This Year in Our Homeschool: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 1

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!

Another Reading Challenge? Or, My Scholé Sisters 5×5 Challenge Picks

Call me crazy, but I have one more reading challenge to share with you for this year! The Scholé Sisters created the “5×5 Challenge” for 2020, and I decided to give it a go in addition to the Back to the Classics and 20 for 2020 Reading Challenges. The goal of the 5×5 list is to read both widely and deeply, so you choose 5 different topics/genres and 5 books in each of those areas. I am not quite as positive about completing this one as it is a bit more of a stretch due to the topics I chose. But I think even if I don’t finish all the titles, I will have made some good progress in self-education that I have been neglecting. Another part of the Scholé Sisters’ 5×5 Challenge is to read from your shelves or to reread books. So, I’ve noted with an asterisk which titles I have on my physical shelves or on Kindle. The only re-read is Til We Have Faces! Here are my choices so far:

Mathematics

    1. Here’s Looking at Euclid by Alex Bellos
    2. A Mind for Numbers by Barbara Oakley
    3. The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz
    4. Math with Bad Drawings by Ben Orlin
    5. ? (Maybe something more about teaching math, but I’m not sure what.)

Biography/Memoire

    1. Prairie Fires by Caroline Fraser*
    2. An American Princess by Annette van der Zijl*
    3. Ocean of Truth by Joyce McPherson*
    4. The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano*
    5. Night by Elie Wiesel*

Theology/Christianity

    1. The Pursuit of God by A. W. Tozer*
    2. In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen*
    3. Missional Motherhood by Gloria Furman*
    4. Knowing God by J. I. Packer* 
    5. Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton*

Health/Wellness

    1. The Wellness Revelation by Alisa Keeton*
    2. Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman
    3. The Mind-Gut Connection by Emeran Mayer
    4. The Complete Homeopathy Handbook by Miranda Castro*
    5. ? (Possibly something about Swedish Drill or other exercise handbook for children.)

Literary Fiction

    1. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster*
    2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens*
    3. Silas Marner by George Eliot*
    4. The Importance of Being Ernest by Oscar Wilde
    5. Til We Have Faces by C. S. Lewis*

Yes, I still have a few blanks to fill in. I plan to fill those in with books referenced in the other texts in those areas. Or I may find some titles via Goodreads or someone else’s recommendation in the Scholé Sisters membership discussions. I guess we will just see where the spirit leads! Also, I’m curious…if you were to choose 5 topic areas from which to read in the coming year, what would they be? I’d love to get your responses in the comments! 

The Literary Life 20 for 2020 Reading Challenge: My Book Picks

The lovely ladies on The Literary Life Podcast are hosting a reading challenge this year, and, of course, I had to join in! Yes, I joined partly because I love them (and work with them and got the list early), but mostly it was because the categories on this list are simply amazing! One of my other book goals this year is to read more from my shelves here at home. In light of that, I tried to plug in as many titles that I own as I could. But every category has one or more runners up that I might end up reading instead/also. All titles with an asterisk are books I own either in print or on Kindle. 

Aren’t these categories great? I mean, this list could go in so many different directions. It has been fun to look at other people’s lists on Instagram and Facebook, at least in the rare moments I have allowed myself to scroll social media. Some of these areas will be more out of my usual reading pattern than others, especially poetry and essays. I decided the best way to tackle these two categories was to add a page of poetry and an essay a day to my afternoon reading time. Enjoying a cup of hot tea with Emily Dickinson and Sir Frances Bacon is, admittedly, a pretty great way to spend a few minutes each afternoon! 

What, if any, reading challenges are you participating in this coming year? I’d love to hear all about it!

February 2019 Memory Work Plans

Hi there, friends! It is coooold in 80 percent of the continental US at the moment, and Tennessee is no different! But the end of winter is coming, albeit slowly. February marks that time of year in our lives when we are weary of winter and waiting for spring. It also frequently marks that tired time of the year for homeschool families when everyone just wants to quit. So I offer you some brand new memory work to liven things up a little bit!

If you have been following our memory work plans for a while, you may notice that this month’s Scripture memory portion is a lot shorter than usual. That is because we have started using the Scripture Memory System recommended by Sonya Shafer of Simply Charlotte Mason. I wanted to have time to be reviewing the passages we had already memorized without making that portion of our morning time together seem like a burden. As a result, we are probably going to keep our passages in the 1-3 verse range for a while.

