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

©2011-2019 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 24, 2019

My First 5K to a Healthier Lifestyle

Growing up, particularly in my teen years, I wasn't athletic.  I did what was required in Physical Education, and I participated in the active games at camp.  I swam because we had a pool.  I just didn't play sports or hike for fun. I can't say that I wasn't good at anything, because I never cared to find out. I was the girl with a book, after all.

So when my husband asked me if I wanted to take a 5K training class with him, I may have laughed.  Or scoffed.  Or otherwise responded incredulously.  His sister started running a few years ago, and she was leading her first class. It would be a 9 week class to lead up to running a 5K, and she recruited him easily.  He wasn't particularly athletic as a kid either--he did a couple years on and off of marching band--but he's been active on and off the last few years at the gym, so he already had a head start over me.  I decided to at least do the class.  I would have several weeks to decide if I wanted to register for the race, but for the time being, it would be one evening a week for us to try something new together.

Long story short, we both signed up for the race and loved it!

Video by an experienced runner in our class who finished ahead of us.

Our goal was to cross the finish line.  We just wanted to do something we promised ourselves we could do and had worked hard for.  I estimated it would take me 45 minutes, based on my last few runs on the farm.  Training on the farm driveway (slight hills) is more difficult than running in a mostly flat neighborhood, so my pace was actually better than I anticipated.  As we rounded the corner and could see the finish line and the timer, he said "Let's get it under 40:00" but we crossed at 40:06 and 40:07.  (We might have made it had we not slowed at the water station.)  When we saw the final results though, our chip time was just under - mine was 39:46:00 and my pace was 12:55 which was better than any training sessions!

While it might not be anything to write home about, I was happy with the results for my first time doing anything remotely athletic.  Neither of us "placed" in our age division, but our overall place was better than many that did place - so I didn't let that discourage me!  I know that if he is consistent with training, he could wipe the floor with me, but we're both looking forward to more running!

©2011-2019 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 17, 2019

Washington, D.C.

Whenever we get the chance, we try to travel with my husband when he travels for work.  Depending on the nature of his trip, we can spend a night or two in an area that allows for family fun and exploration, as was the case when he was visiting a location just outside of Washington D.C.  We spent some time in Charles Town, West Virginia and then took a little "side trip" to Washington, D.C for a few hours after his meeting.  The whole thing was short notice for him, so quite spontaneous for us!  Since it wasn't planned, we basically just walked around and enjoyed the monuments.  We didn't do any tours or museums, but we definitely have plans to return and do more! 

We started out with a quick, unhealthy lunch of hot dogs and potato chips! 

Then we just started walking, looking at monuments, statutes and buildings on our way to the White House. Kids insisted we start there!

We'd already been walking awhile, and it was warm, so we were a hot mess.  Eloise and Emory said the White House was their favorite stop.

I believe Elliott was most excited about viewing The Washington Monument.  That was the first thing he asked to see when we found out we were going.

It was breathtaking to walk out of the Lincoln Memorial and see the Washington Monument from that vantage point.

Eloise asked Daddy to take her picture . . . she was dancing and posing and had people laughing.  She actually did a little dance through the park while listening to some jazz music, and had people laughing then too.  It's amazing sometimes, to watch a 4 year old without a care in the world!

Then she wanted to take a picture! We thought she meant of the monument, but no, "everyone get together now!" I think she did well.

We visited the Vietnam Memorial.  My father-in-law is a veteran and while he doesn't talk much about the war, he did talk a little about the wall with us when we returned, and mentioned some names he'd have had us look for, had he known.

Part of the Korean War Veteran's Memorial.

 We came into the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial from behind the "mountain of despair" but this is another magnificent monument.

On the way out of DC we all listened to to his "I Have A Dream" speech. (We originally got our copy several years ago at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, but you can find it online in print or audio with a quick search.)

They wanted to sit for a minute and rest, and Eleanor wanted their picture taken.  Eloise insisted I join, but I'm not sure what the face was all about.

