Our School Year in Review

The 2009-2010 school year is winding down for us. We do continue to formally school through the middle of July, but this is the time when I evaluate how our year went and make decisions for next year. And since I always appreciate hearing everyone's opinion about homeschooling resources, I thought you could listen in while I had these conversations with myself. :-)

Mystery of History Vol 1. - I really, really liked this. A very biblical view of history with cumulative reviews every week. And for the first time, we were faithful to fill in a time line this year; using this one here that I wrote a review about for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine.

Balancing the Sword - We read a chapter of the Bible in the morning when we begin school then read a chapter the nights we have family worship. We started in Genesis 1 in October and have just finished Deuteronomy. I really enjoyed the questions that were in the book and the discussions it caused our family to have.

Westminster Shorter Catechism - I only started this in January with the goal of doing one question a week so at the time of this writing we are on question #21. I am using Training Hearts, Teaching Minds by Starr Meade that we read together that really helps to expand the answers. The older two are memorizing the answers as we go while the younger ones listen in and do their best.

Total Language Plus - Last school year we did a heavy grammar year using Shurley English, so this was a good year to do a program that didn't focus so much on grammar. And that is my one complaint about TLP, it is missing some meaty grammar. But we really loved having spelling and vocabulary words be the same and also pulled from a great book we were reading for literature. The books we did this year were Caddie Woodlawn, The Bronze Bow and The Whipping Boy.

Simply Grammar - I knew going into this year that TLP was not going to teach enough grammar so we started the school year with this book. I did not finish it. In the beginning it was moving along at a good pace, but for my kids it began to move too quickly and the exercises were becoming too frustrating so we stopped in December. I did like the format of the book though.

Apologia Science - We did the Zoology 2 book, Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day.This was the first time we have done formal science and I really loved it. This is not a mamby-pamby science book; it seriously gets in-depth about God's creation, but in such a way that younger children can use it too. I am researching which title to possibly do next year.

Story Starters - I didn't use this resource as much as I thought I would; we had more writing assignments in history then I had planned on, which was fine with me. But I really love this book; it is a great way to get reluctant writers to write.

Math U See - Love, love, love Math U See....I am planning to continue this one too. All the kids seem to be doing well in it and enjoying the DVD's with Mr. Demme.

The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading - I used this with Dasher this year and she really made big improvement steps in her reading. What I especially like is that it is missing illustrations; those tended to be too distracting and made her guess what the words were.

Matres Magistres - Our co-op was a great addition to our learning this year. We studied composers, artists, hymns and memorized 2 poems and 2 passages in scripture. Our focus was on geography and ecosystems, with research, presentations and crafts that the kids did through the year.

Extra phonics resources - I used a lot more hands on stuff with Dasher this year; Bob Books, Pop for Sight Words, Rod & Staff Readers and a couple word games I picked up at thrift stores.

Miscellaneous Literature - These are some of the books we read aloud this year: Hittite Warrior by Joanne S Williamson, The Spartan by Caroline Dale Snedeker, Victory on the Walls by Frieda Clark Hyman and Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick. They were all excellent, although my kids found The Spartan to be a little dry. As you can see, I try to read books that fit where we are in history; I also have a book basket that I require the kids to read from on their own that has titles from ancient history in it. So next year, I will fill it with books about the early church and Middle Ages.

So the verdict? Most of the stuff I did this year I liked; but change can always be good. With my oldest now going into 8th grade I feel we do need to make some adjustments, like adding a foreign language, starting logic and digging deeper into vocabulary roots and composition. In the next few weeks I plan to do some research, read reviews and most importantly ask my homeschooling friends for their opinions. Thanks for listening in!


  1. This is great, Charlotte! And it totally gets me excited for the upcoming homeschooling years with my little boy. :) You're inspiring, and I really appreciate the way you share your education experiences with us!

  2. Thanks Melissa. I know it has helped me so much in the past when people share what they do and how it worked for them. Have a blessed day!

  3. This is great! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I love reading about your family. :) We have similar thoughts with our oldest too - adding in Spanish, more logic (planning for formal logic in 8th too) and latin roots more faithfully. What we are missing is a more formal music program. I would like to see Hannah begin a new instrument, but likely not till her 8th grade year. What foreign language will you be using? I am looking at this - http://www.gettingstartedwithspanish.com/ I heard about it on the WTM board and read the reviews on amazon.com. It looks very good and much less expensive than a DVD program like Rosetta or Tell Me More.

    Good to hear that the Ordinary Parents Guide was a great resource for you! It looks great!

    I'm actually thinking of starting a CM nature study group possibly either in winter of 2011 or next school year. I've been reading a few blogs with similar groups and they look wonderful! I think it would meet once a month initially, maybe bi-monthly. I'm telling you now so you can plan to fit it in to your planning, because I know you need one more thing. LOL

  5. Dawn, we need to talk about logic and I would love formal music too! Just not sure about the cost though. Oh my, I am totally excited to hear you are thinking about a CM nature study group! We would love to be a part of that. Thanks for your curriculum advice, my friend.

  6. Charlotte,
    I am debating over Science. I see you use Apologia. I took a brief look at it at the homeschool convention and was surprised to find that one book "fits all". I am sure it is very good, but it seems very "text book" (I'm tending more to CM styles.) and was wondering how with all that info it can be properly or even easily simplified for my guy. Any thoughts?

  7. Great question, Rebecca. I actually just started with formal science this year (the Apologia) and only my older two are doing it. For the grammar/early years I was very simple. We sketched things we saw in nature, animal or plant, then wrote a couple of facts about those animals. A couple of years I had them choose an animal in Kingfisher's First Animal Encyclopedia or a page in First Human Body Encyclopedia each week and they would sketch it in their notebooks and copy a few facts. We would also check out a ton of animal books at the library. In the early years my science curriculum is just filling their brains with facts.

    A great CM science resource is this site: http://handbookofnaturestudy.blogspot.com/ This lady uses Anna Comstock's book 'Handbook of Nature Study' and has on her site printable outdoor challenges, field guides and nature journal ideas. (All free!) Our co-op is actually going to go through a year of outdoor challenges this next school year using this resource.

    For your guy I would keep it simple. Focus on reading and phonics, training his heart, hands on stuff and making learning fun. Now about Apologia...You are right, it does seem more 'textbook'. In some ways when they get older, textbook type stuff comes more into play. I have older kiddos that need a more meatier science so I chose that one. It does have some CM type activities in each chapter....each child keeps a science notebook where they sketch what they are learning and the older children write short essays in. There are review questions to be answered and there is an experiment for each chapter too. This last year I only asked the questions, but for my older two I am planning to expand and require more of the end of the chapter work this year.

    Science for me is so a year-at-a-time decision....I don't even want to think about biology or chemistry at this point, but they are looming in the future. Thankfully, I have some good friends with kids that are high school age that school like we do and I can glean advice from.

    I hope this helped! :-)

  8. Thank you. That does help. I was leaning to wanting to keep it more easy going. I was talking with a couple friends today about this. I am going to pass on our exchange here as I think it might help them also.
    Thank you!!


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