Friday, September 9, 2016

Year 5 in Our Home :: Overview

We're more than halfway through our first term of Year 5 and it's all going smoothly, so I thought I'd share what Vincent and Gianna's school year looks like for the 2016-2017 year.

As always, we draw heavily from AmblesideOnline's wonderful bookslists -- this year, we're using their Year 5 programme.  Their site has weekly breakdowns, as well as exams and study guides for some of the scheduled books, so be sure to take a look!  (My booklist here is posted with permission from AmblesideOnline.)  

I have marked the portions of our schedule that are directly from AO in regular type.  The bolded bits are my own selections.  Portions marked with "NN" are are not narrated, either because they are additional readings I have added to the AO schedule (and thus I treat them more like free reading) or because they are part of our Morning Basket and done as a family.  
(More about that below.)  

Affiliate links are below for books I have added to our schedule.  Any books scheduled by AO are unlinked -- please click over to their site and purchase through their affiliate links! ;)

New Testament - Gospel of St. Matthew (Term 1 and 2), biblical Lenten devotional (Term 3)

Old Testament -
 Schuster's Bible History (one chapter weekly) with illustrations from the Dore Bible, Rumer Godden's The Raphael Bible, and Stories from the Old Testament

accompanying chapters from Knecht's Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture

Saints and Catholic History - Bartleme's Simon Brute and the Western Adventure (Term 1), Garnett's Florence Nightingale's Nuns (Term 2), Heagney's Chaplain in Gray (Term 3)  *NN

Catechism (reading aloud to Cate) -  My Path to Heaven (Term 1),  
Fr. Francis' Keep My Commandments (Term 2),  The Secret of Mary Explained to Children (Term 3)  *NN

Stories - Father Lovasik's The Catechism in Stories

Also: The Catechism in Pictures (all year) *NN

World - Abraham Lincoln's World, Story of the World Vol. 4

National - Marshall's This Country of Ours

Biographies - Daugherty's Of Courage Undaunted (
Term 1), The Autobiography of Hellen Keller (Term 2), choice of biography -- more on that below! (Term 3)

Keeping of History Notebook, including timeline and century chart
Natural History
and Science
Kingsley's Madam How and Lady Why (using Anne White's study guide)
Christian Liberty Nature Reader Vol. 5
The Story of Inventions

Keeping of Science Notebook
GeographyHalliburton's Book of Marvels

Weekly mapwork - formal Keeping of maps of the United States (charting Lewis and Clark, Audubon, Fremont), Civil War Battlefields (This Country of Ours), and the world (Book of Marvels)

Map drills - countries of Central America, provinces of Canada, cities of California
LiteratureShakespeare - Comedy of Errors (Term 1), TBD (Term 2), Macbeth (Term 3)

Plutarch / Citizenship - Pyrrhus (Term 1),  Nicias (Term 2),  Crassus (Term 3) using Anne White's study guides

Pyle's King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (Term 1), Oliver Twist (Term 2), Kim (Term 3)
PoetryKipling (Term 1), Longfellow (Term 2), Whittier and Dunbar (Term 3)
Music StudyChildren's Classics (Term 1), Tchaikovsky (Term 2), Dvorak (Term 3)
Biographical sketches for each composer *NN
Art StudyDavid (Term 1), Giotto (Term 2),  Winslow Homer (Term 3)
Readings from Hillyer's A Child's History of Art  *NN
ArtWeekly art lesson with instructor
Twice-weekly use of McIntyre's Drawing Textbook
MusicWeekly piano lesson and daily practice
Nature StudyWeekly nature study outing and journal entry

Twice-monthly object lesson and in-the-field sketching session focusing on birds with our nature study group

Weekly reading + challenge from The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling

Keeping a Calendar of Firsts as a family
ItalianDaily work, one unit each month, including songs, games, rhymes, picture narration, conversation and review

Written work including translation and copywork twice a week
LatinLesson twice a week from Getting Started with Latin (Term 1) and Henle: First Year (Terms 2 and 3)
HandicraftsPaper crafts (Term 1), Christmas gifts (Term 2), needle felting (Term 3)
Language ArtsCopywork - daily cursive practice of dictation passage, weekly print entry in Prose and Poetry Copybook

Dictation - one studied dictation passage weekly

Grammar - one lesson from Winston Grammar (much cheaper here) weekly (continued from last year)
Daily lesson - Jacobs' Algebra Jacobs' Geometry (three times weekly)

Weekly lesson - from RightStart Level G

Math supplement - problem from Challenge MathMath Olympiador Penrose the Mathematical Cat twice weekly
Free ReadingAmblesideOnline's Year 5 free reading list, with lots of additions for my book-loving kids
Scheduled Free ReadingTogether -  Carry On, Mr. Bowditch (Term 1)A Christmas Carol (Term 2), Treasure Island (Term 3)  *NN

Independent -  
Little Women (Term 1), Across Five Aprils (Term 2)Tom Sawyer (Term 3)  *NN
Other Assignments and ProjectsReading Log
Physical Education - Memory Work and Movement, weekly 3-mile run with Mommy, workouts using Fitness Blender
Typing - once weekly using Typing Club
Memory WorkBible - The Parable of the Good Shepherd, the Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Luke 18:9-14), Jesus and the Children (Luke 18:15-17), Psalm 1, Words of Consecration in English and Latin

Poetry - from each term's poets

Hymns - Bring Flowers of the Fairest, Fairest Lord Jesus, On This Day, Good Christian Men Rejoice, O Holy Night, Jesus My Lord My God My All, Jesus The Very Thought of Thee, Love Divine All Loves Excelling

Folk Songs - Blow the Man Down, Swing Low Sweet Chariot, Jamaica Farewell, Ol' Dan Tucker, When Johnny Comes Marching Home, Battle Cry of Freedom, Goober Pees, Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me, Shenandoah

(Starting in Term 2, we're doing mostly Civil War-era songs using the fabulous 2nd South Carolina String Band versions -- so fun!)

