During the week between Christmas and New Year’s, I take the time to review our previous homeschool semester. I think reflection is valuable use of my time, so I can determine what to repeat and what to eliminate.
I always take some time to reflect before I prepare our homeschool for the next semester.
Throughout the past 6 years, I’ve prepared for the second semester in several different ways:
— I’ve stayed a few nights at a local hotel so I can have peace and quiet to plan our next few months.
— I’ve pieced it together here and there when I have snippets of time. (I detest this method, for the record.)
— I’ve used a whole day (preferably two) here at home and my husband has taken our children out of the house on various excursions.
This year, it looks like I’m doing Option #2, where I piece things together as I have time and can have a complete train of thought. Haha! Do you hear me laughing hysterically at the idea of having a complete thought?!
While I’m not a fan of this method at all, it’s where I am, so I must make the best of it!
As seasons of life change, so do the items I need to prepare for our homeschool. Here’s my method for this year!
A Bit of Background
I have been pretty quiet in writing more personal posts here at Mama’s for the past 6-8 months. I just didn’t have a lot to say. 🙂
I found out I was pregnant in June, and was sick all through the summer. We started our school year back in July, and it’s been a fairly intense year for me.
Needless to say, there just wasn’t a lot of time (or energy!) to share more personal posts.
Because of the pregnancy and just having a more intense school year, things this past semester didn’t exactly go as I’d planned. Imagine that!
While I did get some planning time before our school year started, I couldn’t maximize it due to being so sick. That really put me behind and left me feeling a bit scattered.
So my goal over the next few days is to plan, print, and pray about our coming school semester as much as possible so I don’t feel that same sense of unpreparedness.
Just as an FYI if you’re not a regular reader, I have a 6th grader, 4th grader, 2nd grader, Kindergartner, and Baby #5 due in February.
Here’s how I’m going to tackle my planning session this time!
Reflect on What Went Well
This past semester, we had several things that went very well in our homeschool.
— We switched from Singapore Math to Mammoth Math and it was one of my best homeschooling decisions!
While I do adore Singapore Math and the way it teaches critical thinking, I needed something less teacher-intensive, but still top-notch. Mammoth Math was a perfect fit for my older 3 kiddos, and we all know how hard it is to find one curriculum that works for different learning styles!
— I helped my son (11 years old, my oldest) become more independent with his learning.
My son is a bright boy who picks up on things easily, so there’s no reason for him to not be more independent in his schooling.
He does his math and English independently and comes to me when he has questions. I check his work daily, just to make sure he’s on the right track. He either sits down with me or my husband if he has big issues and we work through them together.
This, admittedly, has been very hard for me! As my oldest, it’s been a bit hard to let this go, but I know it’s in his best interest. As I’m looking towards middle school and high school for him, it’s essential that he figure out answers and problems himself. Despite him being such a people person, this has worked well for him!
— My 4th grader and I have consistently worked on spelling every single school day.
My daughter has quite a few dyslexic tendencies with spelling, and it definitely doesn’t come naturally to her. One of the biggest pieces of advice from my friend Marianne (Homeschooling with Dyslexia) was to commit to spelling every day.
We have committed to a daily spelling exercise and it has proved to be hugely successful! Before the semester, we only did spelling 3, maybe 4, times per week. I am so proud of my daughter and how she has shown such commitment to improving! Her self-esteem and confidence in spelling have sky-rocketed as a result!
We’ve tried a couple of spelling programs over the years, and we come back to All About Spelling every time. It’s extremely logical in how spelling concepts are presented, the material is perfect for any age (from very young to adult!), it provides plenty of repetition without becoming tedious, and the results are nothing short of amazing.
Yes, it’s teacher-intensive, but well worth it!
— We do our family history study right after our Bible time.
I’ve always struggled with fitting in our family history time each day. If I bumped it to the afternoon, it seemed like it just got pushed aside. However, doing it right after Bible time each morning has been a great fit for us.
We use Tapestry of Grace for our history studies, so we all study the same period of history, just on different learning levels. My 3 girls always have history time, and my son joins us on most days. Because his reading load is heavy (he’s an avid reader!), he sometimes will go off by himself during our history time so he can tackle his own reading assignments.
— While we use Tapestry of Grace, my girls and I are using Story of the World and the Activity Pages that go with it.
We still follow the Tapestry weekly schedule in terms of reading, but we are primarily using Story of the World as the reading material. We also do the map work and the coloring pages that are included in the Story of the World Activity Pages book.
I can’t begin to explain all of the wonderful geography my girls have learned completing the map work each week – even my just-turned 6 year old!
On the weeks that there are not Story of the World reading assignments, we use living books. I also include at least 1 living book each week, even if there are SOTW readings.
