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    Home Education

    Ambleside Online Form One Rotation or: How to Read EVERY Book Without Losing Your Mind

    May 25, 2015 by Virginia Lee Rogers

    [dropcap]A[/dropcap]s we head into summer many of us homeschooling mamas are getting planning fever! What worked this last year, what needs to be tweaked, and what do we want to bury so that it never has to be looked at again. Thankfully using AmblesideOnline means there’s not much we need to bury because of its complete failure, but this is a good time of year to evaluate.

    Want to use AmblesideOnline with a large family? This Form 1 rotation, which combines much of Years 1 through 3, might be your answer!

    I have four children ages 9 through 2. As I looked over AO’s years I knew I would be in Form One for a long time, while also often adding another child to the schooling mix. This is lovely, because I’m a mama that enjoys having all of the seasons with children at once. But I’m also a mama that likes having her sanity and using time to the best of my ability. On the AO forums and even in the comments here on Afterthoughts there have been quite a few inquiries about a Form One rotation.

    Form One in AmblesideOnline is years 1-3; the years where mama normally has to read all of the books aloud. In our family, one thing that has worked very well, and been a sanity/time saver, has been taking specific subjects and books from AO’s Form One and combining our children currently in that form by rotating them through these areas together.

    Don’t get me wrong, every one of AO’s books are great. But even great books read 4 times in a row, many books at once, can become tedious. Using this rotation, by the time each of our children hits Form Two they will not have missed a single lovely book that AO offers!! And if I’ve lost my sanity it will be because our two year old keeps dumping bags of cereal on the floor no matter where I put them. Ugh!

    Want a peek at the Form One Rotation in our house?

    Quick note — most of these books are found on the AO site. Links were only added for books mentioned that are not in the curriculum.


    What We Put in the Form One Rotation

    • Geography: CC Long, Holling’s books, Marco Polo
    • Mythology: Hawthorne’s books, Kingsley’s Heroes
    • Pilgrim’s Progress: We use the loop Brandy discusses here.
    • Natural History {science for Form One}: Burgess’ books, Secrets of the Wood, Pagoo
    • Parables of Nature: I just started reading through those scheduled, and then will start over again if I need to. I have not been as concerned if all of my children get every single Parable of Nature story. They get the purpose of these without having to have read every one there is. If you decide to go with the alternate choice Pierson’s Among The… series, they would easily work in this rotation as well.
    • Shakespeare: Lamb’s Tales From Shakespeare, Bruce Coville’s Shakespeare books, and I just bought Stories From Shakespeare by Marchette Chute, so excited! I pick and chose from these based on the version for each specific play I like best.
    • Poetry: This would be the reading and enjoying of poetry, not memorization.
    • These Specific Literature Selections: Understood Betsey, Wind in the Willows, American Tall Tales, Jungle Book. I try to keep the literature tied into a year’s specific history not in the rotation. Children of the New Forest is a good example of this. It needs to stay with Year 3. I also keep any literature that I think is not multi age accessible in the specific year. For instance Princess and the Goblin has concepts that I feel a Y3 student will better understand than a Y1, and I feel that Aesop is perfect for a Y1 student because it is the best book to teach beginning narration.
    • Free Reads: I pull from all three year’s free reads based on reading ability of the specific child if read independently. I chose some on audio to listen to as a family, and some I want to use as family read alouds. None of these require narration; so this area can be very flexible based on family needs and wants.

    Now I know some of you are thinking, but if you have multiple ages/abilities combined listening to the same book what do you do for narration? For narration of all of the above, except Free Reads, I either choose a specific child I want to narrate as I’m reading aloud, have one child start and then stop them part way and have a different child finish, have one child narrate and then another child tell tell me anything they felt was important that was left out … you get the picture. Plus there are still plenty of books that are in each child’s specific year where they are not doing group narration. I love that having a Form One rotation easily lends itself to group narration and individual narration.

    So if these are the things in the Form One rotation, what’s left?


    What We Keep Separated by Year

    • All History
    • Some Literature Reads: See above
    • Citizenship: Hero Stories, Little Duke
    • Math
    • Language Arts: Phonics, Copywork, etc.
    • Independent Bible Reading
    • Specific poems: Memorization and recitation of poetry is based on child’s interest or mom’s assignment. So our children are sometimes memorizing the same poem and often times each memorizing different poems. Poetry is so personal that this works better on a specific child basis.
    • Trial and Triumph: Although I’m seriously considering moving this to the Form One rotation as well. Then as each child hits Form Two they can take over reading it to themselves wherever we’ve left off, and then doing oral or written narrations. What do y’all think, good or bad idea?


