fyi this post does have a few links to an affiliate, who happens to be running a sale for May 20-31. More details within post.
It is May
19th 20th (now that I’m wrapping up the post), and my kids are very excited to know that we will be done with our official school year in after this week and next. I have been feeling the spring fever for awhile, but I don’t actually feel ready to wrap up the year! I feel like there are things to finish which won’t be finished, but when I take a moment to actually look at where we are, we’re doing great.
To *actually* take the moments to reflect on the year…that is what I need. To write down what worked, what didn’t, what I wish we had accomplished but can still do next year. To lay some basic plans for next year, and to chat with the kids about their goals. After all, if I’m doing this homeschool thing in part to allow more time for these inquisitive kids of mine to follow their interests, then we need to talk about those and plan for learning about them! We’ll need to make book lists, brainstorm project ideas, and make a bucket list of field trips.
It will be so satisfying! Sitting and chatting with my kids, getting ideas from my husband, making my lists…what a sense of accomplishment for finishing a 4th year of homeschooling, and to me, it is exciting to look forward to another year with exciting plans in place.
All that will wrap up our official year.
The learning never ends. This summer–ten to twelve weeks of glorious lesson-plan free days–will be perfect for engaging the world and exploring and learning in relaxed, hands-on, fun ways that our typical days just don’t leave enough time for.
I’m so excited!
I don’t know about you, but I love to write my lists and notes in darling notebooks and on well-organized, simple pages. My favorite lesson-plan notebook was a small spiral-bound book I found at Target, and the months spanned not a Jan-Dec year, but a July-June year. PERFECT! And now it’s time for a trip to Target to find another. It was just the right size for planning the lessons for my kindergartner and preschooler.
To keep all my master plans, I found (at Target again! Their designs are so lovely and fun) a 3-ring binder to hold my wish-lists, basic daily plans, attendance record, reading logs, calendars, activity ideas for each month, and more (I love my pages from Pam at EveryDay Snapshots).
I am a big fan of doing master plans this way for the simple reason that I can’t commit to a single system, ever. If I bought a nice bound planner (which I have done before), I’d be stuck with what I had already in it, and couldn’t rearrange pages or add things in and out as I needed or wanted. But with a three-ring binder and handy-dandy hole-punch, I can put in all the pages I want, move them around as the mood strikes and make it suit my whims (which, by the way, are many).
In a nutshell (or I’ll never finish the post), here’s what worked and didn’t work this year. Next time, I’ll share what I’m looking forward to for next year!
Worked: (this section does contain an affiliate link to Latin printables. Keepin’ it honest.)
–Saxon Math has proven to be a consistent and solid winner for each of my kids year after year. We had a bit of a love-hate with Saxon for my oldest, but came back to it through 3rd and 4th grade, and we’ll be sticking with it.
–RC History (also known as Connecting with History) is so fun! If you know about Story of the World, but have been seeking a Catholic twist, RC History is what you’re looking for. We started with Volume 1, and are plugging along. I LOVE LOVE LOVE that there are literature suggestions for each learning level (more than enough, by the way, so if you can’t find a certain book or aren’t as interested in a title, you won’t be missing out. SO many good options), love that the books are suggested as family read-alouds, love that the units are broken down into weeks of learning, weeks of study with the timeline and famous people, weeks of choosing and preparing for projects, weeks to do the projects. This history program is RICH in content. Can’t wait to get into Volume 2 next year.
–Little Angel Readers is a phonics and learn-to-read program which was suggested a few times to me, and I decided to go ahead and test it with my Kindergartner this year. It’s been amazing. A-ma-zing. We’ve taken it at a slower pace, to suit my little guy’s needs, but now he’s becoming a quick and confident reader. We’ll finish the first set of books through the summer and maybe into the fall before moving on to the second set. I love the workbook that goes along with the reader, and the easy-to-read pages and stories as you progress with your child.
–Prima Latina You guys. I can’t even begin to tell you how *fun* it is to learn Latin with my daughter. All kinds of works make so much more sense to me now that we’re learning Latin. My 9yr old probably thinks I’m a crazy lady for how excited I get when I learn these words with her. And to make Prima Latina even better are Pam’s Latin Printables, especially the Race to the Colosseum game. So much fun. Prima Latina is simple to use and follow, which makes learning Latin easy (so far).
–Morning prayer and read-aloud time has been a game-changer for us. A few years ago, I read about the idea of a morning basket, and have struggled to make it work. I didn’t know what to use each day, if I wanted to vary each morning’s theme, how to follow through, how to transition from the basket work to regular work… This year, I make my own version which has been working fabulously (maybe even well enough that next year I can try to do more with it and vary what we do each day). We gather to prayer together, usually a short prayer or reflection, and then we sit together on the couches while I read from the chosen read-aloud for the month. It is perfect for us! That way, after breakfast, we all say a prayer together and then we’ve knocked out reading. Reaching is so valuable, and if I left the family read-aloud until the afternoon or bedtime when Daddy is home, it would never happen.
–Brave Writer is a program that has been on my radar for a few years, and I finally gave in and purchased it earlier this year. We are slowly working into the lifestyle of Brave Writers, but so far, it’s great! The Tea Time idea is part of Brave Writer, and so is the Friday Freewrite, in which children have a set amount of time to write whatever they like about a topic, not worrying about spelling or grammar, to just get ideas and thoughts on paper. I am really excited about what we will all learn about writing as we progress with Brave Writer.
–Being flexible is always key to our family’s homeschool life.
–Memorization I know, I know, I know. Memorization is a big thing in classical homeschool…and I just am not that great with keeping up. It’s one of my goals for next year to add memory work into our morning time after we finish our read-aloud, so hopefully we’ll do better.
–Trying to do the same subject at the same time with all the kids I thought I would be efficient and get math done all at once with all 3 kiddos. Nope. Not possible with an early reader and writer–I (duh) had to be right there with him, so that meant the girls weren’t doing math unless I’d started them already. What did work is starting and finishing with my Kindergartner before moving on to my older girls. Once he was done and then off playing with his brother, the rest of the day moved smoothly.
–Starting without prayer definitely puts a weird funk in our day. I’m serious. Our days are more peaceful, productive, and enjoyable when we’ve taken the time to gather and begin in prayer.
–Learning the recorder was sure a grand idea, but I had no follow-through. It was always left for last, and that meant by the time “last” came around, I was done, the kids were scattering, and it was no fun to get 4 kids together to try to play the recorder. I’m pretty sure paying someone else to teach music and instruments to our kids will be a better idea, at some point.
–Being too detail oriented and not enough big-picture focused Don’t get me wrong, the details matter, but does it matter in the long run if we read every single option for history? Does it matter in the long run if we do every single suggested math problem? Does it matter in the long run if I skip a few “formal” days in favor of sunny days outside? It matters that I see how each moment enhances my kids’ learning, and if one more math problem drives us all to tears and banging heads on desks, then the learning is past and the struggle is winning. Struggles like that aren’t worth it. Seeing the big picture matters.
Ready to wrap up your year and look ahead to next year? If you are interested in the printable planning pages I use, go check out the store at Everyday Snapshots. Pam is running a sale from today (May 20) until May 31, for 25% off. Use code SEASON14 when you checkout. For some great tips on using the printables and making the most out of them, see posts here which give examples.