Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Ambleside Online Year 2 - The Transition

When making the transition to Ambleside Online, I didn't want to spend much time planning, or I'd spend too much time following rabbit trails and we'd never get started, but I did need to figure out placement.  Ambleside Online uses quality living books, but they are advanced, thus the years do not correspond to grade levels.  Additionally, the years continue to increase in workload, difficulty and mature themes, so from what I could find on the website and forum, it is common practice to often place a child a year or two below their current grade level.  The objective is to find a year that is challenging without being overwhelming.

Ambleside Online Year 2
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Emory is a 3rd grader and is doing great, but he is still "young" for his grade (late summer birthday) so I needed to take all of this into consideration.  After looking over the content from two years below to two years above his grade level, to look how how the material progresses, I felt confident that Year 2 was a great choice for him.  I knew he would love the content and could mature steadily with the curriculum.  I would have two years to prepare him for the jump to Y4, and since he's not doing phonics/reading instruction (which is often assumed of a Y2 student) that time is freed up to have him work towards more independence in his school work.  (From what I've read, everything Y7+ is high school level, so I'm not worried if we only get through Y11, but there are also plans to do three upper levels in two years, if desired.  This is a well-thought out curriculum!)

I'm trying to do minimal changes to the curriculum, and what changes I have made are not a reflection on the quality of the curriculum, rather they are just for practicality or personal reasons.


Bible
We will continue to do our own readings and AWANA

History
I want to trust the process so to speak, with the history streams, so I am mostly leaving the history as-is.  I am removing Trial and Triumph for now, though I'm thinking of putting both boys on the same schedule for this book soon enough.  If not, we'll use AO's alternate recommendation to cover the material in later years.  (We have, however, done some missionary stories with The Brinkman Adventures, which the kids love.  They want to do other seasons!)

Geography
We were already planning to use Geography through Literature from Beautiful Feet Books, so I'm using the BFB guide for the geography elements.  I already have their nice maps, and this way I have a tad bit more guidance on the mapping. I've been following the reading schedule in the BFB guide instead of the AO schedule, which puts us on pace to finish one book per term.  We'll see how that goes.


The geography concepts to be taught conversationally aren't entirely new to Emory, so I'm not going to worry about "teaching" them for now, though I'm thinking we might just read through the recommended books as a family eventually anyway.

Science
My little naturalist was thrilled to find out he has an entire year of animals for science!  He doesn't always find it enough though, and he often begs to add a chapter from Burgess Bird Book.  We had already started that book with our Learning About Birds adventure, and since it was also a Y1 science, I don't mind to occasionally add a bird chapter if we only have one Animal chapter for the week.

Literature
This is the area with the most tweaking.

Shakespeare - We were already doing our own thing with both boys, so I'm just continuing with that for now.
Pilgrim's Progress - I already owned Little Pilgrim's Progress, and I am reading that to both boys.
Poetry - We were already doing this as a family, so we'll continue that way, at least for this year.  We were already doing A.A. Milne first term before switching, and are now on Shel Silverstein.
Parables from Nature - As is!
Novels - Following the schedule for this one!

Free Reads
I am pulling his independent reading mostly from Years 1 and 2 free reads.  I'm also using some of these free reads for our lunchtime readings, since Eleanor (4) is with us.



So far this has worked well.  He has some books that are easier, some that are right on level, and some that are challenging and stretching him.  It has been really good for him!

In addition to the delightful feast of core subjects from AO, he also does the following:
  • Copywork and cursive practice
  • Recitation with Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization
  • Math with CTC and Xtra Math
  • Foreign Language - Spanish
  • Player Sloyd - we're just starting!
  • Fine Arts - See the Light (drawing), picture study, composer, folk song, and hymn
  • Nature Study - we do the study; we're still working on the journaling
  • AWANA, Sunday School, Junior Church 
  • CO-OP with Art, Literature and Science classes
I'm still working on slowly adding a few more elements and fine tuning the process, but so far I am really happy with the changes!  



