AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 2

We finished week 2 last week, after Peanut and Moose returned from a week-long trip with their Grandparents. I am very pleased with how well Moose is doing with all the subjects.

What makes me the most thrilled is that this year looks to be the Math Year. Last school year Moose had many a struggle with Math, but after switching over to Simply Charlotte Mason’s Living Math bundle to help me figure out how to teach Math Charlotte Mason style; I can see the difference. The biggest thing that I’ve taken away from the bundle is that children need to discover the laws of Math on their own (as in, not be fed it), and that they need to prove what they memorize. Memorizing the addition facts is useless in the long run if they have no idea why 2+4=6. Looking back at my own Mathematical career, I can see that this is what threw me off in elementary school – which pretty much started a spiral until I reached college (and remedial math).

This school year I’ve added in Math Mammoth and it is working absolutely flawlessly.

Reading continues to improve, we are 2/3 through the second BOB books collection. After we finish the third collection, we will give the Frog and Toad series a whirl.

British History is always requested first, and happily I scheduled it out so we spend four days each week reading one chapter. Moose absolutely adores all things medieval and is thoroughly enjoying hearing of knights, kings, dukes, and more. We finished Story of Civilization Volume 1, and am eagerly (desperately! Excitedly!) awaiting for Volume 2’s release in Kindle format. The kids were excited to discover that our Cathedral has a very large stained glass window depicting Constantine’s conversion. 🙂

The one book that surprises me the most that Moose is enjoying is – Understood Betsy. I honestly thought this would be pigeon-holed as a “girl’s book”, or mad that we had already done this book (the kids listened to it as an audiobook last year).

This coming week, we will finish cursive and move back into printing. Moose is READY to move into printing for something new. We’ve been working on cursive for a while now and it’s very exciting to be DONE!

All in all, I am very thrilled with how this year is going. Having a rolling start for the kids is proving to be a game-changer. Peanut’s school year starts soon, so I need to finish up preparations and be ready to fold her into the mix, so to speak. I’ve placed all her school books on the “school shelf” for her, with a “look but don’t touch” admonition. She’s getting pretty antsy to start, based on the books that are waiting for her. 😉


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AO Year 2: Term 1, Day 1

I’ve decided to do a “rolling start” to the school year this year. Rather than start everyone at the same time, I’m starting kids one at a time, based on their year, their level of independence, their needs, and more. As things roll on, I’ll add in the other kids.

Moose, my Year 2 student this year; is my first one to begin this year. Of all the kids, he needs the most flexibility in his schedule and still needs my help for almost everything. After giving him a little bit of time off, we hit the books today.

Honestly, things went well. Very well. He has had a lot of maturation recently and was able to do the entire day’s work without drama. We utilized the baby’s nap, and the girls all played Playmobils downstairs while we worked upstairs. He was done in about 2 hours, which shocked him as he said it didn’t feel like two hours at all (with a couple of breaks). 🙂

There was some slight whining about why he had to start now but no one else did; but I explained to him that as long as we don’t overdo it on the breaks (or take months off at a time), he should finish Year 2 before Peanut finishes Year 4. Additionally, he saw the stack of Year 2 books and was super excited to dive in, although he desperately wanted to start with Robin Hood. Sorry buddy, going to have to wait until the third term for that one.

I am waiting until Peanut begins (next month) to do “the riches” with them. In order to keep Moose’s days varied and fulfilling, I am using other composers/hymns/artists that strike our fancy. Tomorrow is the U.S. Independence Day, so there’s a lot of Sousa and patriotic songs currently playing.

