Monday, August 19, 2013

Second Grade in Our Home - An Overview

I think it's time for me to share our second grade plans--we're already halfway through our first term here!  We all really enjoyed the summer break, but I'm happy to be back on a schoolish routine with my two older kids, who are now in second grade.  I also have two "preschoolers" (4 and 3) and two "babies" (almost-2 and almost-1) this school year.

Once again, we're relying heavily on Ambleside Online's schedule--we'll be doing their Year 2 this year.  I switched out a couple books, scheduled a few extras, and then added plans for art, music, foreign language, math, religion, and so on.

Here's what our year looks like at a glance.  My own changes/additions in blue; the rest is straight off the AO site!  (And these are posted with permission from AmblesideOnline.)

BibleOld Testament - Benson's Old Testament Rhymes (25 rhymes - one per week)
New Testament - Knecht's Child's Bible History (39 chapters - about one per week)
Weekly reading of the Gospel from their own missals
ReligionSaints' Lives - Heroes of God's Church (25 chapters - about one per week with longer tales split in two)
Stories - Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls (12 chapters - Term 1), First Communion Tales (12 chapters - Term 2), More Catholic Tales for Boys and Girls (12 chapters - Term 3) *not narrated
Mass - Come to Mass by Fr. Francis (31 pages - about one per week)
Catechism - Mother Loyola's First Communion (one half chapter a week) and monthly review of the New St. Joseph's FHC Catechism

World - Our Island Story and A Child's History of the World
National - This Country of Ours
Catholic -  Chapter 1 (St. Brendan) and Chapter 2 (The Discovery of the Americas) from The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas
Stories - Yonge's Little Duke (Terms 1 and 2), Stanley's Joan of Arc (Term 3)
Natural HistoryThe Burgess Book of Animals (1-2 stories per week)
Holling's Tree in the Trail (Term 1 and 2) and Seabird (Term 2 and 3)
GeographyThe Kirbys' The World at Home (2 chapters per week)
Highroads of Geography (1 chapter per week) *not narrated

Henty's Brighty of the Grand Canyon (scheduled rather than free read, 36 chapters - 1 per week) *not narrated
Map drills - Santa Fe trail, US states, countries of Western Europe
Weekly mapwork
LiteratureLambs' Tales from Shakespeare (two plays per term)
Understood Betsy (Term 1), The Wind in the Willows (Term 2), Robin Hood (Term 3)
Pilgrim's Progress (using the 72-week schedule)
Tanglewood Tales and The Wonderbook (10 pages per week) *not narrated
PoetryWalter de la Mare (Term 1), Eugene Field Whitcomb (Term 2), Christina Rossetti (Term 3)
Music StudyThe First Book of the Orchestra (one section per week)
Haydn (Term 1), Mozart (Term 2), Beethoven (Term 3) - using Classics for Kids, two lessons per month
Art StudyManet (Term 1), Monet (Term 2), TBD (Term 3)
ArtWeekly drawing lesson using Mona Brooks' Drawing with Children
Weekly art project
MusicWeekly piano lesson, daily practice (we actually won't start lessons until spring)
Nature StudyWeekly nature study outing
Weekly nature journal entry
Natural Science Through the Seasons: 100 Teaching Units (weekly activity with nature study group)
ItalianDaily work, one unit every other week, including lesson, songs, games, rhymes and review
HandicraftsGianna - Sewing, beading
Vincent - Woodworking, leather stamping
CopyworkPrinting and starting cursive (five minutes per day)
Memory WorkDaily memorization of one hymn, one folk song, one poem, one psalm/parable
Daily review of prior selections
MathRightStart Level D/E for Gianna (four lessons per week)
RightStart Level E for Vincent (four lessons per week)

A few notes:

:: Scheduling. I'm using my weekly list format from last year--it's still working wonderfully.  My goal is four days of daily work (which means math, memory work, italian, copywork, read aloud) in addition to our weekly assignments.  At this point, my children are reading everything on their own except Our Island Story, This Country of Ours, Shakespeare, Pilgrim's Progress, and Mother Loyola's First Communion.  I may hand over the history readings soon; they definitely could read those independently, but I enjoy working through them together.  I plan to keep the other three as read alouds since we discuss them as we go.

