Homeschooling Middle School Boys: What Worked & What Didn’t This Year

posted in: actual, practical | 9

When you hop in the driver’s seat, it’s always a good idea to first glance up at the rearview mirror and adjust it. It needs to be at just the right angle so you can see what’s coming up.

Yes, you look behind you to see what’s coming.

It’s easy to get fixated on the view through the windshield – what’s ahead?! Where should I go? What turn should I take? Is that a red light or a green light? But if you don’t know what’s behind you, you might just get in a wreck and never know what hit you.

So we need to check that rearview mirror.

A homeschool audit is just that – pausing to look at what happened this last year, at what’s behind, to give you a better idea for steering clear of accidents ahead.

You should do a homeschool audit before you do homeschool planning, and so I am sharing here part of my own retrospective about what did and didn’t work this last year before I dive into my homeschool plan posts for our upcoming year.

What worked in our homeschool for the middle school boys this year.

My husband started correcting the math. Awesome!

At one point in the first half of the year, my husband asked if there was anything he could do to help out with the homeschooling load, and I suggested he correct the math pages. He was game, and I was glad!

He’s more of a stickler than I am when it comes to math expectations, and he’s Dad, and he’s not trying to juggle all the expectations in all the subjects – so requirements like showing work and including units became consistent under his reign, without the backtalk and eyerolling I got.

We had to change our flow and routine a bit to accommodate the math checking in the evening, but it turns out it worked better postponing the correcting until the next day. So it was win-win all around.

Moving forward: We’ll continue with our Math-U-See flow and Matt correcting math pages.

Introductory Logic was a big hit and easy to accomplish.

I spent a little time researching logic curriculum for Hans’ 8th & 9th grade year last summer, but Canon Press’ Introductory Logic was the easy winner in my book. I know some are immediately biased away from Canon Press material, but I am biased toward it, and in my planning only looked for red flags warning against it. I didn’t see any I was concerned about, and I liked that it was intended as a semester class – meaning we could have a light pace, miss some weeks, and still finish in a year.

And, it was a winner. Hans thoroughly enjoyed logic, and was able to complete it in under a year doing about 3/4 of a lesson per week on average. The videos were great, too.

Moving forward: Hans will do Intermediate Logic and I’ll keep Introductory Logic on our 8th grade plan.

Trello gave them independence while providing me with checkpoints.

I’ve written lots about how we use Trello for homeschooling already, because it really was a great tool for us this last year. The boys enjoyed using it and having some control over when they did what, and I had an easy way to check where they were in their work – from anywhere.

Moving forward: We’re sticking with Trello as our homeschool checklist app.

What did not work for the middle school boys this year.

When I did not put eyes on their work, it would not be done.

That’s actually not a problem with them, but with me.

If I’m not paying attention, I am communicating that it’s not important and I don’t care. If I don’t care, why should they? Instead of storming about how they should do their work even if I’m not checking up with them (logical as that seems), I doubled down on consistently looking over every assignment with them during our Monday Meetings.

That was the ticket. Not only did that ensure the work was done, but it was a connection point where I could applaud their work and offer cheerful suggestions rather than be a scattered tyrant.

Moving forward: Monday Meetings with work-checking absolutely must take place every week. I need to not expand the Monday Meeting list so that I can prioritize checking their work every week.

Latin studies petered out.

Hans finished Latin for Children C and Jaeger finished LFC B, but everyone’s enthusiasm had completely died. I was not keeping up with the material myself, so I couldn’t intelligently check it or talk about it with them, and neither of them love Latin.

I wanted to do Lingua Latina together with them each week, but we just didn’t make that happen after the first term.

Moving forward: I will still do Latin with my elementary kids, but next year the boys will each choose their own language study and I’ll find self-study materials.

Assigning some tasks as “work on it for 20 minutes” did not work.

Hans worked through Starr Meade’s The Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study in 7th and 8th grade, but the way I assigned it did not help.