    What We Do With All Children Regardless of Their Form (some of this falls into Morning Time)

    • Bible
    • Hymns
    • Folksongs
    • Bible Memory Verses
    • Misc Memorization and Recitation
    • Art Study
    • Composer Study
    • Nature Study

    I truly think that using a Form One rotation makes AmblesideOnline work very well for large families or families that have children close together in age. If you have any questions about specifics I’d love to chat in the comments.


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  • Reply Monday Morning Time – humble adoration January 23, 2019 at 3:37 pm

    […] I took all the daily work off the kids checklists and built a unique morning time around a Form I Loop and all the things I know from previous years I struggle to get to […]

  • Reply T Wilson February 1, 2018 at 1:08 am

    I think my my youngest son would respond very well to Masons approach of gentle learning. I have tried CC with him and he can do memory work, but isn’t able to do more, I guess, rigorous work, that my older son is able to do. But I would probably switch them both to see maybe my older son will benefit as well? Anyhow my question is since my older son is now 8, how would I start him in form 1? Would he be behind because of books he would have already gone through? Or can I just begin by following the recommended books on AO?

  • Reply Virginia Lee Rogers September 21, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Hi Kim,

    I have not. My Form 2 kids so far can read most everything on their own. The things they can’t I put in MT or Naptime school. But did you know AO now has schedules for that form and others that are group schedules? So it would be very similar to what I was doing, all laid it in lovely order for you. You should go check it out! ?

  • Reply Kim September 20, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Pretty please tell me you have done this for Form Two 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Reply Lee Ann March 7, 2017 at 6:09 am

    Help! I’m not grasping the form 1 rotation.. it’s not clicking.
    I have 4 children, ages 10,8,6,3.5
    I looked at AO 2.5 yrs ago.. decided to do it, then last minute backed out. We’ve been using SCM.
    I’ve grown a bit dissatisfied.. exploring different books, and I’m back to AO.
    I don’t feel as intimidated as I did then..
    my dilemma is wanting my 10 yo to go through Y1.
    I’m letting go of the 1 and realizing this does not equal grade 1.
    I’ve looked over Y1 and I ‘want’ my 10yo to experience these books.. she’s definitely the type that will still enjoy all of the titles in Y1. She’s the big sister but still plays and learns with her younger siblings, so I don’t think she will feel it’s below her, intellectually.
    Then I read this article, and it’s simply not clicking. Maybe because I’m not as familiar with AO as many of you. Can you please explain this a little more in detail. The Form 1 loop.. I’m just not getting how that lays out.. over a year or the 3 years.. how it’s used? Thank you for your help!

    • Reply Kate Boughton July 26, 2020 at 9:23 am

      This is exactly where I am, or nearly. My kids are 10, 9, 7, 6, 4, 2, 5m. Only looking at placing the oldest 4 in AO. I looked at it last year and was too overwhelmed but here I am coming back because I find it SO appealing. My kids are not used to narration or anything like that. My oldest three are all readers, my oldest is an avid reader and always has been well above grade level. Anyway! I am struggling because I want all my kids to go through all the years!! What can I do?!

  • Reply Rachel October 23, 2016 at 7:46 pm

    I’m wondering your opinion on combining years for 1 child. My son should be in Year 2, based on his age and comprehension level. But I’ve only recently decided to give AO a whole hearted go. Last year, we did CM style and we covered some parts of AO booklist, but didn’t really touch history. I’d like to get him started on Yr 2, even though we’re already 12 weeks into the school year ? I noticed that someone posted a “pre-Year 3” reading schedule on the forum. It’s seems to include a good mix of the books, at a slightly quicker pace (i.e. Paddle is read 2x week, while Pagoo is digested the entire year.) I’m wondering:
    A. Do you recommend combining materials into one year?
    B. What would that look like for history? In my mind, aside from biographies, there seem to be 3 main texts: AIS, CHOW,and TCOO. I really need guidance for how to make those selections work so he can be ready for Yr. 3 in the fall.
    Thank you for any feedback!

  • Reply Erika October 9, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    Somehow, I missed this post. Or perhaps I didn’t understand Ambleside as well as I do now and this went over my head. Whatever the case, I just came over here from Celeste’s blog and can’t thank you enough, Virginia, for this marvelous explanation of your rotation! My kids are all almost 2 years apart, so this makes perfect sense for our situation. Saving this post to return to when it’s time to start scheduling AO.

