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We had a good start to the year with Term 1 with only a few weeks when the schedule got messy and we had to push things to the next week. I made some adjustments to Morning Time that ended up being good for our overall schedule and, even though things are taking longer this year with more readings for B and adding in a few things for C, the rhythm of our mornings is, for the most part, very peaceful. As long as I don’t obsess over the clock, things go smoothly. Here are a few more details about how our Term 1 went and what we’ll be doing in Term 2 using the Ambleside Online Year 3 schedule.
I made several changes to Morning Time this year that resulted in it being much shorter, which has been a good thing overall. Whereas before it was taking us about 30 to 45 minutes to get through Morning Time, now it’s only about 15 minutes and that small change has made the mornings feel a lot lighter. Here is a comparison of our schedule from last year:
- Bible Reading for C
- Psalm 23 (memorization)
- Hymn (M+W)/Folksong (T+Th)
- Picture Study (M+W/Composer Study (T+Th)
- Recitation Poem
- Recitation Poem Review
- Nursery Rhyme (1/day)
- Spanish – Diez Deditos (M+W)/Speaking Spanish with Miss. Mason and François (T+Th)
- Lord’s Prayer
- Matthew 5:3-12 (memorization)
- Prayer/Scripture Review or reading from Country Diary of and 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
So I switched picture and composer study to once per week and alternated those with recitation poem review (reading poems we’ve learned for recitation already) and Spanish song review (singing a Spanish song we’ve already learned). I also moved Spanish out of Morning Time and into our regular rotation. I did add scripture/prayer review alternated with reading a page from Country Diary of and Edwardian Lady appropriate to our month, but these don’t take much time.
I was surprised at how much better the day goes when Morning Time is shorter. When we don’t do MT at all, the day feels disjointed and incomplete, but when it’s longer, it feels like too much, so I’ve learned that I have to have a good balance.
Once again, the J. Paterson-Smyth commentary has been so helpful for our readings in Exodus. It was neat to be able to show B the example of Egyptian “copywork” like Moses may have done when he was a student in Pharaoh’s palace (see the example here on page 33). Also, the perspective on the Egyptians originally believe in one all-powerful and all-present God has been interesting to read, as well as the accompanying poetry and hymns.
I also appreciate that these commentaries often offer a fresh perspective for me personally on these Biblical stories I’ve heard all my life. For instance, Smyth talked about how the different plagues of Egypt targeted specific deities worshipped there (eg. the Nile, animals, beetles, etc.), which was not something ever mentioned to me before or that I had considered.
For our New Testament readings, I’ve also found that what I read in the Paterson Smyth Matthew commentary last year has come come back to me as we’ve made our way through Luke, which has also been helpful.
I’ve been doing more research into some of the books listed in the PNEU’s Programme 94 and found this modern version of a Bible atlas that I was able to get on interlibrary loan. It’s absolutely beautiful and I think I might pick up a copy for us to use during our Bible time as it’s much more complete than the Student Bible Atlas I have been using.
This was a rough term for history, mainly because of subject matter. Pre-reading, especially This Country of Ours, was an absolute must and I almost left chapter 9 out completely because of content. I chose to keep it in, but with heavy editing (mainly paring descriptions of massacres down to “and they were executed” or something mild like that) as I felt it fit in well with the Reformation theme and because subsequent chapters referred back to it.
The other three books have been fairly tame, though I have had to edit parts of Trial and Triumph. Now that we’re slowing down through the long line of English monarchs and B actually has a chance to spend a few chapters/weeks on each one, he’s enjoying Our Island Story more. It’s still not his favorite, but I at least don’t get the complaining that I used to when I open it!
I’ve also started writing out all the names and places for each of these books, as well as our Biography reads below, on a small whiteboard that I keep on a tabletop easel on our coffee table. This has made narration easier for him as he able to concentrate more on the overall story rather than trying to remember specific details like these.
Biography has been a struggle as neither one of us has really liked the Leonardo da Vinci book, but in trying to compact it all into one term, we’ve had quite a bit of reading from it (which actually may be part of the reason why neither of us has cared for it). It is interesting, but a little dry and is probably B’s least-liked book. Still, he has given me good narrations so we’ve kept on through all of it. I will have to think about this more when it comes time for C to do Year 3 and whether we repeat this one or go with the alternative Michelangelo book suggestion.
