> Bless Their Hearts Mom: Our Recipe for a Successful School Year!
Friday, July 7, 2017

Our Recipe for a Successful School Year!

old primer

So along with the 4th of July celebration this week, we are wrapping up our first home school year!

 When we pooled Miss Grace from her private school in October, it seemed like we were taking on something we were totally prepared for! But as time went on the "Homeschool Mantra" became true for us- "a parent really is their child's best teacher!" You ARE the one that knows their weaknesses and their strong points, and how far that they can be pushed to excel, the best!

Miss Grace quickly adapted to the change of schooling, and after the two months of un-schooling we found a happy medium- a mixture of audio visual and computer with workbook. Once we found that groove, she began to really thrive and at the end of the year was way ahead of her old classmates. So for those of you who are thinking that you can't do it, I wanted to share how we did it through our first year, with me holding down a full-time job and blogging on the side (which in many ways is like running a small business!).

easy peasy logo

For Miss Grace's 4th grade year we primarily used the Easy Peasy All-in-One FREE online computer program  (yes, I said FREE!!!) . The program incorporates all the basic curriculum subjects in 'year grade' or you can use just one or two sections, at a time, based on your child's needs/levels.This helped us greatly, as Miss Grace was on different grade levels, for different subjects. A HUGE plus is that the program is PRE- Common Core, and has a religious basis, allowing for a continuation of what she had at private school. And thanks to the HUGELY helpful Facebook groups, there was never a time when downed page links didn't get fixed, or sorted out, and help was always at hand, for the education side, and your emotional side (LOL, parental breakdowns about doing ENOUGH are common!).

 We used Easy Peasy for science history, math, grammar and writing. Additionally, because I had the A Beka student workbooks left over from her school, she uses them for Math and Grammar, for additional practice and work. 

nessy logo

For for phonics and spelling, we used the Nessy online program, a British program, that is structured for dyslexic children. One of the reasons I was very thankful we were home schooling was after the first 2 months, I realized the traditional method of learning wasn't working and after a friend's suggestion to re-test, I had her tested for dyslexia, and found she was not borderline as school had said, but showing moderate levels! No wonder traditional wasn't working for RETENTION! So I changed how I taught some of the subjects, with one of those changes trying out the Nessy program. It made SUCH a difference in her spelling, in that it allowed her to go back and understand spelling rules, and to apply them, in a way she COULD remember. So that by March we were able to incorporate a grade level spelling/ vocabulary workbook back into the curriculum, as well. Nessy finally has a homeshcool parent program, including their online testing and 4 programs, AND a blog for homeschoolers! They are also redoing their typing program, so it will be new in the Fall! I really can't recommend this program enough- it has made learning FUN again for Miss Grace!

History was the subject that had vexed me the most and why we finally pulled her out of school. We ended up going back and starting over, with the thirteen colonies and going forward in American History, after I realized she had memorized things, but had not LEARNED them! History is SO vital, that I couldn't leave it where she was, so we backtracked to where she needed to understand more, and started with a more hands on approach. She not only learned via reading, but by videos, games and by making projects helping to cement the learning. In many ways it was more like the history that I had been taught, where the teachers dressed up or we did special projects, like a true to history Thanksgiving dinner with wild foods and game,to bring home the reality of what life was like for the Pilgrims. This type of learning tends to stick with kids so well-by 

Science was another area where she was able to do a lot of experiments and to explore the concepts she was learning, like the water cycle, in real life, in real time. Nothing is better than being able to apply the science you are learning to the nature you see outside your window! Again being able to do more experiments (about one or two per week) allowed her to really understand what she was learning.

 By combing the online program with workbooks in Math and Grammar, I was able to keep track of what she was learning, and to help her with the areas that she needed more assistance on. Sometimes that meant grading papers at 9 pm at night, but we got through it! This duality also allowed for her to work on independence and time management!

One of the big blessings of the homeschool program was the flexibility! We started out trying to stick with a typical school schedule of getting up at 8:30, having breakfast, then getting dressed and then starting her school day, with sometimes ending before lunch, and sometimes after lunch. She then had free time for the rest of the day for hands on creative play and learning.But in true homeschool fashion, after a couple of months, that neat schedule became more flexible, and sometimes it was just a pajama day, or a 'seep in' day, with all the work getting done in the afternoon hours! But we never went past 4 pm on any day!

That flexibility also allowed us to travel more for dance competitions, and to include field trips into the trip, that otherwise we would never had made. At her private school they got ONE field trip per year (I can remember having at least 3 per year growing up!), but thanks to these mini-trips and joining a local home school alliance,  she had 10 field trips, in a partial year! TEN! These field trips really helped her to take in what she was learning, see it applies, or apply it herself, and come to a better understanding.  By not being tied to a set schedule, sometimes she even completed her daily work IN the car, while we were enroute, allowing her to not loose a school day at all! It also allotted us to have many mini-vacations during that would never have been possible during a normal school year, with only a limited amount of allowable days off!

As our school year was winding down we found that we finished what would be a typical school year pretty much TWO months earlier than everyone else, allowing us plenty of time for review, before the Iowa test, and to have more Co-op and Fun learning days, where we scheduled fun things like art and nature lessons.

