Friday, May 20, 2016

The School Year in Review :: Years 4 and 1

This year went about as smoothly as a year with a baby born smack in the middle of it could go.  We started right after July 4th and finished at the beginning of April, with short breaks for Justin's birth, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Lent/Holy Week.

I know I shared all about our schedule for this year back in the fall, but I thought I'd update a bit about how it actually worked in practice...

As a reminder, this is what our ideal-day plan looked like this year:

Our days ran rather smoothly on these "rails." We certainly did not hold to this schedule every day!  But the structure was there when we needed it.

Some things shifted around a bit by the end of the year, even for our ideal days.  For example, the Latin and Italian in that "Work with Big Kids" block became independent work after Justin was born.  Also, I started having the kids stay outside until 11:30, which means that the Bathrooms + Floors chore time got switched to the pre-dinner hour most days.  I didn't do math with Cate daily--that pre-breakfast time slot is just itching to be used (my toddler sleeps in and littles are busy coloring usually), but I just can't seem to get going right out of the gate like that.  I'd much rather catch up online or read while I drink an extra cup of coffee.  That was definitely a discipline issue on my part!  Luckily, we school math year-round, so Cate will have plenty of math time with me in the summer.  Little things like these always creep up as we work through the year, but I just adjust and keep moving along.

The biggest benefit to having a schedule like this is the knowledge that if I do need to make sure we stay carefully on task in a given day, I can follow this schedule and everything will get done.  With a big family, it's valuable to know that there are indeed enough hours in the day for the items you are asking your children (and yourself!) to do.  Beyond that, there is plenty of room for flexibility within that routine.


As far as curriculum, we didn't adjust much at all.  (Here were my plans for Year 4 and for Year 1.)  We completed all of the readings we set out to cover in the fall, and we made satisfactory progress in our skill-based subjects. We switched out a couple of the memory work selections, and we did not get to all my handicraft plans. I did change one thing for the Big Kids: I added in Winston Grammar, one lesson per week, for Term 2 and 3, and we are liking it a lot.  We then apply the concepts used to our dictation passage for the week and are finding it to be a nice combination.


I promised to share how our Keeping went this year...

My Year 1 student kept a map for Paddle to the Sea.  (She chose the colors. ;))

She also started a simple timeline like my Big Kids have.

My Big Kids did quite a bit of Keeping for history and geography this year:

They so enjoyed working on these century charts.  We will definitely be doing this again next year for the 19th century!  I love how they each made different inclusions and presenting the people/events in different ways.

We read a California geography book this year, The Cruise of the Arctic Star, as well as a biography of Fr. Junipero Serra in Term 2.  They tracked the information from both of those readings on these blank watercolor maps they made at the beginning of the year.

They also kept maps for Minn of the Mississippi and our Revolutionary War history readings.  These should look very similar to the maps they used during Term 3 exams.

And they requested to start a Reading Log, so I printed out a simple form for them to use.  Here's an example from my book-loving daughter:

I'm preparing a Reading Log they can keep in a notebook for next year, but this was a nice start to the practice.


My Year 4 students have been doing one written narration a week this year.  During our "babymoon," I increased it to two written narrations a week to lighten my load a little: one on Fabre's Storybook of Science and one on a book of choice.  (I have very chatty narrators, so it takes me far less time to read a narration and discuss it with them than it does to listen to their oral versions!)  I also mentioned that rather than just a straightforward prose narration, as they had been doing, they could also choose to let their narration take a more creative form (a poem, a play, an illustrated paragraph, and so on).

In Term 3, Gianna continued with two written narrations by choice and really let her dramatic-poetic side come out.  Writing is an activity she truly loves, and I wanted to share a few of my particular favorites. (If you're interested in reading some of her work, click to enlarge.)

As you will notice, most of her creative narrations are humorous too, with lots of inside jokes with me.  (Like those morals! LOL)  I had no idea that we would bond over her writing, but it has been so fun!  She leaves her narration on my desk and then giggles until I read it. ;)  I share these because I really feel like this is where personality can develop in a writer when one doesn't force them into a composition "formula."


