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    What’s New This Year: 2011-2012

    July 21, 2011 by Brandy Vencel

    I‘m school planning again. And just like every other year, I’m getting excited. One nice thing is that now that I’ve been doing this for a while, I’m getting decent at planning a reasonable year. As long as we go without catastrophic events, we ought to be able to accomplish these plans. In the past, I couldn’t say that with confidence because I really didn’t know enough about how our family worked with studies to make a workable plan.

    That doesn’t mean there won’t be tinkering along the way, of course.

    Here are some things that are new {or sort of new} for us this year.

    New Student This Year
    Daughter A. is commencing with first grade, and I’m putting her in Year One of Ambleside. A year ago, I was wondering what I would do with her at this point. It was hard for me to imagine that she would be ready for Ambleside. And yet, here she is! She’ll be six-and-a-half exactly on the first day of school, and she is totally and completely ready.

    What does it mean to be ready? I see this debated a lot on the Ambleside Yahoo group. There seems to be this misconception that children have to already be able to do the work when they enter Year One. Well, I suppose some children are this way, but for the most part I see Year One as material not just for learning, but specifically for learning how to be educated the Ambleside way.

    So, for instance, Daughter A. knows what narration is, and sometimes she can narrate, but I am starting off with the assumption that she really hasn’t mastered narration at all and will need to be trained.

    For this year, I want to focus on improving her reading ability and learning to narrate. If we do those two things, we will have come far by the end of the year.

    More Poetry
    I think poetry is a big jump for a lot of us. It certainly was for me. It is hard to like it or see the point of it if you aren’t accustomed to reading it. I tried just reading a poem a day for two or three years, but I didn’t find that my affections changed at all. But last year was different. First, we memorized poems rather than just reading them. By the end of the year we knew The Cow, Whole Duty of Children, and Bed in Summer by Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as Opportunity by Edward Rowland Sill.

    And now we like poetry.

    I don’t know why that worked better. You’d think the exposure of reading it every day would have been more effective than learning a handful of poems intimately, but that wasn’t the case.

    Now that we like poetry, I am ready to add back in daily reading, and I’m actually excited about it. What I am trying to decide is what to do about having different poets for different students. I’m not sure E.-Age-Nine should be reading his poetry entirely on his own. I don’t know that he has the cadence down yet. But if I add too much to Circle Time, O.-Age-Two will check out before we’re done.

    Folk Songs
    Last year, I used CDs to teach folk songs, but didn’t actually sing the songs with my children. I feel like I’m up to the addition this year, so I’ll be adding folk songs for us to sing together during morning Circle Time. We’ll learn one at a time, and they’ll be placed into the memory binder for review.

    This isn’t new, but I need some advice. Most of you know that we have been using the Simply Charlotte Mason Scripture Memory System for all of our memory work. What SCM does in a box, I do on a larger scale in a binder. And it has worked great. My only problem is that I inadvertently dropped the Children’s Catechism because it didn’t really fit the binder system.

    So I want to know what all of you do.

    Do you learn a new question each week, and also review all previous questions? What do you do when your children know so much of it that this sort of review becomes incredibly time consuming? Have you done Catechism memory work using the SCM system? If so, how did you work it? Specifically, I’m wondering if you split up the questions individually, or into sections.

    Can you tell I need some advice?

    Preschool Activities for the Little Guy
    O.-Age-Two has shown me lately that he is ready for his own Kumon workbooks by cutting up doctor referral forms and household bills into teeny tiny pieces. Also, he painted his brother’s desk with glue {during nap time when he was “sleeping”} and put stickers all over the kitchen floor {which was much harder to clean up than I anticipated}. I think channeling his interests is in order this year, so he and Q. will have “preschool” together a few days a week.

    Shakespeare Night
    This is the last new thing I’m ready to confess to today. Year Four is the first year for Shakespeare, and I feel E.-Age-Nine is more than ready for it, as long as we choose an appropriate first play. Since Shakespeare is really supposed to be performed rather than read in solitude, we thought having a Shakespeare night with friends would be fun. We’ll assign parts beforehand and then read the play together {between dinner and dessert, of course}. I think it sounds like fun on a cold autumn evening, don’t you?

    What About You?
    What’s new for your family’s educational project this year?

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  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 26, 2011 at 11:02 pm

    Dawn, Thank you so much for the Word doc! It was perfect. I think I emailed you my thanks, but I’m adding it here, too, just in case you didn’t get it.

