What's Working and What's New? Our Midyear Curriculum Update for 2019-2020
Updated: Sep 6, 2020
I plan the bulk of our homeschool curriculum once a year in July, but each January it is time for our mid-year review. The whole process of our mid-year review takes only 1-2 hours. The intent of our mid-year review is to look at the following with regards to our home school:
What has been working well?
What needs to be improved?
What needs to be removed from our curriculum?
Is there anything new to focus on?
What specific needs does each child have over the next few months?
I write out my own reflections on the previous semester, and then think about each child's current interests and ways that I can direct our schooling to make the most of those interests. Then I meet up with each child for individual mentoring conversations to discuss their goals and desires, needs and wants. While I may make gentle suggestions during this process, the children are ultimately allowed to decide whether or not they want to focus on anything in particular. This gives my children a sense of ownership over their own educations. Mentoring conversations are a time for me to get a better understanding of what I can do to help my children in reaching their goals and pursuing their own interests.
2019-20 Midyear Review: Things That Need to Be Changed
In thinking about things that need to be improved over last semester, the one thing that really stands out is that we've been too busy. I've been pushing 20-28 hours of work per week in my homeopathic practice and at the Raw Milk Institute, my kids joined a 3x/week homeschool band class, and we've been doing more field trips with friends. These are all worthy uses of our time, but something has got to give.
Our daily Quiet Time has not been happening many days, and we haven't even had much time for our typical kidschool time. We're all feeling more stressed and rushed, with little time for self-care. My introverted son is especially missing his downtime, which gives him a chance to recharge and rebalance. It's time to make some changes, for sure.
I'll be cutting back my work hours to a more manageable level (~12-15 hours per week), scheduling in blocks of time for kidschool, and my kids will have Quiet Time even if I'm still working. I'm hopeful that these changes will allow us to find a healthier rhythm to our days.
2019-20 Midyear Review: Things that Are Working Especially Well
Even though we've been too busy, in thinking back over the last semester I can also see that there have been many things that are working well in our homeschool right now.
Science and History: Alternating Semesters
With our busier schedule, one big change I made to our homeschool routine for this school year was choosing to alternate between history and science each semester. Previously, we had always done both history and science each semester, but I knew that was going to be too much with all of our other new time commitments. For Fall 2019, we focused on history from 1600-1850, and for Spring 2020 we will be focusing on Chemistry. This new system is working very well thus far, and it's giving me a little less stress about trying to fit everything in.
Little Britches Series
I've been reading the Little Britches series aloud to my kids over the past few months, and my kids keep clamoring for more. These autobiographical books tell the story of Ralph Moody, an early 20th century boy who grew up needing to support his family from a young age. Through the backdrop of these books, we are having many meaningful conversations about family, work, money, love, and responsibility.
Thus far, we've read:
Family Game Time
Since my husband's health has been improving over the last year, he has been able to be more engaged with our family during the evenings and weekends. This has allowed us to have family game time a couple times most weeks, which has been so healing for our family culture. Most of our games do double-duty as math and/or spelling practice, so this has also helped reduce my mental to-do list for our school time.
Currently, our favorite family games include:
Quiddler card game, which gives us a fun way to practice spelling together
Settlers of Catan, which is a "strategy game where players collect resources and use them to build roads, settlements and cities on their way to victory"
Sleeping Queens card game, with the addition of a few house rules including being able to get a queen if you can figure out how to make a math equation with all five of your cards
Scrabble, which gives plenty of spelling practice
Uno card game, which we play with the Add and Subtract variation
Carcassone, which is a tile-laying game where players create settlements, farms, abbeys, and roads; along the way, there is the opportunity to practice addition and skip-counting multiplication
My kids joined a homeschool band class this year, and they are absolutely loving it. The class meets 3 days/week, which has been a bit of a schedule cruncher, but it has been worth it. Some things that have really helped make this class a success are:
a fantastic music teacher, who is supportive, fun, and structured
letting my kids "own" their band class experience: I do not require anything of them, but leave them free to decide whether to practice, whether they want to continue in the class, etc.
waiting until my kids were developmentally old enough to join the class: my kids are very different from each other; for instance, although my 9-year-old son is thriving in the band class, his sister would not have been ready for it at the same age because she is naturally less-structured and more random
having both of my kids in the class together: this has allowed my kids to bond more strongly since they can share the experience of band class, practice together, and have friends in common
Wednesday Friend Day
I've observed that one of the things that can lead to homeschool failure is children who feel lonely or feel like they don't have enough friends/peers. As my kids are getting older, I've been trying to make sure that they have more opportunities to spend time with friends on a regular basis. So, Wednesday afternoons have become "friend time," during which we have one or two friends come over to play for a few hours.
To give my kids a meaningful way to practice writing and typing, they each have their own email account. My kids use email to communicate with family members, and my son especially loves to use email. (For security, I set up their email accounts to forward all email they receive to my own email account, so I can monitor what is happening in their accounts.)
My kids are only allowed to check their email once per day, which keeps them from getting too attached to using the computer. Email has proven to be a great way for my kids to be self-motivated in working on their written communication skills.
2019-20 Midyear Review: Notes from Mentoring Conversations
12&1/2 year old daughter Alina
Alina is maturing and showing signs that she may be moving into Scholar Phase soon. She decided to set a big goal for herself for this semester: Alina's Reading Challenge.
After reviewing a few different book lists, we determined that it would be best to develop our own book list for Alina's Reading Challenge. She chose 22 books and set a goal of completing these books by May 2020. To help her stay motivated to meet this goal, we came up with a few incentives including having a family picnic in the forest, choosing a movie for the family to watch, and getting a new shirt. Alina is excited to undertake this challenge.
Alina also wants to have a field trip to City of Rocks and wants to plant a garden.
Nearly 10-year-old son Ian
Ian has struggled with our overly busy schedule, so we discussed ways to make sure he is getting enough downtime.
Since Ian is passionate about cars and machines, I've been giving him driving lessons for the last few months. He asked for us to prioritize more driving lessons this semester.
Ian wants a field trip to the roller skating rink. He also wants to have more read-aloud time, acroyoga, and automotive work. He wants to plant a garden, learn more about inventions, and learn more about how cars are made.
Importance of Midyear Reviews
For the last few years, I have found the mid-year review process to be an important part of our homeschooling. It gives me good insight on where to focus in the coming months, and it reinforces that my kids are in charge of their own educations. It takes only 1-2 hours, and is definitely time well-spent.
Do you have a mid-year educational review? Do you like the idea of being a mentor rather than a teacher to your children?
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