2015-2016 Mid-Year Curriculum Review

Hi everyone! We’ll we’re about half way through our 2015-2016 homeschool year, and I thought I’d do a mid-year review for you all since we’ve made a few alterations.

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For the most part I’m happy with what we’ve chosen this year. And I think we did good as far as balancing teacher led, with student independent work as well. But we have changed up a few things as needed.

So here’s what we chose for the year and what we like or dislike, and whether or not we’ll stick with it for next year!

 

Miss Lady Bug: 1st Grade

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So after going through our day, I realized that I loaded up Miss Lady Bug’s schedule pretty full. As a matter of fact it is almost too full, so we did drop some things to make it easier for her to get through her day, and make her schedule a little more realistic for what she’s able to handle right now.

She’s still doing everything with the exception of my Literature units, & handwriting. I had planned to use my Lit. units as read-a-louds, but we’ve really been focusing on her reading to me, so we’ve been spending that time on the couch with readers at her level. I’ll let her start my literature units next year, or maybe even the following year when she’s ready to do them more independently.

We also took out the BJU Handwriting. Since she’s doing Spelling You See an Abeka Spelling, I found the extra handwriting practice just wasn’t needed. The Spelling You See really doubles as handwriting for us right now, so it seemed like a waste of time to do another one.

I’m also waffling on the vocabulary for first grade, but we’ve been doing it a few times a week when we have time. She likes to do the book, and it’s actually really fast. She’s also starting to be able to read better, so that helps. But otherwise I’m reading and telling her definitions each day, so honestly I’m not sure it’s really sticking at this age. I think vocab might really be something that would be more effective next year.

She also switched from inline hockey this year to ice skating lessons. She’s loving it and doing really really well! She still swims, does Keepers, and is in a once a week options program.

 

Tinkerbell: 4th Grade

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TinkerBell is doing exceptionally well with all of her things. I really haven’t removed anything from her list this year except my daily learning notebook. She says it’s too easy for her at this point, and since she has a full load, I let her give it up at the mid-year break.

Since Turbo moved to ice hockey, she decided she wasn’t interested in playing. Instead she’s taken up ice skating lessons. She participated in a holiday ice show that was really fun and cute, and so far she loves it. She’s also still swimming twice a week, and doing an options program once a week.

 

 

Turbo: 6th Grade

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Turbo has also been doing well with his work. I did substitute the vocabulary workshop for him this year in lieu of the Word Build online program. He really hated the workbook, and since he enjoys doing things on the computer I thought he might enjoy that more. And he definitely does! I will say that depending on where you start, it is quite a bit easier than the vocabulary workshop books. But I wasn’t sure where to start him, so we just started with Foundations Level 1. Since I paid for it, I’m having him finish, but he’s definitely past that, and I probably should’ve started him at Foundations Level 3, or even Elements Level 1. I just wasn’t sure since he hadn’t used the program before.

I’ve also let him alternate between Book Shark books and my literature units and library book choices because he requested that. He wasn’t loving the Book Shark books, and honestly I didn’t totally love them either. So now he either picks one of my literature units, or a book from the library that interests him instead. He still does the Abeka Read & Think Skill sheets, so I’m not worried about his comprehension. But I want to foster a love of reading for him right now since he previously did not like to read. I find that allowing him to read books that interest him has dramatically increased his desire to read!

 

Strawberry Shortcake: 7th grade

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Strawberry Shortcake has also been doing well with her picks for the year. The only thing I’m not totally loving is the BJU English 7. Though honestly we’ll probably use it for next year anyway. It’s a little more difficult because there aren’t really teacher lessons in the TM, its really just an answer key to the student workbook. Her workbook has the lessons she reads herself, then she completes the work independently. That makes it difficult for me to tell whether or not she understood a concept until I grade her workbook. I’m also not sure what she’s learning until afterwards either.

I think if we use this next year I might consider using their DVD lessons, though they look kind of goofy! She also finished the Foto Finch photography earlier in the year, so she’s done with that now.

Like Turbo, Strawberry Shortcake didn’t love the Book Shark list either. So she’s also been alternating between those books, my literature units, and library books of her choosing.

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Extra-Curricular & Group Activities:

So far our group activities have been going well. I’m still really liking the IEW writing program, so we’ll stick with that. We’re also doing my Expedition Earth curriculum as well and everyone is having a lot of fun!

