Saturday, October 8, 2016

Form I in Our Home

I add In Our Home to my planning posts because what I'm doing with my students is always specific to our family's needs and skill levels.  The same goes for my Form I kids this year -- perhaps more so, since I'm combining them in various places for various reasons.  Still, I think it helps to see that there is room to combine without losing the integrity of the programmes or overscheduling/underscheduling your students.  It requires some familiarity with the AmblesideOnline books, a careful look at the workload of each year, a sense of which children will work well together and in what ways, and a willingness to consider your reality and flex accordingly. 

It also requires an openness to be honest with yourself about what will most benefit your students and balance that with your own needs as a homeschooling mom rather than leaning too heavily one way or the other.  I could easily just throw them into the same year, but I honestly don't think that would be best for those two students, so I choose to give up other things instead -- like outside commitments, my own free time, enrichment activities I could be doing with my older kids, more picture book reading with my littles -- and only combine in ways I find effective.  Similarly, I could have them in completely separate years and attempt to read aloud more hours daily, including those with toddlers and preschoolers underfoot. But I know that will make school stressful and not as pleasurable as it is now, and I'm not willing to sacrifice that.  There is always give and take in any decision we make for our homeschools, particularly in the early years, when students are so dependent on mama for guidance and face time throughout their school day.  We have to discern what is best for now and then move along on our chosen path with grace.

Okay, on to some specifics and a bunch of logistical chat. ;)

My friend Virginia Lee wrote a fabulous post about her Form I rotation over on Afterthoughts -- her plan is more long-term than mine and very well thought out.  I originally thought I too would like to put effort into creating our own formal rotation of AmblesideOnline books for the early years, but the fact that I have so many students so close together means my needs are a bit different.  I do plan on cycling through the Form I years roughly, but I'm inclined to plan that year by year rather than make a grand plan now.  There are just too many factors at play: for example, if my Year 2 student is reading fluently next year, I may spin her off to do her own thing and combine my Year 1 student with his younger sister.  I may not have another new baby in the home for a couple years, giving me the opportunity to spend a larger chunk of my day reading aloud and to combine less.  I may decide to put my 12-months-apart daughters in the same year completely and won't need to do any swapping.  And so on and so forth -- it's hard to predict what our future routine holds in a house full of little ones!

However, this year, I am using the same general categories Virginia Lee does, keeping separate for history and skill subjects and mostly combined for everything else.  And of course we're relying on AmblesideOnline as our general scheme because we love it. ;)

This year, I have a Year 2 student (seven-year-old Cate) and a Year 1 student (six-year-old Xavier).  They are 14 months apart and very different personalities. Both are reading, but neither is reading well enough to handle school books independently, so I decided to do more combining for the two of them this year than I might otherwise do.  Xavier sat in a bit on Cate's Year 1 readings last year, so for the Form I work, we're basically pulling from the Year 2 list.  That means Xavier is the one whose reading list is adjusted most from the usual AmblesideOnline selections.  Cate is getting a pretty standard Year 2 with just a couple small tweaks.

(As a side note: once Cate "ages out" of Form I, my next oldest, Bridget, will start Year 1 and join Xavier as Form I buddies.  When Xavier ages out the following year, Clara will join Bridget and I'll have a Year 1 and a Year 2 again, like I do this year.  Drew will start the year after that.  And so on. ;)  So I imagine I'll be doing some kind of Form I combining every year for the next decade or so.)

On to the schedule!  The notes below are posted with the permission of AmblesideOnline.  As you can see, I have used books almost entirely from their Year 1 and Year 2 booklists with the exception of our religion selections.  Visit their site for a complete lists with links for purchasing, weekly break-downs, study guides, and more.

Cate in Year 2
Xavier in Year 1
Understood Betsy (T1)
Grahame's Wind in the Willows (T2)
Pyle's Robin Hood (T3)

Pyle's The Wonder Clock
Lambs' Tales from Shakespeare

Poetry by De la Mare (T1), Field (T2), Rossetti (T3)  *MB
Dangerous Journey  *MB
Aesop (T1)
Our Island Story
Child's History of the World

The Little Duke 
Joan of Arc (T3)
Keeping of binder timeline

D'Aulaires' Leif the Lucky (T1)
Our Island Story
Fifty Famous Stories

Abraham Lincoln (T2)
Columbus (T3)
Holling's Tree in the Trail (T1-2)
Holling's Seabird (T2-3)
Long's Home Geography  *MB