©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.  http://www.moms-heart.com

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Transitioning to Ambleside Online

I always hear that there are times when the best laid homeschool plans get tossed out the window.  It finally happened to us this year.  I've been known to change a thing or two throughout the year, but I don't think I've ever made such drastic changes as I did in October.  Initially I had a relaxed, CM inspired year planned, but things just weren't moving forward in a productive way.  In reality, the curriculum I had chosen uses living books, but the guide was not CM.  I'm just not in a season where I have the time or desire to adapt it to fit our needs for two different ages, but I do have the desire to be more authentic to the philosophy and methods of Charlotte Mason.

Transitioning to Ambleside Online
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I also realized that I needed to separate my 3rd and 5th grader--not just for the age/maturity difference, but also because I was tired of the goofing off at the table together, or the bickering, or the constant comparisons.  After careful consideration and prayer, I felt drawn to Ambleside Online.  It would allow us to still do a few subjects together, but also to separate them more overall, giving them their own stuff.  Having your own math and language arts is one thing.  Having your own stories, your own connection with books, with living ideas, something to delight in.  I can already tell that it is a completely different experience!


Backstory
I actually found Ambleside Online (AO) early in our homeschooling journey.  We did Year 0 (Preschool/K) and fully intended to use AO straight through.  We started Year 1 but we just couldn't find our rhythm.  In hindsight, I should have just waited a few months or a year, as was suggested in the depths of their never-ending website.  (I kid you not, you will never stop following rabbit trails on that website-there so many resources!)

Over the years, I have come back to Ambleside Online, considering it on and off, and I almost made the decision to switch this summer when researching curriculum.  I just couldn't commit to separating the boys, because I still had that "keep them together for as long as possible" mentality.  However, after starting up this fall, I knew it was time.  As I said, they needed their space.  We were about 8 weeks in when I finally felt convinced to just drop almost everything and change gears.  It was time.


Placement
Ambleside Online years do not correlate to standard grade level.  Their levels are more advanced, and after perusing the website and forum, it seems a common recommendation to start a transitioning student a year or two below their grade level.  This gives them time to become familiar with the CM method, living books, etc.  The objective is to find a year that will challenge them, without overwhelming them.

For a 3rd and 5th grader, that meant I basically needed to look through years 1-6, looking at where to place them now and ahead to see how things progress.  I decided to place Emory (3rd grade) in Year 2 and Elliott (5th) in Year 4.  This seemed like a good place for both of them, considering the workload, the content of the books, and their personal needs.  I plan to write more about their individual years soon, and I will probably expand more on my placement decisions there.  Overall, I feel this was the right decision for both boys.


Adaptions
I am making a few small adaptions* to the curriculum, but most of those are related to combining the boys in a few books, not because of the curriculum itself.




  • Bible - We are continuing our own readings and AWANA 
  • Trial and Triumph - I am dropping Trial and Triumph from both schedules for now, and will likely use AO's alternate recommendation to cover church history in later years.  (We are however, doing modern missionary stories with Brinkman Adventures.)
  • Pilgrim's Progress - I moved this from the Y2 schedule to a family read-aloud, and we're actually using Little Pilgrim's Progress because I already owned it.  I'm thinking we'll tackle the original as a family later, perhaps when the girls cycle through.
  • Geography - I've combined both boys in Year 2 geography - this gets Elliott through more of the Holling C. Holling books and lets them do a core subject together still.  I have the guide and large maps from Beautiful Feet Books, so I've actually been following their reading schedule, which would put me on pace to do one book per term.  We'll see how that goes.  
  • Shakespeare - I'm kind of doing my own thing with this still since we'd already started; it's more of a mishmash between the ideas of a Y2 and Y4 approach.  (I think it's more in the style of Simply Charlotte Mason's Shakespeare recommendations.)
  • Free Reads - I'm pulling various books from the lower levels of AO for family reading material.  This way the books are more appropriate for the girls listening in, and the older kids don't miss these great books.  

