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    AO with the Less Academic Child

    February 1, 2012 by Brandy Vencel
    AmblesideOnline with the Less Academic Child

    My firstborn child is of the naturally bookish sort. I gave him a few phonics lessons when he was three-years-old (because he was bored), and he took off on reading without much more intervention on my part. He is truly the ideal first student, and his ability to read at a very high level came in handy when, during the first month of his first year of “real” lessons, I gave birth to my fourth child, making that three children aged 3.5 and under, in addition to himself.

    The thing about having a super-easy firstborn is that you start to wonder about your other children when they aren’t quite as quick. Granted, we have had our share of “issues.” My second-born didn’t talk much until she was three, and we later realized it was because of her food allergies (which we didn’t know she had). We put her on a gluten-free diet and within a week she was chattering in complete sentences! Likewise, my fourth-born still wasn’t saying much as he neared his third birthday, and lo and behold!, he couldn’t hear. (He can now, in case you were wondering.)

    My second child has told me more than once that she “hates school.” Now this was amusing to me because she says she loves this, that, and the other thing about school, so why would she say she hates school? After asking her, “Well, do you like this book?” (Yes.) And, “Do you like this book?” (Also yes.) We had a good talk and I learned that it isn’t so much that she hates school as that she would much rather be outside.

    This is why I ended up doing almost nothing for “kindergarten” (which isn’t legally required anyhow). I couldn’t bear to bring her in from her beloved sunshine and make her sit at a desk before I absolutely had to.

    So this year is her first year of real, planned-and-scheduled lessons. And she is doing fine. I keep telling myself this because if I let myself compare her to her older brother at this stage, I’d make myself nervous with worry.

    Of course, on some levels she is superior to him, able to memorize quite lengthy poems. She memorizes all of her poems and Scriptures … and all of her older brother’s, too. I say this so you don’t think she is missing a marble or something.


    As I was saying, I have been pondering what Charlotte Mason might say to those of us with children who are simply not academic. Or what if our children have something wrong, like learning disabilities? One glance at the AmblesideOnline curriculum reveals its rigor. Children are assigned no textbooks. Instead, they are reading (or being read to from) full books — not abridgments, and not dumbed down to a “child’s level” — from the very first year. They are beginning Plutarch’s Lives and Shakespeare in the original language at the age of nine or ten. Really? Some adults cannot read these things!

    Is this really for all children? Or is it for “gifted and talented” children who need something to challenge them?

    Let me share some encouragement I have received, directly from Miss Mason herself.

    Learning to Deal Directly with Books

    I know I am not the only Year 1 mother who has secretly panicked when a child repeatedly did not “get” the moral in an Aesop’s fable, or did not understand the significance of Casabianca. Every year on the email lists, we read questions from Year 1 mothers on this issue. My child isn’t getting it. Maybe he can’t cut it in AO? Maybe I’m doing something wrong?

    Miss Mason tells us:

    [The teacher] will bear in mind that the child of six has begun the serious business of his education, that it does not matter much whether he understands this word or that, but that it matters a great deal that he should learn to deal directly with books.

    I confess that I heaved a sigh of relief when I read this last week. Yes, it matters whether our children connect with the moral Aesop is trying to communicate. It’s true. But it only matters a little. Miss Mason says it matters “a great deal” that our little six-year-old children learn to deal with books.

    In many ways, I think we can see Year 1 as a training year, especially for less academic children. They are receiving their phonics lessons. They are toying with addition. They are learning to narrate larger and larger passages. And in the midst of all of this, they are also learning to deal with books. This will serve them well in the future.

    The Same Feast for Different Powers

    I would remark on the evenness with which the power of children in dealing with books is developed. We spread an abundant and delicate feast in the programmes and each small guest assimilates what he can. The child of genius and imagination gets greatly more than his duller comrade but all sit down to the same feast and each one gets according to his needs and powers.
    The surprises afforded by the dull and even the ‘backward’ children are encouraging and illuminating. We think we know that man is an educable being, but when we afford to children all that they want we discover how straitened were our views, how poor and narrow the education we offered.

