Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Year 5 in Our Home :: Exams

Warning: text-heavy, picture-heavy post ahead!  This week I'm catching up on sharing our exams from this past school year, starting with Year 5. I decided to group all terms into one monster post, so the result is rather unwieldy but hopefully helpful anyway.

 We ran these exams the same way as last year: I handed my Form II kids a big stack to complete over the week (shown above) and let them manage it in their own order and at their own pace. My older kids really prefer experiencing their exams in this way, and I just insist that they work in chunks similar to our school day timetable and that they alternate subjects. They are fairly independent students anyway, so they are used to following these same guidelines during regular school weeks. They spend about an hour each morning and then another hour each afternoon, with free time and chores in between.

At this point, they prefer to do most of their exams written.  I will spell words for them if they ask but otherwise they are on their own. We did a few oral narrations as well, and these were done during our usual "naptime school" block.

If you're looking for questions to use for your own exams, check out the wonderful exam page over at AO!  They even include answers to make your life easier. :)  (And in case you're interested: you can find all our previous exams here.)

The Questions (and Some Answers)
This time, I grouped the year's questions by topic.  I also posted a few answers in each category so you can see how they work out in practice. These are NOT meant to be some kind of standard for how students ought to respond -- every student is different!  And that's exactly what I'm aiming at by sharing these, since I have two students in the same grade.  You can see very clearly the differences in their personalities and strengths through these examples.  (FYI: I shared these with my kids' permission. They like to think of themselves as part of a community of other AmblesideOnline students.)


Term 1
Choose any two:
 - Give an account of George Washington’s presidency.
 - Explain the significance of the Mason-Dixon line.
 - Tell what you know about the Monroe Doctrine.
Trace Lewis and Clark's journey on this blank map, labeling any areas of interest along the way.
Choose and describe two scenes from the lives of these two explorers that demonstrate their "Courage Undaunted."
Tell what you know about Benito Juarez, Victoria, or Metternich.
"Remember the Alamo!" Tell the story.

Term 2
Choose any two:
 - What do you know about the Underground Railroad?
 - How did Stonewall Jackson get his nickname? What else do you know about him?
 - "If my name is ever remembered, it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it." Who said this? Tell the story.
Choose a scene from Jessie Fremont’s life that demonstrates a character trait you admire. Describe it with as much detail as possible.
Mark three places the Fremonts lived on this map and describe the events that took them there.
Work on your Civil War timeline and/or map.
Choose two to describe: "Mad" Otto von Bismarck, Commodore Perry, or Clara Barton.
Tell what you know about the Crimean War.

 Term 3
Choose any two:
 - Tell all you know about the Battle of Gettysburg or General Sherman's march to the sea.
 - What did future presidents do to heal the division from the Civil War?
 - Tell about the surrender that ended the Civil War.
Prepare a talk on your chosen historical figure to share with the family. (They read a biography all term to prepare for this.)
Tell all you know about the Boer War or the Boxer Rebellion.
Describe the Bolshevik Revolution or the Great Game.
Write in some detail about World War I – its beginnings, the major players, its conclusion, and the role of the United States in the action.
Finish up the following in your history notebook to close out the year's keeping, including appropriate titles:
 - Civil War timeline and map
 - WWI timeline and/or map
 - United States map
 - 19th Century Chart


Term 1
Draw a plan of your bedroom on graph paper to scale using a measuring tape. (With their Form I siblings)
What do you know about New York City or Rio de Janeiro?
Tell about the building of the Panama Canal or the Hoover Dam.

Term 2
Make the following landforms in water and mud: isthmus, peninsula, island, lake, outlet, inlet, strait.
Sketch a model of the Black Sea and its surrounding areas, including Herod's temple and Jerusalem.  Annotate with information about the sights you might see there.
Describe one of the ancient wonders of the world.

