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I’m having a hard time believing that we’re already into Term 3 of B’s first grade year, but it’s a fact. I’m actually already starting to look at books for next year, which is both sad because this means B is getting older, but also exciting because books. 🙂 Here’s a little recap of our Ambleside Online Year 1 Term 2 and a little preview of what we’re doing in Term 3 (which started 3 weeks ago…).
King James Version Bible (I’ve had this copy since high school, but I’ve been eyeing this one which is SO pretty)
Admittedly, our Bible reading has been a little all over the place as I’ve tried to figure out a good reading list and version for us. Before the year started, I felt like the Ambleside selections wouldn’t spread out well over a week and wanted a little bit more as we read from the Bible daily. In hindsight, I probably could’ve inserted one of the AO readings each week and then also done the other readings I started to do in Term 1 from Penny Gardner’s schedule, but that only just occurred to me recently (I can be a little slow on the uptake).
At any rate, up until the first week of February, we had been sailing along with the Penny Gardner schedule using an English Standard Version Bible and I thought it was going well. Admittedly, despite the fact that it’s recommended in various places in the Charlotte Mason world, I was very hesitant to use the King James Version because I grew up in a church and school that was adamant that that was the only version that was true and accurate. I think there’s a part of me that didn’t want to force that kind of thinking on my son. Also, KJV can be very hard for adults to understand in places let alone a 7-year-old boy!
However, when I went to the Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat (CMER) and attended a plenary given by Nancy Kelly on Living Bible Lessons, she had us read from the KJV (though she did mention that Ms. Mason may have used the Revised Version, published in 1881, that is difficult to get a hold of [in the US, anyway] these days) and asked that when we narrated back, we should use as much as the language we had heard as possible. The KJV does have beautiful phrasing, and I honestly kind of liked it better than what we had been doing. So, the following week, I experimented with a KJV I’ve had since my high school days and it went surprisingly well. So we’ve been using that ever since and, being the bibliophile that I am, I now want to replace my decaying KJV with this absolutely beautiful, illuminated, kind-of-pricey version. A girl can dream. 🙂
During her talk, Nancy Kelly also mentioned the Paterson Smyth commentaries (as recommended by Charlotte Mason), so I picked up a few of those from Yesterday’s Classics (and I have to say that I am extremely impressed with the quality of their books). When they arrived, I dove in and got so excited that I decided we would immediately start using those in our Bible time…. only to discover that they’re actually (optionally) part of AO’s Year 2 Bible schedule. So we’ll have to wait until the fall for those but at least I’ll be prepared. 🙂
History and Tales
Fifty Famous Stories Retold (borrowing from a friend but also free on Kindle)
Viking Tales (free ebook)
Our Island Story (found through Bookfinder for $6.54)
Buffalo Bill (borrowed from a friend)
(we’re skipping Trial and Triumph)
We’re still doing well in this area. Fifty Famous Stories Retold is usually a success because the readings are so short and B likes that (of course). Our Island Story has had its ups and downs, but his narrations with this book have improved quite a bit (though we’re still struggling with names) and he does enjoy most of the stories. I loved how Marshall wove the Arthur story into this one – that was a nice surprise.
Because, again, I like actual, real books and am not too keen on the Kindle (though it does come in handy!), I bought the Yesterday’s Classics version of Viking Tales and the illustrations are beautiful. We’ve only read a few stories in this one to this point, but so far it’s been entertaining.
I do love the illustrations in the D’Aulaire books and the simplicity of the stories, but I’m still finding a desire to balance them with other books that present the “other side” or point of view as in the case with George Washington (which we read in Term 2) and slavery (we read part of Farmer George Plants a Nation per the AO recommendation, though I don’t know that it went far enough). I’ve joined a few Facebook groups where people can suggest living books that are not quite as white/euro-centric as many of the selections we’ve read to this point, but where and how to fit those in has been a challenge for me as well.
