We started Ambleside Online Year 2 Term 2 for my 8-year-old son, B (as well as WeeFolkArt Winter Wonderland for my 4-year-old daughter, C) last week, so I’m offering my recap of Term 1 and plans for Term 2 today!
Pre-school has proven to be a bit more of a challenge than I initially thought it would be. My goal this year was to try to include C in more of our school time by giving her her own things to do. I bought a few toys/projects for her to have only during school time with the idea that she would be entertained for hours while B and I read and narrated and did all of the school stuff. I’m not sure what reality I was living in when I thought that anything would entertain my daughter for hours, but my plan failed miserably within just the first few days.
So, in addition to the WeeFolkArt (WFA) Winter Wonderland weekly schedule of books and activities (more on those activities in a bit), I started printing out alphabet sheets from 1+1+1=1. Following the WFA schedule of letter introduction, I’m printing out the appropriate Raising Rock Stars activity sheets. These include things like tracing lines to prepare for writing the letter, tracing the letter itself, coloring, and cutting out squares to slide into sheet protectors as well as weekly Bible verses that start with whatever letter we’re learning. I also print out some of the other alphabet activities. These activities really are just to give her something to do while we’re working on B’s school work and I do not require them at all. But she does like coloring, cutting things out, and putting it all in her three-ring binder, so even though I cringe a little at using worksheets, she seems to enjoy it.
We also read an alphabet-themed book each week (she knows her alphabet very well but still has trouble identifying most of the letters) and she does take part in a few of our other subjects, eg. Swedish Drill (which we do at home along with our co-op), when I’m reading to B (she loved Understood Betsy), nature study, morning time, etc. So she is actually with us most of our school time which is much better than last year.
I definitely need to be better about the extra activities from WFA, though. When I was going through all of this with B, I was meticulous in scheduling all of the books ahead and figuring out what supplies/ingredients I’d need for the activities and recipes. This time around, we did a few of the activities during the first term, but for the most part, I just didn’t have time to get to them. I’m hoping to be better this term by scheduling everything ahead again.
Our Bible reading is plugging along as we make our way through Genesis and Matthew. B did well on his exams in this subject and was able to describe creation week to me as well as some of what Jesus talked about in the sermon on the mount.
I’m continuing to use the J. Paterson Smyth commentaries which do add some interesting ideas for how to expand on the readings. In particular, the suggestion to use books to illustrate how Jesus healed the man lowered through the ceiling really stuck with B. I appreciate that each of Smyth’s lessons is short so it doesn’t take long to pre-read!
I’m also really enjoying the atlas we have to see where different parts of the stories took place. Despite having six years of Bible class from my junior high and high school days under my belt, I never really bothered with those maps in the back of my Bible, just assuming that it all took place in a general area by the Red Sea. I now appreciate better just how far Abraham had to travel from Ur of the Chaldees, over to Egypt, and back up to Canaan.
Reading through British history has been fascinating and though B often says he doesn’t enjoy the books we read for it (in particular, Our Island Story), sometimes after I finish reading a section, he blurts out that he hopes so-and-so doesn’t die or so-and-so gets to to be the king or something along those lines, which indicates to me that he really is listening and interested in these stories. I think the difficulty is in narrating all of it as it is often a lot of information in one story. Breaking up the readings does make that easier, but sometimes he struggles and gets frustrated and throws the whole thing out in his mind. I do think, though, that reading A Child’s History of the World along with Our Island Story has helped as these readings are a little easier for him to narrate and often summarize what we have read or are about to read in OIS.
I’m glad I decided to add Trial and Triumph back into our rotation after skipping it entirely last year. I definitely pre-read these stories and edit as necessary, but it has been good for both of us to read more about some of these historic men and women of our faith. This term I’m especially looking forward to reading about St. Francis as we say his prayer at the end of our school time each day.
And then there’s The Little Duke. We’re both pretty mixed on this. The story is interesting, but when reading only half a chapter a week (which makes sense as the chapters are long), it goes by slowly and B often forgets the details of where we left off during our last reading. I’ve heard so much good about this book, though, so I’m looking forward to reading the rest of it.
I think we’re both loving Tree in the Trail as it feels like we’re reading about our own back yard. When we sit down to read, he has his coloring map of the story in front of him and I also put out a desktop map so he can see where the borders of the states are and color and label accordingly. This has gone so well and is turning out much better than the Paddle to the Sea map from last year. We’ll be done with this book in January and I’m hoping to make another trip down to Bent’s Old Fort (mentioned in chapter 23) around that time.
