(Please note that I have linked to the book lists on the AO website to respect their licensing terms and the hard work they’ve put into such an amazing curriculum which they offer for free. Books that use affiliate links here are not listed on the AO website.)
It is much to be wished that thoughtful mothers would more often keep account of the methods they employ with their children, with some definite note of the success of this or that plan.Charlotte Mason, Home Education p. 200
Despite my fear and trepidation going into this year – my first with two grade-level students, including one of them in Form II – Term 1 went very well for us. So far, this has also been the year in which I’ve really embraced the flexibility of homeschooling and changed our schedule on the fly if the need has arisen. I’m sure the two are related. 🙂
In Term 2, we’re making a few changes, mainly to science, that I outlined below. I’ll skip the preamble this time and dive into our plans!
I mentioned in my Year 4 planning post that I would make a comparison chart of what our Morning Time looks like last year verses this year…so here it is. 🙂
* Longer Bible passage memorization
* Prayer/Scripture Review or reading from Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady
* Hymn (M+W)/Folksong (T+Th)
* Recitation Poem (C)
* Picture Study (M)/Spanish Song Review (T)/Composer Study (W)/Recitation Poem Review (Th)
* Nursery Rhyme (1/day)
* Lord’s Prayer
* Proverb (we read the chapter for whatever day of the month it is)
* Schedule Overview (I let each kid know what they’ll be doing that day)
* Reading from Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady (M+W)/Habit Lesson(T+Th)
* Hymn (M+W)/Folksong (T+Th)
* Picture Study (M)/Recitation Poem Review (T)/Composer Study (W)/Spanish Song Review (Th)
* Lord’s Prayer
So you can see it’s somewhat different than last year. Because I made big changes to Recitation and both kids are learning an OT passage, a NT passage, a Psalm, a poem, and a hymn each term, I decided to take out the longer Bible passage memorization (though we’re still doing our Bible memory box before breakfast).
In place of that, we’re reading the chapter of Proverbs that coincides with the day’s date (eg. on the 5th of the month we read Proverbs 5). This was something I did in high school and I know of several other homeschooling families who do it also. Some of the passages about adultery are problematic with young children, so I omit (for now) as necessary.
I also started going over the day’s schedule with each child. This was a request from B and has worked well for us so they know what to expect for that day.
A few weeks into the year, I decided we should start working on habits again as well. I use to work on habits with B during Year 1, but then left it out of the schedule in Year 2 because I wasn’t sure how to fit it in or if it was even all that effective at his age. As C has gotten older, I wanted to start implementing it again and it fits well in Morning Time. We read a lesson twice a week from Laying Down the Rails for Children (we’ve covered courtesy so far), alternating with reading a passage and looking at art in Edith Holden’s diary (which provides inspiration for our nature journals as well as some seasonal poetry and tidbits).
I took out the nursery rhyme as that was something for C in preschool and kindergarten, but otherwise, the rest of it is the same. It’s still working well for us to keep it shorter. I have been playing with the idea, though, of adding in a reading from The Book of Virtues. I think before that happens, though, we need to be more consistent with starting by 8:30. Otherwise our morning goes very late.
We’re making our way through Joshua and Mark. Have I mentioned before that I thought I knew the stories of the Bible relatively well (having six years of Baptist Christian school junior high/high school under my belt) but now am realizing that I did not? Because this is true. I know I have mentioned that I really like the Paterson Smyth commentaries for this reason. Though I don’t necessarily agree with everything he says, the “setting the scene” commentary he provides is excellent and I can tell it helps B as he offers much better narrations and week-later recaps when I’ve read one of these passages to him.
I’m still struggling with remembering to use the atlas. I need to keep working on that.
We moved along at a good pace with Poor Richard early on, but as it got more into the unrest of the colonies and Benjamin Franklin’s diplomatic trips, it became a little more difficult for B to understand. Because of this, I’m making the readings a lot shorter before I ask for narration and I might expand on some point after he narrates just to make sure he’s able to understand what’s going on. This may be one of the books that would inspire someone to go with Year 3.5 instead of Year 4 as I don’t know that he was quite ready for it, especially if he had read it on his own.
We’ve only read one of the stories from Answering the Cry for Freedom, but I really do appreciate that the Advisory added this one. The first story about Boston King moves quickly, so I think finding a good balance of moving through the story but not reading too much so narrations are difficult can be a challenge. But it’s written well and is an excellent way to get see what Revolutionary times were like for African Americans, both in and out of slavery. B has not cared for this one so far which I think was mostly due to the fast pace of the story. Again, we’ve only read one story so I’m hoping it grows on him.
