Tag Archives: Year 1

Kid Uno’s Year 1 Course of Study

This is how we did Year 1 with Kid Uno. I’ve noted where we have dropped, added, or substituted books. I’ve also noted changes planned for Kid Dos.



  • (Daily) She worked through the Grade Two and Grade Three penmanship workbooks from Rod & Staff, spending about 5-10 minutes a day completing a lesson or half a lesson.


  • (Daily) We worked through the addition and subtraction sections of Ray’s Primary Arithmetic. Twice! The first time through sequentially with beans and marbles; the second time through alternating addition with subtraction, mostly working out the problems in her head. Then we worked through the addition and subtraction exercises in the Eclectic Manual.
  • (Weekly) I read her one or two lessons from the Life of Fred series. She wrote answers on paper or a whiteboard.
  • (Weekly) She did several pages from the Miquon Orange and Red books. I assigned the pages, sometimes explained how to do things, and corrected them.
  • (Weekly) She picked a book from the I Love Math series and read whatever she wanted (for about 20-30 minutes)


  • (Weekly) Kid Uno read aloud the passages scheduled by AO, and then narrated. Sometimes we discussed the reading.
  • (Daily) We usually read to all the kids from Egermeier’s or The Jesus Storybook Bible.
  • (2-3x Weekly) At the beginning of the year, I had printed the free verse packs from Simply Charlotte Mason. Kid Uno picked one each week to memorize. They were short, but totally out of context, and she didn’t really remember them. So for the 3rd term, I picked Psalm 136, and we memorized it together. That was much more satisfying!


  • (Daily) We took turns reading the scheduled AO poets.
  • She memorized one poem (the shortest poem in each book) per term


  • We read the three scheduled American History bios and also added Pocahontas by the d’Aulaires.
  • Our Island Story: We read this as scheduled the first two terms, and then I dropped it. I am thinking of using it in Year 4, but it’s too much British history for us, and a slightly over the head of a 7 year old.
  • Fifty Famous Stories Retold and Viking Tales: Read as scheduled but not all the chapters were scheduled. I assigned the remainder to Kid Uno to read herself, and narrate. For Kid Dos, I plan to schedule all the chapters in these two books in lieu of Our Island Story.
  • Trial and Triumph: Read as scheduled.
  • I printed a free timeline from SCM and put it in a 3 ring binder. Every couple weeks, Kid Uno added some names and dates from our readings.


  • Paddle to the Sea: We read as scheduled.
  • We used a little globe and a big US map to find places we read about.

Natural History/Science

  • Handbook of Nature Study: We didn’t touch it, and I don’t plan to. It’s for the teacher, not the student. It’s not open-and-go, and I think there are better modern options. I’m considering using The Amateur Naturalist and/or The Nature Handbook: A Guide to Observing the Great Outdoors for the other kids and future years.
  • (Weekly) Instead, we used Nature Connection. We started with the weather section, since Kid Uno is into weather, and then finished with the naturalist section. We’ll do the monthly section in Year 2.
  • (Weekly) She also kept a nature journal through the year. I usually assigned her something specific outside to draw or paint.
  • (Weekly) We also read three of the One Small Square series. There are twelve books, and I plan to read them all in Years 1-3. They cover various habitats, with the various animals and plants that live there.
  • (Daily) All our kids spend at least an hour outside daily, regardless of the weather. They get lots of nature time!
  • James Herriot’s Treasury and The Burgess Bird Book for Children: We read these as scheduled. James Herriot was great; Burgess Bird not so much. Kid Uno picked up a little info about birds, but I can’t stand reading it aloud, so it will go in the Free Read pile for the next kids. For Kid Dos, I will probably keep the AO theme of birds, but use The First Book of Birds. And maybe something by Jim Arnosky or John James Audubon. 


  • We read all the AO selections except
  • Parables from Nature. I pre-read a couple of the stories, and couldn’t stand the moralizing. Also, most of the forum comments I read said that the Year 1 children couldn’t understand much of it at all, and it took one or two years to grow into. So I decided not to bother, and instead we read from
  • Among the….People. They are much more palatable. If we read 33 chapters per year, we will read all the books by Year 3.
  • For Shakespeare, we read Lamb’s. Then listened to it on Librivox. Then watched most of the plays on YouTube.


  • (Weekly) I picked one artist per term (Caravaggio, Van Gogh, and John Singer Sargent), and bought a coffee table art book by each artist. I picked one painting each week for Picture Study.
  • (Daily) Kid Uno did one lesson daily from Drawing Textbook (unless she had another art project scheduled).
  • At the beginning of the year, I bought all the art supplies for the Usborne Art Treasury, and set them aside for school. Kid Uno picked one project every other week, and did it herself.
  • On alternate weeks, she did free YouTube drawing lessons by Shoo Rayner, Mark Kistler, and Jan Brett.
  • Kid Uno and Kid Dos took four lessons at a little art studio.


  • (Weekly) We bought the Classical Kids set of CDs, and I split them up fairly evenly (and in chronological order) to be listened to through the year. I’m not sure they were worth the cost; we’ll see how Kid Dos likes them.
  • Both girls love watching ballet on YouTube, so they also listened to a lot of classical music.
  • Hymns: I asked DH to pick some favorites, and then printed and filed them. We sang them together a couple times a week (and went over the vocabulary). We sang four Christmas hymns during Advent, and about one per month the rest of the year. They aren’t memorized, but they are more familiar now.
  • Folksong: Does watching WeeSing DVDs count?