We’ve been a bit bad at getting to the Time Traveler’s history units. I’m finding it difficult to do both that and my Expedition Earth at the same time. So we’ve mostly been doing EE instead. I did finish the unit from last year, but haven’t moved on to Renaissance & Reformation yet.

Contenders of the Faith is taking a break, so he’s currently not doing Contenders.

DI Instant Challenge Co-op: The moms for this group had high hopes, and we’ve been getting together once a month for almost 4 years now! But with everyone’s busy schedules, it just wasn’t working out. So we’ve decided to take a break this year. I’m not sure if we’ll pick it up for next year or not. If we don’t I might try to institute the DI Challenges at home, but for now we’re pretty packed!

Here are a few other things we do on the side, and I’ll post our schedules by grade as well soon!

  • Options: This is a once a week co-op that we go to through our school district. Classes for my younger kiddos are mostly elective types like Spanish, science, art, music, & PE. Strawberry Shortcake has cool things like speech & debate, drama, computers, yearbook, literacy in film, home economics, and game theory.
  • Keepers of the Faith
  • Contenders of the Faith
  • Co-Op: DI Instant Challenges This is a once a month group of friends who get together, previously our LEGO group. We’re going to try making our own set of instant challenges for our co-op this year using the DI list as a guide.
  • Turbo: Hockey & Swimming
  • All Girls: Swimming & Ice Skating

 

Wrap-Up

And that’s all folks! For the most part I didn’t make too many changes to our year after the Christmas break. I think what we’re doing for now is working well.

One thing I’m going to do for next year is make Strawberry Shortcake’s curriculum a little more independent. That means she probably won’t participate in group science/history activities. She’s getting to a point where she prefers doing things on her own, and I think it will benefit her to start reading and studying on her own instead of doing everything as a group.

I’m also going to try and plan a little bit less next year as we’re pretty booked this year. However everyone is holding up to the schedule well for now, so we’re going to finish out the year as planned!

Did you make any changes this year? Leave a comment below!

 

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52 Comments

  • Jen January 20, 2016 at 5:49 am

    Love this review, I have older children so I was especially interested in Strawberry Shortcake’s curriculum. Shared on pinterest for my readers. Did She like the Foto Finch course? I have a mini photographer on my hands, So I would love her opinion.
    Thanks for sharing!

    Reply
    • erica January 20, 2016 at 11:26 am

      Yes, she did it last year, and loved it.

      Reply
  • Kati January 20, 2016 at 6:35 am

    Could you either email me or post a blog about how you are using both All About Spelling and Spelling You See? I switched from AAS to SYS this year with my 4th and 2nd graders and have found myself referring back to the rules they had learned often. I would love to hear how you do it!

    Reply
    • erica January 20, 2016 at 11:36 am

      I think for just starting out, I prefer All About Spelling because they do a good job teaching the phonics rules. And like you I refer back to the AAS rules a lot as we go. However it is a teacher intensive program, so you need to make time to teach this one on one. It’s not a worksheet based curriculum that you can just give to your student to work on independently, so just keep that in mind. That said, I mix in the AAS Lessons with the SYS worksheets.

      For my older kids AAS wasn’t working as well anymore, and so we switched to the SYS program and I do like it. I use it as their handwriting practice as well, because it’s mostly dictation and copy work. There aren’t traditional tests or word lists like you will normally find in a spelling program. Instead students learn through repetition of reading and writing the words in the context of a story, poem, etc.

      Reply
      • Amy January 25, 2016 at 7:48 pm

        Related to that…how teacher intensive would you say spelling you see is? I have considered using that for handwriting and adding AAS into as you mention. I had been leaning towards getting a handwriting curriculum but it is always great to get two things accomplished at one time. (I have a kindergartener and 1st grader).
        Thanks

        Reply
      • Amy January 25, 2016 at 7:50 pm

        Forgot to say I am needing to get away from teacher intensive things right now due to our other choices (that’s why I was thinking a worksheet would be easier to hand them to work on independently…but we could also use the extra spelling focus).

