Semester in Review

The school year never really goes exactly as planned for us, but this semester I think it turned out better than I planned out in August.  For background if you’re new here, this is our third year of homeschooling.  Hannah will be 6 in January, Jack is 4 1/2, and Sarah just turned 3.  This fall we added a couple of extra scheduling juggles, in that Hannah started taking ballet, we started going to a classical education co-op, and I have been working 40 hours a week (flexibly – you can read more about how that works here).  The main thing we added to our original plan was that we started following the Ambleside Online Year 1 readings to supplement the other things we’re working on.  We’ve read up to Week 20 on the Year 1 weekly schedule.  Overall, I’m really pleased with how things have gone.


All three kids are now working through The Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading.  Sarah is learning letters and letter sounds, Jack is reading well but still learning phonics rules (he’s on lesson 70), and Hannah is likewise getting phonics reinforcement while reading independently (she’s on lesson 145).  Hannah has been reading children’s books to her siblings, has read American Girl books on her own, and is taking turns reading paragraphs of Heidi with me.  Classical Conversations includes some English grammar memory work but, to be honest, I don’t find it very useful so we rarely go over it at home.  We will pick up more grammar in later years, I think.


We switched to Saxon Math this year and it is working really well for us.  Hannah is about 90 lessons in to Saxon 1 and is very good at working independently on her lessons.  Jack does not have very good handwriting but was frustrated with the workbooks I gave him to practice writing numbers because, he said, “there’s no math in here!”  Because he listens in on Hannah’s work, he is familiar with addition and subtraction and knows all of the numbers to 100 (in some cases I think he’s faster at math than Hannah is) so I recently got him Saxon 1 as well.  He did 8 lessons in the first week and really seems to be making strides with writing his numbers now that there is a REASON to write them.  Sarah counts things but doesn’t really do math but she has learned the skip counting songs from Classical Conversations along with the others.


Thank goodness for Classical Conversations so that we had science this fall!  The kids did experiments weekly, learned all about the human body, memorized helpful lists of things like the parts of the digestive system and whatnot, and seemed to enjoy it.  However, I was feeling like we needed to go deeper in science in some way, so I recently got Apologia Astronomy and we’ve been reading through that together.  I have the kids narrate every paragraph as we go to make sure they are getting it.  We are going very slowly, but are learning a lot.  The book is written in a Charlotte Mason style, so as a living book, not talking down to the kids or just giving dry facts.  We’re also reading Burgess’s Bird Book out loud, which is a living book about different types of birds, and the James Herriot books about a veterinarian in Scotland to help us with the idea of nature study.  I say “the idea” because one aspect of Charlotte Mason education that I don’t do well is getting outside and really peering at nature.  So we read about nature instead.


I think this fall I said I would NOT start Hannah in cursive, but she was really rushing in printing and not taking her time, so I got her the New American Cursive book and she’s doing GREAT at it.  It forces her to slow down and really form the letters.  She has learned all 26, and now is working on stringing them together into words.  I love this program and highly recommend it.  I plan to get the software so that I can make copy work pages for her out of the cursive font.  As I mentioned above, Jack is not very good at writing yet, so I try to minimize his written work to keep him from getting frustrated.  I’m glad he’s not in school where writing and other learning is often linked, because he’s a great reader and always knows the answers when we do our work out loud.


The kids continue to listen to Story of the World on audio during rest time and when they are going to sleep at night.  I usually ask Hannah to narrate what she heard.  Since they change  out their CDs daily, we’ve cycled through all four volumes of the history a couple of times, and the kids pick up new details each time.  What I really love is how they then apply it to something else we learn or see or hear about.  That shows me that they are really getting it!  Also in history we have learned 96 timeline events from the Veritas Press cards, and 12 history songs from Classical Conversations starting with Columbus.  For our history read alouds we have enjoyed Our Island Story, which is a book of short narratives of British history from ancient times, and also Fifty Famous Stories Retold which tells of events from Roman times and following, as well as a few d’Aulaire history books such as Christopher Columbus, Pochahontas, and Benjamin Franklin.


The kids learned all of the states and capitals at Classical Conversations this semester, and can outline the map of the United States pretty well.  We are learning major geographical features of the US now.  For our geography read-aloud we’re enjoying Paddle to the Sea, and I will bet that none of the kids will ever forget that Lake Superior is shaped like a wolf’s head!  I, for one, did not know the states and capitals, the geographical features, OR how to identify Lake Superior prior to this semester.  So Mama learns too.  🙂


Classical Conversations has some Latin, which is helpful, but we’re also still working through Prima Latina at home.  We are using it orally this year, and I think next year I will have Hannah go back through it again doing the written exercises.  For now she has a lot of writing to do each day and it seems like too much.  The kids have learned the vocabulary and memory work from the first 10 lessons, and even Sarah can say the Sanctus and the Gloria Patri by heart!  I like that application, and it’s especially nice since we sing the Gloria Patri in English for our bedtime routine, so now they know it both ways.  We also listen to the CD from Song School Latin occasionally.

