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    School Prep: AO Selections for the Less Bookish Child

    July 30, 2013 by Brandy Vencel

    If you haven’t already read my post AO with the Less Academic Child I suggest you do that before you read this. We’ll wait. Okay, so now that you’ve done that, you know that my first two children are quite different from one another. I’m getting ready to do Year Three with my second born and I’ve made a number of changes.

    Now, some of these changes were made for me. For example, the 2011 science changes mean that the Year Three science is much more fitting for my second child than it would have been if said changes had not been made. Let’s just say hermit crabs are, to her mind, much more interesting than people who invent gadgets. She’ll be more than happy to save the inventing stuff for Year Five. {Or for never, but I digress.}

    With my oldest, he did twelve weeks of readings in eleven week’s time, and he still had Fridays completely free for things like co-op and  nature study and fine art and so on. He read the full-length biography of Da Vinci. He read Parables from Nature. He read Trial and Triumph. We did all the “hard” stuff and it didn’t seem hard…until I looked at my books in light of my second child.

    This year I have the additional consideration of adding my third child as a Year One student. She is more like my oldest. She can already read and she was born narrating {a.k.a. tattling}. She is six going on thirty.

    I’m trying to balance challenging the children who need to be challenged, while not overwhelming the children who very well could be overwhelmed if I’m not careful, plus I’d really like to see my preschooler stop boycotting the alphabet.


    When I first looked at Year Three, it seemed impossible for two reasons. One: many of the selections I had used with my oldest seemed like too much for my second student. In addition, I still need to read almost everything aloud to her, and so time is a concern to me. Even though my Year One student can read most of her books on her own, I’m not willing to give up the special bonding time of the first year by making her that independent. But the result of that decision is that I have two years of Ambleside Online to read aloud.

    How do I manage the time? Keep the love of learning? And, of course, get it all done by lunch, even if lunch is a late lunch?

    I had a friend tell me that I was duplicating things. I had lots of extra stuff in Circle Time, and then I was still doing the regular Ambleside Online assignments in addition. So this year, I’m going to be strict with myself, even though extra stuff excites me. If I put a biography of John Calvin in Circle Time, for example, we’re not going to also do Trial and Triumph during individual lessons, at least not the girls.

    My oldest has done Trial and Triumph and it has been great {and he’ll finish it up this year}, but I’m experimenting with using Simonetta Carr instead. We’d cover less people, but those we do cover we’d cover more in depth.

    Ambleside Online lists Pierson’s Among the…People series as an alternative to Parables from Nature, and so this year I’m combining both girls and doing Among the Forest People. Although my youngest could handle Parables from Nature, mommy honestly cannot bear to read it aloud one more time, and this combining of both girls works very well and they both adore the Pierson books.

    In addition to this, A-Age-Eight will be reading Diane Stanley’s Michelangelo instead of Emily Hahn’s Leonardo Da Vinci. Ambleside Online lists both as options, but my opinion is that Hahn is wonderful for an advanced student while Stanley works better for a less academic child. Hahn’s biography is over a hundred pages while Stanley’s is a 48-page picture book. Now, this doesn’t mean Stanley’s is inferior. Stanley is a wonderful writer and her books are always well-researched and beautifully illustrated with fine art. But the books are qualitatively different.

    It is tempting to make money the final arbiter when Ambleside Online has options from which to choose, especially if your budget is tight. Or, at least, that has been the case for me in the past. But I’m now seeing that one option really will fit one child better than another, and so it seems I must reconcile myself to purchasing almost all the options over time. Those of you who have equally bookish children might find you don’t need to do that. We are all over the map here at my house!

    Oh! One more change I made. With my oldest, I used Synge’s Discovery of New Worlds. I wasn’t in love with it, but I had found a really cheap copy, and so I’ve used it all these years, including last year with my second child. This year, I finally switched to Hillyer’s A Child’s History of the World, and I’m really looking forward to it. I can use it with my oldest and with my Year Three student, so the money was well spent, in my opinion. After looking it over at a friend’s house, I realized that all of my children would likely connect with Hillyer better than Synge. There is a reason why Ambleside Online lists options, my friends!