Keeping of maps from Tree in the Trail and Seabird
The Burgess Animal Book

Weekly nature outing and journal entry
The Gospel of Matthew  *MB

First Communion Prep reading with Xavier
RightStart Level C
RightStart Level B
Using Startwrite copies of selected poems
Family Work
With the Big Kids: picture study, music study, memory work, Italian, handicrafts, physical education

Some of the method behind my madness, so you can see how specific these plans actually are to us:

:: Morning Basket.  Form I readings I'm actually reading to the whole family are labled *MB.  I am incorporating a few books that are narrated into Morning Basket this year though I never have in the past.  For example, the Big Kids have additional religion reading that they do independently, but Cate and Xave have all their religious instruction in Morning Basket right now.  (The way it works: my Form I students narrate the Old Testament and Dangerous Journey, and my Big Kids narrate the Gospel reading.)

:: Literature. I wanted to use Understood Betsy for Cate and I to read together, just us two, so he did some additional Aesop this term instead -- although he listened to quite a few Aesop stories last year and remembers them well, they're great for new narrators and I didn't want to skip them entirely. Then Cate and Xavier will be combined for Literature in Terms 2 and 3.  I'm still not quite sure how that will go: Wind in the Willows and Robin Hood are challenging books for a Year 1 student!  But those are both long weekly readings that will take several slots in our schedule, so I didn't want to devote that much read-aloud time if it wasn't going to be for at least two students. ;)  Luckily he is an eager and attentive listener generally speaking.

In lieu of Just-So Stories and Lang's Blue Fairy Book (which Xavier remembers well and I do too! ;)), I opted to read him The Wonder Clock, an AmblesideOnline alternative for Year 1.  Cate insisted on listening in as well since she hasn't heard it yet, so I scheduled it for them both.

Instead of the original Pilgrim's Progress, we're reading Dangerous Journey since we hadn't done that yet and I think it's suited to reading as a family, with the littles along (like in Morning Basket).  We just do a few pages weekly.

:: Year 1 Biographies. Xavier loves the D'Aulaires' books.  Since he read George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Buffalo Bill with us last year during Cate's Year 1, I scheduled a different set of three for him: Leif the Lucky, Abraham Lincoln, and Columbus.  Coincidentally, Leif the Lucky  and Columbus are Year 2 history alternatives for This Country of Ours, so Cate will join us for those.  I also may add in Pocahontas if I have time since he's skipping Viking Tales after reading it with us last year.

:: Reading Practice.  I have a slot in the evenings when I sit down on the sofa and whoever wants to can bring a book to read to me.  I allot about 5-10 minutes per kid (more for Cate).  Currently, Cate is reading me from Milly-Molly-Mandy and Xavier is working through some of the later Bob Books sets.  But they're free to bring to me what they'd like to read and we do reading lessons on whatever they have in hand.  I don't do any formal reading program.

ha!  (my kids do like bob books)

:: Math.  I start my kids veeery slowly in RightStart Level B during their kindergarten year, just a few lessons a month.  This year, Xavier is working through the rest of Level B and Cate started Level C a couple months ago.  I do combine them for the math games when it is convenient.

:: With the Big Kids.  Obviously, we do much of our schoolwork as a family.  That includes our Morning Basket (both the reading I do over breakfast and the bit we do before lunch -- picture study, music study, nature journaling lesson, etc). We study the same Shakspeare plays as a family, with the Form I kids listening to and narrating Lambs' and then sitting in for whatever they want to of the "real thing" on audio. They're also working on a scene they'll be performing together for our homeschool Shakespeare Festival.  I take these four on a weekly 3-mile run as well as a bit of daily exercise, so PE is a shared activity.  We do memory work together (which comprises our folk song, hymn, poetry, Bible passages, and prayers).  The kids have been working on paper crafts together this term, with different projects scaled to their various ability levels and the older kids giving hands-on help to the Form I kids.  They do chores together: Xavier is training under all three older siblings for various tasks, and Cate and Gianna work together on lunch every day.  We may be studying different periods in history, but so much of our life and learning is together that the days run very cohesively.

