End of year wrap-up!

I love reading what people have used for school and what they’ve loved (or not!).  It is fun for me to look back on the year on what were the highlights in terms of material we went through.  It’s also helpful as I look forward to what’s next!  So, here are a few reflections on this year:

While I realize that many large families use the same boxed curriculum for every child and often rely heavily on workbooks and independent learning, this isn’t how our family works best.  Yes, it means more work and planning for me.  Yes, it means more mess and exploration.  It has other implications as well.  We are still finding a balance.  But being able to tailor our children’s education is a gift.  One of the many reasons they learn at home with us is so that we can enjoy that freedom.

This year’s keepers:

  • Story of the World Volume 2 – we used the text (which is wonderfully written in story-type form) as well as the audio CD’s (which are just the text read aloud – fantastic for when we were on the go) and the student activity book.  The activity book is chock full of ideas, projects, narration/copywork suggestions, review questions and other super helpful things.
  • Spelling Power – a comprehensive, clearly laid out and proven method for teaching spelling.  Love that ONE book has all levels of spelling I will need to teach.  Our third try at a spelling curriculum and it has been an excellent fit for about age 8 and older.
  • Answers in Genesis (science) – God’s Design for Life – We used only two of the three (Human Body as well as the World of Animals) in this set but thoroughly enjoyed both of them.  It is set up well for multiple ages which is wonderfully helpful.
  • Teaching Textbooks (math-for our oldest two) – nothing not to love here, our second year using this and such a big help for non-math me.
  • PAL program from Institute for Excellence in Writing – their first offering for the youngest crowd so I waffled a long while before buying it.  This was perhaps the greatest highlight for the two younger learners.  We had “school time with mom” at 9 AM most weekday mornings all year.  They got my undivided attention while we went together through the PAL materials.  They learned so much but more than that we had a fantastic time together doing it.
  • Institute for Excellence in Writing – Fables, Myths and Fairy Tales book (oldest two) – We went through this with an informal co-op of 12 other families and it was excellent.  This was our first introduction to IEW’s material and I only wish we’d begun sooner.  Our kids have grown a great deal in their observation of quality writing as well as their ability to write creatively.
  • Copywork/handwriting – we used some workbooks for this as well as just copying things from our history material which worked quite well.
  • Pathways readers – A gem of a book series that my friend Kim tipped me off to.  Wholesome, interesting, affirming of values that we hold to in our home, these books were a great, inexpensive addition to our collection.  Each one has a workbook to check for comprehension that I offered but didn’t require our kids to do.
  • The Ultimate Homeschool Planner – Worked well for me all year and was flexible enough that I could fill in lesson plans for all the kids.  After a school year’s use, it’s still in its’ binding and that is impressive!
  • A Child’s Geography (focusing on the Holy Lands) – While the honest truth is we started this part way through the year AND we aren’t near completing it, the material is worth using and well put together.  The kids loved all that we read and we will absolutely pick it back up next year some time.

On the shelf for another season:

  • Right Start Math – I won’t even tell you what lesson is bookmarked currently.  Tried out for Kyler.  This was confusing and complicated and frustrating for me.  I’m sure it’d work well for some.  Just not me/us!
  • Picture Smart Bible – this is an incredible Bible curriculum that I wanted to work for and include all four oldest kids.  In reality it would have worked best for our third and fourth grader.  The younger two were distracted and frustrated that they couldn’t keep up.  I will certainly give it another go around in the future!
  • Daily Grams Grammar – fine and adequate but we are changing it up next year for something a bit more interesting I hope.

Last year the list of no-go’s was certainly longer.  It is really fun to be getting the hang of things a bit more each year.  Next year poses all its own challenges and adventures and we are ever so thankful for the respite of summer before we tackle them!