Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Halfway Through the Year: A Homeschooling Update

We started up our homeschool year back at the start of April.  I'd been planning on having some sort of a small "summer" break before we started back up again, but a certain almost-six year old was eager to start first grade and be a first grader and I figured that if she's ready to learn than I'm ready to help her.

Besides, getting through as many months as we could before the new baby arrived seemed like a great idea, just in case I got hit with bed rest at some point in the pregnancy, or had a super high needs baby that required us to take a little extra time off later on.  Once I realized that we were actually going to start in April, I mapped out a plan and then we hit the ground running.

When I first began to research homeschooling, back when Sadie was all of a year old, I read every book I could get my hands on and fell in love with the classical methods that I learned about.  As a result I already knew that we at least wanted to try using the game plan and various suggested curriculum laid out in the The Well-Trained Mind and I wrote about a day in the life of our homeschool when we were nearly two months in back at the end of May.  

I've been meaning to write an update for at least a month about how things were going when we hit the halfway point in our year, but a certain someone has been distracting me from getting very much done around here:

Or at least he's distracted me from sleeping enough to have enough brain power to write a post (which, let's face it, is basically the same thing).  Today I'm hoping to have enough energy to write that post and lay out our plan, a little over a hundred days into our school year.

School has been going wonderfully.  I put James in the Moby and he sleeps through our morning school time and Patch has even started joining us at the table, pointing at colors and shouting "red!"  "blue!"  "yellow!" while Sadie works on spelling (this is his favorite book to point out colors in), until Patch is ready for a nap.

The Planner... Helping me keep track of everything
that's going on in our lives.
Sadie's day now starts with Explode the Code .  After Sadie finished the first book of Spelling Workout (A) I decided to take a break from the program and try Explode the Code to reinforce what she was learning in her reading lessons.  She'd done really well with Spelling Workout, and her test scores when she went in for the learning eval showed she was ahead in spelling, but she was still struggling with reading at that point (since we hadn't figured out the whole midline thing yet) and so I thought I'd give Explode the Code a try, since I'd heard great things about it.  

Explode the Code has been a huge success.  She zipped through the first book in two months (that was probably also aided by the fact that we figured out the whole "crossing the midline"thing at around the same time) and as she neared the end of the workbook she began begging me to buy the second book so that she could start on it as soon as she finished the first one.  

I ordered the second book in the Explode the Code series and introduced the second book of the Spelling Workout program at the same time.  She works on two pages of Explode the Code and after finishing Explode the Code, which goes along so gradually that she basically does it on her own, we work on a Spelling Workout 2 lesson, either reviewing the previous lessons and words, or working on a new lesson.  

Once we're done with Spelling Workout we start the grammar/language portion of the day with First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind.  First Language Lessons for the Well Trained mind has everything from grammar, with the memorization of definitions (memorization is huge at this point in a Classical Education) and identifying basic parts of speech, to occasional narration exercises and poems, and even narrations about what's happening in pieces of artwork.  We finished First Language Lessons for the Well Trained Mind yesterday and will be moving on to First Language Lessons for the Well-Trained Mind: Level 2 later in the week.

After we finish our daily lesson from First Language Lessons we move on to copy work and memory work.  Basically every day Sadie copies a poem, or part of a poem or a quote, and then works on reciting something that she's memorizing (usually a poem, but sometimes a new prayer).

Reading is next on our schedule.  We start with The Ordinary Parent's Guide to Teaching Reading.  We've taken this book really slowly.  If the lessons start to get frustrating, we just go back a week or two and I'll have her re-read the stories that seemed hard a short while before.  It's a huge confidence boost as she realizes that letter combinations and words she was struggling with have become easy and by the time we get back to the lessons that were difficult they've become easy too.

The second half of our reading practice involves her reading a book she's chosen like A Tale of Two Sisters or The Christmas Party (her favorite story of the moment).