So the year ended, and we celebrated with a teatime treat and, naturally, books! I make a habit of putting aside used books I pick up that somehow connect to this term's readings.  It's a lot of fun to come across books on similar topics (the kind that in another style of learning, I might pull as part of my kids' lessons and overload the schedule!) to add to an end-of-the-year celebration package.  And bonus: my kids get to read a bit more about the topics that interested them from our school year during their free time.  

The Life of Buffalo Bill (a vintage comic book version of his biography)
A First Book of Brahms (easy arrangements for my younger kids)
Brenner's The Boy Who Loved To Draw (a picture book about Benjamin West)
Edmonds' Drums Along the Mohawk (historical fiction set in the Revolutionary Era for me -- NOT for the kids)
Schneider's Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth (a tie-in with Madam How and Lady Why)
Farjeon's Kings and Queens (couldn't resist after getting her Heroes and Heroines for Christmas)
Coatsworth's The Fair American (Bethlehem Books reprinted this historical fiction book that fits nicely into Y4 studies--it's part of a series)
a vintage edition of Robinson Crusoe (abridged, but I thought they'd enjoy looking at these very different and very fun illustrations now that they have read it)
Yolen's Apple for the Teacher (another songbook)
Paul Revere's Ride (illustrated by Paul Galdone -- we already have the one illustrated by Ted Rand)
Leeming's Fun With Paper (they're very into origami right now, so I know this sloyd book will be a hit!)

If you're wanting to homeschool using AmblesideOnline but worried that your kids won't connect with one another if they're not all studying the same period in history: don't be! Even though I grabbed Buffalo Bill with Cate (my Year 1 student) in mind, the kids agreed that it rightfully belongs to everyone since they all loved listening in. On the other hand, Xavier and Cate were riveted by Paul Revere's Ride (a Year 4 poetry selection). Thanks to Madam How and Lady Why, we have been making comments about landforms as we drive along all year--so much so that even though earth science is scheduled for Year 4, Cate wants Vincent to read her Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth because she thinks it will have "more about earthquakes and volcanoes and mountains and stuff."  (It does, and it was a wonderful recommendation from one of my Mater Amabilis friends.)  And Kings and Queens--well, that is certainly for everyone!  Gianna has been reading relevant bits from each person's year to entertain us all.  Brahms was a family subject, as were the folk songs that inspired Apple for the Teacher.  And Xavier grabbed up Fun with Paper, which I intended for my Big Kids, and is attempting to decipher instructions despite not being able to read all that well!  There is so much combined learning going on around here despite each student having his own "year."

Last but not least, we also took a trip to the theater for a performance of The Winter's Tale to celebrate.

Shakespeare is probably my kids' favorite reading, and Gianna in particular memorizes lots and lots of lines for fun and is dying to act.  Thanks to Amber's recent posts on her Shakespeare club, I'm starting on a plan for fulfilling that need!


We have about two months of vacation left before we start back up in July.  In the meantime, I've got Year 5, Year 2, and another round of Year 1 to plan!  We also do a light summer session, so we've still got a Morning Basket going and some short daily tasks.  More about those another time.

So are you almost finished up with the school year?  Any special ways to finish off the last term?


  1. Love these types of posts! Gianna's narrations show me what I think Caroline's might be a bit like when she is older. Her oral narrations often take on a creative flair and I have to make sure there is time enough to hear them. Her biggest struggle is going to be summarizing! Something to work on a bit in Y3 for her. Whew! We read the Kings and Queens book along with OIS through Y2 and she really liked trying to make her own poems after that style out loud with me.

    Lovely maps of CA. Looks like they really enjoyed doing those. Lots of written in detail. They are so pretty. Caleb's Minn map was similar. He included physical geography as well as labeling and that was fun to see him get into.

