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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    What to do With Preschoolers: Pre-Ambleside 201

    January 28, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    Yesterday, we discussed Charlotte’s Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six. I already pointed out that a number of these goals can be accomplished through Circle Time. The question is, is there anything outside of Circle Time to be done? I would give this question a resounding yes.

    I really don’t do a lot of formal lessons with my children. I believe there is time enough for that starting at age 6 or 6.5, when my children are required by law to be “in school.” I figure that, on average, I work with my preschoolers an hour each day, and that is including our 30-45 minutes of Circle Time.

    The only other thing outside of Circle Time that I consistently do with them is … reading lessons.

    My number one “academic” goal for my little ones is that they read well by age seven. (This is my goal even though I know they may not all reach it.)

    The Details of Reading Lessons

    I don’t have a set age at which I begin reading lessons. My rule of thumb, which has served me well thus far, is that we begin when a child asks to learn. So far this has happened at age 3, age almost-5, and age 3.5. I think three is really young for reading lessons, but so far I have had two three-year-olds who were insistent.

    Let me tell you now that it is much easier to teach a five-year-old to read than it is to teach a three-year-old to read, even if that five-year-old is “average” and the three-year-old “bright.” Some of these things are simply an issue of brain development, and I don’t know that I’d require reading lessons of a child who was hesitant until age 6.

    One of the things on Charlotte’s Formidable List is “to read.” Both of my girls have asked to learn to read, and so they both receive reading lessons three to four times per week. Lessons for the just-turned-four-year-old last about 10 minutes, while lessons for the almost-six-year-old are closer to 15. (The extra five minutes are due to the amount of review practice.)

    If you are interested in teaching reading, you can see my phonics curriculum, Teaching Reading with Bob Books. As a disclaimer, this is not the CM method of teaching reading, but it has the method I have used forever and I’m not in the mood to learn new tricks right now, though I suppose I do try and incorporate a bit of her approach along the way. All that to say, it is not the only way to teach reading, but it is possibly one of the cheapest!


    The Importance of Reading in AmblesideOnline

    AmblesideOnline is full of rich literature. The reason why my goal is to have a child reading well by age seven is that the goal in AmblesideOnline is to have a child reading his own material (for the most part) by around age nine or ten. These are not easy books. This is why, whenever my children are ready, we jump on reading lessons. I have noticed by observing other mothers using this curriculum that it is really hard to have a struggling reader because the curriculum is almost entirely reading.

    Geography? Reading. History? Reading. Literature? Reading.

    You get the point.

    I’m not saying the curriculum is impossible for non-readers. It’s not, and I adore the work of Paula Flint of Flint Academy, where this rich literary heritage is offered to the least of these — the disabled, the dyslexic, and the badly behaving. I think it is completely in line with Charlotte’s thinking to give children a full, living education, whether or not they can read.

    However, comma.

    We can also do ourselves some favors, and teach the children to read.

    That’s all I’m saying.

    If we fill their minds with beautiful thoughts during Circle Time, and then spend a handful of minutes in unlocking the door to reading, we will find we are well on our way to being prepared for AmblesideOnline Year One.

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  • Reply Silvia April 4, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Brandy, you are such a sweet and kind soul. It is a much needed blessing this of your friendship, and I do not want to take much more of your time that you so generously give to all of us here that approach you with doubts,concerns, etc.
    I want to thank you, this journey it is much more pleasant in company.
    Thanks for your clarifications and your much sensible advice.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 4, 2011 at 9:31 pm


    I must say that even though I wrote that my goal is to have them read well by seven, I don’t actually know if we’ll reach that goal with Daughter A.. And really, I’m not going to worry about it. We practice three or four times per week (more like three right now because it is swimming season), and I see progress. So I just pray for her, and keep on keeping on.

    Sometimes, I am very aware that we are at the mercy of God in all of this. Today is one of those days. We do our duty of course, but we pray He blesses our work. What was that Paul said? Some plant the seeds, some provide the water, but it is God who gives the growth? I think education is a lot like that.

  • Reply Silvia April 2, 2011 at 2:16 am

    Brandy. First thanks for your prompt and fine response to all our questions. You have a gift and I am happy you share it generously.
    I’m thrilled our girls will be in AO 1 in the fall!
    I will have you as a point of reference and inspiration for sure.
    After I wrote I remembered how sweet that my daughter is trying hard and reading much of the songs we sing at church…she has just taken off. I’m a book child who read early (as you comment about your son), and I tend to forget how happy I am that I found CM early enough as to have them enjoying outdoors for long. She has the “shinny eyes” with the readings, she is great at narrating, has nice handwriting, loves drawing… many things I do not just say to brag, but to remind me that there is more to life than been a young avid reader.
    Thanks for your comment, once every couple of months I have a doubting Thomas day, and reading your blog and about your son (though I know he is older), and where you wrote that your goal is that they read solidly by seven, I panicked!!!!!
    Great idea that of quiet or ssr time for 15 minutes. She will gladly do that. I think she may have this strange conception that I may quit the readings or diminish them once she reads by herself. And YES, they need to be read the books properly. And once they read by themselves, pre reading keeps being crucial, for what I hear from you and Mystie.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts April 1, 2011 at 8:03 pm

    Silvia, I believe that Ambleside officially says that goal is for the child to be reading everything by themselves (except things that might need a bit of censorship, such as Plutarch) by Year 3 or Year 4. Even though my oldest could have read everything on his own in Year 1, I actually did all of it aloud, and the same for Year 2. This year is the first year he is reading his own books, and it is about a third of the time. Now, he reads hours every day on his own, so I’m not worried about practice, but I personally think it is very good for children to hear their books read properly.

    My older daughter will be starting Year 1 in the fall, and she will not be reading any of it herself, either! In Mason’s sixth volume, she talked about the importance of the children learning to read before gaining the skill of reading. Learning to read well was done orally in a CM school–the children heard the books and then narrated aloud. If your daughter is narrating beautifully, I personally wouldn’t worry about it.

    Ambleside does have free reading books listed. If any of them are something she is able to read on her own, you might give her a daily Quiet Time to spend reading. If it is hard for her, then maybe only 10-15 minutes.

  • Reply Silvia April 1, 2011 at 7:46 pm

    Brandy. My oldest is six and a half. We do reading lessons though not the drill and kill worksheets. We read nursery rhymes, I go through the phonics as the words come up in the books, and she has daily practice reading to which she does not complain. She reads but still wants me to be there and help her out with words and do most of the reading.
    She also does not choose to read by herself. She is not a lazy girl, she is very helpful and she can draw for hours, she also writes longer than she likes to read, though. And she narrates beautifully.
    I remember you talk about your six year old girl, when to push and when to leave her by herself. I have some of that too, although I am slowly learning to be a better guidance for her.
    My question is how much of Ambleside year 1 do they have to read by themselves. I do not know how much we read and how much they read.
    I waited until this fall since she is a September girl and I saw her not ready last August. Now I know she is ready for AO year 1, but I do not know that about the readings by themselves and by me.


  • Reply Naomi January 29, 2011 at 5:06 am

    Thank you for this post. I’m in the process of transitioning my just-turned-9yo daughter over to reading her own books and you are right, these books are not easy. I was so lax in my timeframe for getting her reading. Now that I know what’s in store with the AO books, in hindsight, I might have been more intentional about her reading progress in YR1 and YR2.

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