Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Year In Review: Ambleside Online Y2 (2015-2016)

Before I start planning our new year, I like to spend some 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.

I also don't want to be duplicate or encroach on all the excellent work that Ambleside Online has done over the years.  Their dedication and service to the Charlotte Mason community is astounding, and such an enormous gift.  Please visit their site and take a look at the Year 2 program if you'd like to learn more about what they so generously offer.

This is Nathan's second year using Ambleside Online for the vast majority of his work.  The review of his first year can be found here.  I'm going to follow a similar format as last year.

You can also see what we study as a family here.

Nathan planting in the garden - we started these seeds in the spring and managed to keep them alive long enough to plant.  They are doing well in the garden, hooray!

Daily and Weekly Subjects


Nathan completes 10 minutes of printing each day, using the Poetry for Kids copywork from Classical Copywork.  He should be using copywork from his reading, but this is a shortcut I used last year and decided to continue into this year.  I really like these copywork books because they are inexpensive, high quality, and with my ProClick, easy to put together into a nice little book.

Reading Practice (and Nature Lore)

At this point Nathan can read independently, but it is enough of a struggle that he still isn't particularly interested in doing so.  For reading practice, I had him read two of the nature readers by Arabella Buckley.  He enjoyed them and it was a nice two birds with one stone sort of arrangement.


Nathan continued with MEP, and is about 2/3 of the way through Level 2.  We work on math for 30 minutes each day, and I did not end up using the teacher's plans much at all.  I don't think this is a good thing, and I hope to include more activities from the teacher's plans next year.  I also started having him do the Calculadder drills in Term 3 to give him a little more basic math facts practice.  I recently started doing these drills orally rather than in writing because I felt that the time pressure was causing his handwriting to deteriorate.  I'm not sure I like this, but I do want to make sure he has the basic math facts well established in his memory.

I really like these laminated maps!


I'm actually not sure that a Y2 student is supposed to be doing any sort of map drill now that I look at the Ambleside Online site again.  I was trying to help Nathan look up the locations of his readings on our wall map and globe, but I found after an abysmal result in the geography portion of his first term exams that he wasn't retaining any of it.  In Term 2 I started having him do map drills with the maps I have from Classically Catholic Memory, and this was a big improvement (although he still has trouble going from a flat map to the globe)  I wouldn't recommend their program, but their large laminated maps are beautiful, sturdy, and nice to work with.  I don't use the stickers though, I made and laminated little name cards for Nathan and Gregory to use in their map drills.

Experimenting with water colors in his nature journal - this was a surprise hit


This year I had Nathan start a timeline in his binder, much like Celeste describes here.  This was probably his least favorite activity of the week, but we kept at it.  I think he found writing the names tedious, and because reading is still not something he does automatically, he wasn't seeing the connections.

We were also much more consistent with our nature journals this year.  We did at least one entry almost every week, and while it got easier for him, it was probably his second least favorite activity. In Term 2 I started working with him individually to help him break down what he was seeing so he could sketch it better, and that helped things considerably.

I also want to note that Nathan has become so much more observant of the world around him this year.  He's the one who found both of the California Silk Moths we got to see, as well as so many other finds outside.  It has been very exciting to watch him become so much more interested and curious about what's around him...  and his example has helped the two younger ones be much more observant as well.

Foreign Language

I grouped Nathan and Gregory together to study Spanish, and this worked well.  I used Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and Fran├žois, and while we didn't get all the far in the book, we made steady and enjoyable progress.  In Term 3 I set up a binder much like Simply Charlotte Mason's Scripture Memory box and spent the first part of the lesson reviewing the different sections.  I have the book as a PDF, so it was easy to print out the pages individually and stick them in different sections of the binder.  This made our review process so much easier and more fruitful!  I also added our Spanish poems to the binder, as well as some of the additional memory work from the book.  We then ended the lesson with a song in Spanish.  By far their favorite was El Baile de Las Manos by Wistlefritz, probably because it has exuberant full body motions.  But we also played and sang some of the other songs from the Whistlefritz CD too.


Gregory and Nathan both started piano this year using the online lessons from Hoffman Academy lessons.  I love that it is taught by a male teacher and that he has a real gift for teaching piano and making these video lessons work.  I am so impressed by what he has done to try and make piano lessons more affordable and accessible.  The boys have responded really well to the lessons and while we have moved slowly (in part my fault for not being consistent in introducing new lessons but also because I want them to be really solid in a lesson before moving on) they are learning and they are definitely enjoying it.


I tried origami in the fall, but between a bad time slot and not enough individual attention for learning it, it was a fail.  In the winter I added handicrafts to his afternoon readings block and he learned to knit a doll's scarf successfully.  I was hoping to help him do some felt work and stitching in Term 3 in that same time slot, but that required more help than the knitting so it didn't work out.  I consoled myself with thoughts of all the building he and his brother were doing outside and didn't push it.

Other Subjects

Other subjects, such as recitation (memory work), music appreciation, artist and composer study happened (or not) in the context of our family time.  Directed art was pretty much non-existent this year, except for our evening drawing practice.

