B’s second grade year has come to a close and another year of homeschooling is in the books. It’s honestly hard for me to believe we’re done as it really flew by even though it was definitely a very challenging year. The second half in particular was filled with sickness and blizzards (and here and here and here) and deaths (and births!) and stress (so.much.stress) and just generally lots of things that were not conducive to maintaining a peaceful and orderly homeschool environment. There were tears and fights and yelling, but there were also a lot of good times when we were excited to find out what happened next in a book or feeling triumphant because we finally got a math concept. Ups and downs, ebbs and flows. If anyone ever tries to convince you that a homeschool day, Charlotte Mason or otherwise, will always be smiles, laughter, and epic voyages into the Grand Conversation, don’t believe them! This year emphasized to me that it can be really, really hard.
Still, despite the struggles, the more-than-I’d-like-to-admit skipping of Morning Times, etc., we made it through all of the reading assignments for the year. B’s reading and writing skills have grown exponentially and progress was definitely made. Those are the successes and I’m choosing to celebrate rather than carry guilt around all summer for not doing it as perfectly, or even as well, as I would’ve liked.
So, here is what we covered using Ambleside Online Year 2 during B’s second grade year….
During Term 3, I fell very far behind in keeping up with the J. Paterson Smyth commentaries, which was frustrating. When I finally did sit down and catch-up, there had been so many interesting points and tips offered on how to present the stories that I really wished I had when we were going through a particular section. Ultimately, the work is up to the Holy Spirit in all subjects and most especially this one, but I wish I had been more diligent in reading these so that I could make it a little more engaging. I also kept forgetting to use the Bible Atlas regularly toward the end, which I think also would’ve helped. As we go through Exodus next year, I’m hoping I get more use from it.
I also really wavered on KJV vs. ESV at the end of the term. It had been such a disjointed, messy term and we were both getting so frustrated with a lot of things that I just wanted to make it as easy as possible, so I went back to using the ESV for Bible time. B said he liked it much better so I’m tempted to keep on with that, but I think this is something I’m going to have to think about over the summer. Lynn Bruce raised some wonderful points about why AO recommends the KJV, but I also have a good friend who I very much respect and she does not use KJV because she wants her children to really enjoy their Bible time. So….I don’t know. If anyone has any insight, I’m all ears! 🙂
I think, for the most part, our history time went well. All of the books were engaging and even though B grumbled with several of them, he still gave me very good narrations most of the time. Pre-reading is still a must with these, though, except for maybe A Child’s History of the World, as that one was generally pretty tame in terms of violence and/or outdated thinking (at least the chapters that we read), and The Little Duke. (And speaking of The Little Duke, I found this map to go along with the story near the end of our reading so we didn’t use it this time around, but I hope to use it with C in a few years!)
I am glad that I decided to add Trial and Triumph back into the rotation this year as I think this was a nice addition to our history books. I did censor a few of the readings, particularly if someone died in a violent way or there was negative commentary on Catholic beliefs, but otherwise I think the stories were engaging.
I checked out both the D’Aulaire Columbus and the chapters about him in This Country of Ours and opted to go with the latter, though with quite a bit of editing of various terms (eg. “savages”). I thought the overall story of what Columbus had to go through in order to even attempt his dream of finding an alternate way to India was good and didn’t want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. I did debate this to a certain extent because of the fact that how he treated the native Central and South Americans he encountered was not discussed. Aside from suggesting that the native people were naive because they were scared of the boats, I actually didn’t feel like this book had much to say about their interactions at all. Because of the fact that more honest and balanced accounts of his life (that do go into more detail about the dark side of his travels) are read in later grades (Year 8 specifically on the AO schedule), I felt comfortable going ahead with this reading. However, we did talk about how it must have felt for the native people he encountered seeing Europeans and their boats for the first time and whether or not he really had a right to claim this new land for Spain.
We did struggle a little bit with Joan of Arc and keeping the various battles and timeline of events of her life straight as well. I also watered down a teeny-tiny bit the way in which she died as this is another topic that’s revisited later on with a more thorough read (Year 7). At just 2 pages per week and beautiful illustrations in the book, I’m not sure how we could’ve done this one better, so at this point I’m thankful that this is a historical figure who he was introduced to and he knows the general outline of her life.
natural History/Science/nature Study
The books we had for natural history were all very good and engaging. As always, in particular the Burgess books always do well in our house. I really enjoyed reading Tree in the Trail and I think the map definitely helped there in being able to track their journey across the plains. Seabird was a tad bit different and I’m not sure that the map helped at all as B didn’t end making a path on it since the book didn’t really create a path to track other than a few chapters during Nate’s childhood. And while the story was interesting (the ending was particularly good), I don’t think he was nearly as engaged with this book as he has been with the other Holling books, especially as he had a hard time keeping the different generations of captains/sailors straight. I still think it was a worthwhile read, though, as it introduced him to the different types of ships that have been used for sailing and the lives that the sailors lived.