    • Reply Virginia Lee October 11, 2016 at 9:20 am

      Erika, I’m so glad it will be helpful to you!! I am always so thankful for the help and encouragement I get from Celeste and Brandy. It’s good to share ideas with each other! I’m on Instagram @vlcjrogers and post quite a bit from our days over there, if you are interested in seeing pics. Happy planning (when it’s that time again). =)

  • Reply Katie August 5, 2016 at 10:37 pm

    Hi Virginia! This post has been very helpful, but I still have some questions. I have a 9, 7, and 6 yo who have never done AO. I switched everyone over in the spring with the intention of rotating all of them through Form 1 starting at Y1. But I’m starting to have second thoughts about this, especially with my oldest. He can read books such as My Side of the Mountain independently and will be 10 in November. I’m wondering if I should keep him in the Form 1 rotation or bump him up. I ask because in the initial post you stated that you had a 9 yo in the Form 1 rotation…curious how you came to the decision to keep him in Form 1 rather than bump him to Y4. Thank you 🙂

    • Reply Virginia Lee August 6, 2016 at 8:17 am

      Hi Katie. He was a young 9, as in just turned 9 in Aug of that year. Plus I really felt that Y3’s history and books like Children of the New Forest and Princess and the Goblin had very deep concepts to discuss. I still feel this way and currently have an 8 year old in Y3. I do see a difference in the specific things we discuss from the readings with just a year age difference. Basically, specific Y3 books are easy to go deeper with if your child is on the older side of the Form. I did start one written narration each week in Y3 for him. Written Narration is normally not started till Y4, but he was ready. Hope this helps. Each kiddo is different, so it’s hard to give advice about where to place people when you do not know them personally. 🙂

      • Reply Katie August 17, 2016 at 7:28 pm

        Thank you Virginia! That is helpful.
        So, when he finished Y3, did he go right up to Y4? I’m assuming he did not do Y1 and Y2, so did you try to fit those books in somewhere or just let him get the same info in later years? I’m fighting the “he’s missing two years!” feeling, which is why I started them all in Y1.

        • Reply Virginia Lee August 25, 2016 at 12:34 pm

          Yes, he went to Y4 and he’s in Y5 this year. He did all of Y1 because he is my first and I was anxious to start homeschooling, so I did Y1 with him when he was 5. I HIGHLY recommend NOT doing that. He did fine because Y1 is lighter and delightful. Plus he has a personality that lent itself to doing such. But thankfully God provided more wisdom in many areas before I had my next 4 kiddos. He is also an avid reader. So I just put any books he did not get in the Form 1 Rotation onto a Free Reads shelf.

          I really do feel like with history you do not have to worry at those ages if they are missing chunks. Remember all of the years of history covered in Form 1 come up again starting in Y6 (I think). So they will get it. Plus I firmly believe in trusting the Holy Spirit to work within each of our kiddos. They will get what they need, even if you do not have them read every single book on all of the lists. Sometimes even if they had started at the beginning of the Years life happens and every book is not read. This was harder for me to accept at first. But the years go on and moving it to free reads has not negatively affected any of my kids. God is sovereign, He works it all out. =)

  • Reply Angela Reed June 30, 2016 at 9:05 pm

    Hi Virginia!! I finally found my way over here for your article…well worth the visit. I have not been to the large family homeschooling area of the AO forum, so this idea of rotating books within Form 1 is new to me, but makes perfect sense!!! My second boy will be easing in to lessons this fall (I’d consider him yr .5), so I think I know how I’ll go about it now. I was deliberately spacing him 2 years behind his brother bc the thought of repeating all the readings we did this year was not very appealing. I LOVE your suggestions, looking forward to implementing them in the fall.

    • Reply Virginia Lee August 6, 2016 at 8:08 am

      Hey Angela, sorry it’s taken me so long to respond. Having baby and all ya know. 😉 So glad this was helpful to you. I have done Form 1 Rotation from the very beginning and never regretted it. This year I have a Y3 who is 8 and a Y1 who is 6. We are doing Secrets of the Woods (from Y3), Wind in the Willows (from Y2), and Just So Stories (from Y1), etc. Once again I see how wonderfully many of the books from the Form 1 selections work so well when combining that 9 and under crowd. If you do this I hope it ends up being a blessing to y’all. Can’t wait to see posts of your new year over on IG. =)

    • Reply Tesa Jones September 21, 2021 at 5:49 am

      Wonderful article and I love this response!

  • Reply Monique Laura June 29, 2016 at 8:34 am

    All of these rotation tips look awesome. I am hoping to start a small CM school here in Peru. I have a group of parents that will be going through a CM study with me in Spanish. I want to ask those of you with experience in combining years how to apply this in a classroom setting. For example, a class of maximum 12 students in Form I. Would you keep history separated by year like stated in the comments or would you arrange it differently? I know of a school that combines history and rotates but that would make the history get out of order if say a student enters year 2 of Form I and we rotate to year 1 of that forms history cycle. Any suggestions are cherished.

