It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.
No really, this year has had some major ups and downs. It was a year that – on paper – can feel very unsuccessful in some ways. In other ways, however, it was one of the best years we’ve had. I finally got dialed in to what I want for my kids and my homeschool – and my self! We overcame a lot this year, and even though it might not have been our prettiest school year yet – we did it. We’re wrapping subjects up and sliding in to summer break, so I thought now would be a good time to do a year-end review of what we did, what we didn’t, and what’s next for us.
We Came Out of the Gate Strong
We started our school year prepared, well planned, well prepped, and ready to hit the books.
My oldest, who is in 7th grade this year, started the year with Build Your Library’s Level 8 curriculum. Science was his great love last year, and we chose a literature based, Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum for him that focused on the history of science.
My youngest, a 5th grader this year, kicked off the year with Oak Meadow’s Grade Six Curriculum. I placed her into a level based on her abilities and interests, and not her actual grade level. We were really excited about the curriculum we chose, and as we started our year it seemed to be exactly what we’d expected.
Sounds idyllic, no? Two kids, happy with their curriculum choices, all the plans made and everyone was working hard.
Well, it was great… until it wasn’t.
The Mid-Year Switcheroo
To some, my mid-year curriculum change seemed sudden and extreme. My gut was saying we needed to change.
I struggle, especially as my kids are getting older, to balance my desires and goals as an educating parent with the needs and wants of my kids. They definitely have a voice in the choices we make, and I don’t top-down enforce many things.
Particularly as a home educating parent who has generalized anxiety, decision making can be incredibly stressful. I knew in the spring of 2018 that I was feeling really drawn to classical education, and when I saw that Memoria Press had released their new Charter & Public School materials, I wanted to give them a try. That move felt scary, and I had a really hard time making the call that spring. I saw the cool topics in both BYL 8 and Oak Meadow 6, and those felt like safer choices.
By October of 2018, I knew I’d made the wrong call. I could either finish the year (because, really there was nothing wrong with either curriculum) – or I could follow my mama instinct and make the switch then.
And so, came the Great Big Switcheroo of 2018-2019.
Onwards and Upwards
Our choice to switch to a classical-inspired homeschool was perfect. We started slow, picking up a few pieces from the new Memoria Press line. Originally, our plan was to use a few subjects from them, and then a mish mash of other things. Quickly, however, we found that we loved Memoria Press so much that we made it our main curriculum.
I knew that this change would be a big one for my kids, who up until now had learned in a mainly Charlotte Mason-y kind of way. So, our focus for this year was all about setting foundations. We chose subjects that were important to start right away: Latin, composition, and classical studies. Getting our feet under us with those subjects would make a transition to a full grade level package much easier.
We took this year to get comfortable with that style of curriculum, make sure we phased each new subject in slowly, and we played with some scheduling and routines.
This is, hands down, one of the best decisions I have made yet in our homeschool. So, while making the decision was deeply anxiety-inducing for me, ultimately it was the right one.
Our Favourites From 2018-2019
I’ve been pretty swoony over all of the products we’ve used this year from Memoria Press. There are definitely a couple that stand out as our very favourite of them all. Here’s a look at what we used this year:
7th Grade Homeschool Curriculum for 2018-2019
My 7th grader really connected with Memoria Press’ approach in a way that kind of surprised me. I wasn’t sure how he’d take to a workbook-y kind of resource, but he really seemed to thrive and surge forward in a way that I didn’t expect. Here’s what he worked on this year:
- First Form Latin – Charter Edition: This was a MASSIVE win, and one of my son’s favourite subjects this year. He really seemed to connect with the orderliness and incrememental approach that MP takes with their Latin. We’ve moved slowly, but we are mastering everything. This is one subject that we believe full mastery is necessary, and so we move slow, we take breaks, we review review review.
- Famous Men of Greece – Charter Edition: We enjoyed this. Originally we started the year with the Homer set from Memoria Press. When I realized it would be a bit meaty for him this year, and called the amazing peeps at Memoria Press’ customer service line, I realized it was in the 8th grade core package. So, we decided to back up and do Famous Men of Greece first. Now that he has this book under his belt, I think he’ll be a bit more prepared for the tougher Iliad/Odyssey set that will come with his 8th Grade Core Package.
- Classical Composition – Charter Edition: This has been our most surprising success. When it comes to this particular child, writing has been the bane of his existence. With language struggles and writing-triggered anxiety disorder, we’ve never LOVED a writing curriculum. At first glance, I thought this was going to sink on day one – it looked dry, rote, and a bit confusing to teach. It ended up being a great fit for my son. It’s short, there’s no fuss or unnecessary fluff added. It’s just a clear, easy to use, composition curriculum. He named this one as one resource he MUST keep using next year, along with Latin.
- First Start French – Charter Edition: I have to be honest, we dabbled in and out of this one. We are planning to add it on a regular basis starting next year. It is a solid, easy to use French curric and we enjoyed it. We live in an area with a lot of French-speaking Canadians and so learning French is something that my son feels is very important.
- Trojan War (Memoria Press Literature Guide) – Charter Edition: I’ve got a whole post coming soon, discussing my thoughts on the Memoria Press approach to literature studies. I was so hesitant to use these, and thought they would kill my kids’ love of reading and literature. Totally the opposite, it has helped us dig deep and I can see the sturdy foundations that these workbooks are laying for future literary analysis. We chose just a couple of these to work on this year, and next year I’m excited to make them a regular part of our schedule/day. They work beautifully for this particular student.
