Year in Review 2013-2014

In my 2013-1014 Curriculum post, I wrote:
The most notable change this year is that I am combining more children, yet keeping them in their own individual cores. Eliana and Malachi are doing Sonlight Core B, but I am having Malachi sit in on Core G History and Read Alouds with Dylan.  I had a hard time keeping up with RA’s last year with Dylan, and Malachi is ready for more advanced history and read aloud time – and both cover World History! To do this, I got ahead on Core B RA’s over the summer – we are on week 22. So, I can relax and focus on Dylan and Malachi.

Little did I know that I would finish Core B by the end of 2013 just to keep up with Core G! And start Core C to boot. We made it through the Feudal System in both Core C and G, as well as Mystery of History 2, before I waved the white flag and surrendered.

We are about half way through Core C. Luke has been reading Window on the World and Amazing Bible Facts and stopped at week 18. I have a stack of read-alouds from the Core to read over the summer. But, for the most part, I am ready to shelve Core C. My heart is not into it, and I am ready for a summer break.

On our list to read:

  • Strawberry Girl

  • Pippi Longstocking

  • The Twenty-One Balloons

  • The White Stallions of Lipizza

I may or may not pick Core C back up. Malachi is using Veritas Press Self-Paced History Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation (a review item), which will essentially replace Core C/G. He really likes it and it frees me up a ton. I'm a little overwhelmed trying to get all of our subjects in on a daily basis and my goal is to simplify this coming year. I think this will be a huge help!

What didn't work: 

Adding Core C mid-year. I'm happy with what we did get done, but I don't like the feeling of leaving a core unfinished But, I'm so getting over that. :)

Science ~ we did our human body unit study in the fall, and started Apologia Astronomy in the spring. We ended up reviewing Science4Us and Supercharged Science and didn't finish Astronomy. I will probably carry this over to next year. Maybe. Right now, I'm pretty burnt out on school, so I'm not sure. I might like to try something completely different.

Eliana, 1st grade

What worked:

  • All About Reading Level 1 & All About Spelling 1 ~ we finished! (Phew!) It took us 2 years (K and 1st) to work through both programs.

  • Explode the Code Book 2 - ended up being just what she needed, giving her time to mature before finishing AAR/AAS

  • Math Lessons for a Living Education - this is gentle and includes lots of review (almost too much at the end). She flew through this often completing a week's worth of lessons in one sitting, but it really boosted her confidence. Math is her favorite subject now!

  • I'm ambivalent about Daily 6-Trait Writing, Grade 1. This is the only book I like in this series, but we are still working through it.

What didn't work:

  • Explode the Code Online - just didn't work out and ended up being a waste of money

  • Write a Super Sentence - just didn't get to it

  • Beginning Geography, Grades K-2 – E-book - started strong - just didn't get to it, but I really like this book. Will probably pick it up again and finish it in 2nd.

  • Getty & Dubay Italic Handwriting - I should have started Book B and I didn't.

  • Singapore Math 1A ~ I didn't love this program for her initially. We tried again after completing Math Lessons for a Living Education and she is doing much better with it.

Malachi, 3rd grade

What worked:

  • All About Reading Level 3 (link to my review) and All About Spelling 3 (aff link) Malachi really took off in level 2 and this level was very easy for him.

  • Language Lessons for the Very Young Vol. 2  ~ this served it's purpose and he finished this, but I don't think we will continue with this series next year.

  • Primary Language Lessons (though we were not consistent with it).

  • Life of Fred: Edgewood & Farming (planned) but he also did Goldfish & Honey! (unplanned)

What didn't quite work: 

  • Getty & Dubay Book C ~ we made it half way and stopped when cursive was introduced. I'd like him to spend more time on manuscript before moving on.

  • Sitting in with Core G 2nd semester. Worked wonderfully the first semester, but I couldn't keep up, and Dylan was ready to work more independently.

Dylan, 8th grade

What worked:

I let Dylan move ahead on his own to finish Core G ~ specifically Story of the World and Mystery of History 2 on audio. Total, Dylan completed 2 volumes of Story of the World and 2 volumes of Mystery of History (we ditched the Kingfisher History Encyclopedia and the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History ~ just not needed). I missed the part about spreading Core G out over 2 years when adding in Mystery of History - so in a sense, we did 2 years of World History (MOH) in one year alone. That said, I don't feel so bad that we did not do every read aloud in Core G. And Dylan did not do every reader. (Remember, Dylan does not love to read and we are using a literature based curriculum.)

Dylan also did Jump In Writing this year. I'm really happy with the program, and Dylan did well when he did the assignments, but he mostly liked doing the activities in the book and not the final writing assignments. He still learned a lot and grew.

He finished Apologia Physical Science last week. We were nearing the end of the year with too many modules to complete, so I bought the book on audio, and he listened to the last 4 modules. Dylan is an audio learner so this was really a successful end to science this year. He did the modules at such an accelerated pace that I think he enjoyed it more and learned more. I did not make him do the journal or experiments or tests. But, he came to me every day and narrated all that he learned (on his own). In fact, he is still coming to me a week after he finished to tell me more of what he learned. He has an amazing recall of information and facts.

