Back To School

It’s that time of year again – Back to School Time! We actually school year round, taking breaks whenever it suits us. But every August I “officially” bump up Boo and Pumpkin Girl to the next grade and we continue on our merry way. This year I did something new before starting the new school year. I sat down and evaluated what we did last year, what worked, what didn’t and what new things I wanted to try for this year. I am so glad that I did this because it really brought many things into focus for me. Most importantly, for those things that didn’t work out so well, I was able to plan how to do better.

The main points – I’m using Sonlight Core 1 with two children, 8 yo and 6 yo. We’re spreading Core 1 over 1 1/2 years and we’ll start Core 2 in February 2008.

What worked:

History. We enjoy all the books that Sonlight provides. We added in Mystery of History, mostly to help us in extending the Core. Boo and Pumpkin seem to enjoy it, but I think they’ll get more out of it the next time we hit up world history.

Science. Again, we enjoy the books that come with Sonlight. We particularly enjoy the Discover and Do DVD that they produce.

Reading. Boo and Pumpkin both read way above their grade level. I have them using Pathway Readers and Reading to Learn Readers at their appropriate level. They each read aloud so I can help with pronunciation, phrasing and expressiveness. Boo reads the Sonlight readers that match his Language Arts level as well. He reads those on his own time, then narrates back to me a la Charlotte Mason so I can check his comprehension. Pumpkin Girl will do this as well, as soon as the appropriate readers gets closer to her level.

Math. Pumpkin Girl is doing wonderfully with Horizons. Boo is still struggling with his basic math facts. He is progressing well with Horizons, but essentially, he counts instead of adding. He understands how to add and why, but relies solely on his fingers. At least he stopped thinking the answer to every problem was 20!

Handwriting. We use Handwriting Without Tears and it’s working well for us. I had started using Seton to each cursive to Boo, but he wasn’t getting it, so we’re back to HWT.

Typing. Boo started using Typing Instructor For Kids. He really likes this and he’s up to typing about 12 WPM. His goal is 15 WPM, which he’ll need to reach before the program will let him into the castle at the end!

Seton Religion. This has been a true blessing! We started midway through last year, so we’re slightly behind, but going year round I know we’ll catch up soon enough.

What didn’t work.

Well, mostly the Charlotte Mason suggested activities. We were off to a good start with Picture Studies, Nature Studies, music and art, but they all fell by the wayside.

Language Arts. We tried using Sonlight LA, but LA 2 was a LOT of grammar for Boo andLAK was way too easy for Pumpkin. I dropped it completely for Pumpkin, who after all, has just finished Kindergarten, and adapted it heavily for Boo.

Rosetta Stone Mandarin. Way. Too. Hard. We’ll try again in about 8 years.

What sort of worked.

Piano lessons for Pumpkin. I need to be much more consistent in having her practice.

Science Experiments. I tend not to do these and just watch them on the DVD. I know they children would like doing them, so I need to try harder. I’d also like to have them start science notebooks.

Phonics. We’re using Explode the Code. I think these are ending up mostly as busy work, just worksheets to fill out. I don’t see either child retaining the information. I hate to drop them completely yet, so we’ll see.

What is new for this year.

Sonlight’s revamped Language Arts. We’ve only been using it for one week and already I like it much better. It’s got a much heavier emphasis on creative writing, even at Pumpkin’s level, but less of the endless grammar rules. Boo spells very, er…let’s say creatively, so we’ll need to put some focus there.

Seton Art. Pumpkin is using Art 1, which centers around the Liturgical Year. A short explanation of the week’s feast day and a simple but fun art project. Boo is using Art 3, which uses about 6 different art media throughout the year.

Rosetta Stone Spanish. Already this is a much better fit for us. Pumpkin Girl scored 95% on her first test.

Math-U-See. We need to do something to help Boo master his math facts. This program is highly recommended all over the place, so we sent away for their informational DVD. Boo was very enthused about it, so we ordered the Alpha level. It arrived today and when he realized what it was, he gave me a big ol’ hug.

When I finished my evaluation, I sat down with All Year Round, Boo and Pumpkin’s art book and my notebook and planned out my Year in Crafts. Don’t laugh! I want to do more crafty stuff with the children, focusing on holidays and the church calendar. I can never seem to get organized enough to pull it off, but I’m going to give it a good try this year.

I also wrote out my Weekly Plan for our first 9 weeks of school. Even though Sonlight provides excellent Instructor Guides, we adapt their 5 day schedule into a 4 day week. Plus, we add in enough of our own stuff like religion and art to make having my own schedule worthwhile. In order to stick with our picture studies and music, I added them to our schedule, which I never did last year. I only did 9 weeks in case I need to make changes. I used a planning sheet from Donna Young and just typed it all up. Each week, I’ll just print out the needed plan.

I use Fridays for Art, Nature Studies and all those fun not-so-extras. Using my Year In Crafts notes, I made up a Friday Plan for the entire year.

Boo’s art book came with a supply list, which I copied and took with me to Michael’s last weekend. I added things from Pumpkin’s art book too so I could shop all at once. I dropped Philip and the older children off at swimming lessons and only took Bip so I could shop in peace. $70 later, this is what I came home with:

And phew! I’m done planning for the year.

More Mac and Cheese, please!


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  • It looks like you’re ready for a great year. I’m feeling tired just reading about it. I’m planning today myself. I hope our year turns out as well as it looks on paper.

  • I’m encouraged by your planning. We are “due” to start back up in 10 days and I have done NO planning other than purchasing the books.

    We are going to give Sonlight LA a shot for my older (My son is doing First Language Lessons and its working so I’m not going to mess with a good thing). I love Sonlight History and look forward to getting back into Am History with Sonlight Core 4

    Great job planning!

  • Looks wonderful – it is so wise to sit down and analyze what works and what didn’t to go on from there (something I need to learn to do better, lol)

  • I enjoyed this look into the past and the future of your schooling! Well done. (and I’m trying to organize crafts ahead of time too, a whole year though? Not there yet! LOL!)

  • Hi Lorri,

    Your plans for the year look great. I like your idea of sitting down and really going through what worked and didn’t work.

    Have a great year!!!

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