I’m finding that I’m a big Holling C. Holling fan, so I’m looking forward to beginning Seabird this term as well. We’ll start another map for that also! (I got all three maps and one for Minn of the Mississippi [covered in AO Year 4] in this bundle.)
From Long’s Geography and Elementary Geography, we learned more about the compass this term which was review for B. For Term 2 we’ll be learning about our planet and other planets as well as day and night which fit well with our nature study topic of the stars.
We’re big fans of Thornton Burgess so of course his animal book has been a hit. Many of the animals we’ve read about so far are in our area, which has been fun as we pass little prairie dogs (now called “Yap-yap”s) on the way to the store and understand more about their homes and why they have mounds, or happen to see a marmot during a hike. Supposedly we have some kind of endangered jumping mouse living in this area as well, but we have yet to see one. It really is amazing to me how Burgess turned nature lessons into a story by having each of the animals tell all about themselves. It’s very creative and effective.
For nature study, we learned about trees last term and I think it could’ve gone better. Primarily, I relied a lot on IDing trees on our hikes (using Stan Tekiela’s guide), and didn’t do much prep work other than read to B quite a bit from Handbook of Nature Study but not requiring narrations. It’s an interesting book for me, but it can be dry at times, so I think he often zoned out. Comstock actually mentions in the beginning that it shouldn’t be read to students but rather used as a guide for teachers, but AO suggests that you can read it directly to them, so I wavered on this. The bird and insect sections last year were interesting to both of us, but Comstock was able to add in in little asides about her own personal experiences with the personalities of these creatures. Trees, on the other hand, don’t have much personality (at least not in this case), so it was more discussion about spray shape and bark type, etc. etc. which isn’t particularly enthralling for an eight-year-old boy.
So this term, I’m using a variety of different books as well as going out at night to see what we’re learning about. We’re studying stars and specifically constellations, so I’m drawing from Handbook of Nature Study (which I read on my own to get an idea of what topics and points I should cover for each constellation/star and underlining things I might want to share with him), Find the Constellations (thanks to Our Muslim Homeschool for suggesting this book!), The Stars, and Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky as well as a star map. I have a few more books on hold at the library, but these have been the most helpful so far. Last week we started the term by covering what stars are and how they’re made, and this week we moved on to Polaris and the Big Dipper. I have required narrations this time around and it’s all gone really well so far. I’ll put another update at the end of the term with a list of what we cover each week (I’m planning as I go) as well as the books I end up using.
I was also much better about getting us out for nature hikes during Term 1 and we went to different state parks every free Friday that we had. As the weather is getting colder, I can see this becoming more of a challenge, but we’ve successfully taken hikes in the past in cold weather, so I can’t really use it as an excuse.
We finally made it through all of our introductory cursive handwriting sheets, so I’m back to using Worksheetworks.com to make cursive copywork sheets for him. We start with writing out whatever poem we’re memorizing that month for recitation, then if there’s time left in the month, we move on to our hymn, folksong, and any Bible verses we’ve memorized recently. I also have him read from the sheet after he’s done writing both to help with memorization, but also to get better at recognizing cursive letters.
We’ve been slowly working our way through the Reading-Literature Primers this term, reading one story or section of nursery rhymes every day, three times per week, and then the fourth day we read one story from a Little Bear book. B enjoys the Little Bear books far better than the primers, but it’s good to mix things up. He is doing really, really well with reading and I have absolutely zero regrets about waiting until he was seven to really dig into learning to read.
Once we’re done with the Little Bear books, which will most likely happen this term, we’ll dive into the Frog and Toad books.
RightStart Level C is going really well and I continue to be glad we switched to this program despite the upfront cost. We’re still attempting to keep it to 20-minute math lessons per day (going a little longer if we’re playing a game) and we’re still ahead, so I feel good about this. Ask me about that again at the end of Term 2 when we’re ten lessons behind. 🙂
The only thing we really need to work on in this area is not really related to math but rather character traits. B HATES losing. So when we play the games, there is inevitably a fit and tears at the end of the games that I win. I’m not sure how to work through this, but it’s definitely on my radar now.
We’re still working v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y through Speaking Spanish with Miss. Mason and Francois. I mentioned in my planning post that I was moving it out of Morning Time and into our regular school time, then spending 20 minutes on it per day with no more than two weeks per series which was how it was laid out in the Teaching Guide. These are lovely thoughts and ideas, but all of this failed in glorious, spectacular, catastrophic fashion within the first two weeks and we both dreaded foreign language time.
