Thinking about 2020-21

I’ll only have two kids homeschooling in the fall. Fritz will be in 9th grade and Adrian will be in 7th. Foster kids have to go to public school and even if we adopt kids, I’m planning to send them to public school for at least the first few years in case any issues pop up that need to be addressed (kindergarten/1st grade is often when they do).

Fostering takes a lot of time. Babies take a lot of time whether they are foster kids or not. So do toddlers and preschoolers. Add the paperwork of fostering and my available time has shrunk significantly. So doing a lot of mom-intensive planning just isn’t the best idea for next year.

Jamie joked that we could just send them to public school. Fritz said that would be his LAST choice. Seriously, half a year in second grade scarred that kid for life.

Anyway, I’ve been looking at options where they could get a high school diploma through distance learning. I think I’ve narrowed it down to either Calvert or Keystone. I think. A whole lot less of me needed, an excellent education… sounds like a win-win to me!

That would be a bit different from what I’ve done with my other two high schoolers, but I think at this point in our lives – whether we are fostering or adopting little ones – this makes the most sense.

Final Thoughts on What We Used

Language Arts:
*Writing With Skill 1 – I love Writing With Skill! Cameron doesn’t love it, but, really, he doesn’t love anything that is school and especially nothing that involves writing. There were things I had to adjust for him due to the dysgraphia (such as reducing the number of words he was required to write and allowing him to dictate if he wanted to) and I had to be more hands-on than it really intends because of the dyslexia (I had to read the instructions to him to be sure he understood completely rather than him reading them himself for example). But the writing he produced this year is incredible. The writing process is taught step by step with lots of practice so he was able to really master the skills. He got very good at note-taking and outlining through the many assignments throughout the year. I am really looking forward to moving on to level 2 next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Reading various works listed in The Well-Trained Mind (comprehension questions written by me) – Cameron read quite a varied bunch of books over the course of the school year. The comprehension questions I wrote worked well. Cameron’s always had a high comprehension level in spite of his learning disabilities. He’s ready to move on from reading a chapter and answering questions, though, and next year he’ll just be reading for a set period of time and then narrating what he read. My rating: 5/5 stars for literature selections, 4/5 stars for comprehension questions
*Reading bios (written by me) of authors from the early modern period – Cameron seriously hated my bios. I don’t think they added anything to his education really. He’s one of those kids that if he’s interested in someone or something, he’ll go on YouTube or Google and find out what he wants to know. I’m not making bios for next year. My rating: 2/5 stars
*Spelling Power – This one is mixed. He has retained more about spelling words from Spelling Power than he has from any other spelling curriculum we’ve tried (and there have been many!). I know he’ll never be a great spelling (because of the orthographic processing thing), but I do want him to be the best he can. We’re not going to be continuing with this next year. I think it would be fine, but it’s not great for him (it worked WAY better for Cameron than Fritz as far as retention goes). My rating: 3/5 stars

*Art of Problem Solving Pre-Algebra – We started the year with AoPS and no matter how much people rave over it, it just didn’t work for Cameron. He was very stressed out and frustrated by it. He learned very little. My rating: 1/5 stars
*Math Mammoth Pre-Algebra – This one was okay, but there came a point where we had to switch because, although the second half of the year was supposed to be released months ago, it is still not out and won’t be released until this summer, way too late for us. He learned fine with what he had. My rating: 4/5
*Math-U-See Pre-Algebra – Cameron used MUS for his first couple years of math, but then we started using Calvert. MUS still works great for him. I think the combination of videos and paper is perfect for him. It’s also great that if he understands a concept immediately, he can just move on, but if he needs extra practice, there are three practice pages plus three review pages each lesson (plus more can be created on-line from the MUS website if necessary). We’re looking forward to moving on to Algebra I in the fall. My rating: 4/5 stars.