- Poetry for the Grammar Stage – Charter Edition: This was something my 7th grader and I used on a pretty informal schedule. We added it, together with his sister, on days when we had some time or felt like doing some poetry. He liked it. The poetry selections were lovely. Also, it gave them a good idea of how to think about poems, how to read them closely and begin approaching poetry in a different way. Up until now, we’ve been pretty much only doing poetry teatimes and once we tired of that a bit, this was an excellent way to keep reading some poetry but give them a bit more meat to chew on.
- All the math programs: Not even an exaggeration. Math was tricky for us this year. My son is at an age where he’s wanting some independence but the math is getting more difficult. So we had to try quite a few things this year. We started with Teaching Textbooks 3.0 (online) and it was an utter waste of time, ultimately. He wasn’t retaining much, it was not the most solid math we’ve used. So, we switched at first to Jousting Armadillos. I adored this curriculum, but my language-phobic son said he felt too stressed ‘reading his math lesson’. He’s 13, he knows his own anxiety very well, so we dropped it and moved on. We tried AoPS Pre-Algebra online book, and it had a similar feel for him. He doesn’t read well electronically, it seems to be a bad fit, so we went WAY back to Math Mammoth. Their grade 7 level has been a perfect fit for us. Enough instruction that I can help him out, but not so much that it is overwhelming for him. He’s making his way through that slowly and its a good balance of challenge and confidence-building for him.
5th Grade Curriculum Choices for 2018-2019
Meanwhile, my 5th grader also got her Memoria Press groove on this year. I definitely took a more gentle, slower approach with her as we got into this new style. She’s a bright kid, and a good student, and doesn’t really balk at much in terms of school. Moving from a Charlotte Mason kind of style to a more structured, classical approach was going to be a big change for this lit-loving little girl. in 2018-2019, she worked on:
- Grammar School Latin: This is a fantastic resource. It’s gentle, easy to use, short lessons and I know that my 5th grader will be well-prepared for First Form Latin next year. We’re not finished this completely this year. Like her brother, she’s been working slowly and diligently to master what we’re covering before we move on. This Latin program challenged her a little, but has already filled her with confidence. She loves learning Latin. This set ended up in my cart on a whim when I was making my first MP order. The price point was not too high, and I thought it looked interesting and had never heard of it before. I am so happy with it and recommend it to everyone who wants a gentle, but thorough, introduction to Latin.
- Famous Men of Rome: I am a big fan of this series of books. We started out pretty strong with this one, and loved that it tied in really nicely with her Grammar School Latin lessons. When our year would get a bit wonky, as it did often, this was always the one thing that got placed to the side. She’s going to use it as summer enrichment reading but next year she’ll move on to Famous Men of Middle Ages. We’ll hit Rome again before high school, I think, so if we don’t finish it then I’m okay with that. Sometimes, something’s gotta give.
- CAP’s Writing & Rhetoric: This is one of the few resources we used this year that was not from Memoria Press. My daughter is a gifted, naturally talented writer. I tend to not fuss much with language arts programs for her. She’s always got a writing project on the go, of her own free will. We started using Writing & Rhetoric as a way to just give her something structured to work from that might help her refine her writing a little. We finished Narrative 1 this year, and have Narrative 2 on the shelf for next year. She did say she’d like to try the Memoria Press composition program and see how we like it.
- Poetry for the Grammar Stage: As mentioned above, we did this very loosely and casually with her brother when the mood struck us. My 5th grader reads and writes a ton of poetry in her own spare time, so it’s again not something I push too much as a ‘structured’ subject.
- The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (Memoria Press literature guide): I hesitated to introduce study guides to my 5th grader yet. She reads like she breathes, and we already can have really interesting conversations about what she’s reading. I was very surprised when she seemed to actually love using this study guide. We have read this book approximately eleventy billion times, give or take. I used it as our first MP lit guide because it was a book we were already comfortable with, and it would give her the opportunity to focus on getting adjusted to the workbook style approach. She dug in, she loved the questions, she did many of the enrichment activities. It was just… a win.
That’s All, Folks!
So, here we are at the end of a long and strange year.
We were sick with influenza for the entire month of January (just as we were settling in to our new curriculum).
We had a beloved pet fall gravely ill in March and after a couple of months we needed to make a compassionate decision for her. This was devastating to me, and we all struggled while this was happening.
We had arguments and bad days. I had days where I thought “hoo boy, this is it for me – off to school with you both!”.
We hung in there, we persevered, and we did our best through some of the chaos to come together and work as a team.
As I look at what work we’ve accomplished, and the growth my kids have shown – I call this year a win. Despite all the ups and downs (so many downs this year), it is a success.
We are not quite year-round schoolers, but we don’t take a long summer break either. We go from “relaxed homeschoolers who use a structured curriculum” to “get a bit of math done a few days a week, read some things, and we’ll call ‘er good” homeschoolers.
This summer, we will spend some time keeping up on our math as we can. We will keep our latin reviews going so that we can dig in to new stuff in the fall. The subjects that needed completing before next year starts are done – or, mostly done.
Speaking of which, our plan for next year is definitely to stick with Memoria Press. In fact, we’ll be using full grade-level packages for each of the kids. I’ll substitute in Charter materials where possible and we’ve made a few deletions from their main package. My daughter requested a few things for next year that will be filled by other resources, and my son is adding in a few things as well.
I definitely feel like this ‘foundation-laying’ year was a good call. I know that both kids have a good feel for the flow of Memoria Press materials, and I am much more confident in my role as educator in this particular style of teaching.
We are looking forward to a relaxing summer, and feel prepped and primed for a fantastic year next year. I am tired, a little burned out, and definitely going to make the most of my summer break so that I am fueled and ready to roll out the upcoming school year.