Monday, July 11, 2016

Our Year 2 with Ambleside Online

This summer SA(8) finished Ambleside Online Year 2. I may have mentioned before how grateful I am for the booklists Ambleside Online provides so I can get on with homeschooling. Once again I did not deviate much from what they laid out, though I did begin with Canadian history near the end of Year 2.

Next year is going to be interesting, as I will finally have two students! JJ(6) will be starting Year 1, and SA(8) will go on to Year 3. Of course, I'm not implying that JJ hasn't been learning before this --he learned to read this year, and is loving his math. But somehow starting Year 1 is still serious business for me. School suddenly becomes much less casual somehow. I am a little overwhelmed at the thought of two students. I know, you moms of many. It's nothing! But it seems like a lot to me now. I know I will adjust and move on, and do it again when I add another student, and another. Each step is an adjustment, though, and feels like a big deal.

Anyway, (big breath) before I jump into that I'm just going to take a moment to look back at Year 2. This is going to be long, sorry!

The Books

The books are my favourite part. There is something so satisfying about gathering a good feast of wonderful books and getting to know them well over the course of the school year. Some of the books are hard at the beginning, and then your student adjusts and you suddenly realize that what was once difficult has become easy. I also noticed over the year that SA made progress in narration from telling back a few sentences at a time to a few paragraphs at a time.

The History Books

Our Island Story (British History) was continued from Year 1. I continued to read aloud, even though SA became quite good at reading over the year. This book has a lot of names and places. In Year 3, I think I will introduce the names at the beginning of the lesson and allow him to read to himself.

We added several names that stood out to us to our timeline. I love our timeline! This year we will start a fresh one because JJ is starting school. I am considering making it a little bit longer (more space for SA) and giving SA the bottom portion and JJ the top. We will transfer names from stories that SA found especially compelling from the old timeline to the new one. At this age it is not so much about understanding who the most important figures are as it is about getting to know people in history and making connections between them. Having some people he already knows on our new timeline will help him make those connections.

We also had a few readings from A Child's History of the World this year. I was excited about this book at the beginning of the year, but in the end I didn't love it. I think it was the seemed to talk down to children a bit. However, we had some good experiences with it, especially when it enriched our understanding of Our Island Story.

Using Ambleside Online, we begin to study the history of our country parallel to the history of Britain when European explorers begin to arrive in the New World. I am reconsidering that for JJ's Year 1 next year (I would like to start with Canadian history from the beginning.). However, with SA I have followed AO as written and so we began our Canadian history near the end of Year 2. We used E.L. Marsh's Story of Canada for the stories of Christopher Columbus and John Cabot, and supplemented with Brown's Story of Canada for more on John Cabot. This worked well, and I would do it again. It meant more of an emphasis on Cabot than Columbus, which was appropriate for our Canadian homeschool. The books complemented each other well, not overlapping so much as adding to each other.

The Little Duke is a good example of a book that we grew into this year. It was difficult for SA to narrate at first, with all its description. However, over time narration got easier, and we grew to love the characters. I'm already looking forward to reading it again with my next child.

Trial and Triumph went much better this year than last year.

Somehow I missed Diane Stanley's Joan of Arc! I didn't buy it because it's in our local library system, but though I ordered it, it never ended up at my house.

The Literature

We managed to read through most of Pilgrim's Progress Book 1 in Term 1 of our school year. (It was supposed to take all year...) I don't know why, but I think it went that fast because the schedule told us to read 800 words a week. I wasn't about to count out 800 words every time, so I just read a little every day. We started in on Book 2, but went much slower. We still have a little bit to finish up in the new school year. The boys told me what to draw afterwards in a sort of picture narration. (SA in particular is not much of a draw-er...) So really, it was just a narration, but it felt unique to them because I drew what they were saying.

Understood Betsy was a fun, easy read in term 1. We really started to lengthen the amounts I could read to SA before we broke for narration, and that carried over into his other narrations.

The Wind in the Willows was SA's favourite of the year, I think, along with Robin Hood.

We dropped Parables from Nature.

Natural History and Geography

These were the books SA read on his own: Tree in the Trail, Seabird, and The Burgess Animal Book. I read Burgess aloud sometimes, but I found that he actually did a better job of narrating when he read it himself.  Usually, I set the timer for ten minutes. When the timer went, he read on to a good stopping-place and marked it in pencil (so he'd know where to start next time...). Then he came to me and narrated. I am hoping to hand over more of his reading to him in the coming school year.

Our Circle Time

Circle time is our time to learn things together as a family. As I have done from the beginning, I divided our "Circle Time" into two parts. One part was immediately after breakfast for Bible reading and narration, Scripture and hymn memory work, and prayer. The other part began at around 10:00 and marked the beginning of our school days. We read poetry on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, studied pictures on Tuesdays, and listened to music on Thursdays. A real highlight in the poetry this year was Robert Frost's little book You Come Too. Whenever I gave the children a choice of what to read, SA chose from that book. (JJ and MM still love Cat up a Tree.) My favourite times of picture study were in Term 2, when we studied Canadian artist Tom Thomson. Music...well...let's just say I need to work on getting them to sit quietly and listen. We really enjoyed watching The Nutcracker ballet (on YouTube) before Christmas.

We also tried to work on our French at Circle Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. In Term 2, SA really enjoyed working online with Middlebury Interactive Languages. I didn't end up purchasing more of it, though, as it is expensive! In term 3, we watched quite a few BookBox stories in French on YouTube. They were much in the same style as the Middlebury Interactive program (only without the step-by-step lessons, of course.). The stories seem to be real folk tales from all over the world. Also like Middlebury Interactive, they include the written word at the bottom of the screen (which Charlotte Mason would not have approved of, at least not at first.). I don't feel that I used these stories as well as I could have. I know I need to do better at teaching foreign language. Or maybe I just need to hand it over to my husband...

We did well (for us) with drawing in the third term. I discovered the Art for Kids Hub. I am no artist, and I have picked up and dropped Drawing with Children several times already in the few years I've been homeschooling. I still like it a lot, but I just can't seem to get any momentum with it. With the Art for Kids Hub, we'd just watch a video once a week and follow along. SA did not complain, and JJ and MM continued to draw throughout the week based on that one lesson. If I can't be perfect, art lessons done this way still bless my family...

The Skills

SA made a lot of progress in copywork from the beginning of the year to the end. His neatness remained about the same throughout the year, but his fluency increased quite a bit. He went from printing three words in five minutes to printing two or three lines. He is still "behind" other children his age, and would still not voluntarily pick up a pencil and write something down. I think this coming year will be the year it takes off, though. He is becoming conscious that he can't write or spell what his cousin (just slightly older) can. JJ is also catching up with him in this area. I think these things may just give him the motivation he needs. I may add spelling to circle time this year, as I think SA and JJ will be at about the same level this year.

We made some changes between Term 2 and Term 3 in the way we do math. Those changes have worked out very well, and I plan to keep going with them. Our every-day math conversations started coming back, and SA began to amaze me again with the way he figures things out. He had been getting bored with just Singapore Math day after day, it was as simple as that. More variety and more inspiration has been good for him.

We had a good year. We still love homeschooling, and learning, and Ambleside Online!