Monday, July 7, 2014

Back to School

Hi, friends!  I didn't intend to take a couple-week break from blogging, but I spent the time prepping our materials and pre-reading for the coming school year--which starts today!

I felt a bit like the mouse in Numeroff's books: if you give a homeschooling mom five minutes of free time, she's going to look over math curricula...


...and as she's organizing math books, she'll notice that all the bookshelves need sorting...



...and while she's sorting bookshelves, she'll spot the Calendar of Firsts and realize it needs updating...


Thankfully this little guy kept me from taking on anything too complex!  


Have I mentioned that he definitely sleeps best when snuggled up on mama?  Yes, well, ahem.  Time has been in short supply lately, and I wasn't sure we would be quite ready to start today.  Luckily Ambleside Online did most of my school planning for me. ;)

This year Gianna and Vincent are in third grade, doing mostly AO Year 3.  And I have a new student: Cate is starting kindergarten!


There has never been a girl more excited to start school!  This little dear has been asking me daily when her kindergarten starts for the past two months.  She's looking forward to learning to use scissors, doing a bit of math on the abacus, and special reading times with Mommy.  We keep kindergarten very informal and completely voluntary here, but I have a few fun things in mind for us two this year.

I can't wait to share what we'll be doing this term--I'm already swooning over our booklists after my first week of pre-reading.  I've also incorporated some new Keeping habits that I think we'll all enjoy, adapted our chore list to accommodate my growing kids, and reworked our schedule a tad.  Wish us luck!

(P.S. Apparently our painted lady caterpillars plotted together to make our morning special--three pupated overnight, and we got to watch the last one reveal its chrysalis right before our eyes after breakfast!)

15 comments:

  1. Celeste, we're using AO Year 1 with my eldest (starting next week!) and I've found you blog very helpful. Especially your post on art for First grade. My daughter loves art and I really need to encourporate more of the fun into our year.

    My week has been much like yours....straightening shelves, organizing supplies, printing maps. I'd love to see a post on organization if you have time (haha)....especially art and nature supplies. Also, did you switch from Right Start Math?

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    1. Hi Rochelle! Organization is one of my very favorite things to talk/think about, so I will try to hit that topic soon! ;) And I know what you mean about making art a priority--my two girls would do artsy stuff pretty much all day if they could, so I do try to incorporate art and drawing into our schedule even though it sometimes feels like an "extra."

      As for math: no, we definitely haven't switched from Right Start--we're just almost finished with it. :) The two oldest will be finishing up Level E in the next couple months, and I'm deciding where to go from there. I have already been mixing in some Singapore 5A/B (just the topics we didn't end up covering in RS) to break up the final (long) geometry unit in Level E, so they'll finish Singapore 5 and RS E at the same time, most likely...and then we'll be moving on to RS Level G and a couple different Pre-Algebra programs, to be done concurrently. I have a plan in mind but haven't used it in practice yet, so I'm still trying to work out how exactly it will look...but I *love* RS. In fact, my new kindergartener just did her very first lesson of Level B today. <3

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  2. Congratulations on your first day and especially to your new student! And I definitely know what you mean about tidying and organizing!!

    I took a deep breath and decided to take the AO plunge this year. I'm going to be starting on Aug. 4th with one in AO7, one in AO3, and one in AO1. Your AO1 plans were so helpful in figuring out how to make AO a little more Catholic. That's always been my hesitation with AO, but it isn't quite as hard as I thought it was going to be. AO7 has been the most challenging, but that's in part because she's already read some of the books last year. But I think I about have it figured out, and it is definitely better than MA (am I allowed to say that? *grin*) and far, far, far easier and better than starting from scratch!

    You little guy is so cute! I love seeing the photos from Instagram on the right side of your blog whenever I visit.

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    1. Welcome to AO! ;) I know it will be more of a challenge to make AO Catholic in the higher grades, so I hope you'll share at some point what you're doing for AO7. For the early grades, I have just been adding plenty of good Catholic reading alongside for religion (in lieu of T&T and PoN). And I think we'll be reading a couple chapters from The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas this year...maybe. I looked at the relevant chapters and they seemed to rehash what my kids already know from reading saints' lives and whatnot, so I'm not sure that will even be necessary. I was actually a bit worried about AO Y3, as I know we're hitting the Reformation...but I think it will actually be fine. I found a very few annoying spots in the texts (and we're skipping Good Queen Bess), but nothing I've seen so far that can't be easily explained to the kids. And I'd like to include some reading about the English martyrs for this year but haven't found anything other than saints compilations yet...if you're familiar with something that would work, let me know! (I didn't see anything on MA, but maybe I missed it. I can't remember if I checked their suggestions for the older forms yet...hmmm.)

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    2. Amber, are you jumping into AO 3 in the middle of OIS and CHOW? We started CHoW last year together and my older son (y5) read OIS for MA last year. But I too am thinking of following AO , pulling some things and subs from MA. My twins are 6 so would be doing AO 1 or first grade with MA. I thought that my year 3 could be present for many of those read alouds and thus hear some of what she hadn't covered in those.

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    3. Yes, I am jumping into AO 3 in the middle of OIS and CHOW and I'm not worrying too much about what he's missing by starting mid-stream in the books. He has some familiarity with what has come before, and is listening in to some of his (AO 1) brother's read alouds as well. At this point I've realized that even with narration, we don't remember everything we've read - there's always a place for a little background and a little review. And sometimes we just accept that we don't know what happened before (after all, we can never know the full story of history!) and we just have to start from where we are.