Dylan finished Life of Fred Pre-Algebra II and started Algebra 1. He also did The Algebra 1 Tutor Part 1 (a review item).

Overall, this was a better year for Dylan.

This summer, he will read:

  • The Shakespeare Stealer

  • I, Juan de Pareja (read-aloud that I have on audio)

  • and maybe The Hidden Treasure of Glaston (RA) and/or The Samurai's Tale

What didn't work:

Reading all the readers in Core G. In fact, when I pulled out my Core H IG, I just wasn't sure I could do it again. It was hard to get him to read what he did. I'm lacking in courage right now. I'm leaning towards continuing with Mystery of History and Story of the World on audio, and adding in a few Core H books, rather than following the Core H guide.

Nathan, 9th grade

Nathan did so well working independently through Core H, doing the readers and all of the history and read-alouds on his own, that I took it for granted that he would continue on with Core 100 in the same manner. But, Core 100 was a little harder for him, and with the lack of accountability (me), he fell behind on the history and literature. He will be finishing up Core 100 over the summer. He struggled with a big distraction this year - his computer. He loves Age of Empires and Luke and I struggled to help him find a healthy balance. If it wasn't his computer, it was Clash of Clans on his iPhone. He stopped loving books when he got so into gaming and that was concerning. As parents, we had to impose strict regulations and that led to strife. (Parenting is not for the faint-hearted.)

Nathan also failed to keep up with One Year Adventure Novel. He will need another semester to finish the program.

Nathan is still working on Life of Fred Algebra 1. I had him do the Algebra 1 Tutor Part 1, and when we finished, I ordered Part 2. So, he has been doing both and that has slowed him down. I really want to make sure he masters Algebra 1 before moving on.

What didn't work for Nathan this year:

  • Apologia Chemistry. It was too hard. He made it 5 modules in and asked to be done. I had him do a science fair project from Supercharged Science to finish off the year. (He built an underwater R.O.V robot). His transcript will list Physical Science with Intro to Chemistry (giving him high school credit for Physical Science + what he did in Chemistry). This is actually what our district does and calls it Integrated Science. To be honest, I bumped him up so he could do Chemistry with Jordan (who dropped the class after the first module), but it was too late to do Biology because I loaned my Biology set out to another homeschool family. So, Nathan will do Biology with Dylan this coming year. Which is perfect, because they can be lab partners. And Dylan should be ready to do Biology as it's the next book.

  • Windows Programming. We got off to a slow start with Nathan's new computer and not having internet at home to get it set up. This spring he picked up speed with it, but then his computer failed to boot one day and we have not had it fixed, so the program has been shelved.

  • Spanish 1. He started it, but couldn't get into it. We will start over this coming year.

Bottomline, I dropped the ball on Nathan this year. I was so focused on speech/learning with Bo, teaching Eliana to read, keeping Dylan accountable, and getting Jordan through his senior year with testing, college courses for dual enrollment, and graduation that I failed to hold Nathan accountable as I should have. The wonderful thing is that Nathan is a great reader and a hard worker. He will catch up and finish strong. He's on his last two books in the History of Us series and will do the literature as summer reading.

Jordan, 12th grade

What worked:

  • The Power in Your Hands Writing, though he didn't finish it. He ended up taking English 1010 at the community college for dual enrollment.

  • Taking college classes!

  • Taking the Compass Tess instead of the ACT. He studied for the ACT for months and stressed about it every minute. Finally, I told him he should just go take the Compass test - the only test our community college requires for admission. He got a perfect score on the writing test, and ended up taking college English second semester and got an A in the class. He did not test into college math at first, and was not planning to retest (despite my ernest request to do so), until he applied and interviewed for the Diesel Tech program and his advisor suggested he retake it. He did and tested two levels higher and into the math he needs for the program - Math 1400. I think a semester of college classes boosted his confidence. He worked more slowly and took his time the 2nd time and I was so relieved! He did well in all of his math courses in high school - Life of Fred made all the difference for him throughout high school! Though he thought Algebra II was too hard and never wanted to do it.

What didn't work:

  • BJU Government - he couldn't get into it. He ended up taking U.S. and Wyoming Constitution at the community college for dual credit second semester.

  • Economics for Everybody - I had a hard time getting him to finish this. It wasn't the program - he was just so busy being 18, working, and going to college that any homeschool classes were put on the back burner. Thankfully, his English class helped fulfill his economics credit. He ended up writing 4 papers on global economics, the race to the bottom, and more as he analyzed the Travels of a T-Shirt in the Global Economy and other New York Times articles on global economics. He got an A in the class, but I lowered his Economics grade on his transcript because he didn't fulfill the original course requirements. I'm still unsure if I made the right decision. If he would have come to me and asked me, I would have felt better about it, but he just didn't finish the DVDs and workbook.

Boaz ~ Preschool

We finished Tot School Printables in December and our year (beginning in Jan.) was a success ~ Bo really enjoyed it and learned almost all of his letters and sounds.