:: Outside Activities.  Cate is doing piano and art weekly with the Big Kids, but I'm waiting to add Xave to those activities until next year.  We all do a weekly nature study outing with our friends. All four will also do swim lessons again later this fall and probably in the spring as well.  I have them doing semi-private lessons all in the same time slot: Cate and Xavier are taught together by one teacher and Vincent and Gianna with another.

And here's what their daily schoolwork looks like:

:: Morning Block with Mommy - First thing in the morning (as in 6:45am -- LOL), I spend about 40 minutes between the two of them: about 15 minutes of math and 5 minutes of copywork with one, then the other.

:: Naptime School - I spend the first hour of naptime working with my Form I students.  That usually works out to one reading for my Year 1, one reading for my Year 2, and one reading for them together.  In between that, we do some kind of "keeping" activity: mapwork, timeline, or looking up photos of the animals we head about in Burgess to draw on cards.  When I am reading with their sibling, they do their math worksheet from the morning's lesson and/or piano.  Then they go off to play together.  I bring them back at the end of the second hour of Naptime School to join us for family work: one "riches" activity, Italian, and recitation/memory work.

And that's about it!  We have Morning Basket (over breakfast time), Nature Study Fridays, and cover handicrafts on the weekend.  But the rest of their schoolwork is done in those morning and naptime blocks four days a week.  I'll chat more about that when I share this year's schedule, but hopefully that gives you an idea of how light their school days are.

That's a very nuts-and-bolts post for you.  For those couple of you still reading (ha!), I hope there was something there you might be able to use.  I'd love to hear how you've combined your Form I kids -- I'm always looking for ideas!


  1. Celeste, I absolutely loved reading what you do here! :) I loved your disclaimer at the beginning. ;) I do think that big families have a very unique job when home educating and also a challenge when using a CM philosophy. It was convicting when you said you give up free time for yourself. NOOOOOO. Clearly, I'm not there yet. LOL! ;)

    I'm VERY curious about how you use NO formal reading program at all...not even CM's ideas? Just wanted to clarify. I've switched my 7yo over to CM's ideas (well, my interpretation of them anyway LOL) and we are loving it!

    Also, just FYI...I found this version of Pilgrim's Progress because frankly, I got a little sick of reading it, so my fourth is listening LOVES it. :) Just another option. It's FREE too!!! :D

    Love your map work!!!! I finally found a CF card for my camera that wasn't broken so I hope to join back in to Keeping Company more on my blog. Instagram is so easy and quick, but its nice to record more on my blog. :)

    Bless you! Amy

    PS - she doesn't blog much, but kinda fun to peek there occasionally. A CM mom of soon to be 12? children. :) She is a sweetheart and I enjoy talking with her occasionally online. :)

    1. Haha -- well, I still get plenty of free time, honestly. But I could certainly have more if I combined students into fewer years. That said, I don't necessarily think it would be less overall work, and I think it would lead to more frustration and struggle. So it's definitely a win for me! LOL

      I do use CM's ideas for teaching reading, but not in a very formal way. I gave an example of the type of lesson I do in a blog post a while back: But honestly I do this very seldom. I mostly just work on letter sounds and blending using simple readers, pointing our word families and sight words as we go, and then build from there as the student is ready. It might be a faster process were I to commit to something more specific and thorough, BUT I don't know, it's worked well enough so far. :) I have three learning-to-readers right now: 7yo Cate is almost fluent, 6yo Xavier is about midway to fluency but very sporadic in interest, 5yo Bridget decided to start on her own and is working through the early sets of Bob Books. I may do some more formal CM-style lessons with X and B during our summer break if they're interested.

      I'll looking forward to your Keeping Company posts! And I'm going to check out that blog -- thanks! :)

  2. 3 learning to read readers! That is a full day right there. =) But how wonderful it will be when they all take off!! I feel like teaching my kids to read is one of my biggest accomplishments, and one of the best gifts we can give them. But some days, when I'm really tired, hearing cat, mat, and sat sounded out over and over again makes my head want to explode. Then other days it's like this huge swell of joy inside.