This term, we’ll be reading the D’Aulaire’s Buffalo Bill book and I’m finding that one is going to require quite a bit of editing as I read aloud as well. I don’t want to drop it all together because it’s a good story about the “old west” in the US (which also happens to be the area where we live) and Buffalo Bill is actually buried only about an hour from our house (definitely a field trip one of the weeks we read this book). Fort Laramie is also mentioned in the book, which we visited last summer for the eclipse, and buffalo, of which we have a few herds that also don’t live too far from us, are obviously rampant on its pages, so there are some great opportunities to see things mentioned in the book in “real life.”
I also know that the fighting between settlers, the Army, and the Native Americans in the 1800s did happen and wasn’t pretty on either side. However, there are definitely aspects of this book that paint the Native Americans in a way that I’d rather not be the only view my son has of the struggles they experienced as the white man advanced across the plains and their land was taken from them (Buffalo Bill himself said that, “every Indian outbreak that I have ever known has resulted from broken promises and broken treaties by the government”). A blog that has been so, so helpful in offering more culturally sensitive living books has been Charlotte Mason Geek, and as a counter to Buffalo Bill, she recommended Buffalo Bird Girl: A Hidatsa Story which I’m picking up from the library this week.
These are still big hits with both kids. C particularly loves the pictures in James Herriot and I think it helps that we’ve read many, many of the other Burgess books so the characters are almost like old friends.
Admittedly, I was a little skeptical about using the Burgess book at first for natural history because the other Burgess books we’ve read weren’t all that descriptive in terms of animal behaviors, habits, what they eat and look like, or where they live. This book, however, goes into wonderful, living detail about many kinds of different birds and it has been interesting to see how he truly did make what would normally be boring textbook fodder into a true living book.
Aesop’s Fables for Children (free on PaperBack Swap; also free ebook)
Parables of Nature (free ebook, though the formatting in all the free ebooks is awful – I ended up buying this for $14.95)
Just So Stories (free on PaperBack Swap)
The Blue Fairy Book (free ebook – I ended up buying the Barnes and Noble edition for $10.00)
King Lear (either from Nesbitt or Lambs – both free ebooks)
Twelfth Knight (either from Nesbitt or Lambs – both free ebooks)
I said before the year started that I thought Aesop was made for Charlotte Mason-style education, and I still believe that to be true. These are just the right length and B narrates them very well. He surprised me with his end-of-term exam when I asked him to tell me a fable by pulling one out of his brain that I couldn’t even remember. Sometimes it seems like these go in one ear and out the other, but something must be sticking!
I have found with Parables of Nature that it goes much better if I offer a more dramatic reading of the story. Not necessarily doing voices or accents or anything like that, but if a little spruce-fir is being very rude to a birch tree, I make sure he has a rude tone of voice. This has helped B understand the subtleties of these stories more. I think overall this book has gone well, though it’s not one of his favorites.
The Blue Fairy Book also follows these lines. I try to make the characters engaging without being too dramatic, and I think the weirder aspect of old fairy tales (and really, they can be VERY weird) appeals to him. But this is another book where he groans a little when I pull it out (even though he does end up enjoying the stories).
I’ve been experimenting with different versions of Shakespeare and I think I’m actually liking the Nesbitt and Lambs versions better than the Coville books. They go into more detail and there isn’t the distraction of the illustrations. Granted, I do these in very, very, very short readings so it’s easier for him to narrate (and I’m glad they’re spread out over two weeks for this reason), but I think they’re better-written overall. Also, the whiteboard Shakespeare drawings do help. 🙂
We both still like Paddle to the Sea, even though the readings are so spread out. I’m not really sure how much the map has helped, but it is at least a type of record of us reading this book. I love that Holling introduced each lake in the shape of something else (eg. Superior is a Wolf’s head, Michigan is a squash, Huron is a trapper with a pack on his back). B has done so well on his exams when he has had to identify a specific lake on an unlabeled map specifically for this reason.
And, because of Home Geography for the Primary Grades by C.C. Long (from which we read in Term 2), he can now point out the cardinal directions in relation to our house both during the daytime and the night as well as easily finding the big dipper and the north star. We were recently just working on his Junior Ranger Night Explorer badge, and because of the two activities we did this term from Home Geography, we were able to mark a few things off already. Two birds!
