Tuesday, August 19, 2014

School Year 2014/2015 is Here!

It's that time of year where the world sends kids to school; every post you read seems to say, "Thank God, the bus picked them up today."  Unless you're a homeschooler, that is! 
Despite any challenges that present in our homeschooling journey, both Punky and I remain convinced we are on the right path.  We both enjoy watching the school bus drive by without Punky on it.  Ok, we both enjoy the *idea* of the bus driving by with her on it since neither of us are awake when the bus actually goes by!  The pluses always outweigh the minuses for us in homeschooling!  Creating our own schedule, doing things in our own time, following the day as it unfolds rather than forcing it along remain top pluses on our 'Benefits of Homeschooling' list! 

Yet, we are entering our 6th year of homeschooling and Punky's 7th grade academic year.  We both agreed that each year of Middle School would bring an increased work load and more structured learning.  Last year Punky was required to keep a notebook, divided by subjects, and she was given a weekly schedule of assignments to complete along with deadlines.  This was met with mixed emotions.  On one hand, she liked having the outline and deadlines and on the other hand she hated having deadlines.  Ah, good grasshopper you are learning the ways of the world.
This year includes the same notebook and similar deadlines.  What's new this year is the curriculum.  I've never been a fan per say of boxed curriculum, preferring to piece together what we do as we followed a combination of what I felt she needed to learn that year, what she was interested in learning, and what the 'guide book' recommended.  Last year we introduced Easy Grammar, Wordly Wise, and Learn Math Fast.  We continue with those this year.  What's new is the science and history curriculum we are using.  Punky is actually attending a weekly Science class out of the home.  The parents agreed the best choice for this Biology class was the offering from Pandia Press, REAL Science Odyssey's Biology 2.  The students are required to do the chapter reading and worksheets prior to meeting for labs.  This is working out wonderfully for us so far not only because the curriculum is fabulous, but because Punky is enjoying it (a real microscope is used!) and better yet putting in real effort as she's being graded by the teacher.

Punky wanted to start this year with the Middle Ages.  She's quite fascinated by King Arthur's legend, Henry VIII, Elizabeth I, the Renaissance, etc and she's totally *over* Ancient History.  I believe if she's ever forced to learn about the Ancient worlds of Egypt, Greece, or Rome ever again she'll revolt.  I had purchased, last year, the Story of the World's edition that starts with the Middle Ages and the activity book.  While both Punky and I enjoy the conversational style of the text, I'm always wary of the 'perspective' the author writes from and what other perspectives are being left out.  I myself am not a historian or history major, but I love history and I enjoy learning it from various viewpoints as well as from a secular perspective.  The activity book, as we found with the Ancient SOTW activity book, is too 'kiddie' for the age that Punky now is.  I was disappointed with that.  Not to say we won't get some use from it, but it was not going to be enough.

After receiving the REAL Science Biology materials, I was given the opportunity to review Pandia's History curriculum, all of which I was generously gifted.   Looking over Pandia's History Odyssey I became excited.  The timeline that can be purchased is awesome!  The materials provided are very detailed and manage to organize history in a format that covers so much yet ties it together so well.  There is timeline work, map work, worksheets, and reading assignments.  There are internet links to sources as well.   My only wish is that there was an awesome Teacher's Guide available (as there is for the Modern period) for all the periods!  The Teacher's Guide offers even more by way of activities for the student and guidance for the teacher!  However, the student book is well laid out and offers structure/scheduling that many appreciate when purchasing curriculum.

The best part of the Pandia curriculum choices is that I can be comfortable knowing that I am using a truly secular curriculum.  If you are interested in purchasing their History and/or Science go here: Pandia Press and use the discount code:  homeschooler to save 25% through the end of August.

Prior to Punky letting me know she wanted to study the Middle Ages, we had thought to do American History using a curriculum.  I had looked around for one for a while and when I was offered the opportunity to review Build Your Library's American History curriculum, I jumped at the chance!  While we aren't using it this year - since Punky has decided to study the Middle Ages - it is what we'll use when we make our way back to American History.  The great thing about BYL's American History (which is listed as Grade 5, but as I always say it's the level of work the child can produce that rises as they mature rather than the material needing to be) is that it includes literature work, poetry, and art.  It's completely laid out for the teacher so if one appreciates that detail this curriculum offers that.  BYL also recommends a science curriculum to use in conjunction with their curriculum which appears fine - although I'm unsure of its 'secularism'.  However, there is a Unit Study offered by BYL - Darwin and Evolution - that is an 8 week unit study that is secular and good.  If you are interested in Build Your Library curriculum go here:  BuildYour Library and use coupon code:  IH15 to save 15% through the end of August.

It's wonderful that more and more quality, secular curricula/resources are available!  Our complete curriculum for 7th grade is:

Winning with Writing

Easy Grammar

Wordly Wise

*Learn Math Fast (which I cannot recommend highly enough for those that have tried everything else and have yet to find something that works!)  *Mastery program rather than spiral 
To save $5 on your purchase use coupon code:  IHER2014. Coupon good through October 31st



Various books as assigned by curriculum or teacher as well as: 

Critical Thinking/Problem Solving
Various workbooks and activities

Punky will continue to take Tap Dance and participate in the homeschool book club as part of her extra-curricular activities and she'll be auditioning for the local theatre's productions.  We had planned to start school back in July, but the truth of our current circumstances hasn't afford us much time for 'book' schooling.  Between various medical issues, my work for the upcoming N.A.S.H. conference, and other life issues, we have decided to officially launch on September 10th!

Happy Schooling!

~Mari B.


  1. I was curious to know if you could start over in 1st grade using the History Odyssey from Pandia in combination with the BYL curriculum (since Story of the World is also used), would you do it?

    1. I don't think so. I know that SOTW wasn't a big winner with Punky, nor were the books used by BYL for American History. If I were to be able to start all over I would buy the grade appropriate 'Learn At Home' book and use that as a guide. However, I wouldn't worry about 'doing school' nearly as much as I did for the early elementary years. I would do more projects, unit studies, child-led learning.


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