AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 2 | AO Year 2, Term 1, Week 4

Last week was the first week in which I was doing two years simultaneously, as opposed to having the luxury of one child not yet started or another child off at a camp. It was a very good thing to start Year 4 last week, Peanut and I were able to work out some wrinkles in the schedule and be prepared for this week, when both kids are at home.

I was expecting the worst and we came out unscathed. Deo gratias!

I found it quite easy to flip-flop between Peanut and Moose. Moose worked with me while Peanut worked independently, then when I worked with her I sent Moose off on movement breaks. Moose finishes first, Peanut and I do a little bit more work in the afternoon and it all works out well. Even when Grandma stopped by to take Peanut on an impromptu walk, we still were able to stay on the course and not have any drama.

Some things that have helped me:

  1. Daily schedule
    Amazingly, when I wrote out the daily schedule for me to follow (which broke the weekly schedule down into “things to do each day”), it turns out that the page numbers I “assigned” fall within the time required for a lesson, including scaffolding and narration and discussion. I was the most worried about this, because the last thing anyone wants to do is deal with elastic time. I was much more cognizant of starting and finishing on time, and as long as no one dawdled and attention was kept; we were golden. I imagine we may have to massage the pages read each day vs going longer, as I really start believing that it’s OK if we don’t finish the book.Because everything is written down, I’m not stressing about when to read X, as I know when it will be read. This means the kids aren’t stressed out because I’m stressed out, and we’re not shoving all the books on one day. Glorious.
  2. The habit of attention
    Peanut seems to be over her dawdling habit, which is super because I don’t need her zoning out for most of the lesson time. Since she knows each lesson is 15-20 minutes tops, she knows she can give a concentrated effort and not have to worry about tiring, and that we won’t spent all day long doing school. Moose is coming along well with his development of attention, and he is beginning to understand that there are fun things to do in the house and outside once we are done with books. However, it’s not a reason to slop through and rush – privileges will be revoked if that’s the case.

The little girls have understood that when it’s School Time, it’s Quiet Time. They usually color, play with the Playmobils, play out in the (enclosed) backyard, look at books, or just sit and listen. Nugget sometimes takes a nap, sometimes he has a snack, sometimes he plays while I watch and read to the big kids. It is all coming together so nicely, I’m somewhat paranoid about when/if the other shoe may drop!


‘What I’m Reading’ Wednesday

And I’m actually writing it on Wednesday! 😉

The spiritual reading I mentioned last week was fantastic. I found it hard to put down, and gleamed so many great ideas from it. It really is great for establishing a Christian household, covering aspects of prayer, devotion, discipline, cleanliness, order, and more. But rather than provide a list of “shoulds”, it provides principles and explains the reasoning behind them.

I found a great deal of Charlotte Mason-y ideas in it, such as reading of good and noble literature, plenty of time outside, limiting the TV (which could be expanded to all screens, although we do need some screens in this day and age), and more.

The Kindle edition is $0.99, and is priceless in its contents. Highly recommended!

This week I am waiting for my dog’s new friend, the UPS man to bring me new book mail (and some vitamins). Our lovely UPS carrier always brings a little dog treat for the dogs on his route, and therefore whenever the big brown van drives by, my dog starts whining and crying to be let out for his treat. Too bad Mr. UPS doesn’t stop by every day (although it’s probably best for my dog’s waistline…).

After lots of hemming and hawing, I finally decided to purchase this book. One of the big factors was seeing a “before” and “while working through the book” set of pictures from my fellow home educating friend in England. I can barely draw stick figures, so I’m excited to maybe improve my ability, even just a little bit.

My spiritual reading for this week is this book, which was a “suggested for you” by the Amazon algorithm. It’s a the (true) story of a priest who walks along with a Rosary and Crucifix in St. Joseph, Missouri; ministering to the souls he meets along the way. The Kindle sample was very engrossing, and I’m really excited to receive it and read it.

I also began Volume 3, and as usual is slow going. It takes me much more attention to read Charlotte Mason’s works, and to understand what she is trying to convey. I’m finding that the Modern English Paraphrase, over at AmblesideOnline; is truly beneficial to me in reading her original works.

