Saturday, June 23, 2018

Year 6 in Our Home :: In Review

We finished up our school year about a month ago, and I'm ready to reflect back and share our experience with AmblesideOnline Year 6 with my two sixth-grader 11-year-olds.


First: the bulk of our book choices were straight from the AO Year 6 plan and schedule. I will only be talking about changes, substitutions, and additions. So the first place to look if you'd like to understand what I'm sharing here and get actual book titles and links is on the AO site at their Year 6 booklist! These are just notes on how we implemented the Year 6 plan in our home.


One last note: this was a baby year for us: Damien was born three weeks before we started our school year. So our first term was a "Babymoon Term," which means it was light. We slowed down some subjects, cut out others completely. Term 2, which we started in late fall, went back to our regular "feast." I describe those changes below!


History
Year 6 covers moderns for one term, then restarts the history rotation with Ancient Greece and Rome for two terms. We used all the same books but scheduled them differently. I decided to spread both moderns and ancients through all three terms.

Here's what that looked like in practice -

:: Modern Era: I stretched the assigned modern history books over Terms 1 + 2, and then we did two subject-specific non-fiction books to fill Term 3 (Hidden Figures and Miles to Go for Freedom). Both of those books were fine and hit topics I really wanted to discuss more in depth. Vincent called them two of his favorite books of the year, but he likes non-fiction in general. I would have loved to find books with the same content but with a more literary style.

:: Ancients: We read the books recommended by AO, but I re-divided the chapters so stretch across the whole three terms.

We also had free reads in both time periods all year.

So effecively, we had two "streams" going, and it was highly effective. I will definitely be doing this same approach next time as well. I'm actually wondering whether I can keep a separate ancients stream going in Year 7 and on too...

We subbed Ben Hur for the Beechik book, as mentioned in the footnotes on the AO page, and I am SO glad we did. It was one of our favorite books of the year and added a layer of richness to our Bible studies and ancients focus.

We did not use the Churchill biography, because I already had one for the free read shelf and am more interested in reserving that same "History Tales" slot for saints biographies (listed below under Religion).

We did a lot of keeping alongside, including twice-weekly written narrations in history, mapping, century charts, timelines, and more. This all went into their History Notebooks, one for ancients and one for moderns.  (That latter was continued from Year 5.)  Like last year, I wrote a History Notebook cover page before the year began -- you can see the Year 6 version here!














We also started our Books of Centuries! I waited on starting this for a few reasons, and I really think Year 6 is a great time to start: a little more fine motor control, a little greater understanding of relevant weight of importance, a greater capacity for abstract thought, etc. The century charts we did in Year 4 and Year 5 and the drawing practice we have done throughout our schooling scaffolded this notebook so well! They jumped in and started adding entries right away. (As did I, since I started mine too. :))


Geography + Architecture
Also in their history notebooks went geography and architecture work, since those were historically connected.

Term 1: weekly mapping alongside our David Livingstone biography as scheduled by AO, as well as map drills on modern-day Africa

Terms 2 and 3: Ancient Greek (T1) and Ancient Roman (T3) architecture using Gladys Wynne's Architecture (which will be back in print by Riverbend Press this summer!), Hillyer's A Child's History of Art, and The Graphic History of Architecture, along with a weekly architectural diagram or sketch to accompany oral narration; continued map drills of modern-day Africa

We had already read Halliburton's Book of Marvels in Year 5, before AO chose to spread it instead over Years 5 and 6, so we had a couple extra slots in our term schedule -- the perfect opportunity to start an architecture "stream" to move along with our history rotation! This paired so well with our history readings, adding an aesthetic layer to our studies. I would not have added this to an already full year, but it was a nice coincidence to have those slots free for this beginning.





Science and Natural History
For science we followed the AmblesideOnline selections with only one addition: The World in a Drop of Water, a Year 3 book. My next daughter was in Year 3, and my older two hadn't done it yet (AO added it to the schedule after they moved into Form II), so we did the experiments and observations from that book as a family. My Year 6 students wrote simple lab reports for the relevant assignments into their science notebooks.