Foreign Language


  • Weaving potholders on a little loom
  • Helping build and paint a treehouse
  • Baking and chopping vegetables
  • Planting, weeding, and harvesting a garden
  • Sewing
  • Caring for bunnies
  • Chores: washing dishes, putting away laundry, emptying wastebaskets
  • Helping care for a new baby brother
  • Organizing toys and books
  • and so on

Free Reads

  • Kid Uno is a reader. She flew through the AO suggested free reads in the first couple weeks. So I pulled heavily from other booklists the rest of the year.


  • Swim lessons at the rec center
  • Soccer at the rec center
  • Playing tennis with grandparents
  • Hiking and bike riding


There’s so much we can count as “school”! Pretty much just life in general. But I tried to keep track of the extras we did like

  • Keeping a bird feeder and hummingbird feeder
  • Taking a trip to Washington, DC
  • Having a zoo membership
  • Camping and hiking
  • Writing letters
  • Selling lemonade
  • Visiting family and hosting friends


  • At the end of each term, DH spent about two days doing exams with Kid Uno. I used the AO exams for Year 1, tweaking to fit the books we used. He took notes for me to read later, and I listened in when I could.

And that was our first version of Ambleside’s Year 1!


Year 1 Wrap-up for Kid Dos

Year 1 Wrap Up for Kid Dos

Average weekly time: Together (4 hours), Kid Dos independently (4), total 8 hours

 Rate each book or activity (like, neutral, dislike).

Add a few comments.

Any changes for next child?

(My answers are italicized)



AO Bible Selections

Like. It’s about God.

Like.  Short readings covering standard Bible stories.


Liked it a ton. Loved it. I don’t know; it’s just fun to listen to, and it’s about God.

Like. Short, concise, informative. Lovely illustrations. Part way through the book, I realized a lot of the words and ideas were unfamiliar, so I started introducing vocabulary before reading the story, and that helped Kid Dos’s understanding.


50 Famous Stories

Neutral. They were short but they were interesting.

Like. It’s kind of a weird collection of stories. Mignon? My second time through this book, and I still don’t get why that is included. And the Pocohontas version is terrible. But most are fine. I schedule all of them, in chronological order.

Viking Tales

Like. Love it! It was cool. It told a lot about different lands. It helped me find some on the globe and memorize it.

Like. This was even better the second time around. We did a lot of mapping, and I introduced vocabulary before readings.

 D’aulaires’ Pocohontas

 Like. Loved it! It was cool. It was about one of my favorite Disney princesses. It was about showing love, how she rescued the man. How all the animals were bigger than the people at the end. It was very interesting.

Like. It’s the standard version of her life, but all the illustrations maximize the interesting cultural aspects and minimize the rah-rah-pilgrims stuff.

D’aulaires’ Benjamin Franklin

Neutral. It was about a boy, so that was the bad part.

Neutral. Not the most engaging storytelling after the childhood part.

D’aulaires’ George Washington

Like. He had a horse.

Like. Fairly interesting.

D’aulaires’ Buffalo Bill

Neutral. It was interesting.

Neutral. Had to do some on-the-fly editing with Indian references. Some good mapping.


Dislike. Hate it; terrible. Boring—it’s writing.

Neutral. Kind of a drag, but it’s only every three weeks, and it pays off later.


One Small Square Woods

Dislike. Boring.

Neutral. Very Eastern—we don’t have those kinds of woods around here, so when we tried doing a small square on the Jordan River, it didn’t work so well. And it was winter 😉

One Small Square Seashore

Neutral. It has birds.

Like. Read right after their trip to Florida, so some of it came alive.

One Small Square Savanna

Like. Loved it. It had everything about animals—elephants, lions, zebras, buffaloes.

Like. This one is easy to follow.

One Small Square Pond

Neutral. It was kinda boring and hard to understand.

Like. Fairly interesting. Some overlap with Among the People.

 Among the People

Neutral. Kinda interesting, kind boring, kinda weird.

Like. I thought the eels crawling through mud was totally out there, until I googled it and it is true! And the humor is great at times.

James Herriot

Love. It was about animals—sheep, ton of cats, cow, dogs. It was so fun and interesting, and there were veterinarians which tried to help the animals. I liked all the color and detail.

Like. Such great illustrations, and he is such a warm writer. I look forward to Kid Dos reading his adult works  when she’s older (if she’s still obsessed with animals).

Paddle to the Sea

Neutral. Kinda boring.

Neutral. The first half is nicely paced and lends itself to mapping, but the last half seems rushed, and it is totally anti-climactic. Kid Dos didn’t even realize he had made it to the sea. I like Holling C. Holling, but his use of dialogue to narrate doesn’t work very well, especially for read alouds.

Nature Journal

Dislike. It’s all about drawing pictures and it’s boring.

Like. Term 1 was the best, when I scheduled topics ahead of time. The other terms were haphazard, which were ok.

Nature Connection

Dislike. Hate. The worst besides handwriting. You had to write, you had to go outside in bad weather when sometimes you wanted to stay in the house.

Neutral. I think it is worthwhile, but it is redundant now that I have more experience and more resources for nature study. I am dropping it or minimizing it for Kid Tres (trying to streamline); I may have Kid Dos do the weather section next year.