Shakespeare - selections from plays read for group performance

Prayers - Acts of Faith, Hope, and Love; TBD

Some notes about our Year 5 plans:

:: First, Not-Narrated Readings.  As I mentioned, the selections marked "NN" are not narrated, either because they are part of our Morning Basket (even though they're geared toward the older kids) or because they are Sunday reading or evening reading for my older two.  They are eager bookworms, and I like to direct their plentiful free reading a bit each week.  All other readings are narrated either orally or in writing.

:: Foreign Language.  I haven't done a proper post detailing how our Italian plans have grown over the years since I wrote this series.  We are still educating in the same way, but our assignments are more robust now that Vincent and Gianna are responsible for a bit of reading and writing in Italian.  That means we're doing copywork, translations, short oral and written narrations, and even some textbook exercises.  I'm trying to stick to CM's methods in our foreign language studies, but as the students get older, her suggestions grow as well and include traditional grammar work.  And since we do Italian mostly as a family, that means I have a couple extra slots in my schedule for those more challenging kinds of assignments with just my Bigs while keeping the family-friendly activities in our usual daily slot.  And I moved Italian memory work back to our Morning Basket this year so my littles can join in.  Lots more to say on this topic, and let's hope I get around to actually putting it into a post some time this year! ;)

As for Latin: we did Getting Started with Latin a couple times a week last year and are continuing our twice-weekly schedule with the last few lessons in the book.  After we finish that (in the next couple months), we'll probably move straight on to Henle.  I haven't decided for sure.  Right now Latin is an independent subject, but if we move on to Henle, I'll probably take it back to do together.  Still figuring that out as well!

:: Language Arts.  Last year we started dictation, grammar, and written narrations in language arts.  This year we're continuing dictation with longer passages, grammar with our regular weekly lessons, and written narrations twice-weekly.  They are doing copywork in cursive three days a week (of their dictation passage, without a model) and in print once a week (in their Prose and Poetry book -- free choice of selection).  I am very happy with Winston Grammar (linked above) and we are almost done with the Basic level program.  I'm not planning to move on to the Advanced level yet -- we'll save that for a couple years from now.  We'll just continue to practice what we've learned periodically using our dictation sentences, which we have already been doing.  Written narrations are fifteen minutes each and are on one science reading (in their science notebook) and one history reading (in their history notebook).  They are free to work on them for longer, adding more drawings and illustrations if they choose, during their free time -- which they sometimes do now that they are keeping formal notebooks!  More on that below.

:: Math.  Vincent is about to finish up Jacobs' Algebra and Gianna is just beginning it.  So she will be working through that this year, and he will be taking a detour for a month or so to do some more Challenge Math and Olympiad problems while I figure out what he's going to do next -- I'm pretty sure it will be Jacobs' Geometry, but I want to do some more research first. In the meantime, they're doing one lesson from RightStart Level G each week (hands-on geometry with drawing tools) and some kind of brain twister twice weekly.  Right now, they're reading through Penrose the Mathematical Cat, and after that it will be back to Olympiad for a little while, I think.  Fun!  

We break math into three parts here: one 20-minute session first thing in the morning, one 20-minute session in the afternoon to finish up any leftover work from morning if needed, and then 5 minutes twice a week at naptime to do a challenge of some sort.  This structure is working out great for us.

:: Religion.  I have scheduled readings in various categories again: Old Testament, New Testament, saints/history, catechism/devotional.  The first two are in Morning Basket so are read and narrated as a family.  The other two are not narrated because they are "Sunday reading," including that last one, which the Big Kids read to Cate as well. We are cycling back through Schuster's Old Testament again this year, and I chose a Gospel to work through beginning to end (last year we did Acts and a couple epistles).  I left Lent free so I could pop some relevant Bible readings into that slot.  I chose their saints books based on this year's history cycle, one focused on Europe (Catholic nurses in the Crimean War) and two on America (missionary bishop to the West and Civil War chaplain).  And Xavier 
will be doing sacramental prep this year, so the family is following along in their own catechism, which I will be reading during our Morning Basket this spring.  (Cate received her First Communion just last year, so it's all still pretty fresh, but we'll review anyway.)

By the way, I'd love to find some good WWI-era saints to add to their free reading shelf, so if you have suggestions, please let me know!

:: Literature.  As usual, I have pulled all our literature selections from AmblesideOnline, except for our choice of Shakespeare plays, which I base on local productions.  Our family study format is to read the play in Lambs' (which my Form I students narrate) for the first couple weeks of the term, then read along as we listen to the original as an Arkangel Shakespeare recording (these are just wonderful but pricey -- we check them out from the library) for the next few weeks, then watch the play on stage.  In the meantime, we also choose passages to memorize, and this year, the kids will be performing a short piece together from our play of choice for a Shakespeare Festival I'm organizing with friends.  It's a rich, layered progression through each play and we are so enjoying it.  I think it's my kids' favorite subject (and probably mine too!).

:: Biographies.  I love biographies, I do.  But I had too many biography options this year!  AmblesideOnline schedules one science biography and one history biography each term.  I usually add to that a saints' biography each term, and I also wanted to do a couple California history biographies. I also had a few other books on my shelf that I wanted to use.  So I made some hard cuts, moved some of the options to free reads, and wound up with this:

Term 1:
Of Courage Undaunted (history biography as scheduled by AO)
This Strange Wilderness (science/natural history biography of Audubon)
Simon Brute and the Western Adventure (religious biography about a missionary that becomes the first bishop of Vicennes, Indiana in the 1800s)

Term 2:
Jessie Benton Fremont (CA historical biography suggested by Brandy)
Florence Nightingale's Nuns (religious biography about the Catholic nuns who worked with Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War)
The Story of My Life by Helen Keller (historical autobiography - taken from the AO free read suggestions for Year 5)

Term 3:
biography of choice**
The Wild Muir (CA historical autobiography suggested by Brandy)
Chaplain in Gray (history/religious biography about a chaplain in the Civil War)

Added to the Free Read Shelf:
All of the science biographies recommended by AO
The Palace Wagon Family (about the Donner party)
Jed Smith (recommended by Brandy)
Whichever biographies they don't choose for their Term 3 reading

**Since I had such a wide selection of wonderful options, I decided to let them choose among a few options for their Term 3 biography: The Tale of Beatrix Potter, Invincible Louisa (Louisa May Alcott), Theodore Roosevelt: Champion of the American Spirit, The Story of Madame Curie.  I'll let you know what they pick!  My guess: Gianna will pick Invincible Louisa and Vincent will pick Teddy.  But the rest will go on the free reading shelf, so I'm sure they will all be eventually devoured! :)

:: Notebooks. This year my kids are keeping History Notebooks and Science Notebooks.  The Science Notebook is straightforward for now: it holds their weekly written narrations from Christian Liberty Nature Reader as well as accompanying diagrams and illustrations as desired. In future years, this notebook will grow to contain the write-ups of their scientific experiments and observations, so this is a good start.

