Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Ambleside Online Y1 In Review (2014 - 2015)

Before I begin to share my 2015-2016 plans, I want to spend a little time reviewing this past school year, the materials we used, and the changes we made.  As I've mentioned before, I used Ambleside Online as my guide for planning the school year.  I'd like to share not only what I planned, but also what I ended up actually doing.  I think one of the greatest shortcomings in homeschooling blogs is that we're great at sharing all the wonderful things that we want to do and plan to do, but not so great at following up and sharing what actually worked, what we bailed on halfway through, or what sounded like a great idea but never really got off the ground.

So, with that in mind, here's my synopsis of Year 1 with Nathan in 2014 - 2015.

Daily and Weekly Subjects:

Nathan has a huge advantage when it comes to a Charlotte Mason education, namely that he's been listening to his older siblings narrate for years.  In fact, he started voluntarily joining narrations about two years before he began Year 1.  Nathan also has a magnetic attraction to me reading aloud.  If I am reading aloud anywhere in the house, he'll be there before I'm halfway through, and generally bringing his own book for me to read next.  After the first couple of weeks of our school year, I realized it was going to be impossible to read to Nathan and his older brother, Gregory, separately.  So Nathan ended up reading and narrating from Y1 and Y3, all year long.  I have no idea how this will play out in 2016-2017, when it is his turn for Y3!  

Nathan completed about seven to ten minutes of copywork daily, largely using copywork books I purchased from Classical Copywork.  These are fantastic and saved me a great deal of work.  I used the Aesop book, the Genesis book, and the Patriotic book.

Nathan is just about finished with MEP Year 1, which was a great fit for him and a wonderful (and free!) math curriculum.  I plan to do a little bit of the rest of Year 1 over the summer, then start him on Year 2 in the fall.  I didn't end up using the teacher's guide as much as I should have, but I've gained enough training in the MEP methods from using it for two years already with Gregory that we did ok.  It is something that I plan to remedy next year, however.

We did not keep any sort of history timeline, which I regret.  We did look up places on our globe and maps as we encountered different locations in our readings.  I am not sure that much of it was retained, however.

I'll talk about art, music study, foreign language, and handicrafts when I discuss our family work. 

The Booklist:

Titles in Bold are books we used and finished all I had scheduled, books in Italics are books we abandoned or didn't even begin, and books in plain type are books we put in some work on, but did not complete as scheduled.  *Books with asterisks are his favorites.

*50 Famous Stories
Our Island Story
Our Lady's Dowry
*Viking Tales
Our Island Saints
*d'Aulaire - Buffalo Bill, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin
Once Upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints
*Paddle to the Sea
*Harriot's Treasury 
Just So Stories
Blue Fairy Book
A Children's Garden of Verses
*Now We Are Six
Oxford Book of Poetry
Pilgrim's Progress
Bible Story Book
Burgess Book of Animals
Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding

If you're familiar with the Ambleside booklist, you'll notice a few things are missing, namely:

Parables from Nature - I just didn't like this book, largely because it seemed too longwinded and it didn't leave enough scope for imagination (Nelleke and I had an interesting conversation about it in the comments on her blog recently)

Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare - I didn't use the Shakespeare retellings because we've been doing Shakespeare as a family for two years already, and he's been listening in on that.  

Trial and Triumph - I decided I would rather focus on English and Irish Saints from the Year 1 time period.  Besides, I'm Catholic.  :-)

Bible Readings - We read and narrate the Mass readings just about every day in our home, so everyday the children are hearing and narrating from the Old Testament or Epistles and the Gospels.  I decided that since these readings aren't always in order, I would also read a Bible story book to give the children a better grounding in the chronology of the Bible.  

And in case your wondering what happened with the books we didn't use as planned, here's a bunch of excuses brief discussion:

Our Island Saints - The stories are on the long side, and worked better split over two weeks.  I decided to read fewer of them this year.  I'm going to continue this book next year.

Once Upon a Time Saints and More Once Upon a Time Saints - We read all of the first book, and about half of the second.  I'm not particularly enamored with the fairy tale-ish feel of these books, and when I looked at what we were already reading, I decided to drop it from the schedule.

Blue Fairy Book - I will fully admit that this is a place where I am lacking.  I really dislike reading the Lang fairy tale books aloud.  I'll read picture book fairy tales and shorter versions...  but the Lang ones just seem to go on and on and on and on and I just want to die.  My kids have listened to them as audiobooks though, and I am trying not to let on how I really feel about them.

Oxford Book of Poetry - I decided after the first term to read poetry as a family.  So Term 2 was A.A. Milne, and Term 3 was Longfellow (from Y3), which meant I skipped the Oxford Book of Poetry.

Burgess Book of Animals - I was reading this to Nathan and Gregory the previous year and at about five chapters from the end we all had more than enough of Old Mother Nature and Peter Rabbit.  If I could never read another Burgess book again, that would be a great thing.  We started reading some more detailed nature related picture books and Secrets of the Wood Folk by William Long, both of which were creating far more connections, lasting memories and interest in my children.

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding - From what I've seen on the AO forums, using this book is rather, well, contentious.  I like it though, and I think it can be used in a way that would work extremely well with Charlotte Mason's Philosophy of Education.  And I think something like this would give my kids a little more to consider and contemplate beyond nature study.  We live surrounded by so much nature and we are out walking in the forest every day - and the kids are extremely observant of the natural changes in the world.  This is a two edged sword though, because it can be hard to get the kids to engage in the typical nature journalling since it is so ubiquitous.  Or perhaps it is simply a discipline and teaching issue that I'm trying to solve by throwing a book at it.  It wouldn't be the first time...  I didn't end up using it because by the time I had scheduled myself to start it (after covering some of the scheduled topics in The Handbook of Nature Study) I was really struggling to do what I was doing and couldn't take on the learning curve required for the book.

And, that, in an extremely large nutshell, is Year 1.


  1. The year in review is an excellent strategy. I find it important to not only do it for myself, but to include the kids in the review. We all feel glad for what we have accomplished. You and the kids have done a lot- be proud of that!

    1. Thanks, Katherine! That's a good point about including the kids in the review - I will definitely do that.

  2. This is excellent! I think I need to do another post about EACH student...what worked and what didn't...good idea!!! :) Thanks for stopping by my bloggy.

    1. Thanks! Doing this has been so helpful, and I think it will be really useful down the road too, as I encounter these years again with my younger children.

  3. Thank you for doing this! Loved reading your excuses--I mean, reasons--why each thing worked or didn't. ;)

    1. Thanks :-) Writing these summaries has been so helpful for me in sorting out my thoughts, and I'm sure they are going to be really handy as I encounter each year again in the future. I was recently reminded about how useful my blog can be for me as I spent some time digging through the archives to find an answer to a question - it encouraged me to spend some more time writing here!