Next it's time for math.  We're about a quarter of the way through the second Singapore Math Book for first graders.  I'm really amazed at how much she's learned and how well the program has matched the pace at which she learns.  It's the one part of curriculum that looks like it will perfectly match our school year and the way the program builds on past lessons has been excellent for the way Sadie learns.

After math we move on to our religion class.  We recently completed the Faith and Life books (there's a textbook and a workbook).  Next year I think we'll continue with the Faith and Life series, but for the rest of the year I'm planning on using the Dominican Sister's Virtues in Practice (which can be downloaded for free if you follow the link).  Some days we go back and read one of the books from the Catholic Children's Treasure Box  or we'll read a few stories from the Picture Book of Saints (we've also read this Bible at least twice through and are planning on moving on to this one next).

What comes next varies from day to day.  Some days we do history using The Story of the World or science using the outline set out in the Well Trained Mind (for first grade it involves a part of the year learning about animals, a portion spent learning about the human body and a part of the year learning about plants).  Most days we do some sort of art.  Sometimes she knits or plays reading games on her Kindle once she's finished all her other work.

In the afternoons, when all the therapies are finished and it's just me and the kids we cuddle on the couch and read together. Right now we're reading Little House in the Big Woods (for the second time).

This year I've also managed to balance the schedule to fit in extra activities (it took a little bit of time getting the hang of managing it all, but I think I'm starting to manage getting out more effectively... most of the time at least!  Being given the all clear to lift more than 12 lbs will be a huge relief and that's still a few weeks away.).  Sadie has ballet one night a week and karate one night a week and she has American Heritage Girls every other week (and we found a brand new group starting at a nearby Catholic Church and joined!  It's been a much better fit!).  Throw in OT and Speech one to two times a week, which will be starting in the near future and occasional field trips (which are more frequent when the temperature isn't spending most of its time below freezing) and we're definitely keeping busy!

That's my summary of the first half (plus a month or two) or first grade.  This year has just flown by!


  1. You are awesome! Great curriculum!

  2. You are so organized! That sounds like an awesome curriculum. Can you elaborate on your children's speech issues? My son is 15 months and only has two words aside from mama and dada. He does not make very many sounds or sound combinations. He does not babble like my other kids. I am really worried about him and concerned that he is cognitively impaired. I would really like to know what you dealt with with speech. Our pediatrician says that most kids have 10 or more CLEAR words at 15 months :(


  3. Thanks! I am planning on homeschooling as well, but I still have another 2 years before we get started. This is very helpful outline of how people really get it done!

  4. Hi Ginny,

    Sadie didn't really start talking until she was about three. We'd actually been told by a speech therapist that that wasn't all that late for a first child with lots of adults around, because she didn't really need to tell us what she wanted because her needs were met so quickly and so I really didn't worry about it. Her language after three came really quickly in terms of content, but she still has a "slight delay" (slight depending on who you talk to) and is just starting speech now. The good thing is that in the report I just got they think that they'll see improvement up to her age level by next October, so hopefully after that she won't need speech anymore!

  5. Thank you! I am really, really worried about my son because the doctor thinks he will qualify for state early intervention - which means the doc thinks he is already 33% delayed... He said this could mean he is "cognitively impaired" or in laymen's terms - slow. He said early treatment is key in making sure he has the best outcome! He says "mama" "dada" "da" (dog) and approximations of thank-you, uh-oh and bye-bye (I can tell what he's saying because of his inflection and the context, but it's not really articulated properly.) I am so, so worried! My doctor said not to let anyone "poo poo" the problem - but I really am hoping that he, like yours, just somehow catches up. Ugh. This mom thing is so hard.


  6. Mine lagged behind a bit, but with the family history of individuals who didn't speak until late (age five in one case) then spoke like adults right off, we never worried. Or book worms who did not read until late ( one went from being scheduled for testing to change over to a school for the retarded, and by the time the tester arrived at the school he had found science fiction and went from non-reader to several grade levels ahead.)

    Right now my K student is getting started slow, but I have no doubt that won't last.


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