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As of June 9th, B’s first grade year is, as they say, in the books. We used Ambleside Online Year 1 and though we did have some ups and downs and growing pains, I think overall it was a successful year. Here are some thoughts I’ve had, things I’ve learned, and what I plan to do differently next year when we dive into Ambleside Online Year 2!
My first confession is that I didn’t do our Bible time well at all. Yes, I did read from it with him every day, but I used Penny Gardner’s schedules for the first two terms, then decided to switch to the AO readings in Term 3. This meant that we read some duplicate stories (which, really, is not a huge deal as he’s heard many of them before and I hope he reads these stories over and over again throughout his life, but still….) and I didn’t actually get to all of the AO readings because some of them were very long. I also switched versions at one point (from ESV to KJV), and we missed quite a bit of the New Testament as I was trying to figure out just what to read.
If I had it to do over again…. I would start with the AO Year 1 Bible reading list, doing the Old Testament on Mondays and Wednesdays and the New Testament on Tuesdays and Thursdays as I had originally thought about (and possibly add a chapter of Proverbs every day during morning time). My initial concern was that the readings they offered wouldn’t get us through a full week of school if we read every day, and in some weeks this was true. However, many of the readings were quite long and when I finally did start using this list in Term 3, some of them actually took us longer than a week to read. I would also have started with the KJV as my fears that he wouldn’t understand it easily were unfounded. I did use a lot of voice inflection and there were definitely parts where he struggled, but I think overall he did very well in understanding the language. This was very encouraging to me.
We skipped Trial and Triumph (more on that later) and while B said he didn’t like Our Island Story (and, in fact, grumbled quite a bit when I pulled it out), he still listened very well and narrated most of the chapters beautifully. I think Fifty Famous Stories Retold was just about perfect for him as they were short and to-the-point where Our Island Story’s chapters sometimes introduced quite a few different people and events at the same time, which he struggled with. Still, I think it’s a great book to introduce British history (which later leads into American history) and the chapters are engaging. The same is true of Viking Tales, which I think he enjoyed, and I’m a little disappointed that we won’t read it more next year!
If I had it to do over again…. I would PRE-READ! I was very good about this in Term 1 but not so much in Terms 2 and 3 and there were several times I found myself editing on the fly, especially with Our Island Story. I also would omit a few readings entirely, some of which I did leave out this year (‘Brave 300’ from Fifty Famous Stories Retold and ‘Baodicea’ and ‘Hengist Treachery’ from Our Island Story in particular). This is a bit of a struggle for me as I don’t really know how B is processing these things. Bad things happen to bad people (and sometimes good people) in these stories, but I’m not sure the level of detail is necessary in some cases.
I would also give Trial and Triumph a second chance. I read ‘Polycarp’ and ‘Blandina’ before the year started and they were both too violent for my taste, but then I didn’t read any further than that and kind of threw the baby out with the bathwater. Patrick isn’t bad at all and I think is actually a great introduction to him. So we’ll try T&T next year, though again, I’ll definitely pre-read and leave out any stories that are too graphic.
American History Biography
* These were supplemental to the AO schedule.
I think B enjoyed all of these for the most part. I wrote a little about how we countered the views on slavery in the D’Aulaire’s George Washington and per Charlotte Mason Geek’s suggestion, we followed reading Buffalo Bill with Buffalo Bird Girl, which I think was just about perfect. All of these books were beautifully illustrated which I very much appreciated. It was also fun to go up to Lookout Mountain after we finished Buffalo Bill to see his grave and a small museum with quite a few artifacts from his life. I think if the kids were older, they may have appreciated it more, but it was still neat to be able to make those real-life connections either way.
If I had it to do over again…. I would look for a place locally where we could experience some of the indigenous cultures from this area (mainly Ute, Arapaho, and Cheyenne) as well. I definitely want to check out the Plains Conservation Center this summer if we’re able to. And, when the kids are older, the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site is just about three hours from our house.
B didn’t enjoy Paddle to the Sea as much as I hoped he would, but I think it was difficult for him to really develop a relationship with the characters because the readings were so short and sometimes we’d go two weeks between them. Still, he did learn about the Great Lakes and that region, which was neat as both of his parents were raised in that area. For the other books, we only did a few short lessons from them, but they were perfect. He now knows all the cardinal directions in relation to our house and can find the north star as well as the big dipper with ease which is a lot more than I could do at his age!
