Seven Not-So-Quick Takes :: Our School Year in Review and a Few of Our Plans for Next Year

by | May 17, 2013 | American History, Curriculum, Geography, Home Education, Math, Papal Unit Study, Primary Arts of Language, Science, Spelling, State-by-State, State-by-State Scrapbook | 81 comments

I’ve been spending a lot of time the past couple months making plans for our next school year, deciding which programs we will continue and where we will be making changes.  Here is the link to our original Curriculum Plans :: 2012-2013.   

— 1 —

Let’s start with Language Arts… So far we have loved everything we have used from the Institute of Excellence in Writing!  The oldest three just completed (yes, completed!!!!) the Student Writing Intensive, Level A and it has helped them incredibly with their writing.   Next year we will either move on to either the Continuation Course or perhaps the Ancient History Themed Writing Course to go along with our history studies.  Or maybe a combination of both? I haven’t decided yet.

We have also completed Latin, Handwriting, and Vocabulary for the year.  (Prima Latina was a little too difficult for my 2nd grader, so we dropped it early in the year.) We will also continue with Fix It!  and all the children have been working on memorizing poems from Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.

Phonetic Zoo and All About Spelling continue to be the perfect spelling programs for our family.  The oldest two are currently working on Level B of the Phonetic Zoo and Twinkle Toes is in Level A.  Chiquita will spend another year using All About Spelling before she moves on to Phonetic Zoo as well.

Snuggles started the year with the Alphabet Path and the writing portion of Primary Arts of Language.  I was so happy with PAL that I purchased the reading portion as well.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to keep up with all the extra fun activities for him with the Alphabet Path, but between the Primary Arts of Language and his Math he has continued to learn so much each week.  I am still hoping to add my posts from C and D weeks soon and then return to the Alphabet Path over the summer and continue next year as I originally planned.

— 2 —

Moving on to Math…  Bleh!  As much as I have loved it in the past, I am not happy with Teaching Textbooks…

I’ve mentioned before that last year we enrolled our children in a local Charter School.   The benefits of the Charter School, in addition to still being able to choose my own curriculum, have been that I have an “Educational Specialist” (who is a Catholic friend of mine) come to the house each week and spend one hour working with each of my children enrolled (5 hours on Thursdays, which has greatly helped keep me on track).  I receive an “allotment” that can be used towards purchasing some of our curriculum, paying for music and sports, or used towards extra tutoring, etc.  Some of the “drawbacks” are that I have work samples and reports to turn in for each quarter and we have extra testing throughout the year.  (When we were exclusively homeschooling we were required to test in 3rd grade, 5th grade, etc. Not every year.)

Anyways, back in March my oldest three children had to take the state tests.   It didn’t go well.  My oldest (who struggles with Auditory Processing Challenges and is currently a 6th grader) failed both tests – Math and Language Arts.  Our 2nd son, who is in 5th grade, passed the Language Arts and Science, but failed Math.   Our oldest daughter in 3rd grade passed both the Language Arts and Math, but just barely on the Math.  (I thought for sure she would “exceed” since she is nearly a year ahead in Math.)

Over all it wasn’t too bad – collectively they passed 4 of the 7 tests they were given.  I felt a little better once I had a chance to see how the whole school had tested.  Twinkle Toes (who I thought would exceed expectations) was the only student who passed the 3rd grade Math test.   The boys, did not pass the math tests, but only 16-19% of the students in their own grade levels actually passed. (Many of the students in the charter school also use Teaching Textbooks for math.)

Is it the test?  Or is it the programs being used to teach Math?   I’ve been spending many hours the past couple months trying to figure it all out. I’ve been talking to friends, comparing programs, and reexamining my decision to continue with Teaching Textbooks.

If you asked me a few months ago I would have told you that I love Teaching Textbooks.  Originally I switched to Teaching Textbooks out of necessity.  With a large growing family and babies arriving every other year I just wasn’t able to keep up with the other programs we had been using.  I figured that the math they would get with Teaching Textbooks was most likely more than they would have been getting with me each day…  It really did help get me through some challenging times. Yet, now it seems that it has given both myself and the children a false sense of accomplishment.   How can the kids score 90-100% on all their lessons and then fail standardized tests and placement testing for other programs?  And it isn’t just the tests (I’m not a big fan of the tests to begin with) there are so many concepts that they just haven’t learned or do not understand.

Last month I hired another tutor (a friend of mine who has been teaching High School Saxon for the past 6 years) to start working with my older boys for Math, to prepare them to retake the test, and we started realizing just how far behind they are from Saxon Math.  Even after a couple months of tutoring and lots of extra studying the boys still were not able to pass the math test on the second attempt, though both of their scores did increase and Rascal “nearly met” the requirements.

All along I’ve been under the impression that Teaching Textbooks is a little behind and have been trying to compensate for that by having them try to get ahead in the program. (Chiquita just started TT 4 at the end of 2nd grade and Twinkle Toes should finish TT 4 soon.)

My long term plan has been to switch back to Saxon for High School.  We have a co-op here that I hope to join for a few subjects, which uses Saxon.  After discussing it with the boys’ new math tutor, and having her compare programs, we realized just how much Teaching Textbooks is missing.  It seems to start out about 1/2 year behind or so, but by High School it seems to be about 2 years behind!

Needless to say we will be switching back to Saxon next year, at least for the oldest two.   After taking the placement tests my soon to be 7th grader (who just completed TT 6 and has been tutored with Saxon to help catch him up the past couple months) will still be going back to Saxon 7/6 (6th grade math).  My plan is to put both boys in the same level together and have a tutor come once a week to help with any challenging areas.

I still haven’t decided what to do with my girls.  Twinkle Toes, who is going into 4th grade could move right over to Saxon 5/4.  This would probably be the ideal thing to do for her.  Chiquita who is just completing 2nd grade will probably continue with Teaching Textbooks 4 and move on to Teaching Textbooks 5, keeping her ahead a couple grades until we are ready to switch her back over to Saxon as well.  Decisions, decisions…

As for Snuggles, he has been using Singapore Essential Math which he has enjoyed.  I never did get to much Calendar Work with him and he definitely needs some practice there…  (That is one thing I’ve missed from the Elementary Saxon books!  I’m actually considering going back to Saxon 1 with him next year, now that I’ve sold all my old books! lol I think he’d really do well with the program.)  I’ve also been happy with Times Tales, as well as a couple math apps recommended by Charlotte:  Speed (definitely a favorite with my kids!) and Dragon Box.  For next year I am also planning on purchasing the actual Speed Card game for the children to play against each other as well, since they enjoy the app so much.

— 3 —

Maybe it was because of the accident in the fall, but we were all ready for a change from Exploring Creation… The older boys were also ready for something a little more challenging to prepare them for High School so we switched them half way through the year to Concepts and Challenges in Science Book 1. They have just completed the sections on Biology and Chemistry.  I have been very happy with this change and they will continue using this series next year.  (Note: If anyone out there has hardcover versions of Concepts and Challenges in Science Book 1, 2, or 3 that you are interested in selling please contact me!  These books are so hard to find…)

The girls are still working on completing Exploring Creation With Zoology 2: Swimming Creatures of the 5th Day and their Notebooking Journals, but I will be switching programs for them next year too.  At least for now… We will probably go back to the Exploring Creation Series again at some point.

Anyways, I just purchased Focus on Elementary Chemistry and Focus on Middle School Chemistry for next year. I have a few more pictures to share, but you can also read more about these books on the publisher’s website Real Science 4 Kids or at Emmanuel Books.

— 4 —

The boys are still working on completing our American History Studies for this year.  You can see our Election Study here and I still need to post the pictures from our Civil War Unit Study.   The boys have also nearly completed their Industrial Revolution to the Great Depression Unit Study. So that just leaves World War II which we might try and study over the summer going back to Ancient History in the fall.

The girls have also continued to enjoy their American (Girl) History studies!  I still need to post pictures of their Kirsten and Addy Lap Books and they are currently working on Samantha and Kit.

— 5 —

Everyone has completed their Maps Charts and Graphs workbooks and I’ve already ordered the next in the series for the fall.  We’ve also continued to make very slow progress through our State-by-State study.  Whenever things get too busy this is the first to get set aside…

I’m sure the kids will all want to continue making their way through the states, but next year I’d like to move on to World Geography.  That reminds me of a question I have for all of you…  I’d love to hear any thoughts you all have on Classically Catholic Memory.   Has anyone used in in a home setting, and if so how have you liked it?

— 6 —

In addition to our usual Baltimore Catechism studies, the children all just about finished with their Living In God’s Church textbooks and their various assigned stories from Young People’s Book of Saints, Golden Legend of Young Saints, Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls, and More Tales for Boys and Girls.

The highlight of the year was definitely the election of our new Holy Father and our Papal Lap Books!

— 7 —

Throughout the year we have studied a couple composers, though piano lessons needed to be put on hold for now, to spend the funds (from our charter school allotment) on extra tutoring.  We also had to take a break from organized sports.  On the plus side it left lots of family time and afternoons and weekends spent playing outside in addition to a couple little road trips.  It has been such a great year!

The other things we weren’t able to get to included Blue Knights and Little Women Hospitality.  It is so much harder to “make the time” when it’s not done in a group setting.  I am thankful that we were at least able to still have a Mother-Daughter Tea Party!  I’m still considering if I want to coordinate actual groups again next year or not… We’ll see.

I’ve been trying to get all my plans for next year finished by the end of the month and start creating new color-coded checklists for next year.  The checklists were such a blessing and really did help keep us on track!

I may not have gotten to everything I had originally planned, and we may be struggling in a couple areas, but over all I think it was a very productive and successful school year.

For additional Quick Takes visit Conversion Diary.


  1. Eliana

    Hi Jessica,
    It's really interesting reading about your curriculum experiences, since I hope to homeschool someday. And, I was thinking through my own family's curriculum experiences to see if I could come up with any suggestions.

    One of the best ones I can offer is to have your boys spend time playing math games on free educational sites. It really helps to make math practice fun and motivating, so that you might actually have to tell them to stop doing math and go out to play! This one is one of the best, as students can compete with kids from around the world in a fun setting:

    For some pre-algebra, these sites are also fun:

    If you can find the time, I recommend researching different free online math game sites, as I think they are more appealing for drilling concepts than traditional textbooks and workbooks. Obviously, for teaching concepts you still need a textbook.

    I don't know if you can afford video curriculum for math or not, but one that worked for me in 8th grade was A Beka.
    Their program is very Christian but a few things are anti-Catholic, so because of that I would not recommend it for all subjects, but in math there was never a problem with anti-Catholic material. It is handy having a video teacher to explain everything, and your boys could watch the videos together, making the curriculum a little cheaper, since you would have to buy two textbooks, but not two video courses. It is very thorough, so if they pass tests with that curriculum, I would be very surprised if they don't pass the state tests.

    And finally, for drilling some other subjects, I recommend this website–every correct answer means companies donate money to feed the poor:

    Congratulations on finishing up another school year!

  2. Annie

    It looks like your year has been a success!
    I am also interested in Classically Catholic Memory. I will be watching the comments for feedback 🙂
    I am trying to decide between Saxon and Singapore for my 4th grader. I am leery of Saxon, but it is so highly recommended. Ah, decisions.

  3. Megan @ The Ipps

    Have you heard of common core standards" (CCS)? I am just learning about it and how it even being implemented for many homeschooling curriculum. Many companies have actually chosen to align their products with this new standard. I am still learning about the pros and cons, but it is being said that a "dumbing" down is happening with less analytic thinking. I highly suggest looking into The Educational Freedom Coalition (geared mostly to homeschooling) on FB. They have a wealth of info and even lists of the companies that have aligned themselves with CCS. Singapore Math is one of them or at least I think the American version. Saxon (not the public school one) is not aligned. I am still learning. Perhaps the reason for failures of test taking could be due to the school implementing the Common Core Standards? Our state is one of the few that does not do CCS. God Bless!

  4. Christina

    Jessica…I do not homeschool (or even have children yet) but I am very interested in Catholic homeschooling and I really appreciate how thorough and honest you are in your posts. I have only heard positive things about Catholic Classic Memory and I do believe Sarah (at Amongst Lovely Things) has mentioned this before and has gotten a lot of comments on it that you might be interested in reading. I think it is great that you are willing to make changes where necessary and that from possible mishaps you are going to be able to correct them for your younger children. I too am not a fan of standardized tests but I certainly think in this case they were used in the correct way to point out weaknesses (not to make funding decisions or children feel like they are in competition). Please continue with your wonderful homeschooling posts I certainly hope to learn a lot that I can use if I am blessed with children. Oh one more suggestion I had was to perhaps switch Chiquita to Saxon math now…since we know teaching textbooks isn't getting it done I am not sure if I would continue to use their program…I would think the earlier the switch the better…especially since it sounds like she is doing quite well in math.

  5. Maxine

    Thanks for posting your take on IEW's Student Writing Intensive. I've been wondering if it'll be appropriate for my going-into-4th-grader. Writing is something we haven't done much of and I think he's ready to really go for it. I bought Fix It! but I don't know if he's ready. When do you start your kids on it and what is their writing background when they do start? All my kids enjoy the Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. Even my 4 year old participates and her take on the poems is always funny.

  6. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks for the suggestions and links! My boys love playing math games and back when we were using Right Start we were much better about taking the time to play them. We've still been playing some (like the ones I mentioned in the post) but I'll have to check out the ones you suggested.

  7. Jessica Gordon

    Yes, I have heard of common core standards, and that our state is one of the ones that is going to start implementing them (they haven't been implemented yet). I haven't looked into it in any detail at this point. That was one of the things I am planning to do this summer.

    I really do think the poor performance on this particular test that my children took had to due with Teaching Textbooks being so far behind. I also found out that another local charter school with nearly 600 students noted that the students using TT scored the lowest, most not passing. Those using Saxon did really well. And actually the students that scored the best had studied Math with ALEKS Math. I had never heard of ALEKS so I did look into it at that point. It sounds interesting, and basically teaches the child based on what they know or don't know. Still, I think Saxon is still the best course for us and I'm confident that it is a solid "tried and true" program and those that do it (including my siblings) score very well on the their SATs.

    Math is definitely one of my own weaknesses. I was homeschooled, and even though I did have decent scores on my SATs that were able to get me into college once I finally decided to go, I never made it past the first part of Saxon Algebra 1. I basically got my GED when I was 16 and started working full-time. I still learned so much (the skills I needed to later start my own successful business) but it wasn't the "normal" High School Education like the rest of my homeschool siblings received. The tutors and co-op (and my husband!) are going to be key in getting my kids through High School Math. In fact, I might just take the courses with them! 😉

  8. Mimi G.

    Hi Jessica,
    A great program my family used for Math, and I plan on using for my own children, is Math-U-See. The program comes with instructional DVD's and the teacher teaches the concepts being learned in each unit. He is teaching it to a classroom, and shows and explains the concepts on the board for the students at home and in class. He demonstrates a lot with manipulatives so that the student can visually see what is happening. We used Saxon before and my Mom realized we didn't understand fractions and percentages. So she switched and we used it all through high school. The nice thing about the program is that it can be done at the student's pace and the the book is constantly reviewing the previously learned concepts. So the kids could put the video in, learn the material and then start working on their own. If you needed to help them you could watch the video with them, or read the lesson in the introduction to each unit. My Mom would have us read the lesson, watch the video, and then re-read the lesson (only a couple pages) and then start the work sheets. Good luck finding the right program. Math is always such an interesting subject to tackle.

  9. Jessica Gordon

    I actually sent Sarah an email yesterday asking if she had used Classically Catholic Memory! 🙂

    Yes, I have tried to look at the tests as a learning experience for my children and to help point out any weaknesses in our curriculum. I would rather they struggle with the tests now, rather than later when they are getting ready to go to college and their test scores really matter. Had they not taken these tests I would have just continued on with Teaching Textbooks (I had already purchased the texts and workbooks for next year) and in the long run we would have more difficult time switching back to Saxon for High School.

    I actually just started considering moving Chiquita over to Saxon too… My hesitation is that I just don't think I can keep up with multiple children in the Elementary levels of Saxon (K-3). The reason I originally left Saxon was I just couldn't keep up with 3 children in those grade levels. What I am wondering is, since she is ahead, if I could put her in Saxon 5/4 (4th grade Saxon) with her sister even though she is only going into 3rd grade? That way I would have the boys in 7/6, the girls in 5/4, and Snuggles doing Saxon 1. I think I could manage that…

  10. Jessica Gordon

    My 4th grader did just fine with the Student Writing Intensive. It was an excellent introduction to IEW for our family, and made teaching it very easy for me since Mr. Pudewa did most of the work! 😉 I also had help with the editing of their papers and Fix It! since this was something I had Kathleen (our ES, who also uses IEW to teach her own children) work with them on Thursday afternoons.

    This was our first year using Fix It! Prior to switching to IEW this year we used The Complete Writer and First Language Lessons, along with Narrating. (You can find a lot of our past curriculum linked here.) I'm so happy with the switch to IEW and Primary Arts of Language has been a great into to writing for my 2nd grader this year.

    The first level of Fix It! is suggested for grades 3-6. I think younger children can do it, but they may need to work through it at a slower pace. My children have all worked through it at their own pace. We started in the fall and my 6th grader has completed week 21 of 33 (Lesson 7), my 5th grader has completed week 28 of 33 (Lesson 9), and my 3rd grader has completed week 18 of 33 (Lesson 6). My plan is to just have them continue at their own pace and move on to the next level when they are ready. Level three is suggested for grades 6-9, so if it takes my soon to be 4th grader a couple more years to complete Level 1 and 2 that will work out just fine.

    I haven't decided yet whether I will have Chiquita (going into 3rd grade) start Fix It! next year or if I'll wait one more year and start her in 4th…

    If you do use IEW, I highly recommend the Portable Walls they sell. My children each have their own and reference them constantly!

  11. Sue

    Jessica, thank you for sharing your experience with Teaching Textbooks! I also had the experience this year of finding that my kids are behind in math after using TT for a couple of years. We are not overseen by any state over here in Japan, but we are able to take the Iowa test at a US based Chrstian school where we belong to a homeschool support program, so I have them take it most years for my own records and to get an idea of our progress. The kids ended up not taking the test last year (I think we were all sick on the day), and I was unpleasantly surprised this year that both my 8th and 9th graders did not perform as well in math as I would have liked (and expected) considering how well they have been doing with TT. Neither of them are super strong at math, particularly my 9th grade daughter, but I had expected at least grade level. They both scored a little below grade level.

    Anyway, I had been wondering if the root of the problem was in TT itself, or something else, so I was very interested to read about your experience. At their ages, though, I'm nervous about the thought of switching programs, especially if I can expect them to be somewhat (very?) behind the level of the new one! We have previously used both Singapore and Math-U-See, both of which were not a good fit for us, which pretty much leaves Saxon as the tried and true curriculum, I guess. Oh, boy! It looks like I have some serious praying, thinking and researching to do!

    Again, thanks so much for being so open with your thoughts and experiences with your curriculum – you just may have saved me from continuing with something that really isn't working. Bless you!

  12. Liz

    Your Papal Lap book was outstanding. The Papal Election was truly the highlight of our academic year and I hope the kids will always remember watching the election of Pope Francis while in a tent playing in the backyard. We too enjoy the IEW writing courses and I think we will try the Fix It Grammar for next year, since the "workbook" grammar doesn't seem to be transferring over to their actual writing. We use Singapore for math and although it is time intensive, the kids score well on their tests. I am a stickler for math and science. I like Teaching the Classics for Literature as we are able to pick our own books and many literature studies are free on the web. We especially enjoyed the book that you recommended "The Easter Robin". My son just completed sixth grade and enjoyed Jay Wile's Exploring Creation through General Science. It is a very readable science text and we both learned a lot. I like your book list for history and faith but sometimes I have a difficult time with the Catholic resources since some authors incorporate legend into history. It makes it very confusing to teach. Have you had this difficulty with any of your resources? I am very interested in the CCM for next year and hope to find one in our area. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

  13. mel

    Teaching textbooks…ok, we used Saxon with our oldest (now 10th grade) from first grade on. She always did well. We used saxon teacher dvd's and we would usually just work together on what she got wrong, but hit a wall in algebra, and I was overwhelmed and too busy to spend a couple of hours a day slogging it out with her. So we switched to TT for algebra. I wish we hadn't. She will probably finish high school with TT, but I won't use it again. It wasn't the saving grace to our school day I thought it would be. It isn't very thorough, a lot of the lesson practice questions are fluff, and the multiple choice lends itself to guessing. She could basically guess her way through the lesson and still score ok for quite a while until she was quite behind. All of a sudden she was in trouble. We had to back way, way up and I was (and still am) doing algebra every day with her. We are finally almost finished. I wish I had stuck with Saxon. I should have scaled back on the time I was spending with her with Saxon to what was manageable, even if that meant going year round to finish the book, and just stuck it out. She probably would have gotten over the hump and been more independent again.

    As far as the younger grades, oy, saxon is crazy intensive then. We don't start using it until 54 now. I do really like the program and the manipulative work, but it's a lot to handle. We are enrolled in MODG, and so we use Abeka workbooks for 1-3rd grades per their syllabi, those are less mom-intensive, and then switch to saxon in 4th grade.

  14. Jamie Jo

    I didn't have time to read everyone's comments, so if I repeat sorry. We tried Teaching Textbooks for 3rd grade one year, and I think 5th for my 2 oldest. My daughter (3rd grade) fell far behind, and also did not do so hot on state testing, she passed just below where she should have been for the year. I found that it's the repetitiveness that Saxon gives that helps my kids. Even though they hate the work, they do well. We switched back and they went up in Math again. We do once a week every other problem on the mixed practice or sometimes I'll let them only do the lesson (the first sheet)SO not every day is so much work. Hope it goes well for you next year.

  15. Anonymous

    Thank you for your honest review of TT. I was considering using it for my soon to be 3rd grader but had read a few discouraging reviews, like yours. I did find that Saxon offers a new 3rd grade text that is written in the same format at 5/4, 7/6, etc. They do not use manipulatives and is geared for students beginning Saxon a bit later in the game. I am considering using it as Saxon has a good reputation for solid results. It might be something to consider.
    Thanks for all of your great information!

  16. Karen

    I'm disappointed to hear about the TT. I ordered the 7th grade text for my eldest daughter when we were going to HS back in January. She ended up just transferring back to the public school but we held on to the unused text and figured we'd use it over the summer to help her get ahead in math. Last summer we used Saxon Math and I thought it was very solid. We had been using IXL for standardized test prep and she HATED the program with a passion so we figured TT would be a good alternative. Now I'm thinking I may have to just order the 7th grade Saxon book and use that with her. I can't see wasting the little bit of time I have during the summer to prepare her with curriculum that probably won't help her get ahead.

  17. Celeste Creates

    I switched my oldest son who is in 6 right now a third of the way through the year. He was doing TT7, but I felt like something wasn't quite right. When I got the Saxon 7/6 book, I was so surprised how much he hadn't done yet. Saxon felt more like what I remember learning. TT will say if you use the it the entire time you get a complete math picture. It just wasn't where my son needed to be, even at a gra level ahead. My DD, 10, works a level ahead in TT, but for her it is good. She would be so overwhelmed right now with Saxon. Hope things improve.

  18. Just One Handful

    I, like you, loved TT early on with the babies arriving every other year. This year however, pointed out by testing…I noticed we have lost some ground. I've also heard staying the course with TT helps catch that up but I'm not sure that's a chance I want to take. We're backing it up a year and switching back to Saxon. Thanks (everyone)for sharing your honest experience. I thought it was just us. While disappointed to have lost ground, at least I can sleep better knowing we're not alone!

  19. Anonymous

    I just received classically catholic memory alpha in the mail a few days ago. It looks wonderful! We are starting Monday. ( we school year round). I bought the student text, teacher text, cd, maps and timeline cards. I hope to interest some other catholic homeschooling moms into forming a co-op. I, too, do better fitting things in with a group environment ( accountability?). I will let you know how it goes in a few weeks. My kids are 11, 9,5 and 3. We are new to classical education.

  20. Christina

    I think that is a great idea! Even if she moves at a little slower of a pace it certainly seems like it would be time well spent in Saxon rather than using TT for another year. I also think that anytime you can do "group/family" lessons everyone benefits–although there certainly isn't as much discussion in math as there would be in a history class, I think it is nice for siblings to be able to learn subjects together both for ease and support from each other.

  21. Anonymous

    Hi Jessica,

    I have 9 children (12 down to 8 months)6 being homeschooled, so I totally understand trying to manage multiple levels! I did exactly what you are thinking and put my girls into the same level of Saxon math 5/4. I dont think you would have a problem at all, it eases them into the concepts. We also use the DIVE cd's for Saxon and it really helps me with not having to explain quite so much.
    Hope you find something that works for the family!

  22. Jessica Gordon

    Sorry for all the typos! I wish I could make corrections in the comment box… 🙂

  23. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you for the recommendation! I have always heard good things about Math-U-See from a friend who uses it with her children, but other than that I'm not very familiar with the program. At this point I do think, for our family, going back to Saxon is probably the safest choice, especially since I will have help. Hopefully I will be able to incorporate enough Math Games and Apps to help with any concepts that my kids find difficult to understand.

  24. Jessica Gordon

    You're welcome! It wasn't easy to post publicly that my children have been failing their math tests! 😉 My oldest has always struggled due to his Auditory Processing Challenges, but back in 3rd grade, when he took his first state required test, he had no problem at all. In fact he tested ahead in many categories and at least on grade level everywhere else. We were using Saxon at that time. (I had my second son tested at the same time that year for 3rd grade, even though he was only in 2nd, and he scored at least a year ahead in everything too.) It has been so interesting to read everyone's comments and see that we are not the only ones struggling with TT! I feel even more confident that going back to Saxon is the right choice for our family.

  25. Amber

    That's very interesting about Teaching Textbooks! I've never used it, but I know quite a few people who think it is such a lifesaver. And the permise certainly is attractive, isn't it! I haven't done any testing myself (we live in CA and file an R-4, so we don't have testing requirements) but I sometimes think about it for the same reason you mentioned in one of your comments – to get an idea of how things are going before the high stakes testing begins.

    I thought it was interesting to see that you're planning on covering WWII then going back to Ancient Times. I'm facing the decision on how far to go in US History for next year and I haven't decided if I want to end at WWII or go further. And how far into modern times would I go? Perhaps that's better to do when the kids are older? (High School?) We've certainly had a number of informal discussions about 20th Century events… Hmm. Something I'm trying to figure out.

    I'm also looking at Classically Catholic Memory for next year, although I don't think I'd use the whole program. I bought the timeline cards for the program in March to use with my 5th grader, and they have really helped her get a handle on the order of events we have studied this year. She has them in her BoC, but working with the cards twice a week has really helped her nail down the sequence of events. So I highly recommend those! I'm thinking about getting the CCM teacher's manual and using some of that for memory work with the kids as we cover different things. It also sounds like it might be a good source for copywork and dictation. I wish I could get a good look at it!

    Thanks for sharing your experiences and plans, it is always so helpful to read what other people's honest opinions and to see what they are thinking about doing for the next year!

  26. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you, Liz! I'm glad you enjoyed the Papal Lap Book! And watching the election outside in a tent? What special memories for your children!! And I'm also glad that your family enjoyed "The Easter Robin." I haven't heard of Teaching the Classics for Literature, it sounds interesting! I think next year we will be using some of the Novel Inquiries to go along with Connecting With History, but I'll have to check it out. Could you give me an example of some of the Catholic resources for History and Religion that you haven't liked? I use such a mix of books for my children – Textbooks, Non-Fiction, Literature and Historical Fiction – and it seems to work well for our family. History is a favorite subject for most of my children. RC History's Connecting with History booklists have been such a blessing. It's nice to know that we won't find anything anti-Catholic or other conflicts with our Catholic Faith. Of course when we are reading our picture books about the saints my children know that some of the stories are legends (St. Nicholas, St. Patrick, etc), but they also know that there is usually some aspect of truth to those legends. I hope you are able to find a CCM in your area! I sure wish we had one around here…

  27. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you for sharing your experiences Mel! I remember hitting that wall with Saxon Algebra 1 and just giving up… My mom had 10 (of 12) of us at the time, I was the oldest and the twins were babies. It was a challenging year!!! My mom did the best she could with the options she had at the time. There is so much more help available for homeschoolers now than back when I was homeschooled! For the rest of my siblings it seems that having tutors or participating in co-ops for High School Math and Science has made a world of difference. I'm so thankful that I have access to help for my children!

    I might have to take a look at those Abeka workbooks. I wasn't happy with MCP since my children really need the constant review of concepts, and this has been my first year trying Singapore workbooks. Even though it will take a lot of time I think that Snuggles would love the Saxon program. I'm able to check it out from the Charter School Library so I might just give it a shot for next year. Since I had a miscarriage between him and Rose this is going to be my biggest gap between children starting school – Rose won't be in Kindergarten until 2015 – so it might not be too overwhelming if it is just him for a couple years. Hmmmm….

  28. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks Jamie! I have spoken with friends about this (at least for the older levels of Saxon) and they had different opinions. One mom doesn't let her children skip any problems, the other has them do all the practice questions for every lesson and them every other problem if they aren't struggling. Or, like when she was teaching my siblings, would teach two lessons (they had twice a week classes) during each class and have them do the practices for both and the problem set for one of the lessons. Personally I have come to the conclusion that even if we can't manage to get to every problem every day, they are going to learn SO much more than they are now…

  29. Julie

    Jessica, I can also recommend Math U See, but I totally understand why you would want to stay with Saxon! One thing that is really awesome about Math U See, especially for kids like your oldest with Auditory issues, is the manipulatives. The visual aids make ALL the difference for many kids (my own daughter who struggled with math went from barely Basic on the state tests to the highest level!) It wasn't really the testing that concerned me, but the fact she had NO confidence in math. Anyway, you probably already have these, but with any math program, adding manipulatives like Base 10 blocks is really helpful. Here's a link:

    Also, the free online (on You Tube) Khan Academy does a great job in explaining math concepts. Also, since your kids like board games, the game Equate is FABULOUS. Our tutor highly recommends it too.

    And one more idea, to bring back some of the fun of math, we loved the Sir Cumference books, which introduce math concepts via a Knight of the Round Table!

    I personally struggle with math too, so I've had a lot of worry with it. Good luck!

  30. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks Julie! I don't have a set of Base 10 Blocks yet, but the Abacus from Right Start, along with all our other manipulatives from them, have been awesome. In the past I was always really good at making sure we were incorporating manipulatives, especially for my oldest, but that is one area I've dropped the ball this past year. The Math Apps have been helping, but I do need to incorporate more for him.

    Equate: The Equation Game looks wonderful!!! Thank you for the recommendation. I just ordered it for my kids. 🙂

    I've also just purchased a couple of the Sir Cumference books (after Cay Gibson recommended then to me recently) and hope to collect the whole set, or see if we can find the rest at our library.

  31. Cheech

    I saw some C & C science books on ebay. They are not numbered, but list the subject matter so they might be the ones you are looking for?

  32. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you! I had checked ebay again yesterday but wasn't able to find any… The books I am looking for combine all the topics into sections so they touch on each topic a little each year in Book 1, 2, and 3, progressively getting a little more difficult each year. I actually have been able to get two spiral bound copies of the first book and one of book 2 (they were photocopied and sold by Emmanuel Books) as well as one original hardcover which is in color and so much nicer. After seeing the original I've been watching for copies of Book 1 and 2 for months without any luck. Since I already have a copy of each it's not that big a deal, though the boys do prefer having their own copy.

  33. Amy

    This post was very helpful to me. I have seven from (this past year) 8th grade down to almost born. I also do Connecting with History, Phonetic Zoo, Maps, Charts and Graphs, Saxon (sooo tempted by TT, but dh wanted us to stick with what we were doing), IEW, Concepts and Challenges, Exploring Creation…I'm a year behind you in doing American History (using Homeschool in the woods and your suggested reading lists for my younger set…THANK YOU, with an added jr. high/sr. high booklist I created with the help of excellent Catholic booklists out there for my oldest son. ) So many of my friends have gone the TT route. Thinking of now getting Times Tales, the apps you recommend, and doing Student Writing Intensive A with my 3rd/5th grade girls instead of the IEW themed books next year. (Love IEW…done themed books for years.) In MN we are required to give yearly standardized tests, and it has been so helpful to me in seeing what works and what doesn't. I've added Daily Language Review lessons…very quick and easy.

  34. Jessica Gordon

    You know, I was thinking that we would just wait until cycling through again to cover the 20th Century, but I just discovered today that Homeschool in the Woods (the publishers of the Lap Book Printables we have been using) just published a 20th Century Lap Pak! I still would like to start Ancient History in the Fall (it has been so long since we last studied that time period) but I'm now considering squeezing in a quick study of the 20th Century first.

    I don't think I'd use the whole Classically Catholic Memory program either, and I really don't know if I would be able to keep up with it on my own (with out a co-op setting) or not. Using some of it might be a good starting point for us, perhaps using the Religion, History, Timeline and Geography portions for sure, and maybe the Great Words and Latin. If I left anything out I guess I'd start with the Science and Math. (Though obviously my kids need all the help they can get with Math, so I don't know!) I sure wish I had a way to look though it all before spending the money. I suppose I wouldn't need to purchase the complete set and that would cut down on the cost… And here I had thought I was almost done with all my curriculum purchases for next year! 🙂

  35. Jessica Gordon

    Yes, please do let me know how it goes for your family. Which year did you purchase?

  36. Krista

    I was using Seton Math for K last year with my daughter and continued with the 1st grade book – got a quarter of the way through and it just "wasn't happening", so I went in search for another curriculum. I decided on MCP to finish out 1st grade (we will need to go through the summer to complete but even with this curriculum, I'm not all THAT happy, either. Math seems to be one of those subjects that she just isn't as interested in (when she actually enjoyed K Math!). Reading up on the Saxon math and all the reinforcements/review that each lesson provides I think will be a good thing for my daughter. I notice that when she gets review regularly, it helps and will build that solid foundation for the future. I also find that the pictures in MCP are sometimes too distracting for her and she's rather focus on those than the actual math! 🙂 If many students test well for the State requirements, then it can't be all "that bad". I have read some reviews that speak to it being "boring" and not "moving along fast enough", "too basic and not enough challenge", etc. A friend of ours is a retired high school math teacher and she often comments just how much the students are "failing and falling behind" and just not learning HOW to do math – they are given calculators and not taught or expected to learn how to actually figure out an answer to a problem, for example. She has noted how things have changed for the worse in these regards over the last couple of decades. She notes how it is SOOOOO VITAL that THE BASICS ARE LEARNED WELL. One can't "learn math in 15 minutes a day" – it takes constant practice and repetition, like sports or music needs, for example. "Practice makes perfect", as they say. "Mastering a concept" in "two workbook pages" and a game or two just doesn't seem like it will "take root" very well – a lot more "water" is needed for growth! Keep us posted, Jessica, on how Saxon works for you all and especially for Snuggles, as we will be one level back from my daughter who will be going into 2nd next school year. I think I am going to give Saxon 2 a try. Thanks for all of your thoughts and reflections in this post!!!! I'm also interested in the Science curriculum you posted about, too. I had a look at it – seems interesting!

  37. Jessica Gordon

    I didn't know that Saxon has a new 3rd grade set! Is this it: Math Intermediate 3? That might be just the thing for my third grader, if she isn't quite ready to do 5/4 with her older sister.

  38. Krista

    Yes, and they also have a Middle Ages one, too, for anyone looking for that time period!

  39. Patty

    Thank you for posting this! It has cleared up a lot of questions I had about math programs. My kids have been using Saxon all along and they actually have become bored with it. So I am trying to find something else for them. TT was a thought, but has now been pushed out…thank you! My kids were in public school up until 3 years ago (they used Saxon there and so I continued). My now 10 year old used saxon 5/4 in the 3rd grade, 6/5 in the 4th, and just finished 7/6 for 5th grade. It seems that in public schools they are ahead a tad. I just continued in the same pattern when I took them out and they didnt have any problems keeping up since it is a ton of review all the time. So I think your daughter won't have a problem being in the same level as her sister.

    On a side note, I am hoping that you do consider doing Little Women of Hospitality! I have all the stuff and have not done anything with my older girls in hopes you will share you wonderful ideas! I am sooooo not good at coming up with things to do. And your ideas are fantastic and look like so much fun! I plan to use some of your Little Flower ideas for my 4yr old this year. Would you consider doing an online Little Women, like you did with the Little Flowers? Please please please????

    God Bless you and your beautiful family!

  40. Just One Handful

    I second Patty's idea of you planning Little Women of Hospitality for us to participate online.
    And you can even send me a bill 🙂 I'd love it. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!

  41. Maryan

    Thanks Jessica for the reviews – both the positive and negative – good stuff to chew on as we all go through the "what to do next year" jitters!

  42. Amber

    Oh, that is good to know about the 20th Century lap pak! We have used several of their paks and have enjoyed them. Thanks!

    And I wish I could get a good look at CCM too… Those little pics on their site just don't do it for me! I think I will probably skip the geography part because we have a couple of good geography apps that the kids really enjoy… Which saves some money too!

  43. Unknown

    I have a learning disability in math and struggled mightily school. With that being said, I can not teach my children math. I am at about a 4th grade level myself. Yet all my children (college freshman, 8th gr., 6th gr, 2nd gr.) have tested above grade level in Math. My daughter aced the Math portion of the SAT. We have used Saxon since the beginning but the key for me is the DIVE computer CD program. It is a series of math lessons for each Saxon level and edition. The teacher's voice is heard and the computer screen is like a white board which you can see his writing. It is excellent and I feel, imparative, in succeeding with Saxon. That could help with your children's independence in math; I know it did with mine.
    God bless,

  44. Shauna

    We used CCM this year, and have been very happy with it. We started with the Gamma year, based on our history cycle for the year. I will admit that I wasn't faithful to work it into our daily rhythm at the beginning of the year, so we haven't finished it, but we will keep it up throughout summer. Once we worked it into our morning time, I have been amazed at how much information my boys (both 8 yrs old) have retained. And we have all enjoyed it. It has been a great way to have organized Catholic memory work for us. We have also used the great words, religion, and science sentences for our copywork. We will definitely be continuing to use CCM next year. Although I may not buy the student texts next year since we didn't use them at all. I hope that helps a little.

  45. The girl who painted trees

    We did Classical Conversations for two years and I have always been tempted by CCM since we are Catholic, so I will be following comments to find out what others say.

  46. 9peasMom

    Along the lines of you doing a Little Women Hospitality series (I would love that too) have you ever considered an online workshop where we would pay in order to participate – I know you prefer the method of donations, but you might consider that many of us would willingly pay you for access to a workshop such as that because we value your creativity and ideas.
    I am embarking on homeschooling (after a 6 year step away from it) again, and I cannot tell you how much I value this post. Teaching Textbooks is very popular and had been recommended to me, but I'm sticking with Saxon. I so appreciate your honesty!

  47. Deb

    Thank you so much for taking the time to share your experiences – it is really incredibly helpful to hear your (and your commenters') opinions. I would be interested in hearing about your thoughts on All About Reading vs. PAL Reading (since it looks like you switched from one to the other with Snuggles?). I'm looking for a reading program for my daughter who will be a first grader next year. I've been happy with All About Spelling so far with my older son, so I've been looking into purchasing All About Reading Level 1 for my daughter next year, but I've been hearing a lot about PAL Reading lately and am trying to decide which would be a better fit for us.

  48. Deb

    Oh, and I forgot to mention that my 3rd grader is just finishing Saxon 5/4, so it could be a possibility for Chiquita to do with Twinkle Toes. I've found this level is much less mom-intensive than Saxon 1-3, which is great!

  49. Jessica Gordon

    Sounds like we have very similar curriculum for our children!! The Times Tales was especially helpful for my son who struggles with Auditory Processing Challenges. We've also been using Math-It which is also great reinforcement. We have used Daily Language Review in the past and it was great!

  50. Jessica Gordon

    Wow! They really are working ahead in the public school there! I went ahead and did the first lesson of Saxon 5/4 over the weekend with the girls. It was definitely more challenging for my younger daughter, but she completed it just fine. I think we will give it a shot. If it ends up being too hard for her we can just move through it at a slower pace, supplementing with Math games and other practice.

    Little Women's Hospitality… You are so sweet! Looking through the Teacher's Manual I really don't know how much I'd add or change in the program! When I started with Little Flowers it really needed to be modified since my girls were so young at the time, but I think I'd probably use the Little Women Hospitality Program as it is written. Let me look through it again this week. 🙂

  51. Jessica Gordon

    I just responded to Patty's email, but missed touching on the online group possibility. It was really difficult when I tried setting it up for Little Flowers. If I did it again, I would most likely have to limit the size and I'm really not sure how well it would work. I am open to suggestions though, if you have any ideas or thoughts!

  52. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you, Cathy! They did not have the DIVE CDs back when I used the program as a child. I watched a sample a couple weeks ago and it seems like they will be very helpful! It is great to hear about how well your children are testing with Saxon Math.

  53. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you Kathy! I'm excited to hear that you will be homeschooling again!

    I just responded above about Little Women Hospitality. 🙂 I'm really not sure how much I'd add or change to the program… I'm going to look at it a little closer this week. I wish you all lived nearby and we could start a group together!

  54. Jackie

    Hi Jessica, thanks for sharing your experience with TT. I am in a similar situation and decided to use Saxon Intermediate 3 – it is great and so much easier than the Math K, 1, 2, 3. No math meeting! Also I picked up a small book at called "Using John Saxon's Math Books" for my oldest beginning 5/4. It has a lot of tips and ideas and explains why Saxon works so well. Blessings! Jackie

  55. Jackie

    Also forgot to say we use CCM Alpha Year and like it a lot. It is great having everything in one place. I ordered the Teacher's Guide, Maps and Stickers and Cd's and that is working fine. Everything is very nice quality and well thought out. I had a 3, 2 and K-er this year. We go over memory work in the morning after prayer time. I do a little or a lot depending on our time frame. There are only 18 weeks in the program so you can take longer to do one week's worth of material. She has lots of tips for using it in the teacher's guide too. I only require some of the material to be memorized, the rest I feel they are just getting familiar with it and will hear again when we cycle through again. Hope that helps!

  56. stjosephacademy

    I switched our family to Singapore Math from TT this year after last summer when I realized that my 4th and 3rd graders had gotten near perfect scores on all tests, but knew very little. I was very dissapointed. We couldn't be happier with Singapore – had to start almost a year behind for each of them and I started it with my K and 1st grader as well this year. It's a lot of hands on activities, games, etc. but they finally understand concepts that last year with TT were completely foreign to them. I used Saxxon with my oldest who is now in college and while he faired well, he did not excel like I thought he would once in college math. Singapore is worth looking into. It starts out very slow in K/1st grade – almost too slow I thought. But it all starts to come together in grade 3 and the foudation that has been laid is very solid. It helps the student really understand the concepts instead of just how to get the right answer. My favorite part is the mental math strategies. My kids are now faster than I am at adding/subtracting/mutilplying pretty large numbers in their heads. It's a lot of preparationg, but totally worth the effort. Good luck in finding a program that works for your family. I sold all my Teaching Textbooks. I'm sure it works for some children, mine are just more visual – hands on learners I guess.

  57. Unknown

    Teaching the Classics is AWESOME. IEW sells it. Alas, it's another thing that won't make the cut for a survival year, but I fully expect to use it in the future. I've watched the seminar so I have the basic idea.

  58. Unknown

    Just one more option in case you decide Saxon 5/4 is too much for your third grader- Saxon now has a Math Intermediate 3 book that is laid out like the 5/4 book (so way more independent than the K-3 levels). I decided against it for my 3rd grader b/c I didn't think he was ready. I got him MCP C instead, which is what both CHC and Kolbe recommend for before 5/4.

    Also, we've been using Saxon for a month now and it only takes me about 15-20 minutes to teach the lesson. The rest she can do independently. That's been a relief to me! I expected it to be more intense than it actually is.

  59. Krista

    Will be interested in knowing how you end up liking the RealScience4Kids Chemistry curriculum! I've been researching for a good science curriculum that I can use as a main text/lab work and supplement with others books in the subject matter, especially literature books and books from Sleeping Bear Press (like "G is for Galaxy"). I just ordered the Astronomy series from RealScience4Kids and they also have what they call "Study Folders" which sound basically like lapbooking to accompany the text for hands-on learning/work in addition to lab reporting. They have these for all the subjects, I see. It is a PDF downloadable file with free license to use for home copying use for multiple children.

    I hope your Chemistry studies go well this year! If we like the Astronomy series, I may just continue to use the for Physics, Chemistry & Biology, too!

  60. Blair

    I'm really loving all of the Hit and Miss blog posts by you, Sarah, and Jessica! We used some of the same programs, loving AAS and Apologia, liking Prima Latina, but disliking Phonetic Zoo. I'm considering Classical Conversations this fall and may put my 10yr old in the afternoon program with IEW. I just haven't been ready to tackle that myself. I'm so grateful that you've all shared your disappointments with TT. It was one of my considerations for this last school year, but we stuck with Math U See. We did Classically Catholic Memory in a co-op setting for a semester before we moved. I loved it, but haven't been as successful at implementing that much memory work at home. Hence the reason I'm considering joining CC or even starting CCM here in our new city. So many hard decisions but I'm grateful we can all share our experiences!

  61. Anonymous

    Choosing a math program and sticking with one is driving me bonkers! My poor eldest girl has been through Horizons, Singapore, Saxon, Math U See, and now TT. The year we did Saxon there were tears every day and math took 1 – 2 hours. My memories of the Math U See years include repeating many lessons after missing nearly every question. Since we switched to TT there have been no tears, no complaints, and immediate feedback so that my kids don't make the same mistakes for an entire lesson. I love not having to grade math! All the Peabody scores were at or above grade level, but would they have scored differently on another standardized test?

    Maybe I should consider ALEKS?

  62. Krista

    Just wondering if you used the DVD's with Prima Latina or did you just use the workbook/text?

  63. Anonymous

    Excellent discussion! I am jumping in a bit late here, but do any of you have any experience with MATH U SEE? It is very popular here with my friends, but I am wondering how it stacks up. (In other words will they discover in a few years that they are behind/ahead/on target?)

    Also, do any of you use/like Schiller math?


  64. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks, Sarah! A couple others have suggested the Saxon Math Intermediate 3. Since I've already started her on the 5/4 and it is going well, I'm hoping to just stick with it for both of the girls! Thankfully I already had her over a year ahead in TT, so it hasn't been too challenging. And I agree – it is the younger grades in Saxon (K-3) that take so much more time.

  65. Jessica Gordon

    That's why it sounded familiar! I just ordered the seminar so I can watch it over the summer! 🙂

  66. Jessica Gordon

    It's hard to compare AAR vs. PAL since I haven't used the whole AAR program, just parts of Pre-Level 1.