This Country of Ours was status quo this term and he is enjoying it more as we make our way through the stories of the various colonies (he especially liked the Connecticut charter story). From Trial and Triumph, I opted to skip “Richard, Lion of Covenant” and “Solway Martyrs” due to content.
B has been reading Minn on his own and then narrating to me, which is going very well. Aside from that, we continue to do the readings from Long’s and Charlotte Mason’s Geography books and look places up on the map or globe when we read about a specific area in another subject. I have not been good about having him fill out the BFB map. I need to be more intentional about that in Term 2.
For map drills, I have him learn three things from the Minn map when he has an assigned reading in that book and the other weeks he’ll learn three things from the colonies map. I have him look at the filled out map for a few minutes, telling him which things he needs to focus on. Then when he’s ready, I take the filled out map away, give him a blank map and the list of the three things he needs to label. He’s done very well with this so far with only a few mistakes.
Natural History and Science
Natural History and Science Booklist Here (for reference – we won’t be following the AO schedule for science beginning in Term 2)
Living Science Study Guide: Physics-Magnets Form 2
We ended up stopping Madam How and Lady Why about halfway through the term. Part of me is ashamed to admit this as I so wanted it to work. I loved the idea of the book and how he introduces the characters of Madam How and Lady Why. I think those ideas resonated well with both B and me. But as we got further into the readings and ran into more and more of the many passages where Kingsley assumes the reader has seen a certain part of England, it became tedious. Because he doesn’t explain the locations and relies on the reader to know what he’s talking about, we had to either pause a reading in the middle to look it up, or I’d try and have pictures or videos ready beforehand so we knew what he actually was talking about. In her guide, Anne White says not to let these problems hold you back from enjoying the book, but we found our lack of knowledge of English geography to be too prohibitive to enjoying it. I do think it would be an absolutely lovely book for those who either live in England or who have visited extensively and are blessed with good memories, but we don’t fall into either of these categories.
As I said, I really wanted to make it work and tried as much as I could, but about halfway through the term when B was struggling with a bad attitude about these readings in particular, I decided to just scrap it. He enjoys science and liked the readings in Storybook of Science and especially looked forward to the experiments in Physics Lab in the Home, so I knew it wasn’t just an overall bad attitude that needed to be nipped in the bud. I want him to become a life-long learner and enjoy growing his knowledge, so instead of trying to force our way through a book neither one of us was enjoying, I decided to finally use the gift of being able to choose what we want to study. I looked through Sabbath Mood Homeschool’s Living Science (SBH) guides, asked him which one he thought sounded interesting, and he chose magnets. For the last few weeks of Term 1 after we stopped MHLW, we read and did experiments from Physics Lab in the Home for science. We’ll begin the magnet guide in Term 2.
So far I have been very impressed by this guide and am excited about how science will look going forward. Nicole Williams, the woman behind it, provides detailed supply lists, teacher prep notes, and three activities per week (including experiements, which B will like). I have also found the explanations she offers for nature lore and special studies so helpful as I feel these will flesh out the science aspect of our homeschooling quite well. She recommends reading Storybook of Science along with what we do in the guide, so I paused his reading there and he’ll be continuing that, albeit at a much slower pace. Instead of reading it all in one year, he’ll be reading it paced out over the next three years. And all of the book lists she has on her website have been absolutely invaluable.
If the guide works well for us, which I have high hopes that it will, we’ll continue using these through at least the rest of Form II.
In Term 1 at home we studied trees and in co-op we learned about leaves, so both studies went together very well. I added in Joy Cherrick’s Nature Study Hacking guide for trees which was a good way to keep us very accountable for filling in more of our nature journals. I was very surprised to find how engaged both kids were with the activities in the book and adding new things to their journals as they haven’t been as willing to do this in the past.
In Term 2, our co-op nature study hasn’t been decided yet. However, I think Jennifer, who leads it for us, is leaning toward winter constellations. She generally has an object lesson for us during co-op, we spend time outside in nature, and then she also gives us a homework assignment for the weeks we don’t have co-op. Both kids will be doing those activities, and I will also encourage them as another special studies topic (per the recommendation on Nicole’s special studies page) to observe birds in winter (with B reading The Moon of the Winter Bird). Ideally, they’d pick their own special studies topic and I hope to get to that point someday, but B especially doesn’t usually have a strong opinion about these things and defers to me. This is entirely an experiment and, honestly, feels like a lot to me, but as he’s doing the majority of the reading for science on his own (with narrations after he reads), I’m interested to see how it goes.
