Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Kindergarten in Review

This year was my third round through Kindergarten! My plan is always to keep it light and informal, and to follow their lead, while slowly introducing academics in an appropriate way.  Eleanor is precocious and enjoys "school," so anything we've done has been at her insistence.

She has used Essential Math Skills for Kindergarten from Mathseeds.  (Review)  We let the online subscription expire--it was okay--but she really enjoyed the workbook. It's colorful and the activities varied, and she asked to do it frequently.

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Language Arts
We are using and loving Logic of English Foundations!  We've taken it slow, just because she was only in Kindergarten and I was spending a lot of time ping-ponging between the boys.  She does like it though, because it has the workbook that makes her feel like she's doing big-kid school (while still being very age-appropriate with minimal writing), and it is full of the hands-on activities that she enjoys.  I like it because it has just enough guidance for me as the parent, it is not twaddly, and the lessons can be CM-friendly!

The plan is to really get back into it the week the boys go to camp, work through the summer while I'm not as focused on them, and then just work as far as needed until she's reading fluently and confidently.  (Emory only did Levels A and B before his reading exploded, so we'll see how it goes from there.)

Literature/Five in a Row
Essentially, we spent most of the year just reading quality literature.  As she wanted her own notebook and to do more like her brothers, around the time she turned six, we started doing the occasional "row" from Five in a Row.  I found this a good solution because I already own and love the curriculum, and it's just enough for an eager child to see the fruit of their work without being overwhelming for either of us. She could do drawings and paste things into a simple sketchbook, and she has enjoyed that!

Here are a few of the books we've read and enjoyed this year.  If I blogged a row or related activity, I've included a link to that as well.

The Giraffe that Walked to Paris by Nancy Milton   (Literature Fair)
Angus Lost by Marjorie Flack and Henry the Castaway by Mark Taylor  (Combined row)
Henry Explores the Jungle by Mark Taylor
Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley  (row)
Katy and the Big Snow by Virginia Lee Burton (row)
Little Babaji by Helen Bannerman
Little Nino's Pizzeria by Karen Barbour (row)
Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney
Tom Thumb retold by Richard Jesse Watson
Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey
One Morning in Maine by Robert McCloskey
The Gingerbread Man by Gail Yerrill
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Beatrix Potter stories
Hans Christian Anderson Fairy Tales

All The Other Stuff

Master Kits The Starry Night (review)

She's helped raise chickens, a potbellied pig, and caterpillars into butterflies.  She loves arts and crafts, keeping a nature journal, and using Draw Write Now.

She has been active in our church, including Sunday School, Junior Church, Junior Choir, AWANA, the Christmas play, and related activities.


Apparently she loves to race!

She had a great year at co-op as well!  She was "Kindergarten" where they did a Letter of the Week theme through the year.  They had show-and-tell, crafts, activities and snacks all centered around the letter(s) of the week.  She also had Gym, which she liked a lot better this year than last!  They did a Kindergarten graduation ceremony, which was just too sweet!

Final Thoughts
For Kindergarten, I think this has been a successful "unofficial" year.  She's spent a lot of time outdoors and in nature, she's made progress in math and phonics, and she's really grown in her confidence in regards to her outside classes.  All the other stuff is just icing on the cake!

Oh, and without a doubt, her favorite "field trip" has been Great Wolf Lodge!

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Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Ambleside Online Year 3 in Review

As always, I like to do a reflection post to look at how our school year went - what books we used and enjoyed (or didn't enjoy), and what we might do differently with younger siblings.  Emory started the year with Ambleside Online Year 3, but we did adjustments along the way as usual.  The beauty of homeschooling is that I get to make the curriculum work for the individual child!  

Social Studies
He enjoyed A Child's History of the World and Our Island Story, and tolerated This Country of Ours. I don't love TCOO and neither does his older brother, and I have to wonder how there is nothing better for this age range that covers the same time period!?

Note: I have a beautiful blue hardback copy of Our Island Story from Civitas Press that I bought used but in like new condition when I first found AO years ago--it's still a decent price used, but I would also suggest Living Book Press who is now republishing many AO books in the public domain.  What I have of theirs is nice quality!

History Biographies
We chose Michelangelo as our first term biography, and picture study option (we read a da Vinci book last year when we studied him for picture study) and I read it to him.  He read Good Queen Bess for his second term biography, and I think he liked it better.  I moved Shakespeare to a family read.

We read The Adventures of Marco Polo by Russell Freedman as our Polo book of choice.  I found it on the list of possibilities, and there are longer selections to fill out a whole year, but I made this one work.  He found the book itself interesting, but dreaded mapping it for some reason.