Blue Fairy

Like. Interesting, and it had Beauty and the Beast in it.

Like. I picked some different stories from Kid Uno’s Year 1.

Lamb’s Shakespeare

Neutral. Kid Uno likes it and I didn’t really like it. She always picked it to be last and I wanted Saints to be last.

Like. Especially Hamlet, since I’ve never read it before. I get some of the others mixed up since they are formulaic, but they are all good.

 Aesop’s Fables

Neutral. Short but interesting, and there were animals it.

Neutral. These are classic, of course, but I don’t know why everyone says they are easy. They are so short, it’s almost ridiculous to narrate afterward, and I’ve given up on expecting the kids to understand the morals. I’m going to do the Provensen version with Kid Dos to change things up a bit.

Just So Stories

Like. Story about elephant and crocodile that pulled its trunk out.

Like. I liked this so much better the second time around! Considering getting a nicer edition than Yesterday’s Classics, since the illustrations are worthless in our copy.

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Dislike. Boring, and all about rhyming things.

Neutral. I get this and Book of Poems confused. The illustrations are the best part. I don’t care so much for Stevenson. I may swap The Llama Who Had No Pajamas or something similar for Kid Tres.

A.A. Milne

Like. Cuz bears in the squares.

Like. Actually, I love Milne. I think his cleverness totally goes over kids’ heads, but he makes childhood so poignant. Kid Dos latched on to a couple of the poems, and wanted to read them every time 🙂

Book of Poems

Dislike. I had to read some, and I don’t like reading out loud.

Neutral. A lot of sappy poems.


Ray’s Primary Arithmetic

Dislike. Hate. It was terrible, it was boring, and it was math.

Like. I know Kid Dos doesn’t like it, but it is so simple, effective, and short. We finished addition and subtraction, and began multiplication.

Life of Fred

Like. It was funny, cuz it was a five year old boy who had a math class, and a long pointy nose, and…

Dislike. Actually closer to hate. Just inane, and she learns absolutely no math. The only redeeming quality is that she associates something funny with math. We got through Apples and Butterflies, I am done reading them forever; considered selling since they were spendy, but will probably hang on to them and just let the kids read them when they want to.


Dislike. Math again.

Like. Such a good complement to Ray’s. She worked through parts of Red and Orange. Got stuck on the multiplication parts, so that’s where we’ll pick up next year.

I Love Math

Neutral. It was reading.

Like. This is really a great set. The kids all read these books just for fun sometimes.


Printing Workbook

Dislike. Boring.

Like. Cheap, quick, and effective. But I didn’t spend enough time instructing her letter formation; she does some letters wrong, and I need to correct her.

Rod & Staff Penmanship Grade 2

Neutral. It’s hard.

Like. Cheap, quick, effective, and pretty.


McGuffey’s Primers and First Reader

Like. It’s better than Phonics Pathways.

Like. Those hit-you-over-head morals from the 1800s are something else! They make me snicker every time. Kid Dos liked reading them because they were real stories, compared with Phonics Pathways nonsense sentences.

Phonics Pathways

Dislike. Terrible, nonsense.

Like. Kid Dos hated this (“it’s all nonsense”) but the phonics were SO important for her. And it is way better than OPGTR!



Neutral. I don’t like singing very much.

Like. I love when we have learned one, and then we sing it at church, and she is so excited because she knows this one!

Classical Kids CDs

Like. Love. SO fun and awesome because there were grown up people singing and it was fun to hear.

Like. Papageno and the magic flute will forever be associated with Kid Dos’s Year 1.

Music Lessons

Like. Love. It was fun and I’m twins with Daddy.

Like. Her piano lessons have been very worthwhile.

Memorization & Recitation


Dislike. It was hard.

Like. I like being able to choose something meaningful for her to memorize. And she has a flawless memory.


Neutral. It was fun to memorize Five Little Chickens.

Like. Her bears in the squares and little chicks recitations were adorable. Her whole life is animal themed.


Drawing Textbook

Dislike. Hard and boring.

Like. Simple and effective.

Usborne Treasury of Art

Dislike. Hate. I hate art.

Like. It’s interesting seeing Kid Dos do these projects, since she doesn’t love that type of art. This book is well done.

Drawing Videos

Like. It was Jan Brett and she drew animals.

Like. Jan Brett on YouTube.

Theatre at Children’s Theatre

Like. Love. It was so nice. I liked singing Be Our Guest. I liked my teacher. It was fun. One of the bad parts was one of the girls was hyper and she was so loud.

Like. It was rough getting Kids Uno and Dos here during the winter at naptime with a new baby. But they really enjoyed it, and I think they learned some voice and public speaking and memorization skills.


Picture Study


Dislike. Hate. Boring and it was all about telling pictures.

Like. I thought she would love this, but she didn’t really. She liked the color prints better than the black and white. Anyway, I love Escher!

 Van Gogh

Dislike. Hate. Boring, terrible, it was all about studying some old pictures.

Neutral. But I don’t think this book is the best representation of his work.


Dislike. It was not fun. It was a waste of time.

Like. She liked the ones with Biblical themes, but not the nudity. So we didn’t look at most of the naked ones. Most of the saints and Biblical characters tied in nicely with this year’s readings.


