Saturday, June 16, 2018

Ambleside Online Year 2 In Review

Ambleside Online Year 2 in review

We have officially ended our 2017-2018 school year.  I declared the kids on summer break and sent their portfolios to the reviewer.

We didn't quite finish our AO readings before I made the call, but since they were doing other curriculum before the switch to AO, they definitely got in a full year.  I wanted to make the transition to summer break before any tired or frustration set in, because that's not the attitude I want any of the kids to have about "school" or their education.  I did ask the kids to share their favorites with me and take a picture with all their AO books I could quickly round up--poetry, some free reads and audio books, and a couple of books the puppy destroyed are missing.  I wanted them to see the feast, see all of their hard work, so to speak!  I noticed after the fact, someone has been messing with my canvas map and those wrinkles need some attention.  *ahem* Now I thought I'd share how Emory's Ambleside Online Year 2 went overall, and how we're going to wrap up the year informally this summer and early next year.

Bible/Church History
We did not do the Bible Readings, as we do our AWANA books during school time.  We also did not read Trial and Triumph; I am going to put that into family rotation at some point.

Our Island Story - We read this book together most weeks, though occasionally he would read it independently.  We both really liked this one!  We read all but the last two scheduled readings, and after skimming, I think I'll just make sure to read the part about transitioning from the Plantagenets to Tudors when we start back up next year.

A Child's History of the World - We liked this book as well.  It's an easier read, and he read this independently more frequently.  We got in all the scheduled readings, so we'll pick up on schedule with this for Y3.

This Country of Ours - We read the chapter on the Vikings in term one since we'd read Leif the Lucky last year, but if I'd remembered that Part II of Viking Tales was an option, I might have used it.  I don't think it matters much, though.  When I knew we were going to cut out the weeks with the Columbus chapters at the end of Term 3, I pulled out the alternative Christopher Columbus book thinking he could use it as a free read, but he remembered nearly all of it from last year, and could narrate it fairly well, so I let it go.  The last scheduled chapter about how America was named was skipped, but we can read that as a free read at the beginning of next year.

The Little Duke - We enjoyed this book!  I felt like the pacing could have been picked up a little, especially at the end with shorter chapters.  Emory really appreciated the friendship between the Duke and Prince Carloman, so the ending touched him, though not enough to cry like his momma.

Joan of Arc - He was fascinated with this story!  Although he knew the outcome, as the history readings covered it before we finished the book, he was intrigued and really enjoyed it.

Timeline/Mapping - We did not do a timeline this year, but I did keep a timeline of Kings in his binder.  (They're timeline cards, but we didn't cut them out.)  I did try to do look at maps when we remembered or needed clarification.

Before switching to Ambleside Online, I had purchased the Geography maps and guide from Beautiful Feet Books.  Since I already had the large maps, and one of the Y2 books, I put both boys together for Geography.  Although we didn't do all of the extra stuff in the guide, I loosely followed the reading schedule.

Tree in the Trail - He did not love this book.  I don't know if it was the book itself, or the map, or if it was because the BFB reading schedule was too fast.  He's not a fan of coloring, either, as you can see.

Seabird - He liked this book more.  We still read faster than the AO schedule, but we slowed it way down overall.  This map was a little better at first, though I think more boarder lines would have made it easier for him.

Natural History
The Burgess Animal Book - For part of the year, he claimed this was his favorite book.  He loves animals, so I knew he would enjoy the year's science.  He did some drawings, but he really liked having the coloring pages and looking the animals up on video or in the field guide.  We only have a few chapters left, so he's finishing those up on his own as a free read.

Nature Study - We didn't intentionally follow the AO nature study schedule, but ended up studying the three scheduled topics anyway.

  • Birds - he did some of the Burgess bird book over the summer and early this school year by request, he's devoured our bird field guides, and we put up a bird feeder for better backyard observations
  • Mammals - He studied these through his AO science, his language arts book (has light nature study) and of course all the mammals in our house and on the farm (dogs, cats, goats, donkeys, cows, rabbits), particularly the care of his new puppy
  • Wildflowers/flowerless plants - We've made it a point to learn a few wildflowers by name, and we've use an identification app, just to notice what grows around us on the farm; we didn't go particularly in-depth though 
Of course there has been a lot of informal and impromptu nature study on many topics, as this is one of his favorite subjects and activities.  He wants to be a zoologist, and he wants to live in Brazil and explore the rainforests.  He will pick up and examine any critter he can find!

