Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Y5 Year in Review (2016-2017 School Year)

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. 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.

This year was a significant departure from the last two years, where we largely used AmblesideOnline (Y3 reviewY4 review).  I’ve been listening to the Delectable Education podcasts just about from the beginning, and I’ve found them extremely helpful, encouraging, and useful.  They have vastly improved our homeschool and I have grown significantly as a homeschooling educator and mother.

In planning the 2016-2017 school year, I decided to use the scheduling cards from the ladies at Delectable Education and designed my schedule using them.  I treated each card as a bucket that I need to fill with some resource and pulled from a variety of places to fill my buckets.

Some areas are studied as a family, including composer study, nature study, and picture study.  You can read more about our selections and our year of family studies in my previous post.

Describing the boat he recently made

Subject Areas

These subject areas are from the scheduling cards I used to plan our year, not including the subjects we did as a family.


For a number of years I’ve considered our time spent reading, narrating and discussing the daily Mass readings as our Bible study time, particularly for the younger kids.  However, over time I could see that while the younger children knew individuals and certain events in the Bible and the Gospels reasonably well, they lacked a coherent overview of the Bible.  So in the second term I added 15 minutes a day to Nathan and Gregory’s where we read systematically through the Old Testament (Joshua, Judges, Ruth and part of First Samuel this year) and the Gospel of Luke (we’re about half-way through)  We’ve really enjoyed this time together, and I can see how their knowledge and appreciation for the story of the Old Testament has grown dramatically, as well as their knowledge of Biblical locations.

Student Bible Atlas
Sacred Art Series:  The Holy Gospels of St. Luke and St. John (Beautiful book!)


Gregory continued to work on copywork in print and cursive.  I largely pulled from poetry and psalms for the first two terms of the year, but in the third term I realized he needed more practice with punctuation.  I started assigning passages from Kim, particularly ones with a lot of dialogue, to help with this.

Dictation Lesson


Spelling is an area where Gregory struggles.  Dictation has worked well for him, but it is a slow process.  I've been using the Simply Charlotte Mason's Spelling Wisdom, which as worked well for us and is very easy to use.

In practicing the words, for most of the year I had him build the words using a movable alphabet.  This worked extremely well in getting him to slow down and to think about the sequence of the letters in the word he was studying.  Towards the end of the year we were able to graduate to having him write the words on a small whiteboard, as he had improved so much in his sequencing that the movable alphabet was starting to feel like an impediment rather than a helpful tool.

Spelling Wisdom, Book 1
Moveable Alphabet
Small Whiteboard and markers


I've continued to use Winston Grammar with Gregory, and it has been a useful and successful program for him.  This is the only grammar program that I've actually been able to implement in our homeschool, and this is my second time through it.  I appreciate how it has lots of practice sentences for the student, and builds the concepts gradually through the lessons.  When I use it with him, I usually have him build the sentences and not mark up the sentences in the workbook.  Then we go through each word and phrase.  I would also sometimes have him copy a sentence and mark the it up using the directions in the program. At this point he's only about three lessons from the end of the first level.



Thankfully Gregory is at the point where he's reading all his assignments to himself, except for Shakespeare, Plutarch and Bible.

Age of Fable (not a favorite, and did not lead to good narrations or retention - I'm not that impressed with it either even though it is a classic...  but I'm not sure what I would replace it with)
King Arthur by Howard Pyle

Mapwork and narration, using a battlefield map

American History

Each history block also included narration and mapwork as appropriate.  I also had him look up the various battles as he read about them if he had additional time, sometimes tracing or drawing battle maps for particularly important battles.

In the first term I used America Grows Up and while I liked the quality of the writing and how the author encouraged the reader to consider some of the ideas behind the events of American History, I felt like it was really short on details.  As were were going into the second term and starting our study of the Civil War, I looked ahead in the book and found that the book covers the Civil War in 22 pages, 4 of them full page illustrations.  There's almost no details about battles of the Civil War, and little about the figures of the Civil War except Lincoln.  I thought the discussion of the ideas surrounding and influencing the Civil War was good, but I was puzzled in how to actually use the book since there were so few pages.  Did it really make sense to assign a page or two page each week?  And what else would I assign during his American history work period?

