Hello friends! I cannot believe it is this time of year again – we are already three days into our grade 4 and grade 5 school year! I wanted to document our plan for this coming year. We are using Ambleside Online – a rich and beautiful Charlotte Mason approach to education – with a few little tweaks to fit our own needs. I’m sure I have forgotten to document some things, but this is the bulk of our approach this year.
Every other year I have made up a planner for myself (you can grab some pages for free here if you want to build your own!) but this year I decided I wanted to cut way back and try a different approach – I have made the boys student planners (post will be up this week with more specifics and pages will be available soon for downloading) and I plan on operating with a clipboard and about a dozen sheets of paper for the whole year and my Traveler’s Notebook calendar and bullet journal pages. Can I do it?! We will see. I think I can be JUST as organized and hopefully more efficient with the minimal approach.
I have tried organizing our year into a manner that will make sense to you, but this post is picture heavy and I know there have been things left out (like – all our books beyond term 1! and I’m sure other important things slipped my mind!) but this will give you an idea of how we are doing things this year.
These are the pages I hope to run the year off of – my Ambleside Online’s Year 4 and Year 5 Detailed planner. This is organized by term (1-3) and tells you how much is to be read each week. Behind it (on the clipboard) is my “Morning Basket” planner – this includes the books I read to both boys together and our Art, Music, Poetry, Nature, Hymn, etc. type studies. These are the planners I created for my boys. They hold EVERYTHING they need for the year (… at least, everything I could anticipate at the beginning of the year!) I will be making a separate post on these student planners this week but you will see some pages from this planner below. The page you see above holds their schedule for one weeks worth of work – so I take the schedule from Ambleside Online (seen in image with clipboard) and break it down into daily readings in this schedule for each boy. (Printable covers can be found in my Etsy shop.)
We are three days into this year and so far have had a perfect track record with maintaining our schedule. Haha! We meet at our dining room table at 7:30 for breakfast. My husband, Paul, eats with us and participates in our activities up until just before 8 – so whatever we squeeze in that time he is an active participant of. Then he goes to his desk to start his work day and we finish off whatever is left from this portion of our schedule.
This includes:Nothing like awakening sleepy brains with some good old Greek and Latin root words from English From the Roots Up! We all actually really enjoy this and keep it about 5 minutes long. The copying of the words (part of the learning process) the boys do a bit later in the day – but introducing the new word and discussing it happens in our first 5 minutes.
Next we move on to our alternative to Trial and Triumph. We have been reading through the books in this series over the years. We skipped a couple volumes to read about the Modern Church and plan on finishing this book this year.
We then read about a country and the names of the missionaries that our church group supports in that area of the world that are all collected in this book. (Somehow we never did get the 2017 edition, so this is the 2016 one!) This does a few things: a natural geography lesson, introducing them to people they may come in contact with over the years, and gives them names of missionaries to pray for. (note: this book is organized into 31 days with many countries and missionaries falling under each day – we have shortened it by just doing one country per day.)
We then sing our hymn (roughly following Ambleside Online’s hymn study recommendations for the year.) The boys have these printed and bound in their books and Paul and I use a loose leaf sheet from my clipboard.
Pilgrim’s Progress, Plutarch and Shakespeare round out the breakfast table portion. By the end Paul has left to start work. The boys clear the table and get to work and I do dishes and then computer work.
The boys have a daily schedule of what needs to be done that day, but they are free to choose the order of what they do. At 10 am we all stop and have a short break with a snack, a game, and some more of our mutual feasting of beautiful books. I will share our 10 am schedule before going back and talking about what each boy does from their own schedule.
10 am Break – Geography, Poetry + Folk Song
The weather has been remarkable this week – 85F! We have been enjoying the cool break and each morning gather on the front porch for our break time. (note: last year their morning break was truly a “break” and they went to play Lego. I am trying this “break” method and will see if tweaking is needed.) They have a special snack at this time as we do our activities.
I have a collection of educational games that I plan on playing one a week until they know them all well (some they already play, others are new) and then we will find a new schedule for the educational games. This World Wise Africa Edition has been played every day this week and is SO great for Africa Geography. I will share our favorite educational games over the next month, but if you missed my previous post on our family favorite board and card games be sure to check it out here!We read our poem a day by Kipling – nothing complicated, I just pull it up on my phone. This year I decided their folk songs would somewhat follow their American History studies. I have heard Diana Waring speak and I LOVE her enthusiasm for life and her passion for finding the joy in teaching your children. I decided to incorporate her book that explains the stories behind the folk songs. We will slowly meander through it, but I am excited about it. Our folk songs are the ones from this book and she has several History Alive Through Music in her series.
While a lot of the games I have picked out for the boys will help with geography, The Complete Book of Marvels is our official geography book (I am including my 4th grader with this 5th grade read.) We have just finished chapter one and it is SO good! This is an out of print book (though it has been reprinted in another country without the same copyright laws as us) and is relatively expensive to buy used.