Emily’s Co-op

Like. Love. It was fun. Our teacher was someone who we know, one of the BEST teachers. We did a science project, we did some nice plays, I like how she designed it. It was  NOT a waste of time.

Like. Emily was amazing to do this. Three hours every Friday morning for several weeks. The three older kids all learned some finger-knitting and Spanish, played parts in a fairy tale play, and did some nature journaling, and loved being with friends. The kids loved it.

Knitting, Weaving, Beeswax Candles, Microscope, Pet Care, Decorating Church for Easter, Clay, Cutting Apples, Making Lunch, Opening Pomegranates, Grocery Shopping, Legos, Beading, Gingerbread House, Baking Cookies, Brownies, Cake, and Pies, Felting Soap, Paper Cutting, Play Doh, Hand Sewing, Fairy House, Eco Art, Paper Fans, Building Fort, Harvesting Pine Nuts

Like. Love, love, love. It’s fun.

Like. It’s all good!

Outdoor Exploration

Perseid Meteor Shower in West Desert, Big Cottonwood Canyon, Millcreek Canyon, Peace Garden, Sheepdog Festival, Week at Cabin in Grover, Tracey Aviary, Wheeler Farm, Neighborhood Seed Walk, Jordan River, Cattails, Aerospace Museum, Stockton, Treehouse, Tulip Festival, Thanksgiving Point, Discovery Gateway, Camping in Uintas, Week in Florida

Like. Love. It was fun. I love seeing the meteor shower cuz I was with cactus.

Like. One of the best parts of homeschooling.

Sports/Physical Activity

Ballet at Missio

Like. Love. I love my teachers. They’re very nice. They care for people, especially B– when he broke his arm. They teach us, and it’s not a waste of time.

Like. It’s free, the quality is equivalent to SLC Ballet which is not free, it’s close, DH usually takes them, and their performance was very sweet. It’s a keeper.


Like. It was hard but fun, and I’ve done two 5ks in my lifetime.

Like. DH times the kids running around the block, and tracks their records on a spreadsheet. And Kid Dos ran her first 5k this year—and won her age group!

 Hikes, Bike Rides, Tennis, Yard Golf, Bounce House, Snow Play, Sledding, Ice Skating, Swimming

Like. Love. It was fun

Like. All great activities.


Neutral. It’s a boy’s sport but I met a new friend.

Like. This was 4 weeks on a county rec team with Kid Tres. Low key, low commitment, her baseball skills improved, and they had fun being “baseball buddies”.


Like. Love. I liked doing handstands, cartwheels, front rolls.

Like. All four older kids took several weeks of classes at the rec center. It was a good cheap way to see if they were all really interested like they said they were. I think we’ll do it again this winter.


Overall evaluation: Our family is very strong in spending time reading, crafting, sporting, socializing, and spending time outside. We have acquired Legos and more board games this year; Kid Dos has enjoyed both. She spends a lot of time with the bunnies and chickens. She is currently obsessed with horses, and  A Horse Called Wonder was the first chapter book she finished. At the beginning of the year, it was a struggle to get through her reading lessons, but after many doses of Zita the Space Girl, Billy and Blaze, and some other books, it finally started clicking. She took the DORA/ADAM which were useful to me. She’s at or above grade level in everything except geometry. I need to look ahead and see if our maths eventually cover geometry [since Kid Uno also scored low in that], or if I should add something. Origami? 😉 I wanted to use more media this year but we really didn’t. Better to err on the side of too little, I guess. Next year I am putting some movies/documentaries/music right on the schedule so I remember to do them. Kid Dos does enjoy online math games, Starfall, Wild Kratts, and watching ballet and sports. I’m very happy with the changes I made to Year 1 the second time around; I’m making a couple minor tweaks to streamline it for Kid Tres next year since he will combine with Kid Dos for a few things. The distribution of work throughout the week is just right; it’s only take me three years to perfect our schedules. 🙂



How We Do…Schedules

I like to plan…It’s so much prettier and more perfect than actually implementing the lessons 🙂  It goes in spurts–there’s no set time I spend planning. I just get in the mood and start working on the future.  It’s fun to change things till they fit us just right. The Ambleside Online schedules for each grade are my framework. We school year-round, with a couple weeks off here and there (for camping, for out-of-town visits, for vacations, for new babies, for spring fever). In theory, I’d like to accomplish the bulk of our academic stuff between November and April, when the weather here is not as nice, and we spend more time indoors than outdoors. The AO schedules are based on a 36 week school year (broken into three twelve week terms), plus one week of exams at the end of each term. So I round up to 40 weeks of school, and 12 weeks off. Our state requires no reporting, so we basically have complete freedom in the scheduling department. We can also teach whatever subjects we want, when we want, which is nice! And the compulsory education ages are 6 to 18, although there are so many exemptions for 16 year olds, I kinda look at it as 6 to 16. Which means I need to plan 50 years of education…so far 😉

For grade levels, we consider the kids to be whatever they would be at the local public school. So Kid Uno (age 8) is 2nd grade, Kid Dos (age 6) is Kindergarten, and so on. But their personal new school years start on their half birthdays (or a bit later). So Kid Uno started AO Year 1 when she turned 6.5, and Kid Dos is still Year 0. I try to get to a good stopping place in their schedules before we take time off, especially if it will be several weeks off, but I can see that getting complicated as we have more kids moving up into school age. Unless there are unforeseen issues, we will always have a kid in alternating years (so next year the three older ones will be Year 3, Year 1, and Year 0).

