A Year in the Books: Reviewing our First Year with Ambleside Online

book stack

Last week marked a big milestone in our homeschool, but it passed by pretty quietly and uneventfully. We finished our Ambleside Online Year One work, closing the books and bidding farewell (for now) to beloved friends such as Jenny Wren and Peter Rabbit, King Harald Halfdanson, and Paddle-to-the-Sea. In less than two short months, we will pick back up where we left off with some of these characters, and add new acquaintances and adventures to our happy little homeschool bookshelf! I am already quite excited about the books we will be reading in Year Two. But before I get too carried away with plans for 2018, I felt I should recap the year we just finished. Doing a little homeschool audit a la Mystie Winkler was helpful in celebrating our successes and recognizing our strengths as well as acknowledging areas that are weak and need shoring up. So, let’s dig in, shall we?

What Our Year Looked Like:

First of all, I consider it a huge success that we actually finished our Ambleside Year 1 work on schedule after a long, drawn out moving process. I did not know if we could really do it. But we did. And I am proud of myself and my son for pulling up our bootstraps and sticking it out.

Ambleside Online divides the year’s work up into three terms, ideally with exams at the end of each term. They also have a rotation for Artist and Composer study to coincide with each term, as well as monthly hymns and folk songs. Our daily “Morning Time” included these hymns and folk songs daily, as well as memory work, prayers and our “loop subjects.” The loop subjects were the ones we needed to get to weekly, rather than daily: art study, composer study, geography, handicrafts, solfa, nature study and poetry reading. I changed out our memory work by month or by term, depending on how long we needed to work on things. I could go more into detail about how I set up our Morning Time binders and memory work in another post. Suffice to say, it works pretty well for us.

After we did our morning time binder work and loop subjects, we started into math. We have been using MEP math, and I really am happy with what a solid curriculum it is. My son has a much better grasp of how numbers work and how to solve problems than he had before we started using MEP, even though he is a naturally math-y person. I do want to add in more fun math activities outside of MEP, and during our “Yuletide Term” (again, deserving of its own separate post), we are really enjoying reading Bedtime Math together.

After math, we did our Ambleside Online readings and narrations. Some books were more challenging for my son to grasp and retell the stories, but they were all well-worth the reading. I think the easiest and best narrations he gave this year were from Aesop’s Fables. I think he really enjoyed hearing the fairy tales from Lang’s Blue Fairy Book, but they were harder for him to tell back to me. He also loves all things written by Thonton W. Burgess, so the Burgess Bird Book was always a favorite. Our most recent favorite has been Viking Tales. It probably helps that it is a very manly book, and he is at an age where that is becoming more appealing. Plus, I love this one because with my own Scandinavian heritage and personal visit to Norway and Sweden, I have a lot of love for the Vikings, in spite of the burning and pillaging and all! Interspersed between reading and narration, we had copyworb (currently using a cursive writing practice workbook from a Beka), Swedish Drill practice, and Spanish lessons.

Some Successes and Some Room for Improvement:

I am pretty pleased with my son’s progress in his cursive handwriting over the past year. Now we need to work on getting him fluent enough that he will write in cursive when he is not doing school. He still prints (self-taught) when he is copying things or trying to spell things for his own personal projects outside of school time. Swedish Drill is hit or miss. Sometimes I don’t feel like doing it. Sometimes he flops and flails around instead of actual trying to do the right motions. Sometimes the toddler gets underfoot too much. But we keep trying to be more consistent and keep it fun and accurate at the same time. Spanish was a bit random because I did not have a curriculum. I know enough vocabulary and phrases to get my kids started with speaking, but I lack the direction to be consistent in my approach. We did watch Salsa episodes, which was really fun and may have given me a little direction in what vocab to work on, but it was not enough to really plan around. I am seriously considering buying a Spanish curriculum to give me the planning help and direction I need to make a consistent effort. I want my kids to really be pretty proficient in Spanish, and I am not doing well at pursuing this goal on my own.

