2015/2016 Year End Review

Well I guess before I start planning for next year, I should look back on last year.  My planning pages for each grade are here: Grade 3, Grade 5 and Grade 7.  (Heads up-this is a long and boring post that is mainly written for my own documentation purposes.)

Grade 3: Cooperation and Confidence themes


  1. Find a method for getting thoughts onto paper– Parks did learn to journal his feeling into a small journal.  He continues to prefer to draw instead of write, but he is progressing on this goal.
  2. Work independently for 30 minutes- Parks did accomplish this goal, although it varied day to day.  He occasionally had days that he had a difficult time working on his own.
  3. Understand the concept of multiplication and division and apply to practical life. – Parks rocked this goal.  He does not enjoy doing math worksheets but he does an excellent job at practical and daily math such as cooking, time, and money.
  4. Find and utilize effective strategies to reduce anxiety and increase self confidence.-Parks really worked hard in this area this year.  He will have to work on this forever, I suspect.  He feels very confident in certain areas of his life such as horse back riding, bike riding, drawing, pottery, and outdoor activities.
  5. Work in groups effectively.-I saw this goal accomplished nicely in his last class.  He participated in a robotics class which required a lot of team work, communication, and out-of-the-box thinking.
  6. Investigate how the environment effects the choices made on shelter, food and clothing. I think this was one of Parks’ favorite goals so of course he accomplished it.

Overall, Parks year was a mixed bag of sorts.  At times, I was pulling my hair out and at other times, I was so excited for what he was inventing and wanting to do on his own.  At the last minute, I changed math curriculum to Math-U-See.  Parks worked through Gamma or Multiplication.  We worked through it slowly and he did well.  He worked through blocks on Mr.Popper’s Penguins, Shelters, Farmer Boy and Diary of an Early American Boy, The Giving Tree, Creation Stories from around the world, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, Fort, and Cooking.  He also took a biology class throughout the year at Latta Plantation Nature Preserve.  Other activities included African drumming, clay class, robotics, horse back riding, and gymnastics.

Grade 5– Self-awareness, compassion and empathy themes


  1. Utilize effective communication to inform others of her emotions.  Sawyer tends to keep her emotions to herself.  She worked a lot on letting us know if she needed some space or a friend over and how she is feeling.
  2. Find and utilize an effective time management strategy.-Unless she is reading, Sawyer is rocking this goal!  When she is in a book, she has no idea what time it is.  However, she is doing well with the schedule and judging her timing.  Occasionally, leaving the house is still difficult but overall she is doing well.
  3. Find and utilize an effective organizational strategy for school work and room.- This is another area that Sawyer did very well in this year.  Her school work stayed together and fairly organized.  Her room drives me a little crazy, but she knows where everything is and has her own organization strategy.
  4. Utilizing previously taught grammar skills, write a variety of papers to learn the skills of prewriting, editing, drafting and final copy.- Sawyer did well with her writing skills this year.
  5. Increase confidence in utilizing math concepts in everyday life.- Sawyer’s confidence in math really increased this year.  With the increase in her confidence with her school math, I really noticed an increase in her confidence with doubling and halfing recipes, making change with her money and time management.
  6. Increase awareness of how other’s are feeling around her and other people’s plans.- Similar to her time management goal, Sawyer did well with this goal unless she is reading.

Sawyer really grew up this year.  I really enjoy watching her grow into her own person.  For math, Sawyer dropped back to the Math-U-See Gamma or multiplication to increase her confidence in her math knowledge.  She worked through that book and through the next Math-U -See book called Delta or Division.  She also worked through Latin Word Roots book A.  She worked through blocks on the Ancient Incas, Secret of the Andes, US Geography, The Mossflower, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Ida, and Botany.  She participated in the Environthon class.  Extracurricular classes included African drumming, clay, gymnastics, and horse back riding.

Grade 7 communication, vision and exploration themes


  1. Find and utilize effective strategies for time management and organization for school.-Sims had a lot of activities that required a lot of management.  Overall, he did very well.  Occasionally, he needed a little prodding to keep motivated.
  2. Be able to recognize and respond appropriately/effectively to other’s emotions- One of the nice parts about goals is that you have time to achieve them!  I was nervous about this one up until April.  I am not sure what happened but he started working on this goal in April.  I would not say that he has 100% met this goal, but I definitely think that he has made terrific progress towards it.
  3. Find and utilize an effective and efficient note-taking method – Not met.  We learned about note taking.  We made T’s, note cards, highlighting, traditional note taking and he really did not take to one.  I guess this one will keep going through next year.
  4. Articulate ideas clearly and effectively- Sims did an excellent job with this goal.  He has always had terrific ideas but didn’t always know how to explain them or to make them come to fruition.  This year, he worked through his plans on his own before presenting them to the group or to me.
  5. Find and utilize a method to organize though in the form of written communication using prewriting, drafting, editing and final copy.– So Sims did not figure out note taking but he did a terrific job with writing!  In fact, he did it without my help.  He utilized the hand method (draw a hand on a sheet of paper.  The palm is the main idea.  The thumb is the introduction.  Three fingers are the supporting ideas and the pinky is the final idea).  In the past, Sims never wanted to write a rough draft but this year he was very comfortable with writing multiple drafts.

