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I always like to start my homeschool planning process by looking back over the year I just finished and reflecting on what worked well for our family (and what didn’t). When I read back over our plan for the year, I was pleasantly surprised by how much we actually accomplished. That’s one of my favorite things about pausing to reflect instead of plowing ahead toward next year’s material. Looking at each day or week in isolation, it’s easy to feel defeated that we’re not making as much progress as we’d hoped, but when we zoom out and take in the big picture, it can be really encouraging.
What Worked Well for Us
Morning Basket/Afternoon Basket/Evening Basket
Can you tell we struggled to find a consistent time for morning time?! Changing work schedules and older kids with outside activities meant we had to shift our schedule several times throughout the year, but embracing the flexibility to pivot from day to day actually meant we did “morning time” more frequently than we have in years past. Our trusty rhythm of singing a hymn, reading a short Scripture passage, praying together, practicing some memory work, and doing a couple short history and literature readings continues to serve our family well. Here are a few favorites we enjoyed in our gathered reading time this year:
- Hymns with the Happy Hymnody community
- Memorizing the monarchs of England from William the Conqueror to the present (thanks to Amy Sloan for teaching us this helpful mnemonic!)
- Story of the World
- The Apple and the Arrow by Mary and Conrad Buff
- Joan of Arc by Diane Stanley
- The Magna Charta by James Daugherty
- Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, retold by Geraldine McCaughrean
- The Illustrated Little Pilgrim’s Progress from John Bunyan by Helen L. Taylor
- The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- Banner in the Sky by James Ramsey Ullman
- The Borrowers by Mary Norton
- The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkein
Next year I’d like to add more folk songs and poetry (using the free Homeschool Compass poetry printables) to our routine.
This was my kids’ favorite subject from their morning loop with Dad. (This year we looped through science, art, music, science, logic, science, grammar). We used The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Eight Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning by Nathaniel and Hans Bluedorn, and it was definitely a hit! We all loved the playful tone, and the quizzes at the end of each chapter often turned into a family competition.
One caveat: if you teach your kids about logical fallacies, they will be sure to point out any errors in your reasoning. You never realize how many red herrings and tu quoque fallacies you commit until you have a twelve-year-old watching your every word!
I really enjoy the structure that Elemental Science has brought to our science learning. I can’t say we loved all the experiments (we ended up skipping quite a few), but overall the readings, discussion questions, sketches to label, and hands-on activities gave us a really great framework that we could supplement with Youtube videos, trips to the planetarium, stargazing outings, and books from the library.
Patching together random books I thought the kids would like with activities and experiments I found on Pinterest worked well for us in the early years, but we’ve all been ready for something more systematic and I really appreciate having a program of science study laid out for us. All that to say, we’ll be continuing with Chemistry for the Logic Stage Student next year.
Mindware Puzzle Books
I’m so grateful my friend, Alene, told me about these books from Mindware. They have been an unsung hero in our homeschool this year and gave us a fresh new way to practice math facts when we all got bored with flashcards and worksheets.
What Didn’t Work Well for Us This Year
The biggest flop for us this year was grammar. We had pretty good success with First Language Lessons (although our adherence to the program was spotty at best), so I thought we were ready to move up to Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind. Sadly, it was not a good fit for my kids at all. The scripted lessons were easy to present, but I felt like the book dove way too deep into each topic for what my kids were able to take in. For example, a lesson on verb tenses early on in the program marched us through simple present, simple past, simple future, progressive present, progressive past, and progressive future in a way that left my kids overwhelmed with new terminology and totally confused. We transitioned mid year to Rod and Staff for grammar, and it has been a much better experience for everyone.
Saxon Math (sort of)
My oldest has been humming right along with Saxon Math, but my youngest made it very clear this year that Saxon was not for her. The transition from Math 3 to Math 5/4 is a big one in the Saxon program, and it did not go smoothly for my daughter. It took quite a few teary-eyed math lessons for me to accept that the way Saxon was presenting new concepts truly was not a good fit for the way her brain works.
After spending some time combing through reviews (and a lot of prayer!) we decided to switch her to Math with Confidence and jump back to the second grade level so she could start fresh and work through her math frustrations with material that would be relatively easy for her. This turned out to be a great path forward for her. The hands-on activities and kinesthetic modeling of problems in Math with Confidence has helped her comprehension so much. We’ve seen a lot of growth in her mastery of basic math facts. And it’s been wonderful to see her truly enjoying math for the first time.
Even with a few curriculum picks that missed the mark, I’m quite happy with how this school year went and very pleased with the progress we made. I hope hearing about our successes and failures was helpful, and if you’re getting ready to start planning for next year, I highly encourage you to take a few moments to pause and prayerfully reflect on what worked well and what didn’t for your family.
Do you do a homeschool year-end review? I’d love to hear what worked well (or what didn’t) for your family this year!
And if you’d like to see some of our family’s curriculum picks from previous years, check out the articles below: