Homeschool Updates 2016, Part I/II: Elementary and Middle School
I’ve been getting a lot of requests lately, so I decided it’s time…
Time for a homeschool update.
NOTE: If you are not a homeschool family or looking into homeschooling currently, I won’t even try to pretend this post will be interesting. I totally excuse you to exit this one before I bore you to sleep. Of course I invite you to click around my site and find more interesting topics, and I promise…I’ll be back again soon with regularly scheduled programing.
Now…for the handful of you who are still here: Let’s dive in!
This topic will be divided into two posts: Today I will cover what my two youngest (first grade and 7th grade) are doing, and then in my next post I will talk about my two high schoolers (10th grade and 12th grade). The high school post will also cover things like how we keep records, transcripts, graduation, and so on.
Note: at the bottom of this post you can find links to other homeschool-related posts I have written, and a suggested resource for anyone looking into various homeschool curriculums.
Now here we go:
Note: I suggest you begin with this post from two years ago about A beka–the curriculum all of the boys have used for about four years. We still use A beka for much of our homeschooling, so that gives some good background.
LEVI, first grade: Levi is doing A Beka Academy — the A Beka online streaming curriculum. He watches a first grade teacher and a classroom on video for all of his classes. The teacher includes kids watching the videos while teaching the students in the class. (“Kids at home, what is 4+3?”) He enjoys “getting to know” the kids in the class and truly feels like he is part of the classroom. They use workbooks and readers to go with the video lessons. There are many videos and worksheets to do each day.
The pros are: Levi’s teacher is amazing, and I think he is getting a great education, right from the comfort of our home computer. A Beka offers a really solid foundation in phonics, math, social studies, and Bible. The videos are thorough, yet fun. There is a lot of singing, artwork, poetry and Scripture memorization, map studies, and overall I think it is a really well-rounded first grade class. I love the workbooks and I especially enjoy how they go with the seasons and holidays of the year. Another benefit I see is that there is positive peer-pressure; no one in that video is goofing off, talking back, or being disrespectful in any way. Therefore, Levi sees a great example of a classroom of focused kids learning a lot.
As the homeschool mom, having Levi watch videos allows me a bit of freedom. If I need to leave the room, Levi CAN continue to learn from his video. That can take a lot of pressure off of me.
the cons are: As a six-year-old boy, it is not easy to sit still in front of a computer for that long. (nor do I think it’s healthy to do it every day.) So, there are days where we skip videos and instead go over the material using the teacher manual. Also, though he can do his work independently, someone pretty much has to stay near Levi throughout the day or he will start spacing out, fiddling with something, or running around the house.
Thankfully Dave is super helpful during his days off work, and we also have Morgan, a wonderful “household assistant” come over twice a week for a few hours to assist. She knows Levi’s school work well, and is actually much better at keeping him on schedule than I am. (Those are the days I try to focus on the older kids, run errands, get writing done, or just take a nap. haha.)
If Levi were my only child, I would probably chose to do A Beka for some subjects, and then choose another curriculum for others. I loved the Sonlight Curriculum when my boys were little, so perhaps I’d mix in some Sonlight readers, or pull from other amazing curriculums to round out his education. There are so many great curriculums available, I could go crazy just choosing one for those early years. I have such fond memories from when first three boys were all elementary-aged, and we did a huge variety of things together. I wish I could do that with Levi too, but we’re just in a different season as a family now, and I’m learning to accept that and not compare or feel bad about it.
LUKE, 7th grade: Luke made a complete switch in curriculums this year. Luke was one of my biggest A Beka fans, so this wasn’t an easy choice. He has always loved his A Beka teachers, and truly enjoyed learning through the videos. The problem is, Luke’s competitive surfing life is requiring more and more time, and A Beka is very time-consuming. For Luke to watch all of his videos and do all of the book work required is a very long day, especially considering his personality and how many breaks he “needs to” take (to do things like tend to his kitty, wax his surfboard, and catch highlights of whatever pro surf contest might be happening on line.)
Last year I felt like we were in a constant state of frustration just trying to get through a school day, and I knew we needed a change.
