nature sketch or more thoroughly answer one or more of the questions on paper.

I thought I had Gavin's science figured out until mid-July when he was telling me everything (yes, everything) he had learned about a particular variety of sharks and I remembered that Apologia had devoted an entire science book to aquatic animals. I borrowed Exploring Creation with Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day from a friend and he is more enthused about this book than I've seen him about any school subject ever!  

The two youngest kids are doing a unit on weather from Second Grade Big Workbook.  Ben is keeping a weather chart for the month of August and we are supplementing with a few experiments from More Mudpies to Magnets: Science for Young Children that I picked up at the library.  We'll probably do a similar informal unit of seeds in the spring.


English is an independent subject for almost everyone.  I'm most hands-on with Alaine.  I am teaching her to read with  Bob Books and we're working on writing and reading uppercase letters with  Kumon Uppercase Letters workbook which I found at Five Below during the summer.  

Ben is continuing on to Explode the Code 6 this year, but his ultimate goal is to become fluent enough in reading that he can stop Explode the Code before Book 7 and read the  Young Cam Jansen series like his older brother, Owen, did when he was in second grade. 

Gavin, Maddie, and Owen do daily grammar practice (with either Daily Language Review or Daily Grams), plus they are continuing with writing prompts or extemporaneous writing two or three days a week.  They also started Mavis Beacon Typing this year after they each hit a rut with the program they used last year (and the year before). 


History is more complicated for me to explain than it is for us to implement.  We have cycled through history over the past three years and have arrived back at early American history.  All of the kids are learning about the Colonial era but with different books and in varying degrees of depth.  I am reading through George Washington's World with the two oldest kids. It branches beyond American life and covers the time period on a global scale.  The book is divided into four sections and after each section, we have planned a break for each student to read a related biography or historical fiction book.

Since Owen learns better visually, I've assigned him his own book list with vocabulary discussion, copywork, coloring, and narrating activities added in for variety. We particularly enjoy biographies by the d'Aulaires.

The youngest two are learning about American history for the first time so we are focused on learning about Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.  

What are you learning this year?  Any exciting new book or curriculum you have found? 


  1. The creatures in near the end of the "Swimming Creatures" book, are both interesting and gross looking! Gavin should love it! :) We love Genevieve Foster's History books! I have a 11/12th grader, an 8th grader, a 5th grader and a kindergartener this year. The oldest is almost completely independent except history, which we do all together. The 8th grader is more independent this year, the 5th grader is half independent/have dependent and of course the K is completely dependent.

    I think you should keep your regular break and just plan several weeks of them working on independent work after the baby comes. That way everything stays mostly the same and you can all enjoy the new baby without stress or feeling like you're falling 'behind.' Just my two cents!


    1. I appreciate your input, Deanna. I really am not sure what we're going to do, but I have been leaning toward something like what you are suggesting. Babies are so unpredictable, of course, and my due date is making it tricky. It's officially January 26, about a week before we would start back to school, but I've delivered anywhere from 3 weeks early to 1 week late.

  2. I love reading the details of another homeschool mom's school plans! Of course, I'd be interested in yours anyway, but I am really interested in everyone's! (Is that being a homeschool geek?) ;)


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