    This tenant of Miss Mason’s flies in the face of contemporary educational approaches, where dull or disabled — or even merely “average!” — children receive a truncated curriculum, while “gifted” children are treated with honors and herded off to special programs which develop them in some mysteriously meaningful way. When I was in high school, this hierarchy was clear. The college prep students read boring history textbooks, while our AP class read original documents — a feast of Federalist Papers and Supreme Court decisions and the like. The idea was that these documents, which define our heritage as Americans, were only for “special” students.

    Mason was not an elitist, and this was based upon her first principle — that all children are born persons. Regardless of giftedness or lack thereof (or even disability), regardless of economic station, each child is a person.

    So Miss Mason set out to educate children as if they really are persons. This means she made a feast fit for persons and allowed all a place at the table.

    The “gifted” child will get more out of it, which is akin to how the healthiest children often seem to have better digestive powers, or how the hungriest child eats the most. The “dull” child will get less. But all will have had their souls and intellects fed generously.

    When dealing with a less academic child, though, the temptation is to diminish the feast. He can’t handle this, we think to ourselves. This is too much for him. Sometimes this is true, I admit it. Sometimes, a child is better off waiting an additional year before beginning Year 1, or adding in Year 3.5 before transitioning to the Latin-Shakespeare-and-Plutarch intensity of Year 4. But notice that this is merely slowing the feast down, or pacing it. This isn’t the same as saying that the less academic child should be fed bread and milk instead of steak and lobster and salad and so on.

    Yes, we want children to connect with the books and, yes, we ought to be concerned if the child is comprehending nothing. But let’s think about how we adults got to our own reading levels. I don’t know about you, but I have greatly improved mine over the years by reading books that are … wait for it … hard for me to understand.

    When I read said books, I didn’t “get” every single word on the first reading. I didn’t comprehend all of what I read. In fact, on re-reading Charlotte Mason’s sixth volume this past year with my reading group, I am amazed at what did not connect in my brain the many other times through. I missed so much!

    But you know what? I received much, also.

    We can offer our children a generous feast, and then refuse to stress out when some of them seem to digest every crumb, while the others take a bite here and there by comparison.

    Character Really Matters

    In the AmblesideOnline FAQ document (which you really should read, if you haven’t already), the point is made that a Charlotte Mason education is not … unschooling … Montessori … unit studies … and so on. So what is it exactly? Here is the official answer:

    First and foremost, Charlotte Mason is a 12-year Christian Character Building curriculum. Books are chosen not for cultural literacy so much as the literary quality with which they were written, and even more, their ability to develop the whole person and inspire his character. For all those years that children are getting a CM education, what’s really being trained more than anything else is their character. Students receiving a CM education don’t need any character building program because the entire curriculum is geared towards building character with the use of personal habits, quality books, teacher guidance, the work of the Holy Spirit and personal reflection.

    Yes, a child who has gone through even half of the curriculum will know a lot and have amazing powers of thought. This is why we say that completing Year 8 is akin to completing high school as far as academics go. But this is not the point. It is merely a side benefit. The point is the cultivation of the soul, the ordering of the appetites. To put it plainly, it is not what they know, but who they become.

    The important conversations which flow from any given reading — but especially Plutarch, at least in my house — are irreplaceable. As long as a child can comprehend language, he will be inspired by the heroism, by the goodness, while also learning to despise the bad and inadequate. In books of this quality, this effect is inescapable. To think that because a child would rather be outside, or isn’t very quick, he should be condemned to worksheets, busy work, and dusty, dry textbooks — to a life devoid of living thought! — is to reinstate elitism, and say that some children are “more human” than others.

