I am solidifying homeschooling plans for the year. We sent our letter of intent to the school system, and received “permission” to homeschool in return. In our school system my oldest would be starting first grade, my second son is a year away from kindergarten, and my youngest son is two. Last year I bought Oak Meadow 1 for some structure for our kindergarten year, but I didn’t find it a good match for my family. The stories didn’t engage. The outline was useful, but I can get that for free! OM1 is headed for a new home, and the proceeds are being used for some new materials.
This year I’m very excited to be using AmblesideOnline Year 1. I know I’ve visited the site before but it didn’t click until a recent visit. I’ve looked at Sonlight over and over, and I want to like it (minus the evangelical material), but it’s expensive and never seemed to be a great fit. We recently finished the first Story of the World, and although I can supplement now, I think I’d have an argument on my hands if I suggested covering the same material again. I know there’s plenty more to learn about, but his feeling is that he’s already covered the period. So the time period of Ambleside year 1 is exactly right. The price is fabulous too. I’ve bought the Burgess book, the Comstock book, Paddle to the Sea, Just So Stories and a beautiful hardback of the recommended edition of Aesops Fables (on remainder). I download chapters from Fifty Famous Tales, An Island Story, and the fairy tales to my PDA, and we can read anywhere. I also bought Singapore math (just the workbooks) and I had Handwriting Without Tears from last year (although I really love italics – we may switch later). I’d say I’ve spent about $100.
I also looked at other Charlotte Mason sites, and will use them are resources for additional or substitute reading: Tanglewood Education, and Simply Charlotte Mason, particularly. SCM seems to cover Biblical history for four years of their six year cycle! TE doesn't push the Christian religious education, although I do think there are mentions of it on the site. Neither gave us as good a fit for this year as Ambleside.
We’re spending a little extra time on Rome right now – he likes Julius Caesar, so we found a biography at the library. We also got a video some general books about the Roman Empire with factoids and graphics. I was surprised but he really enjoyed the first fairy tale we read.
I really like the ease of the whole Ambleside/Charlotte Mason approach. I love literature-based learning. I don't have any doubts that this will work with my oldest son. He retains material he hears very well, and he seems to manage the sometimes difficult language, hopefully learning some vocabulary from the context. He's interested in what we're reading (with occasional exceptions). I want to use living books, and I'm very happy to find resources/book lists that mean that I don't have have to pre-read. I have a twelve weeks schedule on one sheet of paper (front and back). I feel like I can persuade him to do short handwriting and reading lessons, and so far I don’t even have to persuade him to do math. I like the idea that he’s learning from the literature and not from me. He can be pretty stubborn about learning from me! I like the simple approach to music – I feel like I can manage listening to four pieces by one composer over twelve weeks. Likewise with art appreciation – we can manage to look at some paintings over twelve weeks. I’m still a little overwhelmed by nature studies, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out soon. And that’s the only part that feels overwhelming – everything else feels surprisingly doable. (Of course, I'm leaving out some components of AO -- Bible, church history, and the nature parables.)
I love unschooling – it’s exciting to watch the kids figuring out what they need to do. But I feel like I can’t keep up. Last year P was fascinated with dates of birthdays and holidays, but it took a curriculum for me to suggest that he make a calendar. This year he’s fascinated by history, and the AO curriculum will help me feed that hunger. It takes little enough time, and it gives him fuel for his projects and imagination, and plenty of free time to follow his inclinations. I feel it is the best of both worlds. I think he needs some outside inputs in order to figure out what interests him! But I guess I can’t say we’re unschooling – so we’re eclectic! As someone on a list I’m on said, no one will ever tell you you aren’t eclectic enough!
I’ve thought about whether I need a plan for my four-year old this year, and have decided against it. I’ll do my best to do projects with him, but he will be unschooled for preschool! Unfortunately, he’s not interested in listening to stories during the day (although it’s an important part of his bedtime routine). Next year is soon enough to see where he is with letters, and the year after we can do a little work on reading.
Today was the first day of school in our town, and although we’ve already started with AO, I still felt as though I was measuring up. The day has gone well. We’re on about week three of AO. Today I read a bird story from the Burgess book, P did a few pages of Singapore math, we did three pages of Tanglewood Education Really Reading (33 page phonics program from Tanglewood Education). He did some writing on his own, so I didn’t add handwriting. We made play dough (mostly with the younger two, but P helped, too). He and his four-year old brother had a great time making a fort in the rain. He also did some sort of craft project that I was completely uninvolved in. Add some computer and TV, some other playing, and that’s been our day. I’m pretty happy with it.