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And another school term is in the books! We’ve gotten through over half of our Ambleside Online (AO) Year 2 already! The first term was good, but unfortunately, term 2 felt very disjointed and definitely not as smooth as last year. I keep hoping that things settle down and we can have a “normal” week with a nature hike and less feelings of rushing through our readings, but that hasn’t happened yet. Fortunately, B is still progressing very well through everything and still learning, so we must be doing something right! And I think the fact that we’re still making progress despite the disjointedness vouches well for how effective a Charlotte Mason Education can be!
And now on to the term review…
Preschool has been, as with the last two terms, a work in progress. We did away with the worksheets, etc. from last term as C lost interest in them after a few weeks and since I wasn’t requiring them, it was a waste of ink and paper. She does occasionally pull out the ones that I printed and kept in her binder, but I haven’t been printing out new ones. We’re still reading our weekly books from the Wee Folk Art Spring Bs preschool curriculum as well as an alphabet book and learning a new letter of the alphabet each week (and reading the corresponding flower fairy poem) with our sandpaper letters, but it’s all very casual.
I’ve also replenished our art supply cabinet so she can busy herself with that at the kitchen table while we have school as well. Otherwise she sometimes stays in the family room where we have school working on puzzles or looking at books or just listens to whatever B and I are reading. Sometimes she’ll go up to her room or down to the basement to play by herself while she listens to music as well. This is not ideal and I have to admit there is a large part of me that is very sad that I can’t give her more attention, but at the same time I understand that this is also a good way to teach her that she is not the center of the universe and mama has to have time with other people as well. 🙂I did finish putting together the Kindergarten Curriculum for next year last month, so I’m looking forward to adding that into our time in the fall. Knowing that I’ll have more things to do with her next year has alleviated the guilt a tiny bit.
We’re still making our way through Genesis and Matthew and will be for the rest of this year. I fell behind a few times on pre-reading in the Paterson Smyth commentaries, but tried to catch up when I could. I do notice that we have better discussions when I’ve pre-read and I think B is able to retain more when we have those more in-depth chats as well. The commentaries also really help me in “setting the scene” for our Bible lessons. During the CMER last year, Nancy Kelly modeled this for us and when I actually do this with B, his narrations are full of more detail and he remembers even small parts of the reading much better.
I also didn’t use the atlas as much this last term and actually kind of forgot about it for a bit, so trying to get in the habit of pulling it out when we start reading is something I’d like to work on this term. Otherwise, we’re keeping on as we’ve been!
We are continuing through Our Island Story, reading up through the 14th century. Again, this has been fascinating for me (especially Bannockburn as I was there ten years ago!) and I think B is beginning to be more engaged as there are more details covering what is happening to whom. He still struggles with names, especially when there are things like several people being studied in a row who are named Henry, so, per the suggestion of a few people on the AO Forums, I’ve started writing down names that he can’t remember on a whiteboard for him while he narrates and that seems to help.
We finished The Little Duke in Term 2 and I think, for the most part, he did enjoy the book. The AO schedule only had us read up to chapter 12, so I read chapter 13 outside of school time which added a nice wrap-up to the story. After we got through quite a bit of the book, I found this little map that outlines where he traveled in western Europe and I so wish I had found it before we started! Also, I missed this link to a study guide for the book on the AO website, which I think also would’ve been helpful to read as prep for each week. I hope to do these things next time around with C in a few years!
In Term 3, we’re reading about 2 pages per week from Joan of Arc. Though this one is on the booklist for Year 2, it’s not actually scheduled out, so I just spread it out over the term and worked it out to be 2 pages per week for the first nine weeks, and then one page per week for the last three weeks. I’m sure I could divide it up better by inserting it in weeks when we have fewer readings, but that sounds way too complicated so I’m going the easy route. I love the illustrations in this book as they so closely resemble the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry (at least in my opinion!). 🙂
We’re also continuing on with A Child’s History of the World which has offered interesting, almost supplemental, information to the readings in Our Island Story. We’re reading more from that and This Country of Ours in Term 3, both of which I’m looking forward to diving into more as I’ve heard some mixed reviews about the latter so I want to see it for myself.
We finished Tree in the Trail which I was kind of sad about. As I mentioned before, reading Paddle to the Sea was like re-visiting my childhood and Tree in the Trail felt like reading about our own back yard. I had even planned a trip down to Bent’s Old Fort, one of the locations discussed in Tree in the Trail, when we finished the book. We haven’t gotten down there yet due to an insane schedule the last few months, but I still have hope that it will happen even if not until this summer.
