Wednesday, June 7, 2023

Wrapping Up the 2022-23 School Year

The last time I posted here was last summer -- which means a whole school year has flown by! I thought I'd take the chance to share some highlights from the year before moving in to the next one.

But before I jump in: a few family updates...

This year, I had two in each Form: Gianna and Vincent in Form 5, Catherine and Xavier in Form 3, Bridget and Clara in Form 2, Andrew and Justin in Form 1 (and Damien and Emilia in Kinderleben!). It really worked out well having the students paired so neatly this year -- not only did it save me prep time, but my students always had someone to work with when desired.

And further, one thing I really like about the concept of Forms for the larger family is that although students are combined, students aren't forever paired with the same sibling. Depending on the year, they are sometimes with younger siblings, sometimes with older siblings; sometimes they are the youngest in a Form, and sometimes the oldest. I find this annual adjustment helps keep the dynamics fresh and gives the students a chance to strengthen different skills.

The other big family update this year: Baby Matthew Campion! Preparing for and recovering from his arrival was certainly a big part of our homeschool. He arrived the day before Epiphany.

So I planned a very light third term for Forms 1 and 2 and a semi-light term for Form 3. My high schoolers were bascially able to go back to their full schedule after our couple weeks off together. Even with a rocky postpartum time, we ended our school year on strong footing thanks to the CMEC, my wonderfully helpful husband, and rails of habit laid down over the past decade.

That said, I was SUPER relieved to head into summertime! It's so nice to have a break from juggling baby and lessons. Matthew is now five months old -- rolling, babbling, and starting to sleep through the night. And by the time we begin school again in August, he'll be napping more predictably, which will be a huge help!

On to the recap! It wasn't a perfect year by any means, but at the CMEC, we always like to take stock of signs of definite progress and celebrate our "wins." So I thought I'd share here five things that went really well this past year...

Studying history collaboratively and comparatively.

This year we studied roughly 1780-1900 (for all Forms) and Ancient Rome (for Form 2A and up). 

First: I love that my students are all studying the same time periods. It makes my mental workload much simpler and I feel like I can really "live" in the eras as a teacher of many grades.

Second, I'm grateful for fantastic books! American history was fascinating in all the books we read this year -- Builders of Our Country, This Country of Ours, and The Oxford History of the American People. Each one was rich and engaging for the age group it was aimed at. My Form 1 boys were sad for each chapter in Builders to end, and I often heard my high schoolers laugh out loud at Morison's witty, pointed insights. British history was great too: it's hard to beat Arnold-Forster!

And although it was interesting last year reading about the founding of the American government alongside Ancient Greece, I was surprised to find so many connections this year between the Civil War and Ancient Rome. Comparative history makes for rich studies and lots of good history notebook work.

Using the high schoolers' literature as my own leisure reading.

I have talked so much here about pre-reading as schole and teaching with the posture of a student that it is likely cliche! But pregnancy/postpartum meant limited prep time for me this year, and the only leisure reading I really did was my kids' books (plus some Agatha Christie over Christmas break!). Particular favorites for me were Uncle Tom's CabinSilas MarnerA Tale of Two CitiesOedipus and AntigoneSesame and Lilies, and the poetry of Gerard Manley Hopkins. 

I am grateful my teacher prep can also be so enriching.

Participating in our Charlotte Mason-style co-op.

Last year was our first year with an academic co-op and not just a nature study club. (You can read about our fall term and spring term.) We continued with the same families this year and the CMEC as our guide, but took it indoors this year -- my friend hosted us in her home. Just like last year, we took up a different set of subjects each term and swapped teaching duties. Our spring term also looked quite different because instead of meeting every other week, we met for seven weeks in a row (with a couple weeks off in the middle for Easter). This allowed us to start a bit later (I was on a postpartum break) but still end on time and still meet for six meetings plus our end-of-term celebration. It has been so nice to take up different parts of the "feast" together.

It was a lovely year together. So many subjects: Plutarch, heraldry, choir, The Trumpet of the Swan, music theory, hymns and folksongs, recitation, architecture, folk dancing, singing games, chalk drawing, solfege, drill, brush drawing, and more! In the fall, we included a moms' time to meet and discuss a Parents' Review article while the kids played, which was really nice as well. 

I love teaching the kids -- I think all of us do! And I am grateful to have found committed, kind, and thoughtful moms to partner with. They have become dear friends.

Outsourcing subjects to my older kids.

Isn't it wonderful when your children surpass you in skills?! My high school daughter's Italian is now much better than mine, and my middle school daughter is excellent at needlework, so I paid them this year to teach their younger siblings.

For Italian: It was time to break up my Form 1-3 students into two groups for Italian. Last year, I taught everyone together twice a week and then taught the Form 3 students an additional weekly block or two for Italian dictation, copywork, and grammar. This year, Gianna offered to teach the older three kids and I taught the younger three students. Lessons went much more smoothly (smaller groups, everyone working at an appropriate level) and teaching just the littles was really enjoyable for me.