  • *The Ambleside Online is a beautiful and thorough Charlotte Mason curriculum.  These "tweaks" I have made are for my family's unique situation, and are not a reflection of the quality of AO, nor are they endorsed or specifically recommended by the AO advisory.  I do not want to take anything away from the dedication and hard work of the AO advisory.

    What do we think?
    We started the second week of October, so we're 5 weeks in now.  The first few weeks were a struggle to find our balance and rhythm, but we're making huge strides, and Elliott specifically is much more comfortable with the books.  (He doing more independently than Emory.)  My biggest challenge is juggling so many books and keeping up with their history streams (I remember none of this stuff from my public school days!) and they distract each other during geography.  So we may make some changes there.  However, it is getting easier!

    As I said, I plan to share more about the boys thoughts and our experiences with the individual years as we progress through the curriculum.




    ©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.  http://www.moms-heart.com


    Tuesday, November 7, 2017

    Kwik Stix Creativity Pack review {includes neon and metalix colors!}

    I teach two 2nd grade literature classes at co-op this year, and when I realized this age group does not have an art class this year, I decided I would try to incorporate a few art projects here and there.  One of the easiest ways to do this was to take my Kwik Stix in for them, because the 90-second drying time meant their paintings would be dry by the end of class and they could take them home the same day!  None of the children were familiar with Kwik Stix, but they seemed to enjoy trying something new, because the simplicity of uncap, twist and paint was intriguing to them.  That being said, I noticed after the two groups were finished, I would finally need to start replacing my beloved Kwik Stix (after nearly two years of adding to our collection) for our regular home use.   Enter The Pencil Grip Inc. and the opportunity to review their Thin Stix Creativity Pack.  I was able to restock my supply just in time, and my 4 year old was thrilled to see the large package of her beloved Kwik Stix!

    Kwik Stix Thin Stix Creativity Pack

    Kwik Stix are her favorite art supply, but this package was even more exciting to us because it contains colors we had not used before.  The Creativity Pack includes 12 traditional colors, 6 neon colors and 6 metalix colors.  Needless to say, my daughter was thrilled, and she couldn't wait to try them out.



    The first thing she did that morning (yes, ignore the bedhead and pajamas please!) was paint a picture of a mermaid so she could try out that new purple.  Her mermaid is resting on a rock and drinking tea, because she had to make a sparkly rock!  We have used and loved Kwik Stix for a couple of years now, and the traditional colors have always been vivid and bold, but now we have the bright neon colors and the sparkly metalix to add a fun flair to everything!


    Another day, she was making a fall picture, and wanted to paint fall leaves and a pumpkin.  It started out as a leaf pile with a happy pumpkin.  Then she added the muddy puddles.  (If you're familiar with Peppa Pig, you'll know why!)  I walked away for a minute, because that's a luxury I have with these mess-free wonders, and when I came back I realized she couldn't resist those new colors!  She added several balloons because "those colors are pretty and I needed them."



    The Thin Stix Creativity pack is available at BJ's Wholesale for the discounted price of $19.99 (regular $24.99) and I would recommend them for kids of all ages!  We have used Kwik Stix on paper, cardboard, craft sticks, craft foam, and wooden projects.  The paint adheres well and remains vivid and bright months later.  You can see some of our previous crafts here.  I have some fun ideas for Christmas crafts and ornaments that I'll share when they're completed, but be sure to check the rest of the crew reviews to see some of the amazing projects other homeschoolers have been creating!



    Thin Stix Creativity Pack {The Pencil Grip, Inc. Reviews}
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    ©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.  http://www.moms-heart.com

    Friday, November 3, 2017

    A Peek into our Homeschool: October 2017

    Curriculum wise, there were big changes in our homeschool in October!  I made a sudden but necessary change, and we did a rather abrupt move from my "planned" relaxed CM year to Ambleside Online, and trying to more fully embrace everything about CM.  It happened rather quickly, because I knew if I took the time to research and plan, I would end up going down rabbit holes and delay the switch.  Jumping into the deep end was definitely the way to go this time around.  I made the decision during the first week of October, and all I did was print schedules and download ebooks, and we switched almost every subject during the second week.