    As I work with my academically average-and-normal daughter — in the aftermath of working with a gifted and easy-to-teach son — I am reminded that she will take what she can and it will be a gift. And ten years from now I may be very surprised by who I think is my “brightest” child and “quickest thinker.”

    For now, let’s not fret over Aesop and Island Story. Instead, let’s set the table, serve the feast, and see what God will do.

    Read More:

    School Prep: AO Selections for the Less Bookish Child

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  • Reply AO with the Less Academic Child, Revisited | Afterthoughts August 22, 2019 at 3:31 pm

    […] ago, I wrote my original AO with the Less Academic Child post. That was in 2012 and my daughter was only midway through Year 1 at the time. A couple years later, […]

  • Reply Jennifer Rogers August 20, 2019 at 4:46 pm

    Thank you so much for this. I am homeschooling my son for the first time this year, and he is 10 (4th grade in public school). He has also been diagnosed with ADHD and I’ve really been concerned that the AO curriculum will be too difficult for him or will turn him off. I really appreciate your perspective.

  • Reply Elizabeth March 9, 2019 at 4:18 am

    I have enjoyed many of your articles but I had to comment on this one. I am a mom of an 11 year old dyslexic son with ADHD. I have to say I was surprised at some of the word choices you used and inferences to superiority of intellect based on reading ability and that there’s “something wrong” if they have learning disabilities, they are “less academic” or that your child might have “a missing marble” just because they weren’t at a level you expected them to be at. I would give the benefit of the doubt that you did not mean to be perceived this way, but this type of talk is not only ignorant regarding the true abilities of children who have learning differences (my word) but it’s also harmful in that it adds to these types of stereotypes and misunderstandings. It saddens me that so many educators and the general public are unaware of how this type of talk can do so much damage.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel March 12, 2019 at 11:08 pm

      This is a Charlotte Mason blog and AmblesideOnline (of which I serve on the board) is a Charlotte Mason curriculum. Charlotte Mason, near the end of her life, wrote:

      People are naturally divided into those who read and think and those who do not read or think; and the business of schools is to see that all their scholars shall belong to the former class; it is worth while to remember that thinking is inseparable from reading which is concerned with the content of a passage and not merely with the printed matter. (Vol. 6)

      I wrote this post seven years ago. That child is now about to start high school. Every bit of progress she has made has been a hard-fought battle because she does not have “learning differences” — she has real issues with her neurology that are not limited to the academic arena. I have never given up on her — and she has never given up on herself. I am so proud of her.

      This past year, we have seen amazing healing through use of the Nemechek Protocol. Dr. Nemechek says that children will progress two years in one year’s time, and we have seen exactly that. I can’t imagine what would have happened to her if I had made peace with her issues and called them “different” instead of a “problem.”

      I have always viewed part of my job as her teacher to be putting her into the category of those who read and think — she deserves to be there just like all the rest of my students (my other children, as well as those I teach at co-op, are included in my mind here). I think it is a disservice to a child to pretend that her struggles are not real, that her intellectual life cannot be cultivated just because it is hard, or that her reading ability is of minimal importance.

  • Reply Leanne September 12, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I am wondering how you deal with an 11 year old doing AO that it just starting to be Ble to read the cat in the hat ? Well below average!

    • Reply Mrs. Smith July 7, 2018 at 6:26 am

      That all depends on the reason for the delay. Is it just a reading thing or are there other issues that would prevent this child from understanding anything on the year 6 (I believe that’s right for 11 year olds) curriculum? Have you been doing AO up ’til now? Would you like to hear what I use for phonics instruction?