I feel like in most areas we have improved and learned a lot. I know my son is making connections with things we have studied, and he is learning to care about nature and stories, which is pleasing to see. He used part of his 7th birthday money to buy a bird feeder and bird seed so that we can watch and learn more about our local feathered friends, all of his own accord. When reading some assorted poetry selections last week, he was excited to see one of the poems was by William Shakespeare. I guess he didn’t know the Bard also wrote poetry, not just slightly odd plays, hee-hee! And when tonight’s read aloud mentioned a print of Whistler’s Mother hanging over the mantle piece, he looked at me with wide, knowing eyes. I love that we are learning all sorts of new folk songs together, and even more that the 2 year old is getting exposed to the great hymns of the faith at such a young age. She really picks up on things surprisingly quickly! It is hard having a very busy but needy toddler wanting to be right in the middle of everything in our school day, but it is also a blessing.

All in all, I am very proud of my son and his accomplishments and hard work over the past year. And I am very thankful for Ambleside Online for providing the structure and direction to keep us on the path pursuing truth, goodness and beauty. Now we take a break for a more relaxed, paired down Yuletide Term. But I am truly anticipating great things when we begin Year 2 in January!

PS–If you want to know more about Mystie’s Homeschool Audit, click here. Even better, check out her Art of Homeschool e-course!

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Podcast Round-Up: Classical Charlotte Mason Education Edition

Here we are back at last with the second post in my Podcast Round-up series! If you are a podcast addict like me, you are always looking for new listening material. And if you are anywhere on the classical homeschooling spectrum, you are going to love this list!

If you missed the first post in my Podcast Round-up series, it was focussed on some of my favorite podcasts for homeschool mom encouragement. This time around, I am narrowing that focus even more to podcasts specifically geared toward the subject of Classical, Charlotte Mason style home education. Some of these are more for the purpose of the mother’s education (I’m looking at you, Close Reads and Scholé Sisters!), while others are a bit more in the vein of how to actually teach using a classical or Charlotte Mason approach. In the end, though, that’s all educational for the homeschooling mom, no? I highly encourage you to give these folks a listen and let me know which ones are your favorites!

 
Circe Institute Podcast: Close Reads with David Kern, Angelina Stanford and Tim MacIntosh

The Classical Homeschool with Jennifer Dow and Ashley Woleben
The Delectable Education Podcast with Emily Kaiser, Nicole Williams, Liz Cotrill
The Simply Convivial Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler
AfterCast, an AfterThoughts audio blog with Brandy Vencel
Scholé Sisters with Brandy Vencel, Pam Barnhill and Mystie Winkler

It’s your turn! What are your podcast recommendations for mother’s education or classical Charlotte Mason homeschool helps? Did I miss any? Please leave me a comment and let me know!

Podcast Round-Up: Homeschool Mom Edition

If you know me in real life, you probably already know that I like to listen to podcasts quite a lot! I don’t listen to the radio much except when I am in the car, and even then, I will frequently choose an audio book the kids and I can enjoy together instead. I enjoy podcasts because I can listen and learn while getting other things done, like the laundry or dishes or meal planning. And I love that the podcast world is so big and broad these days that you can probably find a podcast on just about any niche interest you have! I started out listening to knitting and crochet podcasts, actually. Yes, people actually sit down and record themselves discussing their craft projects, and yes, it is actually really enjoyable to listen, at least if you are into the craft! But now that I don’t spend as much time playing with yarn as I do reading to small children, my podcast genre focus has shifted a bit.

Since I have a lot going on with our move from Illinois to Tennessee, as well as some Virtual Assistant work I just took on unexpectedly, I am going to be posting a little less for the next week or two. I thought it might be fun to do a quick series on some of my current favorite podcasts in a few different areas of interest. First, we have the Homeschool Mom Podcast Round-Up! These podcasts (listed in no particular order!) are mostly geared toward equipping and encouraging homeschooling parents, but I think some of them would be enjoyable listens for any mom, even if you don’t happen to homeschool or your kids are too young (or too old) for school!

Cultivating the Lovely with MacKenzie Monroe

Your Morning Basket with Pam Barnhill

Wild + Free with Ainsley Arment and Tina Ingold

Homeschool Solutions Show with Pam Barnhill

Homeschool Sanity Show with Dr. Melanie Wilson

Homeschool Snapshots with Pam Barnhill

Simplified Organization Audio Blog with Mystie Winkler

So, there you go! Some of my favorite recommendations for homeschool mom podcasts! What is your favorite, either from this list, or one that I did not mention?

