Monday, May 20, 2013

Finishing Strong

Our Homeschool Year in Review

thousands of hours spent....
stacks of books completed....
a huge box full of finished papers....
Countless notebooks full of writing....

If I had to sum up this year in one word it would probably be relentless.  We started earlier than we ever have, and worked while others had vacations, but we also finished earlier than we ever have as well! The girls learned so much this year!

A 7 inch stack of completed tests and assignments from this school year!
 Some new things we tried:
  • I joined The Old Schoolhouse Review Crew which gave me the opportunity to try out several new things in our homeschool. Often I would see various books or programs and think that it would really work well for one of the girls, but it was just not in the budget. Or one of the girls would come up with a subject that they wanted to learn more about, and I wanted to oblige that desire! When I would investigate, I would be presented with so many different options in that subject area that I wouldn't know where to start! Being on the Review Crew has really opened a lot of opportunities for us, and it's FUN too!
  • All the girls used an assignment notebook this year to record their daily work. When one of the girls was having time issues, taking longer than I thought necessary to finish subjects, I had her write down the start and end times in her notebook. This helped her to be more aware of how she was spending her time, and I noticed a big improvement after having her do this.
  • Kelly started Spanish. It's our first attempt to work through an actual foreign language curriculum in the younger grade levels. You can read the reviews of the two curriculums we tried: Song School Spanish and Spanish For You. (We decided to shelve Spanish For You temporarily and complete Song School Spanish first, because it seems to be more on Kelly's level. Once she has a basic foundation, we will go back and work our way through the rest of Spanish For You.) We loved both programs, even though they were very different.
  • I started a Pinterest Board this year, and have had a great time sharing ideas with others on there. I have found and pinned tons of great ideas, and have had a lot of fun trying some of them out. I pin lots of great homeschool ideas for future reference. I even learned how to utilize a group messaging board and created one for our VBS workers to use for planning!
  • I started a homeschool blog with this first post last September. When I started it, I knew almost nothing about blogging or maintaining a website. While I still don't know much, I think I can safely say I am a step above "knowing enough to get me in trouble" and have been able to successfully manage the blog and post regularly this entire school year. I even learned how to pin some of my posts on my Pinterest homeschool board!
  • I have really focused on priorities, and allowing my priorities to rule my decision making. This has caused me to make a few hard decisions towards things I wanted to do, but realized that I just couldn't. It has also allowed me to be comfortable saying no to things. Like my husband always says, sometime the decision is not between good and bad, but it is between good and better. I am learning to be satisfied with my 'better' decisions, and let go of the good things that are just not possible to fit into my life right now.
  • We found out that Melissa, who is a very 'hands on' type of learner, loves working with lapbooks! Thanks to two products we reviewed, (Homeschool In The Woods and A Journey Through Learning we have decided to integrate lapbooks regularly into our studies for her.

  • I have met a whole community of knowledgeable and supportive homeschool moms through the review crew, and I have learned many things just from sitting back and reading some of their blogs and material.

Old Tried and True habits:
We are still utilizing the A Beka DVD program for the bulk of our schooling. All the main subjects are studied and integrated very well. We are very happy with the education the girls are receiving from it. Having the lessons all planned out and ready to use helps on days when a "substitute teacher" (someone other than mom) has to jump in and help. It really amuses me how the girls get so attached to their video teachers and classmates.

We have held 'carschool' or 'waiting room school' whenever necessary, in order to stay on track. Doctor appointments are no excuse to miss school in this family!

