Mum To Mom

Musings of an Aussie Mother Living in the USA

Tag: Ambleside Online

2014-2015 Evaluations and Reflections

After finishing the school year a couple of weeks ago, I spent the better part of a week preparing portfolios for evaluation. This year took longer than normal. At the last minute I decided to reorganize all of the girls’ work. I also had two terms of exams for two students to type out. I know I could have typed them up earlier in the year, and I intended to. But not being naturally organized, I never got around to it. In spite of my disorganization, I got them done. Want to see?

Portfolios

Language Arts

Geography

Tabs

Free Reading

Narration

It took 3 hours to type up all the books my 3rd grader read this year. The girl is a machine. I read pretty slowly so this is shocking to me. I know Charlotte Mason advocates reading slowly, giving your mind time to digest the living ideas, but I cannot slow my daughter down. I am not overly concerned about this with her free reading because she can narrate everything she’s read without a worry, even quoting paragraphs, so I know she’s giving attention to what she is reading and understands it.

While typing up exams and preparing portfolios, I’ve had time to reflect on the year that’s gone by—the things that went well, the areas that need improving, and the areas that went well but could use a little tweaking to work better. Considering what went well, here are what I think were our greatest successes.

Our Schedule

The most successful area of our homeschool this year was our schedule. I know that sounds kind of boring, but if our schedule didn’t work so well, many of the wonderful areas that we studied (like art, composers, poetry, nature study, and Spanish) would have been left out, to our detriment. Charlotte Mason believed in providing a liberal education, that is, a wide and generous feast of living ideas for children to devour that would feed their souls. This is why including areas of study that many might not deem necessary is so important to me.

This year I introduced a third student to our school day. Her schedule and demand was pretty light as she was only in Kindergarten (Prep), but it still had an impact on the dynamic of our day. Last year, when I had only two students our day had a general outline with no specifics. I knew in my head what we had to get done and each day we somehow figured it out. Needless to say, many areas that I’ve already mentioned were left out on many occasions, and when we did do them they were in a haphazard, stressed kind of way. That is not what Charlotte Mason envisaged at all.

Thanks to Brandy’s average day planning post last year at Afterthoughts and Jen’s 2013 planning series over at Snowfall Academy, I realized I needed a better plan. I was able to use ideas from both their schedules to come up with one that was much more thorough than I had before and one that suited our family.

Daily Schedule

Schedule

Weekly Schedule

Weekly ScheduleAO1 and AO3 refer to the Ambleside Online’s weekly scheduled readings for years 1 and 3.

It worked beautifully for us. There were three areas that were particularly successful.

Circle Time

I have posted a little about this before, but just to quickly explain again: Circle Time is basically all the areas of study that we do together. Last year I attempted Circle Time but found that with Bible reading, prayer, poetry, memorizations, artist or composer study, and Spanish, it was going WAY too long, and my children, especially the 5-year-old, could not sit in one place for that long, and so I often left things out. I saw on Jen’s daily schedule that she had Bible, prayer, and memorization first thing and then had another Circle Time during snack. This seems so obvious now but I had never thought of it before seeing her plan. Following Jen’s example I split Circle Time in half, beginning the day with Bible, prayer, memorization and adding poetry in as well. At either snack or lunch time, depending on how the day was going, we did Spanish and alternated composer and artist study. This has worked really well for me, and morning Circle Time has become my favorite part of the day.

Kindergarten

The second area that was successful for us was teaching the youngest student first. This year I had two students that were learning to read. One had not mastered all her letters, while the other had finished 3 and 4 letter word families and was moving on to learning to read actual books (You can find the method I use to teach reading over at Joyful Shepherdess). Only a year apart in age, both students needed me for all of their schooling, yet were at different stages of learning, so couldn’t be combined. I was nervous about this. So my plan was to begin with the youngest, whose attention, presumably, would wane the quickest. This worked well most of the time. Though some days the 1st grader had the shorter attention span, and so I began with her. Other days I mixed it up, beginning with K phonics for 15 minutes, then giving her a break, taught 1st grade reading for 15 minutes, then returned to the youngest to finish her formal school time with math, then switched again to 1st grade math, and continued with Year 1 readings. So even though I had the Kindergartener scheduled, and followed this schedule most of the time, I allowed my days to be fluid enough within the schedule structure to ensure that I could meet my individual children’s needs on any particular day. The first of Charlotte Mason’s 20 principles is “Children are born persons.” I think part of respecting our children as real, individual persons in their own right, made in the image of God, is being tuned in to what they need to learn best that day. This means that sometimes shifting the order of the schedule is necessary because it is what is best for them. I am not always successful at this, but when I am, our school day is better.

