Thursday, June 15, 2017

How do I pick a year?

One of the most common questions on the AmblesideOnline forums and Facebook page is some variation of, "I am switching to AO with older children.... where do I start?"

Although there are always variables in everyone's life, and sometimes they lead to out-of-the-ordinary suggestions, for most people the question usually gets a standard answer. This is my usual answer.

Because Charlotte Mason wanted children's minds to be fed, I always recommend starting with your child's ability to understand, not their ability to read. The books in AO are well above modern "grade level" and are not expected to be read completely by the child, especially in the early years. Instead of going by reading level, I always recommend going by comprehension level.

Recognizing that the AO years were not designed as strict grade levels (although Year One does match up with grade one if a child starts it at age six) the usual suggestion is to pick a year or two lower then your child's "grade" and look at them for comprehension first, and then content.

Start with comprehension: One suggestion that I like is to pick a couple books from the years you are considering, and read a passage from the middle somewhere. Can your child narrate it? (If he's new at narrating, this might not be very good- just ask for three things he remembers.) If that went well, consider the other books- what are they about? What subjects are covered? Do they sound like they are too hard for your kids? If it comes down to a choice between a couple of years and you can't decide, consider the history chronology last. If your child just learned all about the middle ages, you might not want to do Year 2. But that's the last thing to consider because it's of less importance then placing your child where they are challenged, but not overwhelmed.

If you are new you need to watch this video. Watch it. There is a lot of information here that is easily missed, and a lot of explanations about the different parts of the site and the options you will see.

Useful Links: 

If you would like more information on the AmblesideOnline books and grade levels, here is a short post addressing that.

Some advice from experienced moms on placing in Ambleside. (I think these are from the old yahoo groups, you can find tons of similar advice on the forum.)

Here is the AmblesideOnline history chronology, which is really helpful as a broad picture view of AO.


The GORY DETAILS from Afterthoughts (This is very helpful if you are getting started.)

And maybe most important, the Forum. This is where you can get free personalized advice on implementing the curriculum in your own family, from experienced AO users, including the Advisory/Auxiliary.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Books I Read in 2015

So all my friends are posting the books they read in 2015, and I don't want to get left out of the fun. I have some friends that read almost 70 books last year! I didn't read nearly that many, in fact I didn't count. And I am sure I have forgotten a few because I didn't put them all in Goodreads.  I only included books I read for the first time, so there were many other school books I didn't count.

I also set a new goal for this year of reading 52 books this year, about one a week. Now, I don't actually read a book in a week most of the time, but since I currently have 20 or so going at a time, I think it will even out.

2015 Book List 

(Including my Goodreads rating. Cause I'm nice like that.) 

The Living Page  *****

The Daughter of Time ***

The Fellowship of the Rings *****

Watership Down *****

Colorado-The Bright Romance of American History *

Mere Christianity *****

The Brenden Voyage *****

Tending the Heart of Virtue *****

Galileo's Daughter ***

Of Courage Undaunted (school book)

King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table (school book)

Richard II (Shakespeare)

The Two Towers *****

Animal Farm ****

Ivanhoe ****

The Once and Future King

The Great Divorce

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A Day in our Life- CM Open House

I'm so excited to join in the great project over at Beautiful Chaos, Charlotte Mason Open House. We are trying to be really honest and open with how this education really looks in our homes. So many times it seems like we are all perfect and have it all together when we are really all the same in our struggles.

I originally filmed almost our complete day, which ended up being an hour long even when I sped up many parts. So I re-filmed and just tried to capture the general chaotic progression of our day. On this particular day, everyone slept in, we got started late, and things just didn't go as well as many times, so you get to see us even "real-er" then normal. I was pretty frustrated by the end of the day, but it all works out.

I didn't film any of the "riches" or "extras"- the artist and composer study, the music we listen to, the poetry. We also didn't do any language learning.  Because this was the week after Christmas we really weren't getting those things done. Another moment of being real. We typically do those things around lunchtime, either while we eat or right after we finish. Sometimes we grab a rare minute between the other things when everyone is free at the same time. Sometimes it happens in the afternoon when we have quiet time and the kids all sit and read for 30 minutes. Sometimes it just doesn't happen.

Enjoy and keep coming back to Beautiful Chaos (I LOVE that name!) for the rest of the month. We have great things planned!

P.S. I really don't mind the chair. Much.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Back to the Classics Challenge

I'm taking the Back to the Classics challenge this year. It was shared on the AmblesideOnline forum and seemed like fun. Most of the books were something I was wanting to read anyway, while a few of the categories will make me search for something outside of my usual reads. Which is the fun part! 