100 Songs to Sing with Children

 

Singing Children, by Ferdinand Georg Waldmüller, 1858

Music has always been a big part of our family’s life. My husband and I met in college as music majors, and we have always been involved in some sort of church music ministry since we were married. We often play music of various style in our home, and our children have grown up going to choir and band practice since they were newborns! We sing and dance together whenever the mood strikes, and they both love to play rhythm instruments and play around at the piano. I have not, however, been as intentional about singing a wide variety of folk music with them as I would like. I realized this one day when I was reading a doctoral paper titled “The Extent to Which American Children’s Folk Songs are Taught by General Music Teachers Throughout the United States” written by Marilyn J. Ward. As I read over the lists of songs taught to children in previous generations, I realized just how many of the songs I knew but had never sung to my children. We did start daily folk song singing last year when we began using AmblesideOnline, but there are so many more songs I want my children to know! So, we will begin singing multiple songs in addition to the ones on the AmblesideOnline list for each month, because I don’t think we can ever have too much music in our little homeschool!

Drawing from Marilyn Ward’s doctoral dissertation, as well as my own memory, I compiled a (mostly alphabetical) master list of 100 songs that I want my children to be familiar with before they leave home. This list does not include all the common preschool songs and lullabies we already know and sing as a family, such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star or Old MacDonald. It is intended more to stretch our repertoire beyond those, while still including some more common children’s songs that I just have not yet sung with my kids on a regular basis. Some are simple and repetitive, perfect for the preschool and early elementary years. Others are longer and have more complex text and melodies that will take us longer to learn.

I have included a mixture of American and British folk music, as well as some African American Spirituals, patriotic songs, and a few of what I call “Sunday School songs.” I chose not to include any hymns in this list as that is a whole other list I need to compile soon! Some are upbeat and silly. Others are slow and melancholy. Many of the folk songs may also have play party dances or games that go along with them. I have added an asterisk next to the ones I know to have a dance or game corresponding with the song, but there may be more that I do not know about! (This is where a quick internet search could be helpful!) If you are looking for ideas to add some more singing fun to your homeschool or other school classroom, this list should get you headed in the right direction! (And I know it would be AWESOME if I had links to lyrics or recordings of all these, but just now I don’t have the time or wifi bandwidth to make that happen. I do hope to get that done in the future, though. For now, Google is your friend. 😀)

This post is linked at The Homeschool Nook Linkup Party!

 

100 Songs to Sing with Children

A
Aiken Drum
All Night, All Day
America
America, the Beautiful
Angel Band, The
Animal Fair
Ants Go Marching, The
Ash Grove, The
A Tisket, A Tasket
Auld Lang Syne

B
Baby Beluga
Bear Went over the Mountain, The
Believe Me if All those Endearing Young Charms
Billy Boy
B-I-N-G-O
Blow the Man Down
Bought Me A Cat
Buffalo Gals

C
Camptown Races
Children, Go Where I Send Thee
Clementine
Crawdad Song

D
Davy Crockett
Deep River
Dem Bones
Did You Ever See a Lassie
Do, a Deer
Down By the Riverside
Down by the Station
Down in the Valley

F
Farmer in Dell, The*
Frere Jacque
Froggy Went a Courtin’

G
Go Down Down, Moses
Go In and Out the Window*
Greensleeves
Green Grass Grew All Around, The

H
He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands
Here We Come A’Wassailing
Hole in My Bucket
Hot Cross Buns

I
I Know An Old Lady
I Love You a Bushel and a Peck
I’ve Been Workin’ on the Railroad

L
Lavender’s Blue
Little Liza Jane
Little Bird, Go Through My Window*
London Bridge*
Londonderry Air (Danny Boy)
Looby Loo*
Love Somebody
Lucy Locket*

M
Mairzy Doats
Make New Friends
Mary Had a Little Lamb
The Marine’s Hymn
Michael, Row the Boat Ashore
More We Get Together, The
My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean
My Paddle Keen and Bright (The Canoe Song)

N
New River Train
Noble Duke of York, The

O
Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley Grow
Oh, Dear, What Can the Matter Be?
Oh Susanna
Oh, Where Has My Little Dog Gone?
Old Brass Wagon
Old John the Rabbit
On Top of Old Smokey
Once I Caught a Fish Alive
One Elephant Went Out to Play
Over the River and Through the Woods

