I thought I would do a little mid year update of our homeschool plan. You’re probably thinking, “Mid year? Aren’t you about a month late for that?” Well no actually. We start the day after Labor Day and go through the end of July, so this is about our mid-point. In fact it’s a little early as it’s only week 19 when you consider that we take out a week for Thanksgiving and 2 weeks for Christmas (we have scheduled 44 weeks this year). However during our 2 summer months we take on a lighter subjects and a less rigorous course schedule and focus on more of the fun courses such as art and music.
So every year I try to find a balance between core subjects and electives…between the things I feel we need to get done and adding in things that are Stephen’s interests. This year he was interested in learning piano and Spanish, while I was focused on our normal core subjects (bible, reading, handwriting, language arts, math, history, science and spelling) while adding in some literature studies, U.S. Geography/History and U.S. Government. A bit of clarification on why I put down U.S. History and U.S. Geography on my list when we already have history as a core subject, our current history curriculum spans all of world history (and a bit of geography) from ancient to modern times over the course of 4 years. It is meant to be repeated several times over the years and for you to go into more depth as your child grows, but I don’t think it will give enough U.S. specific history for me so I plan to add in additional U.S. curriculum every couple of years.
So our list of curriculum this year was vast and varied. I’ll link here to my blog post with a deeper explanation of our curriculum list, but here’s a more concise version:
- Grammar: Grammar Galaxy & First Language Lessons
- Reading: Reading Skills Grade 3
- Writing: A Reason for Handwriting & Paragraph Writing
- Spelling: All About Spelling Level 3
- Math: Math U See & Beast Academy
- Science: Science in the Ancient World
- History: Story of the World, Volume 2
- U.S. Geography/History: Road Trip USA
- U.S. Government: Presidents workbook, flash cards and videos
- Fine Arts: Piano instruction via Hoffman Academy, Orchestra unit study & Artistic Pursuits
- Spanish: Spanish workbooks
- Bible: Picture Smart Bible New Testament) & The Action Bible
- Health: Healthy Habits for Healthy Kids
- Phys Ed: Taekwondo
As you can see there are some subjects that even have multiple curricula listed. Most of these are where I was contemplating switching curriculum but had already purchased the next level of our previous curriculum and decided to use them in tandem until I saw what was going to be most effective.
So where are we mid year? Well lets first discuss the 2 subjects where I was wrestling with switching curricula: language arts and math. My original reason for switching language arts curriculum was to make it more interesting to my son and therefore have less conflicts. First Language Less is repetitive and in his mind boring. I get that, I’m not even going to deny that it is repetitive because the curriculum relies heavy on memorization and repetition. So I did a bunch of research last spring and landed on Grammar Galaxy which takes a story approach to teaching language arts. It sounded fun and engaging to my son when he saw a video about the curriculum so I decided to buy it.
The results are a bit mixed for me on the language arts. The good news is that we’ve continued to do both of the curricula in tandem although I have scaled back some of the lessons from First Language Lessons to cut out some of the repetition and busy work. Another good thing is that Stephen does seem to enjoy the story from Grammar Galaxy and is more engaged in the process. Now for the not so great. I really don’t know if he is learning as much through Grammar Galaxy as he was with First Language Lessons alone. The story is cute, but the workbook pages attached to the lessons are not very deep in exploring topics. I’ll admit that I chose to purchase their first level instead of seeing if he jump into their level 2 (even though he would be in level 2 in FLL) because they were very different programs and I didn’t want there to be holes in Stephen’s learning.
What I have found is that he knows a lot of the material in this level of Grammar Galaxy and what he doesn’t know in terms of vocabulary, isn’t really gone over a lot. If he didn’t know some of the stuff prior from FLL, I don’t know if there would be enough instructional pages in the workbook to really teach him a new concept. It’s much the way I felt after trying MasterBooks math last summer, although the story in this curriculum is much better than MB’s math story so I would say that Grammar Galaxy does teach the concept somewhat through the story and is therefore better than what I experienced with MasterBooks.
So I guess the big question is will I continue with Grammar Galaxy next year? Well I think right now I am on the fence. Stephen is engaged but I don’t know if it’s really teaching him a lot…but I also don’t know if that’s just because he knew a lot of it already. First Language Lessons is cheaper and definitely gets him to memorize terms, but is more boring and creates more conflict in our homeschool. I’m on the fence. I’m hoping that I have a chance to look through the book for the next level when we go to the homeschool convention this year and that will help me determine if it’s worth the purchase or if I need to find something else altogether.