Even though the book is highly regarded in some circles, in the end I decided to put it aside and return to This Country of Ours, which we had been reading the previous two years.

America Grows Up (which I bought last June for under $10 - can't believe how much it costs now!!)
This Country of Ours
Of Courage Undaunted
Uncle Tom's Cabin for Young People
Civil War Battlefields
Lots of Historical Free Reads (see list at the end for favorites)

British History

The number of chapters in Our Island Story was a little light (15 chapters) for this time period, so I spread them out through the year and alternated with readings from three historical books and one book of historical fiction.  This worked reasonably well, and I think we liked alternating better than trying to do a little of each in the time slot.  These readings were all narrated orally and mapwork was done when appropriate.


Ancient History

This was an area of history that Gregory hasn't studied at all, but enjoyed quite a bit.  Each weekly reading was joined with mapwork, oral narration, and often a drawn narration as well.  Rather than having Gregory draw the maps freehand, I had him trace the maps using a light box then label them using a reference.  It was an excellent compromise between just labeling a printed map and having to do it all from scratch.  He was much happier with the results and much more confident in his mapmaking.


Making a topographic map of an island he created out of clay


This was scheduled twice a week, and in one session Gregory read from Halliburton's Book of Marvels and in the other we did hands-on geography activities.  In our hands on session, we explored local maps, political maps, terrain maps, and the globe through discussion and exercises.

Halliburton's Book of Marvels, The Occident
Illustrated Atlas for Young America
Various maps and a globe

Exploring with Snap Circuits

Natural History

Gregory had three natural history slots in his schedule, and each slot had a different focus.  In one he read Great Inventors and Their Inventions, narrating and drawing something from what he read.  In the third term I also had him start writing some narrations from this book as well.  This was one of his favorite books this year.

In the second slot, he read through the Christian Liberty Reader, Book 5, about the human body.  This book was not a favorite for either of us, but we made it through.  He also narrated this, both orally and in diagrams or sketches.

The third slot changed each term.  In the first Gregory read Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth and did most of the suggested experiments in the book.  This was another favorite of his.  In the second we sort of used Nicole William's Astronomy guide, but between me being in my first trimester of this pregnancy and an incredibly stormy winter, we didn't really do a very good job of it.  In the third term Gregory studied electricty, which was also a favorite.  He read from the Junior Science book of Electricity, did experiments from that book, built with Snap Circuits, drew diagrams and had a grand time.

Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth
Find the Constellations
Astronomy Study Guide
Junior Science Book of Electricity
Snap Circuits


This is another area where I made significant changes.  Over the summer I heard Sonya Schafer speak about Richele Baburina’s book, Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching and demonstrate what living math instruction can look like.  I was incredibly impressed and decided that this is what I needed to do with Nathan and Gregory.  I had been using MEP, but I found it difficult to break away from the worksheet mentality of it.  Gregory was going through the mechanics of what MEP was asking of him, but I could tell he didn't fully understand what he was doing.  He also seemed to be lacking in some foundational understanding of numeracy, and this was hindering him as he grappled with multi-digit multiplication and long division.

We spent the first part of the year solidifying our math foundations using techniques in Baburina’s book and running a store where the boys were practicing with a variety of math operations as well as writing receipts and keeping financial records.  After the first term, it became obvious that I needed to separate the boys for math, because something happened in Gregory's math understanding and he leaped ahead of his brother.  I shuffled the schedule and figured out how to make the time to teach them separately.  I was so thrilled to see this happen, it is one of the biggest successes of this school year.

In the second term I started to use a geometry book one day a week, which was a nice addition to his math studies.  I really like the multi-stream approach to math.

In the third term I started using the Strayer-Upton book to make it easier to come up with practice problems and such.  Pregnancy was taking a toll on my on-the-fly creativity, and I really appreciated having a straight-forward resource that I could easily pick and choose problems from as needed.

We also included some logic work a few times a week using a couple different resources.