Nature study itself was a different story. Our tree study at the beginning of the year was good, but I would’ve like it to have been a little more thorough. In Term 2, I hit the ground running with the night sky, only to come to nearly a dead stop with amphibians in Term 3. I really struggled in coming up with content for this as there are only so many YouTube videos you can watch about tadpoles growing legs, etc. We did watch videos and we did read The Adventures of Grandfather Frog, but I really would’ve liked to have done more. I did not read The Handbook of Nature Study at all this term and I think that’s something I definitely need to go back to next year, if nothing else to get ideas for activities we can do. I had high hopes that we’d be able to bring some tadpoles home from a local pond and watch them grow, but that plan was thwarted by multiple late snows and frosts. We did recently find two perfect little ponds near our house that are fairly remote, so we’ll be visiting them through the summer and I hope to still be able to observe some growing frogs over the next few months.
And on that note, we managed two nature hikes in the second half of the year, again because of blizzards and other things that popped up to eliminate our Fridays. Sometimes it just can’t be helped and I’m trying to be okay in that, but it’s still frustrating as getting out in the fresh air with the trees and rocks and streams and birds and all the goodness of nature is always so good for us.
Literature was another category that, over all, went well. Understood Betsy was a huge hit and, to my surprise and despite the archaic language, we’ve all really enjoyed Robin Hood so far as well (we’ll finish it over the summer per the AO schedule).
Parables from Nature readings can be either hits or misses in terms of how engaged B is with them and how much he actually understands. I’m going to keep on with it, though, because I think he does get the overall gist of each “parable” and the language and creativity she used in writing these stories are just beautiful. We’ll keep on with this one through next year as well.
Pilgrim’s Progress was all over the place in terms of how well our readings and his narrations went. The author’s apology in the beginning was absolutely brutal and actually made us both want to quit this book right off the bat. In hindsight, I wish I had skipped that for him (and just read on my own) as once we got into the story itself, it was actually one of both B and C’s favorite reads through most of Terms 1 and 2 (and I honestly don’t think the apology is necessary for the story). In Term 3, however, there was a LOT more dialogue and less action and B really struggled with narrating that. We actually ended up taking turns narrating a few times during the mostly-dialogue sections because he was struggling so much. Still, when the action parts came up, he was very engaged and added commentary of his own even while I was reading (“that wasn’t smart! why did he do that?”), so I am glad we read it. We’ll be reading Part 2 about Christian’s wife next year.
For Shakespeare, we read the Lambs version of Much Ado About Nothing in co-op. We also used Lambs at home for Macbeth and Comedy of Errors along with our whiteboard, which helps us keep all of the characters straight. B wasn’t a huge fan of Much Ado or Macbeth (though he did think the weird sisters were funny), but he really enjoyed Comedy of Errors.
I think the only issue we had with poetry was that I didn’t space them out well so that we ended up with no poetry for the last few weeks of the term. I hope to be better about that next year. Otherwise, I think all three of us enjoyed the four poets we read and I appreciated being introduced to poets I wasn’t familiar with prior to this year.
We did not finish math this year. And that is okay. We took our time at about 20 minutes per lesson (sometimes longer if there was a game involved) and we have about 20 lessons left in the book (out of 140) that we’ll finish over the summer. This is a tough subject for B and his frustration triggers my own as math was never a strong subject for me either. I still believe RightStart is really very good, though, and I am thankful not only for the different ways that it allows him to learn a math concept through manipulatives rather than worksheets, but also that the lessons are scripted for me so I need to do very little prep and don’t have to come up with anything on my own. I think this will be an area that teaches patience for us both.
Last year and this year in January, I started an eBay search for the next level of RightStart books for the following school year. Last year I was able to pick up Level C for $30 (vs. $91+shipping on their website) and for next year I already have Level D, which I got for $50 (this included appendices which last year’s didn’t have). I’m so thankful for used curricula!