The rest of their science notebook was filled with at-least-weekly entries from their other science reading on the elements, beginning chemistry, oceanography, etc. Usually they added bits multiple times a week, occasionally they did a full written narration in science.

(Gianna wrote pages and pages of questions raised for her by our readings, things she wants to research further. Vincent kept track of just about every number that came up in our readings for the year. Love how their personalities shine through.)





Other than those two, the science selections, from subject-specific spines, to the biographies and the history of science books, were all top notch. My daughter who is less science interested ate up all the new and exciting ideas in her science books. They loved the introductions to space and discussions of the universe, concepts of creation, the mysteries of the ocean's depths, the building of elemental chemistry and how the periodic table came to be. They ended the year with more questions than answers, I think, which is a great thing for these two!

I wanted to note two cautions here for my Catholic readers. Two of the AmblesideOnline selections for Year 6 you may want to pre-read and consider for your family: It Couldn't Just Happen and The Sea Around Us. I felt that the tone of the former did not match the nuanced balance of Catholic thought on this issue and I will not be using this book next time around. The latter I thought was fantastic, and I definitely will be using it in the future. But it does assume macro-evolution as truth, so if you are not comfortable with negotiating that with your students, you may want to wait on it.

For nature study, we continued our year-round weekly journal entry alongside some "challenges" built from The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling. In Term 3, I pre-selected some studies for us to do on Fridays alongside our nature outing, which worked well. Before that, I had been choosing week by week, but I learned that with a challenging baby in the home, I needed to prep the formal studies if I wanted to be consistent!


We also continued our Calendar of Firsts. We now have five years of data to look at and compare. :)


Language Arts + Literature
Our poetry and literature selections were straight from AmblesideOnline. For the ancient epics, we did Black Ships Before Troy the summer before Year 6, did the original Iliad in Terms 1 + 2 on audio reading along with the Fitzgerald translation, and then did The Wanderings of Odysseus in Term 3. We will hopefully do the Odyssey in the original at some point in the future too!

Term 3 was light in literature (and it's my daughter's favorite subject), so I added 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, bumping it from a free read to a literature selection. It is such a fun accompaniment to our oceanography studies and to our historical reading from last year.

For copywork, the kids worked in cursive in their commonplace book four times a week for ten minutes, adding selections of their choice. I also let them substitute lettering work once a week in their copywork slot if they chose to add special titles to the narrations in their notebooks. They really enjoyed this.

They also continued in their Reading Logs, keeping track of their free reading.



For dictation, we used the Iliad, following this process:
      Listen, following along in the text for about 10 minutes
      Narrate
      Choose a passage to study, length depending on ability of student
      Take time needed to study (usually about 5 minutes)
      Dictate when ready
We did this same process twice a week all year. This was a process recommended by my friend Amy Snell of Learning How to Live, and we found it wonderfully effective!

This was an off-year for grammar, since we completed the full course of Winston Grammar Basic over Years 4 and 5. This year, I focused on identifying and correcting common issues in their written narrations through discussion at Weekly Meeting.

Latin
We continued with twice-weekly work for 10-15 minutes from the Henle Latin 1 book. We are working our way through slowly but surely!

Italian
Some of our Italian lesson time is scheduled as family study and some is specifically for my Form II kids...

:: Family study - 15-minutes work with series and games 3x/week, and learning songs and rhymes during Morning Basket

:: Independent work - 10 minutes twice weekly sitting with a story and audio, doing Italian copywork, practice reciting our term poem, working on reading aloud with me, or doing Italian exercises like translation or conjugation practice


In Term 3, we added a weekly Italian conversation session via Skype with a tutor. We used italki.com and can't recommend it enough! It has been such a joyful and useful addition to our days. I'm hoping to do a more thorough review soon.