We finished the A.A. Milne poems far before the end of the term, so there was some repetition at the end. I’m looking forward to the new book as the illustrations are beautiful and I think I’ve found that I prefer collections of poems from different people rather than all from one person. B likes the poetry time and especially enjoyed the A.A. Milne poems…but, really, they’re perfect for kids.
I wrote a little about our math struggles earlier this year. It was going really well until each lesson started taking longer and longer to get through and we got to the point where we were spending 45 minutes to an hour on math by itself with some tears shed at least once during that time. Sometimes it’s because I’m not prepared and it takes me 15 minutes alone to figure out and set up a new game, other times B is just really dawdling and not paying attention to what we’re doing. But some of these lessons do also definitely take a long time. After the CMER in February, I came home and started limiting us to 20 minutes for each math lesson and it was so much better until I ran into several lessons in a row where we had games. This resulted in a few math lessons where all we did was play a math game which, while educational and fun, doesn’t contribute to moving us forward in the book. So I’ve compromised and we now do 20 minutes of math lesson time and when a game is listed, I learn and prepare it in advance now and we play it outside of the 20-minute math time. This has been the perfect solution for us as we’re still making good progress through the book, but we’re not also getting frustrated and we have plenty of time for games (which are, obviously, B’s favorite part). Sure, there are definitely still days when he doesn’t like to do math and grumbles and dawdles a bit, but more often than not, it’s much more peaceful than it was.
There is a new Charlotte Mason math curriculum that has just come out and I know a lot of people are excited about it. Admittedly, I inwardly groaned when I saw it, thinking of how much money I’ve spent on this math curriculum and now second-guessing whether or not it’s the one we should be using. I’m continually impressed with RightStart and how well everything is laid out, explained, and taught, so there’s also a part of me that just doesn’t want to give it up either because I really like it. Apparently, it’s not all that far from how Ms. Mason thought math should look like anyway, so we won’t be switching anytime soon.
About halfway through Term 2, I started reading more about teaching cursive to younger children and how other countries teach in this way. B forms nice manuscript letters, but the way in which he writes them is not correct. I go back and forth as to whether or not this is truly a problem, but when I saw that cursive often fixes this problem, I decided to give it a try. So I downloaded letter sheets and started with lower-case letters in this order, then we’ll move on to upper-case, and then more practice before I use Worksheetworks.com to make cursive sheets with our monthly poems from morning time. I’ve actually been very surprised at how well he’s doing with this. We’ll see how things go when he has to actually start connecting letters.
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons (found through Bookfinder for $4.96)
Bob Collection 2 (I got this for free because the one that was sent to me was missing a book and they refunded the entire order)
Reading-Literature: The Primer ($8.95 on Amazon)
Reading-Literature: First Reader ($8.95 on Amazon)
We’re still plugging along with three days of Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons per week and one day of a Bob book. We’re actually going to reach 100 lessons before the end of the year and we’ll run out of Bob books as well, so right now I’m planning to add a primer at that point and then later a first reader.
I think 100 Easy Lessons has been good overall, however, the repetition does annoy B a little. I understand the point of reading each story twice, but it bothers him which doesn’t make for a very productive reading time sometimes. I think, also, when we made the sudden transition in the book from one style of letters to the other, it kind of threw things off as we weren’t expecting that. But overall, it has been a good way for him to learn to read and I’ll most likely use the same book with C.
Foreign Language (Spanish)
We are taking the Francois book very slowly. Very, very slowly. So slowly, in fact, that we’ve only gotten through about four series so far this year and I’m starting to wonder if that’s not a little too slow. I may end up getting the teacher’s manual (which was finally released just a few months ago!) to see what I’m doing wrong.
Handbook of Nature Study (purchased on Amazon for $22.57)
We studied mammals in Term 2, which I think went really well. It helps that two families in our homeschool co-op have lots of livestock and one of them welcomed two new lambs and kids to their ranks, so we were able to pet and hold the new babies when co-op was at their house.
For Term 3, we’re going to follow along with our co-op and study invertebrates. I’m planning on getting an aquarium and when the weather is warmer, hopefully bring home a crawfish for hands-on study. We did manage to put together a little earthworm farm and B adds worms as he finds them (the ones he doesn’t accidentally rip in half, anyway…. 😳).
