Monday, May 12, 2014

Our School Year in Review

I started working on this post months ago and finally had a chance to get back to it last Friday, converting it into another "Seven Quick Takes" post.  Of course I ran out of time to finish it then, but am wrapping it up this morning or else it will never get published… I hope it answers some of your questions on how our curriculum choices for the 2013-2014 school year have been working out for us this year.   (Note: This post contains affiliate links.)


.: 1 - State Testing :. 

THEY PASSED!!!! THEY PASSED!!!! THEY PASSED!!!!

ALL four of our older children PASSED (and some even EXCEEDED!!!!) ALL the required state tests they took last Thursday and Friday.  Deo Gratias!!! And thank you for the prayers!

This was a big accomplishment, especially for our oldest son who has struggled with Auditory Processing Challenges in the past and had not yet (ever!) passed one of these yearly required tests.   (You can read more about our situation and last year's tests in under #2 here.) Not only did he pass the reading test, he was only one point away from exceeding.  He is also one of the only two students to actually pass this year's Math test for 7th grade in our charter school!  

We celebrated!  In fact I had pre-purchased prizes for all four of them.
I knew they could pass. I'm so proud of all their hard work this year! 



.: 2 - Saxon Math :. 

I am so thankful that we switched back to Saxon Math following last year's state tests.  It is a demanding program, but WOW has it been effective for our children.  Surprisingly we are all really enjoying Saxon this time, and the extra help from tutors on most Tuesday and Thursday afternoons this year has been such a blessing.

Captain and Ranger just completed Saxon Math 7/6, Twinkle Toes completed Saxon Math 5/4, Chiquita only has 10 more lessons left of Saxon Math Intermediate 3, and Snuggles is down to just 4 more lessons of Saxon 1!

I love it when I find the older boys explaining "Math Concepts" to their little brother! 
My plan for the summer is to have the children continue Math lessons 2-3 days per week, except for the weeks we will be attending summer camps, with the help of the Teacher CDs, to give us a jump start for this upcoming school year and allow some breaks throughout the year when needed.


.: 3 - Language Arts and Latin :. 

We are still loving the Institute for Excellence in Writing courses.  This year the oldest three moved on from the Student Writing Intensive, Level A to the Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course: A.  It has options for completing the course in one or two years and we have opted for the two year plan.  Our third grader has been working through Student Writing Intensive, Level A and she should complete it by summer or early fall.

At the beginning of last year I thought I would incorporate some of the Themed Writing Courses as well, but the children just love the DVD classes given by Mr. Pudewa, and I love that it is easy to modify the writing assignments based on what they are studying.  For now my plan is to just stick with the Continuation Courses, moving on to the next level once this level has been completed.




Speaking of IEW, another favorite has been Primary Arts of Language: Writing and Reading. Earlier this year I was still not sure I wanted to stick with this program and considered switching to All About Reading (right now we are supplementing with just the readers) but now, at the end of 1st grade, Snuggles is pulling books off the bookshelves and reading independently after just one year of using this program an average of three hours per week. It has been very effective!


He has completed about 40 of the 80 reading lessons and has moved on to Part II in writing. He will continue PAL next year and should complete the program by the end of second grade.


I love All About Spelling just as much as ever and am currently using it with my first grader, as suggested in PAL.  (I actually wish I had the time to continue All About Spelling with a couple of the older children, but Phonetic Zoo has been a great alternative.)

We've been supplementing with lots of great literature, both independently and during our afternoon family read-alouds.

Latin is probably my least favorite, but the children don't seem to mind and have been completing it without any complaints.  The older three are almost finished with Latina Christiana 1 (next year they will most likely move on to First Form) and Chiquita has been studying Prima Latina.


.: 4 - History and Geography :.



This year we have spent the majority of our formal school time focusing on Math and Language Arts, which hasn't left that much time for extra History and Geography projects.  We have been reading through some of the suggested books listed in Connecting with History Volume 1: A Guide to Salvation History, completed the various Maps, Charts, and Graphs workbooks, and studied a few more of the States in our State-by-State Study, but that is about it for this year.



The children have mentioned that they miss creating the coordinating Lap Books like we've done in the past, but we just haven't had the extra time this year.  I also only got through the first couple weeks of Classically Catholic Memory: Alpha but I haven't given up on it completely yet - just for this year!

Building the Parthenon 


.: 5 - Science :. 