The History Notebook is more robust -- it houses all their mapwork, their century chart, their written narrations, and other student-directed history keeping.  I require one map entry, one century chart entry, and one written narration weekly, but they often choose to do a bit of extra keeping in their free time in other areas: lists, charts, timelines, additional maps, sketches, and so on.  They are taking a lot of pride in their work and I think it's going to be a great segue for when they begin a proper Book of Centuries when the history cycle re-begins in Year 6.  (I even wrote a cover letter for their History Notebook with encouragement and ideas, which made the project feel really special.  And I shared last year's maps and century charts here if you'd like to take a peek.)

:: Nature Study.  This year our weekly nature study group is growing.  Instead of having a planned activity once a month, we'll be doing a focused lesson twice a month: one week topical (we're studying birds this year) and one week method-based (we'll be using John Muir Laws' free curriculum).  The other two weeks of the month will be for free play and exploration.  We'll continue to do one nature journal entry per week as always.  (I haven't missed a week yet this year so I am very motivated to keep up my streak! LOL)  I will write more about this year's nature study group another time, so let me know if you have questions.

:: Outside Lessons. I am very picky about our outside time since I know too many activities are draining to me.  So once again, our extracurriculars are limited to these weekly lessons: art and piano (the teacher come to our house!), nature study outing with friends, and park day with friends.  We will also add swimming later this fall for the older four.  This year we're also organizing a Shakespeare Festival with friends once a semester, but we'll be practicing for that at home and only getting together for the event itself.  That's it -- and more than enough for me! ;)

:: Organization.  As a quick list (since I know people are going to ask! LOL), here's what is on my Year 5 kids' shelves in addition to our scheduled books...

History Notebook and Science Notebook (we like these blank notebooks)
Reading Log (same as above, but lined)
Prose and Poetry Notebook (we use a hardcover composition book from Walmart, but the one I linked above would be perfect)
Nature Journal
Math notebook - not a keepsake, just for working problems and math puzzles
Foreign language notebook - not a keepsake, just for translation exercises and copywork for Latin + Italian
Drawing sketchbook - not a keepsake, just for their twice-weekly drawing practice
Winston Grammar workbook
Form II Binder - for term schedule for reference, dictation passages, 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, and their current weekly checklist.

Their school books are all on one shelf:

And I have supplemental books for their studies on another shelf.  These are for when I want to show them a relevant picture or they need one to copy for a history narration or century chart entry.  There is also an atlas in there, a book with body illustrations, a book of kings and queens...a whole bunch of stuff.  (I'll have to do a Year 5 supplement cheat sheet soon!)

there are their history + sciece notebooks on the right

Their current free reads are also on one shelf:

And extra free reads to replenish their shelf with on another.

I'll share about how we're actually scheduling out all these assignments and readings in my upcoming post about this year's weekly checklist.


I think that about covers it!  I've tried to anticipate some of the questions I usually get about our schedule, so I apologize for the length. ;)  If you have other questions, let me know!

Coming up soon: my Form I plans, this year's checklist and schedule sheets, our Morning Basket plans for Term 1, and a look at my Weekly Planning session and our Weekly I missing anything?! :)

(And just as a last note: I'm sure this is obvious, but please remember that our plans are specific to our family's personality and needs.  I share them because I know many of you are looking for examples of different ways to live out the AmblesideOnline curriculum, or to deal with eager and early learners within that setting, or to make Catholic additions or substitutions to the curriculum.  This is one way in one home and isn't meant to work for all families or all children.  So take what you want and ignore the rest!  Another place to look for the ways other families live out Year 5 is the AmblesideOnline forums -- lots of diverse examples there!)


  1. As always, love seeing your plans. You are just about half a year ahead of us, so they always pop up just when I'm starting to think about what's ahead for us! I would love to hear more about your science notebooks - hoping to get my dd started one one when she hits Y5, and your nature study time with a group. We are doing some of our nature study with a group this year, and I sort of got roped into leading (the friend who was going to moved suddenly ;( ) - nature study isn't my forte, so I feel kind of out of my element. Would love to hear more about your Shakespeare festival too!

    1. Our Science Notebooks are super simple -- just blank notebooks that they can keep their written narrations and accompanying diagrams/visuals in. I wish I had started one last year with Storybook of Science because the kids probably would have enjoyed it a lot.

      And our nature study group has grown like crazy over the past couple years -- we had our first technical meeting of the school year a couple weeks ago (we meet through the summer too, but we don't do any formal activities) and had 55-60 people in all. We'll see how it goes! I'm a little out of my element too, to be honest! :)

  2. I always love reading what you are doing, Celeste! Thanks for sharing!!! :) Can't wait to peek at some of these titles! :)

  3. I would love to hear how your foreign language lessons are progressing. I have saved your previous posts for some brainstorming/reference, but am curious how it has grown or changed. I am also wondering about your own experience with this. What is your own level of comfort and proficiency in the language and how does that affect your planning and teaching?