I’m thinking about combining them when possible, but I also think one of the great advantages of homeschooling is that kids can work at a very individual level. Some things–some readings, singing, and memorizing–could be easy to do together (in Year 1 and 3).

OK, now for the actual scheduling. For Year 1, I used the AO Year 1 Schedule pretty much as is, while adding and dropping a couple things. Then I printed and stapled each term. Every day, when we completed something, I marked it off (or wrote in the box), and sometimes added notes on the bottom. Not very hi tech but it worked great for me. When I plan  Year 1 for Kid Dos , I will be making a lot more changes. It seemed like the readings weren’t spread out very evenly, and next time I can adjust that.  For example, the D’aulaire and Holling books need to be sped up. And I will be treating a week of camp at a working farm as part of nature study. And so on.

For Year 2, I made several more changes, and the subject categories were very different in my head from AO’s. So I used the AO Year 2 Schedule with a lot of modifications. Actually DH did most of the formatting, since his skills are far more up to date than mine. This year I had a much better idea of how long certain readings and projects would take, and the weekly flow has felt much smoother than last year.

For Year 3 (it’s only in my head so far), I think we will be departing quite a bit from AO’s schedule, and somewhat from the booklist. Mainly in science and history.  I’m feeling much more confident in knowing what materials are available, what is important for our family, what our kids’ interests are…and I’ve bought lots of books I’m more excited about using than some of the AO selections. 🙂  I feel like I have a good handle on how to do Charlotte Mason without being married to the AO way. So I can use it as a starting point, and then tweak it. And after completing a couple years, it’s getting easier to just choose a book, decide how long it should take, and divide up the chapters or pages or whatever into weekly readings. Or to look beyond books, and recognize a birthday origami kit as a handicraft, or raising bunnies and chicks as nature study, or future violin lessons as part of music appreciation.

I don’t really schedule Year 0. I print the Sonlight P4/5 book list, highlight the ones I like, and cross them off as we read them. Same for the Five in a Row booklists. And once the child is age six , I aim for 3-4 days per week of reading, writing, and arithmetic, plus lots of reading aloud, time outside, music, playing with friends…just regular family life.

in a nutshell, my scheduling method is

  • Pick the books, projects, activities, DVDs, or whatever else I want to use for a year
  • Divide them into three terms
  • Divide into weeks
  • Check them off as we go along

That way, I never really feel like we are behind; if we take time off, or miss a day, we just pick up where we left off. There’s no daily schedule. I like trimesters better than semesters or quarters. Enough variety, but enough time to get into a groove.

Oh, and I use the exam questions (modified to fit us), and DH spends 2-3 days or evenings administering the exam to Kid Uno at the end of each term. He records the answers, and I eavesdrop a bit; it’s entertaining! I like having him do it–it’s a bit of a safety net in case there is some huge gap or misunderstanding or weakness somewhere that I might have missed–he can alert me to it.

These two blogs have some helpful posts on scheduling:



And it’s been very helpful to me to hash things out with a good friend whose kids are in the same year, and to bounce ideas off DH and my mom when I’m changing things around.

So that’s my rather anal box-checking scheduling…sometimes I wish I could just grab random books and say “Read this”…but I really like those nice little spreadsheets with things crossed off….it feels like such an accomplishment at the end of a week! 😉

How We Do…Art

Kid Uno has been an artist since birth. Even coloring was a social, collaberative experience for her when she was little. “Want to color with me?” Supporting her growth in art is an ongoing learning experience for me. My creative interests lean more toward tie dye, construction, and sewing with salvaged fabric. Hers are more fine art–ballet, classical music, satin and silk, paper dolls, and stacks and stacks of drawings, paintings, collages….I feel a bit out of my element, but Charlotte Mason includes picture study and handicrafts, so that gives me a bit of a framework. And one benefit of homeschooling is that you can tailor a child’s education, so I decided to beef up the art department as much as possible for Kid Uno. I have freely questioned kind uncles and aunts who have far more expertise than I in art and music. They been very helpful in giving me ideas about what supplies to purchase and how to encourage her. And I read an awesome (for me) book last year called The Art of Teaching Art to Childrenwhich I need to review. For someone with a great art background, it’s probably not too helpful, but for me it was great because the author covered several areas about which I am clueless (clay, printmaking…) and then broke it down step by step from planning to cleaning up. I was inspired to buy a Sculpey type clay, and then it sat in the cabinet for weeks, until we had free morning when all the stars and planets aligned. All four of the older kids (including my then two-year old) spent TWO solid hours at the table making clay tea sets!  And now they play with them in their treehouse.

20150208_203623 (1)

Uno (age 8) with colored pencils

My approach to art is two-pronged: creation and appreciation. They kind of go together. If you have some skill and exposure, you can create better, and if you understand the process of creating, you are more appreciative of other people’s art. So my goals for art education are providing the kids with materials that are enjoyable to work with and don’t frustrate them, providing them with time and space to create (and being generally tolerant of the mess), providing some opportunities to see art (whether Rembrandt at the National Gallery or fancy dresses at the mall or early pioneers’ handmade tools in a tiny rural museum), and providing them with basic skills in observing, drawing, photographing, sewing, sculpting, etc.