Mathematics: An Instrument for Living Teaching
Play Money
Coins (including lots of pennies)
Strayer-Upton, Book 2
Logic Links
Practical Exercises in Geometry

Installing the new wheels for the garden cart


As I mentioned in my family studies post, we added recitation into the boys’ schedule about halfway through the school year.

The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth
O Captain, My Captain! by Walt Whitman
Psalm 67
Psalm 33
Psalm 19
Gettysburg Address
Taming of the Shrew, Act 2, Scene 1 (about half of the scene)
John 15:1-11
John 10:1-16


I had used Latin for Children Primer A last year, and wasn't all that happy with it.  I wrestled with what to do quite a bit last summer, and decided I would go ahead and teach from what I know well, which is Henle.  This worked reasonably well, as we took it slow and plodded along, making progress.  However, Latin became Gregory's most dreaded subject in the process, which started to impede his learning.  In term 3 I decided that we needed to mix things up a bit and grabbed Minimus off the shelf.  This was a very welcome change, and while I didn't completely cast Henle aside, using the combination of the two books worked well and became much more effective and enjoyable (although more teacher intensive!).

Henle, Book 1

Modern Language (Spanish)

This is an area where we’ve had a lot of transition over the course of the year.  We started with just using Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François, Volume 1 and including a song, a poem, and prayers in Spanish and then added in other activities such as building dictated sentences with picture cards, calendar work, vocabulary games like Simon Says, rhymes and increasing the number of songs we learned.  I’ve learned a lot from Celeste Cruz, particularly from her talk at the Conference in the Redwoods in February, and I’m looking forward to continuing to improve in this area.

Speaking Spanish with Miss Mason and François, Volume 1
De Colores and Other Latin-American Folk Songs for Children
Pio Peep!


This is another area that has seen a lot of growth.  I have been focusing on developing the boys’ sense of rhythm and beat using a variety of means.  I have done a little Sol-fa with them, but largely trying to reinforce what they are learning through the Hoffman Academy.  As an aside, Hoffman Academy has been wonderful for the boys!  We signed up for their subscription service and it is well worth the expense.  They are learning a lot, enjoying the lessons, and the scripted practice sessions are so helpful.  They have a great ear training game as well which has been a very helpful addition to their music studies.

Music at Home
Hoffman Academy

Physical Education/Drill

This was going to be the year I learned about Swedish Drill through Dawn Duran’s series…  and, then, well, it didn’t happen.  This is definitely an area that needs improvement.

A goat he whittled for his aunt's birthday


We started doing Sloyd this year, which has been a great success.  I am coming to appreciate the importance of Sloyd in the curriculum, so much so that I’ll be speaking about Sloyd at the CMI Western Conference in July.

Gregory has really taken off with whittling, and one of his favorite pastimes is tinkering down in the shed with this idea or that.  He's retrofited a garden cart with wooden wheels, built several catapults, a wagon or two, and innumerable muskets and rifles.  We have also done some sewing together here and there, and Gregory tackled the lap loom to make some Christmas gifts as well.

Paper Sloyd for Primary Grades - if you are going to use this book, I highly recommend printing the PDF.  The book isn't that long, and if you print the PDF the illustrations in the book will not be stretched.

Amazing what he can make out of stuff that is laying around...  this is his wheelbarrow

Favorite Free Reads

I also like to include a few favorites from the year's reading.  I try to record all the books the kids read throughout the year by having them place completed books on my desk.  I also try and capture ebooks and audiobooks, but without that physical place to put the books they sometimes slip through the cracks.  As I'm doing this review, I print out the list and have the child mark their favorites.  I ask them to be discriminating and to not choose too many... but as you can see from this list, there were a lot of favorites!

Gregory has a particular fondness for historical books, but reads quite a lot of fiction as well.