As usual, the book links are to Amazon unless otherwise noted. Amazon links are affiliate links, so please use them and help further my book addiction. 🙂 

AO Year 4, Term 1, Week 1

This week was Peanut’s first week of school, while Moose was off at acting camp. Last school year we spent 2 terms transitioning back into Charlotte Mason philosophy with Peanut, so it was exciting to start this year fully prepared for it. 🙂

Peanut is able to read most of her books, although I still read a couple (Shakespeare, Plutarch, Bullfinch, and Defoe). I gave her the assignments for the day, she would read and then come to me and narrate, or draw a narration for me. Her narrations are superb, and next week I will start introducing written narrations for her.

She is quite thrilled with the books this year, although some of them she initially wasn’t impressed with (looking at you, Mr. Defoe). Whether or not that changes remains to be seen.

We still have the same problems we had last school year, mainly the concept of “elastic time”. I need to make sure I am on top of the lesson time limits and enforce them. Next week, with both kids doing school; it’s even more important that I ensure Peanut isn’t taking all day to do one thing. I also need to find a balance for everyone – Nugget is dropping his morning nap (no! no! no!), the two little girls need something to do or else they’ll climb the walls, Moose needs me intensely (as well as quiet) and Peanut needs a quiet place where I can still keep an eye on her so she doesn’t end up too off task. While the weather is awesome we may head outside, but I’m not totally sure on that.

Halfway through the week she remarked how well everything is running. Hallelujah! It’s the schedule! Amazingness can be had when (once again) I put up hard stops and actually enforce them.

Peanut finished all her work for the day early, so it’s time to knock off and relax. Have a good weekend!

‘What I’m Reading’ Wednesday, day-late edition

Well, the best intentions don’t always translate into concrete plans; so here we are on a Thursday discussing books. 🙂 My big “behind the scenes” drama is that insurance is being whiny and claiming medically needed services are in fact, not medically needed at all and are flat out denying the coverage. I am appealing with the assistance of our provider, and thus far we have 50 pages alone of why these services are needed. I am writing a letter detailing how the services have benefited the receiver, and so on.  I am pretty much mentally exhausted after I work on the letter, and of course we’re on a time constraint AND I want it to be clear and detailed. God willing we will win the appeal and resume our regularly scheduled life.


We are still plugging through and enjoying our read-alouds that I mentioned last week. Right now I’m focusing only on the Mowgli stories in the Jungle Book. The little girls (ages 3 and almost 5) often lose interest through Jungle Book, but Peanut and Moose love it. Unfortunately, they’ve already seen the Disney cartoon and therefore are comparing the book to the movie (and hoping certain movie events happen in the book) BUT it’s a nice change of pace from our last read-aloud (Peter Pan, which is paused as my thrift store vintage copy completely bit the dust and pages are falling out, ugh. I was hoping to get the Word Cloud Classics Peter Pan from our Costco, but alas they ran out of copies).

The more I read of the Jungle Book, the more I find out that I really enjoy Rudyard Kipling’s writing. It’s so whimsical but elegant, and I think he’s a very understated author in terms of “must read books”.

I’m going to start Volume 3 – School Education soon, as I was trying to figure out which volume to read after finishing Volume 1. People have been quoting Volume 3 recently and I’ve been enjoying them; so off we go there!

For spiritual reading, I’m reading this inexpensive book about the Christian home. I’m not too far into it yet, so I don’t have an opinion formed.

I am hoping to purchase this book soon (preferably hard copy, my eyes are getting too old for the Kindle app on my tablet, and Peanut has claimed my Kindle for herself).

AO Year 2 Term 1 Week 3

Within the last week, I ended up extremely frustrated with the State of the House and its occupants. Despite my best intentions, chores slowly were piled on my back, too much technology had crept in, and attitudes were everywhere. Obviously the problem was too much unstructured time – idle hands and idle thoughts and all. So, I sat down and thought “what are the things that I want to incorporate into our family culture” and “how will that be accomplished?” I ended up generating a schedule like so:

Breakfast – Wake up, make beds, get dressed, brush hair. Eat breakfast, clear off table, load dishwasher. Morning prayers.

Morning – Chore of the Day. Everyone plays with the baby. School for those old enough, Nugget naps. Everyone else is playing, coloring, or reading a book.

Snacktime – Only if people are respectful during school and Nugget’s nap (we’ve had a problem with people deliberately waking up the baby, grr).