    In summary…

    Son #1Daughter #1
    Da Vinci by Hahn
    Michelangelo by Stanley
     Parables from Nature 
     Among the Forest People by Pierson 
    Trial and Triumph
    biographies by Simonetta Carr
    Synge for history
    Hillyer for history

    So there you are. A few simple changes make Year Three looks quite different the second time around, but once again it is perfectly fitting for my student.

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  • Reply Silvia August 31, 2013 at 12:51 am

    We have always used and loved Hyllier, y3 daughter is also enjoying Michelangelo, and great tip for a substitute of PfN, though we have read a few successfully, this year, as I read them for y1 girl, oldest sis catches up on them.

    We started late with T&T, but we are caught up with y3 girl, and y1 is fine with it.

    To me, only with two, and with the oldest being like your second daughter, my y1 girl, who is also a born narrator and reads, if not as much as your son, much more than y3 girl, this second round of y1 books is wonderful. I am myself more familiar with the books, and we are sharing even Pilgrims Progress, which we read at our own pace, I will only read once, and they both can narrate some, if they want to. Between getting narrations on schedule, which was not happening, and having the desire to listen to it, as y3 girl expressed this summer, I opt for the latter!

    Thanks for the Among the people… I will include them too! *y3 is loving Pagoo, and little sis too*

  • Reply Friederike August 7, 2013 at 6:47 am

    I can so relate, though my second child( son) can not read better than my daughter ,but listen and narrate better. But I’m using librivox more and more now and my yr. 4 dd finally reads some of the material herself.( i have to preread it now…)…Blessings Friederike

  • Reply sixsmoothstones July 31, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    I love your posts!! My oldest had what they called developmental delays, and even now at 8 has a harder time expressing himself , and narrating is like pulling teeth. (Ask him what you just said after giving him a clear instruction and he says blankly, “I dunno”, let alone after reading a book). Because of that I was tempted to put him in Year 1, which we experimented with last year but didn’t do completely. But just this summer I discovered he has other ways to communicate. First, I can let him draw what he heard. He likes that. Second, I found a way to have him narrate differently. One day I told him a Bible story that he KNOWS, but when I asked for narration he did his blank thing. Suddenly I was hit with inspiration, and I said, “Caleb, tell it back to me like a fairy tale, start with ‘once upon a time'”, because he loves telling stories. He lit up and did it nearly perfectly! Third, when he reads it himself he does better. Trouble is he’s still a slow reader and still struggles. So then I thought that maybe Y2 would be better, because maybe he needs slightly more of a challenge to keep his interest, and he and I will alternate reading the selections. However, I’m also putting my 2nd child in Y2. He’s 7, but from the time he was 4, if I read a story to one of his siblings, while he himself was spinning and doing cartwheels, two weeks later he’d say, “Mommy, can you read me that story about . . .” and he’d tell the whole thing back to me! So hearing, narrating, and remembering are not hard for him. Yet he’s also a beginning reader.
    So now I have two kids that need Y2, but I have to do them separately. If I read to them together, my 2nd takes over with the narration and my oldest falls into the lazy habit of letting his brother do all the talking. Yet I still can’t allow either one to do their work independently, at least not their AO work. I also have a 5yo, a 3 1/2 yo, and 1 yo. Needless to say, figuring out what to make “family” or “circle” time, and how to balance the day, is going to be a challenge this year!
    But this post of yours does give me an idea. You mentioned substituting for church history. I was going to leave out “Trial and Triumph” altogether. But then after reading your post, it suddenly occurred to me that we’re already doing a bit of church history as a family. I try to read to them every night, we’re reading “Black Beauty” and “Treasure Island” right now. But Sunday nights we’ve made a new habit of reading missionary bios. Right now I’m reading about Amy Carmichael. I think I’d feel all right continuing that habit, and leaving off formal church history lessons during school. Which helps me breathe a bit. 🙂
    Sorry for the ramble, your posts just really have been blessing and exciting me! 😀 Thanks again for sharing!

  • Reply Dawn July 31, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    “Boycotting the alphabet.” Too funny. I get that. Difference between my boys in this regard is night and day. Good luck!

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