Seabird is quite different than the other two in that, so far, the entire story has taken place on the ocean and no real places we can trace on a map (other than a general area near Greenland and then down to South Africa) have been mentioned. I have another map for this one from Beautiful Feet Books, but so far, it’s blank other than continents he’s colored in. I’m hoping we get a little more navigation opportunities later in the book.
B hasn’t really been overly excited about any of the Holling books (at least not as excited as I’ve been), but he did say that he’s liking Seabird so far. Regardless of whether he liked them or not, he has always given me good narrations for these books, so we’re just continuing along with them without changes. He also tends to not like the same things I do, so there’s that too…. 🤔
On a side note, I was surprised by the several chapters on whaling in Seabird. When I was in sixth grade, my public school presented a great little series called The Voyage of the Mimi (starring a very young Ben Affleck) for a few months during which time we kept logbooks, drew pictures, and learned all about whales and whaling. Reading about the old Nantucket sleighride brought back memories of this, though not necessarily good ones as the whole practice was just so sad.
We also read two chapters in Charlotte Mason’s Elementary Geography about our world and “other worlds” per the AO schedule. This fit in well with our nature study topic of the night sky!
I appreciate in the Burgess Animal Book that though Thornton Burgess was located in Massachusetts, he discussed animals from all over the country. In just about every chapter we’ve read, animals that can be found in our neck of the woods have been included which adds fun to our nature hikes as I try to find places where we can see these specific animals.
For our actual nature study, I started the term running with the “Night Sky” theme and planned out the first few weeks in advance. I found this relative easy to do as we went through the constellations, but then sputtered a little when we ended those. I also wasn’t as good as I had hoped about getting outside to actually look at the constellations we studied each week due to cold temps and/or cloudy skies. However, I was really pleased with the books I found for this topic so when we do it again in five years (according to the AO rotation), I hope to be better prepared.
Most of the weeks, I pre-read the section in Handbook of Nature Study (HONS) covering whatever topic we were going to be learning about. I’d highlight points that I thought would be interesting to B, which I read to him during our school time, and then I found those same topics in The Stars (TS), Find the Constellations (FTC), and A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky (TNS) and read from those books as well. For the constellations we learned in the first part of the term, I primarily used The Stars. A Child’s Introduction to the Night Sky was especially helpful when learning about planets later on.
Here are the topics we covered and the books we used for each:
Week 1: The Stars (TNS: pp. 16-18, 21 + A Star is Born)
Week 2: Polestars and Dippers (FTC: p. 30 + story from HONS pp. 819-820)
Week 3: Cassiopeia’s Chair, Cepheus, and the Dragon (FTC: pp. 32, story on p. 40; TS: pp. 32, 30)
Week 4: Orion (FTC: 13, story on p. 42; TS: p. 46)
Week 5: Aldebaran and the Pleiades (TS: p. 42; TNS: p. 74)
Week 6: The Two Dog Stars, Sirius and Procyon (TS: pp. 44, 46; TNS: p. 68; FTC: p. 16)
Week 7: Capella and the Heavenly Twins (TS: 44)
Week 8: The Sun (TNS: pp. 22-23)
Week 9: The Planets + The Moon (TNS: pp. 24-25, pp. 32-33)
Week 10: Mercury (TNS: pp. 26-27); Venus (TNS: pp. 28-29); Earth (TNS: pp. 30-31)
Week 11: Mars (TNS: pp. 34-35); Jupiter (TNS: pp. 36-37); Saturn (TSN: pp. 38-39)
Week 12: Uranus (TNS: pp. 40-41); Neptune (TNS: pp. 42-43); Pluto (because it will always be a full planet in my heart – TNS: pp. 44-45)
For our brushdrawing time, I had B paint black circles in watercolor, let them dry, and then the next week he drew the constellations we had learned the prior week with white colored pencil.
In Term 3 we’ll be learning about amphibians. I picked up an amphibian/reptile poster to go on our wall because decor is important. 😊We’re also reading through The Adventures of Grandfather Frog, watching various YouTube videos related to amphibians (I’ll post a list at the end of the term), and I’m hoping to find a good local source of tadpoles (eg. ponds or streams) to take home and observe in an aquarium before releasing them back into the wild. I looked into buying some online, but you can’t release them into the wild once they’re grown as they’re not native and they can live for 20+ years. 😳We have enough animals in this house for now, so this is not an option.
