Homeschool Round Up

Inspired by Charlotte at Waltzing Matilda, here are some of my lessons from the school year which we are about to finish:


Keep: Skiing: I will treasure the ski season, especially fresh powder on weekday mornings and long sessions reading Heidi in the evenings, I will cherish those months always.   That sort of flexibility is one of the major benefits of homeschooling.

Trash: Overscheduling: For the past 8 weeks I have had children’s activities outside the house 7 days a week.  7! While grandparents and carpooling neighbors were a help, we used that when we had several children with commitments in different places on the same night, so I rarely had a night off.  Ballet is finally wrapping up, and baseball was rained out tonight, it was just a huge relief to be at home!  The fruit of this time is exhaustion, ill behaved preschoolers, and a lack of effective home systems.  We can’t do this again.  I’m going to have to figure something out, but because of age gaps, even children in the same activities weren’t on the same schedule, and it was just too much.


Keep:  Explode the Code:  These inexpensive workbooks are a great beginning phonics package, and combined with Primary Phonics primers, we used them to hatch another reader!  This is one of the few school materials that has been successful for every single one of my children.

Trash:  Lack of structure:  My little guys are capable of more than they are doing, but I need an organized way to give them instruction.  Just today I implemented a drawer system for my four year old, and I think that might be the route I take with him in the fall.

Older Kids:

Keep: Saxon Math:  I couldn’t love this program more.  My oldest child has begun algebra, and I am seeing now that he has a conceptual understanding of math that will ease the transition to higher learning, something which I totally lacked at his age.  As I watch my second graders solving math problems with smudged out numbers and my fourth grader look at number patterns, with the bigger picture in mind I know understand how they are really laying the foundation for high school mathematics success.

Keep: Seton Full Enrollment WITH TWEAKING:  My older two have done really well studying independently with Seton lesson plans this year.  Along the way, I made some adjustments to fit our family learning preferences.  In history, I added our corresponding history cycle book baskets so that they would have lots of supplemental historical novels, picture books and primary sources to read, and I required some writing.  In Religion, I did not require them to memorize all of the questions and answers from the Baltimore Catechism and take tests on them, rather, I had them read and discuss the chapters.  In Reading, I eliminated the reading comprehension work, but did give a lot of attention to the book report/essays in the Reading lesson plans.  Seton English is EXCELLENT, I love the grammar and diagramming.  My children really liked doing the weekly Art assignment.  We skipped the Music and Phys Ed, since we do plenty of both in supplemental activities.  The science is not great, but I didn’t have the energy to replace or supplement, so all I can say is that it is better than nothing.  I’ll have to figure out something else for the future for science.  I used Saxon Math in place of Seton’s program (Seton does use Saxon in the upper grades).  After wonderful, creative years of planning my own lessons from scratch, with seven children at home and a busy life outside of the home I am now ready to just accept my own limitations and take a boxed curriculum.  While it is not perfect, it gives us structure and consistency, and this is the boxed curriculum for us.

Trash: Lack of personal discipline in routine:  We went from summer with a newborn to school days with a nursing baby to a very free ski season, so by the time March came around my children were not in the habit of much of anything.  They are GREAT about getting their school work done, but this year it was often done in pajamas while bedrooms were messy and beds were unmade.  I even got some pulled faces when I would ask children to clean their rooms or brush their hair!  We didn’t used to have that problem, so I am going to have to go back to designated school clothes and a morning routine next year.


Round these parts, summer swim team switches to morning practice when the public school lets out, so we have just a few weeks left of regular school days.  After that, it will be pool time all the time.  We usually have a long summer read aloud, I am thinking of choosing The Secret Garden since the last time we read that was in the old house, about 5 years ago, and some of my children weren’t even born yet!  I also like to use the summer to read a classic which I am embarrassed not to have read before; my kindle is loaded up with Muriel Spark’s The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, but I’m also thinking about the new translation of Madame Bovary.