This year Luke is trying Alpha Omega’s curriculum called Monarch. Monarch is a 100% online curriculum that Luke can do anywhere. There are NO books; the work is all online. (Don’t worry, we use our reading books to supplement!) Instead of watching a video of a classroom like A Beka, Monarch is just the student interacting with slide-style lessons and fill-in-the-blank assignments. The program auto-grades most of his work, though I am able to login separately as his parent to review his work, and help out as he might need. I am also responsible to grade all essays and bigger projects, and in general to keep him doing his work and not goofing off. 🙂
The pro’s are: Luke says he is learning a lot, and he really does like Monarch. He is able to get through his work much more quickly than he did with A Beka. There is much less paperwork. Monarch covers a good range of topics, and seems to be challenging, but not overwhelming. Since there are no books or workbooks, Monarch can be done on the road easily, which is great for travel (which could be important down the road.) The parent login took me a little while to get used to, but is overall user-friendly and easy to navigate.
The cons are: I can’t really put my finger on it, but I just don’t have the same confidence in how much Luke is learning this year. I really appreciated the quality of lectures in the A Beka videos, and I miss that. Sometimes Luke will whip through his Monarch lessons so quickly, it’s hard for me to feel like he’s learning a lot. I miss textbooks and highlighters and workbooks. (which might just be me being old-school.) So, bottom line is: I think I’ll have to report back at the end of the year with how I feel about Monarch then!
If you have a competitive athlete or uniquely gifted child in your home who needs to put a lot of time into an activity outside of school, Monarch may be good for you. Click on their site to see a video introduction to how it works.
If you have specific questions about our experiences with either A Beka or Monarch, please leave them in comments since other people may have the same questions! ALSO: If you homeschool your children (or have been homeschooled yourself) I would love to hear what curriculum you use(d) and anything you have to say about it. Please feel free to comment sharing your experiences as well!
My next post will be an update on homeschooling HIGH SCHOOL…complete with record keeping, transcripts, graduation (!!) and more. I hope I have not bored you to death, and thank you for being here!
Here are a few of my other homeschool-related posts:
Homeschooling: The good, the bad, and the slightly awkward
Five Favorite moments in our homeschool day
A VLOG: Considering Homeschool? This one’s for you.
A Typical Day in our Homeschool Life
And a book that helped me when I first got started:
102 Top Picks for Homeschool Curriculum
See you back here soon. Have a great weekend! 🙂
Hey Monica! I wanted to comment on this old post and check in regarding Monarch. We are preparing to pull my 3rd grade son out of traditional school and start the homeschool process. I have homeschooled my kids before with a traditional book method and really depleted myself doing it that way. I just felt so overwhelmed all the time that it wasn’t a good fit so they all went back to school. Now I know that homeschool is right for us but we need to do a program where I’m not the primary teacher. We have considered Abeka ever since you started that curriculum with your boys and I looked into it! it looks amazing. I like the price of Monarch a little better though, so I hesitate to pull the trigger on Abeka if Monarch is really good. Could you comment and let me know how Luke is liking Monarch? How are you feeling about the education he is getting? Really appreciate it!!
Hi Kelsey–Thanks for reaching out, and good questions. So excited for you to try homeschooling again, and the cool thing is that with a few changes it really can be a very different experience! 🙂
Hopefully I will get to some more homeschool updates on the blog, but to answer your question, here are my thoughts: (Luke did Monarch again last year…) Monarch is good if you want your kids to be super independent. It was hard for me because I felt like i never really was tuned into what Luke was doing. Since everything is online, there was no paper for me to check or grade, and I just had to trust that he was learning. Was he? I guess so, but I personally felt too disconnected. Yes, I did have my teacher login on the computer, and if he took a quiz or did an assignment, I could go through his work (usually with each of us on a computer) and go over anything he got wrong. But even then he would just correct it right there, and I wondered if he really learned from his mistakes. On occasion if he got a lot wrong, I would clear it and make him re-do, but for the sake of time, I most often ended up just letting him fix mistakes and go on. Monarch also assigns “projects” (Papers, essays, more extensive suggested assignments) but half the time they were weird or confusing and I would end up letting him skip (my bad.:)) So by the end of the year, I felt frustrated and like I didn’t want to homeschool that way. (To be fair: My good friend was also using Monarch last year and she appreciated the freedom and independence and her son is using it again this year.)