Lunchtime – Mom and Nugget eat, everyone else plays, prays, reads, or cleans. Big kids eat with Dad during his lunch break. Afterwards – clear table, load dishwasher, sweep floor.

Afternoon – Big kids finish up school. If school was finished in the morning, then afternoon occupations. Little kids can play, color, be read to, etc. When Nugget is napping everyone has quiet time.

Snacktime – Only if people are respectful during Nugget’s nap.

4 o’clock – Quick tidy so Dad doesn’t come home to a disaster area. Make dinner, eat when Dad is back from work. Clear table, load dishwasher, run it.

Evening – Playtime with Dad while Mom eats chocolate in the bathroom. Final clean up. Bath/showers for all kids. Read aloud. Bedtime prayers, tuck in, lights out.

I made several copies of the schedule, and gave one copy each to Peanut and Moose. Everyone else gets it read to them and reminded regularly about what they should be doing and what’s coming up. It’s working out rather well – I’m not as frustrated, the kids aren’t as aimless, and everyone is understanding that Mom Means Business if you dare to wake the baby from any kind of sleep!

When I broke the readings into their daily components, one thing I did for Moose (year 2) is leave one day a week as a “light” day. He’s the kind of kid who will burn out quickly without regularly scheduled breaks. In addition to trying a six week on/one off break schedule this year; we’re testing out a four day on/one day “light” day for five days of school each week. He still has to do reading, math, handwriting, literature, and religion but the rest (British history, history tales, etc) isn’t done. Thursday is our “light” day, which worked out well yesterday. At 11am my husband called me to let me know that at 2pm, I needed to take our dog to the vet to get his rabies shot updated. Okie-dokie. Thanks to our “light” day, everything was pretty much done and so it was easy to work into our schedule (although it did make it so Nugget couldn’t nap, but oh well).

On Monday we add in Peanut, who will start Year 4. It shouldn’t be too chaotic as she’s pretty independent and Moose is off to an acting camp for the week. The following week the juggling will begin as both will be doing school at the same time. 🙂

‘What I’m Reading’ Wednesday

I’m working on my “to-read” pile, as there are always new books to be added to it!

(Almost all of these links are all Amazon affiliate links, thank you for using them and supporting my humble blog.)

This short and unassuming book is a gem. Written in a question and answer format (akin to the Baltimore Catechism), it discusses what mental prayer is, how to go about it, difficulties in performing it, and more. I’ve always been confused about mental prayer – everything I’ve read about it (until now) made it seem exceedingly difficult and confusing. After reading this book, it’s really not hard (for me) at all. Deo gratias! I can definitely see this being added in to our studies down the road.

Brandy at Afterthoughts has come out with a glorious reprinting of In Memoriam. The entire thing is free online at AmblesideOnline; but I really like a hard copy to hold (and not max out my printer in the process). This is a collection of essays, tributes, and thoughts about Charlotte Mason after her death. There’s so many great “quotable quotes” in this book, and it’s very interesting to see her influence far and wide.

For a family read-aloud, we’re reading The Jungle Book. I was happy to find this version at Costco and that it contains both Jungle Books (after chancing a used one online that has only the first Jungle Book – looks like that one is off to a Little Free Library). I don’t think it’s abridged, so that’s definitely a plus.

This is Moose’s read-aloud. I have had to do some slight editing (there’s some discussion of abuse, heavy drinking, and a crude reference to breasts) for Moose, but other than that I’m reading it as it’s written. We are getting a lot of discussions generated by this book – is Josh in the right for his actions? At what length do we go to to defend the defenseless? How do we deal with a law we may feel is unjust? And more, more, more. This book is also set locally so there’s the thrill factor of hearing about places that we already know about.

Finally, I am thrilled to finally have found a vintage copy of the Mother Love prayer book. It’s not the first printing, but the printing from 1962. I have the most recent printing of it, but have always wanted the older one. You can imagine how thrilled I was when I found the 1962 copy on Amazon for $15 (!). When it came I noticed it smelled (and still does) of incense. Glorious! I gave my red copy of Mother Love to a family member, so hopefully she can get some good use out of it.

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. 😉


Please note: some links in this post are Amazon affiliate links. Thank you for using them for your Amazon needs. The very small commission I make enables me to purchase more great books!

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.