How I’m Planning

One of my consistent struggles with each year is getting (and staying) organized. I’m embarrassed to admit that many times I could have had a smoother day by having just a hair more organization! At the end of the school year, I sat down and asked myself, what would I need to do in order to make the upcoming school year more organized. I came up with this list, although I started at the second bullet point. The first bullet point is for the random Googlers or anyone new to AO. 😉

  • Determine which year you’re working on. AO years don’t necessarily line up with grades, so a child leaving third grade public school will not always go into AO year 3. My flock will move into Year 4 and Year 2, with the three little kids in a “Year 0” type of place.  (I use Year 0 as a placeholder for anything that happens before formal schooling – the baby learns to walk, the 2 year old learns how to be apart of the family, the 4 year old does do some academics based on her asking, but it’s always fun and never required. That kind of stuff.)
  • Look at the booklist, obtain books. I look at the booklist for each grade and make selections off of that. I also look at substitutions, such as what Celeste does as well as looking at Mater Amabilis for inspiration.
  • Print or download the weekly schedule. The weekly schedule simply gives you a framework about what should be done – but it doesn’t have to be followed exactly. You can use the weekly schedule to generate daily schedules, or just use it as a guide.
  • Optional: Generate a daily schedule. I generate a daily schedule because I need something spelled out to the absolute basic. I won’t show the kids the daily schedule, but rather post a version of it for them – one that has the subjects listed and how long we are to spend on each subject.
  • Download and print the art study prints. Costco does dirt-cheap printing. $1.49 for an 8×10? Yes please! If you follow the AO links you can go to the images (which are in the public domain).
  • Purchase, download, or curate your music lists. Honestly, most of the composer, hymn, and folk songs are streamable via Spotify, Youtube, Amazon Prime Music – but you can definitely get the CDs as well. Many AO users will curate Spotify playlists and share them freely. I also like to browse Traditional Catholic Living to include more Catholic hymns in our homeschool.
  • Visit the forum and download the maps, etc for each year. In the forum, the grades are groups by forms. Each form as a subforum, which contains a thread of helps for each year. Visit the thread for the years you’re going to use and you can find all the maps and other helps that AO users have accumulated through the years that you can use. You can also use the forum to ask questions, find local AO users, and just hang out with people who use AO (or at least inspired by it). Joining and using the forum is free, even! It’s a goldmine of information and in my opinion, one of the most underutilized aspects of AO.
  • Get your e-books ready. Some books I don’t have a hard copy of, so I like to load up the digital copies on to the Kindle (or Kindle web app, as it may be). I also make bookmarks such as the term’s poetry studies so I can just open a tab in the browser and go from there.

Anything that has been printed goes into the Mom Binder, which keeps everything straight. I have a Year 4 section, with all the copywork ideas from the Yahoo groups, maps from the forums, the daily schedule, the booklist, etc; a Year 2 section that’s similar; a spot for extra materials such as notes I’ve made for implementing Living Math, scaffolding ideas, exam ideas, and so on.

The kids will each get a binder that will have the map they’re currently studying, copywork that is currently taking place, a generic schedule that I talked about above, and whatever else we decide needs to go in there as the year progresses on.

And that’s pretty much what I’ve done since we finished our previous school year. My goal for the summer time was to get everything in order so that when we begin the next grade; it’s all there and waiting. I’ve decided on a rolling start to the school year, so that I’m not instantly overwhelmed by starting two kids in two years at the same time while trying to kid-wrangle and ensure the younger three aren’t turning into a Lord of the Flies type scenario.

Hopefully this helps me stay more organized this year, as I’m just getting too old for “seat of the pants” type lifestyle (all you who can though, you stay awesome!).

Thriving At Mass

We finally are at a point after a lot of behavioral therapy and maturation that we can go to Mass together and actually thrive there, versus “just surviving”. For most people, going to Mass requires no special planning or anything like that. For us, it involved only being able to attend certain parishes, at certain times of the liturgical year, making sure we had an escape in case of meltdowns, and more. Add in dirty looks and the like and I don’t find myself surprised when many families that have special kids just simply stop coming.

The biggest issue for our ASD kiddo was the fact that this child felt extremely overwhelmed by being in any church with high ceilings (spoiler alert, that’s pretty much all of them). This child would have panic attacks and feel like they were going to float up to the ceiling. And then fall back down and die.

