Homeschool Mid-Year Review

We’re almost to Christmas, and I haven’t done a formal review since October 12th. There are some questions I like to address as I do a review, so I thought I’d write them in this blog (a) for accountability, (b) so you have an example you can use too, (c) to get me ready before my big planning push in early January.

Here’s a copy you can print of the pages I use.

This is the first year I’ve invited other ladies to join me for a planning day. Since I need peace and quiet, and supplies at home, I’ll do the actual planning at home. However, I hope they’ll meet me for breakfast and lunch that day for chatting and camaraderie while my husband whisks the kids off to some fabulous adventure.

Before I start this review, let me say some prefacing statements. I’ve enjoyed getting more and more pregnant this year, which is now making me tired as I run into the last leg of welcoming the baby. I am going to approach this assessment with grace for myself – I am not full of pride, nor do I have an inflated view of what we’ve done. I do my best to not compare myself to other moms who are homeschooling, and I hope you aren’t either.

We’re almost 40% of the way into our school year! Woohoo! This is Micah’s “Transitional Kindergarten” year, because he started the year at 4, and will end when he’s 5.5. We’ve completed 69 homeschool days so far, and have 121 days left to go, if I’m trying to reach 180 days. Truth be told, I teach all summer too, so I don’t know why I’m counting. Probably just because I’m analytical about this, so I can quantify it for my own accountability.

Let’s go with the assessment now.

How well are we doing overall in our home? In homeschool itself, we are doing well. There are so many things I can do better but we are progressing in the main areas, so for that I’m grateful to God to have given us the persistence and discipline to keep moving forward. Some improvements I’ve made have been due to linking certain parts of our day. Other improvements I’ve made have been due to me following the rhythm of my children.

  1. Making beds before breakfast.
  2. Morning Bible, Devotion, Reading and Math before vitamins.
  3. Breaking when the kids get crazy for outside play time.
  4. Allowing myself the mercy of at-home days when I’m just plain tired, or when we’ve had an especially packed time the day before.

How well am I meeting daily goals? We’ve taken 3 days off of homeschooling in the past 40 school days, and 3 of them were field trip days; however I’ve only written down notes for 20 of those days. How can you track what you can’t measure? I’d say the first 8 days of this assessment period I recorded our progress just fine, recording an average of about 90% of what I’d want to track. But after day 8, the majority of the days I just tracked the bare minimum, only writing about 10-25% of what we did that day. This is ridiculous because I have the tools already in place – but I’m a little tired right now – here’s what I do when I’m tired of schooling. Also, you could see this post about resetting and regrouping your homeschool year about this time last year.

  1. We’ve only done our memory verses 7 / 40 times – given how important this is, I’m most concerned about this. And I’d say we’re not praying consistently enough. We have been faithful however with our Morning Symposium, which is just daily Bible reading and devotion time.
  2. We need to do a better job in the areas of daily toy-pick-up-before-dad-gets-home, and helping with chores. The problem is I don’t consistently hold to a reward system.

What progress am I seeing in the following areas?

Bible. We were able to start The Children’s Bible on October 3rd (before this review period begins), and we are 51 stories into it, in a 50 day period. This is because Micah begs me for more each day. In 3 more stories we will be done with Genesis and get do start Exodus. My 2 year old doesn’t enjoy this older Bible as much. Ian and I decided we need to really get Kade’s Bible time in during his nap time every afternoon, since it’s much more on his level.

Ian also continues to read a chapter from the Bible during dinnertime. We finished Revelation and moved onto Psalms, but for December, we’re taking a hiatus to work through the devotions in our advent book, “The Advent Jesse Tree: Devotions for Children and Adults to Prepare for the Coming of the Christ Child at Christmas“. I love this devotion book for Christmas, and Ian and I will read it long after the children are out of the nest – there’s a child’s portion and an adult’s portion of the book.

We also started “Young Peacemakers” lessons on October 24th, and finally finished Lesson 1 twenty-eight lessons later. Remember, this is not about speed.

Timeline. Micah continues to love his CC history timeline. We’re moving into week 13, so that means we’ve learned 91 “pegs”, or events on the timeline so far, starting with Creation. For this review period, in Cycle 2 of Classical Conversations, we’ve moved from weeks 7 to 12, which means we went from when Jesus was born to The Spanish Inquisition, so we’re into the Age of Exploration at this point. Last week, we did a big timeline review where Micah “competed” with Ian, and Micah was able to put all but about 4 cards in order for each week – we have a card for each peg. He can’t sing the Timeline song without help from start to finish (he loops back sometimes), but because we played the game I know he can recall the song if you put cards in front of him and use the song to get those cards in order.