We continued with cursive this term, copying our poetry selections for a little bit each day. I’ve been looking more into the old PNEU Programmes and I think I need to re-think how we do copywork, primarily in the amount of time we’re spending on it. Up to this point, I’ve only required one page of anywhere from two to four lines of copywork per day, but we should be spending ten minutes on this. I’m wondering, also, if B is ready to do copywork not by copying, but by reading the text and then writing it. I may finish off the year as we have been doing and then do more research over the summer into the Programmes to see what exactly they did.
B’s reading is coming along so, so well. We finished Reading-Literature Readers 1-3 in Terms 1 and 2 and started Reader 3 in Term 2. The stories are much longer in this one, so I just set a timer and he reads aloud for ten minutes three days a week, and then we read one short Henry and Mudge story on day four. This system has worked really well as it allows him to read the more challenging stuff, but also something that he wants to read. I do also find him reading things on his own quite often, though he doesn’t like to admit it. 🙂 Last year he announced during one reading session that reading was a waste of time, but I hope this is a sign that that sentiment is changing!
Math is….math. Sigh. Sometimes it goes so well, especially with specific topics. He excels at geometry and clocks and money and usually addition. But subtraction, which we spent quite a bit of time on in Term 2, he absolutely hates. STILL, I can’t extol the virtues of RightStart enough. I love how they break things up so we get a few weeks of clocks, a few weeks of geometry, a few weeks of subtraction, etc. so that we’re not swamped in something he really struggles with for a long time. The use of different manipulatives, though expensive upfront, has been wonderful as well as it allows him to experiment with a concept in different ways so he can figure out which way it makes most sense to him. Math has been hard, but when it’s been good, it’s been very good. I think, also being more strict about that 20 minutes/day, even though we’re now behind, has been really good too. My plan for any lessons we still need to do at the end of the year is to just keep doing math alone into the summer until we’re finished.
With our Spanish, we’re continuing with having a review day on Mondays where we sing one song we’ve already learned from Diez Deditos, then recite one series we’ve learned from Speaking Spanish, then Tuesdays through Thursdays we sing whatever song we’re memorizing that month and work through a series a little each day until we have it memorized. The latter may take weeks or even in some cases in the past, months, but taking our time has made our foreign language time much more enjoyable.
One change I’ve made in Term 3 is going through multiple parts of the series we’re working on each day. So day 1 we work on learning the English phrase, then the English verb and each of these with me acting it out and saying it, then both of us acting it out while I say it, then him acting it out while we both say it, then him acting it out and saying it on his own. As soon as we have that down, I then add in the Spanish verb which we learn with the same routine, and then the Spanish phrase. It takes a lot of time, but, again, I think this way just works much better for us than any other we’ve tried.
I think we both enjoyed Eugene Field (though he was very sad at times!) and James Whitcomb Riley, especially the YouTube videos linked to on the AO website.
Both B and C loved Wind in the Willows. So far, despite the archaic language, Robin Hood has been a hit as well though I have to admit that it’s a little more violent than I’m comfortable with. It’s not gory or descriptive of fight scenes or anything like that, but it does talk about a man being murdered (though he feels great regret afterward and never wants to do it again) and fighting. However, at the CMER this year, Jason Fiedler made a comment related to this that really stuck with me. He said (paraphrased) that when we read or hear (not see) about violent acts, we have years of violent movies and scenes to pull from to paint that picture in our minds, which can be pretty gory. However, if our children haven’t been watching violent movies, tv, the news, etc., their imaginations can’t make what ours can because they haven’t been exposed to the same thing. Or something along those lines….I’m most likely butchering what he said as I didn’t write it down verbatim, but that’s how I interpreted it and it has made me more comfortable with reading things like Robin Hood. Also, both kids laugh a lot at this book, so I think they’re enjoying it. ☺️
For Shakespeare, we read the Lambs’ version of All’s Well That Ends Well and Cymbeline, two plays I had never even heard of before let alone read. These are both comedies, which relieved me as our last one in Term 1 was Romeo and Juliet. Whiteboard Shakespeare is still working well for us! In our co-op Shakespeare time, we read (a somewhat modified version of) Ashboy from Shakespeare’s Storybook: Folk Tales that Inspired the Bard, which it is thought to be his inspiration for Hamlet.
Timeline is definitely an area where we’ve struggled this term. So often when we have days when we’re running short on time or weeks when I just forget to look up what B can draw for a given period of time, timeline is forgotten and we actually haven’t done it in quite a while. Part of me is tempted to simply stick with the personal timeline we did last year, updating quarterly as needed, and then just do that until we start a real Book of Centuries in a few years. I’m not really sure what the answer is. I was encouraged by the fact that timeline is not specifically mentioned for Forms I and II in Programme 94, but personal and more simplistic timelines are mentioned in an earlier Parents Review article for ages 9 and under…so there we are. I probably just need to be better about prepping for it rather than trying to find excuses not to do it!
