Monday, 30 September 2013

Ambleside Online Year 6 with a 13 year old

Where to place students in the Ambleside Online curriculum is a question that comes up repeatedly and seems to cause much angst. I think the problem is we look at the year number and think our child is a certain age and therefore needs to be in a year that would correspond with the year they would be in if they were going to school.

When my older sons were doing Ambleside Online Year 8, one of my daughter's friends was in college doing a liberal arts degree and was reading books such as Utopia and the essays of Francis Bacon, books my two sons were using in their AO reading .

I took awhile trying to figure out where to place my just turned 13 year old son, Bengy, and decided Year 6 would give him an opportunity to cover Modern History, which he was keen to do. In previous years we'd worked our way through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance & Reformation and then he had a year of a combination of AO books from various levels as I worked out whether to place him in year 6 or 7 and got my two older boys going with Year 8.

Looking at the books for Year 6, I decided they would work for a 13 year old and that I could add extra reading for World War 2 to beef it up a bit and make up for some books he'd already done.

We basically followed the AO schedule but omitted books we's used in previous years i.e. Genesis: Finding our Roots; It Couldn't Just Happen; Age of Fable and a number of the free reads.

We added in to the weekly schedule:

The Book Of Marvels (Geography) - an AO year 5 book.
Bush Days by Amy Mack (Australian Nature Study)
Exploring the History of Medicine by John Hudson Tiner (Science)
The Mystery of the Periodic Table by Benjamin D. Wiker (Science)


I made out a list each week and allowed him to space out his readings and work however he wanted. He had to work around the times when we did devotions, read aloud, Plutarch and Shakepeare as a group and our weekly trip to music lessons. About half way through the week I would ask him how he was going and make sure he was on track to finish everything by the end of the week and in return he'd remind me that I needed to do his dictation with him.
This is a sample of the weekly schedule he followed:

Favourite scheduled books:

The Hobbit, Never Give In, Albert Einstein and Galileo & The Magic Numbers.


Easy Grammar Plus by Wanda Phillips. I just bought the reproducible teacher's text. It's huge and has the worksheet on the right hand side and the answers on the left, which you could cover up if you wanted to write in the actual book. He did about 3 pages a week. Abebooks may be the cheapest way to get it.


We've used a few different resources for Latin in previous years but this year I gave him Getting Started with Latin by William Linney. Some of it has been review for him but he likes the way this book explains things and it has solidified and made sense of what he'd covered earlier.
If you have a boy who doesn't see the point of Latin, this video I posted a couple of months ago might be helpful for him to watch, especially if he's into computers.


Oral narrations are required after each reading and a written narration with illustrations explaining about something he'd read once a week in his science notebook.



We used a number of online videos to supplement his science reading. I posted some that we used with  Secrets of the Universe here.
I also put a number of other science videos we used on Pinterest  including The Birth of an Island which lined up with the 7th chapter of The Sea Around Us.  The one below we used for the 5th chapter, The Hidden Lands, and the next week Bengy pointed out an article in our local paper about the doctor who was in charge of making sure optimal conditions were maintained during the descent (I'd completely overlooked it even though it was on the front page) and his big sister told him she'd worked with that doctor at one stage in the hospital where she's employed. It's very exciting when these connections happen!

Life Skills/Manual Work/Handicraft

Bengy continues to enjoy baking. His forte is pies and this was an experiment where he adapted an apple pie recipe by adding a packet of frozen berries (thawed before use) to the apple filling. The experiment was a ripping success and I barely had time to take the photo before it disappeared. I make sure my children know how to work the oven & are safety conscious but I leave one of them in charge & vacate the room if possible - it's better if I'm not looking because it often looks crazy & gets messy but as long as it gets cleaned up afterwards & nobody gets hurt I'm happy. I'm very blessed to have two sons who are very competent in the kitchen! I did try with the other two...

Sound system - my husband is involved with sound production and the boys help out. Bengy has learned to set and pack up and operate the sound system and has assisted at live productions.

Volunteer work - leader at children's holiday programme; projector at church; piano/keyboard in church band; helps lead weekly kid's ministry with his older sister. My children have gravitated to kid's ministry and/or music ministry, areas both my husband and myself have been involved in most of our adult lives. It's very encouraging to see them keen to serve and develop the gifts God has given them.

