Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mid-Year Evaluation

It's that time... Friday is the end of our second quarter!  According to the paper-work filed with the city, we are half way done with the school year.  (According to me, we pretty much never stop school!)  But it's time for me to reflect on the past semester, and to put it down in black and white - What worked and what didn't? What will we keep doing and what will we toss out the window?  What have we loved?  What will we change for the remainder of the year?  

Category One: Tossed Out the Window

You want to know the thing that absolutely went out the window the second week in September???  You probably guessed it.  The Schedule.  Oh, how I love order, time slots, and scheduling things!  And, oh how quickly that all fell apart.  It would be super awesome to start Math at 8:15 and finish it at 8:30, but at 8:17 the baby needs a fresh diaper - the UPS man knocks at the door delivering the very diapers of which I speak - the toddler is stuck on the toilet waiting for a wipe and wailing that she wishes she could still wear diapers - the microwave beeps to say, "your coffee is reheated... for the third time" - the distractable Math student has wandered off because something in the workbook prompted him to look for his missing cowboy hat... and flashlight - and the still-at-the-table Math student has just finished sharpening fourteen pencils all the way down to the erasers.  So... you didn't have to pry The Schedule out of my hands, I freely let that one go.

Category Two: Things That Worked

Even though the time-blocked schedule didn't work, I'm happy to report that we still *usually* get all our lessons done every day!  Yay!  It helps that we stick to short lessons but it's also partly due to the Magnet Board System that we started after I gave up on The Schedule.  I made a blue set of magnets for one child, and a green set for the other - one magnet for every possible lesson that they might have to complete. In the mornings, or the night before, I put the lessons for the day on the left, and as they're done, the boys move them to the right.  The Magnet Board System keeps me organized and keeps the boys in-the-know.  They can see what lessons they'll be expected to do on any given day (no danger of Mom springing another lesson on them when they thought they were done.)  And it allows them to physically keep track of what they've accomplished.  It has worked better than expected and I'm definitely keeping this up.  (Incidentally, we use this same method for chores and it works great!)  

The only "hiccup" to this system is that your first grader might think he doesn't have to do a reading lesson if the Reading magnet disappears.  Post-It notes work in a pinch; Mom wins that round! (see a poor-quality photo of our magnet system at the end of this post!)

Category Three:  Things I've Had to Change

Tuesday Tea. We try to have civilized tea time, music, and discussion on Tuesday afternoons.  Every Tuesday the kids would beg me for tea.  Sugar cubes, flavored tea, milk, honey, more sugar cubes. They never drink the tea.  So now we have Tuesday Hot Cider, or Tuesday Hot Cocoa... delicious, but lacking the delightful ring of "Tuesday Tea."  

Art and Music.  I began the year with a plan to introduce a new artist and composer each month for Art and Music appreciation.  But we appreciated Monet and Vivaldi so much that it went on for weeks and weeks.  Finally we were able to snap out of it and move on to another artist and composer just in time to re-calibrate the plan, and now we study a new artist and composer each quarter.  Definitely better that way.

Category Four: Things I (We) Love That Have Taken Me By Surprise

Books to Remember Series from Flyleaf Publishing, the Decodable Literature in particular, by Laura Appleton-Smith.  WOW!!  I highly recommend these books.  They are the absolute opposite of typical make-mom-want-to-gnaw-her-arm-off readers.  They are simply lovely - charming stories with lovely illustrations.  No cartoons, stick figures, or halting language (so prevalent in first grade readers) here.  I could go on and on and gush all over this blog and still not say enough.  I love this series.  These are the books my "I'm not going to read" child will read (even to his siblings!!)  The language and illustrations are truly enjoyable, even for adults; a mother won't feel compelled to bang her head against the wall as she sits by and listens.  But you don't have to take my word for it... you can check out previews of a few books on the site.  (Let me know if you love them!)

Dover Coloring Books,  hearts and flowers... love, love, love!  I practically built the entire first semester of Science around Dover Coloring Books.  And they even encourage you to photocopy them (!!!) so your I-love-Dover-coloring-books child can realistically color a tarantula five six times!  Love, love, love!  

NOT a tarantula, but a wild turkey, part of our "we-spotted-it-on-a-hike local wild life nature study"

Draw, Write, Now

artwork by Dominic, age 5

Copy Work - who knew?

Ok, this next picture is so awkward because the shelf is practically 
in a corner and there's not a lot of natural light there.  There's 
not a lot of artificial light there either.  Sorry.
So, even though it's oddly angled and bad-lighting grainy, here's...
the magnet lessons boards...
  Each boy has his own board to keep track of which lessons are already done
for the day, and which are still to come.  The top board is where I store all the
not-in-use magnets.

Finally, I'm always on the look-out for great new ideas or resources or fun-sources (Yep, it's a word... it covers anything from puzzles to building blocks to museums.  Now you know!)  for school time.  Throw your best suggestions my way!  


  1. Wow, I was just stopping in from Dwija's for the favorite homeschool item linkup, and then I followed your link to this post and I have to say I LOVE the magnet board idea! This could revolutionize our days! Thanks for sharing!


    1. Gretchen - Thanks! I have to say - those magnets often make the difference between a smooth day and a chaotic one!! I hope if you get to try it (or something like it!) that it makes life easier! I'd say a smoothly run homeschool day is a successful one! Thanks for stopping by my blog, have a great weekend!


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