Thursday 27 December 2012

Ambleside Online Year 8 with a 17 year old late reader

Una and the Red Cross Knight by Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale  (1871-1945)
                                                                     Hosted on Fotki

We've just finished a slightly modified AO year 8 with our 17 year old son, affectionately known as Hoggy.
A bit of background first: this is our 4th child whose learning style was so completely different from his 3 older siblings and who didn't read well until about 3 years ago. He sort of clicked with reading when he was between 10 and 12 years of age but it took a few years for him to read fluently.
About a year ago, 3 months before he turned 17, I took a deep breath and started him & his younger  brother with Ambleside Year 8. We had previously been reading about famous men of the Renaissance & Reformation so I decided to continue with this time period. I also began to read the Original Charlotte Mason Homeschooling books beginning with Volume 4, A Philosophy of Education. You can read my comments about it here.

One of the beauties of a home education is being able to tailor the education to the child rather than squeeze the child into something that is ill-fitting or inappropriate. 
Here is a summary of what we covered with comments/explanations and family read alouds added. He works one full day a week so his schoolwork is over 4 days.


He plans his own daily reading and joins in with family devotions in the evenings & memory work a few times a week with me and his 3 younger siblings.


 Saints and Heroes, Volume 2

The following three books are different to the AO Year 8 schedule.

*The Screwtape Letters – C.S. Lewis - enjoyed this and could narrate it quite well.

**How to be Your own Selfish Pig – Susan Schaeffer MacAulay - Not a difficult read and very good for discussion.

***Mere Christianity – C.S. Lewis - This was a little difficult for him to narrate but he enjoys Lewis's writing and thinks he explains things really well. This book is scheduled in AO year 9 but I wanted to give him another C.S. Lewis book to read.

Plutarch - I read aloud Poplicola, Brutus, and Dion over the course of the year with all 4 children.We've had some great discussions especially with the suggestions from the study guides.

Shakespeare - Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing - we all followed along with the BBC audio recordings and Shakespeare written guides and then watched the Kenneth Branagh movies with slight editing in Much Ado.


Churchill's New World - Plodding through untold G.A. Henty historical fiction novels really helped with Hoggy's grasp of English history in general and Churchill's book in particular. He told me the plot in G.A. Henty's books is always the same: young lad gets caught up with some famous man in some famous battle and in the end marries the young lady also caught up in the plot and lives happily ever after - but he enjoys the different history scenarios.
* Voyage of the Armada - worked well for written narrations


** ***Oliver Cromwell, epilogue only
** ***A King Condemned - C.V. Wedgewood (this is the same book as AO suggests for King Charles I, but with yet another different title). Both boys complained that this was overkill as they had learned about Charles already & they'd had enough of him - but they finished it.
Johanne Kepler - John Hudson Tiner; easy read.
*** Galileo - the chapter from The Great Astronomers


** ***The Betrothed
The History of English Literature - Marshall - we started from the beginning with this book, doing 2 chapters a week until we'd caught up to the time period covered in year 8 and then did one a week.

* **Westward Ho - I made this a  free read
Age of Fable - this is scheduled in the earlier years but Hoggy hadn't read it so I included it.
***The Holy War - started this a bit late so it's still to be finished.


Read Martin Luther & Queen Elizabeth but omitted John Donne.

Francis Bacon essays
A Man for all Seasons - the play

Utopia - the boys read the book but the link is to a free audio to listen to online or download.

Whatever Happened to Justice? - I didn't get the book until the middle of the year so he hasn't finished it this year.
William Harvey and Circulation of the Blood - went a bit over his head I think and his oral narration was a bit scattered.

Our Mother Tongue - one lesson a week
Grammar of Poetry - one lesson over a week or two depending on time available.

How Should we Then Live - DVDs - we'd started viewing these the year before and continued this year with volume III & IV, The Renaissance & The Reformation. The older 3 had read Francis Schaeffer's book of the same name but I thought the DVD's would be better for our current situation. We watched them together and then talked about the ideas presented. The footage is a bit dated as the original videos were done in the 70's I think, but the ideas and truths contained in it are accurate & contemporary.


Read a poem a day
* A.B.Patterson - Australian poet
Fierce Wars and Faithful Loves

** Shakespeare Sonnets: XVIII & CXVI
**George Herbert: Redemption, Love, Colossians 111, The Elixir

***John Donne, Holy Sonnets I & XIV
***Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Kon Tiki by Thor Heyerdahl - we'd just finished this as a read aloud at the beginning of the year. It was a great choice and worked well for our children aged 6 to 16 yrs of age at the time.

Picture Study


 Jansen's Story of Painting


Schubert, Chopin, Prokofiev, Gershwin.
I read relevant chapters from Lives of the Musicians by Kathleen Hull aloud - everyone enjoys the humour in this book.
Handiwork & Life Skills

This year it has been home renovations - removing tiles, painting and small plumbing jobs.
General home and car maintenance, gardening, some electronics.
Setting up and operating the sound system at church.
Stage management work at an outdoor Christmas Carol's event.
Passed his driver's license test on the first attempt.

Natural History

I scheduled some books from previous AO years.
*Wild Animals I Have known - Ernest Seton Thompson
** School of the Woods - William J. Long

And added an Australian author
*** The 10 Bushcraft Books by Richard Graves

Free Reading

Northanger Abbey (AO year 9)
DonQuixote - James Baldwin

Folk Songs

This post has three of the suggested AO year 8 songs for this time period. We also added in a couple of Australian folksongs.