Language Arts:
*First Language Lessons 3 – I loved First Language Lessons when I used it with his sister (no levels back then – just one book) and I still love it now. Fritz learned how to diagram sentences and since it’s taught bit by bit it really stuck in head and seemed easy for him. We’re looking forward to the doing the 4th level next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Writing With Ease 2 – I am really glad I went down a level of WWE for Fritz. I think the 2/3 of the year he did copywork once a week was very useful for him. He struggled a bit with narration, but got the hang of it by about halfway through the year. He’s still not a fan of dictation, but he’s getting better and better at focusing and remembering what he’s supposed to write. We’re looking forward to doing level 3 next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
Cursive Handwriting – First I tried writing things and having him copy them. Didn’t work. Then I bought something from Currclick. Also didn’t work. He has absolutely no retention of how to form the letters. We’re going to use New American Cursive next year. I hope it works better. My rating: 1/5 stars
*Spelling Workout – After Fritz switched from Spelling Power, which didn’t work at all for him as far as retention of how to spell words, he did Spelling Workout B. He sped through it and he remembered the spellings better with that one, but it still wasn’t perfect. We’re switching to Spelling You See next year. My rating: 3/5 stars
*Reading books selected from those used in Writing With Ease 2 (comprehension questions written by me) – Fritz read a bunch of great books during the school year. Reading a chapter and answering comprehension questions is perfect for him right now. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Brainy Acts – Fritz enjoyed most of the critical thinking exercises in Brainy Acts. He especially liked the math-based ones. My rating: 3/5 stars

*Beast Academy – This is another one that people rave over that was a flop here. Fritz loves math and math puzzles, but some of these frustrated him. He wasn’t really learning math, though, explanations were poor, and there was almost no review. My rating: 2/5 stars
*Math Mammoth Grade 4 – Another flop for Fritz. Even though it was labeled grade 4, it definitely felt more like grade 3. It would give multiple ways to solve the same thing several days in a row. This frustrated Fritz severely. He wanted to be taught one way and stick with it. Multiple ways just confused him. My rating: 1/5 stars
*Math-U-See Gamma – The updates to MUS’s “Greek” series are excellent. Fritz loves it. He quickly moved beyond using the blocks much, particularly as his multiplication problems got really big, but when he used them they really helped him “see” how the math works. He’s looking forward to learning division with Delta next year. My rating: 5/5 stars

Language Arts:
*First Language Lessons 1 – It was fun to revisit some poems his older sister learned years ago. The gentle and slow introduction to grammar was absolutely perfect for Adrian. I’m excited to use level 2 with him next year. My rating: 4/5 stars
*Explode the Code – Adrian got through the first Explode the Code book by the end of the year. While the pictures sometimes leave a lot to be desired, overall EtC is great. He’ll continue with the rest of the books in the fall. My rating: 4/5 stars
*Reading Eggs – When we remember to use it, Adrian and I both love Reading Eggs! I don’t think we’ll renew when our subscription expires mainly because we forget about it. But, until February, he’ll use it when we think about it. My rating: 5/5 stars
*The Ordinary Parents Guide to Teaching Reading – Adrian and I are slowly working our way through OPG. He doesn’t enjoy it and fights it a bit, but he’s gaining reading skills as he goes. We’re continuing with the lessons through the summer and on into next year. My rating: 3/5 stars

*Math Mammoth Grade 1 – Math Mammoth worked fine for Adrian. It was very easy. We really only switched because the older two boys were switching. My rating: 5/5 stars
*Math-U-See Alpha – Adrian loves the MUS blocks. He uses the blocks even when he doesn’t need to. It’s obvious he already knows the answers and just uses the blocks for fun sometimes. He’s excited to learn regrouping in Beta next year. My rating: 5/5 stars
MathSeeds – This, like Reading Eggs, we usually forget to use. He has learned a lot and loves it when we remember it. My rating: 5/5 stars

All Three Boys
*Discover the Scriptures Hands-on Church History and Discover the Latter-day Prophets – I like DtS products a lot, but I don’t love the typos. I mean, really, if you are studying the Prophets, it would be nice if Wilford Woodruff’s name was always spelled correctly, for example (the second f was left off most of the time). The Hands-on Church History was fun, but it still says volume 2 will be available fall 2014. Here it is summer 2015 and it’s still not out. My rating: 3/5 stars
*Memorizing parts of the Doctrine & Covenants Scripture Mastery Verses – This didn’t work out so well. We kind of gave up partway through the school year. My rating: 2/5 stars

*Pandia Press Early Modern History Level 1 – I love, love, love History Odyssey! We learned so incredibly much this year. We’re looking forward to doing the modern history era next year. My rating: 4/5 stars