It’s arranged by sections based on the book of the Bible and not for convenient school lesson plans. I don’t mind – I think that’s a better arrangement. So I assigned it as a daily “Do the next thing in MITYES for 20 minutes.” I thought that’d be fine, but it wasn’t until halfway through 8th grade year that I realized how badly that wasn’t working.

Middle school kids need accountability, and he wasn’t using a timer and was “approximating” very generously. I wasn’t looking in his book and seeing his rate of progress. Because I was never looking, it became too easy for him to skip it and fly under the radar.

When I realized how little progress he had made halfway through the year, I started assigning a number of pages to be done by the end of the week and then looking at those pages during our Monday Meeting and – Voila! – the work was regularly accomplished.

Moving forward: I will assign actual pages to be completed each day or week for Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study. At least such a schedule will be reusable for future students, as well.

Look back before moving forward: do a homeschool audit.

You can do your own homeschool audit, too! I have a free guide you can use by downloading it below. Plus, you’ll also receive a link to the workshop I did, working through the guide, last year.

Download now:

9 Responses

  1. Amber
    |

    I have wanted to use Lingua Latina for years but haven’t gotten up the nerve. I have all the books in my save for later at Amazon right now… but I’m thinking a baby year is probably not the best time to try a new Latin curriculum, particularly that one!
    Interesting about the “work on X for 20 min” thing not working – we’ve had a lot of success with that in our house, but granted I haven’t tried it with a middle school boy yet. But we do use actual timers quite a bit in our homeschool, so maybe that’s a big part of why it has been successful for us. And I do check in on that work – along w/ the other work – pretty frequently. I have really resisted the weekly meeting, mostly out of my own lack of desire to implement and stick to it. Blah. I really think it is going to need to be part of our school year next year though, which means I need to just get over it and and do it!

  2. Lisa
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    What do you do if the work isn’t completed? Is there a natural consequence, or do your boys just double up?

    • Mystie Winckler
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      The natural consequence is the work still has to be done, but on their time. So they have to use what would be free time to complete their work. We decide on a rate or a due date, but it’s in addition to their regularly planned school. Because we take a week off every 6 weeks, they might have to use a break week to catch up – but that possibility motivated them to get it done.

  3. Melissa Greene
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    Great post Mytie, I love follow-ups! Working on X for this many minutes totally does not work with my 12 year old boy either. However, if I assign a certain section or number of pages, he can get it done. The trick is to figure out how many pages will take about 20 minutes :) I believe it may just simply be too open ended for some kids.

    Latin has also been a failure in our home, but I believe it’s more me than them. Initially, I scheduled it way too heavily when our dd was younger and now she acts as though she has PTSD, LOL. I’ve tried to revisit it a couple of times, but haven’t been consistent, which, again, is my problem.

    I hope to complete my audit some time this week!

  4. Cathy
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    I also tried the “do the next thing for 20 minutes” approach to scheduling….and I had the same problem. :)

  5. Hillary
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    Mystie, for what age would you recommend Most Important Thing You’ll Ever Study? Online reviews say everything from 4th/5th grade to high school. How would it work for a Morning Time supplement? I can’t quite tell if it’s a commentary or… not.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      I have been using it for 12-13 year olds (taking two years to complete all 4 volumes), and that seems to be a good level for us, but it is a lot of reading (reading through the whole Bible is!). You could use the book introductions and slight commentary sections in Morning Time, but mostly the book is a workbook – read the Bible, read the short explanation (if there is one), fill in the blanks as “comprehension questions.”

  6. Mandi
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    What about science? (I’m trying to figure out what to do for middle school science…)

    • Mystie Winckler
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      I’ve done the Story of Science series in 7th grade (just reading and written narration) and then my oldest in 8th grade did Elemental Science, and it was fine but I didn’t love it (we skipped most of the experiments because they were silly fillers, as most below high school or college are).

      In 6th grade, my students are still doing Elementary Lessons, where we read and sketch on various topics. Last year (6th grade for my second), we did Botany with Apologia’s elementary series, plus he copied a sketch a week from the Botany in a Day book.