So, after our family’s WORST year of homeschooling, ever, what do we do now?

So.  Last year was our WORST year of homeschooling ever.  The worst.  I can blame that on a number of things:  trying to implement new curriculum, having a baby in June 2013, not adjusting well to schooling five children…  But, when it comes down to it, it’s just that:  I bombed in many ways.  I dropped the ball.  And, when a homeschooling mom drops the ball, her kids lose out.  I think I’ve learned a lot from last year, and though we’re only one week into the new school year, things are running much more smoothly.  I am devoted to returning to the ways that work best for our family, rather than trying (unsuccessfully) to implement new, “easier” ways of doing things.  In short, I tried to be more laid back about school last year, and was not highly scheduled.  Even though I am NOT naturally a highly-scheduled person, I’ve had to learn to embrace the schedule, as that is the only way that I stay on top of things, my kids learn all they should, and nothing falls through the cracks.

I’d detail all my failures to you;  I’m not proud.  But, as many of my failures are shared with my children… and I don’t think they’d appreciate me blogging about all the ways that they failed, I’ll leave it vague. 

Today’s post, I’m going to share what we’re using for curriculum.  If you find discussion of curriculum tedious, you might want to stop reading right now, or just scroll through and admire our pictures.  The next post, I’m going to share how our scheduled day works, and what we do when — six children (five in school, one a nursing not-quite-toddler);  a marriage;  a part-time job;  a home remodel;  plus additional responsibilities…  Add into that at least SOME time for rest and recharging, time with friends…  It’s a tight squeeze.  Ironically, though, a tighter schedule leads to more free time.  More on that, later, though.

If you’re curious about what curriculum each child is doing, here you go:

Ethan, in July, with my Uncle Kevin and my husband, Martin, at Kevin's home outside of Marshall, Illinois.  Ethan is sporting a new, sleeker, much-shorter haircut these days...

Ethan, in July, with my Uncle Kevin and my husband, Martin, at Kevin’s home outside of Marshall, Illinois. Ethan is sporting a new, sleeker, much-shorter haircut these days…

Ethan, my oldest, is a 17 year-old senior.  He also works part time (usually three days per week) at a local natural grocery store.  He is doing a “writing intensive” semester, pretty much all the writing projects — 12 of them — from Sonlight’s Core 300, which he did not do last year. I mean, he did do Core 300, but he didn’t do the writing projects.  He is an excellent writer, but he hates writing and he is really slow.  So, we’re working on finding the hurdles and conquering them, so he won’t be afraid of writing.  He is also doing Chemistry, Apologia, at a 2-day co-op.  This is the first time I have EVER outsourced a part of our homeschooling day that isn’t extra-curricular.  He is also doing French with Rosetta Stone. So, writing, Chem, French.  He’ll be taking guitar back up in a couple of weeks, continuing lessons which he took all of last year. Second semester will be the second half of Core 300, as I didn’t realize that Sonlight’s high school government and civics course really couldn’t be done concurrently with a Core — too much work.  In other words, last school year, he did the first half of Core 300, and American Government and Civics.  So, this year, he is spending the first half of the year on a writing intensive, and the second half of the year finishing Core 300.  In addition to writing, Chemistry, French, and guitar, he is also doing daily Bible memory, and will be studying 30 minutes daily for retaking his SAT.  Lastly, we need to figure out something for driver’s ed, which he has not yet done.

Grant took a selfie, high above Winnebago, IL, as the passenger in my Uncle Gerry's single-engine plane.

Grant took a selfie, high above Winnebago, IL, as the passenger in my Uncle Gerry’s single-engine plane.

Grant is my 15 year-old sophomore.  He had a rough year last year, which is probably my biggest regret.  He is a brilliant student, but without proper guidance, he just tanks.  So, the second half of his year was pretty much a bust.  Grant is doing Sonlight’s Core 200 (which is called “History of the Church”, but really reaches beyond that, into Western Civilization).  Grant is also re-doing Geometry, though this time with Teaching Textbooks, and re-doing Biology (Apologia, here at home), and Rosetta Stone French.  We may add more into his school day, but for now, we’re going to see how he handles just Core (which is Bible, History, Literature, and grammar/writing).

Wes holding a week-old kid, Quincy, IL.  July 2014.

Wes holding a week-old kid, Quincy, IL. July 2014.


Wesley is my nearly-13-year-old 8th grader.  Wes is doing a Core that is new to our family, Core W — a one-year world history course.  With Ethan and Grant, it took me eight years to complete five Cores, not uncommon in families who choose Sonlight.  But, it only took Wes seven years…  So, here he is in his eighth grade year and I didn’t have any curriculum to teach him.  So, he’s doing a new one.  It’s been a long time since I’ve had to purchase an elementary/junior high curric!!  He is doing the second half of Teaching Textbooks’ Algebra 1 and doing French, as well. We are doing Easy Grammar in addition to Sonlight’s language arts. He is also doing Sonlight Science G. And Spelling Power.

Audrey, holding a baby pheasant at my Uncle Peter and Aunt Candy's home, outside of Hudson, Illinois.  July 2014.