For math, Sims used the Pre-Algebra book from Math-U-See. He finished Latin Word Roots book A.   He then worked through blocks on the Middle Ages (The Door in the Wall, Good Masters Sweet Ladies, Castle and Cathedral), Alchemy, The Alchemist, Chemistry, Wish/Wonder/Surprise, Astronomy, the Renaissance, Anatomy/Physiology, and Carry On Mr.Bowditch.  He participated in the area Environthon and the NC state Environthon.  He also participated in African drumming, competitive gymnastics, horse back riding, small engine repair and photography.

As a group, we worked on land and water forms using Pin It Maps.  We read Hawksmaid and The One and Only Ivan together (although, everyone listens to all of the books read).  We went to several shows including Breakin Convention, Momix, Flamenco, Black Violin, and Diavolo.  We hiked.  We went on a lot of trips including Washington D.C., Durham, Florida Keys, NC Mountains and Sebastian-Florida.

Our Homeschool Essentials

I have read a couple of posts lately on homeschool essentials which have gotten me contemplating on our homeschool essentials.  What curriculum, places, things could we not homeschool without?  Well, here is my list for now.

  1. The library:  We are very lucky to have three terrific libraries with five miles of our house.  The library is an amazing resource.  Books, books and more books.  The internet has a lot of information, but there is something magical about having a book with pictures and stories.  I choose to use a lot more stories and library books to learn from than textbooks.  I find textbooks dry and boring for the most part.  Living books help us learn in a very natural way through stories.
  2.  Learning Ally: I have written many times about Learning Ally.  Audio books are AMAZING!!!  Learning Ally has a host of volunteers who read and record books for people who are blind, dyslexic or visually impaired.  I have a difficult time reading aloud for long periods of time, and I have a really difficult time reading some books aloud (life Robinhood or Peter Pan).  Without Learning Ally, we would not read these rich and wonderful stories.
  3. Parks: You all know how much we LOVE the outdoors!  Our local, state, and federal parks allow us to learn about our beautiful ecosystem.  Without these protected lands, I am not sure how much hiking we would be able to do.  I am so grateful that our country finds it important to protect our forests and natural treasures so that we can continue to enjoy and learn from them.
  4. Waldorf Essentials:  Initially, I followed the Waldorf Essentials curriculum fairly close to the way it is written.  Now, I mainly use it as a resource.  However, I go back to the Waldorf Essentials website often and read through blog posts.  Melisa ‘s work keeps me grounded and pulls me back into reality when I start to get overwhelmed.

Obviously, the above is not a complete list of what we use on a day to day basis.  I do use a math curriculum, and we do pick and choose from several other curriculum resources for our work.  However, the above definitely represents the things that I would struggle to homeschool without.

Do you have something essential to your homeschool?

Picture Post-Signs of Summer in the Garden

Our Produce is starting to come it!  So far we have only gotten zucchini but the others are growing well!

Pops of color all around!

Even the animals are enjoying the summer weather!

Building Self-Confidence

Don’t you love watching those little moments of self-confidence growing in your kids?

I had one of those moments today.  For the past six weeks, the kids participated in a sailing class.  Sims loves sailing, and he makes it look easy and fun.  So much so that Sawyer and Parks asked if they could take the class this spring with him.

sail 1Being new to sailing and younger than Sims, they learned to sail on smaller boats than Sims.  The smaller boats required them to sail independently.  Neither of the kids enjoyed sailing on these boats.  In fact, I wasn’t sure that they were going to complete the class.  Luckily on Tuesday, they took a make-up class that changed their opinions of sailing completely around.

The best part came tonight.  The class was small so the instructor decided to take out the bigger boats which required two people to each boat.  Sawyer started out the class very nervous and unsure of herself.  She was excited to have another person on the boat with her.  What she didn’t know was that her partner was just as new to sailing as she was or more so!  Tonight I watched as she skippered the boat, performed problem-solving, and instructed her crew.  She found out how much she really did know about sailing.

sail 2

To many people, Sawyer appears to be very self-confident.  We know her at home to doubt herself at times.  As she gets older and is on her own more, I want her to know how to trust her instincts and to be confident in who she is and what she does.  I see her confidence growing at the barn each week, but that is an area that she feels comfortable.  I enjoyed watching her rise to moment tonight in a situation that she did not feel comfortable in and with people who she does not know well.

sky 1

Small Engine Class

engine 1

Day 1: Breaking down the engine and rebuilding it.

engine 2

Day 3. Problem solving.

engine 3P1110830

What a fun way to start winding down the school year and gearing up for summer!  This week our garage was converted into a classroom for 8 young men to learn about small engines and small engine repair.  I have a feeling that this class sparked a new interest.

Friday Hike-Stephens Road Nature Preserve

Environthon proved to be an amazing experience for my older two children.  The downside of the class was that we were not able to take our Friday hikes.  Well with environthon over, we decided to hit the trails at Stephens Road Nature Preserve.