Next up is math and my dilemma on whether we should stick with Math U See or move to another curriculum. We got to a point where I was really having trouble keeping Stephen on task during Math. At first I thought it was the blocks from MUS were just too distracting and he’d rather play with them than focus on math, but eventually I have come to realize that he was just procrastinating in general and I think it was because he was bored. He’s ahead in most subjects and he was figuring out mathematical concepts that we hadn’t even touched on yet so I searched out curricula that was more rigorous than Math U See and found Beast Academy. One of the great things about Beast Academy was that it was made for gifted kids in mind and was taught through a comic book style story. Great for my kiddo…or so I thought.
Again we started out using both curricula together, but since Beast Academy is broken down by quarter I decided only to buy the first quarter’s worth of books until we knew if we would want to fully go down that route as they aren’t cheap. Stephen loved the comic story as I predicted but the actual work not so much. He has a fairly low frustration tolerance and expects himself to get all concepts immediately. It’s one of the bad parts of being gifted…when learning comes easy to you, you expect for it always to be easy. At the beginning of the actual workbook we were okay although he didn’t like the assignment. I think they were a little too much concept for him and not enough hard numbers. Eventually he hit a couple concepts that he really had a hard time wrapping his head around in the way they were presenting it and the frustration showed so I shelved it.
We may go back to it here soon as we’re actually only about five chapters away from finishing up with our level of Math U See. I just want to see if he has matured at all in his frustration with it, but either way at this age I don’t think we’ll be going back to it. Once I started focusing solely on MUS and skipping a lot of the extra worksheets if he understood the concept, we started flying through MUS and having less problems with math avoidance. As I said, we are almost done with this year’s MUS level and after a short break I will probably start him on the next level early instead of waiting until next “school year”.
Now for some other subjects…what we’ve already finished, what we’re still working on and what we’ve dropped. I’ll start with what we’ve finished or are about to finish. In addition to being about done with Math U See, we have finished level 3 of All About Spelling and have already moved on to level 4. In fact I figure we will finish level 4 before this school year is out. We are also almost done with our Reading Skills level 3 book. I’m on the fence about ordering level 4 or simply dropping it. I originally picked these workbooks up to make sure that Stephen’s reading comprehension was where it was supposed to be since we dropped reading as an instructional subject when he tested well above grade level. At this point I worry it’s becoming more busy work than is really teaching him something. On the other hand they include some interesting science and history facts in the stories, introduce him to additional literature composition concepts and in general doesn’t take too much time to complete so I’m leaning towards at least looking into what concepts are taught in the next level and making my decision from there. Another curriculum that we’ve finished was our health workbook. I found the book was helpful for teaching nutrition facts but unhelpful in that a lot of the activities are geared towards a classroom with multiple children. Still we completed as many of the lessons as we could and I adapted some others to fit our classroom dynamic.
So that is what we’ve finished or about to finish, so now lets move on to what we’ve dropped other than Beast Academy. Spanish…oh Spanish. Stephen really wanted to do it and we started out doing it twice a week with one main workbook. At the beginning of the book it was good at introducing some basics, but as it moved on it did less introduction of vocabulary and just expected the child to figure things out that I felt were not evident from the materials.
We will hold on to this workbook, but we stopped using it for now. Even Stephen was not sad to see us stop using it and it was his choice of subject! I’ve also dropped the Paragraph Writing workbook. Handwriting has been such a power struggle this year that although we started the workbook it quickly became evident that this was not the hill to die on this year and I decided to shelve it until we got to cursive writing and see if the handwriting dynamic would change. We may pick it back up this summer when we have less going on and I can take more time to feed the creative part of his brain as he makes up stories all the time so I think he will be great at creative writing….once he gets over having to actually do the writing. ?
Pretty much everything else on our original list is either in progress or hasn’t started yet because it wasn’t set to start until spring or summer. I have to admit that as I see things wind down I am already anxious to start planning next year. I love planning and I love figuring out our new curriculum. As the years go along I think it gets easier as I can see what is working and what is not and only focus on what is not. It takes less time figuring out what the curricula will be and so I can spend more time figuring out creative unit studies and tools to support that curricula.
So how is your year going? I’m really looking forward to our spring break in April as that is when we go to the homeschool convention! It’s one of my favorite things we do each year. It’s so inspiring and affirming to be surrounded by other homeschooling parents and to hear the wisdom from the speakers. Bring on next years planning!Thanks for reading!