He also did Seterra and the Stack the States app, with a preference for Stack the States.


He liked Science well enough this year.  I didn't change much for him.  He really enjoyed A Drop of Water and the activities, and he loved Science Lab in a Supermarket--there were a few activities we didn't get to in that book, so we plan to go back this summer and do them!

Pagoo - He tolerated this book.  We watched a couple little videos of hermit crabs when I'd come across them online, and we did bits and pieces of this Pagoo Unit Study.  I do not recommend the unit in its entirety, but for a kid who likes to color- it has flora/fauna clipart, as well as a few other basic science "worksheet" type pages that could work for written narration for the older Y3 who likes them, particularly if you need portfolio fodder.  If you do like unit studies, it's a nice little science unit!

Secrets of the Woods - I started out reading it, but then he took over.  We read most of the book, but we let it go at summer break.  He loves animals and nature, but wasn't impressed with this book.  He kept asking me if the stories were true, and we talked about how Long was a naturalist, and how we can give the author the benefit of the doubt, but we can also be judicious in reading and expect that even "true stories" can be exaggerated to make them more interesting stories.   (I know there was controversy among naturalists regarding his books, but I didn't go into specifics with him, because it seemed that ideas was already in his mind.)

He also took a science class at co-op (eclectic mix of topics) and he reads a variety of kids science/nature magazines and encyclopedia type books for pleasure.

Nature Study
We're not consistent with journaling, but this boy has a heart for God's creatures!

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There were some changes here, mostly due to his personal preferences/requests, and a little bit of scheduling.

Somehow Christiana's Journey fell off his reading schedule, but he was giving good narrations when he was reading it.  We also dropped Parables from Nature - I think we'll try to read those as a family, since I have two more kids coming up.

Tall Tales - He read this independently, and gave detailed narrations - to the point that I sometimes wanted to cut him off!

The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald - We read this one together, though we got off track and it took us a longer than scheduled. He did like it!

Children of the New Forest by F. Marryat - Since we got a late start on this one, I moved it to a read-aloud for both Y3/Y5.  We're supposed to be reading it this summer to finish it . . .

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling - He listened to this one as an audio book. It was a good option for him, except he liked to listen ahead and finished early.  Looking back, I probably could have had him read Book 2 but I let him read a free read in that slot instead.

The Heroes - Book 1 Perseus
He liked this, but we found the second book harder to get into and he was wanting something he could do independently.  I didn't like the pacing/scheduling of this book, and that threw us off too.


The World's Best Fairy Tales, Anthology He requested this book when he found it on the shelf, and since he didn't formally get fairy tales in Y1, I went with it, even though he was familiar with some of the stories already.  He was fascinated with the non-Disney type versions of some of the stories though, and gave excellent narrations.

D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths by Ingrid and Edgar d'Aulaire - This was a specific request to kind of replace Heroes, but also for his personal interests.  Again, he gave excellent narrations, so I ended up "scheduling" it nearly daily as a free read that didn't require narrations.  He even used this book as his literature fair project!

He wanted to follow it up with their Greek Myths book, but since Age of Fable is scheduled for Y4 he decided to go with the actual follow-up,  Book of Trolls this summer.

Shakespeare & Plutarch

These areas are a work in progress for me!  I don't know why I have such a hard time being structured and consistent here.  When we weren't making forward progress with Shakespeare, I did at least move Bard of Avon from the bio section to family reading, so I guess that's something!  Although Plutarch starts in Y4, he was a fourth grader, so I thought we'd give it a try.  The boys did okay with the narrations, but I just lost track somewhere.

William Shakespeare's Macbeth retold by Bruce Coville
Bard of Avon by Diane Stanley
The Plutarch Primer: Publicola by Ann White


Mathematics & Language Arts

He used CTCMath for his core math-it's straightforward, and he rarely complains, so I'm leaving it!  He did also use XtraMath for math drills.

For language arts, he used a basic cursive workbook, and Language Lessons for Children from Cottage Press. It's very Charlotte Mason friendly at this level--readings, narration, copywork, dictations, light spelling/grammar reinforcement, nature study and picture study.  The website has free resources to accompany the curriculum as well!  He liked it, and said he'd like to continue it, so we'll see!

