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?
Pen and Paper
I start the process of our mid-year review by writing out the answers to the above questions. I think back on the previous semester with an open mind to identify things that need to be changed. Sometimes there may be a particular book or curriculum resource that I was very excited about, but that my children don't engage well with. I may find that there are some subjects that we never even got off the ground with, and I need to decide whether I will re-commit to working on those or let them drop off the to-do list.
I think about each child and what needs I can identify. Perhaps they are struggling with a certain activity, chore, or skill; perhaps they need extra support in some specific area. I think about each child's current interests and ways that I can direct our schooling to make the most of those interests.
Once I have written down my own thoughts, the next step is to have a conversation with each of my children to discuss their goals and desires, needs and wants. This year, we are using this free homeschool compass to record what each child wants to focus on in the coming months.
I write down my children's input, and this shows the children that their input is valued and important. 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. Their own interests are just as important as my own agenda for their learning. 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.
2017-18 Midyear Review: Things that Are Working Especially Well
Ancient History Combined with Science and Math
We are studying Ancient History this school year, and I decided to try incorporating math and science into our history studies by learning about scientists and mathematicians of ancient times. We've been digging into one ancient civilization at a time, and so far we've covered ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Jews, and Greeks. This has worked out quite well over the last semester, so much so that my son was sad to learn we had reached the end of our Ancient Greece studies just before the holidays and would be taking a short break. My kids have been quite enjoying our history read-alouds, recipes, timeline, and generally being immersed in learning about each region for about a month.
I am using the following books concurrently to incorporate math and science into our history studies.
Story of the World Volume 1: Ancient Times by Susan Wise Bauer - This book tells of ancient history in a story format, interweaving myths and legends in with the history.
The Story of Science: Aristotle Leads the Way by Joy Hakim - This late-elementary/middle-grades series tells the story of science in chronological order.
Mathematicians Are People, Too by Luetta and Wilbert Reimer - This books tells the stories of mathematicians and their lives and includes four mathematicians from ancient times.
Elephant and Piggie Books
Over the last few months, my son has fallen in love with a new series of books to use for his reading lessons: Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Willems. These books are genuinely funny, and there are many of them available at our local library. Since these books are written in comic-book style, we have found it works well for me (or my daughter) to read the parts for one of the characters while my son reads the other one. These books are quite enjoyable for us to read together, and my son eagerly looks for more of them when we visit the library.
Jane Austen Focus
A couple months ago, I read Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice as part of my own studies and then decided to watch the A&E Pride and Prejudice mini-series with my family. We all enjoyed watching and discussing the mini-series so much that we all decided to read/listen to Jane Austen's Emma and then watch a couple video versions to compare with the book. That was another success, so now we're all planning to do the same for Mansfield Park and other Jane Austen books.
We are having many meaningful discussions about these books and movies. Jane Austen's books are so ripe for learning from, with plenty of examples of good and bad character, tough decisions, and diverse relationships. The resources we are using for our Jane Austen focus are:
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice audiobook on Librivox, read by Elizabeth Klett (FREE)
Emma by Jane Austen
Emma audiobook on Librivox, read by Elizabeth Klett (FREE)
Emma movie from 1996
Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Mansfield Park audiobook on Librivox, read by Karen Savage (FREE)
Chicken Egg Business
My son has been saving up money to buy into his sister's chicken egg business. He finally reached his goal a month ago, and now they are happily working together to share the duties of caring for the chickens. It is heartening to see them working together in this way. This business was a great way for my daughter to learn the habits of daily work and steadiness when she began it a few years ago, and now my son is starting to learn those same lessons.
2017-18 Midyear Review: Changes to Our Existing Curriculum
I was a bit too ambitious in planning our Ancient History studies, and had planned to use Story of the World Volume 1 by Susan Wise Bauer alongside A Child's History of the World by Virgil Hillyer and The Story of the First Americans: Ancient Times by Suzanne Strauss Art. My kids didn't engage well with The Story of the First Americans, so that was dropped early on in the semester.
We all did enjoy A Child's History of the World, however it was too much to try to do both that and Story of the World (especially since we were also doing historical science/math books as well as picture books for each ancient civilization). So we dropped A Child's History of the World about midway through last semester.
2017-18 Midyear Review: Notes from Mentoring Conversations
I helped my kids each fill out a homeschool compass for the coming semester, to aid us in discussing their current homeschool needs and wants.
10&1/2 year old daughter Alina
Alina identified the following areas that she wants to work on in the coming months:
having a container garden of cool season vegetables
practicing writing and spelling properly
having more time to read on her own, with a plan to read her own books alongside her dad two nights/week (while I read-aloud to her brother in another room)
improving upon her drawings of animals
She also selected a few places to explore in the coming months, including White Sands National Monument, Soledad Canyon, and City of Rocks. She also asked if I could print her more math worksheets for the coming weeks.