For recitation, B learned Carol of the Field Mice from Wind in the Willows in December. In January it was There was a Cherry-Tree by James Whitcomb-Riley and then February was The Prayer Perfect, also by James Whitcomb-Riley.
This term is proving to be more of a challenge as our poet is Christina Rossetti, from whom we’ve already memorized quite a few poems. But the selections we’re reading through are very short, so we may just break outside our poet of the term for recitation.
We continued with our 19th-century artists and studied a few of Vincent van Gogh’s pieces for Term 2. I didn’t have a pre-made picture study aid for him, so this was a learning term for me as well. In co-op and then one week at home we looked at the following pieces:
I hope to have a picture study aid for him that covers these pieces available in the next few months.
In Term 3 we’re learning about Henry Ossawa Tanner, a favorite of mine for which I do have a picture study aid. However, I’m sure I’ll be making edits to it as the students in our co-op inspire me to add more details. 🙂
I don’t plan handicrafts for our school time anymore as B has kind of taken this on all by himself. Of course in co-op we continue with clay modeling, which has been going wonderfully. However, at home, he grabbed the sewing book I bought for us to use for handicrafts outside of co-op and ran with it. Now we have all kinds of sewn things floating around the house and he shows no signs of slowing down. It’s been nice for me as he offers to mend holes in pants and stuffed animals that I might not otherwise get to in the next decade.
In Term 2 during co-op, the kids learned about Tchaikovsky, listening to several of his pieces. Because I teach picture study at the same time as composer study (we break the kids up by lower and upper forms so we teach some subjects twice), I don’t get to attend these sessions so I’m not sure exactly what they covered. However, at home during our Morning Time, we continued to watch performances of various Tchaikovsky pieces on YouTube. We started the term with The Nutcracker and then did a few others including all of Pathetique, which we all enjoyed. Afterward, we talk briefly about what we heard, sometimes the kids will mention instruments they saw or what the music reminded them of, and they’ll share what they liked or disliked about it.
For Term 3 we’ll be listening to and learning about Clara Schumann, a composer I only very briefly studied in a music appreciation class in college.
FOLKSONG & HYMN
Folksongs and hymns also follow our timeline of the 19th century, so in Term 2 we sang Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven; To God be the Glory; Tenting on the Old Camp Ground; and We are Climbing Jacob’s Ladder.
We sing these twice per week during our Morning Time, alternating hymns on Mondays and Wednesdays and folksongs on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Usually during co-op time, I teach hymns so I’ll introduce them by giving a little background information on the composer and the song itself, then we’ll listen to a recorded version, and then hum it together. At our next meeting, we’ll read the words and then sing it together. Folksong follows a similar path.
We finally finished Five Little Peppers and How They Grew in February and, despite its popularity in the Charlotte Mason world, neither one of us really enjoyed this one. We then moved on to Brighty of the Grand Canyon with which we finished a few weeks ago and really liked, though there were parts that made B a little anxious. I’m glad we took the trip to the Grand Canyon last April as it was easy to picture the different parts that are described, but it has made me want to go back! We’re now making our way through Doctor Dolittle.
I’m doubting at this point that we’ll make it through all of the books on the free reads list by the end of the school year, but I guess that’s a good excuse to do more reading in the summer. 🙂
And now we’re about a month into Term 3. Like I said at the beginning of the post, the last few months have felt really disjointed there have been a lot of interruptions in our school routine. I thought it was just a temporary thing, but it seems to be persisting and I’m not sure how to get back into a regular schedule. We’re still making progress and getting through our reading lists, but our Morning Time has, admittedly, been put to the wayside more often than I liked to admit. And though we did drive up to Denver in January to see the end of the Rembrandt exhibition at the Denver Art Museum, we only got one hike in during Term 2 in early December which is discouraging after the momentum we had in Term 1. We’re in the middle of another busy spell, but I’m hoping to get one more hike in there wherever I can. Again, I just really need to schedule them in and make them a priority!
While I can’t believe that we’re nearly done with second grade and I’ll be teaching a kindergartner AND a third grader next year (and a little freaked out about juggling that….), I solace myself by looking at the AO Year 3 booklists as well as the kindergarten list and I get excited. 🙂