Term 3
Mark roughly Mount Everest, Mount Fuji, and the Matterhorn on the map. Then tell what you know about the climbing of one of them.
Complete the following map of Canada, labeling bodies of water, provinces, and major islands.
Describe and contrast the Taj Mahal with the temple at Madura.
Tell in some detail about one feature of the California landscape that John Muir describes in his writings.

Natural History and General Science

Term 1
Choose one of the experiments from Blood and Guts to do together.  Explain how it demonstrates what you read about in Christian Liberty Nature Reader.
Sketch the shape of the shape and size of an acorn and leaf from a coast live oak and a valley oak.  Note the differences.
Use the barnyard birds we have studied and the story of Raggylug to explain how animals are physically suited for the lives they lead.  
Explain how Rosendin Pond looks at this time of year.
Describe a coral reef.  What can you find there?
What is a dynamo and how does it work?

Term 2
Choose one of the experiments from our Blood and Guts  to do together. Explain how it demonstrates what you read about in Christian Liberty Nature Reader.
Describe the walk at Coyote Valley.  Include three special sights.
How do foxes prepare their young to be independent?  Use the story from Wild Animals I Have Known to demonstrate.
Tell about the invention of the sewing machine, or steel, or the printing press.
What, in the father's opinion, would Madam How say to the boy's going on the boat trip? Why would she permit it? Why does the father hold a different opinion?

Term 3
"There are foes and foods for every moon." Explain, using examples.
Explain how younger layers of earth can be beneath newer layers. (You may draw a diagram to demonstrate.)
Tell about an inventor you read about this term and his invention.
Sketch and describe two new wildflowers (or some other new discovery) we found this term.
Explain how the coverings of animals reflect the lives they lead.
Explain: "What wonderful questions we have got answered, which all grew out of the first question, How were the heather-moors made? And yet we have not talked about a hundredth part of the things about which these very heather-moors ought to set us thinking. But so it is, child. Those who wish honestly to learn the laws of Madam How, which we call Nature, by looking honestly at what she does, which we call Fact, have only to begin by looking at the very smallest thing, pin's head or pebble, at their feet, and it may lead them--whither, they cannot tell. To answer any one question, you find you must answer another; and to answer that you must answer a third, and then a fourth; and so on for ever and ever."

Penmanship and PoetryAll Terms
Illustrate the poems you memorized from this term for our Family Poetry Notebook.
Write in cursive a few lines from the poem you have memorized.
What was your favorite poem by this term's poet other than the one you memorized? Share a bit or image from it that struck you.


Term 1
Choose a favorite verse from the Gospel of St. Matthew to copy onto a watercolor card with your dip pen.  Illustrate it following the style of icons or illuminated manuscripts to make a keepsake.

Term 2
Complete a drawing for My Nature Friend.

Term 3
Choose two of your paintings from this term for your teacher's art exhibit.

Language Arts (Dictation, Grammar, Literature, and Reading Skill)
Transcribe the unstudied passage I read aloud. Then…
Write a short paragraph explaining the rest of the story.
Mark all known parts of speech, Winston Grammar-style.
Read the passage aloud in your clearest voice.

Term 1
"The goal was near; one chance only remained. "Now, goddess," said he, "prosper your gift!" and threw the last apple off at one side. She looked at it, and hesitated; Venus impelled her to turn aside for it. She did so, and was vanquished. The youth carried off his prize."

Term 2
"And the Larch, with all its fibres,
Shivered in the air of morning,
Touched its forehead with its tassels,
Said, with one long sigh of sorrow,
Take them all, O Hiawatha!"

Term 3
"As the litter approached the city and was descried from the walls, the people poured forth to gaze once more on the face of their hero. The people all wept with them, and to the going down of the sun there was no pause or abatement of their grief."

List the noun functions and explain how to tell what function a noun is playing. Give an example of each.
(a) subject
(b) direct object
(c) indirect object
(d) appositive
(e) predicate nominative
(f) noun of direct address
Write a sentence that includes two adjectives and two adverbs.

