NOTE: Every time I mention a book, I will be linking to Ambleside Online Year 4 detailed schedule. From there, you can go to links to buy the books. Ambleside Online is a free curriculum, free to use, but copyrighted, and it is against the law to reproduce part or all you find there in your personal blogs or websites. READ MORE HERE.
I love every time I read Jeanne say that she and her Jemimah are no quitters. By this time we all should know that the hard books have a high chance of becoming favorites and books that help us grow. Remember the divide and conquer principle. Some ideas:
- Break the long readings into sections (if they are not already divided as in George Washington’s Word). This book has lots of names, dates, events. Just go slowly, model narration if needed initially. We do a section, sometimes two, a day. It cannot be rushed or crammed. It is a wonderful book that contains world history, a panoramic of what happened in Europe, America, and the world, at the times of George Washington.
- This Country of Ours, in the week’s reading it’s noted if it’s a longish chapter, divide accordingly.
- Madam How and Lady Why. Sometimes, having to still read most of the school books to your student has advantages. Since I introduced my daughter to this fascinating book, I have been able to show her not to panic when one is not so clear about what the author is talking about with a few pages. Kingsley’s style is very different to much of what we had read up to now. Even after reading his Heroes, this geology book is very unique, but it is a gem for studying earth science synthetically (in perspective, from the big picture to the small), as opposed to busy text books with lots of trivia and not a discernment of the hows and whys of the laws and phenomena we observe. It’s particularly rewarding for us, believers, because Kingsley, contrary to appearances (Madam How and Lady Why personifications), acknowledges and openly gives credit to our Creator for the world and its wonders.
- Abigail Adams. My husband has to listen to some of it in the car on Sundays. Though not always easy to narrate from it (again, many names and dates thrown at you), it’s such a wonderful book that I am already mourning its ending, and we are half way there. The pictures by John Singleton Copley (remember the memorable Watson and the Sharks?), a painter we have studied before, are such a source of delight.
- The Story of Science, by Fabre. It’s a book many children read on their own. For us, some chapters are deceivingly easy. All we read in the other books is tying up wonderfully with this one.
- Robinson Crusoe. This was such an unexpectedly loved by all book. I read it aloud to my family and they made me finish it 2 weeks earlier. Ahem. We should not rush the books, but 2 weeks I could do, don’t you think?
Now for the new components.
- Latin. I chose Getting Started with Latin. After twenty something weeks, we are going back to the beginning of the book. My oldest needs time, and we have plenty to learn Latin. I once knew Latin, but I have forgotten much. I am re learning it. I don’t do declensions yet, we are not there, but when that comes, I pray we’d be fine (grin). We do this orally once a week.
- Grammar. Don’t sweat it. Start with mad libs, and transition to Simple Grammar or whatever grammar book you want to use. I am realizing that copy writing, and now dictation, are doing wonders for the girl’s spelling. We do it once a week, but as with Latin, both are not quite consistent yet. Again, we have time ahead.
- Dictation. My girl refuses dictation. She says she writes much on her own (which is true), but I insist. And once she does it, she even likes it. Yes. That’s kids. Specially the ones that don’t like changes. Specially the ones who are challenged. My girl will be perfectly happy doing year 3 for the rest of her life!
- Plutarch. This was, to me, hard to believe it could be done. I grabbed a paraphrase by the horns to prove myself wrong, to believe Plutarch is, if not easy, doable. You all need to thank Anne White. She has done a superb job breaking the lives into 12 installments, and adding some vocabulary clarifications, and some intros to each life, and each reading, and some open ended questions at the end, as well as ideas for narrating (orally or in written form). Is this easy? Not always. Some weeks the reading appears to be a places and names jigsaw puzzle without rhyme or reason. What do I do? I model narration. Oh, boy, that will bring you down to your knees, and you will like it the more because of that.Here you have the absolute article on how to study Plutarch.
- Written Narrations. If your children are those for whom getting some writing done is difficult, for whom even oral narrations have been such a challenge. Breath. Just a couple of sentences can be a decent beginning. My daughter does write well, and pages, but again, don’t you think it’s all fine and dandy. She does not like written narrations. Why? You can tell me. Because,it.is.something,new.that.requires.a.new.level.of.effort.and.concentration.
- Age of Fable. This is her favorite candidate to read by herself and do written narrations from. But not the first weeks. Actually, as every year, I make a silly mistake or two. I thought the whole intro was due the first week. And it was cruelly painful. Then I laughed and we went back to it, and did a gods and goddesses tree, and it was the hardest chapter. After that, each myth is only two or three pages. If more, it’s broken into two readings. Again, read it sometimes yourself, don’t miss the bonuses when Bulfinch tells us Milton, Shakespeare, or another literary titan, has made use of that myth in a poem or prose.
- Shakespeare. This was a leap of faith. I had read Hamlet two years ago, without much understanding. This time I said, I will read it aloud to the girls while they work on a puzzle, or with play dough, or in the night… We had prepared before, they had read a Classics Illustrated comic and Lamb’s version before. Even so, some parts where difficult but there were a few moments of understanding. Much went over their heads. And some of that you want it to exactly go over their heads. But there were days when ideas and thoughts came from their mouths and my jaw dropped in disbelief. Can it be those my 7 and 9 year old girls at the time? (Hamlet was the play for the first term, right before they turned 8 and 10). The second play scheduled for 2014-2015 was Midsummer Night’s Dream. That was much better. Comedies are easier for our children. They were familiar with this one, we had even read about Pyramus and Thisbe (the myth that Bottom and his friends try to put in play in the forest). We have started our third Shakespeare, Richard II. It is not going to be an easy one by any means, but we will do our best.Please, read Jeanne again, this time on Shakespeare.
Finally, I cannot tell you how all this will play off and look like in your home. I wrote this with the moms of children who experience challenges in mind. You are going to have to be the judge of when and how many of the new things to attempt. You don’t want to be scared of all this forever, but you don’t want to worry and shovel this down the throats of, again, any child, least of all children with already a fragile relationship with some of their lessons components.
I don’t imply lessons are ever easy for anyone, but there are additional circumstances (dyslexia, ADD or difficulties focusing, reading struggles of different kinds…), that surely make the days of some families extra difficult. But don’t let that rob you of your joy. Look at what they are doing, how they are improving, and try that ever lasting dance of tightening the rope and cutting some slack. I can tell you that, if nothing else, this will be a phenomenal trip for YOU. And it’s important you see it like that (OK, at least most of your days), otherwise you will enter that gloomy loom, and we want to inspire them, not to make them ever conscious of their limitations. Even if they get a fraction of this education, granted they care (and they will), it’s such a blessing and a gain and a joy.