    Mystie, I often start CT while they are eating. The first things are prayer, and then our OT story, so they can eat and listen. After that, they take turns narrating, so even then some can still be chewing! I try to save songs and recitation for nearer to the end, when everyone is finished…not that breakfast really takes that long.

    It *is* sweet when a baby enjoys CT. I agree!

  • Reply dawn July 23, 2011 at 1:38 am

    Brandy, I sent the word doc to the hotmail address listed under “contact me.”

  • Reply Mystie July 22, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    Do the olders then eat earlier or while you’re doing CT? If I continued to ply him with food, he might stay in his chair. πŸ™‚ Knox naps 1-3, and I really want to have CT first thing. Plus, it *is* pretty cute when he dances to our singing. πŸ™‚

    I like your idea for Shakespeare, too! We’ll be reading Nesbit’s Shakespeare stories this year, and maybe we’ll watch a movie or two. The boys have already watched most of Henry V, and I keep meaning to let them watch Much Ado (forwarding past the opening scene) sometime, too. Maybe we’ll start learning speeches next year, but I’ll probably wait until 5th/3rd/1st to do Shakespeare with the kids.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts July 22, 2011 at 11:07 pm


    I think I will do it this year as you suggested! I hate that I dropped it just because it didn’t fit my system, and yet really the system made this the first year that we persevered with memory work all the way through, so I think it is worth it. I love the idea of adding the catechism back in, though, for my husband frowned at me when he discovered I dropped it! Oops!

    I would *love* to know your divisions–or the ones you wish you had chosen! πŸ™‚

    Cindy once said that her poetry memorization was to read it every day, and let the children fill in the blanks as time went on, so that is what we’ve done. We go pretty slow because the 4yo is determined to “keep up” but I figure that is okay. It is good to learn to be accomodating, too, right?


    Yes. Visual Latin this year. I’m excited! But I think LfC will be just fine for you, and you can always do VL sometime in the future if you want. I read that if you do it with Lingua Latina it is a high school course, so there is always that.

    When I had an 18-monther last time, we did CT while he was sleeping! I didn’t have a toddler present at CT for a long time, and that really was helpful. Right now, I have to keep it at breakfast or O. just can’t handle it.

  • Reply Mystie July 22, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    Visual Latin this year or next year? πŸ™‚ I admit to having a moment of panic after watching the samples and then seeing Cindy’s review. But I’ve purchased LfC and it will be fine.

    I will have two full students this year, also. My six-year-old is chomping at the bit to do his own stuff. πŸ™‚

    I think my 18month toddler, who is way more active and busy and strong and climbing than any of my others, will need to spend Circle Time and couch time in a pack-n-play with special toys, unfortunately. He already is in his seat long enough at breakfast, and starts getting restless if we keep him cooped up in it longer. In the pack-n-play he won’t be running off and he can get up and down and move around some. I hope he takes it well. πŸ™‚

    On your Memory Binder, do you have tabs for days of the month as well? I arranged mine just a little bit differently because I wanted each reading child to have their own to read along (so far reciting with either me reading or a recording either hasn’t happened or has been too much stress and pressure for them). Just reading the same thing aloud daily worked splendidly for Hans’ poetry memorization, though, so I’ve moved that to our memory work. But all the tabs seemed like it’d be too cumbersome. I got my post up. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie July 22, 2011 at 12:33 am

    Oh! I just moved our stuff to a binder SCM system and took pictures! I’ll try to get it into a post tonight or tomorrow morning. πŸ™‚

    For independent memory, I have Hans read his poem *aloud*, then after he starts getting it, he does the best he can during his narrating time so I can help him with cadence.

    Coming back, later, too. πŸ™‚

  • Reply dawn July 22, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Brandy, We do the Cat for Young Children via SCM Memory System. I agree, the system is *awesome.*

    I split up the questions into “sections” some sets smaller than others. “What is sin?” and its two followers are a “section;” “What offices has Christ?” through defining the offices is a “section;” two Commandments per “section;” etc. Each “section” has a page of its own in my binder.

    We keep the sections through the “weekly” tabs, then for the “monthly” tab I split them up; Q1 is behind 1, Q2 is behind 2, etc. I didn’t want the children to get so caught up in the order that they didn’t know the questions individually, and found that this is a great place to work on that πŸ™‚

    There are a couple places I would rework the breaks, but overall I’m happy with my divisions … glad to share with you if you’re interested.

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