        Reply
  • Renee January 20, 2016 at 9:26 am

    Thanks for the fun post, Erica! So far we are enjoying most everything we are doing. We are also doing AAS and SYS, but next year we’ll be dropping AAS. Despite my kids being primarily “hands on” they just don’t like AAS – and they don’t like all of the “rules.” I hadn’t planned on doing handwriting this year, but we are because my kids’ were getting pretty sloppy when they were writing. Debatable if we’ll continue handwriting next year, but for now, they honestly don’t mind it. I’m excited to start using some of your literature units next year, as well as either your World or States curriculum… I’ve already purchased and prepped both – just debating which we want to use first. Our favorites this year are our science and history curriculums – yay – so much fun! 😉 I feel like we are lacking in extracurricular activities/sports. We started the year strong, but everything seems to have just stopped until summer – odd! Now I’m starting to research standardized testing for spring. Hard to believe the year is already half way done! Happy teaching! 🙂

    Reply
  • Debra January 20, 2016 at 11:57 am

    Where did you purchase the Vocabulary workshop books? Did you ever look into the online/interactive version?

    Side note: We have been using Dynamic Literacy for the last few years and have really loved it. Ok, I have loved it, my girls, not as much because it really challenges them and makes them have to think. LOL!

    Reply
    • erica January 21, 2016 at 12:53 pm

      I purchased them from vocabulary workshop website. And with the student books comes a login for the audio and online practice activities. I didn’t go to Dynamic Literacy for word build online, I went directly to their website. So far we like it.

      Reply
  • Alicia January 20, 2016 at 1:46 pm

    Love this review! Thanks for sharing! I do have one question–we are on AAS level 3, what level of SYS would you recommend to use together?

    Thank you!

    Reply
  • Casey Millett January 20, 2016 at 2:29 pm

    Hi Erica! I have a question. How do you teach your BJU Language Arts to multiple children? I currently have the curriculum for both of my kids 3rd and 5th grade. It calls for a lot of added things like writing the sentences using different items for teaching. I work full time so I want to utilize as best I can while still benefiting them. Any advice on making this somewhat easier? Thanks!!

    Reply
    • erica January 21, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      For 3-6th the lessons correlate together well, so I actually teach them together. I teach the basics of the younger lesson first, then move into the higher grade lesson next letting the younger kiddo to go work on their sheet. Hope that makes sense.

      Reply
  • Emily January 20, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    What is your pick for typing for middle school age?

    Reply
    • erica January 21, 2016 at 1:31 pm

      Right now she’s using typing.com it’s a free online program, and I have her do 10 minutes /day

      Reply
  • Meghan January 20, 2016 at 2:52 pm

    I always love your curriculum posts too! So informative! I notice in the past you have used A Reason For Handwriting and BJU Press Handwriting, was there a reason for the switch with those two and then to SYS and which has been your favorite? I typically write out my own copywork/handwriting for my children but am looking for something more open and go this upcoming year for my 4th and 1st grader. Any insight would be awesome!

    Reply
    • erica January 21, 2016 at 2:18 pm

      The only reason I moved from A Reason For Handwriting (which we loved) was because they’re literally all the same everyday and my kids started getting bored. So I just moved to BJU for a change, not that we were dissatisfied with A Reason For.

      We are using SYS as part of our spelling, and it essentially doubles as handwriting, so I just didn’t feel like I needed to add in another handwriting on top of SYS.

      Reply
  • Krista January 20, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I was curious…what does your schedule look like? I see a schedule for each grade, but do you make one for yourself? Do you overlap teaching two subjects at once? Also, how do you like Vocabulary Workshop? We’ve used Wordly Wise online (and still do for our 7th grader), but it was a little intense for our 3rd grader. And…time consuming. We are now using Vocabulary Success by Sylvan learning (purchased on amazon), but I always keep my eye out for other vocabulary options.

    Reply
  • Purva Brown - The Classical Unschooler January 20, 2016 at 6:55 pm

    I love the mid-year review. I do this as well, usually right after Christmas is not a good idea for us, but somewhere toward the end of January, we get our rhythm back and since we school year round, I tend to do it closer to February. But now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I’m pretty happy with how the kids are doing – about the only thing I would change is adding spelling to my 2nd grade daughter’s curriculum, because she loves it and is begging for it!
    Also, I had a question about the history curriculum you use. Am I right in assuming it is adaptable to multiple grade levels?

    Reply
    • erica January 21, 2016 at 1:32 pm

      Yes, it’s great for multiple grades!

      Reply
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