We are nearing the end of The Boy's second term of AmblesideOnline's year 3.5. This is an extra year that doesn't follow the history rotation and has a little bit of a lighter load to help students transition from year 3 to 4, or to introduce older students who may be coming to AO and aren't sure where to start. (Remember, AO years to necessarily correspond to grade levels.) I debated for quite a while as to whether he was ready for year 4 this school year, and due to sensory issues, dysgraphia, and undiagnosed dyslexia, I thought a more gradual easing into the "hard stuff" would be best.
There is a jump in expectations in a Charlotte Mason education around age 10. This is when grammar, Plutarch's Lives (citizenship), dictation (instead of just copywork), and full Shakespeare plays are added. Its also the age where most students will be able to do at least a couple of the readings (history, literature, natural history, etc.) on their own. He still isn't ready for that, but I decided that two terms of year 3.5 is enough, and we will soon begin year 4! The books scheduled in 3.5 are good, but I am more than ready for more "meaty" readings, and I think he is too, as his narration skills have improved, and so has his self-control and attention span.
Here is how I have gradually introduced the more advanced subjects into our day. We finished year 3 with about 3 readings a day, 4 days a week. If we actually had 5 full days at home, then somedays would have 2 readings, but it is typical for Friday's to be kept fairly open for appointments and field trips, and homeschool get-togethers. Anyway, with year 3.5, I kept the load at 3 readings a day so he would be ready to transition to year 4 more easily.
We started grammar towards the end of year 3, and do less than half a lesson at a time, twice a week. With year 4, I will back down to once a week and try to do a bit more than half a lesson in one sitting. We did Publicola as his first Plutarch study, and spread it out over about 14 weeks (instead of 1 term of 12 weeks), reading a bit once a week. We also did his first full-length Shakespeare - Hamlet - during term 1, and are on track to finish Midsummer Night's Dream this term. We have not begun dictation, nor written narrations, and due to his dysgraphia, it will be the hardest for him.
As you can see, I have already added the more intimidating subjects while the readings for year 3.5 were easier. I see it as taking the stairs one at a time, instead of jumping up them with both feet! I didn't do the year exactly as written - since I wasn't planning on all 3 terms, I rearranged some things, and dropped some since we had already read them. Also, my starting year 4 in March, I'll have 4 terms if needed, and will still be able to start year 5 when he hits 6th grade. I do have a copy of a 42-week schedule for year 4 and am working on tweaking it to work for him. I would rather move forward into the best books of year 4 at a slower pace (42 instead of 36 weeks), at this point, then to continue at a faster pace with less worthy books.
Who else is combating the February blahs with some school-planning sessions?
(Now for those that have read this far, and want more details, please leave a comment with what exactly you want to know, and I will be glad to do a second post with more year 3.5 details.)