This year Luke is using Abeka for History and Language, and DIVE into Math and Science for those two classes. (Earth Science and Pre-algebra.) Link: https://www.parent.com/18-simple-ways-to-infuse-each-day-with-learning/ (We love Dive and I wrote more about that in other posts.) If I had to choose between full Abeka and Monarch, personally I would do Abeka any day. It does require a tiny more of me, but not much. (really just grading tests and quizzes and checking in. Much more straight forward than my role in Monarch I think!) Abeka has books and the students have to actually write on paper for some things. I can see his work more but he still has the benefit of a video lecture which gives me tons of freedom to not be by his side constantly. I think Abeka is worth the money. But again, that is my personality and preference. Either way will work out and you can always try Monarch and switch it next year if you don’t like! 😉 Long answer–hope it helps a bit! 🙂 LMK if you have specific questions!
Thank you so much Monica! I really appreciate your detailed response. I am leaning towards the Monarch program for the cost and convenience of it at the moment but for sure plan on doing Abeka next school year. I have looked into Monarch lessons and seen samples and I am curious if Luke connected to the content? The lessons seem to be really robotic. Are you supposed to have them talk to you? It seems really weird and hard to connect to the material. I am really struggling because I know Abeka would be a real teacher and the repetition and reading aloud would make my children feel connected and involved which is so amazing. Thanks again for the info! Really appreciate the guidance and advice!
I love your homeschool posts! I have four kids myself from ages 2 to 10 and we are homeschooling 2 this next year. I love reading about what others are using for curriculum and how you make it work with 4 kids 🙂
This is so interesting to read and see your photos of everyday homeschool life!
I have 2nd grade, preK, and 1 year old boys. We are in our 5th year with Sonlight, and love it. We are using our own Science (co-op plus Magic School Bus), Horizons for math (but switching to Beast Academy soon), and a combo of Logic of English and Brave Writer. I love homeschooling! I am constantly trying new rhythms and methods to create a smooth routine for us, but we are still not quite there yet! I think homeschooling boys is both really AMAZING and really CHALLENGING! Thank you for another great post!
Monica, it is a joy and a blessing to read your entries. We have three boys 16, 15, and 8. We have used Rod and Staff English since 2nd grade and this has taken the subjectivity I feared, from learning to write by giving my more linear boys a solid foundation through the mechanics of English. Singapore Math served us very well also from 2nd grade and we stumbled when we reached the last of the primary curriculum (6th grade level) and progressed to New Elementary Math (Singapore) which was awesome in stretching the mind but ironically defaulted to Saxon for upper level math which is the polar opposite in nature but good for the higher math along with the CD set. My oldest two boys are taking college language classes and have had some trouble living up to the whole responsibility and culture of school not to mention college….I think we’ll make it through. The boys are also taking HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense) classes online and I’m very impressed with the challenging and stimulating nature of the classroom dynamic and curriculum offered. Do follow the recommendations for pre-requisites however as my son is struggling with AP US History as a first online class which was supposed to be for senior year…not a good fit. The 1st born/last born boy is largely with Rod and Staff which I love but the online curriculum you mention is interesting to me because I feel stretched with the teaching and accountability and also witness the older boys’ need for more independence as teens but as boys opposite a home school Mom. My husband retired and we are so ready to make a move and considered Waimea but haven’t been able to make that leap from the mainland so your blog hits “home” on many levels: boys, home school, Hawaii, and also doctor husbands : ) Thank you Monica
Diane…Thank you so much for the comment–and yes! We have much in common! 🙂 Love hearing what all you’ve used for homeschool and how you navigate so thoughtfully through each year. That is wonderful. Every child is different and the beauty of homeschooling is the ability to find what works best at each stage and for each child. Well done! Please keep in touch and who knows if maybe one day you’ll also call the islands home. 🙂 Aloha!
