Wrapping Up Week 1 (2016-17)

weekly wrap-up
 Our first week of school for 2016-17 was a success!  Things feel really different this year, and I’m not sure what the main factor is.  Part of it is just the kids getting older and being capable of more.  Part of it is having more kids actually doing school work (mostly just Ian and Elijah, but I’m also trying to do a little with Arianna).  Then there’s the fact that we’re going to be starting up Classical Conversations next month.  I also feel like I’ve done more planning than usual and have a clearer idea of what I want to cover this year.  All of these things combined to make school seem new and fresh, and while that’s a great thing, I was also a little uncertain as to how things were going to go this week.

The biggest change I made was creating a daily schedule.  In the past I have just had a list of what I wanted to get through each day, and I allowed Ian some flexibility in how we got through that list.  But now I have four kids needing time on our main computer (more on that in a minute), plus three kids who need to practice the piano, and without scheduling who was going to do what when, it just wasn’t going to happen.  So here’s I came up with for the four older kids and myself (downloadable doc you can adapt):

Daily Schedule pic

The only part of this I didn’t make happen this week was getting the boys to stop and read quietly for half an hour in the afternoon.  Because our neighbors are out wanting to play, my kids want to get through their work as quickly as possible, and since they’ve been choosing to read a lot in the evenings to earn prizes in our library’s summer reading program, I’m not going to enforce this right now.  If their reading habit continues, I’ll cut that out of the schedule permanently and just let it happen naturally.

Okay, so once that structure was put in place, getting through the things I had planned went fairly smoothly!


Corduroy ActivitiesArianna will be turning 5 in the fall, missing the cut off for starting Kindergarten in California.  Yet she’s eager to learn and wants to have some school work to do alongside her older brothers.  So I’ve made time during our mornings to make sure she and Nico both get some sort of “preschool” experience.  I’m trying to read to them each day and give them some fun preschool activities like I did back in the early days of this blog when Ian was little.  I already shared about the fun we had this week with the Corduroy books, so I’ll leave it at that.

Most of Arianna’s “academic needs” are met during the half-hour of computer time I’ve given each of her, which she spends on Reading Eggs, Math Seeds, and More.Starfall.com (all subscriptions that I have found to be well worth the cost).

Reading Eggs Math Seeds Starfall
She also started trying out Talking Shapes, on which I’ll be writing a review in a few weeks.

Nico loves watching Arianna on the computer as well as playing the same things himself.  He’s not quite 3, so his progress on Reading Eggs and Math Seeds is slow, but he enjoys playing the games over and over, so I’m happy to let him have his turn on the computer as well.  (We don’t have an iPad, but our computer has a touch screen, so he’s able to use it without needing to figure out a mouse.)

Then because Arianna wants to start writing, I also have her doing a little bit of copywork (10-15 minutes max each day) to make sure she’s learning how to form letters correctly.


Like many homeschoolers, I have found that grade levels don’t mean a whole lot when it comes to meeting my kids’ needs.  Ian (8) is officially a 3rd grader this year, and since Elijah (6) can keep up with academically in almost everything (the exception being how much writing he can handle), I’ve decided to just have them do most of the same work this year, even though we’re calling Eli a 1st grader most of the time.


This is the one subject where the boys are taking different paths.  Ian started The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann, a workbook focused on how the Bible all fits together as one seamless story.  It has 36 lessons, each broken up into several sections.  This week I walked through Lesson 1 with Ian, but I’m hoping that once he gets more familiar with it, he’ll be able to do most of it on his own.  He liked the last assignment, “Talk to God about it,” because I sent him outside and told him he had a half-hour of quiet time to pray and journal about it on his own.

God's Puzzle
Elijah continued going through his Veritas Press Self-Paced Course on Genesis – Joshua, learning about the Call of Abram.  He really enjoys these lessons, both the content and the fact that he can do them all on his own.  During family Bible time in the evening he loves sharing with Daddy about things he’s been learning.