    And I have to laugh about your book pile. I do the same thing, put books from our historical time periods aside to use during the summer and a couple now and then sneak out for free reading during our break weeks. I also ordered, "Rocks, Rivers, and the Changing Earth." Heard about it from Niccole at Sabbath Mood Homeschool and the Amazon preview looked great! Figured it would be a good summer read for everyone. Caleb says he will read it aloud to anyone interested. His only lament is that we do not have a creek or a river in our backyard. I am told this would make the book even better. ;)

    And I have to say that I am blown away by how much you get done in a baby year. Just blown away. I'm not a comparer by nature. But you have given me a few twinges as I look ahead to what our new year might be like and back at what y'all have done. Our year will be what God has planned for it to be and I'm sure it will be lovely. How can having a new little one to snuggle and doing years 1, 3, and 5 not be?! But wow, Celeste, you and your kiddos look like you had an amazing year.

    1. That's funny because Gianna is creative but good at summarizing. Vincent is straight-forward and doggedly devoted to accuracy and detail. :) But I will say that written narration actually helped in summarizing (I only give them 15 minutes to do their narrations, and they can try to cover the whole thing or just a part and orally narrate the rest), so that might not be something you need to work on with her just yet--it may take care of itself! :)

      Oh, I didn't know Nicole mentioned that book too! I'm particularly excited to read it now...when I can pry it from Vincent's hands. ;)

      And I do hope my sharing hasn't stressed you out, VL. I am not a comparer by nature either and definitely don't want to make anyone overwhelmed. :) If it makes you feel any better: I am not breastfeeding, so although I have been busy this year, I have NOT been completely sleep-deprived. That is a whole 'nother hurdle and one I am terrible at jumping. Also, my husband has been working at home for the past six months. In some ways, that has made things harder (ha!) but mostly, it has made things like nature study outings and Shakespeare productions easier, since I leave Drew and Justin with him. :) Perhaps I should insert caveats like this into the posts themselves! :)

  2. That's good to hear about the written narrations. Caleb could give me a detailed oral narration or a summary oral narration before we moved to written. In fact he used to ask me which one I wanted. He's very straight forward so he liked to know which one I was expecting. But he never added creative detail. Just stuck to exactly what the author wrote. Which makes the long, creative, not a smidgen of detail left out (and a few added in) new to me. I had not thought about the fact that when she starts written there just plain will not be time for that. Yes indeed, that should be interesting. So thank you. It's nice that you have two different personalities leading the way to see what works and what doesn't. Although I'm sure that made toddler and preschool years interesting. ;)

    No, your sharing has not stressed me. =) It gave me a few twinges of thinking I wish I had that kind of energy in a new baby year. Or that I bounced back physically faster and had a bit more discipline with routine when I'm tired. Or that I knew the special vitamins you were taking. Ha! =) But mostly it just made me smile in awe and think, "Go Celeste!" Every mama, baby, and family is different. We've had preemies and full term babies, nursing and bottle fed. So the sleep deprivation definitely plays a large role. I hear you there. Plus once we hit baby 3 my baby moons seemed to get longer. Time seems to fly faster and faster, so I'm more likely to snuggle in bed and get distracted by little fingers and toes. I just want to do that late into the morning AND everything else too. ;)

    1. I hear you there! It's funny because I'm not a "newborn person," and babies are more enjoyable for me (objectively speaking -- of course I love each one of my babies all the time!) around the six month mark and beyond. So I am finding myself wanting to spend all the time playing with baby now, right in time for our summer break! :)

  3. Really enjoyed seeing all of your kid's own work and also the books you enjoyed together! Well done!

  4. This is just lovely, Celeste! I like that you share, even though I do feel stressed at times, but that's MY problem, not yours. ;) However, like Virginia said, each family is so different. I love your blog for a couple of reasons...I love that you spur me on and have great ideas on how to implement a CM education with a large family. I love and learn from your organization, because that isn't one of my strengths. So, keep sharing, because it's helpful and encouraging. I love your kids entries and the century charts are soooo cool! You should do a post on how you use them more specifically, like the steps for those of us who are "step-challenged"! LOL :D Thanks! :) Amy