Channie's Easy Peasy Cursive and Memoria Press's New American Cursive 2
Language Lessons for Children
We did copywork of verses, quotes and literature passages, while he also learned cursive.  Then we got Language Lessons to review.   It is a complete language arts program for 2nd/3rd grade, and is appropriate beyond that as well.  It uses living books, narration, copywork, recitation, dictation, and light phonics/spelling review.  It also includes picture study and nature study.  We received it late in the year, so he only did Book 1, which uses Aesop's Fables.  He really enjoyed it, and I liked not having to come up with copywork passages.  He is looking forward to finishing Books 2 and 3 next year.  

Although grammar wasn't really required, we did do a small unit with our Hake/Saxon Grammar and Writing 3 review.  We'll transfer the remainder of the curriculum to next year (4th grade) when most CM programs suggest starting grammar.

Emory has worked through CTCMath 3rd Grade, and he's done really well with it.  He transitioned to it a little later than Elliott, so he still has a handful of lessons left, but we'll work a couple days each week after we recover from VBS to finish off and keep skills fresh over the summer.  We've also used Xtra Math to drill math facts.

Foreign Language
Spanish was sporadic and hardly worth mentioning.  Maybe next year.

We didn't follow the AO rotation, as we'd already started poetry as a family when we switched over.

  • A.A. Milne:  a little juvenile-better suited for Y0-Y1 as listed
  • Shel Silverstein:  Funny, the kids loved!
  • Walter de la Mare: He is a Y2 poet, but we didn't read as much as I'd hoped, so we'll read more over the summer hopefully 


Shakespeare - We didn't follow the AO schedule, but we did get in a few stories.  "A Midsummer Night's Dream," (Lamb) and two retellings by Bruce Coville: "The Tempest" and "Romeo and Juliet."  Emory loved these stories and did excellent narrations!

Parables from Nature - We did okay with these first term, but second term was a struggle and we set them aside for the year.  I'm debating on doing them as scheduled next year, or turning this into a family read.

Pilgrim's Progress Book 1: Christians' Journey - We actually used Little Pilgrim's Progress, and I did this as a lunchtime read, since Elliott has never read it, and Eleanor could get familiar with it.  We have a few chapters to finish up, but everyone likes it!

Understood Betsy - Emory was kind of ambivalent about this book, but I adored it!  I can't wait to read it again with the girls!

The Wind in the Willows - I was the one ambivalent about this book, but I knew Emory would love it.  He ended up choosing it as his favorite!   *poop poop*

Robin Hood - This one could have been a contender for favorite, I imagine, but we changed Elliott's reading schedule, thinking he would join Emory for this book.  Trying to get them back together for just one more reading at the end of the day was like herding cats, so this book didn't happen.  The AO schedule says to finish it over the summer anyway, so . . . After we get through VBS, we'll start fresh, maybe making this our lunchtime read.

Composer Study
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Ludwig van Beethoven
John Williams
Music Appreciation Book 1 {we reviewed, but I'll use supplementary to composer study next year}

Picture Study
Claude Monet
Leonardo da Vinci
Peter Paul Rubens
We received the Monet picture study portfolio to review, and it was our first real picture study.  They loved it!  He chose a Monet as his favorite, though I genuinely expected him to choose a da Vinci or Rubens.  I love when they surprise me!

Hymns/Folk Songs
We didn't follow the AO hymn rotation for long, but we did essentially follow the Folk Songs for the 2017-2018 year.  He said his favorite hymn was "Nothing But the Blood of Jesus" and his favorite Folk Song was "Camptown Races."

This year we did one per month as suggested, and we focused on listening and appreciating, since it was new.  Next year I think we'll focus on them a little longer, so we can truly learn all of them together.

I wasn't as intentional about art or handicrafts this year as I should have been.  I was just happy they were taking art at co-op.  We did do a handful of drawing lessons with See the Light, a few random handicraft activities (origami, clay) and we finished up our ArtAchieve lessons!

Independent Reads
Ambleside has a great free read list for each year, and I use it for reference, but I'm more flexible with this category.  We no longer call them "free reads" either, because that gives the impression that they have free reign over what they read.  The truth is, when we have quiet/independent reading, the book has to be chosen with me.  They have true free reads on their now time.  So here are a few of those independent reads.

