The end of the school year is a good time of reflection for me as the mother and teacher. It’s a chance to look back on the school year we finished and evaluate what went well and what ought to change. The end of the 2020-2021 school year marks the end of my third year homeschooling. In some ways, I feel like I’m getting into a rhythm that works for us, but at the same time each year I find we have different needs and the rhythm changes at least a little bit. This past year I had a third grader (doing Ambleside Online Y3) and a first grader (doing Ambleside Online Y1).
One of the biggest challenges I faced as the mom was balancing two students while also having three younger ones who also needed attention. There are some areas that went well in that balancing act and others that didn’t go so great. Next year I’ll have three students so it will likely be another challenging year of learning to balance three students. But I’m here for the challenge!
“…mothers work wonders once they are convinced that wonders are demanded of them.”–Charlotte Mason in Home Education
My son loved his first grade year! My biggest takeaway from going through Y1 for a second time is that it’s different with each individual child . . . and it’s just as magical each time to see a child making connections and learning. My son enjoyed several of the books that my daughter struggled through, and he disliked some of the books that were easy for my daughter.
My daughter grew a great deal in independence this year. She is a proficient reader, and she took the reins on almost all of her schoolwork this year. At the beginning of term 3, I started writing out a weekly checklist for her just to see how she would do while self-directing her own studies. To my surprise, she actually does better and remembers more for narrations when she’s reading the books on her own. I didn’t expect her to be so independent by third grade, but as I let her be more independent, she thrived.
I decided to mark the end of this school year with a gift to my two students. It feels like accomplishment both for them and for me to finish another year of schooling, and this is a small way to let them know I’m proud of them. For my daughter, I bought her a bookmark from A Fine Quotation. I bought my son a mug (also from A Fine Quotation) that will remind him of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
History – For Year 1, my son read stories from Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (about church history), An Island Story by H. E. Marshall, Fifty Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin, and Viking Tales by Jennie Hall. Trial and Triumph was a hard book for him for some reason. I’m not sure why he struggled with it, but it definitely wasn’t a favorite for him. (My daughter didn’t enjoy it much in Y1 either although she has started enjoying it more in subsequent years.) On the other hand, he loved An Island Story and Viking Tales. Both of those books have quite a bit of fighting and tales of battle. Right now fighting and war are two of his favorite subjects so it was easy for him to pay attention to those books.
For Year 3, my daughter has continued in An Island Story by H. E. Marshall, This Country of Ours by H. E. Marshall, and A Child’s History of the World by Virgil Hillyer. She has enjoyed all three of these books this year. Her favorite part though of history this year has been the biographies that she read. She read Leonardo da Vinci by Emily Hahn, Bard of Avon by Diane Stanley, and The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daughterty.
Geography – My son learned about the geography of the Great Lakes Region by reading Paddle to the Sea by Holling C. Holling. We used the map from Beautiful Feet Books to do his map work. With my daughter, she read Marco Polo by George Towle. We followed along with some of Marco Polo’s travels on our wall map we have hanging in our school room.
Natural History – For natural history, I read James Herriot’s Treasury for Children by James Herriot, The Burgess Bird Book by Thornton Burgess, and Birds of the Air by Arabella Buckley. We started the schoolyear with the Burgess Bird Book but switched to the Buckley book part way through the year. The Buckley book has shorter chapters and is more straightforward. The James Herriot book is a favorite with my kids. My older daughter and my younger kids always loved to join us when we read a chapter from that book.
For my third grader, she read A Drop of Water by Walter Wick, Pagoo by Holling C. Holling, and Secrets of the Woods by William Long. A Drop of Water was a favorite for her. She loved the experiments that she was able to do as she read through the text.
Poetry – We read through the Year 1 poetry selections as part of our morning time so all five of my children heard the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, A. A. Milne, and A Child’s Book of Poems illustrated by Gyo Fujikawa. I purchased It Began with a Page by Kyo Maclear during our third term; it’s an excellent picture book biography about Gyo Fujikawa that supplemented our poetry reading beautifully. For the first two terms, we also read some poetry from the Year 3 assigned poets in morning time. We read poems by William Blake and Sara Teasdale. For term 3, my daughter began working on poetry on her own. She read and memorized a couple poems by William Wadsworth Longfellow.
Literature – For literature, my son listened to Aesop’s Fables, Shakespeare retellings, The Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang, Parables from Nature by Margaret Natty, South African Jungle Tales by Horacio Quiroga. I substituted South African Jungle Tales for Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling that is the assigned literature in Year 1. My son enjoyed all of these books . . . with the exception of Parables from Nature. I combined both my daughter and my son for these readings as she is still working her way through some of the later stories in Parables from Nature. My son enjoyed The Blue Fairy Book so much that he has gone on to listen to several of the other fairy tale books from Andrew Lang as well.
For third grade literature, my daughter read American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenberg, The Princes and the Goblins by George Macdonald, Children of the New Forest by F. Marryat, and The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. She loved all of these books.
Spanish – Spanish did not go great for us this past year. I’ve been holding out hoping to find the perfect Spanish curriculum, but I recently realized that faithfulness in an imperfect curriculum while be better for my kids than not doing any Spanish. With that in mind, I’m figuring out how I want to handle Spanish for next year.
Phonics – For phonics and reading instruction, we use The Writing Road to Reading. We are plodding along with that. My Y1 student isn’t a fluent reader which is fine by me. He will be continuing on with phonics in Y2. My Y3 student is an excellent reader, but she will also be continuing with phonics so that she can better learn how to sound out words that are new to her.
Handicraft – My kids did some plastic canvas work and knitting this school year. My Y3 daughter also enjoyed some crocheting. No handicrafts really seem to intrigue them enough to perfect any one yet so I’m just continuing to introduce various handicrafts until they decide what they’d like to dedicate more time and attention to.
Art and Music – We studied some of Leonardo da Vinci’s paintings this year, and we learned about Franz Schubert using Opal Wheeler’s book. We learned folk songs and hymns using Folks and Hymns on YouTube. I started solfa with the children using Sing Solfa free lessons.
All in all, it was a good school year. We all three learned a lot. Now my kids get a bit of a break, and I jump into planning next year when I’ll have three students!