1.  A 19th Century Classic - Three Men in a Boat. Short, funny, something I've been wanting to read. 

2.  A 20th Century Classic - Lord of the Flies. A book I feel like I should read, not really looking forward to it. 

3.  A classic by a woman author. Kristen Lavransdatter. All three if I have time and find them.

4.  A classic in translation.  Not sure... maybe Beowulf, although I am not excited about the idea. 

5.  A classic by a non-white author. Ideas please? 

6.  An adventure classic - Treasure Island, a Sir Walter Scott, or something else I decide on later. 

7.  A fantasy, science fiction, or dystopian classic. The Return of the King or Brave New World.

8.  A classic detective novel. Probably the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, because it's a book I have in hard copy and I haven't read any of his books. 

9.  A classic which includes the name of a place in the title.  Undecided. 

10. A classic which has been banned or censored. Probably To Kill a Mockingbird. I have never read this book before, and I feel like I'm behind the times since it's a high school standard. 

11. Re-read a classic you read in school (high school or college).  Probably Pride and Prejudice. I didn't read many classics in high school, but I read this and didn't really like it. Maybe my tastes have changed.

12. A volume of classic short stories. No idea. I haven't even looked into this category. It's fun to leave them open, it's like a wrapped present, so many options! 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Blessing through Music and Books (and one movie)

This is the part of a series of posts 
on having a joy-filled Christmas. 
Access the rest of the posts here.

One of the ways we can be present and enjoy the season is by reading books and listening to lovely music together. Compared to DOING things, these are generally restful, focused, family activities. And best of all, mess and stress free!


I favor Christmas carols over more modern music, which grates on my nerves rather quickly. To me, there is nothing lovelier then choir or traditional singing of old Christmas Hymns. It just seems to breath life and peace into our days. Here are some lovely versions on YouTube:
Oh, Come all ye Faithful
Oh, Come Oh, Come Emmanuel
Oh Holy Night
Do You Hear what I Hear
Silent Night
Beautiful Star of Bethlehem
It Came Upon a Midnight Clear
What Child is This (Greensleeves)
Handel’s Messiah (Full Version)
Handel’s Messiah (Christmas portion)
For Unto Us
Hallelujah Chorus 


  A Christmas Carol
The classic holiday book. A Christmas Carol is short, fun, and just a tiny bit spooky. Acceptable for older elementary aged children, and great as a family read-aloud. Don’t fall for any gimmicky adaptations, the original is the one you want. Younger children probably won’t be frightened by the story, but the language might be a bit above them, even as a read-aloud. Dickens himself wrote a shorter adaptation for children, I haven’t read it but it might be worth a look. This book is in the public domain, and is available free in the following places.
Kindle version
Free Online and E-Book
Free Audio Book

Becky’s Christmas, Tasha Tudor

Like many Tudor books, this is pricy. It is out of print. But it was one of my favorite books as a child and I read it every year, even as a teenager. It was lost for many years after my marriage and I searched for an affordable copy because I desperately wanted to share it with my own little ones. Last year, I discovered my own original copy, on my mother’s book shelves!
Becky’s Christmas is an old-fashioned Christmas story. It is full of obscure and lost traditions, accompanied by Tudor’s famous illustrations. All the members of the family are engaged in making Christmas gifts for each other, including a big surprise in the barn for Becky. On Christmas Eve, the best gift of all is waiting for Becky . If you want to spend a bit extra on a book that is completely worth it, or just keep your eye out at garage sales, this is a treasure to watch for.

  One Wintry Night
A picture book for the whole family, One Wintry Night is the story of a boy stranded in the neighbor’s house during a blizzard. She starts telling him a story, and the real adventure begins. Beginning with creation, the book moves through the Bible, paving the way for Christmas. Beautiful illustrations.

 Jan Brett
The favored illustrator has several Christmas books. I recommend the classics, The Twelve Days of Christmas and The Night Before Christmas. We always enjoy searching the margins she decorates on each page. I enjoy finding classics every child should know, and Brett’s illustrations are some of the best.

Video Reading of The Night Before Christmas

Apple Tree Christmas, Trinka Noble
A charming Christmas story about a pioneer family living in a barn. During an ice storm their beloved apple tree is killed. When Christmas arrives, Katrina is given a very special gift from the ruins of the tree. The inspiration for this story comes from the author's father, who built her very first drawing board.

 Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, Robert Frost
This poem is perfect for a child’s picture book. The classic is given beautiful pencil illustrations in this version I recommend by Susan Jeffers. You can also read it free at the following links.
Online version
Video Reading

One Movie

The Birth of Jesus & The Story Behind the Cross  The Birth of Jesus
This is a video created for children from the Visual Bible series. The movie is in the ‘story within the story’ style. The children’s uncle (Kirk Cameron) visits to read the Christmas story and the story comes to life. With words taken directly from the Bible, this is a movie of the nativity that doesn’t add to the story. Beautiful filming of the Christmas story, although some of the acting in the family scenes is not quite as high-quality. Because I am hesitant to offer my children Bible stories in movie form because they so often change the story, I am happy to see this available on DVD.
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