Thank you for writing this, and for all those who responded! I’m new here, but learning so much already. This is a great post! I have 3 boys and 1 girl, with 1 more girl on the way : )
I’ve heard awesome things about Abeka, and we’ve looked into the videos which didn’t fit in our price range at the time. Streaming was another option, but we have 1 computer. I guess I didn’t want to take the risk in getting the curriculum and my 10 and 9 year old not liking it. I normally start them off with My Father’s World for their K year. But since my husband and I switched off, meaning I work full time and he stays home, he chose McGuffy Readers, Ray’s Arithmetic (reading and math) then Answers in Genesis for science. They use Khan Academy when hubby feels like changing it up. I think it would be so nice to just get an all in 1 curriculum. I have heard good things about Alpha Omega so I want to look into that. Also, it’s not as expensive as Abeka. My older boys don’t really enjoy school, sad to say. We are hoping to switch back so I can homeschool again. My husband can really appreciate what I did as a homeschool mom and since his health is back in order, he is fully ready and willing to hand the baton back to me : ) Now that I know I’m going to do homeschooling again, I’ve started researching and looking into what other moms do. It almost feels like I’m starting all over again! LOL. But I can’t express how thankful I feel to be able to homeschool on my days off. Times when I’m off I do unit studies. Yesterday was election day so…lots to learn there!
Also, I appreciate how your boys are so active! I want to get my kids to be more active. I live in Oahu so…beaches all over the place! It’s just with work and life, I find it hard to even go to the beach once a week!
Thanks again for your post! I enjoyed reading it! Very encouraging and really got my gears turning.
We tried Monarch and my kids just didn’t like it. We use Abeka which keeps both my husband and I on the same page since we co-teach. The kids also told us it was the most rigorous and so we keep it for Math and English but have used other ‘lighter’ curriculums for Science as well as History. I was really interested in Acellus which is online with interactive test and such. But we got a discount code from homeschoolbuyersco-op for Study.com and the kids loved it. We do Abeka independent and skip all over the place to combine middle school and/or high school levels with time4Writing, Membean, Study.com and CTCMath or SAXON. Then we do Dual Credit At Home or Clepprep.tripod.com/cleplessonplans/ for prepping to take the CLEP, DSST test. Yes, Abeka takes a ton of time, but it has prepped my 2 older kids who started online college early for the rigor of challenging subjects.
Wow–that’s a lot of information. I need to look into some of the things you mentioned, so great!! Sounds like you have been very intentional and are on your homeschool game!! Thank you for sharing. 🙂
I confess, even though I am a very happy public school teacher in the wonderful district my children attend, I daydream of home schooling form time to time. I fantasize about a non-rushed morning, personalizing the lessons to meet unique needs and interests of each son, and a special bond of learning together. Maybe romanticizing, but it’s my little day dream…
Monica, from getting to “know” Luke through your blog it sounds like he is a child with intense interests. Does he pose questions or wonder about birding, hiking, surfing,etc? Does he self-direct and search out the answers to his questions and use the information he learns for his personal needs? It seems like it! And, to be college and career ready begins with posing meaningful questions and seeking the answers. Sounds like Luke naturally personalizes his own learning-very 21st century!
All the best!
Thank you Shannon. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do it all…I fantasize about your life and you mine, haha…I think you are blessing many lives through your work, and from all I’ve heard God has you (and your kids) just where you’re meant to be!
As for Luke…YES. Such good reminder. You nailed it, and I think that is why I don’t get too worried about him. He is a super smart kid, and also extremely good with people (very natural conversing with adults and really anybody at all.) He is an avid birder, fishermen, rock collector and nature lover. He enjoys good books about adventure. He’ll do just fine in life. I think it’s just my rigid view of “traditional” school that makes me get anxious occasionally. But when I sit down and think about things…Luke will be just fine I know. 🙂 Thanks for the reminders my friend. ALoha-
For elementary-middle school we use My Father’s World for Bible, History and Science. For math, the younger kids use Math-U-See and the older kids use Teaching Textbooks. For English and Writing we’ve tried different things. Susan Wise Bauer’s FLL and WWE, IEW, Analytical Grammar for the older ones, and currently loving Fix-it Grammar for my 5th and 7th grader. My Father’s World includes a lot of a read aloud books. The one downside is all of the trips to the library to get books to round out/supplement what comes with the curriculum. I find that in busy seasons we just make do without the extra library books.
