Reflecting on a year of pandemic homeschooling

We’re a month into summer vacation and I’m starting to getting nostalgic for the year behind us and excited for the year ahead. What better time to share some of our highlights from the past year.

What started out as a last minute fix to the problem of “I don’t want my sixth grade to go to school in person in the middle of a pandemic or attend virtually and also the world is hard and there’s no right answer and help!”. But by the end of the year we were telling people that homeschooling was the best thing that ever happened to us. My tween loves the freedom to live by her own schedule and we’re breathing life into subjects like history and science that used to bore her. It didn’t take long to realize that we wanted to keep going, at least for a few more years.

I won’t lie – it’s been a lot of work for me as homeschool teacher/ principal and parent. I have gradually figured out how to plan ahead to make the future easier but not so much that I’m buried under a pile of schedules every day. And more importantly, finding the confidence in myself to tweak lessons and make executive decisions and say YES she is learning and we’re doing great. That’s a day by day situation TBH.

CURRICULUM WINS

The chunk of our curriculum came from a company called Book Shark. We got their history and literature curriculum as well as science and loved both. This company delivered history class the way I’ve always felt it should be – with a focus on the stories that bring history to life. We were sent a mountain of terrific middle school historical fiction as well as half of the Story of the World series (we’ll read the other half next year). The curriculum also comes with detailed week by week lesson plans with everything planned out for you from what pages to read each day, what things to talk about, vocabulary, important dates, and places to locate on the map. I also found activity books on Amazon to accompany the Story of the World books because I have an extra crafty daughter.

Seriously I can’t say enough good things about this history and literature curriculum. We read so many amazing books, many of which neither of us would have ever picked up on our own like The Ghost at the Tokaido Inn, Betsy and the Emperor, The Good Master, The Sherwood Ring, and literally I could do this all day. So many amazing reads. For a couple of book worms, it was a dream come true.

The science curriculum is similarly book-forward with some beautiful science books by companies like Usborne and a science experiment kit. We loved the beautiful books but to be honest, the experiments left something to be desired. As a not terribly science minded person, I found the instructions daunting and unintuitive. My husband had less trouble with them but also less time to help out. This fall we are going to try video lessons from the amazing Science Mom. My friend used her lessons this past year and swore by them all dang year – and the few lessons we’ve watched on YouTube had us convinced we should give her curriculum a try. So while I liked the BookShark curriculum for science, I’m excited to try something new next year.

MORE CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR

We’re also planning to try a new math curriculum next year. We used Saxon this year because it’s what she had used in school up to now and while she did well overall, it was our hardest subject motivation-wise. She’d make dramatic declarations that her soul was dying because it was so boring. Based on a few reviews and a trial lesson, I decided to give Teaching Textbooks a try this year. It’s actually an app that you can download on your phone or tablet or access on a computer. The lessons are interactive and the system will do the grading for you! (Halleluiah)

The other big change for next year will be our Language Arts curriculum. We began this past year using the BookShark curriculum, including Wordly Wise. We quickly decided it wasn’t quite what we wanted and I bought a writing and language arts workbook by Spectrum. These worked much better but over the course of the year I heard about a few more options that sounded intriguing so even though Spectrum was totally fine, this fall we’re going to try Fix It Grammar, Spelling Power and a writing program called Cover Story that I’m perhaps way too excited about. It has video lessons and a couple of notebooks that walk the student through creating their own magazine by the end of the year. The demo lesson we watched was entirely too fun.

I’ve also picked up a handful of self help type books and an art book called Artistic Pursuits that we’ll attempt to work our way through. I also have big plans for a regular Poetry Tea Time and some dabbling in Latin roots if we have time.