      • Reply Leanne March 13, 2019 at 1:28 am

        Yes she started on AO from the start. But it became very difficult for me to keep up with all the reading as I had to read everything from AO and also all the reading one of her younger siblings along with family read alouds with my other children too etc. There just wasn’t enough hours in the day as we stool had to eat, clean and exercise and be part of a community. We had to cut right back as the levels got harder and with more to read. I have used countless different reading programmes which also added to the lack of time. I do agree that some children are delayed learners but they can still develop a great intellect and understanding and a lovely character with a cm principles – but in this particular child not AO (but yes some for the great literature)

        • Reply Brandy Vencel March 13, 2019 at 9:06 am

          Leanne, I have heard the Advisory say many times that AO is not for everyone. It sounds like you have found what works for her, and really I think that is sufficient! ♥

  • Reply Victoria October 28, 2014 at 7:44 pm

    Thanks to the AO FB link today, I saw and read this post because I’ve been struggling with the “less academic” child (read: likely dyslexic and just differently wired) in my home who, of course, is child #2 after the “very academic” child. This post really resonated with me and confirmed my decision to spread some things out, and substitute a very few books (example: swapping “A Passion for the Impossible” for “A Tale of Beatrix Potter”) — in essence making a somewhat more tailored Year 5 than I did with my older child. I truly believe in setting the academic bar high and at least attempting to hit it rather than setting it low and hoping for the best. Thanks for reminding me of the feast analogy!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 28, 2014 at 9:08 pm

      Spreading it out and doing a few substitutions sounds like just the ticket.

      I really expected to do a Year 3.5 for this child, but I’ve ended up doing a modified Year 4 instead, and it’s a similar thing to what you’ve described. We’re doing the AO books, but I’ve chosen the easier options wherever there are options, cut a book, and then we’re waiting to start Latin until Year 5…or later.

  • Reply Mama Squirrel October 28, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    Absolutely, bang on. Something like the line in Steel Magnolias about a few moments of wonderful vs. a lifetime of mediocre.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel October 28, 2014 at 3:57 pm

      I had forgotten that line, Mama Squirrel! Exactly…

  • Reply Laurke Denise August 6, 2013 at 2:00 am

    I really really really love this post, Brandy!! So well-said.

  • Reply Brandy Vencel April 2, 2013 at 4:29 am

    Thanks, Jeannette. 🙂

  • Reply Jeannette April 2, 2013 at 4:23 am

    Brandy, this is simply brilliant and wise and oh so encouraging even to us AO old-timers. Thank you!

  • Reply Silvia October 3, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Yes, Brandy. You wrote very well. I came here from your more recent post about gaps and your daughter’s improvement.

    I think you know our daughters are close in age. Mine just turned 8 and we are doing AO2.

    I have a clue of what you talk about when you speak of your first born. My dear friend has a daughter like him. Doing AO year 1 with her this year is a bliss. She learned to read early and pretty much on her own, and last week, to give you a concrete example, she surprised her mom with a story typed with maybe two spelling mistakes at the most. It contained proper use of commas, quotation marks, and things such as Mrs. and Mr., names like Edward. Of course my friend offers her a rich feast, but this girl’s intuition, for my friend tells me her pediatrician mentioned always that she was advanced in the common milestones of babyhood and childhood.

    To the point. My daughter says the same. She LOVES the books, she cried more than once when she was distracted and I said I had read it the passage once already and that was all. It was with Buffalo Bill by D’Aulaire. But she HATES school. She narrates very well but she does not like it. I know I have always expected a lot and sometimes I have also pushed her more than I should. CM says that whatever they make theirs we should respect, but I am very impatient and at times I send verbal and non verbal signs of not being enough (the details in her narrations, etc.), and I am now learning how to control my own fears and attitudes, because she is truly doing great if I only compare her with herself and not with my ideals, other children, or even her sister who seems to be much quicker and academically inclined.

    And answering to Ellen. (Excuse me for intruding in your question to Brandy, but I have made myself the same question, since AO is as you say very rigorous and it gets very difficult with non academic children or however we want to call them, and for whatever the reason they are like they are or they respond like they do). My conclusion is the same as Brandy’s. What I have done is not going to an ‘easier’ curriculum, but I am constantly adjusting and redirecting our pace and the quantity of the readings. For example. I tried twice to keep going on with Pilgrim’s Progress, but as of this week, we have finally started with Little Pilgrim’s Progress. I have not done Shakespeare, I hopefully will start her on the Lamb book next year, when she is in year 3, and her sister in year 1. I have the feeling we will have to do year 3.5, and also the lite years option… but I do not know yet what it will be.