Rescued worms after a storm - we've managed to keep them alive, although they have moved containers several times

The Booklist

Most of these books are from Ambleside Online's Y2 program.  Please see their site for the full schedule, extremely helpful weekly breakdown of readings, and lots of other helpful information.

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.

*Our Island Story
*Little Duke
*Joan of Arc (used the Avi version because we owned it already)
*Viking Tales  (carried over from last year)
*Castle Diary (I wouldn't use this again except as a free read)
*Our Island Saints (carried over from last year)
*Rare Catholic Stories
*Little Apostle on Crutches
A Little Book About Confession for Children  (wouldn't use again)
King of the Golden City  (a favorite for me, if not for Nathan!)
Baltimore Catechism - selections
Angel Food for Boys and Girls - selections
*Tree in the Trail
Wild Life in Woods and Fields - Nathan read aloud
Wild Life in Pond and Stream - Nathan read aloud
*Understood Betsy
*Brighty of the Grand Canyon
*Along Came a Dog
Bible Story Book
Pilgrim's Progress (as part of family studies)
Tales from Shakespeare
Trees and Shrubs 

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 last year)

Trial and Triumph - I decided I would rather focus on English and Irish Saints and finish our Saints book from last year.  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.  I'm growing less and less happy with this solution, and I will probably change it for next year.

The Wind in the Willows and Robin Hood - We love these books in our family and have listened to them over and over again.  I decided to pull a few books from the free reading list and schedule them to introduce Nathan to some new stories rather than reading aloud ones he already knows so well.

Poetry - I decided to study poetry as a family this year, and ended up picking two Y4 poets and one from Y8.  There's only so many minutes in the day...

Burgess Animal Book - I was reading this with Nathan and Gregory last year, and I needed a good long break from Burgess.  I read from Ways of Wood Folk during our family studies, and Nathan read the two Wild Life... books instead.

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

Columbus - I decided to hold this over to Y3.  I'm seriously considering doing an exploration based focus for the first part of Y3 and only lightly covering the Reformation.  I wasn't that happy with some of the Y3 selections last year, and I'm wondering if this could be a better and more interesting way forward.  After studying the Reformation with Gregory last year and then with Emma this year (in Y8) I can see how much more engaging and appropriate this is for the Y8 student than the Y3 student.

Rare Catholic Stories - Honestly, I'm not sure why I scheduled this book for this year.  We read it last year, finishing it in the fall of the 2014-2015 school year.  I'm wondering if I actually meant another book, but picked up this one when it came time to read by mistake.  Nathan doesn't remember all the stories though and is enjoying it...  it didn't get finished because the Confession book went long, and it is a longer book than what I had put in my schedule.  (Like I said, I think I meant to pick up a different book!)

Selections from the Baltimore Catechism and Angel Food for Boys and Girls - Now I'm probably in the minority here, but I just don't like either of these books.  The Angel Food books often feel forced, trite, and lacking in literary quality.  The catechism has little literary value and seems very limiting.  I also wasn't sure how to use it - should I drill the boys on the questions, reviewing previous chapters each week?  Do I just read and keep moving on, knowing that the lack of literary quality is making it hard for anything to stick?  Also, I was disturbed in our first term exams when I asked, "tell me about Angels" and all they could do was spit out the catechism answer, even though they knew so many stories about the Angels!  (And yes, I casually checked later, just to be sure)

Demonstrating the movement of the earth and why we have seasons

BFSU (Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding) - I'm coming to the conclusion that this book is more trouble than it is worth.  There are some good ideas for demonstrations in there, but the can require an awful lot of me.  I am glad I did some of them, like the section about the seasons...  but on the whole I'm not sure it is really the right way to go.

Narrating As You Like It with Shakespeare Finger Puppets

Tales from Shakespeare - I think we were one short of the list we were supposed to read through the year.  No big deal.

Trees and Shrubs - This was supposed to be a guided nature study that I was going to do with Nathan, with readings and suggestions for sketching...  but after working with him in the first few weeks of the year I realized that this not appropriate for where he's at and too much of a stretch, so I dropped it without even starting.


  1. hello,
    thanks for sharing, always really interesting and helpful. we're just finishing Y2 with my Joseph; sounds a lot like your Y2 (origami was mostly a massive fail here too!)

    1. Thanks! I'm looking forward to trying origami with him again when he's a little older and I can be a little more one on one with him. Interestingly enough, his older brother, while somewhat grumpy about doing the origami at the time, has since made a number of things like hats and folded knives... I think the object that they are making might be an important part of the equation that I had not considered!

  2. Thanks for sharing this, Amber. It's so much fun for my year 1 and 3 students to see other kids doing the same books they're working on--I think they sometimes feel kind of isolated. And my year 1 especially got a kick out of hearing that she's not the only one who "can read independently...but isn't too interested in doing so" :). (By the way, this is Lisa Y...I can't figure out how to change my user name from when my husband and I shared this email address.)

  3. I like how you did a report of everything you did! I need to do that...I think I'll remember but I know from past experience that I actually won't. :) It was neat to see you at the beginning of our online "Start Here" meeting last week. I realized later that somehow my name was not on the screen so you probably had no idea who I was. :)