Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Ambleside Online Y7 in Review (2014-2015)

To Recap: my Y1 review, and my Y3 review.  There's not a lot of duplication here, because there's a big difference between Y1, Y3, and Y7!

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 7 with Emma in 2014 - 2015.

Daily and Weekly Subjects:

Emma narrates each of her readings, either immediately afterwards or at some point later in the day. Her oral narrations were generally while we were taking an afternoon walk or while I was making dinner.  At the beginning of the year she wrote 2-3 narrations a week, and by the end she was writing one a day.  At the beginning of the year I assigned which readings would have written narrations, but by the end of the year she was selecting some of them.  If she did not narrate a book orally on the day the reading was assigned, she would have to do a written narration for that reading.

For the first half of the year, she wrote her narrations in a basic composition book, then switched to a document on my computer.  She felt like she could type faster and compose better on the computer than on paper, and since I feel the same way, I let her switch.   In April I set her up with a private Wordpress blog and now they are all tagged by book and nicely ordered.  It is password protected and my husband and I are the only ones who have access to it.  Keeping narrations on a blog like this has been great for my husband and me because it makes it easier for us to read what she's doing and has made it so that my husband can be much more aware of what she's reading and writing.

Emma's only assigned copywork was a verse or two from Luke each week.  She also has a Commonplace book, but uses it only sporadically at best.

Dictation and Grammar:
In the first term of the year, I had Emma doing dictation twice a week and grammar twice a week.  She is an excellent speller, so dropping dictation was a natural choice when I realized that her schedule was too full.  She continued with grammar using Our Mother Tongue into the second term, but once she finished the first unit of the book I put it aside.  She felt like she was understanding  studying grammar through Latin and Greek much better than she was through this book so we streamlined and dropped Our Mother Tongue.  I'm considering bringing it back for part of the year next year as I do think there is value in studying grammar in English, but I haven't decided yet.

Emma is very slowly moving through Henle Book 1.  She's finished the first section which introduces the five declensions.  She did 2-3 thirty minute sessions of Latin a week.  In the third term Emma surpassed me in Latin.

Three years ago, Emma decided she wanted to learn Greek.  I was enthusiastic about the idea, because I think to at least gain some familiarity with a language with a different character set while young is a fantastic endeavor.  And besides, Greek!  How great is that?  She started with Book 2 then Book 3 of the Hey, Andrew series but found the pace was too slow and they were too repetitive.  I moved her to Basic Greek in 30 Minutes a Day towards the latter half of Y6 and she's continued that this year.  She likes the book and it is going well for her.  She's entirely self taught, I didn't even get past the Greek alphabet.  The best I can do is try and help her check the answer key.  She did 1-2 thirty minute sessions of Greek a week.

Emma is currently using Rosetta Stone Spanish, Level 2.  We really like Rosetta Stone, and feel like it works well and is worth the money.  New this year was the addition of some Spanish translation work, using First Spanish Reader.  She uses Rosetta Stone for 15-20 minutes four to five days a week and does Spanish translation once a week for 30 minutes.  When translating, she first copies the paragraph in Spanish, then writes her translation, and then we go over her translation together.  I took Spanish in high school and college and I'm currently using Duolingo to learn and review (I have a 322 day streak!) so I'm generally able to help her.  Emma is taking a break from Rosetta Stone over the summer and using Duolingo as well.

Emma has been using the Life of Fred books for several years now, and they've worked well for her.  She started the Algebra book at the beginning of Term 3.  She's found the Life of Fred books very self-explanatory and only occasionally needs help from me.  I do check her work at each bridge (or city, as they are now called in the Algebra book) just to keep abreast of how she's doing.

Book of Centuries:
Emma is using a new Book of Centuries this year, and she's liking this one a lot better.  We were using the one from Homeschool in the Woods, but after reading The Living Page, I decided to switch to the one Jen at Wildflowers and Marbles discussed.  Emma definitely could be making more entries in it than she is, but I'm glad to see that she's been adding at least one to three entries a week over the course of the year.  She has not added any sketches or pictures to her Book of Centuries.