Final Thoughts
This doesn't include picture study, nature study, junior choir and other church activities, co-op, all the field trips we took this year, or his personal interests - it is just a snippet of his academics - but even though we didn't follow Y3 as written, we still had a good year.  He liked most of the books and when asked, he said he wants to continue what he's doing for next year, so I probably will move him into Y4 with a few modifications that suit him.  I know we're going to use Beautiful Feet Books for Geography, as Minn of the Mississippi is assigned, and I'm going to try to work Paddle to the Sea in as well, since he hasn't read/mapped that one.  There will be a few book substitutions for him, but I think I'll write about next year after I finalize our plans.

Mr. Personality at Loveland Castle

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Thursday, June 27, 2019

AO Year 5 in Review

Every year, I like to do a wrap-up post, to look over the books we've read, and reflect on our curriculum for the year.  This past year, Elliott started off as planned with Ambleside Online Year 5, but then one little thing after another caused some disruption to our plan, particularly some start-stopping in the schedule due to vacations/trips, appointments and other scheduling issues.  I should have left well enough alone and just stretched the terms out to accommodate our life, but . . . lesson learned.  What we ended up with was kind of our own version of AO Year 5, but we still covered a lot of ground.

Note:  Our state requires Social Studies, Science, Mathematics, Language Arts and Reading every year, but has no specific stipulations as to what content must be covered each year, so long as the student shows progress in accordance with their ability, we have a lot of flexibility, especially in the middle school years, and that is my basis when determining which AO books are "vital" and which can be subbed, dropped or moved to free reads.

Social Studies

History - We did most of history as scheduled with This Country of Ours, Abraham Lincoln's World and Story of the World, with some scheduling hiccups and therefore supplements along the way.  I did use these extra books along with our studies:

Children's Encyclopedia of American History  I know it's snippets and not "literary" but it served its purpose as a sub when I needed it, and the pictures were interesting.  Don't tell the CM police!

Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson is a fabulous living book that chronicles African American history and contributions through America's history, and I used it as a supplement. He read the whole thing in February for black history month, but with the next kid I think I'm going to space the chapters out to coincide with the history chronologically.

I also bought the SOTW Volume 4 Activity Book to go with Story of the is not a recommended resource by AO, and it's definitely not CM, and I found I have only used it sparingly to pull an occasional map.

History Tales/Biography

I never started Trial and Triumph, because when we started we would've been in the middle of the book.  I intend to cover this together as a family when the girls are a little older.  Of Courage Undaunted was okay, but eventually fell off our schedule.

Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Teddy Roosevelt by George Grant

He didn't want to read this one at first, but his narrations were actually pretty solid, despite his initial reaction to the book.  He tends to prefer straightforward biographies over other genres, so I wasn't surprised he did well with this book.


The Occident (Book 1 of The Complete Book of Marvels) by Richard Halliburton; and we used the supplemental videos from Wonders and Wilderness.  He tolerated the book well enough; his narrations were good, but I don't think the book stood out to him, and I doubt he would care if he didn't get to read Book 2.

Material World: A Global Family Portrait by Peter Menzel & What the World Eats by Faith D'Aluisio and Peter Menzel - AO recommends to browse casually--read, discuss, look the locations up on a map--we did that a couple times, but we didn't find the books compelling enough to do it regularly.

He also does map drills on  He likes these, I think because they're online, so they're quick and relatively painless.

Science had a few changes!

Core Science: Geology and Anatomy 
Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth: A First Book about Geology by Herman and Nina Schneider
We started this partway into Term 2 of Y4 last year in place of Madam How and Lady Why.  It doesn't serve quite the same distinct "figurative" purpose of MHLW but it is a solid living book and was far more beneficial as a science selection in his eyes.  He gave great narrations and did the activities when possible, so it provided some hands-on too.  I'll use it again!

Dr. Frankestein's Human Body Book by Richard Walker
Initially I grabbed this book off the shelf when we realized the Christian Liberty Nature Reader scheduled in AO was misplaced.  He did fine with the original book, and while this one isn't as literary, it has great illustrations and the more technical facts that he finds interesting.  The nature reader was "missing" for so long (wrong bookshelf!) that it would have been hard to play catch-up with the schedule, so I just left this one in.  In the future, I would consider combining the two books, because they're both "easier" reading material and I think the illustrations in Human Body would be a great complement to the scheduled book.

The Big Truth
He took a class at co-op called The Big Truth which was a creation/apologetics science class.  He seemed to really enjoy the content of it, and I think it laid a nice foundation, regardless of if we do It Couldn't Just Happen next year or not.

