Saturday, June 20, 2015

Ambleside Online Y3 in Review (2014-2015)

For those of you who have read my Y1 review, some of this may look familiar.  But for the sake of completeness, I'm leaving in a little bit of duplication.

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 3 with Gregory in 2014 - 2015.

Daily and Weekly Subjects:

Gregory narrated from each of his books, and at this point can narrate quite well.  He still will not always pay attention to names and places well enough to recall them in the narration, but he is steadily improving.  Generally his narrations were completed with his younger brother Nathan.  One would start, then they would trade off until the end.  Then I gave them each a chance to fill in anything that they felt the other person missed.  They did this with the Y1 and Y3 readings, since I found it impossible to separate them at read aloud time.

Gregory completed ten mintues of copywork in cursive every day.  Gregory started learning cursive using Simply Charlotte Mason's cursive book in Term 3 of last year, so we finished that book then moved into the cursive 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.

Gregory is about halfway through MEP Year 3, and is moving a little more slowly than I would like largely because he's still working on cementing the basic math facts.  I also have him using XtraMath every day to help with this.  I really should be doing more activities with him from the teacher's guide and working with him more, but it wasn't something I figured out how to add in this year.  Instead we mainly worked through the pages with me nearby, and I helped when he got stuck or confused.  I'm hoping to do better with this next year.

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, and Gregory seems to be retaining this information well.  He's also been practicing with US Geography using the Stack the States app and the TapQuiz Maps app.

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 scheduledbooks 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. +Books with plus signs are ones he read to himself.  All books were narrated.

+ Children's History of the World 
+ This Country of Ours  (I read aloud for the first half of the year)
Our Island Story
Our Lady's Dowry
+ Leonardo Da Vinci
* Michelangelo by Diane Stanley
* Bard of Avon by Diane Stanley
+ Landing of the Pilgrims
+ Marco Polo (Komroff version)

Natural History:
+ Pagoo
+ Secrets of the Woods

* Rare Catholic Stories
+ Tall Tales
Bible Story Book

Heroes by Charles Kingsley
+ * Children of the New Forest (I had Gregory read this aloud to me)
+ * The Princess and the Goblin  (I had Gregory read this aloud to me)
+ Jungle Book
Pilgrim's Progress
+ * King of the Wind

William Blake

Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding

Free Reading:
I have a list of about 100 books that Gregory read over the last year.  It seems a little much to post them here, don't you think?  But he is reading fluently and happily on his own, and reading a wide variety of good quality fiction, historical fiction, as well as some non-fiction too.  

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 participating in that.  

Trial and Triumph - We're Catholic, so I do not consider this book an good option for our family.  Instead he listened to stories about English and Irish Saints from Our Island Saints with his brother.

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.

A Drop of Water - We used this book last year and did many of the experiments, so I did not schedule it again for this year.

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

Jungle Book:  This book was a stretch for Gregory, and I could tell by his narrations that he wasn't getting the stories as fully as I would have liked.  I had him reading one story a week, and I should have broken it down into 2-3 reading sessions.  However, our spring schedule didn't allow for that, so we only read the Mowgli stories.  When I do Y3 again in 2016-2017, I'll allow more time for the book and read it out loud.  I'm sure Gregory will listen in and he'll get a chance to enjoy it more.  It is such a wonderful collection of stories!

King of the Wind:  This is actually a free reading book, but I moved it to Gregory's schedule because it seemed like in the second term he needed a little more.  I probably should have started Jungle Book in Term 2 instead, but I didn't look ahead that far.  However, he enjoyed it, and it was a fun (and easy) one for him to read and narrate.

Teasdale/Conkling poetry:  As I mentioned in the Y1 post, I blended the Y1 and Y3 poetry selections for our poetry selections after the first term.  Teasdale and Conkling were put aside for the (far more enjoyable *ahem*) A.A. Milne.

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.

The Elephant in the Room:
No discussion of Year 3 can be complete without at least a passing mention of the issues of a Catholic family using Our Island Story to study the Reformation period in England.  I skipped chapters 63 and 66-70 wholesale and read some of Our Lady's Dowry (a good book, but unfortunately incomplete and only available by subscribing to the Mater Amabilis Yahoo group).  I also skipped paragraphs and dropped some of the more negative descriptions of Catholics in many other chapters.  There are things I like about Our Island Story, namely the quality of writing and the narrative style of the work, but there are some serious historical inaccuracies as well.  To say, for example, "During her [Queen Elizabeth's] reign people were neither tortured nor killed in the name of religion" is absolutely wrong, and would have been a shocking statement to anyone who did not follow the state church, be they Catholic or Puritan or a non-conforming sect.  There's ample evidence to the contrary, and gross inaccuracies like this drive me crazy.  One of our family read alouds for the year is Crossbows and Crucifixes, a needed balance to some of the problems in Our Island Story.

I'm not quite sure what I'll do about Our Island Story when I encounter Y3 again.  I may use just a few chapters along with Our Lady's Dowry and Crossbows and Crucifixes.  It is certainly not one I would hand to my child to read on his own.  Celeste, at Joyous Lessonshad a good discussion about this issue in the comments of this post.

And, that, in an extremely large nutshell, is Year 3.


  1. Love this review, Amber. My youngest dd will begin yr3 in the fall and I am already dreading getting back into Parables of Nature. We got through the yr 2 readings, but she seemed so bored with it. My oldest dd read it, and didn't like it either. It's not that they don't "get" it, but rather what you said about it being long-winded.So I will have to make the decision as to whether or not to drop it from next year's schedule.

  2. I so enjoyed reading this as well! Thank you! There is a nice movie for King of the Wind that we all enjoyed. It has some things not true to the book (surprise, surprise...all movies do this, right?!), but overall, we so enjoyed it! I believe this is it:

    1. Oh, good to know, thank you! I will definitely have to track that down. I'm sure we would all enjoy it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!