So, I went back to what we were doing last year which was just working on memorizing one part of a series for a little bit during Morning Time each day. This process is very, very, very slow, but no one is crying or dreading Spanish time anymore, so I count it a success. Maybe when B is older we’ll work on it as the guide suggests, but it just wasn’t working for us right now.
We’re also still enjoying the songs in Diez Deditos. Focusing on one song for a month (singing along with the CD every day during Morning Time with review on Mondays) has been good as there’s far better understanding and memorization of the songs. After we’re done with school time each day, I put our playlist of school songs on the TV and it’s fun to hear both B and C singing along with the Spanish songs.
B had mixed reviews on Walter de la Mare, but I think it was good for both of us to be exposed to a poet with whom we had no previous experience. For this term, I was not expecting to like James Whitcomb Riley at all because his poems looked difficult to read with the accents and additional punctuation (and they can be). I was pleasantly surprised, however, and I think we’re both going to enjoy him and Eugene Field this term (especially with the extra YouTube videos linked on the AO website for specific readings).
Literature is probably where the biggest shock of this year comes for me….they both really like Pilgrim’s Progress. We got off to an extremely awful and bumpy start with this book when we were trying to work through the author’s apology at the beginning explaining that the book is an allegory. In hindsight, I should’ve just skipped that part altogether because he didn’t understand a word of it, it made both of us just want to quit the book then and there, and I really don’t think it was necessary. Fortunately, we persisted and now it’s one of their favorites reads during the week with excellent narrations and even a fantastic answer on his exams (which really surprised me as I couldn’t even remember what the reference of the question was). I also printed out a map so we can keep track of Christian’s progress.
We also all LOVED Understood Betsy. Loved it. I actually recommended this book in my holiday gift guide for this year! Filling in that slot for Term 2 will be Wind in the Willows, which we read once before when B was small, so I know this one will be a hit as well.
Shakespeare we covered both at home, with The Two Gentlemen of Verona and Romeo and Juliet (both using Lamb’s Shakespeare), as well as at co-op with A Midsummer Night’s Dream (which we also read last year at home). Whiteboard Shakespeare continues to be extremely helpful in aiding us both in keeping the characters straight, so I’m definitely continuing that as we read All’s Well That Ends Well and Cymbeline in Term 2. B has also declared that he does not like acting out the scenes during co-op, so I do not have a future thespian on my hands.
Parables of Nature was a little more challenging in Term 1 verses what we read last year, although we both thought the premise behind “Knowledge Not The Limit of Belief” (a conversation between a seaweed, a zoophyte, and a guest bookworm) was pretty funny. “The Light of Truth” was kind of bizarre at first until we looked up what a Will-o’-the-Wisp was and then it made more sense. These are interesting little stories…she had quite an imagination.
Timeline has been a challenge in finding “local” events for each quarter of his life for him to put on his public events timeline (I wrote more about this in my planning post). The challenge comes in finding stories that aren’t redundant (we have lots of wildfires and hailstorms here) or too violent, so I’ve resorted to including national events as well in some cases. Next year when we do global events, I expect it to be a lot easier, but I will definitely be glad when we move on to a more traditional timeline based one whatever we’re reading in year 4.
After I posted my planning post in August, I listened to The Mason Jar Podcast with Maria Bell about recitation and learned that I’ve been doing it kind of wrong. I took my newfound knowledge from that podcast and threw out the poems I had selected for recitation and chose three from Walter de la Mare (A Widow’s Weeds, King David, and The Universe) for B to recite as he was the poet we covered in Term 1 and Maria mentioned in the podcast that recitation pieces should generally be from something you’re learning about that term.
When I started planning this term, I looked at the poems available and none of them really resonated with me. I decided to ask Maria (who happens to be a fellow contributor for Common Place Quarterly!) for more clarification, and it turns out I took it all a little too literally (surprise surprise) by putting unneeded restrictions on us. So this term, instead of picking everything out in advance, we’ll go through our readings as scheduled and see if anything pops out to either one of us. If nothing does look promising, then I’ll go ahead and pick pieces from elsewhere.
Obviously I wasn’t able to do that with our first piece, but it’s still fitting. In Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame had a poem for Christmas, so that’s what we’re learning this month:
Carol of the Field Mice
by Kenneth Grahame
Villagers all, this frosty tide,
Let your doors swing open wide,
Though wind may follow, and snow beside,
Yet draw us in by your fire to bide;
Joy shall be yours in the morning!