They both got off to a good start in Teaching Textbooks 4, as well as jumping back into fact practice on XtraMath.org.  I also had them go through some tests on CTCMath to assess their strengths and weaknesses.  For the most part, though, they are both getting their math done independently.


We’re starting American history this year, using The Light and the Glory for Children: Discovering God’s Plan for America from Christopher Columbus to George Washington by Peter Marshall and David Manual as a “spine.”  This week we read the first two chapters, which talked about Christopher Columbus.  I like the way he was presented in a balanced way.  Too often I’ve seen him portrayed as either a benevolent hero or as a a typical evil white man bringing nothing but misery to the native people living in the New World.  Marshall and Manual talked about how at first Columbus wrote about his desire to spread the gospel, but also about how pride and greed tarnished his legacy in the end.

Along with our reading, the boys watched an  interactive map of Columbus’ journey online, marked the journey on a map (I used one from the YWAM unit study on Columbus we reviewed last year), and watched several videos afterward, which provided some good material for discussion.

  • Columbus and the Great Discovery from Learn Our History (24:49, my kids love this series)
  • Vintage Cartoon Introduction (5:29, politically incorrect, perpetuates some of the myths about Columbus, but still had some good information)
  • Christopher Columbus: What Really Happened?” (5:39, focuses on the negative things Columbus did, while acknowledging the importance of his role in connecting the Old World with the New World; provided good balance to the previous video)



Adoniram Judson coverThis year I want to read lots of inspirational biographies with my kids, so we started off with Adoniram Judson: A Grand Purpose from YWAM Publishing’s “Heroes for Young Readers” series.  Judson and his wife were the first American missionaries overseas.  The book covered his early years when he doubted God’s goodness after his sister died, then talked about how he came back to God and ended up going to Burma, where he translated the Bible and helped spread the gospel in spite of governmental opposition.

We did most of the activities in the Heroes for Young Readers Activity Guide for Books 9-12, which has coloring pages, games, songs, and puzzles to go along with these books in the series.  The kids also enjoyed looking at pictures from my own trip to Burma/Myanmar several years ago.

Adoniram Judson


Spelling is something Ian needs to practice continually, and I’ve found that he needs to get that practice in a fun way or else the time we spend on it is pretty much worthless.  For now, I’ve got both boys using both Read Write & Type and the spelling activities in Essential Skills Advantage, alternating between the two each day just to keep things from getting old.  We reviewed both of these programs over the last few months, and they give Ian the repetition he needs while still feeling like he’s “playing” on the computer.  Elijah doesn’t necessarily need the same amount of practice, but I figure it can’t hurt to have him doing the same lessons.

We haven’t done much in the way of grammar up to this point, so this year we’re trying out Fix It! Grammar: The Nose Tree (Book 1) from IEW.  There’s a little bit of teaching to do on the first day of the week, but then it just took a couple minutes for the boys to mark nouns and choose the correct ending punctuation before copying each day’s sentence into a composition book.  They also learned about the homophones there/their/they’re and had to choose the correct one in a couple of the sentences.

FixIt Grammar
The boys learned so much in their writing class last year, and I wanted to keep those skills fresh in their minds while not putting quite such a heavy workload on them.  What I’ve decided to do is have them make an outline each week based on something we read about.  Then at the end of the month, they can choose from those outlines to write a paper.  We’re starting with just one paragraph, and as they get better at it we’ll expand on that.  This week they helped me write up two outlines (on Christopher Columbus and Adoniram Judson) and then they got to choose which one to copy and keep in their notebook for later.


We just got a new program to review, Foreign Language For Kids By Kids, so we went through the first few lessons.  All four kids enjoyed watching the videos (some of it was review for the older boys), they participated in the activities as they were able, and then Ian is going through workbook that goes along with the program.

And that was our first week!  We packed a lot into the four days after 4th of July, but I’m thankful for a smooth start, good attitudes, and excitement about what else we’ll be learning this year.

Upcoming Reviews

We’re enjoying several products right now, so watch for these reviews in the next few weeks (may contain affiliate links):