  • White Fang
  • Little House Series
  • Mr. Bell Invents the Telephone
  • Fellowship of the Ring, Two Towers, Return of the King
  • A Nose for Trouble (his favorite Kjelgaard book)
  • Clipper Ship Days
  • The Battle of Lake Erie
  • The Swamp Fox of the Revolution (he's read this a number of times)
  • Daniel Boone by John Mason
  • The Story of Andrew Jackson
  • Captain Cook Explores the South Seas
  • The Golden Goblet
  • Napoleon and the Battle of Waterloo
  • Tarzan of the Apes
  • Casting the Gods Adrift
  • Of Courage Undaunted
  • Raccoons are the Brightest People
  • Riders of the Pony Express
  • Harry Potter series (books 1-6)
  • John Paul Jones, Soldier of the Sea (I'm not sure I can count how many times he's read this book)
  • The Cave by the Beech Ford
  • St. Philip of the Joyous Heart
  • The Story of King Arthur
  • Rocks, Rivers and the Changing Earth
  • They Flew to Glory
  • Invincible Louisa
  • Swiss Family Robinson
  • Florence Nightingale's Nuns
  • Rifles for Watie
  • Across Five Aprils
  • The Story of D-Day
  • Lee and Grant at Appomattox
  • Saint John Bosco
  • Bull Run
  • Stonewall Jackson
  • Clara Barton
  • Into the Ice
  • Hero of Trafalgar: The Story of Lord Nelson
  • Wyatt Earp: U.S. Marshal
  • Chaplain in Gray: Father Abram Ryan
  • Stormy
  • The Black Pearl
  • The 290
  • St. Louis and the Last Crusade
  • Girl of the Shining Mountains
  • Geronimo: Wolf of the Warpath
  • Sailing on the Ice
  • Messenger from K'Itai
  • Rascal
  • The Story of Thomas Edison
  • Roald Amundsen
  • Leonardo Da Vinci (which he read in Y3, but picked up again this year)
  • Simon Bruté and the Western Adventure
  • Great Inventors and Their Inventions
  • The Book of the Ancient World
  • Commander of the Flying Tigers
  • Kim
(Phew, I can't believe I just typed all that - and no, this wasn't every book he read this year!)

Some links are Amazon Affiliate links which benefit Charlotte Mason West


  1. Thank you for sharing this! My oldest is going into year 4 this year, and I love seeing what you're doing in form 2.

    1. You're welcome! I enjoy seeing what people are doing too - and writing it all out is so helpful to me in processing the year and recognizing how far we've come too.

  2. Ok, I really hate it when I try to comment on blogs and try to do it as my WordPress sign in, but when I go to publish it erases everything and tells me to sign in to WordPress!! GAH!! LOL
    So, to sum up: handiwork and Spanish--very encouraging. I also learned from Celeste and I appreciate your resource links. :)
    Math: very cool, I have that book and DVD from Richelle and I NEED to go through them this summer. Thanks for helping me feel that need more. No really, I mean that. ;)
    Age of Fable: This is actually a favorite with my two boys, and they were doing it with a friend via Facebook once a week. I created a lesson plan that included some note booking, map work, and discussion/narration questions to help prompt them. We didn't do it all consistently but some of it helped. I also had them write narrations/summaries for each story. This worked really well, but maybe because they were reading and discussing it together? If you want I could send you some of my lesson plan, I'll be developing Y5 this summer (we followed the Y4 schedule, because I really wanted to use it from the beginning). If you want to replace, though, I think "Tales of Greece and Rome" by Lang, "Wonderbook for Boys and Girls" by Hawthorne, and "Heroes" by Kingsley would work. I want to say I found another on Kindle, but can't think of what it is. It was one of those free ones though, so try a search and see what comes up. :)You've probably already tried those books, but just in case. ;)
    Tanya Stone

    1. I've had that happen too - thanks for trying again!

      That's really interesting about your son's experience with Age of Fable! Thanks for the suggestions for some alternates. I'm somewhat considering having him read the Illiad next year instead of Age of Fable, as he's already been reading that for two years and he's going to be studying Ancient Greece this next school year. It'll be a bit of a stretch, but I think he will enjoy it.

      Enjoy your time with Richelle's math book - I hope you find it as fruitful as I have!

  3. I'm impressed by the boat and your son's whittling projects, Amber. Really wonderful!!