Here’s how we do art appreciation: In Year 0, we use A Child’s Book of Art: Great Pictures – First Words. I have her (Kid Dos right now) look at a painting closely for a few minutes. Then I take away the book, and she describes what she remembers. This is so she can learn to observe closely, to remember, and to translate a visual into words. Then we talk about the painting. Some days I’ll ask questions such as: Where is the light coming from? What is the first thing you notice when you see this painting? What kind of brushstrokes did the painter use? What season is it? What shapes did the artist use? What mood is that person feeling? Do you like this painting? How is this art like that other art? What kind of paint is that? How much of the canvas did the artist fill?

Then starting in Year 1, I pick three artists per year, buy a coffee table book of his/her art, and we spend twelve weeks on a single artist. Usually once a week, sometimes twice. Same process as Year 0. I think Ambleside Online has an ongoing list of artists each year. I just picked artist who I thought Kid Uno would like, I thought I would like, or we already owned a book. So that is picture study. I’d like to do more real-life art appreciation–when we lived in DC, we sometimes went to museums, but the kids were pretty young then. And the National Gallery of Art is the worst place I know of to take babies. Now that we are back in SLC, I’m slowly finding out about museums here, and cultural displays and things, but haven’t made much effort to actually get there 😦 Maybe this year. We have been to some ballets, though, and I think some concerts. So that’s something.

Now for creating art. One priority when we moved into this house was to round up a good variety of quality supplies, keep them near the kitchen for easy clean up, and put some things low so the kids have access them without help (and other things high, so they have to ask permission for play doh and paints!). That has worked out well. I also have a half-baked plan of doing a special project with all the kids, maybe monthly (like the clay). That hasn’t been so smooth, mostly because I have to be in just the right frame of mind to spend an entire morning intentionally making a mess, and then the next three days cleaning up the remnants! But I have some things in the works–needle felting, more clay, paper mache, plaster of paris, tree branch weaving…In the meantime, they all use reams of paper (for drawing, coloring, and cutting), love play doh, frequently use watercolors, use a paint program on the computer, take photos of the floor and walls with our old camera, build things all over the house and yard…there is no shortage of handicrafts around here!

Besides that, we use Drawing Textbook daily (one drawing per day), and I assign an art project every week or every other week. For Year 1, we used The Usborne Art Treasury which I was very impressed with. For Year 2, I got the Scott Foresman Art books starting in Grade 1. They seem pretty good, though maybe a bit heavy on the cut/paste/color type projects–less variety than the Usborne book. The Drawing Textbook is surprising good, IMO. Not at all flash, but it starts out with very basic elements of drawing and slowly works up to complex, multi-dimensional drawing (of objects). It fits well with the concept of short lessons, but it builds little by little. It has been interesting to see its effect on Kid Uno’s personal drawings–her perspective and scale have developed a great deal over the last year and a half. She’s getting close to the end; I’m going to look into some figure and costume drawing next, since she constantly draws beautiful ladies in fancy clothes.

Besides that, the older two took a four week art class, and they love watching Youtube art instruction videos. They’ve both gotten some great art kits and supplies as gifts from friends and relatives. And they go through phases: paper dolls for several weeks, then a sewing project, then snowflake cutting, then weaving potholders, then whittling arrows. I’m looking forward to them getting older and more independent, since there is so much creative stuff they can do on their own! I will try to expose them to as much variety as possible, and then if they are super-interested in something (jewelry making, for instance) I will probably outsource at some point. And there’s always Youtube!

Year 1 Wrap-up for Kid Uno (her version)

If you want to know what a Year 1 student really thinks of the Ambleside Online selections, you’re in the right place. Here are Kid Uno’s year-end summaries, in her own words (my Year 1 page has links for everything we used):

  • Rate each book (like, neutral, dislike).
  • Add a few comments.


A Child’s Garden of Verses

Dislike. It’s hard to read and not very interesting.

When We Were Young & Now We Are Six

Neutral. There are only a few poems that I like. One is the Sailor and there are a few others.

A Child’s Book of Poetry

Neutral. But I loved Christina Rossetti.  I kind of didn’t like the rest.

Classical Kids CDs

Like. Mostly Song of Unicorn, Hallelujah Handel, Vivaldi, Mozart’s Magical Fantasy.


Neutral. My favorite was Crown Him With Many Crowns.


Tales From Shakespeare

Like. It was fun and there were lots of exciting stories.

Blue Fairy Book

Like. It was fun–lots of magic fairies, beautiful girls, and stuff.

Just So Stories

Like. There were lots of animals, and my favorite was How the Elephant Got his Trunk, Leopard, Butterfly.

Aesop’s Fables

Like. I loved it because it has such fun stories.


One Small Square Cave

Like. Really fun. I liked how it told me about the caves.

One Small Square Swamp

Neutral. It wasn’t very interesting.

One Small Square Arctic Tundra

Like. It told me lots of things about the tundra.

James Herriot’s Treasury

Like. I loved it. You should know I loved it! It had lots of stories about animals and I like animal stories a lot.

Burgess Bird Book

Neutral. Told a lot about animals but just about birds. I like animals but not really birds. One bird I loved in that story was the Welcome Robin.

Among the …. People

Like. That was fun because it was about lots of animals.