    We recently moved back to the states from South Korea with our three kids, oldest just turned five. They were home with me, but we lived with their Korean grandmother and our current levels are quite a mix-up. 5yo can speak some and understands quite a lot, though it's difficult to figure out just how much, her ear for the language is perfect and she can reproduce what she hears. 3yo is uncomfortable speaking, but will repeat words or short phrases if broken down syllabic ally. Both love their stories on tape and we know a lot of children's songs and several folk songs. I can facilitate their enjoyment of the language and, if they are fairly natural decodes, then I will be able to teach them the very basics of reading when they are older. The big challenge for me is the fact that although I can decode the alphabet and read enough to learn new songs or read a few pages of a picture book at a time (very slowly) I have very little understanding of what I read or hear. Because of the nature of my husbad's job, I can not count on him to provide much of the language input or teaching, and we don't know if that will change.

    I've got a good sized Korean library that we brought back with us, and some good resources. I haven't seen much online though, from people who are starting a foreign language with young children even though their own level may be quite low. Maybe there aren't many people doing this? Or perhaps they're shy about sharing their struggles with it? I can't blame them, if so, but there is definitely a need!

    1. I think there aren't that many people doing it, to be honest. I think most people who aren't speakers themselves choose a more common language and rely on a foreign language program to teach, either doing it alongside their kids or letting their kids do it themselves. You and I are in the minority from what I can find. I think learning/teaching in this way IS doable but is certainly harder. I have a very basic proficiency in Italian -- pronunciation is good, understanding is pretty basic. I can read better than I can write, speak, or understand. I took a couple years of Italian in college, but my last year was almost entirely translation (independent study -- no speaking required), so that doesn't help for what I'm doing now...if I even remembered all of it, which I certainly don't! So I definitely consider myself just a couple steps ahead of my kids.

      I would love to outsource part of our learning at some point by hiring an online Italian tutor to converse with me and my kids as part of our studies. I think that would be a great addition to our program and in keeping with CM principles, and Skype-based tutors are pretty easy to find these days at sites like and others.

      I will be chatting about this more in the future, Erika!

  4. I love seeing the plans you are using for Year 5! We, too, are on Year 5 with my oldest and it is very helpful and inspiring (as well as encouraging) to see how other families make AO work for them. I love your history notebook welcome letter and might just have to scramble one up like yours! Hope that's ok! It's been hard for me to figure out how to organize all the narrations, drawings, etc but this is a great idea.

    1. Yes, the notebook is a great way to organize all that "stuff." :) We kept that all in their binders last year (and that's what I'm still doing for my Form I kids), but I thought they were ready for something a little more formal and keepsake-ish. They seem to be inspired by the permanence of the notebook to do their best work. (And we're still using the binders to keep everything else -- just not the history materials.) And yes, please use if you'd like! :)

  5. WOW! I love your history cover letter! Very formal! Love the history notebook too!
    One question: How often do you do world history vs. national history? Do you alternate days? Study them back to back on the same days?
    I am interested in the Henle Latin jump as well.
    Super excited to see these plans and can't wait for the next few posts. :)

    1. I just follow the AO history schedule for Year 5, which has roughly one chapter of This Country of Ours (national), one chapter of a history biography (national), and four sections from Abraham Lincoln's World (world) weekly. I break that into four readings weekly: two national and two world. I do not alternate days. In fact, I front-load our week in history so that they can do all their "keeping" (mapping, century chart, etc) at their leisure and be finished with it in time for our Weekly Meeting on Friday afternoons. When I post about this year's schedule, you'll see the weekly breakdown. :) But simply put: I treat all reading "slots" the same, regardless of subject/topic. I do try to have a mix when readings are back-to-back, but they often do a history reading in the morning and one in the afternoon of the same day. I find that my kids don't really care. :) Hope that helps!

  6. I love your history notebook & especially the welcome letter. To me it feels like so much more than we have been doing for history - we have been keeping a binder timeline, and in Y4 started a century chart. We've located the people and events we've studied on pre-printed maps since beginning AO. Is the idea behind drawing your own maps similar to nature study... that you become more familiar with the item you're studying by looking at it so intently to recreate your own image of it? I am wondering about adding this to our year, but initially it makes me feel like we would never get everything done if we did start drawing our own maps (I see this is something the kids did before starting the year, so that is probably a help. Also, I haven't finished all of Mason's volumes yet, but does she discuss map-drawing, or presenting something like your students' biography timeline in the third term? Does she recommend time-lining specific events like Civil War and WWII in one of her writings? Can you give me an idea of what format you'll recommend for your kids' event timelines to follow - would it be like a number line, or more like the binder timeline with smaller increments of time in each column? I love the ideas, but I'm not sure how I would encourage my child to implement some of it and I also wanted to see which part of CM's work I'm missing by not being aware of these ideas before reading your lovely plans today! I also wondered the same about the ideas for narration options you gave. Again, I love the ideas and options, but I really had never considered much beyond a written paragraph type of narration before. I feel bad for asking so many questions - it's not like you're not busy or anything. I'm also always so thankful that your kids are a few months ahead of mine. Thank you for taking the time to share your plans! They bless so many of us in organizing and tweaking what we have planned.

    1. Hi Jessie! I am sorry for being slow to respond -- I am still catching up from an out-of-town trip. :) I saw your post on the forums before I saw your comment here, so I know you have gotten some good quotes from the other ladies there, but I'm glad to have the chance to answer some of your questions here too.

      I think there are a few benefits to drawing their own map outlines: Yes, I do see it as requiring a certain level of attention that using pre-printed maps might not. I also think it's great fine motor skill practice as well as practice in measurement, careful tracing, etc -- it reminds me of sloyd in that way, actually, and CM's comments on sloyd being an exercise in truthfulness are wonderfully inspiring (if a little bit funny too :)). Partly it was a practical consideration: we wanted the maps to be a certain size to take full advantage of the notebook space. And I also wanted the maps to be very personal, and drawing them just seemed to make them more personalized. Like you said, though, drawing maps does take *time*, even if it's time well spent, so doing them during the summer did help our schedule quite a lot. I'm not sure I'd *require* kids to add that exercise to their school day although I would encourage it if they were interested. And to be clear: they have only drawn two maps so far, a two-page spread of the world and a two-page spread of the US. Altogether it took maybe an hour total (probably less), including tracing, drawing, outlining in marker. They will probably draw a map of the Bay Area later in the year, but that's up to them. So it's not a large task. The maps they use for map drills are pre-printed. I'm not sure if CM talks about map drawing anywhere. I certainly don't think it's a objectively better practice -- it just worked better for us this year.