I’ll add that it helped to have our encyclopedia handy as I was able to pull it out when various things were mentioned like the Mona Lisa or anatomical sketches, etc. And of course, a map of Italy is convenient as he did most of his traveling around the country of his birth.
For Term 2, we’re going to read both of the biographies listed as they’re both pretty short. We read the Shakespeare option a few years ago in co-op but B was in Year 1 and his first year of co-op so I’m not sure how much he actually retained which is why I’m okay with reading it again.
Marco Polo has been a good read for both of us. The book is full of rich descriptions of the various things Polo saw on his travels but moves fast enough to keep it interesting. B especially liked hearing about all of the animals the khan kept. It was also neat to be able to pull out the Yuan dynasty picture study prints to see the khan at the hunt, two of his wives, and other elements of their society. I think it has helped that this book is spread out over the whole year so the readings have been spaced out well.
We also read about “hot” and “cold” countries as well as the lines of latitude from Charlotte Mason’s geography book and once again I appreciate how she broke somewhat complicated concepts into bite-sized portions that are easy for kids to understand (while still not “dumbing” them down).
Pagoo has been an enormous hit with both kids. If C is off playing somewhere else and she hears me begin to read from it, she comes running into the room to join us just for that reading. We’ve learned so much about ocean life but also developed a relationship with this little hermit crab through his adventures (and that’s what education is about!). I really do wish we were able to get a hermit crab right now because it would be so much fun to be able to see in person all of the little quirks that are mentioned in the book, but for now, we’re just using our imaginations.
Drop of Water has been informative but I’m afraid I failed in actually doing most of the experiments that go along with the readings. I’m thankful, though, that the book includes big, beautiful photographs with each step of what they’re talking about so we can still observe even if not in person.
We’ll finish both books in Term 2 and start one new one. I’m hoping to also include some experiments from our nature study for weather/climate that could also fit into this category.
All of our literature/tales readings were a hit. I was surprised at how much he enjoyed The Heroes as I wasn’t sure how this one would go over at first. He even made the connection between the end of Perseus and what we learned when we studied astronomy last year with the different constellations we observed. This made my my mama heart proud. 🙂
I was glad to finally be able to read The Princess and the Goblin after having had it on my to-read list for years. The kids both love it and I was glad to hear that there is a sequel that we could use for free-reads.
Our readings in Pilgrim’s Progress Part 2 have also been interesting in that he remembers different places where Christian stopped as Christiana makes her way on the same journey. He still struggles with narration when there is a lot of dialog, so I’m trying to have grace in that and help explain things to him after he has tried to narrate. When there’s action, though, he does very well.
For Shakespeare, we read the Nesbitt versions of Merchant of Venice and Pericles at home, and the Lambs version of Comedy of Errors at co-op (which I’m teaching this year). I usually prefer Lambs to Nesbitt (except for tragedies), but I chose Nesbitt this time primarily because of content for Merchant and length for Pericles. Nesbitt’s version of Merchant is not quite as racially charged as Lambs or the original, so I felt like that was the better choice.
We’ll be moving on to Children of the New Forest in Term 2, which I’ve heard lots of good things about, and for Shakespeare we’ll read The Taming of the Shrew (which may also be our co-op choice) and Measure for Measure.
We finished our William Blake poetry a few weeks before the end of the term and I think we both enjoyed reading his poems.
We are now entering the world of multiplication and division in RightStart. There have definitely been some struggles, but they’re the good kind that help B grow in not only his knowledge, but also his ability to try and figure things out that don’t come easily. I’m still trying to keep to 20 minutes per day for math, but whereas in the past I would skip games completely if we didn’t have enough time for them, I’ve decided this year to make time for them. I don’t want math to be just tedious and unenjoyable for him, especially as he really likes the games, so this was an important change to make. I also learned as we were going through multiplication and he was having a hard time with remembering different facts that he really needs the extra practice that the games provide. So we stick to that 20 minutes strictly, but instead of skipping the games at the end of the lesson if we run out of time, I make time for them the next day. We are definitely going through things more slowly, but I’m thankful that we’re able to do it at his pace and include the part that he enjoys.