After much trial and error, consulting with therapists, working on skills like expeccted vs unexpected behavior, Zones of Regulation and so on; we have a Mass bag put together for our ASD kiddo. The bag contains everything needed for a prayerful Mass attendance:

  • A Mass visual schedule that Summer at Writing Like a Mother created. It’s been such a blessing because my ASD kiddo can finally follow along with the Mass and make checkmarks as we go along. She has other great special needs resources, so be sure to check them all out. I laminated our chart and put it on a keyring to keep the pages together. I also bring along a dual color dry erase marker for checking off boxes.
  • I couldn’t find the exact weighted vest at Fun and Function, but that’s where we purchased the vest in the picture. It snaps (although one of the snaps ripped out of the fabric, so I’ll need to get it repaired) and has small sandbags inside of it to help provide some grounding and sensory input.  In the wintertime we’ll use this compression shirt (also from Fun and Function) and see how that works out.
  • The sunglasses help block out bright lights (or sunlight), and the gun muffs make the organ not as loud.
  • Not pictured is a ballcap. That is also used (with the bill low) to block out visual stimulus and help our kiddo feel grounded and be able to focus on the Mass.

As you can imagine, we’re kind of … obvious when we’re at Mass, but we finally can worship together as a family vs one of us having to sit out with our ASD kiddo, we don’t have to avoid parishes (especially while travelling) because of architecture, and we can finally get into a regular routine which will go a long way in alleviating anxiety. I finally feel a little more relaxed, as opposed to constantly on edge about what could go wrong.

Sweet summertime

Summer is officially upon is, and I have to say it’s rather enjoyable.

Everyone is taking a nice break from school while I plan out the upcoming year. I’m done with the hard stuff (laying out a 180 day schedule for me – the kids won’t see it – so I know how to move through the year). Now I just need to put maps in binders, print off art prints, print off biographers for composers, etc.

The kids are enjoying a simpler routine – all the outside classes are finished so we are mostly at home. Each day we have breakfast together and I read something to them. There’s chores and lots of time outside. On the freakishly hot days we hunker down and watch something worthwhile. At the end of the day, I read to Peanut and Moose individually. Then there’s a little playtime and then tuck-ins for bed.

Habit training is in full-swing, and there’s a lot of sadness breaking old habits and developing new ones. My goal for the summer is to uproot some of the more nasty ones so that this fall is easier on everyone. I have been using this resource with much success, and a review is forthcoming.

I’m also working on my habits – when the weather is hot and I feel like I could melt into the floor; it’s hard to stay on top of the kids and stay on top of the housework. Somewhere I heard the phrase, The lazy man works twice, and so I try to keep that in the back of my mind when it comes to getting stuff done when I just want to be a slug.

Obviously, I’ve been puttering around here, bringing over my posts from my old blog, and working on getting everything moved over. It’s slow-going but at least it’s going. 🙂

Eventually the pace will pick up and we will get back into our school routine; but for now I’m enjoying the daily life equivalent of floating down a river in an inner tube.

Hits and Misses for the 2016-2017 School Year

We’re close enough to the end that I can do a good “year in review” on our most recent homeschool year. Hip hip hooray!

The Hits

The biggest hit was switching to Ambleside Online and just going all-in. I tried to stay as close to the philosophy and methodology put forth by Charlotte Mason and used by AO as much as possible. I only substituted books based on religion (eg Trial and Triumph) or if I legitimately couldn’t get my hands on them without spending a lot of money (thankfully which are few and far between). I also haven’t plunged into using the method of reading Charlotte details in her books, as BOB books and MCP Plaid Phonics are working well for Moose.

Math Mammoth has served Peanut well, and we did use with Peanut until she became hung up with division. Moose was still having problems in math as well, no matter what we did with him. It was at this point that I purchased the Living Math Bundle over at Simply Charlotte Mason. Richele basically took all of what Charlotte wrote about math, and put it into an easy to read book, with a  DVD explaining the lessons, so you can SEE how lessons function and how even to teach math. I decided to use Math Mammoth for practice and the bundle for teaching (well, teaching me how to teach CM style math) and we are off to the races. Both Moose and Peanut were frustrated and dreading Math, but Peanut again declares Math is her favorite subject and she begs for the math lessons all day long. Division makes sense now, and the MM worktexts give me great practice sheets for her to use. Moose is also making progress, but one of the great things about CM style math is that you move at the child’s pace. Peanut is flying through multiplication review (and division is taught at the same time – eg, 6 four times is 24, how many 6’s are in 48, etc).