For handicrafts: Catherine used the CMEC's needlecraft course over the year to help her younger siblings learn new stitches and complete a variety of projects. In addition to teaching the 30-minute weekly block on the schedule, she was responsible for letting me know what supplies were needed, assigning each student "homework" to work on over the week, and helping them with that homework as needed. This set up worked so well that she is continuing with the three younger boys (ages 8, 7, and 5) over the summer.

We are planning to continue this arrangement next year too -- I am trying to take advantage of the help before Gianna graduates and I lose one of my "team teachers." :)

Preparing postpartum timetables for an easier transition.

This one was on the advice of a dear friend. I had thought I might just play it by ear after the baby arrived, taking it as easy as needed and eventually scaling up to our regular timetable bit by bit. A friend who knows me better than I know myself (ha!) convinced me that putting the time in before baby arrived to create a super-light timetable for our postpartum term would lead to smoother days and a more restful term. And it would give me an excuse to truly take it easy and not try to get back to regular lessons just so we could have a plan to follow.

I actually made two light timetables: one that was really bare bones (basically just readings and Common Subjects), and one that added back in math and a couple other subjects as well. 

We ended up taking two weeks fully off before starting Term 3, then following our bare-bones timetable for six weeks and our other light timetable for the last few weeks of the term. I had planned to get back to our full schedule by the end of the year, but that didn't happen -- I needed more time to recover. And I was completely fine with that, since I had a great plan for the family that made sure we still sampled a wide feast.

So that's some wins from our year! A few more photos from our 22-23 studies to wrap up...

final Plutarch project for co-op

clay work from model

sweet Burgess narration

we loved studying Millais!

geography with Form 1

grammar review with Form 2 and 3 kids

Form 1 Buckley notebook work

Form 2 written narration

one week of Weekly Paintings

And now -- I'm deep in planning for the fall! I'll be adding a formal student (Damien will be in Form 1B) and will have two seniors, so it promises to be a year full of first, lasts, and excitement!

So what were the "wins" from your year -- favorite books or subjects, best tips, things you loved about your homeschool?


  1. Congrats on the new little one, Celeste! I always SO enjoy seeing a snippet of your year! Amy 😄♥️

  2. Loved reading through your post Celeste! Congratulations yet on the birth of Matthew; I'm glad you were able to work through Term 3 as planned. We are expecting a baby early next year and the advice to plan ahead is some I'll have to keep in mind. :)

    Highlights of our year include:
    - some of the read alouds were family favourites (like By the Great Horn Spoon)
    - improved narrations - my eldest grew by leaps and bounds in his written narrations, and my girls grew a lot in their oral narrations
    - my 2yo kept requesting folk songs to be sung to her at bedtime so that I actually learned some of them off by heart, instead of just singing to music! Hearing her ask for "Long Ago" and "Tramp Tramp Tramp" was so cute. :)

    1. Congrats, Arenda! That's so exciting! I loved reading your highlights. My 2/3yo also was really into the folksongs this year. She loved joining in to sing them at co-op. And it is always really encouraging to see them develop as narrators. It is such a key skill and sign of growth!

  3. I feel like I took an entire year off of the Feast and stuck to meat and potatoes; when my last baby was born.

    I’ll have to keep in mind making a postpartum schedule, if God gives me another little student to join the mix in the future.

    Congrats, and so happy to hear your voice on here again 😊

    1. Thanks so much, Selene! I know what you mean... Meat and potatoes is so nourishing and is enough meal for a season, but having more variety in subjects really adds a richness and refreshment -- whenever we DO get back to a broader schedule! :)

  4. Congratulations on your precious new baby! Thanks for generously sharing a peek into your homeschool and life. I'm inspired to see a joyful, peaceful large family!

    1. Thank you, Lindsey -- but I can't promise it's very peaceful here at all! LOL But we do aim for an inner peace, even when our household is loud and lively with so many children running around! :)

  5. Congratulations on your handsome little boy Matthew Campion!
    Favourite reads from the students: Form 2- Sciences and North America, and Form 1- Tanglewood Tales and Burgess Animal.
    We focussed on “nap school” this year as the two youngest slept and got as much as we could get done between 12-2pm basically in order to stay sane. Now expecting baby #6 in October so that will be an adjustment to the schedule again. My plan will be to get together with another friend doing CMEC in order to feast together on all the wonders that will most likely be missed with the toddlers and babies underfoot.
    I look forward to start up again in August with some added new books!!
    From: Kate Strachan

    1. Hi Kate! I can relate to what you shared -- when you have a growing family with littles in the mix, it seems that the schedule has to be adjusted annually for sure, and sometimes even more often! I think your plan for getting together with a friends sounds wonderful. I am sure it will be refreshing and enjoyable for you both -- and for your kids! I am adding you to my prayer list of pregnant mothers! Congratulations.