Citizenship
Our only Citizenship reading for this year was Plutarch, and we chose to do Julius Caesar, Pericles, and Fabius Maximus. All three were riveting stories of likeable men, which made it particularly engaging reading.

I really feel like Plutarch finally clicked for us this year, and that was due in large part to our ancients studies -- we finally had the context we needed to understand the magnitude of various decisions and actions, the politics surrounding some of the warring parties, the values that led to each man's being declared great or cowardly, the complexity of characters considered, etc. Even though Plutarch is a lesson in Citizenship and not History, the historical background has been so, so helpful for us in enjoying this slot in our week! We use Anne's White's wonderful guides, but honestly, we needed more for these Lives to have their full effect.

I haven't decided yet whether next time around, I will wait on Plutarch until Year 6, begin an ancients stream and Plutarch in Year 5, or start with one of the easier Plutarch selections that is slightly more narrative... or some combination of these possibilities? If you have thoughts, please share! Cate will be in Year 4 next year, and I'm not sure whether I will fold her in to the older kids' work or give her another year before she joins us.

Math
Vincent and Gianna spent most of the year on RightStart Level G, working for about 20 minutes 4x/week. It's an almost entirely independent program, written straight to the student, and with lots of practical and hands-on work. The kids really enjoy it and are getting a sound foundation in the geometrical laws and the basis of the formulas and algorithms they will be working with in high school geometry.


Handicrafts
I always plan handicrafts to be a bit light during a Baby Year since they require hands-on work from me, so in Term 1, they weren't assigned any new crafts.

I tried something new in Terms 2 and 3 and set some tangible goals for their independent handicraft work in Afternoon Occupations. They loved the accountability and focus, and it kept them moving forward in these areas. They then were able to display their work at end-of-term exam celebrations and give away as gifts.  Vincent had a goal of working through typing lessons using TypingClub.com, doing a certain number of projects from The Art of Paper Folding, and picking up a new skill: knot-tying using My First Book of Knots. Gianna was working toward a new craft of lettering and progress in a prior craft, hand sewing felt figures using Felt Wee Folk. They both also did formal work in paper-cutting.




Religion
In addition to our Bible, saint, and catechism reading during our Family Studies, I also assigned my older two Sunday reading in religious biographies, Bible commentary, and devotional/catechetical:

Saints - Blessed Miguel Pro, St. Athanasius
Devotional - The Voyage of the Pax, Coram Sanctissimo, The Month of St. Joseph
Bible Commentary - described below, under Family Subjects

Piano
They finished their fifth year of piano lessons!


Free Reads
In addition to the fantastic list on the AmblesideOnline site (my kids read them all!), we enjoyed Echo, Farewell to Manazanar, Mara Daughter of the Nile, and a million more: you can see {What We're Reading} posts from this year for a more thorough round-up!

Family Subjects
I usually cover these plans in a separate "Morning Basket" post each year, but this year, our Morning Basket was less robust than usual. With a fussy baby, I cut it down to the minimum -- only those subjects that we were going to do as a family for school, with no extras. Time and energy are at a premium! :) So I figured I would recap those bits right here in this post as well.

:: Bible :: This is a family subject right now, during Morning Basket. We went through the Gospel of John for our New Testament readings from the lovely Sacred Art version, and read twice-weekly from Schuster's Bible History for Old Testament. In all cases, we prefer the Douay-Rheims translation, and we narrate as a group. My Year 6 students then read the accompanying sections from Knecht's A Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture for part of their Sunday reading.

:: Singing + Recitation :: I made a light set of selections for this Baby Year. Family Bible selections included Psalm 1 and Luke 18:15-17. Our hymns included "Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All," "For the Beauty of the Earth," "Ave Maris Stella," and "O Come and Mourn with Me Awhile." For folk songs, we learned "Goober Peas," "Shenandoah," "Down in the Valley," and "The Banks of the Sacramento." The children chose poems to learn by Robert Frost, Langston Hughes, Longfellow, Sara Teasdale, and Eugene Field. They also prepared two scenes for performance with our friends, one from King Lear and one from As You Like It.  (I have added all of these selections, including the prayers we learned this year as well, to our ongoing Memory Work Index if you are looking for ideas for your family!)