    I've never done Robin Hood in my Form 1 Rotation. I keep it in Y2 with history. I thought it would be hard for a Y1 kiddo. But Y3 could of course do it. So if I ever get a Y2 and Y3 at once I might combine. So far, with my kiddos' spacing, I tend to have Y1 and Y3 at the same time. And Y0 listening in with Y1, which I think aids in the whole Form 1 Rotation plan. Or I have kiddos that want to hear a book they've already done and end up listening in again. =)

    I like seeing your plan. I'd probably do the same thing if my kids were as close in age. Or if we ever get really close, I'd probably put them in the same year. But so far God seems to have us on a 2 or 3 year apart baby plan. =)

    Your son is in RightStart Level C and Cate is in level B. Your boys do seem to be math minded. =) That must be great! Charlotte actually enjoys math; the others just do it because they have to.

    My favorite part of this post: your girls in their cooking gear! Hats and aprons, love it!!

    1. That was totally a typo on my part, Virginia Lee -- it's Xavier who is doing B and Cate who is doing C. I'm sorry! That said, I do think my boys happen to be more mathy than my girls, for whatever reason.

      I thought about keeping Robin Hood out of the rotation, but I also know that I don't want to read it two years in a row and I don't think Bridget will be ready for it in Year we're giving it a try! I'm pretty sure Xavier will love it, though, which makes me more inclined to try it with him young than I might otherwise.

      I will also add that Xavier is an old-ish Year 1 kid since he has an April birthday, so that helps with pulling some of those Year 2 readings also.

      I totally agree with you about those learning-to-readers. We actually aren't doing scheduled reading lessons (even CM-style) right now because I just don't have the stamina for it. Cuddling and buddy-reading books seems much more doable in the evenings and they seem to be progressing well enough that way.

      Those hats and aprons were a gift from grandma and they are great! Makes lunchtime so much more joyful when they can wear those to prepare. :)

  3. Thank you so much for this Celeste!

  4. Thank you so much for this Celeste!

  5. Celeste, how do you choose poems for each term and each poet? Is that what is used for their poetry memory work each week? Also, did you read Pilgrim's Progress to your older children? Anything to be aware of from a Catholic perspective?
    Thank you and many blessings for sharing what AO looks like in your home!

    1. Do you mean how I choose which to read or which to memorize? For reading, I use the AO selections -- I usually just "send to kindle" or upload to Google Books and read from my tablet (unless I already own a collection from the poet in a lovely hardcover, and then I just pick and read!). The AO collections are always well chosen. For which they memorize, they usually choose their own. I have them tell me which they like best as we read through.

      I did read Pilgrim's Progress. There are a very few problematic bits (only one is straightfoward -- the dying Catholic in the cave about halfway through, but we cut those couple lines). Some people don't like the tone of the work. I don't much mind that -- the adventure story is wonderful and there it is such a cultural touchstone that for me, it's a must-read.

      We are enoying Dangerous Journey even more than the original, though -- it keeps the language but is slightly edited. (And for what it's worth, Dangerous Journey cuts out the Catholic part). I would highly recommend it! The illustrations are just great.

      Hope that helps!

    2. It does, thank you! Regarding poetry, I meant for memorization. Do they choose from the term poet, or rather, any piece of poetry that they would like to memorize from any poet? As for reading, do you read daily from the term poets or weekly?
      I love seeing how you do Forms in your home. My son is in 2nd, but I went back and forth last year before really wanting to commit to CM and AO this year. I appreciate seeing how you've combined two years. I feel like we missed a lot last year, but it's helpful to see what you feel like was important enough to keep vs. modify.

    3. They choose from the term poet -- although if there were several they really liked from the last term's poet, I'm fine with them continuing with those. (For example, this term, Gianna is doing a couple extra AA Milne poems that she fell in love with last year. :)) For reading, I read one from each poet each day during Morning Basket.

      I'm glad you're finding it helpful!

  6. Hi Celeste - have you written on your decision to do AO versus MA? I have been pouring over them and decided to pursue MA with an eye on the AO book list for free reads, but every time I come to peace with that, I find myself back at the AO page.

    I finally am beginning to grasp the CM philosophy and am thrilled. My goal now is to get to a happy place where I can take all the time I'm spending thinking about curriculum choices and devote it to continuing to refine my understanding of CM and how to implement it at home. I'd also like to watch more Netflix.

    1. I think MA is wonderful and I usually suggest it as the place to start for those Catholics new to CM. But AO is just a better fit for us. When deciding, I looked at the book selections and did some comparisons, and the books scheduled in AO matched our goals better -- their lists are very similar, but AO has more challenging books, more classics, assigned at younger ages. I felt like it hit some of the particular elements of CM's philosophy that I personally prioritize.

