(Please note that I have linked to the book lists on the AO website to respect their licensing terms and the hard work they’ve put into such an amazing curriculum which they offer for free. Books that use affiliate links here are not listed on the AO website.)
It is much to be wished that thoughtful mothers would more often keep account of the methods they employ with their children, with some definite note of the success of this or that plan.CHARLOTTE MASON (HOME EDUCATION)
June 10th was technically our last day of school, though we have a few things to finish. Last week both kids were at a local horse camp so we waited for this week to do our exams and then we’ll also be (hopefully) finishing math through the summer.
This was the first year that I B had a good chunk of readings to do on his own. While there is a part of me that’s sad that we don’t get to read these books together, I was also thankful that I had this option, especially as the year progressed and our morning lesson time was ending later and later. In Term 3, I ended up having him read his “literature” assignment (Oliver Twist) entirely on his own, and that significantly helped with time management. He did grumble a bit when he started seeing more readings on his assignment sheet each week, but I appreciate that this is something that will teach him to manage his time well and get tasks done on his own. He was very good about spreading the readings out over the week so he didn’t have to do all of them at the end.
He also had one written narration per week from The Storybook of Science. I did see improvement through the year as he was able to add more detail to these narrations and make them more thorough. I plan to add at least one more written narration for next year.
We did struggle with keeping up with all of the readings, especially toward the end of the year, and we’ll have some catching up to do with Age of Fable in particular, but overall, it was a good year and I’m finding getting into the modern age is very interesting for us both.
So here are a few notes for our year!
About mid-way through the year, I decided to cut back on Morning Time again. I’ve done this in the past with good results and when I found myself getting frustrated that our morning lesson time was ending later and later, I decided I needed to do it again. At some point earlier in the year, I had added a catechism reading so I removed that and our daily Proverb reading. I really debated the latter, but decided in the long run it would be the best for us right now. However, I do hope to add it back in at some point in the future.
I also removed the Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady readings, mainly because we’ve read all of them several times already, and replaced that with something from the Book of Virtues. I was doing a weekly lesson from Laying Down the Rails, but based on a few things I read in Mason’s volumes and a comment from Nancy Kelly about habit training from this year’s Charlotte Mason Educational Retreat (mainly that they should be more subtle), I decided to drop that entirely. When I read from the Book of Virtues, I don’t announce whatever virtue it is that we’re reading about, but simply read the story and I like how that feels much better.
We also read through parts of Summer, In the Fall of the Year, Winter, and Spring (depending on what season we were in) for five minutes on Thursdays. I really love these books and both kids were very engaged with them.
Sadly, because of the amount of pre-reading I had each week for the books that B was reading on his own, the J. Paterson Smyth commentary readings fell by the wayside. I was disappointed about this particularly for his Old Testament readings because there did seem to be a specific theme and idea behind the stories we read and how they were coordinated with other parts of the Bible. I’m going to try to read them over the summer just to finish the books, but I really wish I had made that more of a priority this year. I don’t think our readings went poorly as he offered good narrations and engagement, but I have always found that when I read these in advance, it really does help with our discussion.
History & Biography
After three years of making our way through it, we finished This Country of Ours this year. I do think it’s a good, living book, though definitely biased and a reflection of the time in which it was written. I edited the readings when it was needed, and found it helpful to look for specific tribal names when she was referring to Native American groups. I also found it helpful to supplement with other books that provided the viewpoints of non-white or European groups, in particular, Native Americans and African Americans in the 19th century, both free and slave.
I was very glad we added the Peeps books as they gave us a depth for both the Greek and Roman cultures that we would not otherwise have had. This made our Plutarch readings in particular a little easier to understand. Peeps at Many Lands: Ancient Rome was a little rough when Baikie was describing the types of “shows” that happened in the Roman colosseum, however, he did add commentary that these practices really were awful and told a story about Saint Telemachus and how he reportedly stopped the gladiator fights.