For Geography review, I have her using the TapQuiz Maps app two to three times a week.  I also have her look up locations for her reading, and she has a large map of Britain and Ireland next to her work area that gets a fair amount of use.  

Emma is very good at knitting and crochet, as well as working with felt, and counted cross-stitch.  She's a very creative person who draws well, enjoys working in clay, and has done some work with acrylics as well.  Some of these pursuits are done at home, but I also try to sign her up for classes periodically at a wonderful art studio/cooperative in town.  She's able to get some good dedicated time for working on projects there, as well as access to a kiln and wonderful instructors.

I'll talk about picture study, music study, Shakespeare and Plutarch 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 her favorites.  +Books with a plus are ones I read as she was reading them.

Please see the Ambleside Online Y7 Booklist for links to the AO books

History and Biography:
+*The Birth of Britain
+In Freedom's Cause
+*The Daughter of Time
+*Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc
+Other excerpted primary source documents (see the AO List)

*Brenden Voyage
+*How the Heather Looks
+*Book of Marvels, Ch. 31-49

A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture (link)
+How to Book of the Mass  (link)
+*The Story of a Soul  (link)
The Power of the Cross  (link)
The Gospel According to Luke  

+Age of Chivalry
+*Once and Future King
Chaucer for Children: A Golden Key
+History of English Literature
+*Watership Down

Natural History:
+Lay of the Land

+The World of Atoms and Quarks  (link)
+The Wonder of Light  (link)
+Adventures with a Microscope  (link)
+The Journey: A Look Inside the Human Body  (link)
+Microbe Hunters  (link)
+*Phineas Gage: A Gruesome but True Story About Brain Science  (link)

+*Penny Candy

Idylls of the King
*Grammar of Poetry

Art History:
Story of Art by Gombrich  (link)

How to Read a Book

Free Reading:
I have a list of about 100 books that Emma read over the last year.  It seems a little much to post them here, don't you think?  She reads a wide variety of good quality fiction, historical fiction, and some non-fiction too.  

General Comments:

I picked different science books than what is listed for Y7 because the new science recommendations were not out yet when I was planning my school year, and by the time I heard about them, I had already started the school year.  I'm really glad to see that AO is transitioning to a living book science curriculum, and I'm looking forward to exploring the Y8 selections.

On the whole I was happy with the faith related books I picked for Emma.  I wanted to give her something that would be sort of a nuts and bolts kind of book, a saint biography, and something more devotional.  The How to Book of the Mass was great - a fantastic choice for a faithful Catholic family who attends a Novus Ordo Mass and isn't likely to attend anything else regularly.  When I picked The Story of a Soul, I had no idea Emma would choose St. Therese as her Confirmation Saint.  She made this decision even before starting to read the book.  It is a special gift to get to read a book written by your Confirmation Saint, and very helpful to have it already in the schedule!  We didn't get to The Power of the Cross though, but she did have another devotional book, How to Get the Most Out of the Eucharist, she was reading during our monthly hour at Adoration.  And I love Knecht's Commentary on Holy Scripture because he does explains the typology in the Old Testament so beautifully.

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

Age of Chivalry - This book was fine, but frankly I found it made exciting stories rather boring.  Emma did ok with it, but once we finished the Arthurian stories I decided to put it aside.  Again, that struggle between workload and life meant some things had to go.

Once and Future King - I was trying to read this aloud to Emma, as a special mother-daughter time. I wish I could have kept up with it, but we only made a couple chapters past the end of Book 1.  I have dreams of continuing it over the summer, but that hasn't happened yet.  We loved this book though, and it was a great one to share aloud.

Chaucer for Children: A Golden Key - Emma did better with this book than I did.  I admit that I dropped back to the Chaucer paraphrase by Tappan so I could know what she was narrating.  This was also in the height of my sleep deprivation, and I hope that I can be up to Chaucer the next time around!

Adventures with a Microscope - I bought slides to use with some of the chapters in this book, and that worked well.  Emma did some lovely sketches in her science notebook from her microscope observations, but we did not get as far in this book as I had hoped.  Again, time crunch and a mismatch between aspirations and reality.