*Pandia Press REAL Science Odyssey Chemistry Level 1 – I don’t love REAL Science Odyssey quite as much as History Odyssey, but we still liked it. We did tons of experiments and learned a lot. We’re switching to Elemental Science next year, though, because Pandia didn’t announce they were going to be putting out physics until too late. My rating: 4/5 stars

Art and Music:
*Confessions of a Homeschooler World’s Greatest Artists and World’s Greatest Composers – We took it slow and only learned about a handful of artists, the orchestra, and one composer over the course of the year. They are adequate. I don’t love them, but they teach what I want. We’ll be continuing with these next year going a little faster so we’ll finish both by the end of the year. My rating: 3/5 stars

Three of the Kids’ CAT Results

For reasons I will explain in detail later, we gave the three older children the CAT full battery this year. Ani took the 8th grade CAT (she also took the 9th grade CAT-E Survey, but we don’t have the results yet), Cameron took the 5th grade CAT, and Fritz took the 2nd grade CAT.

Percentile means they did better than that many same grade level kids taking the same test (out of 100; for example, 90th percentile means they did better than 90 out of every 100 kids). Stanines give a quick look at their relative scores. 1, 2, 3 are below average, 4, 5, 6 are average, and 7, 8, 9 are above average compared to same grade level kids. The grade equivalent means they did the same as the average student of the given grade level taking the *same test* they took. The first number (before the decimal point) is grade and the second number (after the decimal point) is the month of that grade year. PHS means post high school.


Ani – 8th Grade
Subject # Correct Percentile Stanine Grade Equiv.
Vocabulary 37/40 97th 9 PHS
Comprehension 46/50 93rd 8 PHS
Spelling 25/30 75th 6 11.1
Language Mechanics 33/36 96th 9 PHS
Language Expression 44/48 94th 8 PHS
Math Computation 40/44 93rd 8 PHS
Math Concepts and Application 39/50 88th 7 PHS
Study Skills 26/30 74th 6 12.8
Science 37/40 99th 9 PHS
Social Studies 35/40 88th 7 PHS
Total Battery 96th 9 PHS


Cameron – 5th Grade
Subject # Correct Percentile Stanine Grade Equiv.
Vocabulary 34/40 94th 8 10.9
Comprehension 48/50 97th 9 12.0
Spelling 8/30 3rd 1 2.2
Language Mechanics 23/36 41st 5 4.5
Language Expression 29/48 44th 5 5.2
Math Computation 21/44 20th 3 4.6
Math Concepts and Application 26/50 41st 5 5.3
Study Skills 17/30 44th 5 5.4
Science 35/40 95th 8 11.7
Social Studies 27/40 66th 6 7.3
Total Battery 66th 6 6.5


Fritz – 2nd Grade
Subject # Correct Percentile Stanine Grade Equiv.
Word Analysis 30/30 99th 9
Vocabulary 31/32 98th 9 6.7
Comprehension 38/38 99th 9 12.5
Spelling 18/28 43rd 5 2.4
Language Mechanics 25/28 88th 7 5.6
Language Expression 32/35 80th 7 5.2
Math Computation 30/30 99th 9 5.0
Math Concepts and Application 39/42 92nd 8 5.5
Science 23/25 98th 9 7.5
Social Studies 24/25 97th 9 10.4
Total Battery 98th 9 6.5


We are absolutely thrilled by all of their results. We learned that while Calvert is generally phenomenal, their spelling is a bit behind. Fritz had exactly four words from his spelling tests through 2nd grade on his test. The other 24 words were all harder words. We also confirmed what we already knew about Cameron. He is very consistent. Back when he was tested for dyslexia two years ago, he was quite advanced in his vocabulary and comprehension and he still is and his spelling was way behind, and still is. We all got a good laugh over his spelling result, but it is so totally accurate. (Cameron did not use Calvert spelling. He used Sequential Spelling modified, but his result would be that low regardless of what spelling curriculum he used.)

About The Family Who

We’re a homeschooling family of six from southern Maryland. We are Jamie, Heather, Ani, Cameron, Fritz, and Adrian.