    I have noticed non linear progress. Like being stuck on math, and three months after, being much more able to do that what she could not. So to slow the pace without diluting, we are doing the Life of Fred books, and I stretch the typical math curriculum (we use MEP) as I see needed. We skip some problems, and add sometimes a bit of oral arithmetic with Arithmetic for Young Children.

    In order for her not to have a bad relationship with learning, and that hatred feeling, I sometimes take two weeks to do one AO week, others I let her choose what books to do first, I am also asking for less narrations but good ones, sort of the same with handwriting, a line but very well done. I am respecting the times, instead of pushing her more when I see she can… and like that we continue. Why. Because I frankly do not know any other way that truly achieves genuine learning in children. As Brandy says, I myself have learned so much since I got introduced to CM, the books, hers and others from AO, are easier now for me, and I know my daughter, even if she does not grasp them in fullness now, or at least, not all, I know she already has much goodness and beauty and bounty and ideas in her in just a bit over a year, that it is worth all those adjustments, frustrations, and reconsideration (we will have them with ANY curriculum, LOL, so why not stick to the one that is worth).

    • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts October 3, 2012 at 9:43 pm

      Hi Silvia! I always love to read what you’ve been thinking about. 🙂

      This particular daughter I wrote about said she hated school during Y1 {not so with Y2, by the way}. In talking with her, I discovered that she meant she hated it…when compared to everything else she wanted to do like play outside and cuddle with her pet rabbit! 🙂 I don’t know if this is the case with your child, but I do think they sometimes think they hate it because there are other things they like better.

      And being strict about a single reading from the very beginning is usually a shock to their little systems, but I agree that it is right to do it if we want to train their attention.

      I am not familiar with MEP but I know that Jeanne seems to think it is advanced for its “grade,” which means going slowly is probably preferable!

    • Reply Silvia October 3, 2012 at 10:35 pm

      LOL… I was wondering how things were going with your daughter when I found your post and realized I wrote something similar of (on?) my own accord when I wrote about the syllabus for a normal child,

      Yes, that is what my daughter means too. She’d rather play with her sister, sing, dance, draw or cook something simple than ‘do school’.

      MEP is advanced, yes. That is why I came to terms with no defining how many chapters to master or what booklet should go with what AO year, I have totally removed grade levels from my mind, I only use it to tell others who ask what grades the girls are at. I rather focus on her progress. After I fiddled with Math Mammoth for a couple of months last year, I came back to MEP because it is more complete and we are familiar with its structure and way of presenting math concepts. Amazingly enough, the earlier work pages are better welcome these days, as long as I keep the lessons to 15 minutes max. But it is Life of Fred what has made the difference for my year 2 girl. My kindergartener is already doing mep 1a booklet without difficulties, which helps me with keeping up the same type of math curriculum for both at different paces. But Life of Fred keeps her (well, both) thinking and talking about math, and it teaches without the strong emphasis on calculation and operations that which most traditional programs have in much quantity for the taste and ability of many children. It is, to give you an idea, like the beginner piano book she has, that has her playing simple songs and enjoying them without waiting until she knows how to read music, or without mainly asking you to read music to gain fluency or practice. It is bold in presenting you with advanced math terms, and presents you the basic ones in an engaging but effective manner, not dry or boring, but very interesting. It teaches you about punctuation, a bit of astronomy, geography… Measurements are taught telling you not only what measurements are, but what countries use the metrical or the inches and feet system, and Stanley’s sense of humor is contagious and brilliant. It talks to you about what a googol is, what sets are, how you write braces, braquets and parenthesis, commutative law, place value, square numbers, prime numbers… in such a playful way… but enough of LoF, ha ha ha ha.