      As for the presentation, that is something I added because my older two kids would like to do more public speaking but I can't enroll them in a class right now. I figured that would be a fun way for them to practice that skill. I also thought it will be beneficial for them to choose different books and have the opportunity to report what inspired them to each other. My older two are in the same year, so ALL their books are always the same -- having something unique is a treat. ;) I don't think narrations *have* to take the form of presentations, of course, but I think they *can*, so that's what we're going to try for this one term with one book. It's also a way to involve my husband in our learning. He is very keen to hear more about what they're learning and reading, especially now that they're a bit older and reading more mature books, but he never really hears their daily narrations. He does sit with us for some of their exams, but even those have been mostly during the day in the past. I'm trying to find ways to involve him more formally in some of their educational interests, so I think this might be a step toward that. I definitely don't think it takes the place of regular oral/written narration, which is why we're just doing it for one book this year. There will likely be excited engagement because we don't do this kind of thing often. Were I to do this with every book, I'm sure my kids would lose interest and attention would wane. So I always aim to make use of these kinds of tools pretty carefully to ensure they're actually "working." ;)


    2. The only timeline I'm actually requiring from them this year is that Term 3 biography, so we'll see how it goes -- I'll let you know when we get there. :) I don't have plans to require any particular format. My kids tend to have very definite ideas of how they want to do things anyway, so I prefer not to tread too heavily on their toes when I can help it. LOL I did tell them that it needed to have at least some written component (not just drawings, for example), but I am fine with it being light on the writing since they are doing two other written narrations weekly. I'm going to see where they go with it and that will help me adjust for the future. As for where CM talks about this kind of thing: at this point, students were already keeping a Book of Centuries as well as various century charts alongside, I believe. I'm delaying the BoC until next year, so I'm kind of upping their history "keeping" in lieu (or in preparation?) of that. But I do remember suggestions for timelines of wars, or maybe it was Plutarch lives? I'll have to think of where I've seen those and get back to you.

      To add some general comments on these kinds of projects: this is actually our first foray into more formal creative work like this. I have always been inspired by the many poetic narrations and drawing activities that CM required of her students, and I have enjoyed reading the exam questions the PNEU came up with in those vein. And then I have an oldest daughter who LOVES creative writing and drawing. :) I basically decided to allow some of these options for her sake. I don't require any other composition/writing assignments in our homeschool (no Bravewriter, no freewriting, no journaling, etc), so if she's going to express this natural impulse as part of her school activities, it has to be for the written narrations we are already doing. (And my son loves anything new and different, so he's almost always up for it!) If my kids were less enthusiastic about these activities, I would wait until probably Form III, when CM definitely had students writing poetry and dry-brushing scenes weekly.

      And logistically: certainly creative narration options CAN turn into busywork. I set time limits so that they know these don't need to be labored over because yes, they can take longer and crowd out other activities or free time, which is not my goal! But my kids are also allowed to revisit the assignment in their free time (and often do) because it is something they enjoy. I just don't want that to be required, so I don't ask them to spend more time on this than they would on a regular written narration. I give these assignments judiciously (pretty much only once weekly) and only started that at the tail end of Year 4, when they had done a couple terms of regular written narration. Also, I think these kinds of assignments are best for students already skilled at oral narration and prepared to present a regular narration if asked, but that might just be me being over-cautious. :) All that to say that I still privilege standard oral and written composition/narration at this age and CM did too. I hope my post didn't come across as overwhelming -- I think weekly paragraph-long written narrations are just great for a Y5-er. :)

      I hope that helps a little! Let me know if anything was unclear or if you have other questions I didn't get to. :)

    3. Wanted to clarify one other thing: when I said that I'm only having them keep that one timeline on the Term 3 biography, I meant that that timeline is the only one that will actually stand in for their narration. They will also be keeping Civil War and WWI timelines, but those will be in addition to regular oral narrations and so I don't care what form they take at all. That will be completely their own project in their free time. I imagine they'll be pretty straightforward and more notes-like, just for their own reference.

    4. Dear Celeste,

      I'm sorry it took me so long to get back to you! I actually had written over a week ago, but then I clicked off your page and lost my reply & was too tired to try to rewrite it. Bless you, dear lady, for basically writing another post in response to my multitude of questions! I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the time you took to add even more detail to your detailed plans.

      I love everything you are expanding on from Y4, and I appreciate the time you took to point me back to the PNEU inspiration. I always love to see what you're doing and there's almost always something you end up contributing to our year over here :o).

      We've had a crazy year, a challenging fall for me so far outside of schooling. I was in the midst of prepping my own Y5's first term when your plans came up and I was feeling a little overwhelmed in the inadequate time I had to plan. Each year when your plans come up, I feel like you come along just in time to sort of flesh out that weekly AO schedule into real life. Somehow, what you do brings it more to life for me and helps me wrap my brain around how we can keep within CM’s framework and goals, add some fun, but not get off track. This year, for some reason, the new format with the bound notebook for history thrilled me and freaked me out at the same time :o). I love the CM “blank page” emphasis, but I’m a “binder girl” – I like to be able to rearrange things as needed to get them into the order I want in the end, so the idea of putting stuff into a notebook and not being able to move it later was part of my reaction, I’m sure. I kept debating if my Y5 would like the notebook or not… pretty sure it’s just me who was having issues, and my student has no preference :o).

      You also had so much fantastic detail in your letter and such a personal vision for the project, and I hadn’t really seen anything quite so precisely laid out in relation to Form II history that I was afraid I’d missed a big “something” somewhere in one of CM’s volumes, or the forum… so I cannot tell you how appreciative I am of the time you took on your blog to explain further, because I now see that it really is a variation/prep for the BoC, and to me a little more of a keepsake than just binder pages would be. And you’re right about the size of the maps & century charts… the extra space is so nice. I did end up starting my Y5 in a history notebook and it’s going well so far.