I also really enjoyed what we read of The Story of the World. I thought it was very well written and I appreciated how it covered global events with, what I felt was, a fairly balanced point of view. I’m glad we’ll be continuing with this next year.
Literature Book List Here (we used the Howard Pyle version of King Arthur and skipped Kim)
I attempted to read King Arthur with B during our lesson time in Terms 1 and 2 but was not able to finish it (we’ll read it together over the summer) so I assigned Oliver Twist for him to read on his own in Term 3. I did not have him read some of the more violent chapters in the end. He did read the chapter in which Nancy comes to her (not too terribly descriptive) sad end and mentioned that he didn’t really like reading that sort of thing. So I respected that and summarized the remaining more graphic chapters for him while he read the tamer chapters. Maybe someday he will re-visit it when he’s more comfortable with that.
I think next year I will do the same thing and have him read the literature selections on his own. I want to read these with him (especially The Hobbit!) but I don’t see that we can get everything done each day in a timely way if we do that.
We did not make it through all of the Age of Fable readings, as I mentioned above. Unfortunately, because these were shorter, they were usually the ones that were pushed to the side when we were behind in another book. However, because they’re so short, I don’t feel too bad about trying to catch up either over the summer or early next year.
We both really enjoyed Shakespeare, especially in Term 3! In Terms 1 and 2, we took turns reading lines which was fun. But there were a few times where he was reading terms and phrases that weren’t really appropriate for an 11-year-old to be reading so I asked a seasoned Charlotte Mason homeschooling friend for advice on that. She recommended using the audio recordings from Arkangel, so we switched to that in Term 3 and we both loved it. B still had his own copy of the play from which to read along with the recording and I used character cards to help as well. I paused it every so often for him to narrate and he was very engaged. I think the different voices really helped and the sound effects didn’t hurt either.
I enjoyed the poets chosen for this year and was especially excited about Rudyard Kipling. I found a beautiful recording of his “If” and had B learn that for one of his Recitation pieces as well.
In Term 3, I took the time at the beginning of the Term to read the short biography about the poets that AO has on their website and I think that made the poetry more engaging as well.
Partway through the year, I stopped using the AO copywork files and B used his recitation pieces instead. This worked well for us though I’m still holding on to hope that he will eventually want to pick his own excerpts for copywork.
As we got further into Spelling Wisdom, I found that our 15 minutes of spelling was not long enough to do the full lesson so I was breaking one excerpt up over two weeks. I was actually fine with this but then couldn’t remember why I had chosen to only do spelling for 15 minutes so I looked up how this was done in the PNEU schools. According to Nicole Williams’s matrix, dictation was actually done for up to a half-hour, so I switched to that. This gave us enough time to finish to lesson each week and I found that he also made fewer mistakes, so I think it was a good change overall.
We made it through quite a few of the JAG lessons, but did not finish the book. Though he was passing the tests at the end of each unit, he was really struggling with some of the concepts in the middle of the book. I think the “Process” sheet along with a little sheet I made for him where he could ask questions to determine parts of speech really helped and his scores improved greatly toward the end of the year. We’ll finish this book next year and then move on to mechanics.
I ended up having both kids read their Recitation pieces aloud to me each day. Usually, at the end of our lesson time, they would take turns standing in front of me to read the Old Testament selection on Mondays, New Testament on Tuesdays, Psalm on Wednesdays, and poem on Thursdays. I chose all of B’s poems as he did not show an interest in choosing them himself. However, I did take note when he liked a poem we read for our poetry time and usually used those if I could.
Because the goal of Recitation isn’t necessarily memorization but instead, being able to recite the selection beautifully, this part of our day felt much more relaxed this year. It was really wonderful and peaceful and I see us continuing to do it this way into the future.
We picked up Speaking Spanish again and made it through 8 of the lessons. Unfortunately, despite the fact that it is effective and he did learn several Spanish phrases, neither one of us enjoys using this book much so I might look for an alternative over the summer.