Here we stand in the cold and the sleet,
Blowing fingers and stamping feet,
Come from far away you to greet—
You by the fire and we in the street—
Bidding you joy in the morning!
For ere one half of the night was gone,
Sudden a star has led us on,
Raining bliss and benison—
Bliss to-morrow and more anon,
Joy for every morning!
Goodman Joseph toiled through the snow—
Saw the star o’er a stable low;
Mary she might not further go—
Welcome thatch, and litter below!
Joy was hers in the morning!
And then they heard the angels tell
‘Who were the first to cry NOWELL?
Animals all, as it befell,
In the stable where they did dwell!
Joy shall be theirs in the morning!’
Besides a poem, we also learn longer verses, prayers, or other things related to our faith. We memorized The Nicene Creed during Term 1 and this time around we’re memorizing Psalm 23. We also work on memorizing individual Bible verses at breakfast time using the Simply Charlotte Mason Scripture Memorization System.
We learned about John Constable and looked at six of his paintings during Term 1 both at home and during co-op. While I was nervous to teach picture study to the older kids during co-op (I only taught the younger forms last year), I really, really enjoyed it for all ages. This term we’ll be learning about Vincent Van Gogh (which means that I hope to have a Van Gogh picture study aid up by the end of the year!).
At home, I’ve only altered picture study very slightly in that I’m not hanging up all the Van Gogh pieces ahead of time on our wall (see picture above) as I have in the past, but instead only adding them after we’ve studied them. B seems to enjoy the time more if he hasn’t been looking at the piece for a while beforehand.
This term we’ll be looking at the following pieces:
- The Potato Eaters (1885)
- The Night Cafe (1888)
- Sunflowers (or “Vase with Twelve Sunflowers”) (1888)
- Bedroom at Arles (1889)
- The Starry Night (1889)
- First Steps (1890)
Handicrafts have been primarily done in co-op as I’ve dropped the ball on continuing with sewing at home. My friend, Dawn, who organized it for our co-op, though, has done such a wonderful job (you can read a little more about it here) that I don’t feel bad in the least. B has been making neat little clay creations and saving each and every one, so we have little clay apples and plums and clementines displayed proudly on our mantel. I love it.
We studied Beethoven last term going along with our co-op schedule and the following selections:
- 9 Variations in C-Minor for Piano
- Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-Flat Major
- Adelaide & Symphony No. 1 in C Major
- Sept in E-Flat Major, Op 20
- Moonlight Sonata
- Sonata in A major – Kreutzer
- Symphony No. 5
- String Quartet No. 9 in C major
- Symphony No. 9
- Missa Solemnin
At home, twice a week during Morning Time, I would load one of these YouTube versions of the piece on our TV and we’d watch about five minutes together then discuss what we heard and saw. I also downloaded the selections on Freegal and added them to our school playlist which I play after we’ve finished our school work for the day, or if we’re driving somewhere in the car.
This term we’re studying Tchaikovsky and I made a slight change for Christmas. Instead of watching different performances of various pieces every week, we’re taking 15 minutes twice a week during Morning Time to watch The Nutcracker Ballet over the next few weeks which the kids have loved!
We also had a field trip with our co-op to the Colorado Springs Philharmonic in November for a performance of Peter and the Wolf and we all enjoyed it!
Folksong & Hymn
We’re continuing on with our 19th-century theme and learning Tenting on the Old Camp Ground and We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder for folksongs. For hymns we’ll be learning Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven and To God Be the Glory. It’s working well to alternate days singing hymns and folksongs during Morning Time each day and we’ll keep doing that for this term.
Free reads are going very s-l-o-w-l-y. We finished Farmer Boy (which we’ve read before, but I already owned it so it was the easiest to start with) during Term 1 and began Five Little Peppers and How They Grew (bought at a library book sale for $.50 just before the term started!), but that’s as far as we’ve gotten. I’m hoping to finish that before Christmas, but we still have a lot of books to get through! I’m not really sure that this is a “problem.” 🙂
Overall, it was a good term. We’ve gotten a rocky start to Term 2, which I’m chalking up to taking a week off for Thanksgiving and not easily getting back into the swing of things. I’m also obsessing over the clock. Since we started doing the Jesse Tree at breakfast time, mornings take a lot longer and we’re getting a later start which stresses me out. This along with watching The Nutcracker for 15 minutes makes for a late end to school time. HOWEVER, this is why we homeschool, right? I’m going to try to relax more and just go with the flow (“try” being the keyword here….).
More next term!