Mercy Watson by Kate DiCamillo
No Biting, No Fighting by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak
The Long Journey Westward by Joan Sandin
The Bears on Hemlock Mountain by Alice Dalgliesh
Tornado by Betsy Byars
The Whipping Boy by Sid Fleischman
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
James Herriot's Treasury for Children by James Herriot
What is the President's Job? by Allison Singer
Dolphin Man: Exploring the World of Dolphins by Laurence Pringle
My First Animal Encyclopedia (any sections desired)
Mr. Popper's Penguins by Richard Atwater
A Weed is a Flower: The Life of George Washington Carver by Aliki
George Washington by Cheryl Harless
Young George Washington: America's First President by Andrew Woods
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Animals Who Have Won our Hearts by Jean Craighead George
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling {currently in progress}

I'll share more about family reads/audio books in another post.

His "extras" this year included a variety of field trips, church activities (Junior Church, Junior Choir, Sunday School, AWANA, etc.) , and co-op.  His classes at co-op this year were Art, Literature and Science, and he elected to take a basketball class before co-op as well.

Final Thoughts
I have been very happy with our transition to Ambleside.  Emory has thrived with the history and science, and did well with most of the literature.  He went back and forth on his favorite books most of the year.  He's not keen on geography yet, but I think next year's selection will fit him really well.  His reading ability skyrocketed this year, and he did well in 3rd grade math.  When I went back and looked over this post, it looks like such a long list of stuff, but when you think about all the wonderful stories, the beautiful pictures, the music . . . it truly is opening their eyes to the world around them and giving them a beautiful feast.  I was very happy with placing him in Y2 and I can't wait to see what Y3 holds for us!

©2011-2018 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.

Monday, June 11, 2018

ARTistic Pursuits: Art of the Middle Ages {Review}

Over the years, I had reviewed all of the K-3 level art instruction books from ARTistic Pursuits, Inc., and it has become one of our favorite homeschool resources.  They have recently released a new series, Art Instruction Books with DVD and Blu-Ray.  I am pleased to bring you a review of Volume 3: Art of the Middle Ages.

The new series is designed to introduce K-3 children to art, with Volume 1 covering the basic vocabulary and techniques of art.  You can start with Volume 1 and follow history chronologically, or you can start with Volume 1 and then choose any other volume that matches the period in history you wish to study, if you're wanting art to accompany your history studies.  Since we have used the other K-3 series and have been introduced to art by Brenda Ellis already, I felt like we could skip Volume 1, but young students with no art instruction would likely benefit more from starting there.  We jumped into Art of the Middle Ages, because my 3rd grader was wrapping up this time period.

This is a hardcover book with both text and video art instruction.  Throughout this book, children are introduced to knights, monks, castles, and churches, while exploring the tumultuous time that was the Middle Ages.  There are 18 projects, featuring master works in the twelve text lessons.  The six video lessons feature art material instruction.

My older three kids are 5, 8 and 11, so I have two that are around the target age range of this series.  My 5 year old will be starting Kindergarten this fall, and she is very artistically inclined, so she was thrilled to be able to join the "big kids" for school activities.  My 8 year old is finishing 3rd grade and was studying the Middle Ages, so this was a  timely review for him.  My 11 year old tagged along.

Included in the front of the book are both a Blu-ray and a DVD, so you may choose whichever is best for you.

The lessons start with a cute "art/history lesson" in period clothes, giving us a very visual glimpse at the Middle Ages.  Then the videos transition to Ellis (just her hands at a table with supplies) where she walks the teacher and student through a project.  My kids wanted to watch a section at a time, then do part of the project, then watch the next section, then continue the project.  They found it easier than going all the way through a video and trying to go back and remember how to do something.

The video lessons are spread out through the book, so you do a Video Lesson, then a few text lessons that still show master works and ask the student to examine the works and look for details.  The familiar "You..." lessons, where the student does their own art based on the example, are still included.  For example, when studying Lesson 3, Art in Monasteries, children are introduced to the idea of calligraphy and carpet pages and ornate initial designs, before designing their own initial with origami and construction paper.

