Week 2 of our first break…

My son is loving it but I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things next week. We have elected to do a year round schedule, with 6 weeks on and 2 weeks off. I think that will be good later on but right now I’m still excited about the whole homeschool thing and it just seems too long.

I will say that I have used the time to look over a few things that we’ve been doing and tweak them. For instance, we are going to switch to Rod & Staff for grammar instead of Abeka. I just haven’t really liked Abeka so far. I have been rereading The Well Trained Mind since we’ve been on break and, after going and spending a couple of hours comparing Rod & Staff to what we already had, I decided to go with WTM’s grammar suggestion. Well, not the first choice of First Language Lessons and Writing with Ease, but the first choice not written by the WTM authors.

I like the fact that it has comprehensive grammar and composition in one system without me having to add different things together on my own. Abeka’s composition is just not that good right now, and it apparently does not become a rigorous part of the curriculum until 7th grade.I had looked at several things to supplement, but they all just seemed really heavy to me. Classical Writing, Classical Composition, Writing with Ease/Skill, Writing Strand, Wordsmith Jr… They all seem to have their own positives and negatives, but I just didn’t want a separate class, a separate system, to teach composition. I wanted to be able to teach the structure through our grammar time and then get practice by using what we learned in other subjects. I can do that with Rod & Staff.

It’s also really affordable for nice books. No, it’s isn’t a flashy product. It definitely doesn’t look like BJU, or even Abeka for that matter. Not many pictures, no fancy color illustrations, no color at all. But BJU costs about $100 a year per subject by the time you get student books, teacher books, etc. I was able to get the student and teacher Rod & Staff books for $23 all together. They are used but they are hardbound books, not the soft back or spiral bound of BJU and Abeka, so they feel like they’ll last longer. Meaning I’ll still be able to use them when my 5 month old is ready.

I’ve also concluded that we started at too low a level in math. My son did Saxon 5/4 in school last year (3rd grade – he went to a fourth grade class for math) but I went with Singapore 4 because everyone said that it was ahead. But everything is just review for him right now. We’ve already been moving faster than the lesson plans call for but we’ll go faster after the break. I don’t have a problem with review if it is needed but he really knows all of this stuff already. In fact, because he is ahead, I had him do placement tests on a couple of different of programs and he tested into pre-algebra on all of them. I don’t want to jump my 9yo up to pre-algebra right now because it’s a huge jump from the math he’s actually completed in a class setting, and I know there would be big gaps, but I have to move past Singapore 4.

Luckily, I saw a sale on Math Mammoth at the homeschool Buyers Co-op. The current price for the Light Blue series grades 1-6 is around $80 as a download. The final price will be determined by how many people sign up to purchase. It can drop to as low as $68 (I hope it does). From what I can tell it is a good program. I’ve seen it compared to Singapore in the way that it presents material and a lot of people seem to love it. Cathy Duffy also named it as one of her top picks and the samples I got look really good, so I think it will work out for us. I’ll just load it up on a tablet and let him use it that way.

The sale won’t end until the end of the month, which means you can’t download until Sept 3rd, but I don’t need anything right away. I plan to finish what we have on a very quick schedule and then figure out where to go. I can maybe use the MM 5 and 6 levels and then have him ready for pre-algebra next year. I’m not sure, but it’s nice to have a system like that for such a low price. I was getting worried about Singapore. When I purchased it initially, I didn’t really consider the fact that it would only take us through half the year. Once I thought about it, and added up the cost of the text, the work book and the teacher’s manual, I realized it isn’t really an economical system.

And I’m becoming more cost conscious about all of this stuff. The more I look at, the more I see how you could spend thousands of dollars a year on homeschool resources. But I also see that being thrifty doesn’t have to mean that you’re getting a bad program. Actually, like with R&S and MM, some of the best programs are really inexpensive. I just had to overcome the initial mindset that this is my child’s future, we will spend whatever it takes. I’ve quickly found that you don’t have to spend a fortune for quality. And that is reassuring when you work for yourself. We don’t have normal jobs with regularly scheduled paychecks, so knowing I’m not sacrificing quality by being frugal is a huge relief. Especially since I’m now seeing how quickly choices can change.

And I find that frustrating but funny at the same time. The side of me that wants to have a plan set out all the way through high school is annoyed by how quickly decisions can be proven wrong and changes need to be made. But I also see how it has worked out for the better. We initially didn’t have any plans for a foreign language but then I felt like we should add Latin. I really believe in the idea of it helping out with English grammar and roots. He balked. Absolutely no Latin for him. He wanted to take Japanese. But I talked him into it and now it is his favorite subject (I promised him he could do Japanese later)! And he excels at it. And I love that I can make changes like that after the year has already started. That I can change the grammar program if I need to, or add something like a language.

In fact, we’re going to add Bible when we start back next week. The program only includes thirty weeks (R&S again, but I had planned on using it from the start) so I held off on it in the beginning. I figured we could start small and add as we got the hang of things. I didn’t expect to add Latin too, but I love that homeschooling gives the flexibility to do things like that. This really has been a great experience so far and I’m really looking forward to starting back next week.

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