Looking Back on 2020: A Homeschool End-of-Year Review (Part 2)

I don’t want to write this. 

As I type, next year’s curriculum books are staring at me. “Plan ahead with us!” they beckon.

I just don’t want to spend time looking back when there’s so much to do to prepare for next year! Full speed ahead, I say! 

But no. Not yet.

I’ve learned I’ll miss out on too much valuable information if I don’t stop and evaluate the last school year. So, in order to avoid duplicating past mistakes or ignoring areas of potential improvement, I’m here to finish this two-part look back on 2020.

In the previous post we covered history, science and Bible. Now let’s take a look at math, language arts and all the rest.

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Math

This year my 2nd grader used Math-U-See (MUS) Gamma. I had planned for my 5th grader to work through MUS Epsilon and maybe get into MUS Zeta but, as you’ll see, that didn’t end up happening. 

What Worked

MUS Gamma was a good fit for my middle son. My kids love Mr. Demme (main teacher and founder of MUS) and his humor and friendly teaching style. Some of the worksheets were a bit much for him to do in one day (especially a sheet full of triple-digit multiplication problems) but that was easily solved by splitting difficult problem sets over two days.

Student worksheet from Math-U-See Gamma curriculum
2nd grader’s MUS Gamma student worksheet

As for my oldest son, he let me know right as we started that MUS wasn’t working for him anymore. He’d been using it since kindergarten and I think he was just ready for a change of pace. Enter CTC Math

I’d been looking into CTC for a while so, when my oldest refused to do math politely requested a new math program, we looked at it over the weekend and started CTC that Monday. He loves the online format and bite-sized lessons. But mostly I think it’s the teacher’s Australian accent that sold him on it. Go figure.  

What Needs to Change

After seeing his older brother using CTC, my middle son announced that he, too, wants to use CTC next year. So, although MUS worked well for him, I do think we’ll make the switch to CTC for him, too. 

My soon-to-be 6th grader will also continue with CTC but I’ll be making a few changes. Mainly, I want to make sure both of my boys get enough hand-written math practice. The program includes printable review question sets, but I want to supplement with non-CTC practice, too. 

I also want to schedule more section review quizzes for them. I didn’t do much of that this past year and I want to make sure the lessons are really internalized. I’m sure my boys will be thrilled. 😉

Language Arts

This year, my 2nd grader and I used the Little Language Arts course on SchoolhouseTeachers.com which covered figurative language, poetry, writing and grammar. He also completed the Zaner Bloser Handwriting cursive book. 

My 5th grader used Institute for Excellence in Writing (IEW) FixIt! Grammar Book 1 and IEW’s Student Writing Intensive Continuation Course Level A for writing. 

They also both continued with All About Spelling for… you guessed it… spelling.

Note: We’ve had an excellent experience with the IEW products we’ve tried so far. Visit the Sensible Homeschool Recommended IEW Products page for links!

What Worked

Language Arts was an all around great experience for us this year. 

Schoolhouse Teachers came through for us again (more about our experiences with that membership here). The creative activities in the Little Language Arts class were perfect for my project-loving son. 

Student sample of poetry craft project entitled Hedgehog
A poetry activity from Little Language Arts

And, honestly, I think he could’ve used almost any cursive book and been successful. He was just sooo super-excited to learn cursive! As I always say, where there is a student with internal motivation, there is a happy homeschool mom! (okay, I’ve never said that until now… but it’s still so true)

IEW’s writing and grammar were a perfect fit for my oldest son. He adores Mr. Pudewa (main teacher and founder of IEW) and all his hilarious jokes. From a mom-educator perspective, I feel the methods IEW uses to teach are incredibly effective, especially if your student has any anxiety around writing or struggles with perfectionism. 

What Needs to Change

Like I said, language arts went well this year, so not much needs to change. I plan to stick with All About Spelling, FixIt! Grammar and some new SchoolhouseTeachers.com language arts classes next year.

But now that my oldest has two years of solid, paper-writing training under his belt, I think he could benefit from more experience in creative writing. I plan on finding something that will help him express his own ideas and apply the formal writing instruction he’s already had in a variety of new ways.

All the Other Stuff

The rest of the subjects we studied went pretty smoothly overall (I love it when a plan comes together)! We’ve gotten into a good groove with our elective-type classes at co-op and through our park district. My kids love the gym, art and choir classes they’ve taken so we’ll continue with those next year as well as the piano they’ve been studying at home. And our local homeschool band is AMAZING, too, so no changes needed there either.

Health and logic are the final two subjects we “officially” study. 

Health we mainly cover through day-to-day discussion and books (like God Made All of Me and Good Pictures, Bad Pictures Jr. among others). This informal approach seems to work well for my kids for this subject.

Four homeschool logic workbooks for elementary aged students
A few of our logic workbooks

And, despite a few frustrations with our logic books (like references that children from the 18th century might get … but not my 21st century kids), I still think we’ll continue on with the Puffrock Press, Inc. series and similar logic books next year. The discussions that those frustrations generated were actually great learning experiences (though I’m not so sure my son would agree). 


To wrap it up, I’d say we had a pretty successful school year, especially given the utter unpredictability of the last several months!

A lot we did worked, so I can continue where we left off in those areas. I’ll focus my creative homeschool mom-brain power on the areas that need some changes. More hand-written practice and review quizzes in math plus more focus on creative writing in language arts, for starters.

Have you taken any time to think back on the last school year? Believe me, I know how irritating it can be to spend your precious mommy free-time moments looking back instead of forward. But the insights you’ll gain are worth it!

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Looking Back on 2020 A Homeschool Year in Review