I’ve been using the AO copywork file for Year 4 and having B copy those excertps (The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and Poor Richard so far). Up to this point, I’ve had him using blank handwriting pages for copywork, but I made ween him off of that in Term 2 and have him start copying to notebook pages. I started the year by having him copy a full sheet in cursive, but it was taking him a while and we butted heads on that quite a bit. I relented and said he could do it in print instead and though he has complained about the doing-a-full-page part, he’s still doing it. This has really helped improve the speed at which he writes as well.
Spelling has been an interesting addition to our rotation. We do two spelling lessons per week and I start by having him read the sentence or passage for that lesson himself. He does this a few times and picks out any words that might be a problem. I have him focus on those and then I also write them on a whiteboard so he can see them larger. When he’s ready, I cover the sentence or passage and read it to him so he can write it down. If I see he has misspelled a word, I cover it with a page marker post-it (so he doesn’t continue to see the misspelled version) while he continues. Afterward, I uncover the excerpt and have him study the words he missed, then re-cover it and he tries again by writing the proper spelling on top of the post-its. This has worked very well for us and not only is he improving his spelling skills, but also his ability to visualize words in his head.
We alternate our spelling with grammar, so we also have this twice per week. I like how JAG is laid out as it really allows us to go at our own pace. I’ll read the introduction to a new part of speech to him on day one and then we’ll do a few of the questions together from the first lesson before he does the rest on his own. Generally he finishes it that same day (we have 25 minutes for grammar), sometimes he has to finish it the next time, but we won’t look over his answers until the next grammar lesson after he finishes it. We make corrections as needed and then move on to the next lesson which he does mostly on his own and repeat that process until we’ve made it through the three lessons.
He has pushed back a little on the Playing With Words exercises because he doesn’t do well with abstract directions, but I’ve seen how this challenge has improved his writing skills and he gets better with each section. I also appreciate how the exams at the end of each section are added up rather than subtracted and that there are clearly defined guidelines about whether or not he’s ready to move on to the next section. I highly recommend this book!
We finished RightStart Level D about a month-and-a-half into the year, so we’re now on Level E. Increasing our time from 20 minutes (for Form I) to 30 minutes (for Form II) has helped quite a bit and we’re making steady progress through the lessons. I’ve had a few questions about how we do RightStart given the shorter lesson time for Charlotte Mason homeschooling and I’ll clarify here that sometimes we don’t make it through a whole lesson in one school day and usually, if there’s a game we’ll only play it for five to ten minutes. Considering we have 140 lessons in the entire book and 174 days that we’re required by the state to have school, there is some wiggle room for not finishing a lesson every day.
We have Spanish every day in some form, with a Salsa video on Mondays (we cover the same video three weeks in a row), singing our song of the month from De Colores on Tuesdays and Thursdays, then we’ll do some extension activities for the Salsa episode we watched on Monday from the Wyoming Department of Education W(DE) materials on Wednesday. As long as I’m organized enough to have the WDE materials ready, this has worked so, so, so well for us. C has been trying to do her math lessons in Spanish, which, while a tiny bit frustrating as she’s not particularly efficient at doing math problems in English just yet, is also very encouraging that she’s enjoying her Spanish lessons. I also find the kids using Spanish words throughout our days for random things, eg. B asked me to cut up his manzana the other day. ☺️
The Latin lessons have proved to be very short, simple, and easy to implement. They also go well with what we’re learning in grammar, so I’m glad I ended up making this last-minute addition.
I discovered in Term 1 that I’m not much of a Tennyson fan. ☺️ B also did not care much for his poems except the longer story-form pieces (in particular, The Lady of Shallott). Emily Dickinson, on the other hand, is one of my favorite poets, so I’m looking forward to reading these together this term.
Both of us have really enjoyed Robinson Crusoe, which was a big surprise to me. B especially has looked forward to these readings a lot, which is another reason why I save them for the end of our school day. I initially took some editing license with the references to cannibalism, but soon found that to be a lost cause as it’s an unavoidable topic in this book. It hasn’t been a big deal for B (or C who often sits in on this reading), so I’m just going with it. I hope the other literature selections in Terms 2 and 3 are as engaging!
B has been reading As You Like It both at co-op and at home. There has only been one passage so far that we’ve skipped, but otherwise, even though he does sometimes struggle with understanding the language, I think he has enjoyed reading the “real” version of Shakespeare (vs. Lambs’ which is what he’s had up to this point). I have not decided what to do for Term 2 yet as generally, our co-op upper forms like to have a variety of Shakespeare plays and would move on to a history or tragedy if they’ve done a comedy in Term 1. I’m hesitant to have B reading those just yet, however, the co-op has been willing to accommodate us on this. I chatted with him about it and he said that he enjoyed being with the upper forms, but he also enjoys being with the lower forms. So I think at least for this term, he’ll be back down with the lower forms reading Lambs’ version of A Winter’s Tale and we’ll re-visit this for Term 3.