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  3. I've been thinking about putting together a post about what we're doing w/ Ambleside and the modifications, but I am still feeling a little timid about it all. But it is something I hope to do, but maybe not until we've actually started and worked with it for a bit.

    I appreciate your suggestions - I had already dropped T&T, but I hadn't looked much at Parables from Nature. I think that one is best to drop as well. I'm also adding a few chapters from the online only, not quite complete history book (Our Lady's Dowry) that is used in MA to give a little more Catholic history. But the saint stories in Our Island Saints adds quite a bit too. I was concerned about Y3 too, but once Good Queen Bess and T&T are gone it seems fairly even handed - or at least there isn't anything too egregious (not that I've been able to pre-read everything yet!)

    As far as other reading, what about something like Crossbows and Crucifixes or Sun Slower, Sun Faster? The Vision Saints series has a book on Edmund Campion too... Hmm. I think there's one more that I read with my daughter a couple of years ago, but I can't remember what it was called.

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    1. Thank you SO much for mentioning Crossbows and Crucifixes, Amber! I think it will make an excellent addition to our reading for this year--basically a "Come Rack, Come Rope" for younger kids. :) I just added it to my Amazon cart. I may also order Sun Slower, Sun Faster for some fun reading later in the year.

      Oh, and just wanted to add in case I wasn't clear that I didn't drop PoN because of anything objectionable but simply to make room in the schedule for all of our religion reading, much of which is written at the level of difficulty that PoN is. Since it's role in the booklist is to present virtues and morals in a literary way, it made sense to leave that out in lieu of specifically-Catholic readings that will be doing the same. ;) And yeah, I haven't pre-read all our history yet either--just skimmed to make sure the chapters in OIS would still be useable, and it looks like they will be. I had forgotten about Our Lady's Dowry. I should really take a look there as well--thank you for the reminder!

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  4. Amber, have you thought about Hillside's The World's Story by O'Neill to sub if you need to for some of AO's history?

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    1. That's actually what I did with the Our Island Story section on the Reformation. That chapter in The World's Story was nicely done. I just wish there were something like The World's Story but with a greater emphasis on England...

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    2. Have you used any other parts of it, Celeste?

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    3. No, just that section so far. I haven't had any need to supplement/amend OIS or CHOW until now (and even now, it has just been a few paragraphs of OIS). I like it, but I do think it's drier than either OIS or CHOW--it feels less like a storybook and more like a well-written textbook to me. So I'm not inclined to use it with the kids unless there's a theological issue with the AO texts. And I think it might be useful as a resource for *me* and for an older child. Have you used it much yet, Amanda? I'd love to hear how you're using it, if so.

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    4. I used The World's Story with my then 6th grader last year (trying to remember which chapters - I think from the later part of the Roman Empire until the 1300's?) and I thought that it was an OK book to use - although a little long-winded at times. I also thought that there was sometimes too many names and places and not enough to flush out the details to make them memorable or narratable. My daughter, who has years of narration practice under her belt and is generally an excellent narrator, sometimes had trouble narrating well from it. I'd hesitate to use it again - even if I wasn't using AO.

      I read through the Reformation chapter and there were a couple things I didn't particularly like about it. First, I thought it was overly long, and included many details that were going to just be too much data for my 3rd grader. (A common problem with this book, IMO) Second, I didn't think it was appropriate to include so many negative details about Luther and his upbringing. It struck me as a personal attack and an attempt to psychoanalyze him, both of which didn't seem the right approach, especially for a third grader.

      I'm going to use the chapter from Our Lady's Dowry instead, which I think is a better length and a better level of detail for where my son is at. I wish Our Lady's Dowry was complete, because I think it is well written and a good book for the middle elementary child. As it is, I'll use Our Lady's Dowry when available and perhaps skip a sentence or a paragraph if necessary in OIS. I'm also reading aloud St. Patrick's Summer, and I'm planning on reading Crossbows and Crucifixes and perhaps Sun Slower, Sun Faster this year as well. I think having these additional captivating stories will strongly counter any lingering bias in OIS.

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    5. Your thoughts on The World's Story match mine, Amber. ;) I expected to be more impressed with it than I was, but I assumed my kids were just too young for it. But if your older daughter had a bit of trouble narrating from it, that's good to know for the future. I actually didn't use that paragraph about Luther--I too didn't like the excess detail there. But I did like how TWS set up the Reformation by discussing two kinds of reformers: those that were faithful to the Church (Colet, Erasmus, More) and those that became heretics (Luther). The usual Protestant line so relies on the lie that all reform/criticism was met by the Church hierarchy of the time with actions like the Inquisition--and that's just not true. There was space to learn, debate, and so on without leaving the Church. I also liked how TWS explained how the 95 Theses incident came about. Anyway, for that week, I basically did a bit of a hack job: the whole intro of the Reformation chapter in TWS, most of the Luther section, and then the second half of the Henry VIII Defender of the Faith chapter from OIS (the first half was terribly biased and I omitted it, but the second half was really well done). It basically ended up being a longer, more detailed version of the chapter from Our Lady's Dowry. ;)

      As for Our Lady's Dowry, I definitely plan on including the chapter on Catholics Under Queen Elizabeth in the next few weeks. OIS is fairly balanced on Elizabeth but has nothing about the state of the Catholic Church under Elizabeth at all, which is a huge but unsurprising omission. Definitely going to rectify that! ;)

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    6. That is a really good point about TWS and how they set up the two types of reformers. It also leads nicely into the counter-reformation, doesn't it. I like what you did - that would have been great for my daughter at that age. But OLD was a better choice for my son at this point as I think a lot of that detail would have been lost on him.

      I've really enjoyed this discussion in your comment box!

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