End of the school year wrap-up

End of the 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.

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7 comments on “End of the school year wrap-up”

  1. I want to comment on everything! = )
    AAR-Level 4 was such a BREEZE compared to the first couple of years. So glad to be done though. We all did a little happy dance after the last lesson. But now I’m totally procrastinating on starting Level 1 with Katie. She’s still 4 (5 in August) but maybe I’ll wait til next year. I’m hoping it’s like potty-training and that if I wait a little longer it’ll go smoother!?!

    AAS – You’re weekly lessons look like ours. *smile* Except instead of the app, I dictate a few sentences to them each day. Maybe I should look into the app.

    MUS – So are you going to switch Eden too? I still totally love it. So much that last year I started Ellie with Teaching Textbooks 3 (bought it used a few years ago) but then I geeked out and bought MUS Gamma. So she ended up doing 2 math curriculums (crazy) b/c she still wanted to do her “computer math”. But I’m so glad I switched b/c I don’t think she would know her multiplication facts nearly as well. And that’s pretty much what 3rd grade math is all about!

    Writing – I loved FLL 1 and 2 (we stretched it out over 3 yrs). And I was going to start FLL 3 but they started diagramming sentences! in 3rd grade! Then after reading Mystie’s blog posts, I decided not to do it. Grammar can wait. We’ll eventually do IEW’s writing course. But until then I’m trying to figure out what I like. I’m trying a half a year of Bravewriter (bought 5 months/books separately) and Classical Academic Press’s Writing & Rhetoric 1 (which is one semester’s worth). I’ll keep you updated on what I like best. *wink*

    I’m fascinated by IEW’s PAL program. Except a few years ago when I was checking it out at the homeschool conference, the lady got excited when I told her I was using AAR/AAS. She said she wished AAR would have been available when she was homeschooling!
    So you just got the writing book? Is that like a handwriting book? I might be interested in it for Katie. Except I just got HWT’s book Letters And Numbers for Me to use with her for this year.

    History – LOVE Story of the World CD’s! And I got a used activity book but it didn’t work for me. I just used a few maps out of the whole book. We had been doing Sonlight’s history cores but NEVER got around to reading all the books. However this year I got them used ipod nano’s. And with an Audible membership they can listen to a ton of the books from the booklist of the time period we’re studying. *homeschool hack!* = )

    Science – I continuously drop the ball with science. I get really excited about history/literature . . . . but not science. Why did I become a nurse again?!

    Well, that was my own little blog post in response to yours! = )

    1. Jessica, I love that you commented on everything! I love knowing what works for others, especially since you are ahead of me! You should start a blog, I would read it!

      I think the spelling app I use was free, all I do it put in the words every week and then I get a few days off of having to be involved! You should definitely check it out!

      Definitely let me know how writing goes for you next year, I want to know which one you liked best! As for IEW’s PAL program, I do only have the writing part. I knew I wanted to do All About Reading from the start so I only bought the writing section. What I actually bought was a CD with everything on it, so I just print it out for each kid. You are more than welcome to check mine out if you want to see what it is like. I think it is k-2, I just print out one year at a time. I have been really happy with it, especially because it helped my boys who had a harder time with writing.

      We may need to discuss the idea of used ipod nanos. I think that would be great for Eden. Seriously, using audible for the book list is brilliant!

      1. Hey Sarah,
        2 more questions . . .

        What’s the name of the spelling app?
        I just assumed it was an AAS app but they don’t have any.

        Will you use FLL with the boys too after they finish the PAL program? Or will you use it instead of FLL?
        I just checked out the sample pages from IEW’s site. And it looks really good. But it does look like a lot of overlap with FLL. And with part 3 of PAL’s program, I feel like it would be a little hard to get a 2nd grader to do composition. On the other hand, Part 3 does look like a really good transition into Writing & Rhetoric. So you could just stretch it out and only start part 3 in late 2nd/3rd grade. And then go to W&R after that. (just an idea)

        I really did like the FLL/WWE books 1 & 2. Except now I don’t like the level 3 for either book! The WWE 3 does mostly all dictation/narration and I feel like her dictation passages are way to hard. I would be spelling every other word and that would be annoying for them and me.

        I guess I should stop freaking out about writing. Probably most of my anxiety is that I don’t know how to do this! Gotta teach myself first. = ) And in the meantime focus on the big 4 parts of Language Arts:
        Copywork – Handwriting book
        Dictation – AAS
        Narration – (need to work on this one) maybe W&R or Bravewriter will help
        Read Aloud – we do pretty good with this one

      2. The spelling app is actually called Spelling Free, so I guess I was right about it being free!

        I am not exactly sure how I will do writing with the boys, my guess is that I will use a little of both programs. I like the copy work from PAL, so we will definitely be using that. Honestly, the copy work from Writing With Ease would be too hard for Judah right now. I think because reading is still a struggle, asking him to copy sentences is a lot. I often write my own simple sentences for him to copy that I know he can read well.

        I do really like FLL (at least level 1), so I will use that for first grade. It is just fast and easy. I will just skip anything in PAL that would be similar to FLL. I haven’t done part 3 in PAL, so I am not sure how that will play out when the boys get there.

        It sounds to be like your plan for hitting the 4 big parts of language is pretty solid! I wouldn’t be worried about it if I were you. I think Bravewriter looks really interesting, I will be excited to hear your thoughts on it!

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