Our schedule of study for this term comes from the invertebrate section on page 416 of The Handbook of Nature Study:
- garden snails (I have yet to see these in Colorado, otherwise these would also go in the aquarium)
- daddy long legs
- funnel web of a grass spider
- orb web
- filmy dome
- ballooning spiders
- the white crab spider
- how the spider mothers take care of their eggs
Last summer, we had a massive cat-faced spider living on our side fence and if she returns (or someone like her), I may capture one in a mason jar for more study. We’ll also continue as we’ve been doing… I either read ahead and find some particularly interesting points from HONS to share with the kids, or read it all directly to them, then we watch a few videos on YouTube about our topic, and I’ll look for some local places we can see in person whatever it is we’re studying. I think invertebrates might actually be the easiest area of study we’ve done in terms of real-life observation.
I was adding some stories from the Among the People series from Clara Dillingham Pierson, but B has heard these stories so many times in audiobook form that I decided to stop. If you’re looking for a good living resource for your own nature study, though, I highly recommend these books (all of which are free for Kindle on Amazon)!
We’re also doing adding drawings to B’s nature journal during co-op and whenever we get a chance to go on hikes, which was few and far between during Term 2 either because of weather or a full schedule. Now that the weather is getting warmer, I’m definitely hoping for more hike opportunities.
We’re still going strong with our timeline, with B drawing a memory from each quarter of his life on his timeline sheets. We are, however, going to run out of quarters soon. Because of this and in order to fulfill a requirement of our umbrella school, I’m adding an American flag study (and specifically, flag etiquette) on to that spot after we finish his timeline. I have yet to find a good one, though, so if you know of one, please leave a comment or drop me a line!
I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be as easy for him to memorize his morning time poems when we switched to learning the cursive alphabet for copywork rather than copying the poem. But he has done really well in this area and usually has his poems memorized in about two weeks.
For March we’re memorizing:
by David McCord
The rainbow arches in the sky,
But in the earth it ends;
But if you ask the reason why,
They’ll tell you: “That depends.”
It never comes without the rain,
Nor goes without the sun;
But though you try with might and main,
You’ll never catch me one.
Perhaps you’ll see it once a year,
Perhaps you’ll say: “No, twice”;
But every time it does appear,
It’s very clean and nice.
If I were God, I’d like to win
At sun-and-moon croquet:
I’d drive the rainbow-wickets in
And ask someone to play.
In April, we’ll memorize:
By Robert Louis Stevenson
I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me,
And what can be the use of him is more than I can see.
He is very, very like me from the heels up to the head;
And I see him jump before me, when I jump into my bed.
The funniest thing about him is the way he likes to grow—
Not at all like proper children, which is always very slow;
For he sometimes shoots up taller like an india-rubber ball,
And he sometimes gets so little that there’s none of him at all.
He hasn’t got a notion of how children ought to play,
And can only make a fool of me in every sort of way.
He stays so close beside me, he’s a coward you can see;
I’d think shame to stick to nursie as that shadow sticks to me!
One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.
And in May and the first week of June we’ll memorize:
Nurse’s Song (also known as “Play Time”)
by William Blake
When the voices of children are heard on the green,
And laughing is heard on the hill,
My heart is at rest within my breast,
And everything else is still.
‘Then come home, my children, the sun is gone down,
And the dews of night arise;
Come, come, leave off play, and let us away
Till the morning appears in the skies.’
‘No, no, let us play, for it is yet day,
And we cannot go to sleep; 10
Besides, in the sky the little birds fly,
And the hills are all cover’d with sheep.’
‘Well, well, go and play till the light fades away,
And then go home to bed.’
The little ones leapèd and shoutèd and laugh’d
And all the hills echoèd.
In Term 2, we looked at six pieces done by Antoine Watteau (which means a free picture study aid for him will be coming soon!). Again, all but one of the paintings were introduced during co-op where I teach picture study to the lower forms. Then during the week, every other day (we alternate with composer study) during morning time, we sit and talk about the painting. During exams, I ask him to tell me about his favorite painting from the term. I think being able to see how other kids narrate for picture study during co-op has helped B grow in this area.