      He is not a fan of writing, but is really great with artistic things, but I was afraid he would get bogged down in the artsy part of it. Since we’re utilizing timers much more diligently overall in every subject this year, we’re actually having free time in our day that is perfect for this if he needs the extra time. We’re still getting through everything we are supposed to each week, amazingly, and the days are so much nicer.

      I've seen you write a few times on the blog that you are not the "creative" mom, but the "organized" mom, but I have to say, the idea of this history/geography notebook is quite creative, and yet still fits beautifully within the simple framework CM seemed to advocate (at least from what I understand so far :o). Thank you for sharing and expanding upon your vision! I appreciate your clarifications so much. I'm hoping for a more relaxing October & winter... I think my brain needs a bit of a recharge :o). I did post on the forum when a little bird told me you might not have a chance to respond for a while, since I was trying to get our year up and off the ground :o). Hope you have enjoyed your times away from home!

    5. Thank you so much for your kind compliments, Jessie. <3

      Trust me -- I am a binder girl too. My perfectionist side comes out if I feel like I can't take out and rearrange. With two perfectionist daughters, I have been trying to model being okay with mistakes and willing to jump in and try new things, even if they don't turn out perfectly. My daughters have come a long way toward that perspective, partly by my walking that walk with them (I think -- it's certainly been stretching for me at least! :)) and partly from maturity. But I wasn't sure how Gianna was going to take to the bound book idea, since it's different from what we've done before. I wanted to try it, though, because it does feel more permanent and special, and I've been inspired by The Living Page over time to value their written work by dealing with a bit of extra "keeping" and "clutter." :) Anyway, Gianna has really risen to the challenge and feels inspired by the format, so I think it was a good move for us. That said, I think these types of keeping certainly can take many different formats and still be valuable, useful, enriching processes.

      And yes, the vision of these notebooks as precursors toward the lifetime keeping of the BoC is something that came to me late last year, but then I was excited to see that idea of scaffolding come up again and again in talks given and conversations I had at CMI. I think there are many ways of preparing, and this is just one, but it was good to give that some extra thought and think about how to prepare my students without overwhelming them. (Because for some students, something like this might be overwhelming, and that is not at all the goal. Baby steps. :))

      I am so glad you are having a smoother year with the addition of timers! What a blessing for you all. I know that feeling of accomplishment that comes for both mom and student at the end of a full, rich, successful week. :) Praying that continues for you all and that you get the restful fall you all need. :)

    6. This is all so wonderful. I hope and pray your baby month is going well! I also am completely inspired by all this. I used these plans in our year 5, and am looking over everything (including the wonderful comments!) as I plan our upcoming year 6. I find when I read the plans on Ambleside, and in Mason herself, I tend to say to myself, yes, yes, yes. I am doing all that. Check.
      But really, these more detailed and exquisitely articulated plans help me to see better where our work really is and really could go.
      Just a tiny idea for the binder-love: I have been so intimidated by the Book of Centuries, and I saw my kids being paralyzed in even their Nature Notebooks. I switched to giving them clipboards with nice watercolor paper for nature study. I bind these with cover paper and a Japanese stab binding at the end of the year. They are free from paralysis and almost every entry makes it into the book. if there is one they hate, it can be left out--I usually never even see the rejects.
      I am planning a similar approach for Book of Centuries--big folios of paper that work like a Midori Traveller's style-notebook--an escape pod for the perfectionist. As an illustrator, I would never dream of committing to a particular piece's inclusion in the final work before even drawing it! I am using notebooks for regular things, but for a life-work, I can understand--I want them to be happy continuing to use it into the future.

    7. Thank you so much for your kind comments and your encouragement, MamaBear! I'm so glad you've found this helpful. Honestly, I have found the discussion very helpful also, as I think through what we do and how we do it in our home. I am always gleaning from the thoughtful sharing of others.

      In that vein, your self-binding idea is a fantastic one, especially for the perfectionist learner! I think respecting your students' (and your own) comfort and desire for pride in their work, and if that means your student is clamming up from the pressure, I think you're suggesting a great alternative that still respects the "specialness" of the product. Thank you for sharing it! :)

  7. Thank you very much for sharing all this, Celeste. As always, your plans are an inspiration to those of us who perhaps aren't *quite* so organized. :)

    I'm sorry if you mentioned this, but what do you mean by "scheduled free reads?" Are those the ones that you absolutely want to make sure get done?

    Thanks again! This was especially helpful for me as I am just putting the final touches on my Year 5 plan for my oldest son, right now (we start our school year a bit late).

    1. I choose one two free reads per term to do together on a slower basis: one oral (our term read-aloud) and one independent. Neither are narrated, but they're scheduled one chapter per week or so to slow my book gobblers down a bit. :) I'm also reading along with them, week by week, which gives us the opportunity to discuss as we go along. I try to choose books that would benefit from a more measured read-through for this category, and always from the AO free reads list. Hope that makes sense! :)

  8. Celeste, you are an inspiration! I'm an older mom, but I have a variety of ages.

    Do you cover map work anywhere on your blog? I saw the final product last year and was impressed! I just wondered what you do daily? Do you expect them to practice copying or tracing maps that you have already printed out? Do they do it with dry erase? You mentioned that some each week go in their binder. Is that when they draw freehand or color or trace? How many different geographical areas do you have them work on at one time and how do you make that decision?

    I would appreciate any guidance you can give.

    1. Hi Dovey! We do two different activities with maps:

      :: Map drills. Twice a week they study a map, then try to fill out as much of it as they can, then continue the next time and so on until they're able to fill it out completely. Then we move on to another region. Once a week they review a region they have done in the past. I try to choose regions that are relevant to our readings (we did Asia during Marco Polo, US during Years 1 and 2 when we did the Holling books, etc) just because I think that aids in memory and connection. but that doesn't always work out and I don't sweat it too much. ;) Right now my daughter is working on the countries of Central America and my son is working on the provinces of Canada. They don't trace these -- I pre-print a bunch of copies and leave them in their binders.