    1. Thank you, friend! You are always so encouraging. :) And I will happily share more about the century charts, especially since we are going to be making one next year also. My kids had a great time with them and they were so simple! And funny: Gianna is currently working on a some historical fiction about George Washington and has remembered the dates of his birth, death, marriage, etc from visualizing her century chart! I didn't think they'd be as much fun or as useful as they were. :)

  5. I loved reading your daughter's writing - wow, what a flair she has! So much fun. I am definitely doing century charts next year, and seeing your maps has inspired me to do more in that area too. I think we're at the point where something like that could actually happen and be helpful, which is exciting. I really like Winston Grammar too - I've had Gregory using it in Term 2 & 3 and grammar is actually making some sense for him now. I realized this morning that he's ready to start moving through the program much faster, which was a nice realization to have. And I hope you're able to get a Shakespeare group going, we really enjoyed doing it last year. I am hoping I can get some people together to do it again this next school year too.

    1. Your sharing your experience with teaching writing a few months ago has encouraged me to continue what we're doing, just stepping back and letting her writing develop rather than trying to guide her skills in this area. I think you're right and I'm grateful for your counsel! :)

      Winston Grammar has been just the program I was looking for. I first heard about it from Jen Mack, I think, and I'm glad I did because I wanted something formal but simple. I originally thought we would use KISS, but that turned out to be less and less simple the more I looked at it. ;) I think Winston will be a good fit for our various dips into grammar over the years.

    2. That's where I learned about Winston Grammar too :-) I'm surprised more people don't use it, actually.

      I picked up Fun with Paper and the boys have been making some things from it already. The admiral hats are particularly popular.

  6. Thank you for posting these. You being intentional about all these inspire me. I will focusing on Mapwork this year since I have not fully incorporated it to our learning. Looking for more ideas to make it happen :) I particularly like your Reading Log!! I've been thinking how to list all the books they have read. This is perfect!!!! So personal. So easy. Thank you.

  7. Celeste,

    This may be a silly question, but when your kids sit down and/or when you read to them for their AO readings, do they simply read a chapter or section and then stop and narrate, or write and then put that book down and go on to the next and on and on until the day is complete? How do you break that up and know when to stop in each book? I am having such a hard time figuring this part out without it feeling so mechanical. I know the lessons are short and sometimes there is work to do in between. For example, reading a chapter of Paddle To Sea: we could read, narrate and do some map work before moving on to the next book, but I don't want to feel or my kids to feel like we are just rotating through parts of each book like a robot each day. Does that make sense? I absolutely love AO and my kids and I have enjoyed the books but I still cannot figure out how to run through it each day. I thought in form I that copywork was short and once a day so do I do that at the end of all our readings for the day? I know I need to do some more intentional planning. I think that would help me, but they are still young and need me to read a lot to them. I am wondering how you start and stop each time with each book. Can you give me some clarity on that? Your site has been so helpful to me I thank you for that. I hope I am making sense.

    1. Hi Melissa! Sorry -- I'm just seeing your comment now since I was out of town, and now we had our chat on Facebook...did that answer your questions? If there are other things you'd like answered, comment here and I'll do my best. :)

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  9. Hi Celeste,
    I was wondering if you could share what you did with Story Book of Science. Did you do any supplementing, etc.?

    1. Hi Karen! There is a link in the AO forums for notes and links to go with SOS. I did use some of those, showing the kids after reading + narrating. But I didn't add anything in particular -- just things from that thread now and then.

  10. Thanks Celeste! I did see that thread but it was a bit overwhelming to try to look through all at once. I think that's because I started looking at it when I had just finished reading and prepping Minn of the Mississippi, Poor Richard, and a science biography on Marie Curie. I probably needed a short break before trying to weedle through the thread of ideas. ;) I do plan to go back and look through it more slowly as I begin to pre-read the book.

  11. Celeste, Where did you find that printable map for the battles? I've been combing through the internet and can't find anything with the clear boundary lines! Thanks!