Reflecting on Last Year: What Worked, What Didn’t

Category : Curriculum Reviews, Grammer & Lit, History, Literature, Math, Phonics, Science, Social Studies, The Arts, Writing

As we go into another homeschool year, I like to reflect on last year’s curriculum a bit.

Let’s start with 11th grade.

Dalton took Thinkwell Pre-Calc. It’s a combination of Algebra II and Trigonometry. He had previously taken the somewhat weak Teaching Textbooks Algebra II and he liked it but I figured a bit of review wouldn’t hurt. He really liked Thinkwell. He liked it better than Teaching Textbooks, in fact. He did consistently well all year. But the course was daunting and not laid out in a way that made it easy to pace oneself. In order to complete the course over one school year he would have had to do 2-3 lessons a day. To me, this is overkill. And it led to my procrastinator falling further and further behind. He has spent the better part of the summer rushing to complete the course before it’s 12 month subscription expires and his senior year begins. I think Calculus will be slightly less daunting but when I plugged the lessons into Homeschool Tracker Plus, it still indicated that he’d have to do multiple lessons on many days to complete in one school year. I just hope he continues to excel at math because if he runs into any problems that require that he spend a bit more time on any given lesson, I’m not sure he’ll finish by May graduation.  I wish Thinkwell would lay out a reasonable school year guideline to follow or I wish they would at least combine lessons so that learning so much each day is less psychologically daunting! Still we are doing Thinkwell again since at this point I think it will be easier than switching to another Calculus program. Teaching Textbooks does not even offer a Calculus course.

Dalton used Spielvogel’s Western Civilization – A brief History  last year and there isn’t much to say about this. He did fine, he hates history. He thought it would be fine to pass along to his younger brother but I decided not to since I’d prefer that future World History courses focus on the entire world and not just the Western world or completely Euro-centric history. So while I love Spielvogel, we switched from his Western history to his Glencoe co-authored World History for Teegan.

Dalton used Lightning Lit for British Lit. He liked the books a lot and we had used Lightning Lit the year prior to we’ll stick with this. We’ll probably use Lightning Lit for Teegan starting in 10th grade since I like to do an Essay/Comp in 9th grade. Dalton also took the BraveWriter SAT Essay course and found that really helpful. He hasn’t taken college entrance exams yet but he did take the local college placement test to register for classes this school year and he easily scored into college comp and his scores equal a very nice ACT or SAT essay/writing score – something I never thought would happen for this dysgraphic hater-of-writing.

Dalton used a highschool Marine Biology text and thought it was just ok. He learned some things but not a lot. The best part about Marine Biology was becoming PADI-certified in Open water diving (SCUBA). I don’t know that I’d reuse this particular book. I imagine Teegan will take any non-typical science through the community college.

Teegan finished 8th grade through Connections Academy’s Private Virtual Academy. It was supposed to be public school but our state did not award the district funding so all students were transferred to the private school for the year. Teegan liked his courses well enough but we found the teachers to be ….um…..undereducated. And arriving with certain religious-led biases. It was fine for Teegan and he had intended to do the virtual academy again this year but our state does not allow funding for hardly any electives and so Teegan decided to homeschool and do college classes for credit instead. I think this will be a great fit for him.

Noah tried the virtual academy and hated it. Instead we did a lot of unschooly things. Unschooling has always worked really well for him. Over the course of the year he went from reading below grade level (3rd grade) to reading at an adult level. He has absolutely devoured everything he can get his hands on. He also completed a cursive course (just online worksheets), started Simply Music for piano (and loves it) and is working through Teaching Textbooks, which he loves. We got lots of kits of various kinds to play with over the course of the year as he loves to build and experiment. He also got a Lego Robotics kit for Christmas and took a short Robotics course.  I’ll follow that lead this year and keep feeding him good literature as a means of filling his mind with knowledge. We’ll do lots of experiments and hopefully he’ll be able to join a Robotics League this year and expand on his knowledge there. He’ll keep working through the Teaching Textbooks, too.

Addy is trying out public school for Kindy this year but as a point of reference, last year we used Explode the Code online and I really REALLY did not like it. She liked it fine but it had some major flaws, in my opinion. From what I can tell, the online version is very similar to the books. The exercises are very similar. However the online exercises are “scored” according to how fast and accurate a student does. If a student misses even one problem, they are scored poorly and often have to redo ALL the exercises at that level. There is no parent override. I could tell that Addy had mastered a concept but would sometimes not understand a question – not due to her inability to read the question but due to the way the question was worded. So she might answer incorrectly even though she had read the sentence correctly. It became increasingly frustrating to me that she’d have to redo many problems over many exercises due to flaws in the system like this. Likewise Explode the Code says she is reading at a second grade level according to their online program however I find this very hard to believe. She has a lot of holes in her learning that maybe Explode the Code would fill if you stuck with their system through 4th grade but, even so, I’m not a big fan of the phonics-only approach to reading. We’ll switch back to the old standard Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons but it will be hard to figure out where to start. She has always preferred it over Explode the Code anyway, often asking for it last year.

Think-It-Through Tiles And Books

Category : Math, Phonics

Review In A Nutshell:
Manufacturer: Discovery Toys

Price: $85 USD for tiles and all books

Overall Rating (1-10): 5

Value (1-10): 5

Flexibility (1-10): 9 Ages/Grades: PreK- Age 8