  • Reply Mey September 18, 2015 at 7:48 am

    Hi! I still have many questions as to how do you get this done. I have trouble visualizing this in my head. I have a Yr 0, Yr 1 and a Yr 2 and I feel a little intimidated as to how we will get all the readings done, well at least with the older two, I know for Yr 0 it’s more about enjoying very good books. Would you mind explaining how this breaks down on a weekly and daily basis. I’m sorry if I’m asking to much, this is our very first year changing to CM method and using AO. Thank you

    • Reply Allison February 17, 2016 at 5:59 pm

      I’m kinda confused too about how all of this gets done. I have 7 kids and next school year is when I will start CM/AO.

  • Reply Cassandra September 11, 2015 at 7:10 pm

    This is lovely. We just did our ‘first’ official week with AO and I immediately knew it was WAY too much reading. With kids in Y1, Y2, and Y3 (yes, I did this on purpose)… it is just way too difficult. So, instead of having readings all over the place, I am combining the kids for much of the read-alouds. It will mess up the ‘schedule’ AO gives, but that’s ok. So long as we read the books, right?~ 🙂 Thanks for this, it is helpful!

  • Reply Maia August 13, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I seem to be a little lost. For Mythology could you list the exact titles? I can only find Hawthorne books on the list at AO for free reads (I am guessing that I have completely overlooked them somewhere) and could you clarify between Kingsley ‘s Heroes and Hero Stories which you have listed next to Little Duke (again, I could not understand your list versus the AO list, but I am just starting year 1 so I may have overlooked them as I looked through the remaining years from Form I). Thanks for this post, it is just what I needed with close spaced children.

    • Reply Virginia Lee August 13, 2015 at 1:16 pm

      Hi Maia,

      In Y3 Kingsley’s Heroes is the mythology selection. In Y2 there are the Hawthorne books which I scheduled one of over all of Y2. I scheduled one because that is what I had at the time. Now I have the other, so we will use that one with my Form 1 kiddos next. Both Hawthorne books are good and similar levels. So you can just use whichever you have. Or don’t, it’s a free read, so it’s completely up to you. Kingsley’s Heroes is a scheduled book though in Y3. But it’s a rotation. So you can use it anywhere in your Form 1 rotation years. I did follow the reading schedule from AO though. But I had multiple years listening to it at once.

      I think the nice part of the rotation is that w the combined books like mythology you can plug them in during whatever part of your rotation you’d like. All 3 selections for mythology work for the ages in Form 1.

      Hope that helps.

      • Reply Virginia Lee August 13, 2015 at 1:30 pm


        Just noticed I forgot part of your question. Hero Stories are things like 50 Famous Stories Retold from Y1. We leave that in Y1. It’s a great book to learn narration from. The stories are wonderful, full of detail, but shorter. So they lend themselves to being a great place to start training narration from.

        If you look at the Scope and Sequence on Y1 page you can see Hero Stories listed under citizenship. There are many great stories of heroes in Y1. That year really focuses on people rather than a specific historical time period.

        My advice, don’t overthink some of this planning. We have never read a book from AO that I regret. So any books you plug into your rotation from the list above will be highly enjoyed and train your kiddos for the upcoming levels of AO and CM education. I think starting small works best. Then add in as you get going smoothly. If you do not do every mythology selection, it is ok. Just do the one or two you do pick, well. I guess all that to say, don’t worry about understanding it all at once. It’s a process and better enjoyed if you start with pieces.

        Also, I do realize AO’s sight can seem overwhelming. It becomes a good friend eventually. But I think there is a learning curve on how to maneuver through it. ?

        • Reply Maia August 13, 2015 at 2:54 pm

          Perfect! This makes it much clearer. Thank you! And you’re right, the AO site and the forum are becoming good friends! 🙂

  • Reply JoyH May 27, 2015 at 10:28 pm

    This is a very well-laid out plan. I did similarly with ours in those years, but not so planned out. You did a great job explaining your rotation.

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 28, 2015 at 12:24 pm

      Thank you, Joy!

  • Reply Amy Marie May 27, 2015 at 8:42 am

    Thanks for this peek into what you do! This is so helpful…helps me gauge what I’m doing etc. 🙂

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 27, 2015 at 3:09 pm

      Amy Marie, glad it was helpful. =)

  • Reply Jen May 26, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    Great article! I ended up doing something similar this year, too, because I had a baby in Feb. and already had a 17 mo. old tagging along (still a baby at the beginning of the school year). I had an 8 YO son doing Year 2, so I just placed my 6 YO daughter right there with him and we did school together all year. The only thing I separated was Math. It worked perfectly. It helped that my daughter is very precocious and wanted to do much of the same “seatwork” as my son. And we did let a few things slide. But for a difficult year, it was a lifesaver! I plan to go back with her to anything she missed in Y1 eventually. For her it might end up being a Y3.5/Y1 together before she goes into Y4. Great ideas! Such an organized rotation! Mine was definitely more last minute, do-what-works.