Microbe Hunters - We read two or three chapters of this book and I realized I had scheduled her to go through this book much too quickly.  Since it was one I had scheduled for term 3, I decided to pull it and move it to Y8.  The chapters are long and rich, and there were a number of points that cried out for illustrations, online research, and future discussion.

Grammar of Poetry - This has been a great program for Emma.  She's enjoyed learning about the structure of poetry and has sometimes enjoyed writing the poetry as well.  And sometimes that has been a real struggle too, but a worthwhile one.  I'm very glad we're doing it.  We weren't able to get the program until October though, which meant we haven't finished it.  But I plan to have her finish it next year.  I had hoped to do it with her, but that didn't happen.  Maybe next time I have a child go through it.

Poetry - Emma read Idylls at the rate of 15 minutes a week and it took quite awhile to read it at that rate.  But she enjoyed it and also participated in our family poetry time so she had the opportunity of enjoying other poets as well as Tennyson's Idylls.

Art History - I used Gombrich's book because I already owned it.

What I Would Do Differently:

I would skip the Age of Chivalry from the beginning and offer it as a free read.

I would not use The History of English Literature for Boys and Girls.  We both felt like the book talked down to the reader, frequently discussing how wonderful a particular book is then stating that the reader is far too young to enjoy the book, but perhaps he can pick it up when he gets older.  I could see reading selected chapters to give some background for books we're actually reading, but reading the whole thing through felt like a lot of facts without much to hook them on to.  Neither one of us felt like we were retaining much because it was such a litany of books...  and we felt discouraged to look into any of them further by the author's attitude.

I would not schedule out Ivanhoe over the whole year.  Ivanhoe is certainly well written and exciting story, but it is a far cry from accurate historical fiction, even though it feels like it should be. And the author's negative view of the Church and everyone associated with the Church grates over time, and isn't something I want to give such careful study.  Why is it that every religious figure in the book is some combination of greedy, conniving, unfaithful to his vows, a glutton and a fool?  We also listened to The White Company in the car, which had similar issues with the portrayal of religious figures, as well as many harsh words against the cloistered life.  I would keep the White Company as a free read, and not spend the time we spent on it as an audiobook.

I think I would assign Beowulf and Sir Gawaine and the Green Knight (there's an audio version from Audible that has the book read in a modern translation as well as the original language - doesn't that sound wonderful?) instead of Ivanhoe.  Both are already on the free reading list and I think they would be excellent candidates for slow assigned reading.

I would not assign Lay of the Land again.  I thought this book was beautiful, and found a lot in it to encourage me to look more deeply at the world around me, as well as some wonderful quotes about the value of nature study and observing the natural world.  The book fell pretty flat for Emma though, and her narrations of it were not very good.  I think I'd keep this book for an older student.

I would like to use the AO Science recommendations next time, now that they are in place and finalized.

And, that, in an extremely large nutshell, is Year 7.


  1. Came via your link at Afterthoughts. Great review. The AO science changes came too late for us also and I'm now planning science for my son's years 11 & 12 which he'll jump ahead to after he finishes out year 8 this year. I would have been happy to plough through your daughter's 100 free reads!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Carol. I just might put out the free reads list, although it seems a little daunting. I might have her go through and pull out some of her favorites - Brandy does that occasionally and I've found that helpful.

  2. Very helpful, as I will start AO 7 on Tuesfay.

  3. Thank you so much, I really needed to hear this 'voice in the darkness!'- putting personality into year 7. Very practical and helpful. We're homeschooling in a remote area of Namibia and I sometimes find I'm wrestling with the AO website to find something of what you have written here so calmly and clearly! Thank you!

  4. Thank you so much! Your calm clear description of year 7 is salve to a worked up soul! We're homeschooling in a remote area of Namibia and as much as I love CM, I sometimes find the AO website overwhelming and can't see the way it pans out practically. Your descriptions give me courage:)

    1. Thanks, I really appreciate your comment!