If I had it to do over again…. I think I would’ve of let him spend more time coloring the Paddle to the Sea map. I’ll probably do this next year with the Seabird and Tree in the Trail maps in the hope that he makes more of a connection with these books. I also do kind of wish I had gotten him a little Paddle to the Sea boat at the beginning of the year. 🙂
Our nature study evolved somewhat over the course of the year, but it followed a basic pattern and it worked so, so well. For Terms 1 and 2, I used the AO Nature Study schedule and pulled random topics from The Handbook of Nature Study (HONS). Each week, I’d prop up either Nature Anatomy or Farm Anatomy to an appropriate page on a bookholder on our school table for the week. Then during our nature study time, I’d read a little from HONS about the given topic, we’d watch a few videos about it on YouTube, and then I’d go back and ask the appropriate questions from the HONS section about the topic. If we happened to have an opportunity to see whatever it was we studied in “real life” (eg. the birth of a friend’s lambs/goats/chicks), all the better!
Both kids enjoyed James Herriot (C especially) and we’re big fans of Thornton Burgess already, so The Burgess Bird Book for Children was a perfect fit for us (I’m finishing it this summer with them).
If I had it to do over again…. For Term 3, I decided to do the nature study topic that our co-op was doing (invertebrates) instead of the AO suggestion. There was really nothing wrong with this arrangement, but I think next year I’ll just stick to the AO schedule as our at-home nature study and co-op nature study were, at times, somewhat redundant.
We started the year doing manuscript copywork using Worksheetworks.com and our monthly recitation poem but about mid-year, I decided to switch to cursive after reading about how this is done in some other countries with younger children successfully. We started by learning the lower-case letters, then practicing them, then I we went on to learn the upper-case letters, but we only made it about halfway through that before the end of the year. I plan to continue on this vein with him next year and then all of his copywork will be in cursive.
If I had it to do over again…. I probably would’ve started with cursive at the beginning of the year, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. 🙂 Otherwise, I think the cursive sheets I used worked well and once we’re done with those, I’ll go right back to Worksheetworks.com with our monthly recitation poem but use their cursive option instead.
I think Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons was, overall, a success as B can definitely read now. The last ten or so lessons from the book were a bit of a challenge as they were pretty redundant, though I do recognize that this is good for reading practice which is why we trudged through them. The readings at the end are quite a bit longer, so I started splitting the lessons up into two days with the first day going over the individual words and doing one reading, then the second day doing the second reading (with the injected questions) and looking at the picture. This seemed to work well. Switching to Little Bear after we were done with the two BOB Book Collections was kind of by accident. I had every intention of getting Collection 3, but Costco wasn’t carrying them anymore and the price for it elsewhere was high, so we just switched to Maurice Sendak’s “Little Bear” series which B loved and I’m very much looking forward to reading those books with him during his reading instruction next year!
If I had it to do over again…. I probably would’ve skipped the BOB Collection 2 books and just gone straight to the Little Bear books as I think he was ready for something more challenging at that point. It’s a bit of a gray area, though, as I know that part of learning to read is gaining confidence in your ability and with the BOB Books, he was definitely able to do that.
We started the year with MEP Year 1 but just a few weeks of it made me decide that I needed to find something else. We switched to RightStart Level B and I haven’t looked back. The upfront cost was, admittedly, a little hard to swallow, but it was totally worth it as we can use the manipulatives for both kids through eighth grade and only need to buy new lesson and worksheet books each year (and only worksheet books when it’s C’s turn). The lessons are so well laid-out and the manipulatives are fantastic for really getting the concepts introduced to sink in. B loved the games and when a concept was easy to latch on to, he really enjoyed math time (makes sense!). We definitely did struggle at times and it’s most certainly not his favorite subject (unless there are games involved), but overall the math instruction was a huge success and he did extremely well on his math final exams for the year.
If I had it to do over again…. I’d stick to those short lessons all through the year. Math was getting to drag on and on at times just so we could finish a lesson in a day. After the CMER in February, I started restricting us to 20 minutes per day for math which worked well at first, but then we were getting further and further behind. I have friends who are fine with this (one of them a licensed teacher) but it did bother me, so I decided to do math for 20 minutes and if there was a game scheduled for that day, we’d do the lesson part for 20 minutes and then the game after all of our other school work. If it was just a matter of B dawdling or pausing to complain a lot during math time (which was often the case), we continued the lesson after we were done with other our school work. I never did any math time for more than 20-25 minutes at a time or 40 minutes in a day (and only 20 minutes when were just really struggling with a concept). This method worked well and we finished Level B, so I plan to do this next year as well.
We made it through 5.5 lessons of Speaking Spanish with Ms. Mason and François this year. Each lesson included several verbs and then those verbs used in several phrases that we memorized in just about 5 minutes per day during morning time. We also sang songs from Diez Deditos during morning time which we also memorized.