February Memory Work

Prayer: God Be in My Head from The Sarum Primer

Hymn: Crown Him with Many Crowns

Catechism: Review Questions 11 and 12 of the New City Catechism (shorter version)

Motto: Family Way #7 from Our 24 Family Ways by Clay Clarkson

Scripture: Ephesians 4:29

Poetry: The Wild Flower’s Song by William Blake

Folksongs: Walk That Lonesome Valley, I Love You a Bushel and a Peck

Free Printable Plans

I am including a free printable version of these memory work plans for you all! I went back to the landscape layout for the smaller binder pages this month, as well as changing up fonts and doing a little embellishing. Let me know if you are using these memory work plans, and if you have any questions or suggestions. Until next time, have a happy homeschool day!

What I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Homeschool Mom Self

Recently I have had a few conversations with younger mothers who are eager to embark on their homeschool journey. These chats have reminded me of all the things I wish someone had told me when I was considering homeschool in those preschool years. Since this is on my mind, I thought I would share here on the blog in the hopes this advice helps out some other mom who wants to make the most of the early childhood years! Before you go out and buy some expensive preschool curriculum or fill your child’s days with endless workbook pages, read on…

Tip Number 1:

My number one tip to you as you consider learning at home in the early years (up to age 6), is this:

RELAX!

Seriously. Just take a deep breath. It is easy to get caught up in the current cultural ideas of early academics. But the research does not back up the push to get kids reading, writing and doing math drills at a young age. The best thing you can do with your young children is to enjoy them being little and not worry about skills that will be easier to teach/learn later when they are more developmentally and behaviorally ready. Instead of stressing about curriculum, why don’t you spend some time researching different homeschool styles and philosophies. Take the opportunity to educate yourself and consider what sort of educational philosophy most resonates with you.

Tip Number 2:

But, you may ask, what can I do to add some intentional learning and structure to our days without going overboard? My first advice is to read aloud. A lot. Every day, multiple times a day, sit down and read a picture book to your child. Read the best books you can get your hands on. Get a library card and go as often as you can. Borrow audio books off Hoopla or Overdrive, and listen to them in the car. Look at AmblesideOnline Year 0 book lists for some great suggestions. Sign up for the free book lists from Read Aloud Revival for seasonal picture book ideas and family read alouds (not all for preschoolers, but still a good resource.) Or get your hands on a copy of the book Honey for a Child’s Heart by Gladys Hunt, which has a great book list, as well as inspiration for reading with your children!

Tip Number 3:

Other than reading all the time, go outside as much as possible. Take advantage of the good weather whenever you can and get outside. If it is cold, bundle up and go for a nature walk to see if you can spot migrating birds or find interesting seed pods or look at beautiful frost flowers. If it is hot, turn on the sprinkler or fill up the kiddy pool and get wet. If it is rainy, put on your boots and go splash in the puddles. Go to any scenic parks and nature centers you can find locally, not just playgrounds. Notice animals, birds, leaves, rocks, sticks, bugs, clouds, flowers, etc. Get dirty.

Tip Number 5:

For indoor play, look up sensory activities to experience together. Sand, water beads, “clean mud,” plain old water, pouring beans/rice, play dough, cloud dough, etc. (Google and Pinterest are your friend here!) Listen to beautiful music. Sing children’s songs (I have a list of good ones here —> 100 Songs to Sing with Children.) Look at beautiful art. Your library should have some books with collections of art prints to flip through. Let them paint, draw, color, stamp, and paint some more. Teach basic household chores like folding washcloths, matching socks, wiping the table, sweeping the floor with a little broom and dustpan, setting the table, and washing produce.

I’ll say it again…

Most importantly, I want to reiterate my first point. Relax. Enjoy this precious time with your young child. Embrace the wonder and curiosity that he or she naturally has right now. Don’t sweat the academics. There will be time for that later. Slow down. Don’t rush. They will grow up so fast, even though I know it doesn’t feel that way right now. Trust me…you won’t regret holding off on those workbooks and curricula, momma. Just love on your kiddos. It will be okay.

Further Reading and Resources:

The Homegrown Preschooler is a book that comes highly recommended and has lots of ideas for learning in the early years.

A helpful blog post by one of my favorite homeschool mentors, Brandy Vencel: Looking Back: What I Wish I’d Know About Homeschooling in the Early Years

Another of my virtual homeschool mentors, Mystie Winkler, also wrote on the topic of the classical kindergarten: Dear Mom who wants to give her 5-year-old a classical education

Sarah MacKenzie of Read Aloud Revival’s blog post on the early years: 6 Ways to Early Years You Won’t Regret