    Why did we switch?  It is hard to explain.  I had big plans for History, Science and Geography this year.  History of Science isn't going to work for the boys right now.  It's a solid program, but too heavy for the lower end of the age range (says 3rd-7th, and I feel 5th-7th is a better target for using the program as written), and there was a bit more busy work than I anticipated.

    However, many of those science biographies are used in AO, so I do plan to utilize the guide for hands-on activities alongside the biographies when relevant and appropriate.  I am still going to use the Geography and kind of blend BFB and AO geography so that I can at least combine the boys there, at least this year, since I have those beautiful maps already.

    Ambleside Online covers History, Science, Geography, and Literature.  I'm making very minimal changes to the AO curriculum otherwise, but I'll share more about the switch and how we're using it for 3rd and 5th grade soon.




    Math
    The boys are continuing to use CTCMath.  I'm really liking how flexible it is.  I love that they can repeat exercises with new questions or move between lessons as needed, getting the most out of the program.  It's reduced the amount of whining from my child who is good at math, but complains about everything.  He even said today that it's the best math program he's ever done!  I'll take it!

    Language Arts
    3rd Grade - Emory is focusing on copywork (passages from his books) and cursive.  Copywork really does offer a lot of opportunity to talk about basic spelling, grammar and punctuation, without it feeling formal or boring.

    5th Grade - Elliott is using Spelling Wisdom for dictation (and I'm addressing additional language concepts as the need arises through this program) and I'm very pleased with it so far.  He doesn't whine over language arts anymore either!  He's also practicing cursive/copywork, and doing typing lessons.  I do let him skip an occasional Spelling Wisdom lesson on days when he has a lot of writing in his AWANA book.

    Literature Free Reads - Read Alouds 
    A lot of my family books are free reads from AO Years 1-2, since Emory's in Y2 and this way the boys don't miss all the books from the lower years.
    The King of the Golden River by John Ruskin
    Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi
    Anderson's Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Anderson (a tale here and there between books)
    Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator by Roald Dahl- We read the first book last month, and the boys wanted to know if there were more.  I found the audio book of the sequel on Overdrive so they could listen to it, and I wouldn't have to read another Dahl book again so soon.


    Personal Free Reads
    I give them a list of "free reads" as they're called on AO, and they can choose the order.  I ask for a chapter a day.  They're free to read extra (they usually don't though) and they do not have to narrate regularly, though I occasionally ask for updates.  They usually choose to read read their own picks at bedtime.

    Elliott's Free Reads - He read The Whipping Boy (sometimes 2-3 chapters a day, as they're short) the chapter from Homer Price that I never did read aloud earlier this year (he realized he remembered all the other stories and didn't want to reread them), and is now reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

    Emory's Free Reads - Emory wanted to read The Whipping Boy after Elliott finished.  The chapters are short but there are a lot of them, so his chapter a day is taking him awhile.


    Enrichments

    Hymn - My Jesus I Love Thee

    Folk Song - Nice Field of Turnips
    This one is kind of catchy!

    Composer - I am still playing Mozart in the background.  I even catch Emory turning Mozart on through Alexa to play while he's reading.  We're finally at the end of our 12 weeks, so we'll be switching to a new composer and artist next week.

    Drawing & Art - I do want to pick back up on our drawing lessons, as we've slacked since switching curriculum and trying to adjust, but I'm not going to stress over art since both boys have art at co-op.

    Picture Study - We went at a slightly faster pace for picture study than recommended by Charlotte Mason (picture a week, instead of every two weeks) so we went through all eight pictures in the picture study portfolio, and had four weeks to fill.  I did continue to rotate the pictures on display, and we spent a couple weeks reviewing.  One week, each of the big kids described a picture and I had to guess which one.  One week, we flipped through the book Linnea in Monet's Garden and I read the bio from the back.  Last week, we did a Monet inspired art project (reflections) from ARTistic Pursuits. It didn't quite turn out as they had hoped, but you can faintly see the "reflection" in the water.



