2016-2017 school year wrap-up
We finished our regular school year (we do school mostly year-round) and I want to take a minute to talk about what we used this year for various subjects, what worked well for us and what we ended up ditching. Overall, I have been really happy with our school year and I feel like we found our groove.
I tried to hit all of our major subjects in this post, although I’m sure I managed to forget a few things. I think this list is long enough, though!
All About Reading
All About Reading is still my very favorite program. That says a lot since I don’t particularly enjoy teaching reading. Eden finished level 4 this spring, so now I only have the boys using All About Reading.
For Judah, we didn’t use any curriculum for the first half of the year, he just read to me and we practiced some of his word cards. He desperately needed to work on fluency, so that is what we did. I really struggled with letting go of our curriculum plan, but it was the best thing I could have done for him. He is so much more confident now and reading is starting to become a little easier for me to teach. It is still a subject that he struggles with the most, but he has improved immensely this year and he no longer hates reading, which is a huge win in my book.
Red Apple Reading
I have tried a few online reading programs to reinforce what my boys are learning. Red Apple Reading is the one that really works for us. Both Levi and Judah do a lesson a few times a week and I have noticed it has really helped their fluency with sight words. I really like that my kids can independently do this program — each day comes with a specific lesson that they just need to click on and complete.
I can’t say enough good things about Math-U-See. I love that there are videos teaching each new lesson so I don’t have to be the one doing it. For the most part, Eden and Judah do their math with little help from me . I am all for as much independent work as possible and both Eden and Judah are both confident and strong in their math skills. It is a win-win as far as I am concerned.
Levi is using Horizons Kindergarten workbooks for the year. I already had the books, so I figured: why not use them? Honestly, I have been extremely happy with them and I will be doing the same thing when Titus gets to kindergarten. They are colorful and fun worksheets and I feel like they give a good overview of math concepts that I want to introduce during kindergarten.
Math Facts Pro
As with reading, I have tried a few online math drill programs. A lot of them were good overall, they just didn’t fit my kids as well as I wanted. In February, I found Math Facts Pro and months later, we still love it. Some other drill programs just stress my kids out and they end up doing worse than better. This program still times them but the way it does the timing doesn’t make them feel pressured or frustrated, which was a huge problem for us with other programs. All 3 of my school aged kids use Math Facts Pro almost everyday and has definitely helped them improve their speed with their math facts. It is $1 a year per child after a month free trial, so I am definitely not complaining about the price.
All About Spelling
We started using All About Spelling when Eden started spelling in the middle of kindergarten and I really liked it for the first year or so, but this year it just wasn’t working for her. We stuck with it until February and then after reading tons of reviews we switched to Sequential Spelling. I am still using All About Spelling with Judah and plan to start it with Levi next year as well, but I may only use it for levels 1 and 2. It depends on how the boys do with it.
I was really unsure about switching to Sequential Spelling but I am so happy that I did. After reading reviews for days, I was still on the fence between two choices but I ended up going with Sequential Spelling because of the price. I figured if it ended up not working for us I wouldn’t lose too much money on it. Even after I got it and looked at it, I was still unsure that it would work for us. Within about 2 weeks, I knew it was exactly what Eden needed. She went from spelling almost everything wrong to spelling most of her writing correctly.
The gist is that everyday has a word list that you read to your child, they spell the word and you correct each word as you go. That is it. We do our spelling on a dry-erase board in the kitchen, usually while I am cleaning up the kitchen after breakfast. It goes relatively fast. I am impressed with how much it has helped Eden improve, so we will definitely continue with this next year.
As side note, I think I learned in my research that they recommend Sequential Spelling for second grade and up, so keep that age range in mind if you decide to try it out.
First Language Lessons
For grammar, we have used First Language Lessons for the past 2 years. Overall, I have been extremely happy with the ease and time commitment from the program. It only takes a few minutes, but it has really stuck with my kids and I feel like it has given them a good foundation.
Primary Arts of Language
All 3 of my school age kids are using The Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Primary Arts of Language: Writing program. I love that there are several grade levels (K–2) included in one purchase and I can print each child’s level when it is needed. For that reason alone it was definitely worth the price. I bought the program when Eden was in Pre-K and have used it with her and now her brothers since then. It has taken us from learning to form letters all the way to writing outlines and paragraphs. This was Eden’s last year, but I will definitely be using it again next year with my boys.
Science for us tends to be a bit of a free for all. It is something that all my kids are very interested in, therefore we do a lot of science. A lot of our reading is about science-related subjects, and we have quite a few science experiment kits. At the beginning of the year, I did a quick outline of what science subjects we should try to hit this year and made a point to check books out of the library on those subjects or to find podcasts about them. One of our favorite science podcasts is Brains On.
Eden and Judah took STEAM classes at our local library for 2 semesters and loved them. We have also been known to enjoy a documentary every now and then.
We are using the Story of the World CD’s for the bulk of our history, which we listen to in the car. I also use the resources in the activity book to check books out of the library that correspond with the period we are studying.