I think our geography readings from Long’s Home Geography and Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography were mostly review for B, though I really liked how she explained the seasons, which we covered in Term 3. B did exceptionally well on this part of his exam and even explained how seasons work on our globe – which it definitely helps to have handy for this reading!
We finished learning cursive letters in Term 1 (after beginning toward the end of Year 1 with cursive), so I began making his copywork sheets in cursive in Term 2. I mentioned in my Term 3 plans post that I didn’t think I was using this time well, so I revamped it a little bit and started taking copywork suggestions from the AO Copywork Yahoo Group and making the sheets longer. Then I had him work on them for 10 minutes. The drawback to this was that his mind often wonders and along with that, his eyes, so usually part of that 10 minutes he spent staring out the window (regardless of how many times I tried to re-direct his attention). Instead, toward the end of Term 3, I started just asking him to do the front of one sheet (about seven lines of text) instead of timing him, but I’m not sure that’s a good solution either as his eyes still wandered, so he’d be sitting and working on copywork for 20 minutes. This is another subject I’m going to need to do more research on over the summer.
Reading-Literature: The Primer
Reading-Literature: First Reader
Reading-Literature: Second Reader
Reading-Literature: Third Reader
Father Bear Comes Home
Little Bear’s Friend
Little Bear’s Visit
Little Bear and the Marco Polo
Henry and Mudge Books
All of these books worked really, really well for us. After finishing Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons in Year 1, it was nice this year to read real stories and poetry. We’d read 10-minutes worth of material from the Readers Monday through Wednesday, and then Thursday we’d read just a short story from either the Little Bear books or the Henry and Mudge books. He definitely liked Thursdays better, but I think the Readers, even though they’re more difficult, have offered much better language and challenge him more. We’ve made it about three-quarters of the way through the Third Reader this year and will finish that next year.
On a more personal note… He is such a good reader. All the doubts and little questions in the back of my mind that simmered at age 5 while all of the kids we knew that were his age were flying full force ahead into the land of reading have been absolutely silenced. He had no problems at all learning to read when he was finally ready at age 7 and, in fact, a few weeks ago I caught him reading The Adventures of Old Man Coyote under the covers after his lights were supposed to be out. The stern side of me was annoyed, but the reader part of me (by far the larger part) was jumping for joy in my mind as this was the same boy who, just a year ago, said reading was a waste of time. 🙂
This is another area I need to think a lot about over the summer. I think Diez Deditos was perfect for us and we’ll be continuing with De Colores next year. Speaking Spanish with Miss. Mason and François, on the other hand, was often the bane of B’s existence. Once he knew the series, it was really very good and he could fly through them. But learning them was like pulling teeth and, in hindsight, I think this book is probably better for older students. It’s most likely due more to user error as I was never really sure how to use it exactly. I either need to do more research into that over the summer or find something else to take its place for next year.
Timeline didn’t happen at all in Term 3. Because of how chaotic the whole Term and our lives were these last few months, I just decided that I didn’t have the bandwidth for it. I hope to pick it back up next year with a global events timeline. I’d like to also update the local events timeline we were supposed to finish this year, but we’ll see. I think I’ll be glad when we start a Book of Centuries in Year 4 as it seems so much simpler to me!
B learned and recited three poems by Christina Rossetti this term (How Many Seconds in a Minute, A Pin, and Color – see Term 1 selections here and Term 2 here). I learned that when we skip Morning Time (which is when we read the recitation poem together) several times, he has a harder time reciting….go figure.
The majority of our picture study time was done in co-op where we learned about John Constable, Vincent van Gogh, and Henry Ossawa Tanner. During the week when we were at home, initially we’d look at a piece twice a week for two weeks, but spending 20 minutes on that piece right off the bat in co-op made this seem kind of redundant, so I re-did our Morning Time routine so that we were only doing picture study once per week (1 piece for two weeks) at home. During that time, we just looked at and talked about the piece (since narration was already done in co-op). I’d ask open questions like “how do you think it feels in this piece (hot/cold/wet/dry/etc.)?” or if there were people in the painting, “what do you think they’re talking/thinking about?” and other questions like that. I’d also ask what he liked/disliked about a piece and what his eyes were drawn to first.