Check out this letter he wrote in the introduction:
I also have wall maps on our dining room walls and a globe and these are referenced as places come up in our readings. Additional geography skills are built with 2x a week map tracing/drawing from memory.
Grade four work
Wesley is my fourth grader and last year he sat through all of his brothers fourth grade readings (I read almost everything out loud) AS WELL AS all of his third grade readings. It was on purpose: I wanted to transition him into reading all of his own material this year and he learns so much better with repeated exposure to the same material. This obviously isn’t going to happen again, but this year as he is learning to regulate himself and read all of the books himself I wanted the writings to be familiar to him. I wanted that extra confidence boost. I have tweaked some things depending on if things needed to be made easier or harder or just different because he remembers last years readings well. So while he is mostly following the heart of Ambleside Online year 4, he has some customization just for him and the way he is uniquely bent.
This means at the beginning I have kept this gentle and found picture books he can read that are precursors to the chapter books. Books such as Age of Fables, Robinson Crusoe and This Country of Ours are being done with me close by or me reading to him or him reading to me.
Funny side note: one of our other books mentions a samurai who was given Robinson Crusoe to read. The samurai thought it looked boring and didn’t want to read it, but eventually did and was soon engrossed in the book and loved it. His father hadn’t wanted him reading the book because it was “dangerous” – this was a HUGE breakthrough for my boy! He likened himself to the samurai finding it boring, and understood that the father thought it was dangerous because of the ideas that could come from a book … THIS is why I love a wide feast of books spread before my children. These connections are so beautiful and cannot be contrived.
Grade five work
Judah is in grade 5 this year and his schedule follows the Ambleside Online year 5 schedule with some additions. He is a vivacious reader and so I have added more reading to his daily schedule.
I also opted to start the written narrations this year (I believe it is recommended to start in 4th.) I have organized it this way: term 1 he is required to do 1 written narration a week. Term 2 he is required to do 2 written narrations per week. Term 3 he is required to do 3 written narrations per week. I will see if he needs more direction or more or less work as time unravels.
Because we are going to Nigeria this year I have given him Mary Slessor’s biography (Scottish missionary to Nigeria.) He’s already come to me requesting to read more of it than just the assigned pages!
I have also added more to his Bible reading – if you haven’t been exposed to Emmaus Bible Correspondence Courses I would highly recommend them! Each chapter has an exam, and you can see that below. These courses are used heavily in prisons as a ministry for prisoners, but are excellent for personal study or group study. My weird homeschool-never-tested-kid is excited to have weekly exams. haha.
Other things – Timeline, Artist Study, Nature Study, Science, Math, Copy Work + Dictation
A couple other items of note:
This term our nature study focus is on bees. We started beekeeping this spring and it has been amazing! We have a lot to learn from proper care of the hive to recognizing the queen bee to marketing and selling our honey to how to use the beeswax, so all of this falls under the general category of nature study for us for this term.
Science is following AO’s book recommendations, but Paul has kindly offered to read them to the boys and he is doing so on his own schedule. He was a micro bio major and so it was a natural fit!
Fourth grade is when I have decided we will formally start math, and so this year both boys are doing math. We started with Teaching Textbooks and have continued with it this year. It’s been a good fit for us so far!
The boys have kept a book of centuries for a couple years now. I require them to add a few new people and dates each week. They are self regulated on this as they get a small treat when it has been completed and they are highly motivated when a treat is involved.
Our artist study this term is a bit unique – because we will be in France during our layover to Nigeria we are hoping to visit the Louvre. I don’t plan to spend more than 60 minutes there, but this whole term is going to be spent whetting their appetite for that. It is entirely possible we will wind up in Paris and decide to skip the Louvre – but I am prepping them nonetheless! I put together a small section in their notebooks (4 pages) with information about the building itself and then three pieces of work within the Louvre that we might go see.
Dictation has been added to our schedule this year. I can’t recall which year it is recommended to start, but we have started for both boys this year. In essence – they read the same sentence every day for a week and on Friday I will say it to them and they must spell and punctuate it properly. I planned out and themed my dictation work – term one is Fanny Crosby hymn lines, term two is Amy Carmichael extractions from her IF poem and term three is quotes from JRR Tolkien. Tolkien was purposely left for term three – my boys are big fans and while enthusiasm usually wanes at the end of the year I wanted to give them something that would excite them. Copy work is still done daily, as is cursive practice. I made a place in their book for their copywork (some days I have assigned pieces, other days it is free for them to choose.) Handwriting is also done daily, but this is still being done from a book and following the instructions in the book.The final piece I can think to add to this long list of what we are doing for our homeschool year is our calendar – I have included a blank 12 month calendar in each of their books and over the course of the year they will fill them in. We have done this since they were little and I feel like it is a good exercise for them.
Want to learn more? Follow along as I plan to do weekly Homeschool Mother Journal updates! The first one is here.