We ended up finishing De Colores for our Spanish folk song so I need to find a new option for that for next year as well. He also enjoyed watching his sister’s Salsa videos, which I hope subconsciously taught him more Spanish.
Late in the year, a friend introduced me to Simple Stories in Spanish so we gave that a try. B’s review was mixed, so I’ll have to ponder that over the summer. Depending on if or what I find to replace Speaking Spanish, we may not be able to include that as well.
We loved Halliburton! It was especially helpful to have this list of videos (I recommend pre-watching them) which we watched at the end of each lesson. Reading firsthand accounts from someone who visited each of these places has been such a wonderful to learn geography!
I also ended up printing out Seterra maps of North and South America and Europe, labeled them with the places he wrote about, and then used those for our map drill time.
Plutarch went so, so well. I was very happy with how well it went and glad that this is part of our lesson time. Anne White’s guides are invaluable and I was so thankful for this resource. Be engaged well with the readings and had good narrations for the most part. If there was any confusion, I waited until he was done narrating and then clarified. In some cases, the confusion was very understandable as I usually pre-read the lessons each weekend and wrote any pertinent names or places on our whiteboard, but found I understood more when I was reading it the second time to him. I also found maps to be very helpful as well.
Nature Study & Science
Nature Study & Science Book List Here (we did not read Madam How and Lady Why and did not finish Wild Animals I Have Known)
The Story Book of Science
Term 1: Sabbath Mood Homeschool Science Guide – Technology and Engineering (Machines)
Term 2: Sabbath Mood Homeschool Science Guide – Astronomy
Term 3: Sabbath Mood Homeschool Science Guide – Botany
Various books from the Sabbath Mood Homeschool living science books lists
Blood and Guts
Squirrels and Other Fur-Bearers
The Tree Book for Kids and Their Grown-Ups
We continued with the Sabbath Mood Homeschool Living Science guides as well as the Storybook of Science schedule that she recommends. B really enjoyed the Machines study and the activities that went along with that. Astronomy proved to be a challenge as I scheduled that over the winter term with the idea that sunset is earlier so we wouldn’t have to stay up late to see specific constellations. Unfortunately, we had to battle with very cold temperatures and cloudy nights instead. I’m not sure what the best path for this would’ve been. Fortunately, we’ve studied astronomy several times in the past so many of the constellations we’ve already seen.
Botany went well with the start of our garden in the spring, but again, we struggled with being able to do some of the early activities as there were no trees or outdoor plants to use. I think when I do these guides with C, I’m going to schedule them as they are on the website.
I ended up not scheduling the Moon of… books as I listed in my planning post. I decided that we had enough books on our schedule as I was still including many of the AO science books. I did end up dropping Wild Animals I Have Known as it was just plain sad reading over and over again how these little wild creatures die, but B did finish Great Inventors and Their Inventions.
We also replaced the Christian Liberty Nature Reader with Blood and Guts per the recommendation of a friend. There were some references to evolution that I skipped over, but overall it was a good choice for us.
Toward the end of the year, I tried to follow more of the recommendation in the Sabbath Mood Homeschool guides to include special study topics based on the child’s interest, so I just paid attention when we were out on a nature walk or hike to see what B was drawn to. I ended up having him read about trees and planned to also have a few readings on bees, but sadly didn’t have enough time to find a good book to go along with the bees. I hope to be better about this next year.
One thing I started to have him do toward the end of the year was a drawing in his nature notebook each week. He is not very good about making entries in it so I started assigning that which helped, but then I forgot a few times and it didn’t happen again. Assigning nature notebook entries may not be ideal as, obviously, I’d love for him to be inspired to do this on his own. However, part of my job as his educator is getting him into good habits, and writing this as a task on his to-do list is a way to do that. I want to be better about assigning this for him next year and also find a better system for giving him his weekly assignments.
We finished RightStart Level E earlier in the year and made it through quite a bit of Level F, but did not finish the book so we will be working on that over the summer. He is making very good progress and scores well on all of his assessments so I’m fine with the pace in which we’re going. I have found that as he’s gotten further through these books, they become less hands-on for me which has been nice, but I do still keep myself available if he does need help with something.