Music Study and Picture Study

Term 1
Tell about some of the influences on David's life and work.  Sketch one of David's pieces, and label with descriptions.
Tell me about one of the Children's Classics we enjoyed this term.

Term 2
Tell a bit about Giotto’s life. Then sketch one of Giotto's pieces and annotate.
Tell me about one of Tchaikovsky’s compositions from this term.

Term 3
Sketch one of Winslow Homer's pieces other than the one we used for our Italian exam, and label with descriptions.
Tell me about one of Dvorak’s compositions from this term, including his inspiration.

Math - All Terms
Complete the assigned math selection.

Piano - All Terms
Play your most recent piece for your grandparents.


Term 1
String your paper beads into a necklace.
Construct a paper hat for one of your younger siblings.

Term 2
Make the simplest doll in your peg people kit.

Term 3
Complete a project from your craft kit to show Grandma on Skype.

Latin - All Terms
Complete the translation exercise marked in Henle Latin I.


Term 1
Describe a regular week in our home.  Go beyond the series we have learned, forming your own sentences to explain our daily activities.
Narrate this picture using as much detail as you can.
Write sentences using the following verbs.  Vary your conjugation.

Term 2
Narrate this picture using as much detail as you can.
Pretend the figures in this picture are asking and answering questions of one another. Write four example questions and answers they might be discussing given the setting.
Write one of our Filastrocche from memory.

Term 3
Describe the painting from Winslow Homer in Italian. Remember to use varied verbs.
Translate the following sentences in writing:
(a) I walked to that store on Friday for some books.
(b) He wears this shirt on Sundays when he goes to church.
(c) My favorite color is red. His favorite color is light blue.
Write one of our Filastrocche from memory.

Memory Work - All Terms
Recite one selection from this term in each of the following categories: hymn, folk song, poetry, Shakespeare, Bible, Italian song, Italian rhyme.


Term 1
Tell one story from the legends of King Arthur in prose or verse form.
Describe with as much detail as you can a scene from A Comedy of Errors.

Term 2
Tell a story from Age of Fable in the style of Charles Dickens or Tennyson.
Describe with as much detail as you can a scene from Twelfth Night.

Term 3
Write a scene from Kipling’s Kim in verse or as a scene from a play.
Describe in as much detail as you can a scene from Macbeth.


Term 1
“When we have all in our hands: what shall we do in the end?" Explain the context of this passage and what it tells us of Pyrrhus.
Describe the use of war elephants in Pyrrhus' campaigns.

Term 2
Choose three adjectives that describe Nicias and and explain why.

Term 3
Tell about the deceptions Crassus encountered and how it changed the course of his life and leadership.


Term 1
Describe the Sermon on the Mount OR the miracle of the Centurion.
Describe two hardships Simon Brute encountered and how he handled them.
Tell your favorite section from My Path to Heaven.

Term 2
Describe in detail two difficulties that Florence Nightingale's nuns encountered in the Crimea and how they overcame them.
How did Joseph come to work in the court of Pharoah?  Tell the story.
What do you know of St. Anthony the Stylite or St. Augustine of Hippo?
Describe the miracle of the loaves and fishes OR describe why Jesus says “Get behind me, Satan.”

Term 3
Choose a passage from the last chapters of the Gospel of Saint Matthew to add to your Prose and Poetry notebook. Explain their context in the life of Our Lord.
What do you know of St. Cuthbert or St. Brendan?
Tell the story of the Ten Plagues with as much detail as you can. Share Knecht’s perspective on the story and the truths contained therein.