      I also found for that the subjects I *would* enjoy MA's selections better -- namely, religion! -- I just prefer to choose my own resources. I have lots of traditional Catholic books on my shelf that I like to pull from, so I don't use MA's religion recommendations as often as I might otherwise.

      But that's just me! MA is truly a great resource that keeps to CM's philosophy and is used by a group of thoughtful, faithful ladies. I so appreciate what they have offered to the CM community.

  7. Hi Celeste! I follow you on Joyous Lessons and love your blog! I have a question about Dangerous Journey. I have not purchased it, and am trying to decide how to proceed. Did you have any hesitation using that being Catholic? A friend expressed hesitation because Christian made his own journey, without intercession and the Pope is described as decrepit and nearly dead. What are your thoughts? And for how many terms did you use the book? How did you split up the readings? I LOVED your last podcast on exams. THANK YOU for sharing your wisdom with other moms. May God bless you and your family Celeste!

    1. Hi Rachel!

      I did have hesitation using it as a Catholic, until I read through it myself. In the original, there is really just a few lines that are blatantly anti-Catholic: the part you mention with the Pope in the cave. The rest of it is incomplete in its vision of the Christian life, yes, in that it doesn't talk about the Church, saints, etc., but I don't think that rules it out for use in a Catholic home. The nice thing is that Dangerous Journey is an illustrated abridgement, so it actually omits that bit about the Pope as well as the more theological discussions between Christian and some of the people he meets along the way, which are not a part of the draw for us as Catholics anyway. Dangerous Journey is really nicely done -- it leaves PP as an adventure tale with the literary language and all the cultural import of the original (which is one good reason to be familiar with the tale -- PP comes up very often in other literary works), and a moral elements to boot. Obviously we would pair this with Catholic religion reading (like King of the Golden City, which is a beautiful allegory in the same vein but does NOT have the cultural significance) and catechism reading over the long-term. My kids and I have enjoyed it a lot, and I'm pretty particular about what we read. That said, you really do need to choose what you and your husband are comfortable with! I would never recommend someone go against their conscience. I'm just giving you a look at my own considerations in deciding whether to assign it or not. I will be reading DJ with all of my children from here on out. I read it on Morning Basket, a few pages a week, and it took a couple terms. My kids asked every day for it! ;) Hope that helps!

    2. Thank you for your reply Celeste! I really appreciate it since I am not able to get my hands on a copy without purchasing the book. Your feedback is incredibly helpful! Although I am a cradle Catholic, I've only recently started digging into the treasure chest that is our faith, and my formation was minimal. So, I feel like I'm learning and teaching at the same time. We'll give DJ a shot this year! At what age do you recommend reading King of the Golden City? And do you have a list of Catholic religion reading that you can recommend, to pair with an AO education? We are currently making our way through St. Patrick's Summer, and I've got a few other by M. Hunt. But I'd love to build our Catholic library as well. Thank you, God bless you, and Happy Mother's Day!

    3. I read King of the Golden City to my First Communion students, and I think it's perfect at that age. It is not as challenging as Pilgrim's Progress but it is a lovely story and an allegory, so I know many people choose that as a substitute. I like to include them both. :)

      For Catholic religion reading for each year: in my school plans for each year, I list out the religion reading I assign for that year in the various categories (Bible, saints, catechism, tales, etc.). So you can look year to year and see what I've chosen to include -- just click on the Our School Plans tab at the top and I have each AO year archived there.

      I also have my First Communion resources here:

  8. Hi Celeste.
    Love your posts, and the way you combine and split up your AO year 1 and 2 students. Question: What does Form 1 mean?

    1. Hi Jami! Charlotte Mason's schools (and other schools in England at the time) grouped their grades into what they called Forms. So Form I includes grades 1-3, Form II includes grades 4-6, and so on. Those grades were often kept in one classroom, with students working in their own grade but many features shared. For example, Form I students are doing one foreign language, copywork but no formal grammar and dictation, etc. Form II students, on the other hand, add Latin to their original foreign language and begin grammar and dictation alongside copywork. Form III students might add yet another foreign language and have a commonplace book replace copywork. And so on. :) The reason I call this a Form I rotation is because it is only for my Year 1-3 students. I plan on letting each student spin off into his individual year once he hits Year 4 and can read mostly independently. I hope that makes sense!