 Picture taken by another co-op mom

Science Biographies 
Pasteur's Fight Against Microbes by Beverly Birch
Marie Curie's Search for Radium by Beverly Birch
George Washington Carver by Tonya Bolden
Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics by Charles S. Ludwig Jr.

The suggestion was a biography on Alexander Graham Bell OR Marie Curie, and a biography on Carver.  I already had the Curie book, but since it wasn't long or a full biography, I added the Pasteur book, which was also a shorter picture book. I had this Carver book too, and it's a solid biography with great photographs. Faraday was a free read book, but I scheduled it out since we eventually dropped both Inventions and Wild Animals.  (He found them incredibly dry and boring.)


The Collected Poems of Rudyard Kipling
This book is too bulky; next time I'll get Poetry for Young People: Rudyard Kipling

Poetry for Young People: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow - He was a Y3 and Y5 poet, so I combined the boys.

Poems by a Little Girl by Hilda Conkling - I just used the book I had for Y3 for both kids.


This had a lot of shifting and changes too, mostly because he's not an avid reader and this is the most advanced subject in terms of reading level.

The Age of Fable by Robert Bullfinch - We did almost all of the scheduled readings. I think we found this one easier to "skip" occasionally because they're individual stories, and because they're on the schedule for three years.  I bought an illustrated version with classic paintings for future use! It looks lovely!

King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
I read on the website that this is the easier of the two Y5 King Arthur options, but we struggled through this one-probably because it wasn't an easy read-aloud for me, and he felt like the stories were repetitive--someone is sent on an adventure, they fight to the bloody death, rinse and repeat.  Maybe we didn't get far enough into it, but I read on AO's footnotes that the point is for exposure to King Arthur before Y7, and I think we got through enough to meet that criteria.


Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
We started this one, then paused (while he read Price Caspian), then resumed towards the end of Term 2.  I opted to stretch this one out, and move Kim to "free read later" status.  He didn't love this book is all I can say.

Children of the New Forest by F. Marryat
This is a Y3 read, but I adjusted our Y3 schedule a little too, and decided to read this one aloud to both kids, but we'll have to finish up over the summer.

Shakespeare & Plutarch

Let's just say . . . these areas s a work in progress for me.  I'm having a hard time being structured and consistent here.  Next year, I'll have a Y4 and Y6, so hopefully that will streamline things a bit more.

William Shakespeare's Macbeth retold by Bruce Coville
Bard of Avon by Diane Stanley
The Plutarch Primer: Publicola by Ann White (started with decent narrations, but we didn't finish)

Mathematics & Language Arts

These two subject are skill-based, rather than content based, and are not specifically tied to an AO Year.  There's not much to report here.

Math is CTC Math and he's been using it for a couple years now and likes it.  He chooses it first every day, and doesn't complain. I recently noticed they have the option to create worksheets (so there's more pencil-to-paper practice) so I'm looking forward to adding that in next year for him, and it's what convinced me to go ahead and use it for my rising 1st grader.

Language Arts - he did a couple of units with Grammar Planet (my review), but we're going to tackle grammar fresh next year.  We also used Spelling Wisdom on and off, but I need to be more disciplined with this one.  Sometimes we just used it for copywork.  Not ideal, but better than nothing.  He also used Sequential Spelling Online towards the end, which I saw recommended in the Simply Charlotte mason forum.  I wanted  something he could do consistently and independently for reinforcement, and he doesn't seem to mind this since it is online.  I'm not sure how I feel about it long term though, and will be replacing it next year.  He also had written (typed) narrations for various readings, to work on composition, and we occasionally edited for grammar, spelling and clarity.

Final Thoughts
Of course, this doesn't include a lot of other things - field trips, folk songs, picture study, co-op, and church activities, his independent interests, and so on.  I will admit, this was a rough year.  Not academically speaking, but mostly the age (12) and the fact that he just didn't connect with any of the books.  While I admire nearly everything about AO and respect the work they have put into the Charlotte Mason community, not all of the excellent book choices are excellent for him.  His brother loves it and is thriving, but there is no spark for him. Nothing interests him, he rarely connects with a story, doesn't like most of the books--if it was one or two books here or there, the value of pushing through outweighs the dislike of the book--but we are talking about nearly every book here.  Most of the books he did like were either non-core (biographies) or ones that I had chosen myself.  So with that said, I am not sure we are pursuing AO for him next year, or if so, how we will adjust it.  He has two years of middle school left, and I want that to be a time of growth and not a time of rejecting everything "school" related.  I am currently looking into all of our options options, and hopefully will have some updates soon!

His favorite monument on our recent trip to Washington DC

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