End of the school year wrap-up
Now that the bulk of our school year is done, I am taking the time to look back over my plans for the past year to figure out what worked well and what failed miserably.
We finished our regular school year a week and a half ago, and we are finishing up our 2-week break before we start back into our lighter summer session. In case you are curious, we do school year round and take a break every 6 weeks. It helps me stay sane.
This is the first year I taught 3 kids and it was definitely a challenge figuring out how to balance them all —1st-grader and younger meant a lot of hands-on time for me. Below are my plans and curriculum choices for the past year and my thoughts on how it worked (or didn’t).
Just a quick overview: Eden (age 7) finished 1st grade; Judah (age 6) finished Kindergarten; and Levi (age 5) finished Pre-K, and also attended a preschool program twice a week.
All About Reading is still my very favorite program. That says a lot since I don’t particularly enjoy teaching reading. Between my 3 kids, we used levels 1, 2 & 4. To be honest, my oldest, Eden, is reading far above her grade level and breezes through these lessons in 5 minutes most days. I almost feel like she doesn’t even count.
My boys on the other hand need a lot more time and patience. My 6-year-old particularly struggles with reading so we are taking our time and plugging along. I can’t recommend this program enough!
Eden finished All About Spelling Level 2 this year, and Judah just started Level 1 this spring. We did one lesson a week with Eden. On Monday, we do the lesson with her letter tiles and then on Tuesday, she copies the words from her list into her notebook. On Wednesday and Thursday Eden practices on a spelling app and on Friday we have a quiz that includes a sentence or two from that week’s lesson.
I have found that the structure above kept us focused and gave Eden enough time to better grasp the concepts of the week’s lesson. In addition to her lesson each week, I sometimes add to her list a word or two that she still struggles with. This helps her learn words she often writes but may not have been taught yet. Typically, if I come across a word I want her to learn, I will just jot it in my planner to add to the following week’s list.
We started out the school year using Horizons Math program. I used it for Eden last year and, overall, I had been happy with it. But as Judah got into addition, I could tell he just wasn’t grasping the concepts like I wanted him to. After struggling for months, I finally gave in and borrowed Math-U-See from a friend (Thanks, Jess). I can’t even tell you how much I wish I had done that sooner. It made complete sense to Judah and using the blocks and watching the videos have been immensely helpful for him. He also thrives on a mastery approach to learning math — sitting with one concept until he has fully mastered it is really important to how he learns in general.
Since Eden was ahead in math and really didn’t need any more lessons for the year, I decided to have her practice by doing a quick run through the Math-U-See videos. I appreciate the way the instructor teaches. I also like that Eden is exposed to concepts related to Common Core math. (Check out Math-U-See’s comments on Common Core State Standards, under FAQ about the updates). We will definitely be continuing with Math-U-See next year.
Writing & Grammar
For 1st grade, Eden used First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease, both of which I was really happy with. Both were completely laid out and scripted for me and I saw big improvement throughout the year.
Judah and Levi used The Institute for Excellence in Writing’s Primary Arts of Language: Writing program. Levi, who has struggled with fine motor skills like writing, worked on learning to properly form letters. He is now about halfway through the lesson. He loves writing the letters on his dry-erase board and he loves the stories that go along with each letter. The stories help him to remember how to write each letter properly. Judah is doing copy work most days and while it isn’t his favorite, I can see a big improvement over the last year. I love the non-pressure approach to this program and found it very helpful in understanding and meeting the developmental needs of my boys when it comes to writing, which in our case was different from that of their older sister.
The plan was to use The Story of the World and its activity book for history this year and I totally dropped the ball on this one. We do have The Story of the World on CD, which the kids like to listen to fairly often, so they are grasping more than I have intentionally taught them. But I think I did a total of 2 real lessons. I fully plan to use this next year and have a history timeline on display we can add to as we are learning.
For science, we didn’t use a formal curriculum. All of my kids love learning about science and so we fit it in throughout the year based on what they were interested in at the time — basically, small student-led unit studies. It worked really well for us given the ages of our kids and I am happy I didn’t push a particular curriculum.
While we also covered a few more things over the year, these were our main subjects. Overall, I was pretty happy with the choices we made. I am also getting excited about starting to plan for next year.