The older boys completed Concepts and Challenges in Science Book 1 (the sections on Physics and Earth Science) and rather than have them move on to the first half of Concepts and Challenges in Science Book 2 I decided to have them join the younger children and we are all studying Chemistry together.



Captain and Ranger are using Focus on Middle School Chemistry with Laboratory Workbook and Teacher's Manual.


I ended up moving our 4th grader back down to the Focus on Elementary Chemistry (with Laboratory Workbook and Teacher's Manual) along with our 3rd and 1st graders.  (Next year she'll move back up to the Middle School levels.)



Even though they haven't all been as yummy as making marshmallow molecules, we have all really enjoyed the corresponding Labratory experiments. 


Originally I thought we would complete two books this year - Focus on Elementary Chemistry followed by Focus on Elementary Biology - but we'll be sticking with just Chemistry this year and moving on to a second topic next year.



With all our other studies and activities one course was all I could manage this school year and still be able to leave plenty of time for outdoor play, exploration, and nature sketching!



.: 6 - Art and Music :. 


So far we have completed four of our six units from Meet the Masters Track A.  (You can scroll through all our completed lessons here.) This program has been such a hit with all the children and we are looking forward to completing our final two units for this school year on Pablo Picaso and Claude Monet.  I'm sure we will be continuing this program next year, especially since we already have the rest of the tracks (for three more years) and all the art supplies!

I've had to let go of my hopes to continue Along the Alphabet Path with my little ones for now.  It just not possible during this season of our family. Of course we are still incorporating lots of fun field trips, feast day celebrations, and more!  Even if I haven't gotten to everything I had initially planned or hoped, I'd say it is turning out to be another productive and successful school year!


.: 7 - Religion :.  

I don't like to think our beautiful Catholic Faith as a "school subject" to be checked off this list, but I can't leave it out either.  My husband continues to teach our children on Sunday afternoons using various levels of the Baltimore Catechism.  We supplement with lots of great books and do our best to incorporate the Catholic faith in our home - the "Domestic Church."

We had hoped to be given permission to take our older children to one of Sean's brother's parishes this summer to receive the sacrament of Confirmation in the Extraordinary Form, but that request was denied. At this point they will need to go through the local parish program once they are in high school… For now we will continue praying, preparing them at home, and preparing Snuggles for his First Holy Communion next year!



I think that pretty much sums up our school year so far. I have once again fallen way behind in answering emails, so if you have any questions for me please leave them in the comment box below and I will do my best to respond. I hope you all have a great week! Summer is almost here!! :)

34 comments:

  1. Congratulations to you and the children! How incredibly exciting! Snuggles is doing super good too! Very impressive! -Genevieve

    2014-05-12 20:04:02

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  2. Beautiful review, beautiful pictures! We use the maps and charts workbooks too. Do you like the Classically Catholic Memory program? Thanks for sharing your curriculum reviews!

    2014-05-12 20:46:01

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    1. I do like the Classically Catholic Memory program, even though we only completed the first couple weeks.. I think it is ideal for a co-op situation, but it would work well at home too, at least if your school year isn't quite as busy as ours was this past year! ;) I've noticed that we already incorporate so much memory work (prayers, Baltimore Catechism, poetry, etc) and it really hasn't been necessary. I love the concept and the materials though, so I haven't ruled it out and may still use it at some point in the future.

      2014-05-13 01:33:24

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  3. Jessica: You may feel you fell short on all you had wanted to accomplish, but you have done so much and still maintained that desire the children have to learn...so important. You are always such an inspiration. May I ask you about your science choice for this year? We have been using the Young Explorers Series by Fulbright and I know you have used it in the past. We have enjoyed it and have done many experiments, but it seems to be lacking something for us. The kids are not excited, anymore. I do not know your reasons for switching, but do you feel your new program has been a benefit? Thank you so much for your time in replying. May God bless you richly in your decision to stay where you are and may your summer be full of joy. Kristi

    2014-05-12 23:31:00

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    1. Thank you, Kristi! I have always had a tendency to set goals I can't possible achieve. :) I'm very happy with our switch to the "Focus On..." books from Real Science for Kids! The books are much smaller than the Exploring Creation series, but my children have found them interesting and engaging. The author is very good at explaining topics clearly and we have all enjoyed the experiments. There are ten chapters in the Chemistry book, each has two parts: reading and experimental. Ideally our goal was to complete the reading one week and the experiments/workbook pages the next, though I didn't get to science with the younger children every week this past school year. We'll be working on some extra science these last few weeks before summer, now that our Math books are completed! ;)

