Monday, April 25, 2016

Getting Started with Ambleside Online Year One: Phonics, Math, and Handwriting

Welcome back for another coffee chat, friends.  Today we're finally going to dive in to what you've probably all really been waiting for – making sense of what you see when you open up the Year One curriculum page over on the AmblesideOnline site.   It's taken us awhile to get here – thank you for your patience – but I truly do believe that all that foundational stuff we have been talking about is just that – foundational, necessary.  Even a little bit of background knowledge of Charlotte Mason's philosophy will help you as you start to actually put her ideas into practice.  (By the way, I updated the Introduction post with links to all the posts so far in this series, if you want to go back and check them out.)
So…go ahead and take a minute to open up the AmblesideOnline Year One Curriculum page and keep that tab open next to you to refer to as you read through this post. 
The list looks a little bit long at first glance, but don't get overwhelmed.  I like to divide everything on the curriculum list into three categories – the skill subjects (for Year One, this would include phonics, math, and copywork – perhaps foreign language too if you are planning to include one.  We don't at this level – just the real meeting in the ideal in my home.), the booklist (covering the content areas like history, literature, natural history/science, and geography), and all the beautiful glorious rest (art, music, handicrafts, etc.).   My plan is to tackle one of these areas in each of the next three posts.
Today, let's talk about skill subjects.  As an aside, this is one of the things that I love most about the way the AO curriculum is set up.  Because they leave it to you to pick and choose the materials of your choice for these areas, it makes it very, very easy to customize for the needs and ability of your student.  Year One is perfectly appropriate for the brand-new reader starting from the beginning of phonics, for the emerging reader who can read easy readers but not the books scheduled on the reading list yet, or for the advanced reader who is ready to tackle reading some of their own schoolbooks.  I have three children who have all been in different places in reading….and different places in math for that matter…with relation to their AO Year and it has worked well with very little adaptation on my part.  This wouldn't be the case with a grade-leveled, all-inclusive boxed curriculum. 
Reading Instruction: You can see over on the Year One page several choices of reading curricula that the Advisory recommends.  We personally have used a combination of Charlotte Mason's methods, Ruch Beechick's methods, and Alphaphonics, depending on the needs of the child.  Plan for a 10-15 minute lesson each day, depending on the attention span of your student.  As your child gains reading confidence and no longer needs daily phonics instruction, you can begin having them read to you out loud daily from a reader.  We particularly have enjoyed the Reading-Literature readers by Harriette Taylor Treadwell for this purpose, and you can see some of our other favorite books for beginning readers here.  Once they have reached the chapter-book stage, I've started having them buddy-read (reading back and forth together, alternating paragraphs) some of the simpler school books with the eventual goal of gradually handing over the bulk of their school reading to them.  But this whole process will very likely take several years!  Don't expect to move through this whole sequence during Year One. J  Just keep moving along with short, consistent lessons at your child's pace.
Math: Again, you will see over on the Year One page a link to a list of various math options recommended by the Advisory, as well as links to various articles if you want to delve deeper into how Charlotte Mason taught math.  To be completely honest, this is one area I've not dug too deeply into.  We've simply applied some of Charlotte Mason's other ideas to our math lessons – things like short lessons (not more than 15-20 minutes for a Year One age student, and sometimes less) and using manipulatives to teach a concept and making sure they understand before letting the child loose with workbook exercises.   We tried several math programs (poor guinea pig first child!) before landing on Singapore which we've found to be a good fit for our family and intend to continue with through the elementary years at least. 
Copywork: You'll find copywork or penmanship listed under the daily work section on the AO Year One page, with a link to AO's Language Arts scope and sequence which I encourage you to read.   I don't schedule more than about 5 minutes for copywork at this age – even that is sometimes more than my very young students can handle.  Short, consistent lessons are the key to success in this area.  Start with letter formation, and don't expect the child to write more than they can do *well*, even if that means only one or two letters.  Requiring a child to fill a whole sheet with letters tends to lead to sloppy habits, whereas only asking them to do a few and taking their time to use their neatest possible handwriting reinforces the habit of slow, careful work.  All three of my children have used different resources to learn letter formation – so the only advice I have there is to choose a style that you like and go for it, keeping in mind the short lessons and careful work principles.  Once my children mastered basic letter formation, we did away with the handwriting curriculum and just started doing simple copywork – starting with single words, maybe familiar words like family names or words taken from a phonics lesson, and gradually moving to sentences chosen from our school books or poetry.  I've always limited it to the amount that they can do well in about 5 minutes or so and gauged my expectations accordingly rather than requiring a number of words or lines to be copied.
So, that's it for today.  Next time, on to the booklist!

1 comment:

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