Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Back to school...

We are working our way back to school here.  I can't believe the summer is gone already.  :(  I wanted to update many times on how things went last year, and give a little review of the curricula we used, but I just haven't found the time.  I thought for sure I would have time this summer, but here it is the end of August and I didn't.  Couldn't we just have another month of summer?  Could we roll back time to the middle of July? Please?  No??

When I say we are "working our way back to school" what I mean is I am easing in to it.  Instead of having one grand start date to school, we are adding a little bit every couple days or so until hopefully next week we'll be running at full steam.  This has been SO much better than other years.  And actually, Zeke, Josh, and Malachi never actually stopped doing school.  We kept on doing math, reading, and science all through the summer...not necessarily on a regular schedule, but enough to feel like we never had a break.  So now we are up to a full schedule, and I'm adding in Micah, Eden, and Caleb as we go along.  We are all getting used to a new "schedule" and routine and list of chores, and I must say I am surprised.

Speaking of schedules, I often try and fail at them.  I tell people that around here our schedule consists of eating at about the same times every day, and we plan everything else around that.  Whew.  And that's not far from the truth because eating requires a lot of work--as far as preparation, serving, and clean up goes.  I have expanded the idea of my mealtime helpers to include a whole work crew of olders training youngers and things are actually getting done.  This is good.  Our schedule is still a skeleton more-or-less so that I could leave room to change things up and iron out kinks, but it does have a bit more muscle to it than just mealtimes.  We are studying more together and I am working with our buddy system a little more to get some school help for the younger boys.  I have no idea what a school day in a one-room schoolhouse looked like, but the same sort of idea has been around for centuries and other families have figured it out, so we will too.  So far I don't have that familiar feel of anxiety or the sore, knotted stomach muscles at the end of the day from trying to keep up with an impossibly-difficult schedule.  Someone pinch me, I think this might actually be working and that must mean I am dreaming.  Maybe I am less of a control-freak perfectionist than I was 6 years ago when we started this crazy homeschool journey.

Here is the run down of what curricula we are using this year (with no time to post links):

Micah and Eden (10th grade and 9th grade respectively):
Saxon Algebra II (the second edition with geometry integrated)
Windows to the World (the Institute for Excellence in writing, using the syllabus by Jill Pike to round out the literature curriculum.  From what I have read so far of this--trying to read it all ahead of time before digging in--I can see right now that I will be learning right along with the kids.  I thought that I was "good" at literature when I was in school, being in Honors English class and all, but I am about to learn a whole lot more.)
Fix-it! Grammar (IEW)
Exploring Creation through Biology (Apologia)
Bob Jones World History (using an older edition...I loved TruthQuest History last year, but Micah and Eden wanted something a little more traditional.  I think they are changing their minds again, though.)
Switched-On Schoolhouse High School Health (hmmm...yeah, I took the easy way out)
Rosetta Stone German (they only made it through 1/2 a year, so I'm hoping they will pick up a full year this  year)

Caleb (7th grade):
Saxon Algebra 1/2 ("pre-algebra")
Finding Narnia (the Institute for Excellence in Writing), plus some other reading chosen from Teaching the Classics or things I just want him to read from my own shelves
Exploring Creation with General Science (Apologia)
Fix-it! Grammar (IEW)
Bob Jones World Studies History (another older edition)
A little spelling thrown in just for fun using free lists on

Zeke and Josh (4th and 3rd grades):
Math-U-See Delta (Zeke) and Gamma (Josh)
All Things Fun and Fascinating (IEW)
Finishing up a 3rd grade grammar book by Evan Moore, but then we'll move on to Daily Oral Language
Our reading program is a list of books I made up using several popular booklists.  I chose what I did to coordinate with the time period we'll focus on in history this year: Hope in My Heart, The Witch of Blackbird Pond, Johnny Tremain, Freedom Train, Shades of Gray, Sarah Plain and Tall, Little House in the Big Woods, etc.  I plan to read about 10 pages a day aloud to them.  They do plenty of reading on their own, and occasionally I ask them to read aloud from many sources.
Handwriting in some reproducible books I got from Scholastic that have jokes...lightweight, but hopefully more effective than just doing nothing.
Zeke is going through some (remedial) spelling using All About Spelling.  I assigned Josh some lists on Spelling City to see how he does on his own.  Some kids are just "natural" spellers.  Some do better with rules.  I'm trying to cater to each.