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 27, 2015 at 8:50 am

      Don’t ya just love it when something you do last minute because life demands it works out well!! God is so awesome like that!

      And I gotta say, I’m jealous. TWO babies. I know that must have been very, very hard lots of the time, but oh the snuggles and love. Sigh. My baby is 2.5 (he’s our fourth) and he is all little boy now, no baby left in him. I am really hoping God sees fit to send another little one our way. Although it is nice to be sleeping through the night. I’m not going to complain about that. =)

  • Reply Melissa Horton May 26, 2015 at 8:24 am

    Hi there!

    Where would I start?

    I have 3rd grader, 2nd grader, and Kindergartner this year. My oldest is gifted, but I’d probably put him in Y2 this year. My 2nd grader in Y1. And my K’er in Y0. Do I start with Y1 and have my oldest do Y1 this year, then go to Form 2 next year? And he misses Y2 and Y3?

    Then my middle would do Y1 this year for 2nd grade, Y2 for 3rd grade and move to Form 2, also missing Y3?

    My youngest would be in Form 1? Or would he do Y0 all on his own, then move into Y2 with my middle next year for 1st, Y3 for his 2nd grade, and then do Y1 for his 3rd grade year?

    Is that how it would work out for my three?

    Help! 🙂 Thank you!!

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 27, 2015 at 8:45 am

      This is really up to you. I don’t know specifics about your kiddos, so it’s sort of hard for me to say where y’all should begin. I can try to help, but it might not be the best decision because I don’t know your kiddos or your family dynamics and so on.

      Since it’s a rotation you can start where you want. You would then just rotate through. If you are putting your oldest in Y2, why would he move to Form Two next? He would still have Y3 to do. This is why it’s hard for me to tell you where to start. Sorry, because I know that’s not very helpful. Maybe if you could give me some more info, then I could give suggestions?

      Has your oldest done AO before? How old is he? He’s the one that I would figure out first and then the others will easily slide into place. Maybe let’s start there. Then I can help get you going! =)

  • Reply Virginia Lee May 25, 2015 at 9:55 pm

    Ok lovely ladies. I have now received a large handful of emails asking to see a Form One Rotation schedule. I think I muddied the waters here and made this sound more complicated than it is when I replied to a comment above. So here is a quick explanation about how we rotate. It is truly just that, a rotation of certain books in Form One. Let’s see if I can give a very random example using a couple of the books.

    First Year of Rotation
    Child A in Y1: Paddle to the Sea, A.A. Milne, Stevenson, Burgess Bird Book, etc
    Child B in Y0: Learning to read, picture books, time outdoors, and so forth
    Child C: Preschooler
    Child D: Toddler

    Second Year of Rotation
    Child A in Y2: Tree in Trail, Seabird, Rossetti, E. Field, Burgess Animal Book, etc
    Child B in Y1: Tree in Trail, Seabird, Rossetti, E. Field, Burgess Animal Book, etc
    Child C in Y0: Learning to read, picture books, time outdoors, and so forth
    Child D: Preschooler

    Third Year of Rotation
    Child A in Y3: Marco Polo, Pagoo, Secrets of Woods, Blake, Teasdale, etc
    Child B in Y2: Marco Polo, Pagoo, Secrets of Woods, Blake, Teasdale, etc
    Child C in Y1: Marco Polo, Pagoo, Secrets of Woods, Blake, Teasdale, etc
    Child D in Y0: Learning to read, picture books, time outdoors, and so forth
    (you can see that Child A has had all of the books from all three years in Form 1)

    Fourth Year of Rotation
    Child A in Y4: Starting Form II, so no longer in rotation.
    Child B in Y3: Paddle to the Sea, A.A. Milne, Stevenson, Burgess Bird Book, etc
    Child C in Y2: Paddle to the Sea, A.A. Milne, Stevenson, Burgess Bird Book, etc
    Child D in Y1: Paddle to the Sea, A.A. Milne, Stevenson, Burgess Bird Book, etc
    (you can see that Child B has now had all of the books from all three years in Form 1)

    It just keeps going. Remember, this is for the books I listed in the post that we include in our rotation. The other books we just follow the child’s specific AO year as scheduled. Is this clearer, or did I just muddy the waters even more?

    • Reply Lisa V in BC May 26, 2015 at 6:48 am

      I think it’s very clear :). Thank you for typing that all out!