History. We’ve learned about the Reformation and the 95 theses, the French Revolution, the Magna Carta and the 100 years war, European explorers, Napoleon Bonaparte and General Wellington, and the Industrial Revolution. Since I do book hauls (here’s how, including what books I pulled for these weeks), Micah is not just learning random facts, but he’s reading a little bit about each topic – this goes for all topics, not just history. We’re also working our way through a social studies book called “My World”. I’ve only done 2 lessons in 40 days. Ideally, I would have liked to have done 8.

English. English I’ve found to be a little more challenging this time, because in addition to some possessive adjectives (ok, not so hard), he’s working through a long list of pronouns that go from reflexive, interrogative, demonstrative, and indefinite – it’s the indefinite list that is indefinitely gruesome, even we have a cute song to help us remember them. I obviously haven’t found the right pneumonic for this.

Science. Science has been awesome. We love all things space, so Micah’s been able to learn quickly the kinds of stars, phases of the moon, parts of the sun, other bodies of the solar system, planets (we’ve known these for a long time) and U.S. space missions. The projects for science have been great and have ranged from making constellations, to launching rockets, to making a giant parking-lot sized proportionate model of our solar system. We also took a trip to a solar program this year, and that was amazingly fun. We also read Act One of “The Human Body Theater” which was all about the Skeletal System. This was fascinating for Micah since he likes bones. We will learn about muscles next, and some physics. We like physics in this house, so I don’t anticipate any issues here.

Geography. In geography we’ve studied the European peninsulas and seas, Eastern Europe, the Mid-Atlantic World, the Caribbean, Southwest Asia. Next we’re going back to Northern Europe. I haven’t had Micah do much mapping by hand, though he watches me trace the map for the next week’s work each week – I put these traced map up on a learning board that we both use throughout the week. He’s mainly learned this through the CC cycle 2 App, which I have on our devices, and sometimes play it through Apple TV on our one and only television.

 

Latin. Latin seems easy because we’re only doing 1st conjugation endings, and I have him listen to some Sing Song Latin Songs (but I never drill him on Sing Song Latin). He could use some work on remembering the tense and the first word for each tense. There are only 6 sets of these we have to learn this year, and we’re looping back through to the first set already.

Math. Micah LOVES math. He sometimes opts to do more math than I have him set to do. We finished Kindergarten Book A in Singapore Math and he was elated. We started book B, and while this version is black and white, he doesn’t seem to care. He breezes through the pages. What’s tough for him is the writing part of it. As of now, we don’t do any formal handwriting, except for what appears in his math book. We will start handwriting this January, however. In Kindergarten Book A we covered matching, sorting, numbers up to 10, ordering numbers, shapes and patterns, comparing sets, and measurements. To be honest, this book was far too easy for him. I think that’s why he likes math though, and I like that he’s practicing his handwriting in such a low-demand way. Book B takes him from comparing numbers, to numbers up to 100, number bonds, addition and subtraction, more ordering, time, even and odd and fractions. Micah can count well past 100 by now, and can mostly do his skip counting from 1 to 15, and then by 100’s up to 1,000. He’s just starting to connect the dots that skip counting means multiplying. Micah can also add and subtract decently, but especially with manipulatives. His weakness is working too quickly, so I like the review in Singapore, and there’s not hurt in going over math until it’s second-hand nature, since it’s cumulative. We only did Abacus 1 day. However, Micah is thoroughly enjoying dot-to-dots and he loves mazes. And I love these because he’s also working his fine motor skills, or pre-writing skills.