I didn’t feel B was ready for Plutarch this year so we substituted Stories from the History of Rome per AO’s suggestion. He has enjoyed this book and I think it’s giving us a good basis for what we’ll be reading when we do actually get to Plutarch, so I’m glad we made this substitution.
Book of Centuries
Our time recording has gone much better this year than any other year. I usually ask him if there was anything he can remember that he could put in his Book of Centuries and I give him the option of either writing it in or drawing something for it. He usually chooses to just write. I do also make a note in the margin of whatever books we read that week when a specific date or big event pops up, but I always ask him for his ideas before I offer these.
Our new way of doing Recitation/Repetition has been going well with B reading each of his recitation pieces every day. We haven’t had exams yet, but I am very interested to see how well he recites the pieces with this new way of doing things.
In Term 1, we studied the art of Jan van Eyck with the following pieces:
Ghent Altarpiece (closed)
Ghent Altarpiece (open)
Man in a Red Turban
The Arnolfini Wedding
Virgin and Child with Canon van der Paele
The Annunciation (convenient as it’s one of the pieces in this year’s Advent guide :))
In Term 2, we’ll be looking at the art of Diego Velazquez. You can read all about how we do Picture Study here.
We’re still making our way through What to Draw and How to Draw It for drawing. I usually don’t hover much here and let B copy from the drawings in the book to the best of his ability. Occasionally he adds embellishes, but he generally doesn’t like this as he “likes to make art his own way.”
We’ve struggled a bit with brushwork, but I think it’s more the fault of the brushes and paint we’re using than anything else. He gets frustrated because he’s not able to make his version look like the one he’s copying, so I think I need to do more research into better art supplies.
We do most of our composer study in co-op and this term we learned about Hildegarde of Bingen. For Term 2, we’ll be studying Giovanni Gabrieli, a composer I’ve never heard of so I’m looking forward t that. At co-op we’ll read a little about the composer’s life and then listen to a piece. At home, we might do something similar, though I usually try to find a recording of a performance for us to watch on YouTube if I can.
We also do folksong and hymn in co-op. For our folksongs this term, I chose Now, O Now I Needs Must Part and Go No More a-Rushing. Our hymns were Now, My Tongue, the Mystery Telling and Humbly I adore thee. Generally for either one we’ll read a little about either the composer of the piece or some history on the piece itself, listen to the tune, and then hum along. In subsequent meetings, we’ll do a vocal warm-up for the hymn and finally sing the words. During our last meeting of the term (we meet five times), we’ll sing both pieces.
I failed to mention in my planning post that B is still taking piano lessons through Hoffman Academy. He usually does one video or practice session every day except Sundays and is making good progress.
In Term 1, we made our way through The Nourishing Traditions Cookbook for Children which worked absolutely wonderfully for us! I read the intro to each section of the cookbook and they narrated during our lesson time. At some other point during the week, they made a recipe of their choosing from that section and the progression worked really well. I plan to write a more in-depth post about this at some point as this was such a fun way to include cooking in our lessons.
In Term 3, they’ll be splitting for handicrafts. B has expressed interest in whittling, so I ordered a kit for him to begin that. C will be doing origami, which B also did in Year 1. I’m a little nervous about them doing two separate things and figuring out the logistics of fitting that into our schedule, but I’m hoping that since he is interested in learning about whittling, he’ll initiative in doing the activities more on his own.
PE was another big change for us in Term 1. Toward the end (after I turned 40 – ahem), I decided we needed more movement in our lesson time. We were doing Swedish drill just once a week and the rest of the time generally stationery with occasional short little trips to the backyard for nature study. I decided this wasn’t good for any of us and so we started doing Swedish Drill twice per week alternating that with a 5 Minute Move on YouTube. These have been a really fun addition to our day, and I hope to maybe increase the time to something longer when we’ve gotten more used to it.
So there is the year so far in a nutshell. I’m content with where we are now in the amount of lessons and activities we do each week. One thing that I would like to look into adding is some kind of service project. Our co-op used to serve at a local food pantry at Thanksgiving each year, either packing boxes of food for low-income families or delivering boxes to cars as they came to pick up their Thanksgiving dinners. Unfortunately, we never participated because something or other always came up the day we were scheduled to help, but as the kids have gotten older, I’ve had more of a desire to incorporate something like this in our home. It’s obviously more difficult with COVID and social distancing, etc. so I need to ponder this more. If anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears! 🙂