Saturday, May 24, 2014

Our Homeschool Year in Review

I am blessed with a little "free time" this holiday weekend, so I hope to write out some blog posts related to homeschooling.  If I get bored I'll write some regular family updates too.  :)

To start I will give an overview, then I want to do some more in-depth reviews of a few products.

If you want to go back and re-read, here is the blog post I wrote at the beginning of the school year outlining what we planned to use this year:  http://stephsoundoff.blogspot.com/2013/08/back-to-school.html

It is the end of the year, and the public and private schools in our area have either one or two weeks of school left, depending on the school.  So my kids are talking to their friends, for whom school truly does "end," and are getting pretty anxious for the "end" of our school year as well.  And hey--let's be honest--I don't know a teacher that can keep his/her students' attention when the weather finally gets nice out.  It happens to everyone, everywhere.  The outdoors calls.  Even *I* want to be working on other projects, not tying up loose ends!  So as the time slips away and the days get progressively sunnier and warmer, we start chucking worksheets and focusing only on what really matters.

We had a pretty good year overall.  We didn't have many missed days--no chunks of time where we were not able to do school as expected.  I feel peace about what we covered, and I have been able to let go of what we were not able to cover. The kids all performed well on their standardized tests.  Out of five students who were tested (using the IOWA basic skills test), the lowest was right at the 50th% and the highest was well into the 90th%.  I like the test because I also was able to see each student's personal score by section (for example, if there were 4 spelling questions, what was their percentage correct...which often matters more to me than how they compare to other students).  Then I can use that information to decide where we might need to focus more.

At the beginning of the year my friend Devona shared with me the method that she uses to assign school work.  I think it was pretty genius.  Free is nice, too (assuming you have access to a spreadsheet program).  She uses an Excel spreadsheet.  She assigns one row to each subject.  Then in each column across the row she divides the school work up by day.  The columns are wide enough so that 5 columns (Mon-Fri) print on a single piece of paper.  This takes some work at the beginning of the school year to type in each assignment for the year, but the payoff is huge.  She can easily create a weekly checklist for each student by deleting the assignments that were completed, and selecting to shift cells to the left.  So let's say for example that her student did Mon-Thu assignments, but unexpectedly was not able to do school on Friday.  She would simply delete Mon-Thu, and select to shift cells to the left.  Now Friday's assignment is shifted to Monday, and the student can pick up where he left off.  If she needs a day off, she can simply insert a blank cell (and shift back to the right).  All this deleting, inserting, shifting of cells means about 5 min' worth of work before the school week begins.  Genius.  Simple.  Free.  Here is an example:

 Oh, and of course I saved a master copy...so if Caleb is doing something similar to Micah and Eden in a couple years from now, I simply have to add that subject row to his spreadsheet rather than type it all out again.

This was also easy to modify.  As I went along I was able to see how things were working, and was able to change it and make it better fit our needs.  I really tend to over-complicate things when it comes to schedules, so this was a simple method that actually worked for me, for the entire school year.  Yay!!

So what have we not finished?  And to answer my poor children's question: when will we be done with school for the year? Or will we even get a summer break?  The poor darlings.  LOL.  I told them that for sure they don't have to do school while we are in Nicaragua.  Yay! 12 days of summer!  Haha.  We are going to slow waaaaayyyyy down.  There are some things that I want to continue working on throughout the summer so our brains don't get all rusty.  On the other hand, I know from experience that once Daddy is home for the summer it is best to just be "done" with school.  He always has great ideas for going and doing, and no one wants to be burdened with a science lesson that must be done or a math sheet that is not yet completed.  Nope, not even me.  So I haven't made any specific goals yet.  Micah and Eden need to finish Algebra II, and I want to read Hamlet together with them.  Zeke and Josh finished their math levels this past week, so they deserve a break from math (for at least a week!).  I'm toying with the idea of doing block classes--where we intensively study just one subject and nothing else.  I don't yet know what that looks like.  Caleb finished all his work a couple weeks ago.  I think I was too easy on him.  :)  Malachi has 8 more lessons to go in his MUS level, so that's approximately 8 more weeks.  Since that is a bit much, I expect we will spread out some work over the summer.  It would be too hard to jump back in and finish it if we took the entire summer off (the books start off easy and get really hard by the end).  In the meantime, summer is a great time for me to give Tirzah a jump start to her kindergarten year.  So we will do just that.

Short answer:  we need to finish Math and Literature.  Yes, we will do some school in the summer.  Yes, we will have plenty of days with no school.

Check back later for product reviews!

Click here for reviews of the various high school curricula we used.
Click here for middle school curricula.
Elementary School Reviews:
All About Learning Press
Math-U-See
Language Arts and More

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