    Pre-K
    We haven't really been doing Before Five in a Row in the "read a book and do an activity every day" style of FIAR, but if you read through the manual and read some of Steve Lambert's comments (Mr. Lambert is husband of FIAR author Jane Lambert) online, Before wasn't even written to use like that.  It is supposed to be of the more spontaneous and casual and informal nature.  That suits my needs and this phase we're in much better, and is more  in line with CM anyway.  We're still reading lots of good books, and I'm playing math and phonics games with her occasionally.  She does nature study, art, music, picture study and lots of family activities with us.  She also tags along on Emory's Burgess Animal Book (and Birds, when he requests it) and loves to draw pictures to go along with it.

    Red-wing black bird.  I love how it has four legs.




    Overall, we're trying to get into a better rhythm with our new choices, and I'm still working on getting my oldest to be a bit more independent.


    In other news . . . the bat signal in honor of Adam West.  Then I had a Luke Skywalker, a Batman, and Everest and Skye from Paw Patrol.





    ©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.  http://www.moms-heart.com

    Wednesday, November 1, 2017

    Magic Stories: Reading Comprehension and Fluency

    Anyone that has taught a child to read knows you go from one phase to another and it can be painful at times, but it is so rewarding.  Now, with four kids, it seems like I get through one phase of reading with a child, and the next child is ready for their next big hurdle!  As my third child is moving from letter-sound recognition into the "learning to read" phase, her old brother has moved solidly from the practicing for fluency into into the "reading to learn" phase with the oldest.  There are many ways to help bridge the gap and help children develop fluency, but today I want to bring The Magic Stories to your attention.

    The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

    The Magic Stories is a new supplemental reading program from Allsaid & Dunn, LLC, publishers of The Reading Game and authors of the Wordly Wise series.  The stories are written around a 2nd-3rd grade reading level, and designed to follow up The Reading Game, though the game is not actually a prerequisite for using this program.  If you're not familiar with The Reading Game, it is a game that teaches high frequency words (with instructions for incorporating phonics) through memory matching, and then allows the child to use those words to read books! The Magic Stories help children move from those early stages of reading, and build confidence and comprehension through fun and interesting stories and activities.

    The entire package is available as a one-time download.  The books are optimized for iPad use, but can be printed or read from other devices.  In addition to the six books, each book comes with a set of Naughty 40 flashcards, and a set of activities.  The Naughty 40 are words that may be more difficult for children within the transitional phase of reading.  Parents are supposed to go over the words first, to make sure children are comfortable reading the words and understand the meaning.  In the file of exercises, there are four activities.   One of the most interesting activities, in my opinion, is the True/False maze.  As a comprehension exercise, children read a phrase and follow the True/False path.  Depending on their answer, they may progress successfully to the end of the maze, or if too many mistakes are made, they may be instructed to read the story again.  The other exercises are Finish the Sentence (more comprehension), Imagine, and Finish the Story.  These last two activities vary for each book, but encourage creative thinking and writing.

    You can find the full instructions and more information about the worksheets and how to implement the program on the website (navigation bar) and under the Free Resources section.  I think it is pretty straightforward though, and once you read through and look at the material, it is very easy to implement.  An activity or two a day would make the book last about a week, making the program last about six weeks, barring any struggles or issues.  I like that the schedule and pacing is at the discretion of the parents, particularly for this phase of reading.

    Overall, I think this is a cute little program with quality stories.  I could see this being used in tutoring sessions, but it seems like an excellent supplement for transitional readers who need practice with fluency and comprehension, especially those who enjoy worksheets and extra activities to go with their stories.

    You can currently receive a 25% discount on The Magic Stories by entering the code raisingreaders at checkout.



    The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}


    The Magic Stories {Allsaid & Dunn, LLC. Reviews}

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    ©2011-2017 Mom’s Heart.  All rights reserved.  All text, photographs, artwork, and other content may not be reproduced or transmitted in any form without the written consent of the author.  http://www.moms-heart.com