      2014-05-13 07:16:22

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  4. That's so great that your kids did well on the tests. We did standardized testing for our eldest daughter in the two days before our new baby was born. She hasn't done particularly well on these types of tests the past few years of public school so I was nervous about how she'd test after completing most of 7th grade for our first year of homeschooling. I was stunned at how well she did. I love Saxon Math. We use to use it during the summer to fill in the gaps of what wasn't being taught in the public school and this year we used it for homeschooling. I really think the approach they take to math has made it so she understands what she's doing and that makes a huge difference compared to the math curriculum they used in the school.

    2014-05-13 00:13:46

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  5. Hello Jessica, What kind of standardized testing are you using? I am curious because I do them every year with my older children. I use the PASS test and also the CAT test (from Seton). Are you using anything else? Sometimes it helps to try different tests. The PASS test is untimed and good for homeschoolers.

    2014-05-13 01:05:29

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    1. Our children have been required (as part of our home-based charter school) to take the OAKS test the past few years. Unfortunately we aren't given any options and if they fail it the first time they have to take it again… It is a frustrating test, but at least they have been getting lots of practice with test taking skills.

      2014-05-13 01:26:23

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    2. Interesting, I have never heard of OAKS, but I live in NY. I don't know about charter schools here, but as homeschoolers we have a pretty good selection. I can understand why you are so relieved how well it went. My recent post Flowers for Mothers/Blumen für Mütter

      2014-05-13 02:26:57

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  6. I'm trying to make a final decision on what to use for my daughter. She'll be starting kindergarten in the fall. Would you recommend Primary Arts of Language: Reading or All About Reading?

    2014-05-13 02:02:39

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    1. Hi Kari! My friend Trina and I have recently been comparing the two and talking about the pros and cons of each program. I'll try and post the list later today. :)

      2014-05-13 12:49:41

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    2. I haven't forgotten and have started working on the post. We have a friend of mine, along with her five children, visiting this week, so it hasn't let much time for the computer. :)

      2014-05-14 17:42:32

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    3. I haven't forgotten and have started working on the post. We have a friend of mine, along with her five children, visiting this week, so it hasn't let much time for the computer. :)

      2014-05-14 17:42:32

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  7. Congratulations on the children's passing their tests! What a relief. :) Out of curiosity, are the girls still taking piano lessons? (I know they used to as part of their musical studies.)

    2014-05-13 07:16:23

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    1. We took this year off piano lessons so that the funds could go towards Math tutors. I am pretty sure that I've found a talented (and affordable!) piano teacher for this next school year who might be able to come to our home every other week to give lessons to our four oldest! Say a prayer it works out! :)

      2014-05-13 12:26:14

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    2. Glad you think you found a piano teacher for next year! I worry that if I'm ever homeschooling someday we would have trouble affording much in the way of extracurricular activities.

      2014-05-13 12:32:11

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  8. I have been following your blog since last Fall and have enjoyed so much reading about the various curriculum, materials, activities, and gifts you've incorporated into your family's learning experience! My oldest is four and I also have a toddler and baby on the way. You and your family have been an inspiration to me over the past year and I know my homeschool experience has already been greatly blessed and enhanced by your blog. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with women like me, it's such a gift! God bless!

    2014-05-13 11:50:39

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    1. Thank you, Sarah! Congratulations on your new baby on the way! :)

      2014-05-15 04:12:32

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  9. Girl, you got A LOT done with the kids this year!!! And YAY on their tests!!!!!! Such a RELIEF!!!! (thank God that we don't have that requirement in my state!) I was wondering what you use for grammar study - or do you formally study grammar? Is Latin also your working grammar course? I've been mulling over grammar and writing programs for my rising 3rd grader this coming school year and have it nailed down to two Latin courses: Prima Latina or Little Latin Readers (CHC). As for English/grammar, it's still a toss up between Seton English, Voyages in English (1958 editions), Primary Language Lessons (Mason approach) or a combination of all three, taking the strengths of each and doing an "eclectic" English/writing program (this year we used Seton & Voyages in that way and it worked out well). We're also looking at using Apologia's Swimming Creatures of the Fifth Day and several living books to go with that as we study Volume III of Connecting w/ History, so getting into the New World explorers and pirates, so thought marine biology would be a great complement to history. Also have Real Science for Kid's Astronomy and will use a few chapters of that when we study Galileo as part of history, too! Glad you're all enjoying Saxon - we dropped it for Singapore 1 this year (and some Seton in there, too) but I use the method of Saxon's review in Singapore - I keep certain topics in constant "review" and have been incorporating much more manipulatives as well. Just found Saxon to be TOO MUCH and felt burned out by lesson 32! Thanks for posting your curriculum updates and will look forward to what you'll all be up to for next school year! If you get a chance, would love to hear your grammar choices! Blessings!