Nature Connection

Neutral. It was just about nature not animals or stories.


Trial and Triumph

Neutral. It had not very fun stories; just about people and not what that said.

50 Famous Stories

Like. They’re really exciting. It tells a lot about people, and I get to read some [independently], and it tells about a few people I already know.

Our Island Story

Neutral. A few fun stories and a few not good stories.

Viking Tales

Like. I love them….King Harald the Great!


d’Aulaires Pocahontas

Neutral.  I liked it but it’s not very fun. It had just Indians and I don’t like just stories about Indians because they scare me [I think this response actually arises from Kid Uno’s immersion in the Little House books…I need to find some good books where the Indians aren’t constantly portrayed as “savages”].

d’Aulaires Benjamin Franklin

Like. I loved him and Washington. Wasn’t he [Franklin] a president?

d’Aulaires Buffalo Bill

Like. You already know that I like it! He’s really exciting. The only people I don’t like in it are the raiders that try to hurt him and the Indians even though they are his friends.

d’Aulaires George Washington

Like. That he was so brave.


Paddle to the Sea

Like. I loved it–it was so exciting.


Rod&Staff Penmanship 2

Dislike. They are so hard.

Rod&Staff Penmanship 3

Dislike. It’s hard to copy the words, and it’s long.


Life of Fred

Like. I loved LoF. It helps me do it and then it has fun stories.

I Love Math books

Like. I loved them when I first did them but they aren’t interesting anymore.

Ray’s Primary Arithmetic

Dislike. It was really hard.


Dislike. Because they are so hard and take a lot of time.


Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

Dislike. No way, Jose. I don’t like reading out loud.

McGuffey’s Second Reader

Like. I love it. I get to learn a few things…like about sharing…and about selfishness.


John Singer Sargent

Dislike. It’s so hard to remember.

Van Gogh

Like. I got to see a few interesting and beautiful pictures.


Neutral. It’s hard.


Art Treasury

Neutral. It’s kind of hard, and I did the first easy ones which were really nice but then I didn’t really like the others.

Drawing Textbook

Dislike. It’s too hard. At least the first easy ones were fun but I didn’t like the last ones which were hard.

Youtube Drawing Videos

Like. Because I got to draw a lot of things.

Nature Journal

Neutral. I have to draw things that I don’t want to do.

Mesa Art Classes

Like. Loved! Because I got to draw a whole lot of things that I liked to do. And I got to learn a few things about drawing. That you should draw it carefully and not hurry. That you can mix things together and make pretty colors. And you should draw a line like this–a horizon line.



Like. I loved it because I got to learn a whole lot of things like kicking it with the side of your foot. But with your toe if you are kicking in in the goal. And you should shove a little bit if the person has the ball. And that I should be happy if I lose or I win, and that everyone wins. A— told me that everyone wins. Does everyone win? I got to have the ball a few times, and got to kick it to the goal. And I had a few friends. And there were a few people cheering for us. The one thing I don’t like about soccer is that I don’t like that one team said we look easy, and we’re not easy, we’re hard. And I got to run a lot, and A— talked to me a lot and helped me. And soccer was the funnest sport of my life. And I get to be with my friends.

Year 1 Wrap-Up for Kid Uno (my version)

If you’re wondering what we really think of the Ambleside Online selections for Year 1, you’ve come to the right place. These are my thoughts and notes to myself from the end of the year (my Year 1 page has links to everything we used):


  • Average weekly time: Together (5 hours), Kid Uno alone (2.5), total 7.5
  • Rate each book (like, neutral, dislike).
  • Add a few comments.
  • Any changes for next child?

Poetry and Recitation

A Child’s Garden of Verses

Neutral. Sentimental and a few racist. Classic, and several fun poems. Nice illustrations.

When We Were Very Young & Now We Are Six

Like. Funny and child-like and fun to read.

A Child’s Book of Poetry

Like. Nice selection. Beautiful illustrations. Rosetti was Kid Uno’s favorite poet.



Classical Kids CDs

Like. Kid Uno liked stories. Not as much emphasis on music as I hoped.


Like. Need to re-type and correct the gender-neutral versions for future years.



Tales From Shakespeare

Like. Very long. Difficult to read aloud (vocabulary, names, dialogue, long sentences). Need to look up name pronunciations in advance. Read and narrate in very small segments. I usually narrated instead of Kid Uno. Review characters frequently. Listen to on Librivox after reading. Watch play after reading. Kid Uno especially liked the female characters.

Blue Fairy Book

Like. Very long. Change schedule so they don’t coincide with Shakespeare readings. Kid Uno’s best narrations were probably from this.

Just So Stories

Like. Very long. N-word and some other racism in Leopard. Hard to read aloud at first but got easier and will be more fun second time around. Kid Uno enjoyed.

Aesop’s Fables

Like. Very short. Almost verbatim narrations. Kid Uno enjoyed and finished rest of book.


One Small Square Cave

Like. Good illustrations and organization. Not easy to narrate but retained fair amount.

One Small Square Swamp

Like. Good illustrations and organization. Not easy to narrate but retained fair amount.

One Small Square Arctic Tundra

Like. Good illustrations and organization. Not easy to narrate but retained fair amount.

James Herriot’s Treasury

Like. Good stories, beautifully illustrated. Old, but not dated. One of Kid Uno’s favorites.

