Thursday, December 19, 2013

1st Semester Review & All I Want for Christmas . . .

 photo RynesRoom1.jpg
Ryne in his bedroom work area, not doing school work, because it's Christmas break!

The 2013-2014 school year started out with a lot of changes, the biggest being that Grace went to away-school for the first time, and I was left with just Ryne to homeschool. I thought I'd share some highlights (and lowlights), as well as some goals for the second semester.

(I'm too lazy to do links for every curriculum we use, but you can see our curriculum post here for links.) 



I'm thrilled to say we're mostly on track with our subjects this year! I consider this a huge victory, given we took two week-long trips to Denver earlier in the semester and it was one of the busiest seasons we've had yet (more on that in a bit). There were a couple of areas that got neglected, but we'll catch up.

Bible - Explorer's Bible Study was a new addition this year, and I love it! The style works very well for Ryne, and it's stretching him in his biblical understanding. I think we will stick with this for at least a couple of years. At some point, I want him to get some of the more advanced biblical training Anna gets in her World View class at school, but for now I've found the perfect fit for Ryne. He's also been attending weekly catechism classes at church and reviewing the Bible Sound-Off from last year.

History - I have detailed plans for history, but I never set a timeline as to when we need to get to each chapter. I just trust that we'll get it done since we have established a pretty good routine in previous years of using The Story of the World books. I think we're in pretty good shape; we finished Chapter 21 that covers the French and Indian War. We will park for a month or two in the next couple of chapters that cover the American Revolution, but then we will pick up the pace again and should finish by the end of the year. No surprise here, but history is Ryne's favorite part of the day.

Science - I said we're mostly on track with our subjects, and it should be no shock to my long-time readers that science is one area in which we are behind. I learned a valuable lesson: Do not chose a curriculum whose release date is mid-August, especially when the supply list is a mile long. I have great admiration for the Apologia books, and I'm sure the Chemistry & Physics volume will be wonderful, but I cannot fit that kind of planning and preparation into our schedule once August hits. The science kit with all the supplies has just been released, so I'm biting the bullet and ordering it, and we will go full force with science in January.

Math & Logic - While Zeta (Math U See) isn't going as smoothly for Ryne as it did for Anna, he's still doing quite well, averaging a lesson a week. Hopefully, he will continue at that rate of progress and will be able to start Pre-Algebra in the spring. I was super-duper excited to find out that Steve Demme will be speaking at our local homeschool convention this spring, so I'm planning on bringing Ryne to meet the man who has taught him math for all these years!

We completed one volume of Mind Benders this fall as well, which is all we're doing for logic this year. He and Grace used to work on the MB puzzles together, so I was interested to see how he would do on his own. He does pretty well, but sometimes we have to solve a puzzle together.

Language Arts - We're on track to finish All About Spelling 6 in January or February, which means we should be finished with Level 7 and be done with spelling for good before next fall!!!! As I've said before, I love love love AAS, but I'm so ready to be done with this subject. ; )

Writing continues to be a struggle. We started Writing With Skill, but he struggled with some of the intro review exercises on narration and dictation. So we spent the fall reviewing these skills. He made good progress on narration, but I'm not sure his brain is wired well for the lengthy and complicated dictation passages. He does fine with the dictation sentences in spelling, but they're much easier. But I'm also not sure how vital it is for him to master that skill to be a good writer. I never had to do dictation as a student, and I did very well with written assignments all the way through graduate school. So we'll move on in January and see how things go.

Analytical Grammar continues to be a good fit for Ryne. Because of the way the program is structured (intensive instruction for the first few months of school and then just biweekly review exercises) we spent quite a bit of time on grammar this fall. The main lessons take Ryne at least an hour to complete, but the review exercises are half the length so that frees up a lot of time in his schedule for the second semester.

Ryne also completed one volume of Editor in Chief and did weekly oral reading from The Story of Inventions.

Foreign Language - I think we're a little less than half way through Latin for Children B, and it is going well.

Computer Science & Fine Arts - Other than reading through the book My iPad for Kids, we've done nothing in this area. My plan was to start these up when we were done with grammar, but we finished that just before Thanksgiving, which means I went into holiday survival mode and didn't dare add anything new. ; ) We'll add them in in January.

Physical Education - Ryne ran with Anna's cross country team this fall, and did surprisingly well. He's still not highly motivated when it comes to running, but he enjoys being part of the team. For one of his last races, I bribed him with ice cream: Get a personal record, and I'll buy you the biggest Sonic Blast they offer. He got a PR by almost 2 minutes that day! :) And, no, I'm not one of those parents that bribes or rewards their children for every accomplishment, but I do see the value every once in a while, just to show them what they are capable of doing.


One of my goals for the year was to do a better job of record keeping and to start the process of giving grades in each subject. I'm glad I started this in 8th grade, so I have a year to figure it all out before having to do high school transcripts. I'm pretty happy with Scholaric's online planner and tracker, although I do miss my paper planner. I've done a fair job with the grading. I pretty much just count the tests for grades right now, and I haven't really figured out how to assign grades for Bible. I have no idea if this is sufficient or not. It's nothing compared to the system the girls' school uses, but I don't know how detailed most homeschoolers get. I know it helps his grades a lot by just counting tests -- if I counted his regular assignments his grades would be lower, especially in math. I have a lot of researching to do in this area as the year continues. Dawn, I will probably need to give you a call sometime and have you explain what you have been doing.


