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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  1. Sounds like a great year! I'm sure you have probably heard -- but maybe look into A Gentle Feast and see if that is a better fit. It's similar to AO but also has some angles that seem to offer a bit of "delight directed" choices. ...but being that it is close to AO it might not be a good fit either. Oh the struggles of finding that curriculum match :)

    1. Yes, it was still a good year! I will have to look into A Gentle Feast more and see if it might work for him...thank you for the recommendation!