Some Thoughts on Assessment
I always use exams as an opportunity to see where I can improve as a teacher.  They provide invaluable feedback to how well I'm scaffolding assignments for long-term retention and for understanding.  They also help me to see where our family is making real strides and what areas each student is improving in.  To those ends:

:: We attempted more written Italian answers this year, which was nice to get some feedback on.  Although what they wrote in Italian made sense and wasn't usually grammatically incorrect, spelling was a big challenge -- except for rhymes, which they had used for copywork.  That encouraged me to add more copywork and Italian dictation to our plans for Terms 2 and 3 (though still very minimal). I did see small improvement in Term 3, so we will be sticking with plenty of that next year as well.  I'm planning on less translation, more copywork and dictation.  I'm sure that as they read and write more in Italian, their natural spelling sense will increase. But since one of my kids is not a natural speller in English either, I am guessing we'll need to make formal copywork a priority in our foreign language studies too.
:: Random grammar issue: both of the kids mixed up predicate nominative and noun of direct address.  So strange to see a mistake like that on both of their exams, especially when the two noun functions are so dissimiliar -- which always tells me it wasn't their issue but mine. We are doing five minutes of grammar review in our summer Morning Basket each week, so that's the topic I'm hitting first.
:: They came away from this year of history with solid understandings of the Civil War, the Crimean War, the various skirmishes in Africa and Asia, and WWI.  I attribute this to quality assigned reading in these areas (thanks, AO!) and to their engagement with their history notebook, which was a huge hit for them both this year.
:: They also hit their stride with history keeping: maps, century charts, and timelines went over very well this year and their effect on their retention of and relationship to the material was obvious.  They have really improved in their understanding of relationships among nations, and I think part of that is having the background understanding of the geography of those regions.
:: I'm considering next year the ways in which I can take their written narrations up a notch. We haven't been doing much discussion and editing of their written work yet, but I'm looking forward to going through some of that process with them in the coming year.  The interesting thing is that my kids need to move, I think, in opposite directions as they grow as writers: Gianna could stand to be more to-the-point and factual because sometimes she allows her creativity to make up for good, solid exposition. ;) And Vincent has some nice turns of phrase and retains an astounding amount of detail but could think more about weighing which details are important and which are incidental, as well as working a bit on writing mechanics. That will come partly with maturity, but it also shows in his oral narrations, so I think we'll start ther.

Those were just the beginning of my reflections -- the whole assessment process is so wide-reaching and promises such fruit for me every term.  I actually have their exams sitting in a folder on my counter to look over once again as I consider next year's plans.

Next up is my Form I students' exams for the year!


  1. Celeste, three things. First of all, what a rich education Charlotte Mason gives our children! Your post makes me feel SO blessed to have found her philosophy. :) Second, I just want you to know what a good job you do. Thank you for faithfully plugging along on this race. It's a wonderful example of being disciplined and faithful. I really appreciate that you share the hard work and dedication to your children's lives, especially with a large family. Thirdly, some of the handwriting of your children reminds me of yours! So neat! It has a unique feel to it! :D

    1. Thank you so much, dear Amy. I hope in all I do on this blog and in the online homeschooling community to point to the beauty of this rich education CM lays before us, like you said. <3

      That is so funny about the handwriting! I have never had them use my penmanship as their model in copywork assignments since I have always printed them with StartWrite, but I think you are right! :)

  2. Celeste, you are doing a wonderful job teaching your kids. My oldest is in the same year as yours so it is fun for me to see other family's work. Can you share what you use to teach grammar? And are you using a specific language program for Italian? We are learning Spanish but it is slow. I noticed that you are just learning one language- no Latin- can you share your reasons why? I have no problem with it, trust me! I'm just trying to get a better handle on what to do with languages next year. Thank you in advance for any help and really, you are doing an amazing job!!

    1. Hi Danielle!

      For grammar, we use Winston Grammar Basic. We are actually finished with the book now, so we just review.

      I am using a series of resources I cobbled together for Italian based on my research into CM-style foreign language methods and what is available.