  • We never take off for snow days! Although having snow outside is a great motivation to getting schoolwork done quickly, to be able to go out and play in it!
  • We worked through almost all the days where others had school breaks or vacations. The kids decided early on that they wanted a longer summer break, so they (mostly) happily agreed to work through those days for the payoff of being finished early.
Changes for the future:
  • The girls always respond well when I place responsibility on them, and equip them with the tools necessary to fulfill the obligation. I dabbled a bit with planning calendars and assignment notebooks in various degrees with them this year, but next year I plan to organize that better for them. I have purchased student planners for the girls, and am considering designing and printing my own planner for myself, since I cannot find exactly what I want and always have to adapt it anyway. I plan on using the student planners as a communication system between teacher and student, so the girls can be more accountable for what I give them, and can have a tangible way to measure their success.
  • Rather than writing tests and assignments on the white board, I am going to completely use the planners instead. This will probably be a little more work on my part, but I think the dividend of watching their character grow will be worth the investment.
  • I need to work on a better system for quickly correcting papers, recording grades, and going over corrections. Four girls produce a lot of paperwork! This is going to be at the peak of my priority list for next school year. I cannot let the girls get too far ahead of me, or I just get buried and can't climb out of the middle of the mountain of papers.
  • For American history, we will be going through a curriculum that uses the American Girl series to teach a multi-faceted approach. Melissa will be utilizing this, with her love of hands on learning. The course covers everything from writing an actual newspaper with 'eyewitness accounts' of historical events, to cooking food from the era being studied. I am looking forward to watching Melissa thrive and soak up this curriculum, and have already found tons of supporting materials to enhance her studies.
  • Melissa will also be branching out into Apologia Science (Anatomy and Physiology) for next year. Again, I think the hands on approach will benefit her greatly in retaining and synthesizing the material. She is really looking forward to adding these two subjects to her studies.
  • Laura will be prepping for her PSAT this fall and SAT next Spring.
Finishing Strong:

This has multiple meaning for me. Having a senior graduating from our homeschool has made me a bit retrospective. At the beginning of the year, I typed out a "Senior Timeline" for her, complete with deadline dates for all her subjects. Though these past few months have been a boatload of work, catching up from a nearly month long missions trip in the middle of the year, and battling senioritis, I am happy to say that the last things are being checked off the deadline a few weeks early!

Singing on a Missions Trip
I encouraged her to finish strong because it does matter! While I could have excused a few things along the way (really? Another essay?), building character is very important to me, and I decided that we would not wimp out at the end, but would finish strong. When she is handed that diploma, I want her to feel the weight and the sweat of those last tedious courses (Ugh - English 12) and know that she earned every last fiber of it. She didn't cut any corners.

This past week, once the prize of finishing was in our eyes, we pressed hard to get it done. We barely did anything BUT schoolwork this past week, and it just had to be like running that last grueling mile in a marathon. But it is well worth it. There is much pride and self-confidence in finishing well, and in completing books. Not only did the girls hopefully learn a little more about the value of finishing, but I pray the character lessons learned will stay with them long after they can't remember how to do Algebra anymore!

As my first homeschool graduate goes on to college this fall, I pray that the lessons learned this year will always inspire her to be her best and be strong, especially when the mind and body says they can't go on. She has embraced her homeschool career and finished strong, and her dad and I are very proud of her!

While I do look forward to next year, and actually already have all our curriculum purchased and stacked in boxes just waiting to be unpacked and put on the shelves, I am looking forward to a little time of refreshing, relaxing, reading for pleasure instead of for assignments, and relishing in the delight of a job well done!

This post is part of a Year In Review Blog Cruise! Click here to see how other homeschoolers are evaluating their school year!

This post is also linked with a list of planning resources at Highhill Homeschool:
Copyright 2012-2013 - "Be The One" -  All rights are reserved. No text, photos, or content may be reproduced without direct permission from the author.


  1. I graduated a student this year too, so I can relate to a lot of what you shared. Congrats to you and your graduate!! I especially liked your idea of having an assignment notebook for kids to record the time they spend working on lessons. I'm making a note of that to try in our next school year.

  2. My daughter has read all the American Girl books and learned a lot about history through them. I give my kids schedules through excel and it works well for my daughter. She does so much on her own and easily completes bundles of work. It's a bit more of a challenge with my son. Every kid is so different.

    I would love it if you linked up with Lessons Learned.


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!