:: Geography.  I wanted to add a little extra to this subject, so I included a few books for us to work through.  The children get a "letter" each week in our family mailbox from Highlands of Geography, and we're reading The World at Home together.  And I thought Brighty of the Grand Canyon would be a good companion to Tree in the Trail as we do mapwork on the US states this year, so I made it a scheduled-but-not-narrated reading (since it's technically a free read, I'm not requiring narrations).  Geography is one of my kids' favorite subjects.  (You can read my thoughts on geography from a CM approach as well as other geography resources here.)

:: Slowing down. Hawthorne's Tanglewood Tales and The Wonder Book are on the free reading list for this year, but I thought they would be fun to go through slowly together to get us ready for Kingsley's Heroes Bulfinch's Age of Fable in the years soon to come.  So we'll be reading them over the course of the year, about ten pages (in our versions) per week, read aloud by me (and again, not narrated).  This is one of our very favorite readings so far this year!  My kids beg for more and it is a delight to read aloud.

:: Free reading.  I haven't included it here, but we have tons of free reading on our lists for this year that I have pulled from a variety of sources.  My daughter in particular just sails through all her free reading books--in fact, they have both finished almost all of AO's suggestions already in just a couple weeks.  So I always like to have a nice long list of other options ready to go.  I'll be sharing from that list as we go through the year.

:: Math.  Over the summer, I decided to split up my two for math, and I am so glad I did!  Even though they're the same age and working at pretty much the same level, they are such different learners that it makes more sense for me to work with them one-on-one.

:: Copywork. My kids were clamoring to do cursive--in fact, they were starting to teach themselves just from my old lists and notes!  So I decided we would slowly begin some cursive practice.  I'm not entirely convinced that they're ready (in terms of their fine motor skills), but I'd rather have them learn properly from me than teach themselves improperly.  So we'll see how that goes.  We will continue copywork in printing as well.

:: Pilgrim's Progress.  I went back and forth over using this very-Protestant text in our homeschool.  Ultimately, I decided it was worth going through since it's a cultural touchstone. So we'll be doing this together.  I'm only planning for us to do the first book, though, so we'll be using the 72-week cycle over on Ambleside Online.  It's really just a few minutes of reading each week.

:: Religion.  We read through the Old Testament in Child's Bible History and Knecht's Bible History last year.  This year, we're tackling the New Testament, which the kids are obviously quite familiar with but haven't studied in any systematic way.  We're also going through Msgr. Benson's Old Testament Rhymes, which is a fun way to recap last year's stories.  We also have readings for "fun" (the Tales section), for our ongoing study of the Traditional Latin Mass, and for catechism: Mother Mary Loyola's First Communion.  My two oldest actually made their First Communion last spring, but this book is too much of a treasure for them to miss it.  So we're doing it "late" but all getting a lot out of it anyway!

:: Italian.  I explained our plan for Italian lessons a couple weeks ago.  It's still going wonderfully--I'm really pleased with our progress!

:: Nature Study.  Once again, we'll be doing nature study with friends this year.  Angela and I are planning to pull ideas from Partridge's Natural Science Through the Seasons to give a little structure to our outings.

:: Art.  We're continuing our lessons using Drawing with Children from last year, melding that text with some other resources and the daily drills from Donna Young's site.  Once we get through the first term's assignments, I'll try to remember to post more about how we're using this text.

:: Art and music.  Once again, I'm going on my own instead of following the Ambleside Online rotation for these subjects.  We'll have a chance to listen to Haydn live this year, so I definitely wanted to hit him first.  I pulled the others from those available on the Classics for Kids website--they're subject to change if another live performance opportunity pops up.  Same with artists--I really plan one term at a time.  After two terms on Impressionists, I will probably add something with religious subject matter in Term 3.  Or maybe we'll switch out Monet for someone else?  We'll see.

So that's our second grade plans!  Please let me know if any other details would be helpful to you--I'm happy to share.


  1. Thanks!! This is a big help as I'm prepping to start Year 2 in a couple weeks. I'm going to look up some of the extra books you mentioned, as well as follow your plan for Tanglewood Tales and

  2. I am currently using your Amy Steedman replacements for _Trial and Triumph_ in AO yr 1 with my daughter (and loving them!). So I came looking for your year 2 replacements for it. Could you please clarify: you used _Heroes of God's Church_ and the first three chapters of The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas_?

    Let me say how blessed I am by your blog and the work you have done. You are the second place I come to look for things (after AO's site)! So thank you!!!

    PS I like the idea of using _Brighty_ as a geography scheduled, rather than a free read. I hadn't thought of that. Seems like a good plan! How did it work out for you?