If I had it to do over again…. The only thing I would change would be to focus on a song for an entire month rather than just two weeks. In Terms 1 and 2, I’d switch the songs every two weeks and since we were only singing them 3 days each week (Mondays are review days so we go back and sing an old song we memorized), it didn’t give us a good chance to memorize them. In April, I only scheduled one song which I would read out loud before we sang it every day. Both kids had this one and the one we sang in May memorized very well. I also picked up the Teaching Guide for Speaking Spanish with Ms. Mason and François and I plan to read it over the summer to see if any changes need to be made there.
This was probably one of the parts that B enjoyed the most, especially the A.A. Milne poems. I really enjoyed A Child’s Book of Poems and if it wasn’t scheduled for AO Year 1, I’d definitely switch to this for the Kindergarten Curriculum!
If I had it to do over again…. I miscounted the number of poems we needed to read in Term 3 and we didn’t get to all of them, so I would’ve done that differently. I plan to read the remaining ones over the summer during our tea times.
B narrated Aesop extremely well, which is not surprising considering how short they are. I’m not sure how well the morals really sank in, but hopefully they stick in that little brain and when he’s old enough to understand the concept or sees an example of it in real life, they’ll come back to him. I think he had mixed feelings about Shakespeare. There were definitely some plays that he enjoyed more than others (Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It were enjoyed but King Lear? not so much). I switched in Term 2 from reading the Bruce Coville versions to Nesbitt (Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare) because there was no Coville version of As You Like It and I kind of liked the Nesbitt version better. We were reading Lambs’ (Tales from Shakespeare) Hamlet in our co-op, so I tried their version with Winter’s Tale and both went well so I decided to stick with those versions. Even with the Coville illustrated versions, I found that drawing the story out on our RightStart whiteboard did make remembering the characters a whole lot easier, so I continued that through the year and will do it again next year.
We both LOVED Just So Stories (except for the alphabet story…that was not a favorite) and though B would say he didn’t like Parables from Nature, he certainly got a few laughs from it and narrated it very well.
If I had it to do over again…. I’d pre-read both the Nesbitt and Lambs versions to see which one would be better. I’ll do this next year.
The hymn selection is from our co-op so we did not follow the AO schedule here. We started the year by doing what we did last year when we were following the AO schedule – singing both our hymn and our folksong every day during morning time. However, because we only had two hymns and folksongs per term rather than three, I decided that we’d alternate them to cut back on the length of morning time just a tad. So for half of Term 1 and all of Term 2, we did this. However, when we did the Term 2 exam, B had a hard time remembering all the words so beginning in Term 3, I kept alternating them but I also started reading the words before we sang the song. He did much better on this part of his Term 3 exam, so we’ll keep doing this next year.
If I had it to do over again…. Amazon closed down their cloud sharing services earlier this year, so I switched to Plex to store and play our school music and I love it (I’ll be writing a post about this later this summer). This paired with Freegal for free music makes buying and playing our folksong/hymn/composer a breeze! I wish I had had them both from the beginning! Otherwise, there’s really nothing I’d change other than what I mentioned above.
This was another list that came from our co-op rather than AO and everything I wrote above about hymns is applicable here as well. B did have an easier time memorizing these than the hymns, most likely because they were shorter and followed more of a story format.
This list is also from our co-op. Composer study was another subject where I started the year by just doing what we did last year – listening to whatever selection we had for a given week while we did copywork and that’s pretty much it. The more I read and listened to about composer study, though, the more I felt that this was really inadequate. I am so thankful that the mom who taught composer study during our co-op time was extremely thorough in her research and ideas for implementation because if it hadn’t been for her, I’d still probably be doing the same thing. Instead, I started to alternate picture study time with composer study during morning time and we’d sit and either listen to the pieces or watch a performance on YouTube or I’d read a biography about the given composer.
If I had it to do over again…. I think I’d probably skip the biography and really only try to find recorded performances on YouTube for each piece. Both kids were far more engaged and curious about the music and the instruments used when they could actually see it being performed. I also have each piece downloaded (again from Freegal!) on our Plex app so we can listen to it at other random times throughout the day which offers more exposure.
Watteau (picture study aid is here)
Copley (picture study is coming)
I learned a LOT about picture study this year through our co-op and I’m so thankful for that. This was another list that the co-op came up with last summer before I was part of it. I did not teach at all during Term 1 as they asked that new moms to the co-op use their first term to get an idea of what it looks like to teach different subjects in the co-op. In Terms 2 and 3, I began teaching picture study to the lower forms (up to fourth grade) and I loved it. During the week at home, we’d alternate picture study with composer study, so Monday and Wednesday we looked at our art and Tuesday and Thursday we looked at our music. During picture study, we just sat down together and looked at the piece, talking about the things that we noticed and B could ask questions if he had any.
