May 1, 2017

The Final Stretch of our Homeschool Year {What Worked & What Didn't}

When May rolls around each year, I begin to see the light at the end of the homeschooling tunnel. Although we still have a few weeks of schooling left for the year, I'm already reflecting on our year and beginning to make decisions that will guide us into next year. Because I consider my kids' formal schooling a natural outflow of our lives, our homeschool is very fluid. It is constantly changing to meet the needs of the season that we are in. This year has had it's ups and downs as usual, but overall I am very pleased with the progress we have made and where we are headed.

morning memory work at the kitchen table
One of the successes of our homeschool year was being a part of a local Classical Conversations community again. This was our second year in CC, but we had sat out for 2 years due to a pregnancy and then a newborn baby. As I began to plan last year, I knew I needed to add in a more constant stream of accountability and peer support into our homeschool. I also knew that CC lined up with many of the educational goals I had for my boys. So we jumped right in and had another great experience. I stepped into the role of tutor for a class of 4-6 yr. olds, which helped me to understand more of the ins and outs of the program. More than anything, resting in the classical model has taken so much anxiety out of our homeschool days. I am no longer pushing worksheets and trying to cover every possible subject every single day. My focus is memory work, reading, writing, and math. I know now more than ever that having a firm foundation in these subjects is key to what's down the road.

Liam giving a presentation on beyblades at our local CC community

Other things that worked this year:

A Beka phonics, handwriting, & math

ABeka has been a tried and true curriculum for us since Silas was in prek-4. We have had great success with their phonics program for reading, their cursive writing curriculum, and their math curriculum. My boys did their fair share of worksheets, but not nearly as many as the curriculum recommended. We skipped all of the busy work and kept moving forward as the boys were able.

Somewhere mid-year math was becoming a huge frustration for Silas. He knew how to do the work, but it was taking him much longer than it should have. I quickly realized that he hadn't fully mastered his math facts and that we needed to drill lots more than we had been. I found, and it has been a huge help and timesaver for me. Basically I can delegate the drilling to "Mr. C," who drills and keeps track of Silas' progress for me. And it's free! Seeing his progress charts motivates Silas to continue working hard. It's definitely a win for us.


The biggest way we have streamlined our homeschool year is through copywork. If you're not familiar with copywork, it's basically the practice of copying well-written sentences from a variety of different sources (literature, poetry, Scripture, etc.) for the purpose of practicing handwriting, grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Silas began copywork about mid-year. I had him start copying a 2nd grade reading book. His goal was to copy (in cursive) a few sentences a day straight from the book, including proper capitalization, punctuation, word spacing, and spelling. After he completed his sentences, we would go over his handwriting, capitalization and punctuation rules, and then pick a few spelling words to practice. The consistency of this simple work has proven highly successful. It helps us to knock out a variety of subjects all at once in a very natural way. It also models for him what proper sentences and well-written words look like.

One of my favorite homeschool reads this year

Things that didn't work:

Formal Spelling Curriculum 

I had every intention of following a formal spelling curriculum for Silas this year, but we were never consistent with it. I took comfort in knowing that phonics was a natural springboard for spelling, and I knew Silas has a firm foundation in phonics, so I wasn't extremely concerned. And then copywork came along, and he was practicing spelling naturally, which was very helpful. My plan, however, is not to drop spelling altogether. While copywork reinforces spelling to a degree, there is nothing like good old fashioned daily drilling of spelling words. In these last few weeks of our school year, we will be drilling some commonly misspelled words, and hope to find something that we can be consistent with next year.

Following a detailed, time-based schedule

At the beginning of our homeschool year, I created a detailed, minute-by-minute time schedule of how I wanted our days to look. I was feeling highly motivated, and I let my idealistic spirit overshadow the reality of our daily lives-- the chaos, the messes, the meltdowns, the sicknesses, etc. My failure to put some margin into our days was a clear recipe for disaster. Add in the fact that I'm not a very scheduled person by nature, I felt like I was drowning only a few weeks in. So I sat back and took a good look at the basic rhythm of our days as well as the big picture goals I had for our homeschool. We ditched the time-based schedule, and chose a loop-style schedule instead. Basically we have a list of tasks to complete, and we work through them as the day allows. We don't focus on lesson numbers, but on actually understanding concepts. Our goal is to get through our list of subjects each day, of course, but if life gets in the way, we pick up where we left off the next day. So basically, there is no "first" subject of the day and "last" subject of the day. We follow our subjects in a circle and work at the pace that life allows.

Not waking up before the kids

Not only am I not a very scheduled person by nature, but I'm not a morning person either! I've had seasons where I was an early riser and seasons where I would wake up when the boys woke up. As of late, I've given in to the latter, and it has caused our mornings to be more chaotic that they should be. I am realizing more and more how critical it is to our mornings that I wake up before the boys to spend time in God's Word, clear my mind, and make preparations for the day. This is a discipline that I plan to work on in the coming months.

morning Bible study with Silas

So, we have about 6 weeks of schooling left before we end our year and take our summer break. I am praying through what next year will look like for us, carefully choosing curriculum that will move us toward our goals. But above all, I am praying that God will give me the wisdom to live a life worthy of the gospel in front of my children each day that I get to spend with them.

How is your homeschool year going? What would you do differently next year? 




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