    • Reply Silvia October 3, 2012 at 10:36 pm

      About the one reading thing… that day when she cried I admit I re read it. I have re read things less than a handful times, and not always because of her lack of attention, but sometimes because I have gone over too long, and the next day not even I knew what we were reading about. (That happened to me with Little Duke a couple of months ago when we started). The AO selection and CM practices have been as much a challenge for me than for her. Of course, at 41, and with all my might and will, I do better than my 8 year old girl… but I do not know how I would have done at her age, for I see a maturity now coming to her that is promising, though I understand she will always be ‘behind’ those advanced children, and ‘ahead’ those with more serious learning challenges, but that is life. The ultimate goal for all our children should be the same, the peculiarities of how they reach it are theirs to owe and ours to enjoy and support always.

      (Do you know now how I felt when I read some of what you wrote about a child learning to read well or properly at 7 or 8, as you wrote! GULP, ha ha ha. You put a knot in my stomach… ha ha ha). I do know I am faulty, but I am a CM momma, folks, and when my child appears to be less than a CM poster child, and others who have an easy child like yours share their wonderful achievements, sometimes a cloud of sadness crosses my face, why me? why is not that child mine and mine theirs, so they can see what I have to ‘face’ week after week. But I dismiss it as sinful thought, subtle envy but envy, and I bounce back and keep enjoying my girls for what they are, and the CM way for the wonderful philosophy of education that it is.


  • Reply just heather February 7, 2012 at 3:14 am

    Thank you so much for this article! You did such a great job writing it. It is very encouraging and helpful! Thanks again for sharing your thoughts!

  • Reply Trisha February 5, 2012 at 3:08 am

    This is such a helpful and encouraging post! Well done!

  • Reply Mystie February 3, 2012 at 5:53 am

    Your comment about her having a hard time with school when you interrupt her play gave me a light bulb moment. I realized that when I asked you about a year ago to write about a CM approach to bad attitudes (and you did a marvelous job, btw), probably 70% of what I was dealing with was the type of “I enjoy all my books” but “I hate school” response you describe. And my son was 7. My set up at the time was to give them some outside recess time after chores and before we began Circle Time.

    This year we just go breakfast – chores – Circle Time, and I only get “I hate school” when, because other things come up, we do a bit at a time where they would otherwise have free time.

    I hadn’t made the connection between calling them in from play at the beginning of the day and the bad attitude, but I think that was a big part of it, especially since it hasn’t resurfaced with the different routine.

    • Reply SarahD March 20, 2015 at 10:40 am

      Brandy and Mystie,

      Ditto. I could have written those thoughts on calling a child away from play for lessons. Yep. We have a 7 year old in the same boat. Lots of resistance. He’s also not grasping the stories too well. I was one of those moms who posted on the AO forum recently trying to pinpoint my son’s inability to understand the stories.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel March 20, 2015 at 1:46 pm

        ♥ My heart goes out to you. We all walk a tightrope with this precious children, I think. 🙂

        • Reply SarahD March 20, 2015 at 5:11 pm

          This and the advice from the dear ladies at the forum was so heartening. We did manage to get through some of year 1 and he’s doing well in math and phonics and science (he’s a very concrete, sensory type) so I plan to continue next year with him and his 5.5 year old sister who eats, breathes, and sleeps stories. It will be so nice to have 2 in the same year.
          I’m so glad I came upon this post. I think I read it several months ago but could not totally relate. Now, I know exactly what you mean. Thanks.

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 2, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    Rahime, I was just reading a chapter from Karen Andreola’s Charlotte Mason Companion that covered Shakespeare. She specifically talked about using the Nesbit stories when they are very young, and then graduating to Lamb’s when they are older. She also noted watching the old Shakespeare movies in black and white. Anyhow, her point was that Shakespeare is more accessible when the students have been steeped in the stories from the time they are young. I remember finding it a HUGE challenge in high school, but I had never even really heard of the guy before we were required to read him!