    I LOVE the AAR Pre-Level 1 Activity Book which we've incorporated into the Alphabet Path, Ziggy the Zebra is always a hit, and we liked both of the books. Zigzag zebra is an ABC book and Lizard Lou is a collection of poems. These books are black and white illustrations but they are both great. I'm actually considering starting AAR Pre-Level 1 with Rose for Pre-school, to introduce the alphabet and get her ready to start PAL in Kindergarten. (You really don't need a program for this, but I love having it all in one place ready to go.) PAL goes much more quickly into advanced phonograms, where as AAR Pre-1 is a very gentle introduction.

    I fully intended to continue with AAR for Snuggles, since I also use AAS for the younger grades. However, after loving the other products from IEW for my older children, and since I was using the writing portion of PAL already, I looked over a local friends copy of PAL I decided to give it a try. It was much less expensive than purchasing the remaining levels of AAR.

    It did take some work to create all the games, but it is so well laid out and my little guy has been learning so much. Plus the games have all been a hit! I love that it incorporates poetry memorization, journaling, story time, phonics, spelling, narration, and is a complete Language Arts program. I think it is going to give him an excellent foundation. PAL does seem to move rather quickly, and each lesson has taken a lot of reinforcement before we are able to move on, but since it is a complete program for grades K-2 we have plenty of time.

    I also used the PAL Writing portion for my 2nd grader last year. It wasn't very challenging for her, but she did enjoy the projects – like creating the "A to Z Who/Which Project" (For each letter she wrote a sentence "A is for _____ who/which _________") She made her whole book (I gave her a 26 page blank book for the project) based on American Girl Dolls, and she had so much fun.

    Really I don't think you could go wrong with either program – they both seem like very solid programs for teaching children to read. I definitely see us continuing to use a combination of both PAL and AAR/AAS.

  67. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks! That is definitely reassuring! I think this is the route we will go. In fact I have already had the girls start Saxon 5/4! 🙂

  68. Jessica Gordon

    Thanks! I will have to look into that book. Definitely sounds like something I should read! 🙂

  69. Lindsay K

    Thanks for giving your thoughts on AAR vs. PAL as I too have been looking into those programs! I have a further question that hopefully you can answer. 🙂 Would you say one or the other is more Mom/teacher intensive or are they comparable? Not just in the initial "setting up" of the program but in the actual giving of the daily lessons? I have several "littles" (3.5 yro, 20 mo. old and newborn–in addition to my 3rd grader and 1st grader), but was hoping to use one of these programs for my kindergartner. Could I manage it??? 😉 Thanks for your thoughts!

  70. Jessica Gordon

    Note: When I said "I think younger children can do it" I meant that the younger children/grades suggested – for some 3rd and 4th Graders the first level of Fix It might be too challenging. And actually as Rascal (my 5th grader) reaches the end of the course it is starting to be almost too difficult for him as well. He has learned a lot, but it is definitely a challenging program!

  71. Deb

    Jessica – thank you for taking the time to post such a thorough reply. It is really very helpful and cemented my decision to give PAL a try for daughter. I've also been thinking about what schooling to do with my 4-year-old next year (he'll be my first that didn't go away to preschool), so it's nice to know that AAR Pre-Level 1 is good option for that age. I've found that I am definitely more likely to devote time to his learning when I have a program in place to follow, otherwise it's too easy to brush it aside to the bottom of the To Do list and he never gets any of my "school time." I'm also hoping to do some alphabet path activities with both my 4 and 6 year olds, so it's nice to know that some of the elements could be incorporated together. I love talking curriculum this time of year! It's just the boost I need to finish the school year strong. Thanks again.

  72. Kyle @ Unsearchable Riches

    I only have 1 suggestion…have you considered having your older children grades 3/4 and up grade their own Math daily work. We do this and it works well but I do have a few rules to curb the temptation to cheat which include sitting at the empty dining room table with nothing but a correction pen & the book. I also ask to see all their daily work before giving them a quiz or test and I grade the quizzes and tests. We have 5 children 3 are school age and two are preschoolers. This helped me to keep up and the kids to keep going forward. We also use Christian Light Math because it is advanced and has all of the teaching instructions in the book. God Bless You! Kyle Suzanne

  73. The Cichy's

    Hi Jessica,

    I wanted to give my thoughts on Teaching Textbooks. This is our first year using the program for my two oldest, currently in 5th and 7th grade. We had used Saxon levels 2-8/7 and it wasn't a problem for my oldest daughter because she is a self-sufficient learner. My son, on the other hand, needed me to teach the entire lesson everyday and it took so much time. Having three little ones to watch over in addition made it very difficult to take such a huge chunk of time on a math lesson. They took the CAT Standardized test last summer and did very well.

    Hearing about TT from friends and knowing that we were Saxon Math users, they recommended we go up one level higher than the kids' actual grade levels. I had each of my children take the assessment tests from TT (actually two each, one for their current grade and one for the next level up) to determine where I thought they should start. My 5th grader just completed TT6 (he used the CD roms and auto-grading) and my 7th grader is almost finished with Pre-Algebra (strictly textbook and no auto-grading). I even had my 5th grader use the textbook on occasion so he could practice without the computer screen and do math the "natural" way and he did just fine.

    I haven't done a standardized test this year so I really can't tell you if it has affected their overall placement scores nationally. I just wanted suggest the possibility that there still may be a way to use TT to your advantage and not disregard the program altogether. If I get around to doing the standardized test this summer I'll let you know how they did!

    God Bless,
    Joanna : )

  74. The Cichy's

    Okay, I just re-read the section where you talked about your girls being ahead of their grade level in TT. Looks like you've already applied that! Best of luck to you in your adventures in homeschooling!

  75. Anonymous

    Hello Jessica:
    I have been debating which Ancient History curriculum I will be using this year, so much so that I am behind in planning that one subject. I really like all that I have read about RC History. Could you tell me if it covers geography and if so is it enough that I would not need to supplement with a geography course? We love to tie those two subjects together.

    Thank you so much for all this wonderful information!


  76. Jessica Gordon

    Yes, it does incorporate Geography into the program. I do supplement with Maps, Charts and Graphs (mainly to teach my children more about reading maps/charts/graphs) and this year we are also adding the Geography from Classically Catholic Memory, but I do think the RC History (using Blackline Maps or Map Trek) could definitely be enough.

  77. Jessica Gordon

    Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts along with all the links! I do appreciate it! 🙂


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Hi! I'm Jessica, a Roman Catholic wife and home educating mother to our nine children. I was home educated myself, along with my eleven younger siblings. I have a special devotion to St. Therese, through whom I have been given much help and many blessings--the beautiful "Shower of Roses" that she has sent my way! Here I will record a few of the blessings I treasure. Please remember that what you see here is just a little glimpse at our lives, so please say a prayer for us, as we continue to strive for holiness.

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