P
Polly, Put the Kettle On
Pop Goes the Weasel

R
Red River Valley
Rig-a-jig-jig*

S
Sailing, Sailing
Sally, Go Round the Sun
Scarborough Fair
She’ll Be Comin’ Round the Mountain
Shenandoah
Shoo Lie Loo*
Simple Gifts
Sing A Song of Sixpence
Skip, Skip, Skip to my Lou*
Star-Spangled Banner
Swing Low, Sweet Chariot

T
Take Me Out to the Ballgame
There’s A Little Wheel a Turnin’
There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea
This Land is Your Land
This Little Light of Mine
This Old Man
Three Blind Mice

W
Wade in the Water
Water is Wide, The (O Wally, Wally)
Who Built the Ark?

Y
Yankee Doodle
You’re a Grand Old Flag

Z
Zippity Doo Dah

Embracing Real Life and Routines in the Midst of Transition

It looks like we are back in school. But we are taking it one day at a time. Because this living in two houses in two different states is not for the faint of heart! And I will admit, I have felt pretty faint of heart a lot lately! But sometime last week I decided that it was time to get back to some semblance of a normal routine, even if we could not stick to it all the time. Ever since we put our Illinois house on the market we sort of dropped our routine because of extra cleaning and packing, showing the house unexpectedly, and extra trips back and forth between Tennessee and Illinois. But the chaos has taken its toll on us all, and I could tell that the kids would especially benefit from more structured days again.

So this weekend, we unpacked the school books and supplies and loaded them into their new home in the dining room at our rental house. My husband went out and bought a new bookshelf especially for our growing collection of children’s literature. We reassembled the desk we had brought down from Illinois. (That thing has been through a few moves already, but it still is serving us well!) I posted a simple daily routine on a small whiteboard above the dining room fireplace, and planned out enough school work to get us through a few days, at least. Then on Monday morning, we started back where we had left off last time we had school.

It wasn’t pretty. My son was sulky and obstinate, refusing to narrate the Bible lesson and complaining about every little lesson as if it were pure torture. A simple math problem, only 2 questions in, brought on tears and frustration. My daughter was cranky after a rough night of waking up several times due to cutting a new molar. She was distracting to the max! We are using a folding table and chairs as our dining room table because the real one is still at the other house. We don’t have any shiny new school supplies because, honestly, we have plenty of old stuff that still works. I have not had time to put together new memory work for our morning time binders, so we just reviewed the old stuff from earlier in the summer. But we pushed through. I kept my expectations low, and I managed not to lose my temper completely.

Thankfully, everything went more smoothly the second day, in spite of much grumbling and complaining from my student before beginning lessons. I had found some cd’s when unpacking yesterday, and started some classical music playing softly on the computer. Also found while unpacking were some coloring books, stickers and old crayons for keeping the toddler busy. My son stayed on task without sulking or arguing. He narrated our lesson from 50 Famous Stories beautifully. Math was pleasant and tear-free. And so was the toddler, for the most part. Things were not perfect, but the morning was much better than the one before. And the only time I was really hard pressed not to lose my cool was after lessons were done and the kids were getting Kinetic Sand all over my freshly mopped floor. (Seriously, I love to play with the stuff myself, but why does it have to make such a mess!? And yes, maybe it was my own fault for letting them play with it if I didn’t want the floor getting dirty just then. #momfail)

The thing about homeschooling is that it isn’t always pretty because it is real life. And real life is not picture perfect. Every moment is not Pinterest-worthy. The house gets messy because people are living in it 24/7. The children are unruly and need disciplined because, hello, they are children! I get frustrated when my expectations are too high, or when I make unrealistic plans for the day, because I am human. But you know what? That is also the beauty of it all. We are real. We are flawed. We make messes and mistakes. And then we give grace and forgive each other and wipe up the tears and the spills and move on. And it is beautiful. Because, like blogger Bekah Jane Pogue says #realisthenewperfect so I am choosing to embrace this real life, rather than wishing for some other life that isn’t.

And in that spirit, here are some photos of our second day of school in all of its real, untidy, but peaceful and productive glory!