      We actually ARE doing Latin also -- we started it as our second language last year. I didn't write exam questions for it because I just take the next translation exercise from our book and let that stand for our "exam." It's listed up there stuck between two other subjects, which is confusing! I didn't really put my questions into any particular order, so it's a bit of a jumble. :)

      I have a series on teaching foreign language in the CM homeschool that you might find helpful:

      I wrote it years ago now and have continued my research into the topic and gotten an even fuller picture of the methods, which I included in my workshop at the CM West conference...I eventually would love to turn that into a webinar or blog series or something, but it takes a lot of time! :)

      Thank you for your kind comments! I hope that helps. :)

    2. I'd love to hear that workshop... or read those blog posts. In your spare time. ;)

    3. LOL, Heather! One day! ;)

  3. Please tell your children thank you for sharing these examples & well done! It helped me to SEE some of their answers!

    I'm blown away- you are a gifted Charlotte Mason mama & home!!!

    Few questions: 1) when do you make up the exams- at the beginning of the year or end of each term? 2) if you had a child who struggled with writing, would you have him narrate & you type out the answers or just narrate? 3) what are you using for grammar?

    1. I will pass that along to them! :) I do think it helps to see answers, especially when they can give a sense that each student has his own personality and that some are long, some are short, some are meandering, some are focused...every student is at a different stage in the learning journey and has their strengths and weaknesses. There is so much room for "success" even when we do have specific goals in mind long-term! :)

      I make my exams at the end of the term, but I take notes along the way of things we might include. And of course I consult the AO exams for ideas too. :)

      For my students that aren't yet writing (or not yet writing well enough), I audio record their answers mostly. You could also just have them narrate and leave it at that, or you can have them talk while you just depends on what kind of records you want to keep (if any). Then I can go back and transcribe a few if I want, or I can just keep them as audio files. You'll see some examples of that in tomorrow's post, when I share my Form I kids' exams.

      We are using Winston Grammar Basic. I like it a lot!

      Thanks for your kind comments!

  4. This is inspiring, impressive, astonishing, and just so incredibly helpful. When looking at the examples from the old files of CM exams, I think well, that was then, not something my kids could do now, in modern times (I'm thinking specifically of how they wrote their answer for one question as a poem), but your kids did! We are on term 2 for AO years 5, 3 and 1. I am ready to encourage written narrations now that we have them 1 under our belt - can you tell me about the notebooks you use? I think you've mentioned history notebooks, and others. Are they just composition notebooks, or are they notebooks with unlined pages so they can sometimes draw their narration?

    1. I really like the Eco Quad staple-bound notebooks because they are very sturdy and come in all blank paper or all lined paper:

      We like the 8.25 x 11.7 size, and each of my students had two this year: one for history narrations plus all their mapping, century chart, etc., and one for science. They are doing two narrations weekly, one in each of those categories. My kids prefer blank pages because they enjoy doing different layouts and illustrating their written narrations with drawings. But the lined ones are great too, and they have one of those for their ongoing reading logs.

      You could definitely do this with a cheap composition notebook, though! Nice materials help but are NOT a deal-breaker. Especially with a new writer who might not want to "keep" his work forever. ;)

      I will be sharing some more examples from my kids' Year 5 keeping (and mine! LOL) some time soon.

      Thanks for your kind feedback, Andrea!

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  6. Thanks for sharing these exams, and Cate and Xavier's, too. It is such a delight to read through them and to see how much we have to look forward to in the years ahead! (My oldest is in Y0.) :) PS - the paper hats are adorable!

    1. That is one of the benefits of the older kids getting more involved in handicrafts -- they end up making a lot of things that the littles can play with! Win-win! :)

  7. I am looking at the Eco Quad notebooks. Can you tell me if each page is 8x11 or are the pages the 8x11 folded in half to make the book? thanks!

    1. Hi Toni! The ones that we use measure 8.25 x 11.7 for the cover, meaning that each inside page is twice the size of that, then folded in half and stapled in the center. So the first one option you mentioned. :) Hope that makes sense!