Classical Studies and Literature

This is an area where the Ambleside list really comes into play.  We have read an Aesop fable every day, and have also been reading Just So Stories, Parables from Nature, the Blue Fairy Book, and selections from Nesbit’s Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare.  Aside from that, we read a lot of great children’s books.  We also have read several chapter books as a family this semester, including The Bears of Blue River, Almost Home, Calico Captive, Carry On Mr. Bowditch, Winnie the Pooh, and now Heidi.


We read a selection of poems every day, and this fall we have read through the Around the World on 80 Legs anthology of poems about animals, part of the Random House Book of Poetry, Robert Louis Stevenson’s Child’s Garden of Verses, and A. A. Milne’s When We Were Very Young.  We also read from a Mother Goose book every day, if only because the other kids got that so heavily when they were little and I want to make sure that Sarah knows them too.  Mother Goose is, of course, very good for reading readiness because it teaches rhyming, but also I think that nursery rhymes are a part of a lot of other literature and just a good thing to know.  For poetry recitation we mostly just reviewed what we already know.  Jack is currently working on A. A. Milne’s “Knight in Armour” and Hannah is working on Robert Louis Stevenson’s “Winter-time.”  Sarah knows whatever she picks up (are you sensing up a theme here?)


We have not done as much composer study as I would have liked, but we did cover Beethoven pretty well and watched a lot of YouTube videos of performances of his work.  In Classical Conversations we covered some basic music theory and (sort of) learned how to play tin whistles.  I am not a fan of tin whistle music.  At all.  So I’m glad that next semester is more composer-study based in CC and also that Hannah is going to begin piano lessons in January.  Jack has been clamoring for cello lessons, but we still have not decided if he’s old enough.


We also have not done as much artist study as I would have liked.  In Classical Conversations we learned drawing components, and did a limited amount of artist study, and at home we’ve done artist study here and there.


In Bible we have continued reading from the Jesus Storybook Bible and learning the children’s catechism as well as Sunday School verses.  Last spring Josh asked why the kids were memorizing these crazy long poems but not longer passages of scripture, so we have also learned Romans 8:1-20 (or so, depending on the kid), and have reviewed John 1:1-18.  Hannah is also working on memorizing Luke 2:1-20 for Christmas.  We’ve also been reading about church history from Trial and Triumph, and the kids have memorized songs for the books of the Old and New Testaments.  I did not get as far as I wanted to with songs, but we did learn Psalm 100B and a few others that we sing regularly, and we reviewed the hymns we learned in the past like This is My Father’s World and Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.

And that is the semester in review!

For the sake of time, I did not link up all of the resources I mentioned in this post.  However, if you would like to search for them, would you consider going through my Amazon link?  I get a small finder’s fee of 1-4% when you buy through my link, and it does help me to pay blog hosting fees!

15 thoughts on “Semester in Review

  1. I love reading your homeschooling posts! I wanted so badly to home educate and I love the way you approach it. I think I would take a similar approach if I were ever lucky enough to be able to homeschool my children.

    Lily has expressed an interest in learning the piano, so we are hoping she will be able to start lessons sometime in the new year. I wish I had started learning that young…then I might have been able to teach them to play myself!

  2. Wow, you have covered a lot in just a semester! And I am so impressed at how much you get done a) despite working 40 hours a week, flexible or not! and b) with 3 kids! 🙂

    I wanted to share this website, since I recently came upon it myself, via Pinterest. You can print out handwriting worksheets in 3 different styles (print, D’Nealian, and cursive). Maybe you would be able to see how the cursive worksheets work for Hannah? There’s an option to print a full paragraph in cursive, for her to trace. I already use the print worksheets for Mikaylah, who seems to rush in her writing and not try to place her letters correctly on the lined paper. It helps her a lot, and I like that I am able to print it at home. With the paragraph option, we also work on writing our memory verse, which is like a double bonus! 🙂

    1. I just wanted to say thank you for this link. My five year old daughter has been happily writing ‘Merry Christmas’ and other festive messages all afternoon and keeps asking me for more handwriting practice. I think we will get some good use out of that site 🙂

      1. I would recommend calling Meridian Music, Butler Community Arts School, or whatever is now Music. If you are hesitant about Jack and the cello, a group class might be a good option. Those places will be able to direct you to a group class. Plus, you can rent cellos pretty easily. I wish I had a cellist friend who still taught in Indy, but all of my colleagues have moved. Hope that is helpful.

  3. “whatever is now Music” was supposed to say “Paige’s Music”. I think the store might have changed hands/named but Peppers is still there I believe.

  4. Sorry for all the comments today Catherine. 🙂 I’m getting caught up on blog reading today! I agree that the CC grammar memory this year is really weak. It was better last year! We started using Shurley’s English Grammar curriculum in 1st grade and it is FABULOUS. I feel very weak in this subject because I was not taught properly and I cannot believe how easy and how comprehensive Shurley’s is. I highly recommend it for next year. I want her to do through Level 4 before she starts Essentials.

    Enjoyed all the book recommendations. And the reminder to keep reading nursery rhymes. You’re right about these third born children–they need it too. 🙂

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