We’ve continued with cursive work this year and it is going very well. Most of the letter formation problems that he was having before we started cursive have gone away and his handwriting is really beautiful. I copied several suggestions for copywork from the Ambleside Online Yahoo Group for Year 3 and made several copywork sheets for him that will last us a few months. He does one side per day, which is just about right for ten minutes, as long as he doesn’t let his mind wander. 🙂
For phonics and reading, B reads aloud to me for 10 minutes each day. We finished the Reading-Literature Third Reader earlier in the year and then moved on to chapter books. Because he did so well with the Third Reader, I decided to go with the Year 3-4 student book list on the AO website. We started with The Courage of Sarah Noble which was a very quick and easy read for him. Right now we’re making our way through My Side of the Mountain, which is challenging enough to be good for his reading skills, but also just a great read that we both enjoy.
Foreign Language (Spanish)
Spanish has been, by far, the biggest improvement for us this year. We switched from using Speaking Spanish with Miss. Mason and François to the Salsa videos that I had seen recommended on the AO Forums. Whereas before, B used to absolutely dread Spanish time and it often ended in tears, this year both kids actually beg me to do Salsa every day (we alternate it with learning a song from Des Colores) and they use what they learn even outside of school time. I’ve printed out supplemental materials from the Wyoming Department of Education and follow their lesson guides for kindergarten and it has worked so well for us.
I’m not giving up on Speaking Spanish with Miss. Mason yet and hope to use it in the future when the kids are older, but I think Salsa is just right for us right now.
Cultivated crops were on the schedule for nature study this term. I pre-read the section in Handbook of Nature Study for each topic, sharing a few key points, and then also found a YouTube video with a timelapse of the plant growing or other information about it. If I was not able to provide an actual plant for us to look at, then I printed out vintage drawings of each plant, which actually worked out really well as they’re usually very detailed, and they’re pretty to display on the school table. 🙂 We learned about the following this term:
In co-op we learned about wildflowers, so we also had a few assignments for that. This worked well as we alternated weeks between these readings and our own cultivated crops studies.
We’ll be doing climate/weather for Term 2 according to the AO schedule as well as in co-op and I found a great book list for this topic that I’ll be using for ideas on what we can read together. I also hope to find a good weather experiment kit to implement in our school time as well.
For recitation this term, B learned three poems from William Blake, who was also our poet:
Whereas in the past I’ve just read the poem once per day during Morning Time, this year I moved recitation into our regular rotation (C still learns her poem during MT) and actually have B read it to me every day. This worked really well this term, so we’ll keep doing this going forward.
I’m so glad we added brushdrawing! Not only does it add variety into our rotation, but it’s also teaching B good painting skills. Because he has to really pay attention to where he’s putting his brush down on the paper, it has also helped him slow down a bit when he dives into creating something. And I love the paintings he has made. 🙂
We learned about Claude Monet this term with the following paintings:
- Terrace at Saint-Adresse (1866)
- Boulevard des Capucines (1873-74)
- Woman with a Parasol – Madame Monet and Her Son (1875)
- Fishing Boats (1883)
- Rouen Cathedral (1894)
- Waterlilies and Japanese Bridge (1899)
I also taught this subject in our co-op. Most of the paintings were presented in co-op and then we looked at them again the following week at home. We’ll also be going to the Monet exhibition at the Denver Art Museum with our co-op in January, which I’m very excited about! (And, of course, this also means that a Monet Picture Study Aid is coming as well. 🙂 )
In Term 2, we’ll be learning about Emily Carr.
I alternate drawing with nature study, Swedish drill/timeline, and brush drawing each week so we do these only once per week (with Swedish drill and timeline alternated every other week). This has been a good addition, especially this year, as C also likes to join us for drawing as well.
I got both kids little craft kits at the beginning of the year for making bracelets (B) and a needlepoint butterfly (C), only to be used during school time when I was working with the other kid. They liked them at first but lost interest after a few weeks, so I’m not sure how to encourage them in this area. I think the butterfly was actually probably a little too ambitious for C, so I’m hoping she picks it up again when she’s a little older.
In co-op, we learned how to work with pastels and made pastel drawings of a meadow scene. I love how B’s turned out, but he won’t let me frame it and hang it up…. I’ll have to work on that. 🙂
Our composer this term was Claude Debussy, who is one of my favorites. We learned about him primarily in co-op, but then also watched performances of his music at home on YouTube during Morning Time.
In Term 2, we’ll be learning about Aaron Copland who is another favorite, so this has been a great year for music!
Overall, I think the term was a success and I’m looking forward to our new reads in Term 2!