Reading. Reading is a big deal for us this review period. We did well here, and it’s the hardest part of Micah’s day because it takes the most focus on his part, and the most patience on my part. We started the Book It! Program and that has been very motivating to Micah, and a useful accountability tool for me. He’s earned his reward for 2 months in a row now, so he’s 2 for 2. We need to go get his Pizza from November and celebrate. We are two lessons from finishing “How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” This means on Tuesday we get to have a big celebratory ice-cream party! And believe me, I will be celebrating just as much as he will be! I ordered this book in October of 2014 when Micah was almost 3, but we started it at the tail end of Micah’s 3rd year. Before that we did lots of phonics games, and it was perfect. Now I’ve been met with the challenge of ‘what next???’. I got great recommendations from trusty, more experienced homeschool moms. I was generously given the “Spell to Write and Read” core books, and have done some digging myself. I decided that next we will (a) move onto easy readers at level 1 and 2 from the library, (b) start hand-writing very slowly, (c) review phonics, and (d) start spelling using the Spell to Write and Read. Funnix was a good program, but I spoke to a rep on the phone from Funnix, and it’s only computer-based. Micah’s just too young for required screen time in my opinion, and I sometimes see behavior whip-lash from screen time. I’d rather go with something that still allows us to cuddle up somewhere if we want. “Spell to Write and Read” is a complicated program to pick up. It requires a lot of pre-reading on my part. I purchased the amazing, wonderful, tremendously helpful “Uncovering the Logic of English” book and am reading that before starting back in “Spell to Write and Read”. There are 11 steps to complete before getting to “The Wise Guide for Spelling” which contains the actual lesson plans for this curriculum. I anticipate we will spend at least a solid 40 days practicing phonograms, playing phonogram games, reading easy readers, and learning correct cursive penmanship for the 26 letters and 0-9.

What were our favorite field trips? We had three chances to feed the animals at Emma Prusch Farm Park – that’s a major draw! Each time we go, Ms. Lisa explains something different to us, and we observe new behavior about the animals. The last time we went we learned about some of the digestive needs of the goats, we helped her find a growth on one of the bunny’s eyes that needs attention, learned about how much care these animals need and how farm hands sanitize their dishes, and we watched how aggressive turkeys are around their food – yikes!

We also loved Yosemite National Park in the snow – we built snowmen and had snowball fights! We adored the Fremont solar program, the Portola Redwood Forest, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

We tried camping at Uvas Canyon County Park and failed. Due to Rain. The first time it rained since we moved here. Noah was finishing his Arc next to our tent. That’s how much it was raining, so it seemed.
But… we hiked and explored Rodeo Cove in the Marin Headlands, Coyote Point Recreation Area, Fort Funston, and Sanborn County Park. We played at many, many playgrounds around town.
This time of year brings some seasonal fun too, like a visit to Spina Farms, the fall festival at church, birthday celebrations, and Christmas in the Park and a Walk Through Bethlehem.
We did some focused outreach. Some of this outreach happened before this review period, but some leaked over into this review period.
What was our favorite art or music lesson or topic? Someone should sound a fail alarm for music, because we only did one formal piano lesson in the last 40 days. We are still learning music theory, however, and he knows a relative amount of theory for someone so young. Micah’s picked up learning tin whistle, and can play Mary Had a Little Lamb, but I lament his lack of piano here. And I haven’t taught him more than the one song on tin whistle. We haven’t found a piano teacher, and I need the accountability of someone else to teach him. Oh yea, grace for the season, right? At least he started learning a new instrument and likes it! In fact, the last six weeks have been all about tin whistle, music dynamics, rhythm, scale, and music symbols.
I also made playlists for all 24 weeks of lessons, so he listens to rounds of various scripture to song, classical music, seasonal / holiday music, folk music, and classic kindergarten songs in addition to memory work.
He’s moving into the age where he’s really beginning to enjoy drawing, so I purchased the Draw Write Now Book 1 and he’s enjoyed the lesson we tried. We are starting to move back into visual arts again in CC, so we’ve been looking at fine art together. I’m excited about the next 6 weeks of CC!
We enjoyed some math art, and of course, holiday crafts and cooking too.
Oh, and he tried a hip hop dance program at the YMCA and loved it! We need to go back!
What were some of our favorite learning games? Micah’s favorite learning games, by far, include War, building a tower with Solo Cups, solo cup bowling, and solo cup CC-Pong. I’ve gotten lazy in offering him quality review time. Kade has not been napping! It’s exasperating. And I’m tired and need the down time being this pregnant. Grace for the season, right? Micah LOVES legos and spends a long time building new creations almost every day.
What trends have we noticed in behavior for each child? Kade is fully in his two-year old stride. He’s ready to potty train, but I’m not ready to potty train him! And he requires consistent follow through, that I do what I say I’m going to do. Micah needs more patience with Kade and to learn to let me help Kade share, comply, or whatever the case may be. There is the normal brother teasing that happens every. single. day. So tiring. Micah does better in correction if I pull him in for a hug and a smile while I correct him. Sometimes this is not possible.