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  • We are doing boxed curriculum Seton for language arts — thanks to your recommendation. We will do this again next year because I am very pleased with their program. Their English is excellent, but best used in conjunction with their reading curriculum. I just switched to them for handwriting, vocab workbooks, and phonics workbook, so that we are really just using them for all of our language arts stuff, but we only rerolled for English and Reading. I do not like their Math, but prefer Saxon. I skimp on history and science pretty much every year, choosing instead to focus on the three R’s, and we will continue to do this for next year. My kids get their music exposure through piano and chorus but I’m looking to do something small for Art. We are slowly moving through the Harcourt science book, and I am hoping to make a dent in it this summer, but I am not stressed if it doesn’t happen. I’m going to post next week regarding over-scheduling and having children pick different activities. I think it is a real challenge for a large family. It is important that the kids are involved in community things, but that is tough to do with lots of kids. It will be more tiring for us, that is a guarantee and one of the sacrifices we made by having a larger family, but we can still be smart about things. Certain sports like swimming and skiiing are easier in that everyone can do stuff at the same time…but my kids like sports with real teams, and balls. Now is a good time to reassess what worked and what didn’t work, and makes tweaks and changes for next year. Sadly, with a bunch of active great kids, that is going to mean being out of the house at least 5 days per week! We had three weeks in a row with 7 days per week commitments, and it was CRAZY

  • Kat0427

    Mary Alice, this is a fun glimpse into your life! Regarding children’s activities: Do you have any ideas on how to make the scheduling better? We do the bare minimum – the older kids take 30 minutes of lessons on Saturday mornings, my oldest plays at mist one sport a season, and we do swim team. How can it be that we have so many evenings and Saturdays out if the house, and how on earth will our family stay afloat as more kids are doing activities?!? I just don’t see a good answer, other than moving us to an island until the kids go off to college!

  • Mary Alice

    We did a homeschool art class, which was great, but I was also pleasantly surprised by the Seton art book beginning with grade 4. Before that, I didn’t like it so much. What Peter did in the Grade 6 book was really fun for him, and corresponded with his history, it was lots of medieval shields, etc. You wouldn’t need enrollment, not much in the lesson plans there, and the book is not too crafty, just 36 pretty concrete lessons.

  • Mary Alice

    Then they won’t get in to college! Just kidding.

    We had two things break the wrong way – my boys baseball was one age group on MWF and the other on TThS, so that made it every night, and something similar happened with ballet. Up until this spring, we have been able to manage better.

    My kids do a homeschool choir, a piano lesson at home, and ballet or one sport (which equals two nights and one weekend day per week), that is “all.” And less than most of the neighborhood kids.

    In comparison, summer swim is a dream – everyone practices at the same place at the same time, and no weekends!!

  • Love Explode the Code! And Saxon is nice a clear cut for all learners. Looks like you had some good reflection on this.

  • Busy Mommy

    Oh goodness! If you could keep writing about this topic, I’d love to hear more!!

    How do you entertain your littler ones when the older ones are playing their sports or taking lessons? My two year old can be such a handful waiting for dance lessons or watching the game, and I feel bad for him. I was thinking of making a special backpack of stuff for him that only comes out during older kids’ activities.

    Do you aim for things (like swim team!) that they can all do at the same time to cut down on chaos a bit? Other than swim team, can you think of anything else that all or most of your kids can do at the same time?

    Will sweet baby #4 ever take a nap in her crib again? 🙂 The poor dear gets dragged to quite a few things, and tends to fall asleep either on the way there or on the way home….how do you handle that?

  • Mary Alice

    As much as possible, I use it as playground time — the presence of a playground can totally make an activity possible. With swimming and tennis, iI tried to set up lessons for younger siblings at the same time, in both cases, the place was able to accommodate that. I’ve done school in the car with siblings, brought checkers or coloring, etc. a two year old is really hard, the only thing is to know he won’t be two forever!