We complete 1 hands-on activity every 4-6 weeks. I know that doesn’t sound like much, but considering how sick I was the first 20 weeks of this pregnancy and how tired I am now, that is a huge accomplishment for me! Just do what you can, Mamas, and try to shake off the guilt that comes with it.
— We accomplished a lot.
There are several reasons why we accomplished so much this semester, despite my obstacles.
- I set my mind to it that we were going to accomplish most of the goals I set.
- I made sure we had school as many days as possible so we didn’t get “behind.” (Or at least what I consider to be behind.)
- I put my work-at-home commitments on the back burner for a bit.
Possibly, #3 is what helped us the most. I devoted more of my attention and energy to our studies than I ever have before.
Part of that was because of the number of children I have and the educational demands that involves – teaching my Kindergartner how to read, spending ample amounts of time with my 2nd grader, tackling math and English with my 4th grader, helping my 6th grader when needed, and having our Friday afternoon history discussions (those usually take about an hour).
As I said, it’s been a pretty intense year for me as the homeschooling mama. I’ve never schooled this many children with this many educational needs. It has taxed me, I’ll be very honest!
— My children had plenty of free time to play, invent, read, be bored, and be creative.
My children having plenty of free time if always high on my priority list. I work hard for us to live a more simple life so they can have their own free time.
Despite us accomplishing a lot during our first semester, my children still had plenty of time to read their own books, create plays, climb trees, be bored (and then figure out how to not be bored!), and open up imaginary restaurants and doctor’s offices.
To me, this is just as important as school work.
Brainstorm How to Improve Our Next Semester
There were several things that just didn’t go as planned this semester. Part of that was due to my all-day morning sickness for 20 weeks, and part was due to my not having enough energy to complete what I needed to.
Despite looking through our list of accomplishments for the semester, I have identified several areas that need my attention. So here’s my (very public!) brainstorming session on how to improve.
My oldest son is going through Apologia’s Astronomy by himself and discussing with me every few assignments. I give him lots of resources and ideas for rabbit trails he might want to follow, and he is quite content with this! He will continue on and finish the book during the spring semester.
I had planned to do Apologia’s Botany with my girls, but we only got 5 lessons in before I just couldn’t keep up. Again, there’s only so many hours in my day and only so much energy, so science was the first thing to go for us.
To be very honest, I’m not certain what I’m going to do with my girls for science in the coming semester. I must keep in mind that there will be a new baby in the house to love on, so my time will be even more limited. I’ve searched for a local weekly science class, but there’s nothing available in my area.
I looked at Considering God’s Creation several years ago, so I’m going to re-evaluate that curriculum again and see if it would be a good fit for us. (i.e.: it needs to be open-and-go, I need to be able to work through it with all three girls, and I need to it to be affordable.)
On my to-do list: Research Considering God’s Creation. If it looks like it will work for us, print and gather all needed materials prior to school starting on Tuesday.
Oh writing, how absent you’ve been from our homeschool! While my children have written in their history or English studies (we often use Notebooking Pages to summarize information), we have not used a formal writing program this semester.
On my to-do list: I must make time to watch the Teacher Videos prior to starting school back. This is a must-do for me!
— History Preparation
History for my older two children goes remarkably better when I am 100% prepared. This means that I have their list of books ready, their reading assignments, map work, discussion questions ready, and what they’re going to turn in to me at the end of the week.
For my older two, I create an assignment sheet each week so we’re all on the same page. I also print any needed papers, notebooking pages, or maps that they’ll need.
For my younger two, I print any maps they’ll need, along with coloring pages. If we’re doing a crafty project, I have all of the materials together.
Because I was so sick earlier this year, I wasn’t able to create the weekly folders and assignment sheets that keep our history running along smoothly. And WOW has that backfired on me!
Yes, it takes hours to put those weeks together, but then again, I am planning for 4 children at 4 different learning levels. That takes a lot of work on my part! In my experience, if I can be prepared with those weekly lesson plans ahead of time, it pays off in spades.
On my to-do list: Carve out some quiet time to put together enough weekly lessons (printed pages and all!) to get us through mid-February. I’d like to make enough to get us through the next unit (that would be 12 weeks), but the realistic side of me knows I don’t have that kind of time.
I hope it’s been helpful to look through the challenges that I’m working on this next semester as a homeschool mama. It’s so often that we feel all alone – like we’re the only ones drowning in lesson plans, or we don’t know how to even start planning, or we just don’t have enough time.
I promise you, you are NOT alone in these struggles! Whether you have 1 child or 8 to school at home, we each have our own set of circumstances to brainstorm and ponder through.
What kinds of challenges are you working to overcome this next semester? Leave a note in the comments!