      Do you find that your year 1 students keep up with what is going on in the year 3 books with no problem? And do your year 3 kids have any “problem” listening to the much simpler year 1 books?

      • Reply Virginia Lee May 26, 2015 at 7:36 am


        All of the Holling books, poetry, Burgess books (the SPECIFIC titles we have in the rotation) from Form 1 are not a different level. So AO has some of them in Y1, Y2, Y3, but they are equal in level of reading ability/comprehension. That is why they work well in the rotation. Some of the other books that are kept individual are deeper or more challenging, but that is why each child has those in their own year. Not all of the books from Form One would work well in a rotation because they would not work for Y1 and Y3 child or they need to stay with a specific year’s history, etc.

        Remember the example I gave is random. So you do not have to have those titles rotated in that order. For instance, this year our kiddos in Form 1 Rotation will be doing Tree in Trail (from Y2), Secrets of the Wood (from Y3), and so on. When I started the rotation my oldest is three years older than my next child. So when my Y1 daughter began the rotation her brother had been schooling for three years already. This is what works for us book wise. The BIG, BIG thing for me was that I did not want my kids to miss any of the books. I trust AO and the books they have chosen and why they picked those titles and how they build on each other. I do not want to tweak their book lists by substituting titles or try to reinvent the wheel (they’ve done it too well already). I firmly believe AO is the most true to CM principles and the most vigorous as well. The rotation lets our family use AO in a way that still stays true to all of that, but makes it more accessible to the number of kids/years we have.

    • Reply Catie June 19, 2015 at 6:13 am

      Thanks for posting this! I was just about to email you, too! :o) This post is soooooo helpful!

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 24, 2016 at 8:02 pm

      Updated to add: This is just an idea of how you could rotate. We rotate books, but not exactly like the above. For instance we used Burgess Animal Book when I had a Y3 and a Y1 child. The next year my Y2 (the previous Y1) child used Burgess Bird Book and the next year when she will be Y3 she will use Secret of the Woods and I’ll have a new Y1 child. So you see, I just keep track and we rotate through.

      I still get emails on this and I wish I had posted something a little different than the example rotation above. But hopefully you can just make the best decision of which books to begin your rotation with and then move through them. Please, please remember each family is different and you do not have to use the same book rotation we use. We just do what’s best for our crew while still using AO’s spectacular plan!

    • Reply Emily June 9, 2017 at 9:44 pm

      THIS was so helpful for me! in the original post it may have been so obvious, but my brain registered everything so much better with this detailed list! Thank you so so so much! I’ve been stressing all this time about how I’m going to read the year one books over and over again as each child enters year one… now I see the wisdom in rotating and how it works.

      **I was concerned that each year was progressively more challenging, so my new pupil wouldn’t be ready for year 2 or 3, but it sounds like they’re mostly interchangeable within form 1. That gives me hope!!**

  • Reply Tanya Stone May 25, 2015 at 8:19 am

    This is a very interesting way of combining things! I never would have thought of making the geography books–Holling, Marco Polo–or even Pagoo part of the family school time. I have done the Burgess books, some Literature, all the poetry, and the Long and Charlotte Mason geography books as part of family time. Plus composer and picture study, general nature study, foreign language, and Shakespeare.

    This next year I’ll have two in Form 1 and one in Form 2, plus one super smart 5yo and a toddler. I’ll have to keep this in mind as I plan my days. Thanks.

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 25, 2015 at 1:14 pm

      Thank you, Tanya. Glad some of what has worked for us sparked some ideas for you. The Holling books have been great titles to combine kiddos with since they appeal to both boys and girls and a wide age range. Just the sketches in the margins have provided such awesome discussion. In fact, with Seabird I think it helped one of my daughters to be even more interested in the story because of what her older brother would say as he looked at the sketches. I’ve given each kiddo their own copy of the map that goes with the book to follow along w/fill in the journey of, and I’ve also done it with one big map on the wall. It just depended on the season and my inclination that year. Happy planning!