Ani is 12 and in 9th grade. She uses IEW for writing, grammar, and spelling, Teaching Textbooks Algebra I, and Monarch government and economics, physics and chemistry, and Spanish I.

Cameron is 11 and in 5th grade. He is doing Calvert fifth grade with modified Sequential Spelling and Teaching Textbooks Math 5. He has dyslexia and dysgraphia.

Fritz is 6 and in 2nd grade. He is doing Calvert second grade and Teaching Textbooks Math 4. He likes math the most and thinks in numbers.

Adrian is 4 and is doing Calvert kindergarten. He’s a bit annoyed that he is the only kid with “book math” rather than “computer math.”

Ani’s Fable

Ani’s writing assignment today was to write a fable. She has never liked fables. She didn’t really want to write one. And so this is what she wrote:

Once, a twelve-year-old girl sat down for school and was forced to write a fable. She thought about it for a long time and found an idea. When she wrote the fable it turned out horribly.

Moral: Don’t force people to write fables.

Kindergarten and Second Grade Box Day

The little boys’ kindergarten and second grade boxes have actually been sitting and waiting for us to open them for a couple weeks. Fritz won’t start second grade until June and Adrian won’t need kindergarten until September, but Calvert was having a 30% off sale last month and I decided to take advantage of it. We need Fritz’s second grade math starting tomorrow so I finally got around to opening the boxes.

Since Fritz got his Kindergarten box, the Computer Skills and Applications Manual has been incorporated with the regular lesson manuals now.

The Computer Skills and Applications Manual has been incorporated with the regular lesson manuals since Cameron got his second grade box, too. Since we got the re-use program (yay! we can save a little money on our curriculum finally!), the Houghton Mifflin readers were not included. Fritz will use the ones Cameron used.

Fourth Grade Box Day and What’s Inside the Box

Cameron’s fourth grade box arrived Wednesday. Of course FedEx never knocks and always uses the door that not only we don’t use but it doesn’t even have a pathway to the driveway. We’ve told them several times to go around the circle and use the other door and they always say they will make a note of it, but they continue to leave packages at the wrong door leading to us sometimes not realizing we have things sitting for a few days.

But I digress.

So, anyway, his box got here Wednesday, but we didn’t know it was here until too late to open. So Thursday was box day. He dragged it in still in the plastic bag they had put it on (oh, yeah, in addition to not knocking and just dropping it, they left it there in an unprotected location in the drizzly rain… can you tell I’m really not a FedEx fan?).

We opened up his box to check out his new stuff (yay, no more reading work pages… boo, still activity pages… yay, a real math textbook… boo, still have a math practice book… and so on).

Here’s his next year of school! He refused to smile because, apparently, smiling about school things is just not the thing to do when you are a 10 year old boy and would rather be playing outside between 8am and noon every day.

So what’s in the box? All sorts of exciting, awesome stuff. Well, at least it’s exciting and awesome according to me! Each year of Calvert is a different color. Fourth grade is yellow.

Lesson manuals – two for the core and one for math

Math – Calvert Math and Math Practice and Enrichment Workbook; fourth grade is the first year that the math textbook is a hardcover one that you don’t write in

Language Arts – Poetry Selections, Grammar workbook, Phonics workbook, Spelling workbook, Critical Thinking workbook, Vocabulary Connections workbook; we gave up on the phonics and critical thinking workbooks for 3rd grade, but Cameron has come a long way since then so we’re going to try and see how these workbooks go this year; spelling we will definitely not use since we use Sequential Spelling for him instead of Calvert’s spelling

Reading – Robinson Crusoe, Famous Legends, Mighty Men, and Island of the Blue Dolphins; fourth grade is the first year that all of the reading selections are “real” books rather than all or mostly reading textbooks with several shorter stories in them

Social Studies and Science – Science: A Closer Look, activity pages, A Child’s History of the World, A Child’s History of the World workbook, Maps Globes Graphs Level D; he had the choice between CHOW and a traditional social studies and geography textbook, he chose CHOW even though we’ve already been through it when we did Sonlight cores 1 and 2 because he doesn’t remember it at all

Miscellaneous Papers – two pads of lined paper, one pad of plain paper, a little composition book, and two sets of art cards

Miscellaneous Science Supplies – pencil box, ruler, cord, hand lens, graduated cylinder and base, spring scale, prism, four bar magnets, three thermometers, battery holder, funnel, spool of wire, eye dropper, red and purple litmus paper, and some sort of balance thing that I think might be part of the spring scale, but I am not quite sure

8th Grade Box Day!