Then it became clear. She later told me she just wanted to be the star of the pictures! I don't doubt she was telling the truth!

There was a lot more we looked at of course, and the boys got a kick out of seeing the Secret Service up close (more frequently around the White House of course) and we had ice cream and just enjoyed people watching. We walked just under 8 miles in the few hours we were there. It was a lot for the girls, because we aren't really long distance walkers or a family of hikers or anything . . . but everyone came out unscathed! We headed back to the hotel for pizza and a swim and everyone crashed that night!  We can't wait to go back, but next time we'll go with at least a loose itinerary!

©2011-2019 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 12, 2019

Five in a Row: Little Nino's Pizzeria

This is such a fun little book to row if you love pizza!  My kids love pizza - and one kid will eat any recipe with the word pizza in it, so "pizza" meals are a regular on our menu.

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Little Nino's Pizzeria, at first glance, appears to be a simple book about a pizzeria. However, if you look past the simple text, the themes about family and "wanting more" are important concepts to discuss with all ages, and as always - there are so many academic topics wrapped up in a children's book! 

Language Arts
I did our own thing for Language Arts with this book.  I printed two different pages for the girls.  One straight coloring page for Eloise, and P is for Pizza for Eleanor.

"A Pizza the Size of the Sun" by Jack Prelutzky
The webpage for the printable was unavailable this time (I used it with the boys) but we listened to his performance.

Social Studies
Relationships - Father & Son 
We talked about why we love Daddy, and some of the fun things we do with Daddy - some of her favorite memories!

  • Get Ice Cream
  • Huggies (big hugs)
  • Play Outside
  • Great Wolf Lodge

Character - Servant Heart
We talked about being helpful, and ways we can be helpful to other people!

Measurements & Fractions
The lessons in the book discussed counting and measurements of weight, which happen naturally during the cooking lessons.  However, I can't figure out why there wasn't an additional lesson on Fractions, given that pizza lends itself so well to introducing or reviewing fractions!  We didn't do much with it formally, but we played a Pizza Fraction Game.

Arts & Crafts
While I'm not a huge fan of crafty-crafts, Eleanor is, so I oblige from time to time.  We made a "paper plate pizza" except I didn't use paper plates, just card stock.  This way it would still fit in her notebook.

She also loves to draw, so I found a fun drawing video - How to Draw a Funny Pizza from Art for Kids Hub!

 She did two of these - at her request - one for her notebook and one for her room!

Then this was just a pizza she drew in her notebook.

Henry Matisse
There were several art lessons in the book, but I decided to focus on Henri Matisse with Kidzaw Master Kits The Red Studio.  I had actually bought this when it was on sale (because we loved Van Gogh's The Starry Night when we reviewed it) and it tied in to this lesson well . . . although we didn't love the finished product nearly as much as The Starry Night.

Food and Food Groups; Cooking
We talked about food groups!  I found this Food Groups Sorting Activity, and we discussed all the food groups. Discussing yeast is a great option when you're making pizza crust too, but husband does that with them anyway.

We order pizza regularly, and make personal pizzas occasionally anyway, but that week we also had Pizza Sandwiches--a grilled cheese style sandwich but with mozzarella and pepperoni inside. For Taco Tuesday we had Taco Pizzas, which was just naan bread with our favorite pizza toppings.  We also had pizza lunchables for a treat that week.

More Fun . . . 

Both girls played pizzeria that week.  We have had this Melissa and Doug Pizza Party set for a few years now, and just like our other M&D sets, it is a favorite! It's also great for discussing fractions, but of course they just like to have us order our favorite toppings and to serve us.

Reading Rainbow!! Amazon Prime, Season 4 Episode 5 features pizza and specifically, Little Nino's Pizzeria!

While watching the episode, the book What Happens to a Hamburger was featured, and when I said "Oh we have that..." she of course wanted to read it.

It was a great, casual row, but as always, so many topics explored!

©2011-2019 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.