I felt that this book was a lot more "crafty" than the previous series.  Perhaps because the first half of the book required paper of some sort for each lesson.  We were often working with construction paper, tissue paper or origami paper.  I'm not sure if the entire series is this way, or if it is most relevant to this time period, but there were a lot of paper projects.  I think my kids were kind of hoping for more painting and drawing.  The boys (8 and 11) tolerated the lessons, but they were able to do the work independently.  I just think my 8 year old is ready to step up to the upper elementary level books as well.  The five year old still needed some assistance, and even though she didn't have the history connections like her brother, she really enjoyed everything!  Her favorite project is still the Crown from the first lesson, Paper Loom Weave.  What little girl doesn't love making her own crown!

Queen Eleanor

Moving forward though, there are lessons on stitching and more weaving, and these are valuable art/handicraft skills, so I definitely want to cover them with everyone.

As far as how this book compares to the 2013 edition that we have previously reviewed, there were several points of interest.  I do see how video lessons can feel necessary for the more step-by-step projects, though I never felt the former curriculum was lacking in this aspect.  I felt totally equipped with Brenda Ellis's written instructions to teach art without any background myself.  This new book is a slim, hardback book, so it looks nice on the bookshelf, and I imagine the entire series together would look lovely.  The previous series is coil bound, which was practical.  The previous books have 36 lessons and were designed to each last one year.  They were loosely chronological over three years, whereas the new series is divided into semesters and will cover four years of instruction.  This book continues the excellent art appreciation lessons, and I think any curriculum from this company is a valuable addition to our homeschool!

The Homeschool Review Crew is reviewing the first four titles in the series, but there will be eight books when the series is complete!  Check out the crew reviews and ARTistic Pursuits for more information!

Volume 1:  Art for Children, Building a Visual Vocabulary
Volume 2:  Art of the Ancients
Volume 3:  Art of the Middle Ages
Volume 4:  Artists that Shaped the Italian Renaissance
Volume 5:  Art of the Northern Countries, Renaissance to Realism
Volume 6:  Art of the Impressionists
Volume 7:  Art of the Modern Age (coming soon)
Volume 8:  Art in America (coming soon)

©2011-2018 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.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Saturday Snapshots: A Peek Into our Homeschool, May 2018

Our regular weekly activities have wound down, and the weather is nice, and I found we were drifting into summer mode.  It was time to wrap up our school year and declare summer break!  I always say I'm going to transition us to year-round schooling, but after the massive curriculum change this year, I need a break so I can spend the summer really planning next year, because I feel we could have gotten so much more out of it, if I'd had time to plan.  We didn't quite finish our AO years, and I'll share more on that later, but we'll wrap up a few books as summer free reading.  So we'll definitely be doing some summer reading, and occasional math to keep our skills fresh, and we have a few reviews here and there . . . but we are taking our much needed, and earned summer break.

This is kind of a two-for-one deal.  I don't have much to report for May, but it seemed fitting to share our "end of the year" pictures as my memory for the week!

©2011-2018 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.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

New American Cursive Book 3 {review}

As a reviewer, I often have the pleasure of reviewing curriculum from "new to me" companies, and then I often have the pleasure of reviewing from a trusted company.  It's always exciting when I see a company we have liked, offering another product in a series we like.  This time, I'm happy to share with you a review from Memoria Press.  We were eager to request New American Cursive Book 3 (Famous Quotes), after reviewing Book 1 in the past, and another child currently using Book 2 with success.

My oldest son successfully used Book 1 when we reviewed it a couple of years ago, and he was the one that had recently asked for a workbook for extra practice to work on his cursive a little more.  Memoria Press starts cursive around first grade, and the New American Cursive series series is labeled on their website as 1st-4th grade, so book three is designed for mid-elementary, but can easily be used with slightly older students.  My 5th grader doesn't need a Meerkat mascot, but he has no objection to the book either.  I do like, though, that the books are marked 1, 2, or 3, instead of by grade level.

The third book in the series continues the simplified letter form developed by Iris Hatfield.  The book includes a Teaching Guide, 100 exercises and blank reproducible practice pages.  The book is bound at the top, to make writing easier for left-handed students.  The series slowly decreases the font size.  This book in particular starts with mid-lines and 24-point font, and decreases to standard 18 point size.  This gives students the opportunity to decrease their writing size and write more fluidly as they build skill.  The books are labeled 1-2-3 instead of by grade level, which I think is always beneficial in the homeschool world.