      :: Reading-related mapwork. I also pick a few regions to work on filling out a map for alongside our readings. This is one map that they keep adding to over the course of the year -- like people do with Paddle to the Sea in AO Year 1 or Marco Polo's route to China in AO Year 3. Last year, my kids kept a map of the Thirteen Colonies that they added to each week based on their readings from This Country of Ours and one of the area around the Mississippi, which they added to after reading Minn. This year, they're doing one of the world based on Halliburton's travels and one of the United States based on the journeys of Lewis and Clark, Audubon, and the Fremonts. They will add to those over the course of the whole year. I'm also having them keep maps as they read of the Civil War sites and WWI sites -- just making dots and labels as things come up in their readings. I used to just get out maps for reference, but I found that they gave more attention to the maps when they were the ones marking them, so we switched to blank maps that they have to mark up and retention has been much better.

      Does that all make sense? Let me know if you have other questions or if anything was unclear. :)

    2. Celeste, thank you! I am working (very hard!) at getting our year together. Where do you find the maps that you use, specifically the ones for reading-related mapwork?

    3. Hi Dovey,

      There are maps for all the areas I mentioned on the AO Forums, as "sticky" posts at the top of each Form forum (like the Form II forum has maps for the areas I listed in this post, for example).

      Another excellent resource for blank maps is . Tons of printable options!

      Hope that helps!

  9. Hi Celeste! I came back to glance at your Y5 plans to see what you are doing for math. N is advanced in math, though not quite as much as your two! She is doing Singapore 5A and B this year and I have 6A and B already (found them used at an amazing price). Based on what I have read on forums, she'll be ready for Algebra after that (she'd be turning 11 that August). She is not mathy the way Vincent seems to be; she doesn't enjoy math. She just happens to be quite capable in it. She wouldn't enjoy Math Olympiads, I don't think. I'm wondering what to do to go deeper (even though her non mathy side couldn't care less) or do I just go ahead and do algebra (we have Jacobs already - someone was giving it away!)? What will you do about high school credits later if they are so ahead of the common path? Or does it not matter? You are my expert go-to. :) We are using Primary Challenge Math in Morning Time for her brother, but I plan on purchasing the next level because even the hardest level is too easy so far (for her, not him - he is 7) and then I'll do a problem or two from each book when it comes up in our loop. We also read Penrose during MT.

    Oh, and I should have had my daughter keep a map of the Thirteen Colonies. How did I miss that?

    Thank you for taking the time to write everything down and sharing it with us. In your most recent post, you mentioned we need to find what works for our family through observing our kids and ourselves and I agree, but your plans, your way of planning, and everything else you share, gives me a starting point, because otherwise, I wouldn't even know what to be thinking about as I plan and observe! You have been an invaluable resource to me!

    1. We followed the same course you're planning: Singapore 5AB, 6AB, then on to Algebra. My kids did not have any difficulty starting algebra from there. But we're also trying to go deeper too, with the puzzles and such. If she likes the Primary Challenge Math and Penrose in Morning Basket, she probably will like Olympiad -- maybe your library has it? We also do Singapore's Challenging Word Problems as a supplement. I also think you can go deeper with non-math resources that will still add to number sense: regular card games, anything with strategy, chess...there is certainly a difference between math and logic, but those games have a lot of statistics built in. I found a lot of inspiration from a Schole Sisters podcast Brandy did with Ravi Jain last year -- I think it was called "Order and Wonder" or something like that? It helped me to tease out our own math plans into a few different categories: Math as problem solving, as puzzle, as poetry, as proof, as play. Those weren't his categories, but they were what his talk inspired in my own brainstorming. So I'm aiming to hit those perspectives (not every year but over the long haul). I do think a good curriculum incorporates all of those anyway, so we're not always talking about supplements. For example, Jacobs has puzzle and poetry within it although it's primarily a problem-solving text -- I think it does a great job of engaging the student.

      As for the future: I am not at all worrying about it right now. I highly doubt a college will hold it against a student if they are TOO advanced in math. ;) If we need to assign credits in a way that makes sense to the school, I have no problem incorporating the advanced versions of each of the traditional math disciplines in their high school years -- while they're working through who knows what else! ;) My concern is just making sure that each year we are hitting the right amount of challenge and we'll deal with high school when it gets here.

      And yes, the Thirteen Colonies map is certainly not required but ended up being quite fun. :) I'm looking forward to keeping a Civil War battles map next term.

      That was a bunch of rambling! :) Hope there's something there for you. Thanks so much for your encouragement and your kind comments, as always. <3

    2. I had forgotten to check the notify me box so didn't realize you had responded! Thank you! Very helpful. I missed that particular Schole Sisters podcast and will go listen to it.

    3. Celeste,
      I'm curious to know how your kids made the switch from RS to Singapore, and why you chose to use Singapore between RS and Algebra. Do you feel like Olympiad, Challenge Math, and Singapore Word problems overlap-or are they different enough to fit into the different math categories you mentioned? If your student was average, would you bother with Olympiad or Challenge Math? Also, I've heard conflicting reviews about RS G. What are your thoughts on that program? Do you think it is worth the time and money, or would a program like Jacob's serve just as well?
      My situation is different. My son is not advanced in math, and doesn't enjoy it. I think it has a lot to do with how we started out doing math and I'm trying to remediate that. I was gifted RS B for my daughter, but can't afford the program in it's entirety. So, I was planning to transition her to Singapore (and start my son on Singapore as well). But in listening to the podcast you suggested above, I started thinking about math in a couple of ways: practical application (the math my kids will need day to day), exploratory (RS & Singapore style), and critical thinking. It made me start second guessing myself with my curriculum choice (Singapore vs. Strayer Upton Practical Mathematics). They are both very different, very important applications of math. So, I'm back at square one. I'm kind of at a loss with how to move forward. You are so thoughtful in your curriculum choices, I thought I'd pick your brain on this one!
      Thank you for the suggestion of the Ravi Jain podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and checked out Theoni Pappas The Joy of Mathematics for my schole! Ha! I never imagined I'd read a math book for fun!