  • Reply Adrienne W May 25, 2015 at 7:37 am

    Hello! I love this website and I love Charlotte Mason! But Ive been extremely frustrated… I have a seven year old (y2), 6 y0 (y1) a 3.5 year old, a 1.5 year old and baby girl number five due late July. I have gone crazy with trying to keep up the readings and I have all but given up. I can’t find any examples of schedules with a similar age spread as my chidden as none of them are independent readers and school will go literally ALL DAY if I let it! I’ve dropped so much and fear that they are missing out on what a true CM education looks like because I just can’t wield all the readings and the children! I’ve been making plans to go to a boxed curriculum next year just to give me something more manageable and to allow school to happen…but it pains me.
    ANyway, my question is, what exactly does the rotation look like? I appreciate the concept and the book suggestions immensely, but I guess I’m just a person who really needs hand holding, because I am not a naturally organized, list making, schedule abiding person to start with. I sit down to plan and it never comes together in a way that is workable and I get frustrated (and someone wakes up from nap or a baby cries or my hips start to hurt…. you get the picture!) So, in case you missed the question in my ramblings (sorry!) what exactly does a rotation look like in real life? How does it alleviate the amount of reading? I would love to see if it could work for me because I am literally at a point where I feel I need to jump ship in order to get any schooling done at all!
    Thanks so much for hanging in with me! 🙂

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 25, 2015 at 2:34 pm

      Hi Adrienne. First let me say, I completely understand what you are saying. Any year that I have been pregnant or have had a new baby I often feel overwhelmed or crazy! Not to mention tired and in pain. When you have lots of littles you get lots of love and snuggles, but nothing seems to go according to plan or follow a schedule completely. It truly does get easier once you have older kiddos in this mix. My oldest is almost 10 and parts of the house still keep going even if I’m out of commission. So this is a season you are in and you will be amazed how things are different once you have kiddos that can clean the bathrooms, load the dishwasher, and read their own books for school. But what to do until then?! I would love to answer all the questions you have in your comment with specifics and I am happy to show you schedules that have worked for us. But if you have not noticed from my other answers to comments I have an issue being concise. Ha! So could I email you separately? I think sometimes just seeing an example of what another family with similar aged kids has done lets us mamas see that schooling can happen, supper can get made, and our littles can get the snuggles they need all in one 24 hour period. God is good, He has blessed us with our little people, and He really does make learning with them a joy. Sometimes we just need to see some examples of a plan to get our tired mama brains flowing. And sweet tea; drinking lots of that helps me too. =)

      My email is You can shoot your email to me if you’d like.

      • Reply Adrienne W May 26, 2015 at 7:07 am

        Thanks so much! 🙂

  • Reply Lisa V in BC May 25, 2015 at 7:21 am

    Oh, I LOVE this idea! I have 5 kids between 5 and 13 and I’ll be reading to 3 of them next year. Aaahhhh it was making my head swim just thinking about it, not to mention that I’ve had a very hard time this year with just two to read to.

    How to you keep track of the individual readings vs. The rotation readings? I’ve been using AO’s chart with a little bit of tweaking for Cdn content and love that, i’m wondering how to use it so that all the readings are on there to highlight as we go without losing track of what still needs to be read in coming years – does that make sense?

    • Reply Virginia Lee May 25, 2015 at 1:52 pm

      Hi Lisa. I actually make a table similar to AO’s for each kiddo that includes all of their readings and other subjects. For my Y4 kiddo everything he does, EXCEPT our Morning Time things will be on this schedule. Across the top I put the weeks, along the sides I put the book titles and subjects. Then I just put the chapters to be read that week or a number of boxes to check off depending on how often the subject is done that week. So Written Narration would have two boxes, Math would have five, George Washington’s World would have chapters. He has his own checklist per week, so I just take that at the end of the week and mark off what actually happened on my schedule/table.

      For my Form 1 kids I have a separate schedule/table for each of them. Same set up as Y4, excluding the Morning Time stuff. The only difference is that I read their individual readings aloud and do their subjects with them and I am the one who checks things off. Part way through Y3 I give them their own checklist and then I do what I do for my Y4 kiddo. Then I have the exact same kind of schedule/table for the Form 1 Rotation books and Morning Time. I check those things off.

      So in July I will have a Y4 schedule, Y2 schedule, Y0 schedule, and a Form 1 Rotation and Morning Time Schedule. I like having them separate so that I can just see what that specific child is doing as I read to them or go over work with them. If it is all together is gets really crowded and jumbled looking and I cannot easily focus on a specific child’s progress.

      I don’t know if this answers your question or not? I like the way AO’s schedules/tables look. But since I combine for the Form 1 rotation and I want specific things listed for their subjects their exact tables do not work for me. It’s not hard to make my own. I just open Pages (or any word type document), choose the table I want and then enter my info and save it. I figure it takes just as much time as it would to enter subject specifics or tweak the existing tables they provide. We also school year round, 6 weeks on, 1 week off. So this way I can make my schedule taking that into consideration.

      If I have not answered exactly what you were looking for let me know. Or maybe someone else out there has a better idea that would help you? Jump in anyone if you have a thought.