    Is it this one by Seton Press?

    1. Hi Antonella!

      My copy of The Catholic Faith Comes to the Americas looks different but I think it's the same. (Mine is my Seton Press too.) If you don't already have it, I'm not sure I would buy it, especially for full price. (I found it used for a few dollars, so I already had it on my shelves when planning our year.) It's a nice overview of what's "left out" of the saints of the Americas, but I think you could get the same effect using some well-placed Vision biographies.

      Heroes of God's Church is a lovely compilation of saints' lives and my kids really enjoyed it (and still do!).

      I'm glad I scheduled Brighty. We didn't do all that much *with* it--mostly just read it. But my grandparents live in Arizona and I've been there (including the Grand Canyon) lots of times, so I thought it would be a fun addition. It corresponds well with Tree in the Trail to give a comprehensive "flavor" of the Southwest--canyons, caverns, the animals and plants of the region.

      Hope that helps! And thanks for your kind comments. :)

  4. What is the difference between Map drills and Mapwork?

    1. Hi Vanessa! Mapwork refers to mapping places and journeys that come up in our readings, like marking on a map of the East Coast the Thirteen Colonies as they are founded in This Country of Ours, or charting Marco Polo's voyage across the Middle East and Asia. It is like an additional form of narration in that way. Map drills refers to learning names of countries, states, rivers, mountains, oceans, or another feature. My kids do that through studying a map and then filling one out as best they can until they know it by memory (either in writing or orally, depending on age and skill level). Ideally, I choose maps for our map drills that are related to our readings as well. Hope that makes sense!

  5. Thank you so much for the answer. It does make sense and it helps a lot.
    I second Antonella, your blog has been a blessing! Thank you for all the helpful info you share here.

  6. HI! I am wondering if you can talk about your grade 2 history curriculum....I have a few ideas for textbooks, biographies, etc but can't seem to decide on what I'd like best for 2nd grade I really think that this age is too young for English history (mostly because of the catholic persecution during Elizabethan England. I have some materials I'd like to wait on for 3rd or even 4th grade and have materials I have already used for Kindergarten and grade 1...Decisions, decisions... Also, at this age what did your history "routine"/schedule look like? How much did they read to themselves? How often did you work on history? How did you use Our Island Story? How much of the text was anti-Christian?

    1. Hi there! I'm not sure I can help all that much because I think English history works pretty well for Year 2 if you're moving chronologically through time. :) The Elizabethan era is actually Year 3 with AO, which seemed about the right age for me to talk about bias, and we read some great saints biographies to round out our year so my kids got a fuller view of the era than a Protestant book might provide. Year 2 hits the Middle Ages mostly, so before the persecutions.

      We use AO Year 2 for second grade, so yes, Our Island Story is our primary text (alongside Hillyer's Child's History of the World). OIS is a Christian text, written from an Anglican perspective, so there are a few anti-Catholic moments that can be skipped or managed with the parents' help. It's a lively, fascinating book -- I am on my third read through it now and still enjoying it very much (and learning a lot!). Our history studies basically involve reading, narrating orally, keeping a timeline, and referencing maps as needed. Very simple but very effective. I suggest you take a look at the AO page for Year 2 if you are interested:

      Hope that helps!

  7. Celeste, how do you choose your Catholic resources for religion? Do you have a single source you pull from? And do you have different topics under the umbrella of religion that you aim to fulfill each year? Thanks!

    1. I pull from my shelves and from various Catholic bloggers I trust (like Jen Mackintosh at Wildflowers and Marbles). You might notice that I tend very heavily toward vintage materials -- whenever I see vintage Catholic books for sale, I pick them up. So I have been growing my collection for some time and usually just shop my shelves to see what will work for a given year or student. I don't have an overarching plan. :) Lately I have been buying pretty much everything St. Augustine Academy Press has been printing and working those into our coursework.

      I do have several headings I try to schedule for: Bible (OT and NT), saint biography, devotional, and catechetical. I try to schedule a reading from each of those categories every week. Some of those are Sunday reading and some are scheduled into our school day.

      Hope that helps!

  8. Hi Celeste,

    Thank you for sharing your thinking and planning with us - what a valuable resource! I wondered if you could tell me about your experience with Pyle's Robin Hood? I am a third grade teacher at a Catholic classical school, and Pyle's Robin Hood is suggested as a read aloud in our third term. Did you read it aloud? If so, did you find you had to practice with the language yourself and then take time to explain the vocabulary to your children? I'm just curious about how you navigate older language with young children.