Read Alouds

Pilgrims Progress by John Bunyan

The House I Left Behind by Daniel Shayesteh - I'll post about this important and excellent book at some time in the future. It's difficult to put it in a category - a combination of cultures/geography/biography/history/apologetics.

Ourselves - chapters 1-4.  I think this book by Charlotte Mason is excellent but for some reason all I get is groans when I take it off the shelf. I read it aloud regardless and try & get some discussion going. 

I get my children to narrate every single reading that they do - I think this has helped Hoggy in particular  with retaining what he has read and also with understanding and writing about it.

I expect 2 written narrations at least per week also and studied dictation twice a week.
His spelling has improved so much in the last year. I've always done dictation with him but I never used to give it to him to study beforehand and I see now that it makes sense to do it this way - it avoids him making mistakes and reinforcing the errors by having them visually before him.

I have written some thoughts on Narration in this post with some examples from Year 8 books.

For older struggling readers, finding decent books that can entice them to keep reading when they're not yet at the fluent stage is important. A prolific author such as Alistair Maclean can help to fill the gap for a boy. Hammond Innes (for older readers) and Helen MacInnes (Above Suspicion, The Salzburg Connection, The Snare of the Hunter and Agent in Place are some I've read) are two other authors that have similar spy/adventure books.

Some added thoughts:

We've always done Bible memory work but I couldn't see any evidence that Hoggy had remembered any of it. I am so grateful I didn't give up because even when he couldn't articulate what we'd done regularly & consistently for some years, it was actually in there somewhere and it came to the surface eventually. One day after a Bible study with some friends, he told us that they'd named him 'the walking Bible' because he knew so many verses. It was the same with poetry and now he can rattle off long sections quite easily. 

Maths was easier for Hoggy - he wasn't a whizz but we plugged along and he now has a good understanding of maths and has coped well with advanced maths concepts and happily, for me, he can help his younger brothers! It was good for him to be doing well in something else while he was struggling with other areas of learning.
Reading aloud + + + + + I had a toddler, a newborn and 3 other children to homeschool when I started out with Hoggy but he couldn't read at all for ages so we all did our work together so that he could be a part of things. Good quality audio books helped out from time to time also but I mainly read to him and made efforts to include a varied diet of good material.

Finding a musical instrument for him to learn & enjoy was a big plus. He started out on the violin, then piano and finally we were given a drum kit which was what he had wanted to learn all along. It's been a great vehicle and confidence builder for him and a blessing to others.
I've always believed that the Lord would make a way for each of our children, and although I've struggled at times with how that would work out, He has been faithful.


Comparative Chronology 1600's

1602. Abel Tasman born.

1603. Death of Queen Elizabeth.

1606. Voyage of Quiros; finding and naming of Austrialia (sic) del Espiritu Santo.

1606. First charter to the Virginia Company.

1620. Pilgrim Fathers found colony of New Plymouth.

1642. Tasman's first voyage; discovery of Tasmania.

1643. Death of Louis XIII.

1644. Tasman's second voyage; exploration of northern Australia.

1649. Execution of Charles I.

1652. Birth of William Dampier.

1655. English conquest of Jamaica.

1658. Death of Oliver Cromwell.

1659. Death of Tasman.

1682. Penn founds Pennsylvania.

1683. The French found Louisiana.

1686 to 1688. Dampier's voyage in the Cygnet; anchorage in Cygnet Bay, Western Australia.

Saturday 8 December 2012

Room at the Inn

With Christmas and the end of the year approaching, I've been reflecting on the oft quoted words of Charlotte Mason,

'The question is not,––how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education––but how much does he care?'

Whether we are awake to it or not, we are continually influencing our children. They are absorbing our attitudes and they get to know what we care about and what we don't just by being with us.

What qualities do I want to see in their lives?
What will I give them as an inheritance?
Are they initiators?
Do they care?
Are they great-hearted (magnanimous)?
Do they make room for others?

This week I'm taking our 4 youngest to a nursing home to join some friends in a Christmas service for the residents. We did it last year and were so surprised at the response we had and how open and engaged some of the residents were.

We were having a discussion after our Plutarch reading the other morning which related to one of the character's attitude toward people - he saw them as objects to be manipulated - and this led us to the idea which pervades our culture: that people only have value if they are 'useful.'
The people we ministered to last year would generally be considered to be past their use by date but regardless of how they are labelled, they have intrinsic value and it was so humbling to see their response to a group of children and their mums singing for them.

Undoubtably, Christmas is a busy time for most of us, and we take advantage of the season to catch up with family and friends, but when the Saviour of the world was about to be born his mother was hard put to find a welcome. I wonder if He had come in our time if He would have found no room at the inn.

Christmas is a time to remember that God so loved the world that He gave, He initiated, took the first step.

For the past couple of years we've extended our Christmas to others who have no family near or are single parents. Once we had a mother, a Korean lady who could speak only limited English, and her three children. It was a little awkward but her children had a ball and it was no great hardship to feed a few more.

I want my children to be open hearted.
I want them to care enough to initiate.
I want them to make room for others.

I've posted about some practical Christmas ideas here.