Homeschool planning round up: 2022/2023 school year

Listen, no one is more shocked than I to see that title so let’s just get that out of the way right off the bat, shall we?

I’ve had enough friends, neighbors, and strangers in the bank ask me what our academic plans are for the imminent school year that I figured I ought to have some academic plans in place for the imminent school year, and so why not document it for ye olde blog’s sake?

Never one to shy away from recording riveting content for my faithful audience of (checks watch) entering into year twelve now. Wow. Sheesh.

So, as I alluded to in my last post, we decided in a rather unorthodox manner to give homeschooling a go and pulled our kids out mid-year at the beginning of spring break back in March. My reasoning was twofold. Firstly, one child was getting such severe tension headaches that we thought he might have a brain tumor and when the ER doc who examined him suggested “majorly reducing his lifestyle stress” and putting him into physical therapy to address the tension in his neck and upper back, I figured what in the hell have we got to lose?

I also reckoned, and rightly so, that were we to forge ahead to the end of the school year and then make a proper and civilized exit + start fresh in August, I would most certainly lose my nerve/talk myself out of it/sprinkle a rosy glaze over the halcyon days of headache meltdowns in my memory, and we’d never actually make the leap. So, we leapt. Mostly without looking. And while it went better than I would have guessed, this first full school year of schooling at home required some tweaking to content and materials.

For our little mini semester from March-June, I tried to keep things very simple. Firstly, I was overwhelmed to the point of panic over the myriad of curricula out there, and I kept asking homeschool friends to just TELL ME WHAT YOUR DAY LOOKS LIKE, LIKE HOW DOES IT WORK WHY WILL NOBODY JUST TELL ME??

(That I’m already some old veteran who is now answering those questions for even brand newer homeschoolers is yet another hot mess courtesy of covid, but I digress. And there’s never been a better time to just give it a whirl if you’re considering it, because there is truly such profound systemic disruption to education, period.)

So for math last year, for a 5th, 4th, 1st, and Kinder, I allowed my 2 younger ones to continue with Singapore which they’d been using in school. My older kids had been shuffled from Right Start to Saxon to Singapore over the course of their academic careers and were pretty math-averse, so I bought the Good and the Beautiful Math for both of them in an attempt to win back their love tolerance for math. It wasn’t a good fit, and we ended the year with one child basically on a math strike and one just crawling over the finish line. The really resistant kid ended up finding an old Saxon workbook a friend had given me that was about as appealing as reading an old phone book but he swore up and down was his preference over “the pretty math.” And here I was thinking I was doing him a favor with a cheerful and narrative style math curriculum to make learning fun. fUn MoM.

We used the Good and the Beautiful Language Arts program for all 4 grade levels and it was fine for the Kindergartener, an abject failure for the 1st grader, and sort of a disjointed scattershot for the two older boys. I also dabbled in Classical Catholic Memory, using books from the Delta cycle a friend had leant me. As hit or miss as we were using CCM, the days when I did use it felt the most like “authentic” and enjoyable homeschooling of anything else I’ve done yet, and I loved the way the lessons taught to the highest level in the room while managing to encompass all ages. It was the fun group part of school where we all sat around the table and discussed the material and it was interesting and fun and best of all, nobody yelled at me that they hated school during these fleeting moments of joy.

So this year, the plan is to incorporate CCM on a more regular basis. I’m working on pulling together a little CCM group for our neighborhood and exploring what that would entail. (Again, I have lost all concept of my identity at this point.)

For theology, we’re just doing morning Bible study and occasionally making it to daily Mass. I also have one kid woefully behind on her Sacraments schedule so I’m using our archdiocesan program “Saints Among Us” to prepare her for Confirmation and First Communion (we have the restored order of the Sacraments here in Denver.)

For math, I have one child, my rising 6th(!) grader, soldiering on with Saxon. His 5th grade brother was newly identified as “twice exceptional” with some definite strengths in language and reading and deficits in math, and for him I’m trying out Math U See at a scaled back level, probably starting him at Beta or Gamma. Happily, the names are so confusing that neither he nor I will have any idea what grade level he is studying at, so that takes the sting out of things a bit. For context, we had a whole array of academic and psychological testing done which yielded some scores ranked by age and not grade level. So his reading comprehension and vocabulary were of a 20 year old and his computation and spatial reasoning of a 6.8 year old. Very confusing but apparently very common to see giftedness and disability rolled up together in one package. It certainly explains some of his struggles with school over the last couple years.

I’m going ahead and putting all our eggs in the Math U See basket and ordering the early levels for my pre K, 1st grade, and 3rd grade students as well.

For language arts/grammar/reading/phonics/whatever you call it in your house, my two older boys are using the Structure and Style program from IEW at their respective levels. For the younger set, the plan is to use Logic of English for both the 1st and 3rd grader. It’s labeled for ages 5-7, but we also discovered this summer that our 8 year old is pretty darn dyslexic and that … also explains a lot of why school went the way it did. We had some fantastic support from a dyslexia specialized reading tutor all summer, and I’m confident that we can build on those gains in the fall while also challenging the 1st grader who is a strong reader to come up to the higher level of instruction.

This is the part where I drop down to sotto voce and tell you…that’s basically it.

I mean, we’ll be in a co-op at our parish where they’re doing fine art and music and PE. And I have Story of Civilization playing regularly on Alexa when we’re having our afternoon snack time or just during days when school comes harder.

One child is getting into coding and will be taking an online class to delve more into that. Another child is now a budding blacksmithing enthusiast after making a chain of steel hooks, a screwdriver, and a terrifying knife all in his first 3 hour introductory class. And all 4 older kids are pursuing the next belt level in Tae kwon do at our studio and are logging 4-5 afternoon classes a week. So they’re busy and weirdly well-rounded. But it’s true what homeschoolers tell you, it doesn’t take 8 hours a day to “do” school. So yes, your little weirdos can get into spear making or French cooking or whatever and there is time for it. And that doesn’t even get into Fall sports but I know that football season will be here before I know it because I saw a “drink up, witches” door placard at TJ Maxx this morning and the days really do just fly by.