I hadn’t planned on ordering Ani’s 8th grade stuff until about November (she should finish her summer school stuff the middle to end of November), but Calvert was having a 10% off sale through August, so I decided to go ahead and order 8th grade. It came yesterday.

Ani and I had fun going through her boxes.


Here’s what came in the boxes:

Four lesson manuals, Core A and B and 8th grade level Grammar/Composition/Spelling A and B (she’s doing 8th grade math right now and will not be using Calvert for math during her 8th grade year).

Learning Strategies, Core Activity Pages, Calvert Test Series (since we don’t use the ATS)

America: History of Our Nation, Atlas of United States History, History and Geography Workbook

Elements of Language Second Course, Calvert composition book, two pads of lined paper, one pad of blank paper

Environmental Science, Cells and Heredity, Earth’s Changing Surface, Electricity and Magnetism, Astronomy

The Growing Vocabulary, Stories in Verse, Reflections: An Anthology, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, The Pearl, and True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

two graduated cylinders and stands, magnifying lens, eyedropper, two round blue magnets, horseshoe magnet, pencil box

Ani is very excited about starting 8th grade now!

Double Box Day

Yesterday we had a double box day. Adrian’s pre-k and Fritz’s first grade arrived in the afternoon. All four children are officially Calvert kids now.

The boys happily helped pull everything out of the boxes. There was a LOT in the first grade box!

The pre-k box wasn’t nearly as exciting for me because it was just over a year ago we got all that stuff for Fritz. Adrian, however, was thrilled! He kept asking if these things were his now. He was always so jealous of Fritz’s pre-k stuff.

So the pre-k box…

big pad of paper, Kindergarten Fun, small pad of paper, 3 packs of 9×12 manila paper, 2 packs of construction paper

lesson manual, Favorite Nursery Songs, Stories and Poems, Road to Reading, Path to Math, Open Eyes, Read-to-Me Storybook

Lauri alphabet puzzle, Lauri Fit-a-Space puzzle, shape/color buttons, Favorite Nursery Songs CD, white yarn, watercolors with paintbrush, 2 pencils, pencil sharpener, plastic needle, pipe cleaners, package of 8 jumbo crayons, 5 each of four colors of connecting cubes, modeling clay (which will be given to a friend and replaced with Play-Doh – I cannot stand the texture and feeling of that modeling clay!), pencil box

And the first grade box…

big pad of paper, pack of manila paper, pack of construction paper, pad of lined paper

lesson manuals A, B, and C (much to my delight, they have combined the technology lesson manual into the regular manuals; the core manuals have been split into three now instead of two; I’m so happy to no longer have to juggle the technology manual that is used only occasionally)

math manual, Calvert Math, Practice and Enrichment Workbook

set of 5 Houghton Mifflin reading books: Here We Go!, Let’s Be Friends, Surprises, Treasures, and Wonders

Phonics Library, Stories and Longer Verses, Red Robin, Fly Up!

Reading Work Pages, Reading Word Cards, Calvert Speller, Writing Fun

Science: A Closer Look, Explore Your World I, Maps Globes Graphs Level 1, Activity Pages

pencil box, bar magnets, ruler, 2 packs of index cards, two pencils, pencil sharpener, hand lens, three thermometers, 10 each of five colors of connecting cubes

The ATS tests are automatically included in every Calvert box. We choose not to use the ATS so I got the Calvert Test Series for both math and core. The 20th lesson of first grade will be the first time Fritz takes a test. The on-line portal lets me access the answer keys in pdf form. I have found I prefer to have a printed copy, so I got the printed math and core answer keys as well.I didn’t order Discoveries in Reading I. We’ve used VIIa and b, II, and are currently using III, but for the cost I just don’t think it’s quite worth it for the activity book you get. Instead I’m just going to order the books (because I love the book choices!) and read them as they come up in the lesson manuals.

We’ll be starting pre-k and first grade on Monday, August 8th. I know pre-k will be super fun. It looks like first grade is going to be totally awesome, too!