Math-U-See Primer and Alpha (we didn't finish Primer yet, but he's sailing through it as quickly as I can give him pages and get him to sit still for a minute.  He doesn't *quite* get place value, but I think it's because he's just bored with my droning on and on about it.)
Primary Arts of Language Reading and Writing (IEW)...still plugging along.  Again, I think I was moving too slowly and he was bored out of his mind.  Now that I've stepped up the pace and been more consistent with teaching, he is responding much differently.  I like this program more now that I'm getting used to it.  I should have read through the entire thing before I ever started.  Who has time for that??

On one of our first "real" days of school, I held out my hands cupped in front of the boys.  I said, "Imagine that I'm holding a heaping amount of gold in my hands.  It is a treasure I want to give you to, but I'm only going to give you one small piece at a time.  At the end of the school year, it will all be yours.  That is what learning is all about.  Each day you will learn a small piece more and more.  It doesn't come all at once.  You have to be patient, but look ahead to see what will be yours!"  We also made a huge decision to get rid of screen time.  I don't mean just during the week, during the school year, for a few months, or only some screens, but all of it.  Wii, xbox, ipods, computer games, netflix...all of it.  Wow, it feels amazing to be free from those burdens!  I'm checking my email less, and I don't feel that pull of needing to be on Facebook.  I have a cell phone that I can text from, but I don't very often.  My kids get hyper, "Mom, you have a text!", when I don't look at it immediately.  I try to own the phone, and not let it own me.  I don't have gobs of lost time, and I feel more focused.  My kids haven't miraculously changed and turned into little angels.  But I am also seeking after a treasure.  One that I believe God is giving to me in small bits, one day at a time.  So as I head into a new school year, I revisited our vision and goals for our family.  I want those more now than even last year.  The race is on!!


  1. What time period are you studing for Zeke and Josh? What are you using? From your book list it sounds like we may be in the same time period. We have a huge book list because we love to read. We are scheduled to read a book in about 7-10 days, but we are reading 10+books a week. We spent most of our homeschool budget on books this year. Wish you lived closer than you could borrow them. Today we renacted a scene from Andrew Jackson's life. We do a lot of renacting too. :)


    1. Oh, I did miss that, didn't I? We are doing Bob Jones History for Grade 4...I can't remember what it's called off the top of my head. It focuses on the 19th century, but we didn't do a stellar job of studying American history last year, so I'm going to fill in the gaps about the Revolutionary War with some other books. Otherwise we'll focus heavily on reading stories set during the 19th century. I'm really excited. I've been scouring all the thrift stores in town to find books from my list. It's like hunting for lost treasure. :) On my big wishlist is to buy the full set of Christian Heroes: Then and Now by Janet and Geoff Benge. Mitch used to own a set a few years ago but I think the story is he lost track of it when he loaned it to another classroom. As we sell off our devices, the price may be within reach!!

    2. Oh, I want to add that I don't know why I am using Bob Jones for the younger kids and not TruthQuest History. I love the history guides, and it's not all that hard to go to the library and check out books, especially when I can reserve them ahead of time and just drop in to pick them up. The younger kids don't know about textbooks and couldn't care less how we study history. I think that I am doing Bob Jones for a couple reasons: 1) The older editions are dirt cheap. 2) The set up is easy to divide up throughout the school year and pace myself to cover the time period. 3) The map activities are better than what I have been able to construct on my own. I may change my mind as we go along and switch back to TruthQuest later. Ahhhh...the beauty of homeschool!!

  2. We are actually finishing up our overview of US history by Christmas. We decided to do it in a year and a half because we really enjoyed it. We added a bunch to it and got stuck in the revolutionary war for about 2 months. We really had fun with it and learned a ton. Have you heard of the book called "Pioneer Sampler"? We are using it as part of our science/history as we study pioneers. The kids love it and it is fun. We own most of the Christian Heroes books ~ love them! Have you heard of the Trailblazer books by Dave & Neta Jackson? We own all but 4 of them. We really enjoy them too. Right now we are reading a book about D.L. Moody. The kids can't get enough of it. I have found many of these books on and they were really inexpensive. The kids get so excited when another book comes in the mail. Okay, I get excited too. :) I have a couple of kids that ALWAYS have a book in their hand. Our oldest even rides her bike while reading. I had to put a stop to that one.