      • Reply Lisa V in BC May 26, 2015 at 6:37 am

        Hi Virginia, it does help! Thanks 🙂

        On a slightly different note, I’ve really struggled to get the readings in this year and am embarrassed to say that we are just finishing up the first term of years 1 & 2 for my kids. I’m considering setting up a combined reading schedule (with no narrations) for the summer so that we cover terms 2&3 of year 2 as well as the individual readings (again no narrations) you recommend for years 1&2. Then in the fall we would do combined readings for year 3 and individual readings for years 1, 2&3. That way they would at least get the readings in before going on to the next year and I’ll be cutting down on the readings a bit.

        What do you think? Brandi? Would you do the summer readings or just take a break for the summer and start fresh in the fall? I’m thinking about your previous post about letting go of what doesn’t get done…

        • Reply Virginia Lee May 26, 2015 at 8:26 am

          Please do not be embarrassed. We had one year that will always be the year the locusts ate. School happened sort of, life happened BIG time and that’s just how it was.

          Honestly, and Brandy probably has more wisdom on this, I would not try to get the readings done with no narrations just so that the list is done before the next year begins. First of all, we want these books to really soak into our children’s minds and hearts. We need to give them time to connect with the people and places they are reading about so that the ideas can really become their own and transform them. It is not about finishing the book list, it’s about the personal connection that leads to transformation. If you rush, the joy is gone. The reason behind the way you educate is gone. The list may be checked off (and this is satisfying) but have we really educated in a way that will lead to our children caring? How much they care directly connects to how deeply they love.

          Also, narration is the cornerstone to a CM education. It is the beginning building block for everything to come in later years of Language Arts, it’s one of the ways we teach the habit of attention (which is key), and it’s one of the biggest ways our children put what they have read from their minds to their hearts. It’s where it becomes personal and real. Plus it lets us as mamas know if our kids are getting it or not. Narration just cannot be skipped.

          If it was me, and I’m not an expert here, remember my oldest turns 10 in Aug, this is what I would do. I would stop now, take your summer to plan and regroup. Let your kiddos read some amazing books from the Free Reads lists in their years that are at their reading level. If they cannot read, get some on audio, or use 1 as a read aloud for those non readers you have. For your Form One kids I would just start the new school year where you left off with their individual readings. If you have finished Term 1 of years 1 and 2, start them in the next term of those years for their individual readings. Remember the years at AO are not grade levels. So this does not mean your kiddos are being held back a grade. Plus, all of AO’s years are light years more advanced compared to what many other first, second or third graders are reading. As for the rotation, pick the books you want to use in the rotation from the list I have in the post and just begin the rotation.

          This is way too wordy, I’m sorry. My best advice would be not to worry about what year the kids are in because of their age and a new school year on the calendar starting. Put your time energy and effort into “how much do they care and about how many order of things do they care about.” CM is much wiser than me, I’d follow her advice!

          • Rochelle May 31, 2016 at 11:17 am

            I read the post a few years ago, then read it again today, as I’m considering something similar. So it makes sense in year 2 & 3, but what about cycling back to year 1, but perhaps you still have an 8 year old in form I when you cycle back to year 1….is that going to be too light?

            Also, did your 9 year old stay in form I or go to form II?

            I’m seriously considering using the books & the CM time table and going from there in a rotation. But I can’t sort out 1.) history and b.) year 1. ?

          • Virginia Lee May 31, 2016 at 2:21 pm


            I cannot seem to find a reply for your specific post. So I will try here. I’m not exactly sure what you are asking me. You can take ANY of the books I listed that we include in the rotation in the original post and rotate through them. So for instance each child is in their OWN history year of AO. You can see the books I left individually in the post. As for the books we rotate through, **they don’t have to be all from one specific year.** This year I’m putting all my Form 1 kids (Y1 and Y3) in Secrets of the Woods. I also putting all my Form 1 kids in Wind in the Willows. So you can see I just make sure we rotate through the books, but they are coming from different years of Form 1. EXCEPT the ones I listed above that we keep in specific AO years.

            You are worried about Y1 being challenging enough. I’ve never put an 8 year old there. I guess it would depend on the 8 year old. They would normally be in Y2 or Y3 in our family depending on the child when they are 8. All of my 6 year olds have been in Y1 and it’s lovely for them. Remember we keep each child in their own history year. So when 6 in Y1, then 7 in Y2, etc. One of my kiddos did Y1 at 6/7 and Y3 was 8/9.

            I have only had 9 and under in the Form 1 Rotation though. Once my kids are 9 or 10 they have moved or will be moving to Form 2. There is a year 3.5 on AO if you are worried about moving one of your kids to Form 2 too soon. I have never done it personally, but the books look wonderful in that year and you would be giving them another year to mature if you are worried about that.

            I feel like I’m probably not completely understanding your question. Hopefully this has helped some.

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