If I had it to do over again…. I probably wouldn’t change anything. I like it how it is.
For a Child by Fannie Stearns Davis
Barter by Sara Teasdale
A Thanksgiving by John Kendrick Bangs
A Christmas Carol by Christina Rossetti
Stopping By Woods On A Snowy Evening by Robert Frost
Books by Eleanor Farjeon
The Rainbow by David McCord
My Shadow by Robert Louis Stevenson
Play Time by William Blake
We memorized these poems this year. I would do a new one each month and then on the last school day of the month, B would stand in front of C and me and recite the poem from memory. I’m amazing at how quickly they both memorized these poems….I wish my brain worked that well!
If I had it to do over again…. I wouldn’t have scheduled the Christmas poem but instead used more of a generic winter poem. We really only had two weeks of school in December so having just a little bit of that Christmas poem threw the other poems off. This is probably more due to my OCDness than any real problem, but it did bother me as I didn’t want us to be working on a Christmas poem after Christmas. I think what I really need to do is work on our school start date….more on that later.
We spent this year working on a personal timeline for B. I made a chart with each quarter of his life from this year to his birth and then each week, working our way backward, I’d print out photos from whatever quarter we were doing and he’d pick one to draw on his timeline. This is actually something I want to continue doing as he gets older as I loved the way it turned out.
If I had it to do over again…. I’d keep it the same.
We started the year doing paper sloyd at home which B really liked, but when we started doing origami in co-op with occasional at-home assignments, I dropped it. I ended up taking over teaching the handicraft sessions for the younger forms in our co-op which had been planned in advance to be origami, so we pretty much only did handicrafts during co-op, which I regret.
If I had it to do over again…. I wouldn’t have dropped sloyd at home but instead did that during our non-co-op weeks even if we also had something to do for co-op. I may do something like that this next year.
We didn’t get to all of the free reads by choice. I started to read Peter Pan but didn’t think it was age-appropriate, at least not for B, so we’ll read that when he’s a little older (Gladys Hunt recommends age nine which I think is a good goal). I also didn’t tackle The Red Fairy Book for the same reason. Maybe when he’s a little older. He enjoyed the ones we did read, and I’m looking forward to a longer free read list next year.
I learned a lot from the exams as we went through the year as well. I mainly used the AO exams, and altered where I needed to, then I’d ask him the questions and recorded his answers on my phone (which I still need to transcribe…). He did really well on the Term 1 exams, not so well on the Term 2 exams, and well again on the Term 3 exams, but I also recognized where I needed to have more grace with him by the end of the year. Ultimately, they did help me adjust things through the year (eg. spending more time on hymns and folksongs and names in stories), so they served their purpose and I’ll keep doing them. I only took a day to do each exam since they were so short, but I’m keeping in mind that they may take longer as he gets older.
If I had it to do over again…. I wouldn’t change anything. I liked having them to see where we were.
Scheduling was definitely an area of learning for me as well. I started the year just inserting readings into Lessontrek, not really thinking that some of them may be a LOT longer than others. Then we hit that first week of ‘Beauty and the Beast’ from The Blue Fairy Book which was far longer than a 20-minute read, so I knew I needed to break things up more. I ended up just scheduling no more than five to six pages at a time, so I’d spread a book out over many days and that worked so well for us. I’ll keep with the same scheduling system for next year.
I’ve thought about also possibly starting our school year a week earlier for various reasons, but I really like waiting until September to start. The schools around here start in early to mid-August, so we really could go either way. Decisions decisions.
I learned early on that I do not like reading these books from my Kindle so I will be buying all of the books in the future even if they are free on Kindle. I was fortunate in that I was able to borrow several of the books from a friend so I didn’t have to buy many, but for the ones I did buy, Bookfinder was invaluable. I was able to find so many used in great condition for a fraction of the cost of a new book (case in point, Our Island Story new was listed at $40 – I picked up a nearly new hardcover copy for $7 including shipping from England). I also learned which publishers I like and I’m now a big fan of Yesterday’s Classics. I also found that tabletop easels and a bookholder were very helpful as I was able to prop up our picture studies and our RightStart whiteboard (which I used for a LOT and am planning to order a second one for next year) on our school table.
Overall, I think the year went really well and I’m pleased with B’s progress, especially in reading and math. I’ve gotten most of our books for next year already and am very excited to dive in! Hopefully, B gets excited too….at least a little bit. 🙂