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This Year in Our Home School: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 4

Welcome back to my series on AmblesideOnline Year 4 and how we are implementing the curriculum in our homeschool this year. In this final post I am going to write about how I have scheduled subjects and a little about how this works in our daily routine.

Before I get any farther with that, however, I want to emphasize that currently our daily routine is quite fluid. Some days we get everything done more quickly than I expect. Other days are a slog. Many times we have to move things around to make room for outings, grocery runs or appointments. Since we aren’t in any kind of co-op at this time, we have a lot of flexibility, and I LOVE that about our homeschool life!

I also should point out that my daughter is still only 4 years old (turning 5 next month, though!), and I do just a light preschool lesson with her 3-4 days a week. That generally happens while my son is doing this independent work. If you want me to write more about that, I can, but it really is just a few minutes of learning a different letter of the alphabet (weekly-ish), reading some Mother Goose and a folk or fairy tale, and going through a lesson from MEP’s Reception Year math.

In making my son’s schedule, I try to take into account the recommended time allotted in the PNEU’s programs for Form II. I also do my best to switch up subjects so that we don’t do too many challenging books on the same day or have several reading-narrating sessions back to back. Ok, with all that said, let’s look at our “ideal” day AO Year 4 schedule!

AmblesideOnline Year 4

Again, let me reiterate that we do not follow this schedule to a T every day, or every week. In fact, I need to point out that we are not even doing Latin at all this year. But when I made out this plan in the fall I thought we might. So it’s there—just in case sometime I get a crazy idea and decide to add it in anyway! Also, my son has some very bad feelings about Swedish Drill at this point, so when I do actually remember to get some movement into our school time, it almost always looks like doing a Cosmic Kids yoga video on YouTube or freestyle dancing to our composer of the term. Nobody’s perfect, so that’s what actually happens here, in spite of what the schedule says!

Morning Time has evolved in our homeschool, changing a little every year. Currently we are doing Morning Time at the breakfast table as soon as I’m done eating. This is what we do:

  • read a chapter of whatever book of the Bible we are reading together for devotions,
  • read about one country highlighted in the Voice of the Martyrs Global Prayer Guide,
  • pray our prayer of the month and for the persecuted church,
  • work through our Scripture memory cards,
  • sing our hymn of the month,
  • recite our poetry selections,
  • sing our folk song of the month,
  • read a poem or two from our current poetry book,
  • practice our skip counting,
  • work on a Spanish lesson, and
  • do a piano theory activity from my son’s piano curriculum.

As you can see, this packs quite a punch in our school day and squeezes a lot of subject material and goodness into a relatively small amount of time. After Morning Time, my son does his morning routine of chores, personal hygiene and piano practice. When that’s finished he comes back to the table for a brief math lesson with me before completing his practice page on his own. Copywork and one reading for the day are also done during this independent work time. When we are both done with our other morning tasks, we come back together for the remainder of the day’s lessons and finish in time for lunch.

If we are pressed for time, I will often hand off another reading assignment for my son to do on his own in the car while we drive somewhere or in his room while I do whatever else I needed to do. By the end of the year, my goal is to have him reading 2 assignments a day and only reading one thing aloud. But we are easing into that gradually.

I think that’s about it….at least it seems like a lot of caveats and details for one post! Let me know if you have any questions. I’d love to chat with you in the comments!

This Year in Our Homeschool: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 3

This week I am continuing my series on our current homeschool year using the AmblesideOnline curriculum. I meant to have this post ready to go last week, but I went to the Nashville Teach Them Diligently homeschool convention and was too busy to actually write it until now. (By the way, if you have a chance to attend a TTD conference near you, definitely go! I was so encouraged!) So here we are at last, adding a little more information about what supplemental resources I am using with AO Year 4.

Supplemental Resources for Year 4

  • MathMEP and Khan Academy
    • We have been using MEP math since Year 1, and I am still firm in my appreciating on this curriculum. It teaches concepts in a different way than I learned them, which is sometimes a challenge for me. But it is strong in the problem solving, logic and mental math skills that I wish I had had growing up. This year we started into long division, which was discouraging for my son. So when he started struggling, we slowed down a bit and added in one day a week doing some review work on Khan Academy, just for a change of pace and something to remind him that he can do math and have fun!
  • Artist Study–picture study aids from A Humble Place
    • We are using the AO art rotation again this year, and I have found Rebecca’s resources a nice supplement to looking at the pictures every week. She has a brief biographical sketch about each artist, along with some information or things to look for in each painting. Also, if you are unfamiliar with how to do a Charlotte Mason style picture study, she always includes that information at the beginning of each artist packet. Best of all, she makes these PDFs free of charge!
  • Art Lessons–Brushwork and What to Draw
    • This year I wanted something that would lend some loose structure to our art lessons because what I have tried over the past couple of years has not really worked out that well. I found two lovely vintage books to start with and will likely add more as we finish these. The first is Brushwork by Marion Hudson, which gives several simple layouts for practicing brush forms with watercolors. The second is What to Draw and How to Draw It by Edwin George Lutz. This is really just an old-fashioned version of a step-by-step drawing book, but the vintage pictures are fun to copy, and the kids have both enjoyed making their own creations using these instructions as a jumping off point.
  • SpanishPoco a Poco and Duolingo
    • The last two years we have used Song School Spanish from Classic Academic Press, but this year I wanted to try something a little more conversational. I found an other free resource in the public domain Spanish text book Poco A Poco, as well as the Teacher’s Manual for said text book. We are going through it very slowly, but so far I am liking it. We also continue to use the Duolingo app for practice one day a week.
  • GrammarWinston Grammar (Basic level)
    • In my previous post in this series, I mentioned that grammar lessons were new for us this year. While I was at the Teach Them Diligently conference, I visited the Home Works book sellers and stumbled upon a Winston Grammar kit. I looked up some reviews on the AO forum and elsewhere and decided to give it a shot. We’ve only done one lesson so far, but I’m looking forward to getting farther into the method!