I was a little overly ambitious in planning for his preschool. I wanted to do too much. We started out with a focus on Little Hands to Heaven and added Animal ABCs as a supplement. And I was not able to do Before Five in a Row or Sonlight P 3/4 on a regular basis.

Then towards the end of spring Bo lost interest in all seat work. He mostly just wants to be read to. We rowed Katy No-Pocket earlier this month and did a few activities - but Bo did not want to do all that I offered him (namely printables!). He still likes to cut and paste, do matching activities, and play games. But, he mostly wants to read. I'm fine with that.

I want to row with all of my heart, but our discussion is very limited. Bo clams up and won't talk and he cannot narrate stories to me like Eliana could at his age. So, we are doing Bible from LH once a week, and I am reading Sonlight P 3/4 daily! (And I sneak in a craft here and there and he doesn't seem to mind those.)

Standardized Testing 

Because of the stress over testing, Jordan told me I need to test the other children so they have the experience (it is not required in the state of Wyoming). I took his advice to heart and all 4 grade school children took the Stanford Achievement Test (Stat 10) this spring. This was through BJU and offered through a local private school. Overall, it was a positive experience.

This post was inspired by Tristan @ Our Busy Homeschool! Read her Busy Homeschool's Year in Review here!

So, now I am in planning mode and feeling a little anxiety over what to do this coming school year. I really need a simple, easy year. I wanted to get everything planned, ordered, and organized this month and then be at peace and take a summer break knowing that I made wise decisions. But I haven't decided, and I will be restless until I do.


  1. Well, it sounds like you all did a great job. A great deal was accomplished.
    Blessings, Dawn

  2. Thanks so much for your honesty in your year review. I think you accomplished a lot! Having a senior always stressed me out too. Your children are blessed to have a mama who cares about them so deeply.
    P.S. I absolutely love reading all your posts...the way that you share your heart, struggles and triumphs is so refreshing to me. Bless you! Chris

  3. It's amazing that you can balance all those students, Michelle. You do a wonderful job! I love posts like these.

  4. Wow, what an amazing year! I am so impressed with the time you put into figuring out what worked and what didn't, and I will be praying that it will be a blessing for you as you plan for your coming year. Congratulations on completing so much, and more importantly on listening to your children's hearts and knowing when to push and when to let go. Hugs my friend!!

  5. I've gotten behind in reading your posts - I've been missing you! =) Thanks for taking the time to share. I'm eager to see what you decide to do about Sonlight. Also, I thought your school years ran Jan - Dec...? When did you make the switch to a more traditional start/stop? (or am I remember wrong in the first place?)

  6. I love your honesty and your wisdom. Great Post!

  7. What a great plan to right down pros/cons for each year!! You are so admired, Michelle, you do so so much and should be so proud :) I love reading about all your adventures (though I am 'core' illiterate). And that Bo just wants to be read to now.... that is truly all they need at this age-- despite our efforts to do so much <3

  8. I love that you took time to look back and evaluate what worked and what didn't! I think my most successful changes come when I do that. Juggling all these ages can be overwhelming, can't it? You did well, even though you feel you fell short with Nathan. He's at an age where he's responsible too, but still building those habits of consistency when Mom isn't checking daily. I imagine this next year will go even better! I look forward to reading about what you end up planning!

  9. Thank you so much, Christine! Makes me feel better. :)

  10. Thank you, Julie! I don't feel very balanced, but hoping to do better this coming year. :)

  11. Thanks, Abby! Tristan's post really inspired me! I read hers and lots came to mind and once I started, it was easy to write. This coming year, I really want to simplify things and am working towards that end. :)

  12. I'm leaning towards adding in Core H books to Mystery of History for Dylan. And taking a break from it with the younger kids. :)

    And I have been schooling the younger kids year round going Jan-Dec. but we got off a bit this year with starting Core C without a break and I am just too burnt out to finish. Plus, I really want to row FIAR Vol 4 this year!

    I've always schooled the older boys on a traditional school year (I would have mutiny if I schooled them in the summer, LOL!)

  13. Aw, thanks Amy! Yes, that is all they really need, but I noticed that Bo is much more high maintenance when I am not doing activities with him, so I am hoping to move to more fun learning activities instead of printables (he wants nothing to do with those!).

  14. Tristan, thank you for the inspiration! It really got me thinking! It can be overwhelming, but analyzing our year helped me in so many ways (and also helps hold me accountable) :D When I get all ready to share, I will be sure to come link up!

  15. I think many can echo the trials of some homeschool years while other years run smoothly. I appreciate your honesty. I am hoping with a new mindset to see a new journey unfold in our days.

  16. I enjoyed reading this and am glad you shared it. I always love knowing that your posts are honest and heartfelt. I think this is a wonderful way to recap your homeschool year and start planning for next year at the same time. I am going to copy this idea for a recap soon in hopes it will help me finalize my plans for the fall. I hear you on a simple year! I feel the exact same way and I thought I had done that for 2013-2014. I truly hope we both find balance, simplicity and still manage to create memories while learning together in our homeschools this new school year.