Planning Our 2018-2019 Homeschool Year {Part One}

For myriad reasons we have decided to wrap up this school year early {late April/early May}, take a brief break {we never take long breaks, really}, and then dive back in {possibly “restarting” as soon as late-May-ish}. However, instead of rushing ahead with new grades and new topics and new books and new routines oh my, we will be trying a different approach: a review year. Or, at the very least, a review half year. 

I’ve felt for the last month or two—and my students have felt it, too—that we sort of need a re-group at this point in our homeschooling journey. My thought is that the first part of the year {say, maybe up until Christmas} will be primarily a back-to-basics type review of math and language arts, along with a re-reading of many of our science, history, and other texts.   

Grade-level wise, this would be more of an in-between time rather than a hard number change: 6th/7th for Agent E, 4th/5th for Agent J, and 2nd/3rd for Agent A. We will most likely continue with our current weekly schedule, as it is still working well for us. 

Following are more details about what we will be doing for math, language arts, and Spanish during our review time. Other subjects will be addressed in future posts.

My students on a recent visit to the Air and Space Museum

Math


There are lots of books out there purporting to make math “fun” . . .  but truth be told we’ve tried most of them and most of them suck. Following are the few we’ve thoroughly enjoyed and plan to re-read:

Sir Cumference by Cindy Neuschwander
Math and Algebra and Geometry by Basher Books
Various math-related titles by David A. Adler

We also liked Mathematicians Are People, Too {volumes one and two} but they are long reads and we will not be repeating them just yet.

Language Arts


As with math, there are a few language arts book series we tend to re-read each year:

Words are Categorical by Brian P. Cleary
GrammarPunctuation, and Creative Writing by Basher Books

Of course the Agents continue to do tons of independent reading on their own {at last count over 700 titles between the three of them so far this school year}. I anticipate this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. While I will occasionally request books at the library I think they might find interesting, generally I don't worry too much about what they choose to read for pleasure.

Bookshelf and reading nook; one of the favorite spots in the house

Written Work for Math and Language Arts


All three Agents will have daily written math/grammar/writing practice using some of the workbooks that have become favorites, including BrainQuest and Summer BrainQuest as well as Carson Dellosa Math and Language Arts Skill Builders. 

Sadly, the BrainQuest workbooks do not continue after 6th grade, and there are only a few of the Carson Dellosa workbooks {algebra and geometry} she hasn’t already done, so we will mostly be investigating new options for Agent E. She already does quite a bit of written work with the Everything You Need To Ace series we started this year, and some of those will be carrying over into next year.

We don’t really use many free online printouts anymore, but one we do still circle back to {for both math and language arts} is Worksheet Works. Another good source for math worksheets is KidZone. No Agent has ever been fond of video math lessons {think Khan Academy}, but they do enjoy occasional games at sites like ABCya and others.

Another project we’d like to get back to is our letter writing. A while back the Senior Agents made a list of people they admire/would like to meet/would want to talk to in person if they could. Sort of the who would you invite to a dinner party question with a homeschool/writing angle. So far they’ve only written to three people {and only heard back from one}. They also have a pen pal with whom they would like to stay in better connection.

Our fierce mascot

Spanish

Because it is the best introduction to the Spanish language for beginners that we’ve come across, we will be starting our review of Spanish by repeating the Coffee Break Spanish podcast lessons we’ve completed so far {1-30} and then continuing on. After that we might try the Berlitz Basic Spanish lessons I’ve been using, although they move rather quickly for “beginner” Spanish, so it will depend on where the Agents are after our podcast review. Agent E already does Duolingo on her own each morning, and I’d like to get Agent J on board with that, too. 

Everything About Homeschooling in February Is Awkward

Oh, February. How do you manage to be the shortest month on the calendar and yet the longest month of my homeschooling year?

You know what I mean. February is the funkiest month (not in a good way). I’ve heard it’s the time homeschoolers are most likely to want to give up, and I believe it. You are far enough into the school year that you are committed to finishing, yet “finishing" is still so far off as to seem unattainable. It’s pretty much lose-lose.

For many folks it’s also cold and snowy and icy and going outside is not happening. This year at least we’re not dealing with weather blahs (thank you, southern California) but we’ve BTDT and it’s no bueno. 


Another thing that always hits me in February is a strong desire to plan the following school year. Which is a fine idea—I love a good plan—but it distracts me from what we’re actually supposed to be doing this year. Then of course my potential agenda starts looking so much cooler than my current agenda and so I start to feel resentful of the fact that I need to complete what seemed like a good idea last summer before I move on to what will obviously be a much better curriculum with clearly superior educational choices and why didn’t I see that before?


In sum, February makes me question everything. That’s not a bad thing . . . reflection is necessary and anticipation is exciting. But not if it overwhelms you. What helps me is taking things one step at a time, and writing it all down.

So right now I’m going through everything we have done (and are doing) in each subject and figuring out exactly where we will be at the end of the school year. In most cases I’m pleasantly surprised at how much we’ve accomplished. Looking back at everything we’ve covered and planning our end game for each subject is encouraging me to slow down and appreciate the work we’ve done and how the Agents have grown since we started.

Once I finish that, I will move on to evaluating the good and bad for the year. This is not as painful as it sounds. I kind of like seeing what works and what doesn’t; it’s liberating to let go of ideas that simply were not useful, and knowing we got at least some things right makes me optimistic for the days ahead.


What kind of relationship do you have with February? How is the school year feeling right now? What changes will you make going forward?