In Term 3, we’re talking about John Singleton Copley who, admittedly, I’m quite a bit more excited about than I was for Watteau. I’m a sucker for portraits and Copley was one of the best portraitists.
Easy Origami (purchased from Amazon for $2.87)
We’re still plugging away at origami with our co-op, which I also teach to the lower forms. The things we’ve been making have gotten progressively more difficult, but B is handling it all like a champ. I am eager to move on, though, to something else next year. In some ways, I wish I hadn’t stopped doing sloyd with him at home in the first term, but hopefully next year I can plan better.
Our folksongs from Term 2 included Over the Hills and Far Away and Yankee Doodle. For hymns, we sang How Sweet and Aweful is the Place and From All That Dwell Below the Skies. B memorized his folksongs and hymns easily in the first term, but Term 2 was a different story and he had a hard time with these, so I switched to singing them every day during morning time rather than alternating them.
In Term 3 we’ll be singing Let us Love, and Sing, and Wonder and Amazing Grace for hymns. For folksongs, we’re singing Early One Morning and This Land is Your Land. We learned This Land is Your Land last year, but the Buddy Holly original version, so it will be a little different for us this year.
For composer study, last term we listened to many Bach pieces and read about his life during co-op. This term we’re studying Mozart. I alternate composer study with picture study during morning time and the days that we do composer study, we’ll either sit and listen to part of the piece that we’re studying and then talk about what we heard, or I’ve been reading short excerpts from a book about the life of Mozart.
Two new things I’ve learned about this term have made music study a lot easier and a lot cheaper. Amazon stopped offering free cloud services a few months ago, so I was no longer able to upload music that I had bought through iTunes or had on a CD to my Amazon account which I could then play through the Amazon music app on our Roku on the tv in the school area. So I did some searching and quickly found Plex which I think works even better. I load all the music into the Plex app on my computer, create playlists, and then I can access all of that through the Plex app on our Roku. It may sound complicated but it’s not at all. I had it all set up in about a half hour (including all the time it took to scan and add all of our music files to the Plex app.) I know many people like to just play the pieces off of YouTube or Spotify, but I can’t justify the expense for a Spotify account and I like to be able to also load the music on B’s little (non-internet), ancient iPod so he can listen to his school music whenever he’d like.
The other new thing is Freegal. One of the other moms in our co-op mentioned it during one of our meetings and I’ve been so thankful. Whereas before I was buying all of our music for each term which, admittedly, didn’t come to much but was still an additional cost, now I can just look for the music on Freegal. Because our library participates in the service, we get 5 free music downloads per week which is more than enough to cover what we use for school and then some. I’ve been very surprised at which artists are on there – it’s been awesome!
I’m still making little tweaks to morning time here and there, but right now it looks like this:
- Prayer of St. Francis
- Picture Study (Mon/Wed)/Composer Study (Tues/Thurs)
- Memorization Poem
- Poem Revew (where we recite a poem we’ve memorized in the past)
- Nursery Rhyme (this is mainly for C)
- Spanish Phrases (Mon/Wed)/Spanish Songs (Tues/Thurs)
- Lord’s Prayer
This works well for us, but of course, I’ll probably keep re-arranging because it’s what I do.
We didn’t read any more free reads this term as I’m not doing Peter Pan this year and I haven’t started The Red Fairy Book. We may tackle it during Term 3, but the other random books I’ve found to read have been good so I’m not stressing this.
The Term 2 exam did not go nearly as well as the Term 1 exam which was pretty discouraging. We’re still struggling with remembering names and I’m not sure how to help him with that. Still, despite the fact that it wasn’t as good, I think overall he did okay and is making progress and I’m happy with that. I know there are definitely things that I can help him with in his Term3 exam that I didn’t do for the Term 2 exam, so hopefully that results in a more successful evaluation as well.
So that’s that. I did not end up adding Swedish Drill during Term 2 and I don’t know that I’ll add it during Term 3 either as I haven’t even had a chance to read the book yet. Hopefully I’m able to do that over the summer so we can start doing it this fall!