    4. Hi Rachel,

      My kids made the switch just fine from RS to Singapore -- no issues at all. I chose to take some time to do Singapore because I felt like my kids could benefit from some more work with computation before moving on, just firming up some of those basics. I also felt like there wasn't enough work with fractions/decimals/percents in RS, and Singapore 5+6 go over those extensively. (But now I think they have RightStart Level F for that?) But I will say: our switch to Singapore was at that upper level, when my kids were already used to working independently and with algorithms. I can't speak to switching earlier on.

      Yes, I think Olympiad, Challenge Math, and Singapore Word Problems all have different kinds of problems. They have all served us at different times for challenge and fun. Not required! Just a nice addition. :) If I had an average student that didn't enjoy math that much and could use a boost, I would use Olympiad out of those options.

      RS Level G is different from Jacobs' Geometry. Jacobs is more traditional, whereas RS is a hands-on geometry program -- it involves lots of drawing with the drawing tools and is very exploratory. I have really enjoyed it. We have only barely begun Jacobs' Geometry, so I can't speak to it in depth, though what I have seen looks good! I don't think it's necessary to complete something like RS Level G before Jacobs' though -- just to be clear. Jacobs is complete as-is.

      I have to say that I think RS in general incorporates both the practical and the exploratory, as well as critical thinking. I just think it's a really solid program that doesn't really need any supplement at all. But I know it's pricey! :/

      And I too never thought I would be delving into math as an adult! LOL

    5. Thank you for your response Celeste! Which edition of Olympiad do you have? Are you using Primary Grade Challenge Math or Upper Elementary Challenge math? I just read some conversations on the AO forum about metacognition not really developing until 10-11, and I'm wondering at what age to start these "extras" based on their abstract nature. I noticed you didn't add anything on until you began the transition out of basic arithmetic. Is there a reason you didn't incorporate other "threads" of math prior to (almost) finishing RS? Again, just trying to discern where to spend time and money at this age (newly 9)
      Thank you Celeste!

    6. I have gotten vaious Olympiad books from the library, so I don't have a particular edition to recommend. I was also able to print some out online.

      The Challenge Math we have is this one:

      RS incorporates quite a bit of word problems and exploratory learning the whole way through, so I don't think it needs supplementing to make it more living. I added these because my kids were moving so quickly and smoothly through math that I needed to slow them down and make sure we were working both broad and deep.

      Hope that helps!

  10. Hi Celeste! I realize I'm commenting on an old post but I just spent hours reading through the AO forum about grammar and I still don't know what to do. I was planning to make an attempt at KISS with my Y4, but then I read through your Y4 plans and saw that you were using the kids' copywork to discuss grammar topics plus a little KISS (if I'm understanding correctly!), but then I read this and it looks like you gave up on KISS and are now doing Winston? Would you recommend just beginning in Y4 with Winston Grammar instead then? I'm so confused! I'd love to hear what you think :)

    1. Hi Cristina! Yes, you have it right -- I started with KISS + working with our dictation sentences, then switched to Winston Grammar + our dictation sentences. :) And yes, I would suggest jut starting with Winston Grammar in Year 4 if you are so inclined. I switched from KISS to Winston in Term 2 and was very happy with that change. KISS is free but I found it confusing to use. Winston is simple, straightforward, and effective. Hope that helps!

  11. Hi Celeste,
    Just doing some planning for my Y5. I was wondering why you didn't do the George Washington Carver biography with your Y5?
    Many thanks,
    Best wishes

    1. Ah, I reread it more carefully and see that you said that you put all the AO biographies out on a 'free read' shelf, if not specifically scheduled.
      Do you have any opinions on the Carver biography?
      Many thanks for all your help!

    2. I don't! I know Gianna read it and liked it. But I really wanted to privilege saint bios over the many science/history bios, so I had to do some subbing/dropping. :)

  12. Hi Celeste! We loved doing your style of history notebook last year in Y4! This year, we are copying you again :) Did your kids put Halliburton mapwork into their History notebooks? I don't see a separate notebook. Thanks!

    1. Thank you! I couldn't figure out how to organize the NB to keep Halliburton and history separate. But maybe you didn't, just went page by page and didn't worry about keeping it separate.

      I plan to DM you some pics of my dd's nb so you can see it. You have been such a huge inspiration! :)

    2. We set up the two-page spread at the front section of the notebook for Halliburton at the beginning of the year, so it was separate from the history sections.

      And yes, I would love to see it! :)

  13. Celeste, I noticed that you didn't list a biography option for Theodore Roosevelt in year 5. Was there anything in Courage + Character that gave you reason to pause? We are preparing for YR5. Thanks!

    1. Hi Rachel! Generally speaking, I don't really like biographies that are written from a Christian hero kind of perspective, organized by character qualities. I would rather let the life speak for itself. I have heard some people really love it though! This past year we did the modern period and I scheduled my Form 1 kids to read Genevieve Foster's Theodore Roosevelt and my Form 2 kids to read a Signature biography of Eleanor Roosevelt, both of which were very good.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  14. Trying my comment again. There were too many typos for my comfort, ha!

    Biographies written from that perspective are a concern of mine as well. I appreciate the alternative suggestion. Was that a similar concern for the George Washington Carver bio (published by The Sowers)?

    Also, how did ya'll like the Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture? I read through some of it online and am tempted to purchase a copy, but am curious if you used it much? Ultimately, I would love a comprehensive Bible study to help us read the Bible in context. As cradle Catholics, I heard readings each week, but I never really studied or *learned* the Bible and I'd like to dive into that with my children!

    1. Yes, the same with the Carver bio. I think we just went with another option. I'm not saying they aren't worthy -- I haven't read them. :) But when I have multiple options and one is more along the lines of promoting Christian character explicitly, I usually just opt for something else.

      The Practical Commentary on Holy Scripture is great! Very thorough. It's a huge text and covers both Old and New Testaments. It also includes shortened (but not simplified) versions of the Bible text right there in the guide. If you haven't really studied the Bible, this will be a great resource for you. My older kids have been reading parts for their Sunday reading for the past few years. Generally speaking, though, this is an adult text and probably a better choice for Form 3 and up. You could use it as a resource for yourself to prepare lessons, though. That is what I have been doing and have found it helpful.