This has been our greatest struggle for the year. I am definitely stretched thin these days. Tuesdays and Thursdays, when the girls are home, are very full. The first couple of months I spent a lot of time helping Grace, but now she mostly works independently, and I just have to go over her work with her at the end of the day. The problem is all the extras -- meetings, volunteering, and most of all, the driving. I do say "no" to a lot of that stuff, but somehow it still adds up. Anna is in high school and Grace in elementary, so even though they attend the same school, they are at different campuses and there are different activities and commitments for each. I'm having a very hard time juggling all the responsibilities of two different levels of away-school and home school.

It doesn't help that our dear friends that we carpooled with for many years moved out of our neighborhood last summer. Having to drive both ways takes a HUGE chunk of time out of my day. Monday was the worst when I had to make FOUR trips to school: 1) Took both girls to school. 2) As soon as I got home I received a text from Anna: She got confused on the finals schedule -- math is today, not tomorrow; can I bring her calculator to school? (Amazingly, she still got an A on her math final, even though she thought it was the next day). 3) Returned at noon to pick up Anna, who only had half days this week for the finals schedule. 4) Returned at 3:30 to pick up Grace who had regular schedule on Monday. Since it is about a 20-25 minute drive to school, you can be sure I got nothing else accomplished that day. While four trips to school in one day is a record for us, I've had several 3-a-day-trips this semester, plus all the driving we do for evening activities. It's no wonder the odometer on the minivan just hit 198,000 miles this week.


Based the previous paragraph, all I want for Christmas is for my daughter to get her driver's license. She turns 16 on January 5th, but the farthest she's driven is to the end of our street. So unlike previous years, I'm praying for no snow this Christmas break, so she can get some serious practice behind the wheel. There's no way she'll be ready by the 5th, but I'm hoping we don't have to wait until summer like we were previously anticipating. Having some extra help with the driving responsibilities will be the greatest present I could receive this year, even if I have to wait a few months to get it.


Very well! She was my only kid who had never been to away-school, and predictably she felt like she was missing out. She adjusted very well, and is doing great in all her classes. I'm sure you know what a relief that is to me! Anna transitioned from homeschooling to away-school easily too, but she had been in a Christian school before. This time everything was riding on how well I prepared Grace, and apparently I didn't do too bad. I recognize this is all completely God's grace -- I've made plenty of mistakes as a homeschool mom, but through His strength I've also done a few things right, and it has all worked out to His glory.

She loves everything about school! One day when I picked her up, she had a very sad face, so I asked her what was wrong. She was upset that they ran out of time, and she didn't get to give her science presentation that day. I had to contain my laughter, but I explained to her that when she gets to high school she's going to be saying, "Yes! We ran out of time, and I don't have to give my presentation until next week!"


Overall, pretty well. He has really matured in his ability to work independently. We've had some wonderful moments together, and I really enjoy being home with him, just the two of us. But, understandably, he is having contentment issues. He wishes he could go to school too, but there are no Christian schools in the area (that I'm aware of) that would be a good fit for him. While sending him to public school might have some benefits, I don't think that's the best answer either. So I need to find him a co-op or some other group for him to get the social interaction he craves. I've been too busy this fall to figure out a solution, so that needs to be a top priority next semester.

One thing I've done to make him feel special, however, is to bring him lunch once a month from his favorite restaurant, Chipotle. I pick it up on my way home from Bible Study, and it's something I do just for him, not the girls. I told Marc this week, we just might be the only family that includes an allowance for Chipotle in our homeschooling budget. ; )


Whew! If you're still reading this, bless your heart! We've definitely been blessed this school year, and I look forward to how God will grow us next semester.


  1. A good update!! Cam and I are going to hit the ground running in January! Lord willing, it will be our last semester of homeschooling. I need my days to be just mine for a season. :)

    1. I hear you, Casey! I am finding that I do have a little more time to get things done, so I hate to sound like such a cry baby. We will definitely have to get the boys together more this next semester. I think our Denver trips just really took a lot out of me this semester -- I always felt like I was trying to catch up with life. : )

  2. This was a great update! I'm glad everyone is doing well in school, and it sounds like you are getting so much done. I'm motivated to write a similar post now. I find it so helpful to go back and read these types of posts when I have a day when I'm doubting my ability to homeschool. :)

    If you can find a good, like-minded co-op, it is a great thing. My guys also need regular social interaction, and co-op has been a huge blessing to us this year. However, we've had less-than-stellar experiences with co-ops, too. I totally get what you mean about the occasional bribe. I've done that, too. ;-) And Chipotle in the homeschool budget, hahaha! I take the boys to McDs for breakfast every Wed morning. Big Breakfasts and McGriddles are in our hs budget. :)

    We can definitely talk about grading sometime. In a nut shell, it varies by subject, I am more detailed with my paid classes for the sake of professionalism, and I follow Lee Binz's advice on just about everything (except that she is not a fan of co-ops or paid classes, lol).

    Merry Christmas, friend!

    1. I'm going to have to make sure Ryne doesn't see your comment, because if he read about weekly breakfasts at McDonald's, he'd want to move right in. : ) Yes, the co-op issue is so hard for us. Once they hit this age, most of the co-ops in our area revolve around age-appropriate classes, which he probably isn't ready for. I'm almost thinking I need to start something for special needs kids, but just the thought of starting a co-op makes me hyperventilate. : ) I don't know how you do it! Lee Binz - now I remember you mentioning her before; I'll have to look her up over the break.

      Merry Christmas to you too!

  3. Kellie, great job in all you that I have been in Special Education in public schools for four years, Ryne is in the best place ever for his education!

    1. It seems hard to believe it's been four years! Thank you for your kind words; they do encourage me. : )