Other resources that helped immensely:

* A Delectable Education podcast – although it’s really hard to listen to podcasts around here because of noise, it’s a great resource to have available in that I can get a lot of the WHY learned in easily digestible bites.

* Online reading groups on Facebook – one is reading through Volume 1 together, and the other is reading through For the Children’s Sake currently, and is hosted by Leah at My Little Robins. I am probably the worst active participant ever but reading and watching the discussions are super helpful for me.

* stepping WAY outside my comfort zone and starting a local Charlotte Mason group. All we are doing right now are nature walks but we have to start somewhere.

* Scheduling cards. Love these things because they make my schedule so easy to play with and I don’t feel entirely overwhelmed getting everything figured out.

* An occupational therapist for Moose. Worth every cent right there.

The Misses

Sooo, the misses for this year are mostly on me. Lots of disorganization, as Greg and I basically decided on a whim to try out AO and go “all-in”. I need to do some work in the summertime doing things like printing off the picture study prints, getting maps together, and the like.

Non-existent habit training. Another one on my part. Moose’s leg break threw us all out of kilter and we are just now righting the ship in terms of habits and the like. But it isn’t just Moose with bad habits, we all do. I know what we’ll be continuing this summer.

For the first time ever I don’t have any real curricula related misses. It’s all been on my shoulders, which isn’t a bad  thing, just more of a ‘this is where I need to focus on’. Plus, it’s nice to have an idea of what to fix and how to fix it vs feeling entirely in the dark.

* * *

I’m looking forward to wrapping up our loose ends and taking the summer off. I plan on doing my best to get as organized as I can, so come the fall we can start Years 4, 2, and 0 without much hassle.

Good Habits Start With You

As we slowly get on the right page with regards to habit-training, one thing I’m noticing is just how bad my habits are. I am seeing exactly what Charlotte Mason was talking about when she compared habits to wheel ruts. I have some good habits, but I have a plethora of really bad habits that were so automatic, I had no clue they were even there.

One of my children is extremely good at negotiating. Like, “if only the bar exam was available to minors” good. I prided myself on withstanding the little lawyer but upon closer inspection, I will have to plead guilty on that charge.

The habit I want to teach the kids first is obedience, because that (to me) is the one habit that all the others rest on. Not to mention, when we are walking near lakes and other bodies of water; obedience is crucial if they want to stay dry. If I ask my little lawyer to take a shower, the response comes back that they’re busy and will do it later. I, thinking I’m SOOOO good, say “OK!” and then later never happens.

Do you see which habit is starting to form? I thought I was being flexible but it turns out I was training my little lawyer to 1) always negotiate and 2) bank on the fact that I have 4 other kids, a dog, a house, a husband, a life – and that I will end up distracted in some way, shape, or form.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a kid telling me they want to finish up [whatever they’re working on] and then go shower. But to simply say “I’ll do it later!” – that’s not cool. It’s actually bleeding over into all aspects of life, including school. Now school is becoming more of a struggle than it used to be, because I’ve allowed my little lawyer to negotiate. My lawyer would prefer to do school RIGHT before bed, at that point I’m running on fumes and my eyes are tired and I just want to read a book without someone going “MOM MOM MOMOMOMOMOMOMOMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!” for the 900th time.


After I had that little epiphany, I started looking at my other habits. I have some pretty sloppy ones – and then I wonder why the kids don’t do the things that I would like them to do – because they aren’t seeing me do the same things!

The adage “you can’t give what you don’t have” is tossed around a lot in terms of making sure your Mama (and Papa) cups are full – get good sleep, eat good food, etc. But in terms of character and habits that aren’t easy to teach step-by-step like putting away silverware; the kids need to be inspired by something. Or in most cases, someone. There’s plenty of great literature out there, but if a kid lives with someone who, for the most part; has their act together and can model things like obedience (to God), attention (to the kids, and to their spouse), orderliness, etc – they’ll do the same thing.

Nature abhors a vacuum. If you don’t teach and model desirable habits – less than desirable ones will take their place.