What improvements in character have we seen in each child? I’m enjoying Kade’s “my turn” phase. He’s really wanting and trying to do everything himself! While this doesn’t have to do with character, it’s more developmental progress I want to recall. Micah is so sweet and compassionate about his baby sister and my pregnancy it’s just darling. And many times I find him helping his little brother, or talking sweetly, or recruiting to persuade him instead of force him to do something. It blesses me to see Micah have patience and discipline to finish hard things. We are benefiting from Peacemaker lessons!

What needs more attention?

  • Scripture Memory work!
  • Chores and cleanliness, including ‘the daily 15 minute round-up’
  • Indefinite list of pronouns and grammar games
  • Abacus and manipulatives, math games, mazes and dot-to-dots.
  • My World lessons. There are 6 units, and I’m on Unit 3 Lesson 4.
  • Piano and music appreciation. Perhaps we should pay Ian what we used to pay his favorite teacher and make it a formal weekly lesson again so he structures his lessons. I did purchase music flashcards for Christmas so he will have fun using those.

How well have we followed through in new ideas, investigations, and integrations? I’ve done a better job honoring God first with morning symposium than last review period – this is important to our family. We didn’t do as well with being consistent with scripture memory work, but we have done better in reading and math consistency. I noted last review period he needs more time with geography, the timeline, english review and manipulatives. I think I’ve done the best with the timeline, but the rest lag behind a bit.

What answered prayers have we noted? There are so many answered prayers to list! God answered me about taking in the Support Representative position with CC. He’s been so clear to some specific questions I have for Him. He’s given me peace and wisdom for homeschooling and parenting, and I notice a change in behavior when we pray throughout the day, but especially when we set the tone in the morning.

What were some of the most memorable moments and victories this month? The biggest victories or memorable moments are probably finishing out his math book A, and seeing how excited he was to move up a level! I’m so glad he’s happy about this accomplishment.

Kade’s language is really exploding into 3 and 4 word sentences. He can almost count to ten. He understands letters represent sounds on a page, and asks me to write his name all the time. He loves to tuck his animals into bed and says “here go” to them, and “aw” as he admires them. He loves to pray. He can do summersaults really well now, and is very brave climbing challenging structures on the playground.

What were some biggest evidences in grace, mercy, faithfulness, protection and provision we noted? God is helping us budget better, or have more discipline. I’m understanding some hard lessons learned about stewardship and waiting on Him before I make decisions. I’ve learned about the topics of Grace and Righteousness, doing some deep dives myself. I’ve been really blessed by some women friends from church and CC! Surprise baby showers. Who would have thought? With regard to the SR position in CC, He’s rolling that right along too… and the biggest fruit from this is my listening, prayer, and new friendships forming.

What insights, revelations and feedback have been impacting this month? 

Hmmm… probably how much more we should focus on our ‘frogs’: Worship time, prayer, Bible, and scripture memorization. Then everything else can come. I need to do a better job setting time-slots for work and honoring margin with the new SR position. I need to do a better job getting the boys to do chores. Less TV time even if I need to lay down. Be more creative with other quiet activities for the boys.

Some things I’d like to keep in mind for next semester:

  • Math – There are 151 more pages to cover the Kindergarten B book, so I expect this will take another 75 school days or so.
  • Start Young Peacemakers Lesson 6.
  • Start hand-writing and spelling, and phonics. I anticipate we will spend at least a solid 40 days practicing phonograms, playing phonogram games, reading easy readers, and learning correct cursive penmanship for the 26 letters and 0-9.
  • Start The Properties of Ecosystems. There are 35 lessons. I’d like to do one a week.
  • Start the Lives of the Scientists – there are 18 of them. I’d like to do one a week.
  • Read the Human Body Theater – start at Act 2 muscles
  • Try the idea of loop schedules for more items
  • Try presentations for Dad each weekend

Loop schedule samples

  • social studies
  • science – ecology
  • spelling deep dive
  • science sundays
  • history
  • geography game
  • math game
  • review time
  • daddy presentations
  • art project
  • music appreciation
  • bake 

Outdoor afternoon loop schedule

  • nature journal
  • bike ride
  • park play date
  • YMCA dance
  • chalk drawing in back
  • dog bathing
  • sidewalk sweeping 
  • hike
  • gardening
  • entrepreneurship 
  • farmers market
  • tour/museum/extracurricular 

Chore Loop schedule

  • declutter
  • wipe walls
  • wipe cabinets and baseboards
  • sweep floors/ mop
  • dust surfaces
  • sort toys
  • clean hamster cage

Quiet time loop study

  • Lego’s
  • Jenga
  • poetry 
  • Aesop’s fables
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