Nature Study

The third area of success in our homeschool was Nature Study. It was actually on the schedule this year, so we actually did it! This is a big success for me because I’m naturally a homebody. This is an area of study that definitely need’s more improvements, particularly with our notebooks. Yet I still consider it a success since we managed to go for a nature walk somewhere every week and draw or paint what we observed.

So that is our school year in a nutshell. There is definitely areas that I need to improve or tweak, but I will save that for another post.

How was your school year? What are some successes you had? I’d love to hear from you.

What Does My Homeschool Look Like? – Our Booklist (Year 1)

I mention in my bio that I am a homeschooler so I thought I would do a series of posts about what our homeschool looks like at the moment. I currently only homeschool my 6 year old and we are following the booklist and 36 week schedule (3 terms) for Year 1 at Ambleside Online (AO1).

Here is our AO1 booklist:

Bible
We are reading the book of Genesis.

Copywork
This is basically handwriting and spelling practice. I choose a short passage from one of the books that we are reading and she copies it out. Usually only one or two sentences a day. I try to vary the type of writing to expose her to a variety of writing styles. For example, for a couple of days she will copy a verse from a poem, the next day a line from Aesops fables, the next couple of days something from literature, the next something from a history book, etc.

Readers
Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik
Harriette Taylor Treadwell Readers (free online readers)

Math
Math-U-See

Science
Apologia’s Exploring Creation With Astronomy by Jeannie Fulbright

Nature study
The Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton W. Burgess (free online ebook)

Literature
The Aesop for Children by Milo Winters (free online ebook)
Beautiful stories from Shakespeare by Edith Nesbit (free downloadable ebook)
The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang (free downloadable ebook)
Just so stories by Rudyard Kipling (free downloadable ebook)
Parables from Nature by Margaret Gatty (free online ebook)

Poetry
A Child’s Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson Term 1
Now We Are Six/When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne Term 2
A Child’s Book of Poems by Gyo Fujikawa Term 3

History
Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula
An Island Story by H.E. Marshall (free downloadable ebook)
Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin Terms 1 & 2 (free downloadable ebook)
Viking Tales by Jennie Hall Terms 2 & 3 (free downloadable ebook)

American History Biography
Benjamin Franklin by Ingri D’Aulaire Term 1
George Washington by Ingri D’Aulaire Term 2
Buffalo Bill by Ingri D’Aulaire Term 3

Geography
Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling

French
First Step en Francais (free online beginner course)
Tres Bien app for iPad

Artist and Composer Study
Term1 – Renoir/Debussy
Term 2 – Ruisdale, de Hooch/Bach
Term 3 – Seurat/Opera Overtures
Wikipedia and other online resources
I will discuss how we do artist and composer study in another post.

P.E.
Classes run for homeschoolers at our local gym.

Free Reading
Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie (free downloadable ebook)
Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne (especially for my younger girls who are 4 and 3 and not ready for chapter books, and 6 year old enjoys it too)
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (free downloadable ebook)
The Complete Adventures of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs (Australian)
The Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall (Australian)

I may add more to the free reading list if we have time to read more than what is listed. There are a couple of books that I also may include for Australian History/Literature if I am able to get the books and can work out how to fit them into our schedule. These are: The Way of The Whirlwind by Mary Durack and Dot and the Kangaroo by Ethel Pedley. Thanks to my Aussie friend Jeanne at A Peaceful Day who drew my attention to these Australian books and has spent many years Australianizing AO by compiling great Australian literature to compliment the Ambleside Online curriculum.

I have linked to as many of the free ebooks that I could find, but obviously you can choose to purchase the paper version of these books instead if you preferred to. I started with all the ebooks that I could for budgeting reasons but have since gone back and purchased a few of the literature books in paper. While the ebooks are helpful, they are a poor substitute for a beautifully illustrated children’s book that the children can hold in their little hands and can pull off the shelf anytime they want to immerse themselves in the adventure it holds.

Well there it is. My next post I will show you what our weekly schedule looks like.

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