    2014-05-13 15:51:22

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  10. We are planning all about reading for my 5yo too,,,I'd love to see this as well. In your free time. ;) My recent post 2014 Tour de Parque, day 5

    2014-05-14 22:50:38

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  11. Thank you for referring back to your reasons for switching from TT to Saxon. I have a variety of age kids and some use Teaching Textbooks. I've noticed that they are "behind" but I too was hoping that if I just got them ahead a grade or two they'd be on par. However, I have recently discovered gaps as well. My 10th grader is doing things in Saxon that his older sister didn't see until college (she used TT). I have a 6th grader in TT learning the same thing his 4th grade brother is learning in Rightstart. I hadn't quite processed all this yet, but when I read your post I decided that I really need to reconsider the way we are doing math. Thank you.

    2014-05-15 01:54:13

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    1. That is so interesting! I noticed the same things. When we first switched from TT, my 4th grader was being taught a concept in the first lessons of Saxon that were finally being introduced at the very end of 6th grade in TT - two years later! Makes me so glad I switched from Teaching Textbooks when we did.

      2014-05-15 04:09:03

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  12. You might also consider Singapore Math (Primary Math) for your elementary and middle school-aged kids. It is a GOOD program and works a grade ahead, generally speaking. It teaches from the mastery perspective and utilizes mental math. In level 1 A & B they are already doing beginning multiplication and division, for example. Children in Singapore score the highest in math in the world - that's saying something! You might want to look into it if its method appeals to your family.

    2014-05-15 02:29:39

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    1. Thanks, Krista! We did include some editing for grammar, in addition to the Latin and incorporating grammar into their writing program. That seems to be enough for now and we will continue Latin (and editing) in the future for that purpose.

      2014-05-15 04:11:51

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  13. Congratulations to all of you, I remember so well how discouraged you were last year and this is just such happy news as well as an inspiration to stay the course and find what works. I absolutely appreciate all your honesty on the process. We've had a good start to homeschooling but are already tweaking for next year, i take your tips very much to heart.

    2014-05-15 19:17:55

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  14. Beautiful kids, scenery & excitement about school:) Where did you get those file folder games?

    2014-06-16 09:41:07

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    1. So sorry I missed responding to your comment, Emily! The File Folder games are part of Primary Arts of Language (PAL) from IEW. The program comes with everything (except the actual folders) to assemble the games.

      2014-08-21 05:18:43

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  15. Back in September I started watching to see if you would post your curriculum plan for the 2014-2015 school year. Our children line up in ages and your plans are so helpful to me in planning my own school year. I actually built my own curriculum instead of using a pre-packaged plan this year because of the guidance it gave me and we had our best school year this year! If you could find the time to post what you used this year I'd be soooo grateful, because I want to start planning for the next school year soon! God Bless you!

    2015-04-22 12:38:19

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    1. I'm glad to hear that you have had such a great school year and that my own plans have been helpful! I have actually had my 2014-2015 Curriculum post in my drafts folder since last summer! I've opened it to work on many times and it always gets set aside to finish "later"… I do need to find the time to finish it up, even though it's so late and the year is coming to an end! I will try and get back to it soon!

      2015-04-22 16:41:58

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  16. I'm considering using Focus on High School Chemistry with my 9th and 12th grader. I see you used the middle school program. Any insight into the program would be helpful. Thanks.

    2016-04-03 19:35:05

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    1. I've been happy with the program for my younger children, but haven't seen or used any of the Focus on High School books. My boys are currently using the Prentice Hall Physical Science for 9th grade.

      2016-04-05 14:36:09

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    2. Thanks. Is the Prentice Hall physical science well suited for homeschooling? Is there a workbook and lab book? or just textbook with questions? are answers provided?


      Thanks. ~Jennifer

      2016-04-05 18:24:02

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