Life skills

This year I taught him to use the sewing machine and he made a wheatbag.
Computer - picked up skills from his dad and older siblings.
Cleaning the bathroom, cooking.

Written Narrations

Poetic narrations would be the first choice for this young man but I try to get him to try other variations. One he enjoyed was a science quiz. He asked a series of questions, to which he knew the answers and tested everyone else. Here's one of them:


Poetic narration from his Ancient History reading and Shakespeare's The Tempest

Read Alouds

Ourselves by Charlotte Mason

The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom

The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann Wyss

Otto of the Silver Hand by Howard Pyle

Additional Free Reeds

The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers - a pre WW1 espionage type novel. 
Bengy didn't enjoy it too much, 'way too much detail and not enough story; might have been interesting a hundred years ago......' - a couple of his older brothers enjoyed it though.

 Beau Geste by Percival Christopher Wren- an old classic adventure novel of the French Foreign Legion written in 1924.

Hereward the Wake by Charles Kingsley - free read in AO Year 7; set around the time of the Norman conquest.

The Black Arrow by Robert Louis Stevenson AO Year 7 free read; War of the Roses & Richard the Third before he becomes king.

The Sledge Patrol by David Howarth - Greenland, WW2. Howarth has written some good non-fiction WW2 books we have enjoyed.

Greenmantle & The Island of Sheep by John Buchan. We love this author's books.

Heroes of Asgard by A & E Keary

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

Message From Malaga by Helen MacInnes - espionage, set in Spain during the Cold War

The Unconquerable (also known by the title, Why Still We Live) by Helen MacInnes - Poland, WW2

The Guns of Navarone by Alistair MacLean - WW2; set on a fictional island in Greece

Bear Island by Alistair Maclean - a thriller novel set on an island in the Arctic Ocean about a search for stolen gold from WW2.

Update: This video presents a very good visual portrayal of the course of World War 2:

Economix by Michael Goodwin - my husband read this book and suggested I give it to the boys to read. Although it's American its general comments are applicable to other areas of the world. You can see sample pages here.

Plutarch - Dion, Pericles

Shakespeare - The Tempest; A Midsummer Night's Dream. I have a Pinterest board with some resources we've used for Shakespeare.

Timelines - weekly entry

Typing - we use this free online typing tutor; I like it because it uses sections from decent books such as Pinocchio for typing practice.

Geography - free download from Seterra

Maths - completed Saxon Algebra 1 this year - we've use Art Reed's Algebra 1 DVD this time around and Bengy really likes the way he explains concepts. We've used Saxon Maths from 5/4 to Calculus in our family, partly because that was what was available years ago, but we've continued because they've worked well for us, mostly. Two of the boys struggled with Saxon around Algebra 1 & 2 and both of them had a break from Saxon for about 9 months; one did Geometry & the other Khan Academy. If I'd had the DVDs it would have been easier.

Some people hate Saxon and think that it only teaches them to pass tests and they can't transfer their knowledge and don't understand the 'why,' but that hasn't been the case for us otherwise I would have looked  at something else. Others say there are too many problems per lesson but that can be worked around. Our older children were well prepared for the SAT exams they did and have had no trouble when they did science requiring maths or maths at university.

Earlier this year I found Bengy was taking so long to finish a lesson even though he understood everything and enjoys maths so I told him he only needed to do 3 lessons a week. He's been splitting the lesson into two: one day he views the DVD and does the practice from the book and about half the problems; the next day he does the second half of the practice problems.

The beauty of home education is that we have a choice and we can use whatever works for a particular child and we don't have to allow someone else's opinion to push us to change something that is working well for us.
I also think having a good solid foundation in the early years is so important to understanding highschool level maths.
This site gives some help for working out how to record Saxon on a transcript.

Bengy will be doing Jacob's Geometry next as an introduction to logic & possibly Saxon Algebra 2 alongside, or he'll start Saxon again after he's finished Jacob's (I'll see how it works).


Swimming, squash
Piano & theory lessons

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Educated Mother

The Pensive Reader by Mary Cassatt (c.1894)

I've been reading through some of the Parent's Reviews found on Ambleside Online and found some quotes on the educated mother to ponder.