The lesson plan is fairly simple.  There is one lesson per page, and each lesson is designed to take approximately 10-15 minutes.  Since a typical school year is longer than 100 days, this automatically gives you a cushion for when days are busy or kids are sick.  There are journal pages in the back for students who finish early (this is designed for a classroom setting, but homeschoolers should enjoy journaling opportunities too) and there are ideas for including more lessons if you need them.

The book starts with a thorough review of letter formation, connections, size, slant and spacing, as well as a gentle reminder to students on how to properly sit and hold their pencil and paper.  There is a Quick Guide of Famous Quotes, in alphabetical order, but the student is instructed to write them on a separate piece of paper.  There is a section on signature training, and even a page full of famous signatures!  As you move through the book, the instructions are given in cursive for practice reading in cursive, and the assignments become a bit lengthier.  Sometimes there are quotes or passages to copy, and sometimes the student is instructed to write something of their own, to encourage creative writing.  There are still drawing/artwork opportunities throughout the book, which both of my kids have loved with this series.

The New American Cursive font is simplified, with less strokes, but technology has changed the use of handwriting and cursive, and while the benefits of cursive remain, it is not quite the art form of years past.  The font allows for legible, quick handwriting and minimal frustration.  If you're looking for a cursive program, we do recommend this series!  

The Homeschool Review Crew is also reviewing Books 1 and 2 in the New American Cursive series, as well as logic and composition curriculum, so be sure to check out more from Memoria Press!

©2011-2018 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.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Dare to Compare Level 1 {review}

My oldest son is one of those kids that is good at math, but doesn't really care either way about it.  I'm always looking for ways to show him that math isn't just daily busywork, but something that can be both interesting and practical.  Recently, we had the opportunity to review Dare to Compare Level 1 from The Critical Thinking Co.™.  This book is targeted at 4th and 5th graders, and covers traditional math skills at this level, but instead of traditional (and sometimes boring) math problems, the book asks students to perform multiple calculations for two or three items in order to make comparisons.  I thought this would be an easy way to get some review in a few days each week as we head into summer, and also show him how math can be used more practically.

Our first impression was that the title sounded intriguing, but for the target age range, the cover is a bit juvenile.  Everyone was reminded of a preschool cartoon, and my 5th grader was a little apprehensive at first.  That being said, the actual workbook is clean, uncluttered, black and white, and the few illustrations included are mostly traditional graphics.

This unassuming little book packs a lot of punch.  We do two types of math in our house.  We have daily math lessons, and we have daily math drill/review to work on quick recollection of facts.  When we started reviewing this program, I allowed him to replace his math drills a few times a week with this book.  He now prefers this book to drills, and he has done really well with it.

There are 150 problems to complete across 50 pages.  One problem generally asks for a comparison between two, sometimes three things.  This means, with three problems per page, we're easily doing 6-9 calculations per page.  The problems differ though, so one problem might ask you to compare individual prices of a group of items, while the next problem asks you to compare the area of three gardens, while another asks you to compare running speed of two runners.  The questions might present any type of concept (fractions, decimals, patterns) and the student will need to use a variety of skills or operations to reach an answer.

The book does not provide instruction, and there is no "right or wrong" way to arrive at the answer, though hints are provided in the back of the book, and a final solution for every problem is also included.  For us, a page or two per day is a sufficient way to get in a unique review.

What I like about this book is that it doesn't tell the student how to arrive at the answer.  Sure, I've seen a few straightforward questions that tell you to add several sets of numbers to determine which total is most or least.  The majority of problems though, give problems that require conversions or multiple steps before the comparison can be made.  Many math programs give word problems, but they're usually part of a larger lesson on one topic, so the student knows what is expected.  This book, however, gives a mixture of problems, requiring more critical thinking and logic skills, because the student must figure out how to make two or three sets of information comparable, which steps to take and in what order.  The book does include Hints (and Solutions) in the back, if the student needs a little help.

We really like this book.  I think he likes the variety, and I like that he is offered a more unique way to review learned math skills and develop critical thinking.  The book can be used in many ways too. We're using it as review a few times a week now that our school year has ended, and I think it's an excellent summer option.  It could also be a nice alternative from a regular math curriculum once a week, or as a reprieve from traditional curriculum if your student needed a full break to review and solidify concepts before moving on.  I will definitely recommend Dare to Compare!

The Critical Thinking Co.™ would also like to share some great freebies and a coupon!

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©2011-2018 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.