This year we are entering our fifth year of homeschooling and our fourth full year using AmblesideOnline as our curriculum. I realized as I looked back over my posts from last year that I never did write about AO Year 3, which is too bad because I really did love the books we read last year. It was a good, smooth year for the most part. But here we are in the middle of February, which for us means that we are finishing up Week 6 of Year 4. So I thought now would be a good time to talk about the books we are enjoying and looking forward to, as well as the additional curricula we are using for subjects not detailed in AO.
Favorite Books in Year 4
A few of the books we are enjoying most so far are the following:
Robinson Crusoe–even though the chapters are quite lengthy and the language a bit archaic, we are all (even the 4 year old) loving reading this famous classic together.
Story Book of Science–this is one of the books that I handed off to my son for independent reading, and I like that the chapters are short and that the science concepts are presented in a conversational format.
Minn of the Mississippi–after struggling with the first couple of Hollings’ books, we have really come to love and appreciate them. This one is absolutely jam packed with natural science and geography, and I think it is probably going to be our very favorite since turtles and the Mississippi River are both things we can actually observe for ourselves.
Poor Richard–although my son has had some trouble narrating from this book, he does seem engaged with and interested in the story of Ben Franklin. I think he actually is just enjoying reading it so much that he forgets to slow down enough that he can tell back the details.
I am also really looking forward to reading Abigail Adams, Kidnapped and George Washington’s World. Additionally, the free read list for Year 4 is excellent, and I am loving getting to read those together, too.
Next time I will talk a little about the new areas of study that we have now that my son is in Form II. I look forward to telling you all about them!
After I wrote my scheduling posts, I remembered that I had also wanted to write a little about what we are using for curriculum this year. We have made a few additions this year that are really helpful, so I wanted to talk about those a bit now that we have been using these materials for a little while.
The Curriculum Core:
As is clear from previous posts, we use AmblesideOnline for the core of our curriculum. The subjects that are fully covered under AO’s curriculum are as follows: Bible, History, Literature, Artist Study, Composer Study, and Geography. What I love about AO is that it is all laid out for what me as to what books to read and when. It is so much more than a booklist. Using AO actually has taught me more about Charlotte Mason education while I am immersed in doing it on the day-to-day basis.
Another great thing about AmblesideOnline is that it has links to free online versions of such a huge number of the books and resources because so many of them are in the public domain. So it is a very budget-friendly curriculum if you are in need of that. For us, the last two years we have actually bought all of the print books we needed for school for right around $100 just by buying used copies. That is still a lot less than most boxed curricula out there, even with the added cost a few other supplements! And that brings me to those extras…
We have been using the Mathematics Enhancement Programme (MEP) for a couple of years now. It is a free curriculum from the UK available online to download and print. Being free to access, you might think it would not be very high quality, but we have been very happy with the results so far. It teaches arithmetic in a way that helps children understand why and how numbers function, instead of only teaching rote. It also has a good blend of logic, problem solving and mental math. MEP is not flashy, and the printing of materials is a bit of a job at the beginning of the year. But the skills my son is learning are so valuable that I have zero complaints about MEP thus far!
We started my son out learning cursive using ABeka handwriting books, and we are still slowly working our way through the first one. ABeka moved WAY too fast in cursive for us at the beginning, and handwriting became a real pain point in our homeschool for a while. We slowed down a great deal and even took long breaks from doing any work on writing at times. Now it is no longer an issue, but I still only require a few lines of simple handwriting practice from my son each day. We are starting to incorporate some quotes from our Ambleside Year 2 books, as well, but when I do that he still only writes one short sentence a day.
Nature Study is still something we are learning how to do well and consistently at this point. It was one of the things that dropped from our schedule most often last year. I decided that in 2018 we would start using Lynn Seddon’s wonderful guide, Exploring Nature with Children. It is such a lovely resource, and I fully expect us to reuse it again and again over the next few years. Right now we are using the curriculum sparingly, mainly noting the subject for us to observe each week and using perhaps one extension activity to help us give attention to whatever that is for the week. It is helping us have more structured nature study time, and I feel like I have more motivation to get to it each week. If you are struggling to incorporate nature study regularly in your homeschool, I highly recommend Exploring Nature with Children!
Another subject I needed more consistency and structure to implement was foreign language. Even though I know a lot of Spanish grammar and vocabulary myself, I did not know how to actually teach it. So this year we began using Song School Spanish from Classical Academic Press, and it has been a big hit! Both of the kids look forward to our 5-10 minute daily Spanish lesson, and I have heard our 2-year-old singing the songs while playing on more than one occasion! One word of caution to Charlotte Mason homeschoolers…Song School Spanish does include some exercises in which the student is supposed to read and write words in Spanish. Charlotte Mason strongly recommended against children seeing words in a foreign language before they were fluently reading their own language. This is not a problem for us because my son IS a very fluent reader, but if your child is not reading well in English, you would have to adjust many of the activities in this book.
My son LOVES doing art and drawing, but I was at a loss of where to begin when it comes to formal lessons. Although I would love to put him in a class with an art teacher some day, that just isn’t practical for us yet. So this year we started using Drawing with Children by Mona Brooks as a guide. I admit that I was highly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information presented in the book before she even gets to the first lesson! But after I got over that initial “shock” I decided to just dive in and start following some of the opening warm-ups and teaching the basic elements of drawing as she presents them. We only do one brief session each week, so we have not gotten very far. We will see how it goes throughout the year!
Although I know solfege and the Kodaly handsigns myself, this was another highly neglected part of our homeschool last year. I have taught children’s choirs and used solfa singing as presented in the curricula, but I did not know how to present it at home. Enter the sweet and helpful Heather and her Children of the Open Air Solfa lesson videos on YouTube! Each week we sit down and sing a little song and practice our hand signs and solfege along with Heather (and her adorable kids!) It is quick and painless for all of us, and again, it is something even the 2-year-old loves to do!
Don’t know what Swedish Drill is? Neither did I until I found Dawn Duran’s tutorials on the Afterthoughts blog! Essentially, it is an exercise practice that involves teaching good posture, following directions (training the habit of attention!) and using various muscle groups. Last year we did Swedish Drill nearly every day. This year we have been doing it weekly so far, but I think we may add it back in as a daily activity again soon. I need to teach the kids a few more new moves and make some cards for me to call out drills so I’m not always thinking on my feet and leaving something out. I really have appreciated Dawn’s work on creating video tutorials with her kids doing some of the moves. And now she has even created a complete open and go resource called Swedish Drill Revisited to help us implement Swedish Drill effectively in our homeschool! I really NEED to get my hands on this one!
So, there you have it! A complete run-down of what curricula we are using in our homeschool in 2018. Are you using any of the same things this year? I’d love to hear what you fellow classical Charlotte Mason moms (and dads!) are using to help you teach this year!