:: Poetry :: We read one poem from each poet each day (one for Year 6 and one for Form I). I follow the AmblesideOnline recommendations in this area.

:: Religion :: We read through Lang's Book of Saints and Heroes during Morning Time, continued from last year, 1-2 lives per term.

:: Shakespeare :: We choose which plays to study based on what is being performed by our local troupe. That meant King Lear in Term 1 and As You Like It in Term 3. In Term 2, we did Julius Caesar to tie in with the Big Kids' study of ancients, which was lots of fun. For each play, my Y6 students listened to the Lambs' version alongside the Form I students (with Form I students narrating), and then we followed along with the Arkangel audiobooks to the complete plays (with Form II students narrating). These audio versions are wonderful when you don't have enough fluent readers to carry a full play together comfortably. We did choose a couple scenes to read aloud together for that experience as well.


:: Picture Study :: Our artists for this year were Michelangelo, Peter Paul Rubens, and Whistler. The first week on each piece, we did a traditional picture study. The second week, we did either a tableau, memory sketch, color study, or some other form of narration.



:: Composer Study :: This subject got a light showing this year -- it was my main cut for this Baby Year. I chose to focus on one composer for the whole year: Ditters von Dittersdorff, just listening and reading a bit of biographical information. We thoroughly enjoyed his work!

:: Art :: Besides having an art teacher come to the home weekly (and sketching regularly in their nature journals, which does not fall under art instruction but is great skillwork!), our new addition this year: was an ATC-sized Weekly Painting each week based on a topic of their choice from the week's readings. You can read more about that here.  This was a very approachable way to practice watercolor skills as well as the intellectual habits of culling and attention as they had to select their subject.  They are now housed in a binder in baseball card inserts, and look quite wonderful all together if I do say so myself! :)


Organization
Since I know you'll ask. :)

Besides the shelves for their school books, I have a shelf of reference materials for keeping and such...

And their other materials:
Ancient History Notebook, Modern History Notebook and Science Notebook (we like these)
Reading Log and Prose and Poetry Notebook (same as above, but lined)
Nature Journal + Kit (you can see a photo and everything in it here!)
Foreign language notebook (one for exercises in Latin + Italian, one for copywork in Italian)
Form II Binder (including term schedule for reference, reference maps, their binder timeline, memory work passages, map drill pages, etc.)

They also each have a pencil box, where they keep a set of colored pencils, a mechanical pencil, erasable pens in blue and black, a drawing marker, sketching pencils (one hard lead, one soft lead), scissors, eraser, a waterbrush, and their current weekly checklist. (Photo + list here!)

The Schedule
I use a combination approach to our schedule for my largely-independent students: a routine (aka timetable), a checklist, and then a Weekly Meeting to check-in on Fridays. Obviously, the specifics of these are shaped by our family needs and dynamics, but I will share images below in case they are helpful!



I'm sorry if these are a bit confusing: the top schedule I created in Term 1, and the bottom checklist is from Term 3, and in a Baby Year, we absolutely make adjustments as we go!  But hopefully you can get a feel for the flow of our day if that is useful to you. :)

If you are looking for templates to create your own, I have some (free) downloadable ones posted here from a few years ago that are very similar in style. I hope to put up the newer versions after I tweak them for this fall's plans.

I have some posts in the archives that may explain our family's organizational methods, so check the posts below for more details and descriptions of how we build our smooth days:

My Weekly Planning + Pre-Reading Session
Our Weekly Meeting
Planning Notes from Prior Years
Our Paper Plans (I hope to update with 2018-2019 paper plans in the fall!)
Schooling with Littles series (about our daily routine, written many years ago but still relevant)
Our Nature Study Group

I hope this helps those of you looking to begin Year 6 in the fall!  I'm hoping to look back at my Form I students' past year very soon. :)