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Thursday, July 6, 2017

2016-2017 Homeschool Wrap-Up

Now that we’ve had a little time off(ish), I wanted to take a look at how our year went. If I wait until August, I’m liable to forget some of the details, so this is the perfect time to go over it all. It’s also the perfect time to work on my 17-year-old’s transcript---in just a couple short months, he will be applying to colleges, so there’s no time like the present to get it ready. This post will focus primarily on the academic side of things---it’s so hard to quantify the non-academic side.

2016-2017 Homeschool Wrap-Up at Homeschooling Hearts & Minds

Here we go.

2nd Grade Wrap-Up

This year was all about working on those foundational language arts and math skills.

Language arts:

Emma has come into her own as an independent reader. She is not yet a strong speller and is still working on writing fluency. Writing is still physically hard for her. Part of this may be in part to her being a lefty, but each of my children has developed differently in this area---oldest was still allergic to his pencil in 3rd grade, whereas the two middles did quite well with copywork at that same age. Emma seems to fall into the former category. She gets tired while writing and it makes her grumpy. At the same time, she seems to learn to spell well by copying, but if copying is torture for her, we may need to look at other means. Learning to spell is important to her and I expect that improving her spelling will also make the writing easier. Grammar seems to come fairly easy to her, also. She’s just not up the physical task of writing several sentences or a paragraph at a time.

Many 3rd grade language arts programs require too much physical writing to be enjoyable to her. I know from experience that this level of writing isn’t necessary all kids to acquire proficiency, but it can be a challenge to find the right balance. Soooo…for next year I’m looking primarily for a language arts program that can be done mostly orally with some judicious writing. I’m also looking at using the whiteboard and magnetic letters for some writing and spelling exercises. She likes writing on the whiteboard and it is less physically demanding than writing on paper with a pencil.

As far as materials: I’m looking at possibly using English Lessons Through Literature level 2 (OR level 3, but that may have too much writing) or the Good and the Beautiful Level 2 or 3. I may add in Sequential Spelling. But mostly I’m putting off the decision until next month as she may mature some over the summer.


Skillwise, she is right on target and her number sense is good. We have been working on doing multiple digit addition and subtraction problems over the summer to build fluency and increase her speed. She understands the concepts very well, but she’s not crazy about arithmetic.  For this reason, a program that is mastery based is a poor fit (she’s gets bored and discouraged doing the same thing over and over again---we need to mix things up). I have not decided what program to use with her, but it will be one of several options I already own or possibly a combination.

Next year we are joining a classical co-op (more on that in a bit) and Emma will be doing the Classically Catholic Memory program and Story of the World (history) through that co-op. At home, we will mostly focus on language arts, math, and reinforcement of her co-op work. Emma is our resident supreme extrovert and is looking forward to working with a whole pack of kids.

5th Grade Wrap-Up

Peter continues to astound me with his language and verbal skills. He has matured a lot as a student and is doing quite well with independent work. He has an incredible memory for facts, but still has to work hard at math.

Peter’s accomplishments this year:

  • He wrote a novella and edited it.
  • He learned how to manage his time and priorities so that he could complete his work on time.
  • He successfully completed all his independent reading and writing assignments each week.
  • He completed Math U See Epsilon.
  • He continues to work his way through Hoffman Academy’s free video lessons (at a slow, but steady pace---he’s started doing some composing also).

My little man has grown up a lot in the past couple of years. Going into this year, I had originally planned to do a lot of direct teaching with Peter, but it turned out that he was ready for much more independence and I’m proud of how hard he has worked this year. His reward---he’s had a ton of free time to pursue his personal interests. Some of his studies were the same as his older sister’s, so I will talk more about that in a minute.

Peter will continue with Math U See Zeta for next year. For his other subjects, we will be participating in an classical homeschool tutorial that meets twice a week, with kids completing their readings and work the other three days. It will be a new experience, but judging from how well Peter managed his studies this year, I expect he will do very well.

7th Grade Wrap-Up

Mary’s primary difficulty this year had been comparing herself to her younger brother. I suppose this is one of the problems with being so close in age. They share a lot of the same work in the content subjects, so when Peter completes the history assignment and she doesn’t, she feels he’s better than her.

He’s not, but he does have different strengths. Both kids are highly creative, but in different ways. Mary is also a dancer and full of grace, whereas Peter is not really.

Language Arts:

Mary has improved her spelling a great deal. This is one area that comes hard to her, but she is spelling at close to her reading level (high school) now. Both she and Peter worked on notebooking their content subjects this year and her composition skills have really developed.


Mary completed Teaching Textbooks Math 7. While she did well, there were some areas where she needed help and we found that the platform wasn’t a perfect fit for her. We’ve decided that next year she’ll use Math U See Pre-Algebra. Mr. Demme’s explanations make better sense to her and it’s easier for me to reteach material, offer different approaches, or give her extra practice with a non-computer based program.

Science and History:

All three younger kids studied the Middle Ages in the fall and then Ancient Greece in the Spring. Mary and Peter had additional independent reading, assignments, and notebooking to complete. All three younger kids studied Considering God’s Creation throughout the year, interspersed with some science kits. They all learned tons and Mary and Peter have beautiful notebooks to show for it.

Mary has really blossomed as an artist with a particular bend towards design. She draws very intricate patterns that almost appear as though they are a stencil or a tracing, they are so symmetrical and perfect. Trouble is: she is also a perfectionist and very (very) hard on herself. I would love to see her able to better appreciate her strengths and the recognize her talents. I will also be working with her on better managing her time. This skill doesn’t come naturally to her the way it does for her younger brother and so time has a habit of “getting away from her.”

She will also be attending the co-op and I’m hopeful that the fact that she will be in different classes from her brother will help her to stop comparing herself to him so much. I think it will be a great year for her.

11th Grade Wrap-Up

It’s hard to believe that David has just one more year before he graduates from our homeschool! This was a good year for him. He studied:

  • Algebra 2 (Teaching Textbooks)
  • American Literature: Edgar Allan Poe (home brewed)
  • Zoology (home brewed)
  • American History (The American Odyssey + a course from the Teaching Company)
  • More Art (The Virtual Instructor)---working on a course description for that one
  • German 1 (Rosetta Stone and Duolingo)
  • some odds and ends

This summer is is finishing up the other half of English with a course that has kind of morphed. It started out being literary analysis and composition using Windows to the World and has turned into a course on literary analysis and short story writing. The idea being that he is incorporating what he has learned of reading good literature into his own writing. It’s going swimmingly well. And yes, we did use some of Windows to the World, but found it too confining and stilted in its content. He’s been reading Flannery O’Connor. And science fiction. And other stuff. And writing well. We may end up with more than half a credit.

Homeschooling at its finest, right?

Next year, he’ll continue with Teaching Textbooks Pre-Calculus at home and will be participating in the co-op for English, science, and history.

This year, he has come into his own as a serious student and is looking forward to attending college in a year.  It’s an exciting, but nerve-wracking, time.

Have you wrapped up your school year? How did it go?

You might also like:

Notebooking Our Way Through History

Organizing Our Learning Space

Building a Foundation of Words

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