Burgess Bird Book

Dislike. Boring, repetative,  and conversation is dull to read aloud. Birds are difficult to keep straight with nicknames and without pictures. Kid Uno may have learned a bit about identifying birds based on plumage and nests, but I will look for something better (Arnosky?) and either ditch this or use as free read with next child.

Among the …. People

Like. Old and quaint. Nice combo of accurate animal descriptions and slight moral. It grew on us.

Nature Connection

Like. Practical and versatile. Weather section was good for Kid Uno’s current interests.



Trial and Triumph

Like. Difficult to read aloud, and mostly over Kid Uno’s head. Specialized and advanced vocabulary. Need to look up name pronunciations and define lots of words in advance. I learned a lot of church history. An older kid would get more out of it, but it’s ok as a read-aloud at this level. Slight Protestant slant so far but not anti-Catholic.

50 Famous Stories

Like. Short and interesting. Good narrations from Kid Uno. I learned a lot too. Schedule in entirety and in chronological order for next child.

Our Island Story

Neutral. Well-written, but more appropriate for older kid. I ditched after 2nd term; decided that much detailed British history was not what I want to focus on this year or next 2 years. Maybe for student to read alone in Year 4 or 5. Not much retention except for Boadicea 🙂

Viking Tales

Like. Need to define lots of vocabulary in advance. Good mapping. I learned a lot, and Kid Uno had good narrations. Nice combo of anthropology, mythology, battles, and history. Incorporate 2nd half of book with next child.


d’Aulaires Pocahontas

Like. Nice to have a female history character.

d’Aulaires Benjamin Franklin

Like. He came alive. Lots of mapping.

d’Aulaires Buffalo Bill

Neutral. Mostly like, but uncomfortable with “savage” Native American depictions. May ask DH for second opinion. Lots of mapping.

d’Aulaires George Washington

Neutral. Mostly like, but uncomfortable with “happy slave” depictions.



Paddle to the Sea

Like. Short. Lots to map. Fairly engaging story. Positive (if slightly stereotypical) depiction of Native American.



Rod&Staff Penmanship 2

Like. Mostly self-directed, takes about 10 minutes a day. Beautiful penmanship, and I like that the copywork is Bible and bird/animal themes.

Rod&Staff Penmanship 3

Like. Mostly self-directed, takes about 10 minutes a day. Beautiful penmanship, and I like that the copywork is Bible and bird/animal themes.



Life of Fred

Like. Kid Uno loves it. Fun, and concepts I’ve never heard of (commutative principle). Apples, Butterflies, most of Cats.

I Love Math books

Like. I actually haven’t looked at them much; Kid Uno likes to pore over them for about 20 min. as an assignment 1-2x week.

Ray’s Primary Arithmetic

Like. Methodical and easy to use (with Eclectic series teacher guide). Have thoroughly covered addition and subtraction with single digit carrying and borrowing up to 100. Boring for Kid Uno, but we do it daily and she spots patterns and likes the word problems.


Like. Have done most of orange and some of red. Takes a lot of preparation for me since it’s an unfamiliar method. Will be easier for me second time around. Love that it introduces concepts (like equations and negative numbers) far earlier than traditional math. Also measurements and geometry and time not covered (so far) by Rays. Kid Uno does several pages 1-2x per week. Usually enjoys it.

Bible and Memorization

Ambleside Online Bible Selections

Like. Good selection; maybe a bit short and sparse. Frequently need to provide context. Would like to discuss a little more than we did. Kid Uno reads aloud from NIV.

Simply Charlotte Mason Verse Packs

Dislike. Liked at first because free and self-directed, but dropped after 2nd term as the verses were so random and out-of-context. Memorized Ps. 136 together for 3rd term. Big improvement.



Ordinary Parent’s Guide to Teaching Reading

Dislike. SO BORING for us both. And at least 2 typos and weird formatting. Flew through the first .75 of book. Last .25 helpful for covering phonics, syllables, roots, etc. but there’s got to be something better for phonics follow-up of 100 EZ Lessons.

McGuffey’s Second Reader

Like. Great for student read-aloud skills. Great for vocabulary. Will be great for spelling and recitation if we need it in the future. I find the extreme moralistic tone highly entertaining, and Kid Uno loves the stories. Covers interesting topics.


Art Appreciation

John Singer Sargent

Like. Pictures are small.

Van Gogh

Like. Not as many familiar paintings as I anticipated.


Like. Good size pictures.

Art Instruction

Art Treasury

Like. Kid Uno complained about it but produced nice art. Great selection of artwork. I bought and consolidated all the supplies at the beginning of the year, and it was nearly all self-directed after that.

Drawing Textbook

Like. Kid Uno complains but does one lesson daily and seems to have incorporated some principles into her regular drawing. Usually self-directed, but pretty easy for me to demonstrate if she needs help.

Youtube Drawing Videos

Like. Free. Kid Uno loves them. Lots of variety.

Nature Journal

Like. Combo of observation and art. About 1x per week. Might help to make it a bit more methodical but I think it’s ok as-is.

Mesa Art Classes

Neutral. Kid Uno and Kid Dos loved them, but I don’t think they learned much art for the amount of my time and money invested. More of a social experience.



Soccer at Rec Center

Like. A fun family experience if not a lot of skill-building 🙂 Kid Uno loved it.