    1. Hi Nicole,

      Pyle's Robin Hood is fantastic but definitely a linguistic stretch! We did it as an audiobook because I really wanted the English accent! :) I did not explain the vocabulary to the children in advance -- they picked it up as they went along. I think it really depends how used to challenging language the children are. If they have been reading rich, meaty work all along (Lambs' Shakespeare, for example, Kipling's Jungle Book, etc.) then they will likely do just fine. If their reading so far has been slightly lighter, then I might wait a year or two. Hope that helps!

    2. Hi Celeste,
      I'm confused about Robin Hood because I thought it was anti-Catholic. I gave it to my daughter to read ( I confess I have not read it myself) and she started asking me why the Bishop seemed like a "bad guy" in this story. However, every Catholic critique I can find seems to rave about this being a great work of literature. Can you explain a little, not only in this particular work, but also in others how you talk to your kids about this problem of some "less than ideal" clergy in the church (especially with recent scandals in the church). Maybe this is kind of getting off topic with Robin Hood here but this is something I come up against often in our readings, and in real life too and I'm often kind of at a loss as to how to talk to my kids about it. Thanks! -Leandra

    3. Hi Leandra! A few thoughts come to mind. First, just because a story has a bad Catholic character in it doesn't mean it is anti-Catholic. Some Catholics do act wrongly, even in the hierarchy (as we know all too well today :/), and it isn't wrong to call those things out. It is helpful to the Church, in fact. If the Bishop was a pious character that was then getting harassed for his faith, that would be different -- but he is a pompous and immoral character, and Robin Hood is simply pointing that out in a roundabout way. Second, in later times, the legend of Robin Hood actually became a metaphor for Catholic persecution under the Church of England, so that may be why you have heard it recommended by Catholics in general. Robin Hood was seen as the Catholic in hiding, while the churchmen were Church of England folks. Robin Hood does indeed embody virtues in a special way. Some versions of the story have Robin Hood praying, some hint at Marian devotion, etc. And to answer your larger question: I tell my children that priests and religious are not immune to sin. They are persons with Original Sin, they have to make choices just like we all do. They have the grace of their state, but they have to cooperate with that grace -- and that is their free will. They are against more challenging temptations from the devil in many ways. They also are held to a greater standard and will be more accountable to God for their actions in the end. Bishops, for example, are responsible not only for their own souls but for any time they might have led the souls of the faithful astray -- that is a big responsibility, and they will answer to God for their actions. I think a good and pious respect for the state as well as a healthy understanding of what priests are up against today helps. We have not gone into much detail regarding the clergy crisis with our children yet, but they have that general understanding of the role of the clergy that I hope will guide their thoughts on the matter when we do get to that point. I hope that helps!

    4. Thank you, Celeste! This is very helpful indeed. May God bless you and your family.

  9. Hello Celeste, I'm reading this post over again for inspiration as I'm getting ready to plan term 3 of year 2. I was wondering what have you used (or is using) for cursive practice?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi Mariana -- sorry I am just now getting to this!

      I first do a simple workbook like this to learn the strokes:

      And then print my own pages using StartWrite of passages of their choice.

      Hope that helps belatedly! :)

  10. Hello Celeste! Thank you so much for sharing this info.!! Since you posted this a few years ago, I was wondering if you would change anything about it now? And also, I was wondering how much you read of This Country of Ours during this year--just what is prescribed on Ambleside? Thank you!

    1. Hi there! This is a heavier list than I have assigned for my second graders since -- the two students I scheduled this for were already reading on their own and quite well, so it was all I could do to keep them stocked with good books! :) I have adjusted to make the schedule lighter for the three students I have had go through second grade since then. And yes, we just read TCOO as prescribed.

  11. Hi, Celeste! Thank you for sharing your plans. It certainly helps me ponder and navigate. I'm wondering about the First Communion Tales book you mentioned above. I have the other two Tales books by Caryll Houselander, but a Google search comes up short when I search for the First Communion Tales. Do you know where I could find it? Thank you!

    1. Hi there! I can't find the edition I have, but I think it's the First Communion Days that is part of this volume reprinted by St. Augustine Academy Press: If not, I'm sure that's a fantastic alternative because all of their books are top notch! :)