Audrey, holding a baby pheasant at my Uncle Peter and Aunt Candy’s home, outside of Hudson, Illinois. July 2014.

Then, I have a 3rd grader (Audrey, age 8) and 1st grader (Fiala, who will be six in October). Both are doing the second half of old Core 1, which I never completed with my 3rd grader.  Yes, it took me her first grade year AND her second grade year to complete 16 WEEKS of Sonlight’s old Core 1 (which is basically equivalent to current Core B).  They are also both doing Explode the Code, and Sonlight Science 1.  Audrey is doing Reason for Handwriting Cursive (which we started last year — she loves it). They also both use Mead Primary Journals (which has a blank spot on top for a picture, then about six lines for journaling/story — I have only found these at Walmart.  I cannot recommend them highly enough.). Both use Singapore Math — 3A and 1A, respectively. Both also do Spelling Power. 

Fiala with my dear cousin Anna, in Lexington, KY.  July 2014.

Fiala with my dear cousin Anna, in Lexington, KY. July 2014.

Just a note about Fiala….  One thing I love about homeschooling is that you can tailor a child’s work to his needs.  Her needs, in this case.  If she were attending a public school, she would be only STARTING Kindergarten this year, as she has a late-October birthday.  However, she flew through Kindergarten curriculum last year, and is doing beautifully as a 1st grader.  She tested in Spelling Power at level 2.2 — 2nd grade, 2nd month.  She’s five.  And, though she is bright, she isn’t brilliant.  She isn’t a genius.  I just think our public school system is so awfully inefficient and tries to mold children to the curriculum, rather than finding what works for each child, and unsurprisingly, the child “fails”.  If you find work that is well-suited to a child’s personality, attention span, intelligence, and learning style, you may be surprised at how smart and how able your child actually is. 

Our whole family, in July.  Wes is in the white polo.  I have the fewest pics of Wes of any of my children...  Must remedy that!!

About Karen Joy

I'm a partially-homeschooling mother of six -- 3 boys ages 19, 17 and 15 years old, and three girls: 11, 8, and 3. I like birding, reading, writing, organic gardening, singing, playing guitar, hiking, the outdoors, and books. I very casually lead a very large group of homeschooling families in the Phoenix area. I have a dear hubby who designs homes for a local home builder and who is the worship pastor of our church. I live in the desert, which I used to hate, but now appreciate.

Posted on August 30, 2014, in Introspective Musings. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. My husband has been following your blog since before our children were born and recently sent me this article. We’re just starting our first year of homeschooling with our five year old daughter with our two year old son along for the ride. I’m overwhelmed. Part of me wants to buy a really structured curriculum like Sonlight, which I’ve heard amazing things about, but it is way outside our budget, even second hand. So far this year we’ve just been piecing things together. I’m overwhelmed with the choices and prices. How can I possibly know which math curriculum is best for my five year old and how much money do I spend trying to figure it out? I really want her to enjoy school, but except for read aloud, so mostly finds it tedious so far. Which I know means I must be doing it wrong. What advice to you give to someone just getting started, especially with a small budget?

    • Bethany, first… Please know that whatever curriculum you choose, even if it’s not “the best” is going to be great for your daughter. Part of the fun and the frustration is the choosing of curriculum. Please don’t second-guess yourself to death. Do the best you can with what you have — both your budget and your abilities — learn from your successes and failures, and adjust. Try to take a longer view on her education, rather than stressing out about RIGHT NOW. One of the great things about homeschooling is that all is never lost. If she misses something this year, you can tackle it next year.

      That said, I have been thinking — just this past weekend — that I need to update an old post. I have reviewed it recently, and most of the links are still active, and ALL of it is exactly what I would recommend today. And… it’s exactly (I hope!) what you’re looking for.

      Please ask more questions if you have them! I’m so happy to help in any way I can.

      • Thank you! Most of my homeschooling friends are telling me to chill, but it doesn’t help that I don’t have a large support network yet. Most my family and many of my friends seems doubtful about my choice, so it’s hard to be a tower of certainty. I’m just trying to take it a day at a time.

        • Bethany, it took about three years until those closest to me (including my husband) were really convinced that homeschooling was an excellent choice for our family. It took another 3-6 years until those among our friends and extended family who were doubtful came around. For better or worse, it becomes one of those things where the proof is in the pudding — in the fruit, in the results. Then, people who disparage homeschooling can say, “Wow. Your kids are great. They’re inquisitive. They’re smart. I love having conversation with them. They’re polite. I guess homeschooling is all right after all.” And in retrospect, you look like a genius and everyone is calling you WonderMom and patting you on the back! But, in those years where it seems like the world is fighting you, it’s hard, because discouragement is always knocking at the door.

          • I always find it especially hard because when my daughter has a melt down I feel like people will be quick to blame homeschooling. But I never get to blame public school for the poor behavior of other kids. It’s definitely unfairly stacked against us. I can handle the criticism, I worry more about my kids. They won’t be perfect. They won’t be geniuses. They’re just kids who are being educated in a time honored tradition that happens to be in the minority at the moment.

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