I was actually surprised how well, and quickly, Miss Grace adapted to homeschooling, and how she decided she did not want to go back to private school, and wanted to continue to homeschool through HIGH SCHOOL (EEEK)!  I really think it has to do with her having a say in her schooling. By that I mean I would lay out her daily requirements, and then she had the choice of what to do, in which order and if she wanted to work ahead for the week, or not. She was also able to follow rabbit trails, when she had side questions related to her studies. She had the time to go seek out the answers and apply that information to her learning. Because she was involved in outside activities, the daily 'social aspect' that every decried about homeschooling really wasn't there at all. In fact, I'd say getting her AWAY from the bullying, mean girls and cliques, was more emotionally HEALTHY, than keeping her exposed to it every day!

So what changes are we making besides going around this year? 

In evaluating our school year and the changing needs of Miss Grace, like how for example she does better with every other Monday off,to allow her to get back on schedule post-visitations,  apparently common for many kids with the same situation. So for the 2017-18 year, we decided that a year-round schedule might be better suited, as it allowed for the time off. So she will be doing one week of 5 days, then 1 week of 4 days, twice a month. As our Summer is hovering around the 80-95 degree mark, with 85 to 92% humidity, even the THOUGHT of being outside, makes you just MELT. So in thinking how we could take the 'big' family vacation during a COOLER time of year, we decided to also make homeschool year round. This way not only is the vacation better for the family budget, we have more days that we can 'take off' for special events and functions. Or just a 'hooky' day when mentally needed! Obviously a year-round schedule isn't for everyone- it really is based on your needs and your work schedule!  And with typical school 'Summer vacations' getting closer to 8 weeks (4 if you count all the extra-curricular requireds during the Summer), it doesn't seem like to much of a change at all!

The other major change we're making is the daily scheduling.  Instead of doing a daily plan, we are swapping to a weekly plan, with a block schedule. This way she can the primary subjects (math, science, history) 3 days a week, and the other subjects 2 days a week. These larger blocks will allows her to complete the same amount of work, as she would have on a daily schedule, but this way she can focus more fully on one subject and have to leave it, when she wants to keep exploring it. Each day she can reorder the subjects for the day, to what she wants to tackle first, or last. Plus with having every other Monday off she can have a mini vacation day or she can choose to work on projects like her history project and art projects or something somewhere so it could also be a project.

One of the things I realize that her school had not really gone over with the kids was Geography as far as knowing where ALL the states are, and what their capitals are. For some reason, it is put in 6th grade...So that is something we'll be starting this month, as we start off the school year, before heading into Ancient Civilizations. I'm also adding in Map Reading and Atlas reading, as I think today's kids are VERY deficit in it, thanks in major part to Google Maps! 

We are sticking with Easy Peasy for the Ancient Civ section, but adding in a bigger video component, a weekly art/STEM related project, and the use of outside resource books, as archeaological pictures really do make a difference in understanding civilizations different from modern ones!

 And Miss Grace is so far ahead on Math, we are switching over to Saxon Math for the first half of the school year, and then depending on where she's at, we will start Easy Peasy Algebra 1, with using the Saxon worksheets as well, for the second half. I'll need prayers for that! Algebra 1 was NOT my best subject at all! LOL

For Science this will be our first year of using Apologia,  using their Young Explorers chemistry program it has a wonderful textbook that includes multiple experiments for every chapter as well as a journal that allows her to work on the experiments and to notate things that she sees with scientific theory, it hadn't been my original plan but I was lucky enough to win a set over the summer allowing us to go ahead and try it they saw multiple recommendations from Friends

We will be using some of Easy Peasy again for Grammar, but primarily using the Seton Grammar workbook, and two different poetry and writing programs on the side, to really incorporate Journal writing, as well as working on different types of small research papers, to get her ready for Junior High level writing. Spelling, Vocabulary and Phonics will continue to be based out of a Spelling Book, along with different word enrichment workbooks, as I found that combination worked really well for Miss Grace at the last quarter of the school year. 

Bible this year will be working on character, thanks to you a couple of different ebooks that I got in a homeschool bundle that will also incorporate Bible reading and discussion, as well as writing. This also allows her to work on her cursive. Amazingly enough she prefers to write in cursive at home for her tests and work! Which is probably a good thing, as her printing is not too swift, but her cursive is quite nice!

 The big change this year is adding Foreign Language as Miss Grace asked to start one! Easy Peasy actually has an intro for 6th graders, that discusses romance languages and the things they have in common, before getting into basic Spanish. So she will be using that for the understanding of the similarities of Spanish,Latin and French, and then incorporating Spanish vocabulary toward mid-year. Which should work well, as she had some Spanish already, and I think the combination will help her reading and spelling/vocabulary work this year as well! Then she will start French next year. As she already worked on some Irish over the last 2 months as well, I think they will both be relatively easy for her.

Art is changing this year as well,as she will be working on historical art pieces, tied into the different civilizations and working on art within her Bible studies. But when she has breaks from those, she will pick up where she left off on the beginning drawing art program, she had started last year (but only got about 3/4 through).

So as you can see we've made some changes for the year that really reflect her different maturity level and higher interest in learning, which I think homeschool has really brought out in her! Add in the renewed confidence that she IS smart, just needed to learn differently, and we have our recipe for success!

What are YOUR school plans for the year!

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