Erika–Thank you for sharing! 🙂 You use some great curriculums! I’ve heard good things about My Father’s World for sure. When my boys were younger we also used both Math-U-See and Teaching Textbooks. LOVE them both. Only wish we could do all curriculums at once, haha! (I pull out the Math-U-See building block pieces for Levi to help him get his addition and place values better. Love them!) Reading aloud is the very best thing for your kids, so you’ll never regret it. So glad you’re here, and again thank you for commenting! Aloha-
I’m so thankful you’re sharing your homeschool updates, Monica. Our boys are in 1st, 4th, 5th and 7th grade this year and I’ve been contemplating and praying about a complete change in our curriculum for next year (or possibly as soon as January). Monarch is one that’s been in the back of my mind for a while now. We’ve browsed the site and taken advantage of a free 30 day trial, but I really wasn’t able to absorb as much as I wanted to while also keeping up with our current curriculum lessons. All four of our boys are spending 4 days a week at our community pool. At least two of them have goals to join swim team and become staff lifeguard/swim instructors during their teen years. Time at the pool is taking up more and more of our time, so I’m looking for more efficiency (and flexibility) in our day to day school lessons, while still maintaining quality academics.
Do you think Monarch would work well for upper elementary aged kiddos too? Because I’m literally teaching every subject at each grade level, I’m feeling REALLY spread thin (and more overwhelmed) this year. Consequently, this means our little guy, Eli, is not getting enough of my focused attention. I’m hoping that using an outside resource like Monarch might also help encourage more independence for my older guys.
I love that part of the beauty of homeschooling is being able to be more flexible with our time so that our kids can more freely pursue their interests and passions. However, one of the other great things about teaching our kids at home is that we don’t have to “reinvent the curriculum-wheel”. It’s ok to use outside resources and help. Your post here has reminded me of that, Monica. This is the first year I’ve really tried doing everything on my own by creating most of our own lessons from scratch. I’m realizing now, that for our family, this will not be sustainable, or wise, as it seems to be draining to all of us.
((Confession: I might have a wee bit of fear of letting go of the control I keep trying to have over my boys’ school lessons. No doubt, it’s a pride issue! Forgive me Jesus…and help me become free of this.))
One more quick question…does Luke ever use a mobile device of any kind for his Monarch lessons, or does he only use the laptop? I’m wondering if our iPads could be put to good use with Monarch.
Thanks again Monica!
You are such a blessing to me.
Megan–Once again I wish you and I could sit over coffee and just have a big chat one day…
YOU are doing amazing. So much. Really, I am super impressed. But yeah–it’s a lot and burnout is real…
As for Monarch, yes– it is fine for elementary age. I think if you combined it with the outside things that you do, it would work out fine. However, I think it might really challenge you in the area of control and just being SO different from what you’re doing now. Even with A Beka I always kind of know what my boys are doing–I see their books out and I see (and hear) the video lectures going on, but with Monarch Luke just flies through his lessons and at the end of the day I’m like “What did you even learn?!” haha. It makes me feel pretty out of touch with his learning. Of course I CAN get on my teacher login and see his work any time I want, but with four busy boys it becomes really easy not to do that as often as I would have anticipated.
SO…to answer your question: Yes, Monarch would work. I think you’d just want to stay very in-the-loop as to what kids are doing, and you’d have to loosen your grip a bit, (but that might be healthy too.) Combine it with outside reading and extra-curricular classes/activities and you might have a very sweet thing.
And to your last question: Luke only uses a laptop computer but Monarch probably does work on other devices as well. Not sure, so you’d have to look into that.
Much aloha to you and keep me posted as you go! xo