About halfway through the year, I started looking more at Programme 94 and the 1922 time table for the PNEU schools. Initially I was going to re-do our schedule to follow that one more closely, but when trying to re-arrange everything to do that, it just wasn’t really feasible so I stuck with our current schedule. In the process, though, I started really looking closely at the booklists in the Programmes and found reference to a wonderful little drawing book called What to Draw and How to Draw It by E.G. Lutz. I was able to find it on Archive, so I replaced Timeline with that for Term 3. The drawings are simple which allows for more focus to be put on doing them correctly and excellently rather than struggling with small details. Usually C would join us for this part and it was interesting to see what she came up with as well.
For brushwork, at the CMER this past February, Karen Canon lead a talk as well as a workshop on brush drawing which was very inspiring and helpful. My friend Dawn had had a brush drawing workshop last fall locally that she ordered materials for (from Marion Hudson’s Brushwork book) and I was able to pick up an extra set of those for B so we began working through that. He did not care for brushwork, but we’re going to keep at it as I think it’s not only a good way to learn how to paint, but also to persevere even when things are challenging!
We did Swedish Drill primarily in co-op, especially during Term 3 when everything was so chaotic at home, and I think B enjoyed it. This is an excellent way to not only get kids moving and out of their seats, but it’s good for growing attention skills (which they need to have in order to do the poses correctly) as well as being able to follow directions. We’ll be continuing on with this in the fall at co-op and at home.
We kept on with clay modeling during co-op and B now has an impressive collection of various fruits and vegetables he has recreated in clay. This was such an excellent part of our co-op and I’m so thankful for the tools we now have that we can use for years to come.
At home, B continued making his own sewing creations inspired by Sewing School. We’ll keep re-visiting it through the summer and into next year. I’m not quite brave enough to move on to Sewing School 2, yet, which is primarily sewing machine projects, but we’ll see how I feel when we’ve exhausted the current book.
Through the course of the year, we learned about Beethoven, Tchaikovksy, and Clara Schumann primarily in co-op. The mom teaching composer study posted her selections for each composer on our co-op forum and then had the students listen to a portion of them as well as read a section from a biography during our meeting time. Unfortunately, I taught picture study at the same time composer study was being taught (we split the older forms from the younger forms), so I was not able to sit in on this time this year. At home, I would find a YouTube performance of whatever piece was assigned for that week and we’d watch it together twice during morning time, then talk about our impressions of it – if we liked it, what parts stood out to us, and what instruments we recognized. It was very simple.
We were focused on the 19th century in co-op, so over the year for hymns we learned My Hope is Built on Nothing Less; In the Sweet By and By; Praise, My Soul, The King of Heaven; To God Be The Glory; Nearer My God To Thee; and It Is Well With My Soul. For folksongs, we learned Roll Jordan Roll; Go Down Moses; Tenting on the Old Camp Ground; We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder; Wait for the Wagon; and No More Auction Block for Me.
At home, we would alternate singing hymn two days a week and folksong two days a week during Morning Time and then we’d all sing them together during our co-op meetings with whoever was teaching them giving a little background on the song and/or the writer. I think I need to be better about reading the lyrics before we sing the songs during Morning Time as B struggled with being able to sing these on his own during his exams.
Exams, for the most part, went well this year. He remembered quite a few things that I didn’t think he would (mainly because I couldn’t remember them), but definitely struggled in other areas. I’m thankful for the exams because they do confirm in my mind areas where we need to work on things but at the same time encourage me that things are sinking into that little brain even when it doesn’t always seem like it.
Thoughts for Next Year
I’ll be writing a post later in the summer with more details on my plans for next year, but I did take a few things away from this year that I thought I’d mention. The first is that I really need to get started on time in the morning. When we get started late, it makes for a stressful school time and this will most likely especially be true as C will be starting her kindergarten year this fall as well, which means we’ll be taking a little bit longer. I also need to not take it personally when B doesn’t care for a book we’re reading. I think for so long I had this idea that he was supposed to like everything we read and did and enjoy it and if he didn’t, it was an indication that I’m implementing it wrong somehow, but I don’t think that’s always the case. I think there are definitely books that will resonate with him more than others, but even though I’d like to think this method of schooling is more engaging than others, I know that there will be books and activities he won’t like at all. And that’s okay. It doesn’t mean we won’t read them and that’s also a good lesson for him to learn… that sometimes we have to do things that we don’t like. I just need to not get impatient with him when he starts whining about a given reading or activity.
It was a rough year and I felt like it was so disjointed, but we did make it through and I’m looking forward to next year!