    When we start reading the real plays in Y4, the children don’t get all of it by any means, but they follow the basic plot, and they build the ability to read Shakespeare which will serve them well in high school when they are ready to study him.

    I thought of you yesterday, too! But that is just because my friend here in town is an ex-Torrey student like you…

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 2, 2012 at 10:25 pm

    Ellen, Yes I think it is possible to set a bountiful feast with easier books. Many children’s picture books we own are still what I would call living. I knew fairly early on that my daughter was nothing like my son, and I wondered if we would be able to do Y1 in first grade. I have noticed that some in the AO Advisory do not start their children in Y1 until age 7. I made the decision to put her in Y1 during the summer, because she had shown many signs of narration ability. But if she hadn’t, well…I know a gal who put together a “Year 0.5” that I would have used. It was designed as a way of putting off Y1 for another year. {By the way, she was 6.5 when she started–she’ll be 7 this month–and she could NEVER have done it earlier than that.}

    I do not think that AO is the only way of offering a child a good education, though as far as I can tell it is the only one out there that sought to duplicate {as much as possible} what Charlotte herself was doing with her own students. I am sure there are some respectable substitutes for the more difficult AO books.

    A friend and I have also talked about turning each year into a year and a half. So we keep the rich ideas, but spread it out so the child isn’t overwhelmed. So far, the only actual change I have made is to drop Parables of Nature {she couldn’t follow it at. all.–not ever} and use Among the Pond People instead. She adores the pond people book so that alone is worth it.

    I agree we do not want our children to hate education, so we have to use wisdom at every step. For now, I have asked her about the books, and she really does like all of them…she would just rather play. 🙂 Actually, as I’m writing this, I realize that almost every I-hate-school day has involved me pulling her out of play because I received a phone call or something which put off our start of lessons. I think if I could–as much as possible, for life does and must happen–try to make sure that she doesn’t get started on playing until we are done, that would help. Pulling her away from play as a habit would be a sure way to build resentment!

    I have already prepare myself that, beginning in Y7, we will probably be doing the Lite years and not the full years.

    Of course, she might surprise me. Her narration has improved so much over the year, and she is starting to connect more and more, so I am seeing progress everywhere. So we’ll see. For right now, I just keep trying to be careful that I don’t try to make her be something she isn’t. I never want her to think I want her to be anything other than who God has made her to be.

  • Reply Rahime February 2, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I was thinking about you yesterday when I was tutoring a junior in high school who had a Macbeth project to work on. To get started she pulled out her “No Fear Shakespeare” copy of the book. Boy, I certainly hope that by that age my LO can handle the actual text!!!

  • Reply Brandy @ Afterthoughts February 2, 2012 at 10:10 pm

    Lisa, Welcome to Afterthoughts! I think it *is* overwhelming, even for those of us who begin it from the very beginning, because it is so different from how we ourselves were educated. There is a juggling battle with so many children I’m sure, but I think a lot of it is our own minds and learning to think differently about education.

    Amy, CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR NEW BABY! Glad you liked the post…

    KM, Small world, hm? I really think our girls would adore each other! I’m sure she just needs the Vitamin D, right? 😉

    Kathy, I agree. I posted a link to this on my husband’s FB account {we aren’t much for FB, but…}, and my friend whose child has Down’s responded and said YES this is the attitude she wants toward her son. He is not less than human and he deserves the *real* books and the *good* literature, even if he doesn’t get as much out of it as some of the other children will.

  • Reply Ellen February 2, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    Yes, but is it possible to set a bountiful feast with wonderful living books that are easier for your child to understand? I enjoy reading here, but honestly, I’m skeptical of AO because its rigor looks like it could be too much for my boys in first grade. I care deeply that my boys learn to love learning when we are in the early years of school, and I’m not going to endanger that by throwing them in the deep end of the pool before they’re ready.