The educated mother is pre-eminently a woman who thinks, and the results of her regulated thought will be seen in the daily administration of her home.

This is very interesting  - I've known well-educated women who had no idea of domestic administration or regulation and readily admitted the fact. Is it because they're not thinking about this particular area of their life?

The word "education," so long and actively current amongst us, expresses ideas differing widely from each other. True educationists will, however, agree that their work should include the training to self-rule, as indeed an essential part of it, all teaching, however excellent in itself, being absolutely valueless in its absence. 

I asked myself some questions:

Does my life show evidence of self-rule?
What does an educated mother's education look like?
Is my home well administered?
Do my decisions, routines plans and schedules show evidence of regulated thought?

Realising that the children of to-day will rapidly develop into individuals keen to learn and be taught, she will always be alive to the necessity of cultivating her own mind, and the work of self-education and improvement will go on for her while life lasts. 

What am I doing to cultivate my mind?
How have I changed from the person I was 5 years ago?
What kind of person do I want to be 5 years from now?

It is absolutely necessary a mother should know how to care for the small bodies, but it is equally important she should understand and satisfy the unfolding intellects of her children.

It is a painful spectacle, that of a mother who has allowed her children to outstrip her as thinking beings, and can no longer keep pace with them in their pursuits and interests. The educated mother knows this, and will keep well in touch with all the interests of life. 

Am I keeping pace with my children?
What interests am I involved in or developing?
Am I a magnanimous woman?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss

My husband read this book aloud to our older children years ago so it was my turn to read it to the two youngest, 8 and 13 years of age. The book was originally published in German in 1812-1813 and translated into English in 1814 and is the fictional account of the Robinson family: a father and mother and their four sons who are the only survivors of a shipwreck during a storm at sea. Left behind by the crew who abandoned the ship with all the lifeboats, the family were able to salvage a great many provisions and animals from the ship and find refuge on a nearby island where they encounter much adventure and survive many dramas.

I remembered thinking the first time I heard the story that it was far fetched at times and we'd all tried to figure out where on earth the island might have been situated but later I discovered that the story was written by a Swiss pastor who wanted to instill certain values in his four sons and he used the incidents in the book to help to do this. There's probably no place on earth that would contain the array of animals and natural resources such as are found in the story, but it makes for an interesting tale!

I thought 8 year old Moozle might lose interest as the chapters were long and the book does tend to ramble at times with explanations of discoveries the family make and the in depth knowledge the father displays on everything they come across (we made good use of for definitions and pronunciations of these) but there was enough action and interest to keep her asking for more. 

There is a godly tone throughout the book with numerous references to Providence, and the father often speaks to his sons about character issues and looks for opportunities to stretch his sons and instruct them in skills they would need to survive if they were left to their own devices.

In the evening, I desired my boys to let me see their dexterity in athletic exercises, such as running, leaping, wrestling, and climbing; telling them that they must keep up the practise of these things, so as to grow strong active men, powerful to repel and cope with danger, as well as agile and swift-footed to escape from it. No man can be really courageous and self-reliant without an inward consciousness of physical power and capability.

`I want to see my sons strong, both morally and physically,' said I; "that means, little Franz" (as the large blue eyes looked inquiringly up at me), "brave to do what is good and right, and to hate evil, and strong to work, hunt, and provide for themselves and others, and to fight if necessary."

Sometimes books with a moral tone can be devoid of natural humour and characters are set up as paragons of virtue but the Robinson family have their share of squabbles, small annoyances and human frailties and a good sprinkling of humour was found in their conversations with each other.

On coming upon a sleeping iguana which Jack had mistaken for a crocodile......

In another moment Fritz would have fired, but arresting his hand, "Your shot," I said, "would probably only wound the animal, and being extremely tenacious of life, it would certainly escape us; we must gain possession of the sleeping beauty by a gentler method."

"You are not going to kiss it, are you father?" asked Jack, with a grin.

I tried to rebuke him for his impertinence, but, failing, I commenced operations.

The Swiss Family Robinson is listed as a free read at Ambleside Online Year 6 and there are links there to find the book free online  I think it works well as a read aloud and if you have younger children who are are handling books such as the Parables of Nature or Robin Hood by Howard Pyle then they'd probably enjoy having this book read aloud to them if you wanted to include them with a child in Year 6.