Whew! That ended up being a bit longer than I had expected! I hope that some of this information has helped you if you are planning for AO Year 4. I will be back again soon with an outline of our current schedule/routine and how it is working out so far this year.

“The Importance of Being Earnest” Book Review

Spring, the Fence – Václav Brožík

Over the weekend I had the entertaining experience of listening to an audio dramatization of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest. This comedic play was first performed in 1895, and it is a hilarious satirical commentary on Victorian social customs, especially regarding love and marriage. I chose this as my 19th Century Classic for the Back to the Classics Challenge, and it also fills the Satire spot in The Literary Life 20 for 2020 challenge. (They will be going through this book on the podcast very soon, so I wanted to get it read before then.)

The version I listened to was done by LA Theater Works, and it was a delightful performance. There is hardly a really serious line in the whole play, but the actors delivered their lines as if all was deadly serious, which made it even more hilarious. I could totally see how Wilde’s work in this play paved the way for P. G. Wodehouse, especially in the opening scene with the banter between Algernon and his butler/valet. It definitely reminded me of Bertie Wooster talking with Jeeves. Then, of course, there is the Shakespearean element of mistaken identities causing problems between lovers, which is always entertaining.

Some people would perhaps find the situation unbelievably over-the-top silly, but I think that is what makes Wilde’s commentary work so well. He makes some serious jabs at social conventions, but it is done in such a ridiculous manner that you can’t help but laugh. Of course, if I were in Wilde’s original Victorian era audience, maybe I wouldn’t have thought it quite so funny as I do as a modern!

“The Circular Staircase” Book Review

After a couple of unexpected weeks away from the blog, I’m back this week with a couple of classic book reviews for you! I will also be continuing my AmblesideOnline Year 4 series very soon, I promise! But first, here is my review of Mary Roberts Rinehart’s The Circular Staircase.

I chose this classic mystery novel as my “Genre Classic” for the 2020 Back to the Classics Challenge, and I am so glad I did. I have read one other book by this author, Tish, and I hope to read more of her work in the future because her books are just plain fun. Mary Roberts Rinehart was the American predecessor to Agatha Christie, and although she is not as well known today, her detective fiction was quite popular during her lifetime. She had several books adapted for the stage and screen and even wrote a few plays of her own.

The Circular Staircase was Rinehart’s first published novel, and the mystery is told from the perspective of Rachel Innes, spinster aunt and guardian to her young adult niece and nephew Gertrude and Halsey. When a murder takes place in the house they are renting for the summer, Miss Innes and her wards find themselves at the center of an investigation and potential victims, as well. Of course, in the end, all the suspenseful twists and turns of the story are explained, and the truth of the murder and all the other odd occurrences at the residence are laid to rest.

All in all, even if it is not the most literary of detective novels, The Circular Staircase is an enjoyable read, full of the tense moments and curious clues you would expect of a classic mystery. I did have a little trouble at time keeping up with the cast of characters, but that may be in part because I was bouncing back and forth between reading and listening to the book. I also do feel the need to point out that this book is a product of its era, and as such, uses some vocabulary in reference to African Americans that would not be considered appropriate today. With those caveats, I otherwise highly recommend The Circular Staircase for anyone looking for a light classic mystery to wind down with at the end of the day.

Until next time, happy reading!

This Year in Our Homeschool: AmblesideOnline Year 4, Part 2

Last week I shared some of our favorite books so far in Year 4 of AmblesideOnline. This year my son is in Form II of Charlotte Mason’s programs, and as such, there are a few changes and additions to the curriculum. AmblesideOnline gives some suggestions for these subjects, but there are not specifics given for dictation and grammar. Here is what we are doing that is new.

New Subjects in Year 4

  • Shakespeare–Where in Form I we were only reading retellings of Shakespeare plays, this year we are reading full plays together. Instead of using the AO current rotation for plays, I decided to start with A Winter’s Tale because that is the one that I am already reading along with The Literary Life podcast. While we look at the text of the play, we are also listening to the Arkangel audio production of the play. Both of the kids love Shakespeare day, and so do I!
  • Plutarch–We are using Anne White’s lesson guide for Plutarch, and it worked out nicely that this year’s new study guide starts with Alexander the Great. I think it has been helpful for us to start in reading Plutarch’s Live with a historical person with which we are already familiar. Many moms are scared of Plutarch, but so far it really has not been that hard at all.
  • Dictation–In addition to continuing copywork for spelling and handwriting, this year we started studied dictation. Somehow I came upon a link to “The Dictation and Spelling Book” compiled by Mary B. Rossman and Mary W. Mills. Each week I write one paragraph out for my son to copy, and when he is finished with it, I dictated a few of the sentences for him to write out without looking.
  • Grammar–We are doing a very gentle, organic introduction to basic grammar concepts this year, also using the sentences from the dictation book. So far I have been teaching my son to identify nouns and verbs and the fact that every sentence must have a subject and a verb.

Charlotte Mason also recommended beginning Latin instruction in Year 4. We have not started that yet, however, both because I feel that we still need to shore up our modern language study and I need some more time to consider Latin curricula. I am not sure if we will begin Latin until Year 5 or even Year 7.

In my next post about our homeschool curriculum, I will share some of the resources we are using for the “riches” and other subject areas not directly laid out in AmblesideOnline. I hope some of you will find these posts helpful as they plan for your own new Year 4 students.