    If you’re still doing AO, and your daughter isn’t engaging, will you continue? I guess I want to know if you’d consider using another curriculum (with less challenging living books) if the one that you’ve chosen is contributing to her desire not to do school…. even though you have loved Ambleside for your son.

    • Reply Monique Laura May 18, 2019 at 1:15 pm

      I have wrestled with what is appropriate for my son due to his learning delays. He has austism but is within the subset that includes Pervasive Demand Avoidance. This diagnosis is more readily known in England: The PDA shows itself by resisting anything that appears to be a demand (obligation) even with things that the child enjoys. My son is very habitual and rigid. If he thinks he can’t do it with a great amount of success he won’t attempt it. Imagine what that means for learning any new concept like phonics, writing, math, ect? He resists lessons EVERY SINGLE DAY. I have found ways around his anxiety though to continue having lessons consistently.

      His expressive and receptive language problems have prevented me from beginning AO 1. He barely can narrate a children’s bible story. He easily shuts down mentally so lessons are very short. I have seen growth but to put anything challenging or ideas that he cannot grasp with ease provokes anxiety which would easily trigger “school refusal”. That happened when he was around six years old. Just feeling required to do the lesson sent him into full blown panic mode ending with tears.

      I have clung to this quote by Ms. Mason that has brought me great comfort in what I am doing with my son:

      “Simple stories, easy poetry, facts and ideas within their grasp, such should be the subject matter given to children. It is not a matter of teaching them to dance: they must learn to walk: they should read nothing but what they can perfectly well feel and understand.” PR vol 1 p. 526

      He is enjoying the riches, CM Elementary Arithmetic, and geography through picture books. He confidently just learned the ABC song after over a year of very hard work. His penmanship is slow but steady and he is becoming proud of his work.

      I keep Ms. Mason’s first principle at the forefront of my mind when planning his lessons: Children are born persons. I try to put before my son those ideas that he can well feel and understand and increase those concepts as he is able. He just turned 8 in April.

  • Reply Kathy February 2, 2012 at 6:07 am

    We have faced some learning issues here, but the meaty readings are welcome. Forcing a child to subsist on bread and water kills the spirit.

  • Reply Kansas Mom February 2, 2012 at 4:28 am

    How funny…we’ve skipped First Daughter’s reading lessons every day so far this week to (wait for it) play outside! The weather has been unseasonably warm and she is so ornery at her lessons. (She can read all right, I think, but she refuses to read in a reasonable way for anyone, most especially me. Oh that girl!)

    So we’re taking it very slowly and she’ll come around just fine. In the meantime, she’s narrating twice as well as her brother who’s in second grade and embarrassing him on a daily basis to do it.

    But not while we’re outside soaking up the sun.

  • Reply ...they call me mommy... February 2, 2012 at 3:41 am

    AWESOME! This is so good and so timely for me, Brandy!! I really needed to hear this especially in regards to my son (6)! He sounds EXACTLY like your daughter. THANK YOU! I am going to pass on the link to others!

  • Reply Pam... February 2, 2012 at 1:20 am

    Wow. I love what you just said, and how you said it.

  • Reply Lisa February 2, 2012 at 12:53 am

    Hi Brandy,
    We are veteran homeschoolers, but just started implementing the CM methods this year. And our children have flourished. However, we are now considering using the AO curriculum beginning next year. I am so thankful to have found your blog! Because after visiting the AO website repeatedly, it is all so overwhelming to me to even think about homeschooling 5 children (ages 4 – 13 yrs.) and trying cover all that material!! I will be “visiting” you often for much-needed encouragement, I’m sure.
    And I am your newest visitor, btw. Stop by and visit me sometime. 🙂
    (Sorry – didn’t mean to write a book.)
    Many blessings,


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