Term 1: Katsushika Hokusai
Term 2: Winslow Homer
Term 3: Mary Cassatt
Picture study went very well this year and I think he liked Hokusai the most of the artists we studied. Mary Cassatt was his least favorite. I was glad that we were able to go up to the Denver Art Museum in March to see the Whister to Cassatt exhibition that included Homer as well!
B finished What to Draw and How to Draw It, but we did not get to Brushwork, which I scheduled at the beginning of the year. I’m hoping to do that or some other art curriculum next year.
The Tillberry Table guides were absolutely perfect for us this year! I ended up switching to Handel in Term 2 as I received it as part of a bundle I was in last fall and we were able to do Messiah in December, which was neat. These were just the right amount of information for us and I love that she has playlists already set up on YouTube so there was literally nothing for me to do to prepare each week. I see us using these into the foreseeable future.
B’s favorite composer was definitely Handel as all of the music we learned after that (and probably all music we learn in the future) was judged by Cuckoo and the Nightingale which was his very favorite piece. I think he enjoyed some of Liszt’s and Saint-Saëns as well, but the cuckoo left a very lasting impression on him.
Term 1: Ye Holy Angels Bright (Michaelmas – 29 September) & Hark the Sound of Holy Voices (All Saints Day – 1 November)
Term 2: Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending (Advent) & As with Gladness Men of Old (Epiphany)
Term 3: The Glory of These Forty Days (Lent) & Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun (St. Mark – 25 April)
We went along with our hymns as scheduled at the beginning of the year and sang them twice a week during Morning Time. I was especially appreciative when they happened to also be selections that AO has scheduled in recent years as we were able to use the wonderful recordings from the Folksongs and Hymns channel on YouTube.
Term 1: The Song of Roland (an 11th-century battle ballad) & Arkansas Traveler
Term 2: King John and the Abbot (C will be reading about John in Term 2) & Follow the Drinking Gourd (B will be reading about the Underground Railroad in Term 2 and we’ll be studying Astronomy)
Term 3: Can She Excuse My Wrongs? (we sang John Dowland last year and enjoyed his music) & Galway Bay (I wanted to at least mention the 19th-century Irish diaspora this year as well)
We stuck with our folksongs as scheduled as well. I think next year I will probably try to match more to the Folksongs and Hymns channel as well because it’s just such a great resource!
B finished two years of piano lessons in February and adopted not to keep going, so he is done with that. He really enjoyed it at first but as it got more challenging the further he got into the lessons, he enjoyed it less so I’m just thankful he made it two years and has that background in music. Sometimes when we’re reading about our composer, he’ll be able to define a musical term and when we’re listening to the music, he knows what key a piece is in. Even though I wish he had kept going, it’s good that he got what he did.
We continued with Swedish Drill II this year and made it part way through the second routine in the book so we didn’t end up getting to Swedish Drill III. We are slow as we usually do a review routine on Tuesdays (sometimes the kids call out the commands) and then learn a new exercise and go through our new routine on Thursdays, but I think this is a good pace for us. B does very well in Swedish Drill.
He also went to an archery sample lesson early in the school year and enjoyed it but didn’t say that he was interested in continuing lessons right away. This past spring, he finally said he was ready for more and I actually thought it was something we could all do together as a family but haven’t been able to schedule a lesson for us yet. I’m hoping we can start that this summer or in the fall.
Handicrafts ended up being an epic failure on my part this year. I tried to start strong with beeswax in the fall and we made candles but didn’t do much after that. The spring was a little easier as I switched us from their individual handicrafts of knots and sewing to gardening for all of us. We were very intentional about picking out plants and getting them in the ground and getting into a good routine of watering and weeding. But I really need to be better about this next year.
And that was our year! He is making good progress and as we’re getting into living books for older students, I am so enjoying learning right along with him!