  6. It is so nice to see an update from you! I always find your posts very inspiring. Congratulations on baby Matthew! My husband and I are expecting #6, due October 1st. I would love to see your schedules - regular vs light vs ultra light. This is my first fall baby and I’m having a hard time wrapping my mind around timing because we usually start in September or October, but I think I should get some school in before baby arrives.


    1. Thanks, Monica! I'll think about sharing the specific schedules, but they really are what I described above: "ultra light" was just readings + common subjects (about 1.5-2 hours a day for me, more for my older students, less for my younger students), "light" added in math and copywork to that schedule for an extra half hour for us all.

      I have a lot of fall birthdays (three in September and one in November), so I feel like half of the years I have homeschooled I have worked around a funny fall schedule! :) That is why we used to start in July every year -- then we would take a short break whenever a baby was born (whether fall or winter), and still end earlyish, which I prefer because spring weather is so beautiful here. I do like getting in some weeks before baby arrives because it makes coming back so much easier -- books are in the right place on the shelf, routine is already in place, etc. But if you usually start quite late, maybe that would be tricky for you and you all will be best to wait until after, then do a lightish school until the new year. Congratulations and I pray all goes smoothly!

  7. Thank you for another inspiring post! I happened to see it right before sitting down for a long session of planning and pre-reading a few weeks ago, so it was a great motivation to prepare the feast! I especially love your kids' embroidery work- how precious. And congratulations on your newest son- I love Campion for a middle name and have been pushing for it for the past 3 boys we've had, haha! Oh well, St. Edmund can still pray for us...

    Thank you for sharing about postpartum schooling too; this is my 2nd year of homeschooling and we're due with baby #5 in December so I'm happy to hear some ideas on working around his or her arrival! We started in July last year and finished in April, which was wonderful because then my son was free to be outside with his little brothers all day (which was great for me too, in first trimester. An unforeseen benefit...) So, God-willing we will cover 2 (9-week) terms before the baby's due date, and then I love the idea of planning for a light schedule in the spring.

    In one of the CMEC form meetings you and Amy discussed how during difficult family times it can be tempting to cut out everything but math and reading, but that it is the common subjects which can be so life-giving during those times. I have found that thought so helpful- and with a little bit of planning now (making playlists, purchasing prints, etc) they will be simple to mix into the "light" feast in the spring!

    1. Thanks so much, Lindsay! I enjoyed reading about your plans for the upcoming year with a new baby. It will feel so good to have two terms finished before baby comes and just relax through the spring with a light schedule of "books and things"! And like you said, anything you can do now to prep those subjects will make for more peaceful days and offer refreshing work you and your students can enjoy together. It sounds like you have a great plan!

  8. Hi Celeste. We're a Catholic family using the CMEC this year, too! Would you mind sharing how you schedule in all your religion and Bible readings? I am not naturally gifted at scheduling, and I like to lean on examples. But no curriculum that shares sample schedules (AO, Mater Amabilis, CMEC, or Mother of Divine Grace) show how to fit that all in. I'd love to hear more about how it all fits in, especially for Forms 1,2,3. Also: one last quick question: how much free reading do your middle form kids do each day?

    1. Hi! I have a little more about that on my Catholic post for this year... I'll paste what I have there here too in case it's helpful: "As for scheduling, it really depends. Much of what I have here is Sunday reading -- my kids all do a Sunday reading block of varying lengths depending on age. My Form 1 students usually read a chapter (or I read a chapter with them) in their saint bio, however long that takes. Then I usually have one 20 minute block a week to work on catechism, study of the Mass, etc. with them. And then we have family reading over breakfast that includes books tied to the liturgical calendar and spiritual reading for my youngers. The older students gradually have more and more religious reading built into their schedule, so my high schoolers have a daily devotional time of about 20 minutes, a weekly Catholic history block of 40 minutes, Sunday reading of at least 30 minutes, and then other leisure reading that is tied to religion that they do in afternoons/evenings/weekends. So we kind of handle it differently year by year! :)"

      For your other question about leisure reading... it depends on the day, but I'd say at least an hour a day? Not all at once... more like a half hour or more in the afternoon and a half hour before bed. My early risers may also get in some free reading time in the mornings before school.

    2. Hi Celeste. I was the Anonymous poster above asking about religious reading. Truly, thank you for explaining very clearly and with more detail! For those of us poor souls who are bad at scheduling - we can't infer very well from other descriptions. LOL, At least for me, it has to be said: slowly, in small words, and very explicitly :)

  9. Celeste it's always inspiring and encouraging to see snippets of your family's school year. I would be really interested in the resources your co op used for heraldry, if you could share.

    1. Hi! Our heraldry study was our term focus on Drawing, Design, and Craftwork by F.J. Glass, which is a book used by Mason and by the CMEC. But we used several additional resources as well for examples, including a couple Dover reprints of coats of arms, American seals and symbolism, etc. Are you a CMEC member? My friend Sarah talked about heraldry in our co-op during a Form Meeting last year and the recording is available on the Form Meetings page. :)

    2. Awesome! Thanks for responding! I have the Drawing book and am a CMEC member. I'll be sure to look for the Form Meeting.