Planning a Term

It’s that time of year. We’ve finished term 1 and it’s time to dive into term 2. I have three school age boys to plan for, plus kindergarten / year 0 for my daughter.

My 8 and 10 year olds are fairly easy to plan. Term 2 seems to be a step-up in most of Ambleside Online’s years. For my 8yo (year 3) this balances out fairly well: his literature steps up to Children of the New Forest but his biography, Bard of Avon, is much shorter. My 10yo (year 5) will actually end up with 4 readings a day on some days, because we purchased Abraham Lincoln’s World halfway into term 1 (so we are still ‘behind’) and his new literature book is Oliver Twist.

Now my 12yo is another story. Ambleside provides two options for year 7: regular/full and basic/lite. Last term I stuck to 3 readings per day, and that worked well. My 12yo can handle longer readings, but he gets overwhelmed if his list looks too long. This term I want to continue with 3 readings per day. I’ve made a few changes for DS12 that will carry over. First, we’ve substituted Trial & Triumph for Saints & Heroes. According to term 2’s time period, he needs to read chapters 12 to 16. We also used term 1 to finish The Book of Marvels, so we’ll spread The Brendan Voyage over terms 2 & 3. Finally, we read Secrets of the Universe last year, before the science changes took place.

I scribble the books from the regular year onto a piece of scratch paper. (I have the lite year open in a second tab.) Like a good mother, I read AO’s footnotes. For each book I’m noting the title, the chapter range and number of readings over the term, then dividing by 12 for the number of readings per week (explanations in orange):

T&T (sub) (12-16) = 5 —– A
(Trial and Triumph, which is a sub, we’ll read 5 chapters. I’ll explain the “A” later.)
Birth of Britain (10-20) —– 3
(I already know 3x/week is a good fit for this book.).
In Freedom’s Cause (27ch/10hr) = 27 —– 2
Joan of Arc (1/2, 32 ch) = 32 —– 3
Brendan Voyage (1/2, ch 1-7, ~12pg/wk) = 12 —– 1
TOAFK (Bk 1, ch 12-24) = 12+ —– 1
(The Once and Future King, chapters may be long [hence the +], but are a pleasure to read.)

I notice, looking at the full and lite years, that I had a choice for a few books. Joan of Arc has three options: the main one by Mark Twain, an alternate by Andrew Lang, and a third that “the advisory hasn’t read”. I discount the last because my 12yo is dyslexic, and needs an audio book. Andrew Lang’s seems too short, so I tentatively choose Mark Twain’s book.

The next choice involves which retelling of Chaucer. I discount the (sadly) over-priced OOP one, leaving me with the regular year’s top option, Chaucer for Children, or the lite year’s top option, The Chaucer Story Book by Tappan. I really want to get all the scheduled AO books as hard copies, so I click the Amazon links and mentally give a hundred points to The Chaucer Story Book, because the cover of the other book makes me feel ill (superficial, but none the less valid). A look at the regular schedule tells me Tappan’s book has all the tales, so I write it down. But I still spread it over 2 terms, about half a chapter per week, instead of the 1 term suggested in the lite year schedule.

Regarding the “A”, above. Some of the books aren’t close to being read once per week. Trial and Triumph has 5 chapters over the term. Great Astronomers has only 1, and The Story of Painting has 3 sections, or about 10 pages worth of text. These are all marked “A”, and given one reading slot to share. The Magna Carta will also be in this group. (Sometimes I have a “B” group as well, but not this term.)

We usually do poetry, aloud, as a family, but Idylls of the King seems too important to miss or move, so I add it to my list. Even if you don’t use audiobooks, Librivox, where available, is a great way to gauge the length of readings (without counting page numbers, and trying to keep track of which pages are half-illustrated). My copy of Idylls is in exactly 12 sections, but a glance at Librivox reveals that the sections range from 29 minutes to 1 hour and 22 minutes. I estimate 2 or 3 sessions a week of 15-20 minutes. I love reading (and hearing) poetry.

Time for the rubber to meet the road! I add up my estimated sessions and come up with 19. Ouch. My fast-reading 10yo would be fine on that, but my 12yo will not. On a few things I had allotted for a range of sessions, I default down to the lower number, because listening to an extra chapter of Ivanhoe during his free read time, or even on a Saturday, cannot be a bad thing. We only plan on 6 weeks of school per 2 months, so I have plenty of wiggle room for the odd extra chapter. But I’m still at 17 readings per week, without the Idylls (which I really want).

The axe comes out. I’m looking at the history and biography section. The lite year schedules either “In Freedom’s Cause” OR “Daughter of Time”. Not both. The first is by G.A. Henty, about William Wallace and Robert the Bruce; the second is about King Richard III. I’m reading the second with the forums, and I’ve heard that many boys like Henty, even though his books can become predictable. Reluctantly I choose Henty, DS12 more likely to get asked about William Wallace than Richard III, and maybe he can still do Daughter of Time as a free read.

But I’m still at 16, I need one more cut, and I really want to keep the longer Joan of Arc book. I remember that my magic key, Librivox, showed it had very short chapters. I look over the list, and realize I can combine many while still staying under 20 minutes of listening. Just like magic, we now need 2 sittings per week over 2 terms to finish this book. (And if that proves too much, we can either re-jigger something or drop into the Lang book, which is undoubtedly excellent quality.)

I decide we’ll read a little bit of Idylls of the King everyday, I’ll just tag it onto another item. If it takes both remaining terms to finish, that’s okay with me. I just can’t cut it.

For full disclosure, some AO books are on the group list (I combine my 12yo and 10yo), so they don’t appear on my 12yo’s personal checklist. We call it the Round Table: Plutarch, Shakespeare and The Fallacy Detective are here, as well as Madam How, Lady Why and Beowulf. I will add the Christian devotional reading to our Round Table later in the term (after I’ve read it). Other books I’ve delayed, but many of them are noted in the footnotes as being okay to put off for a year. The only one I want to mention is Ourselves. I think this book will be best discussed with others, and I’m hoping to coordinate a discussion on AO’s teen forum next year, after my son turns 13, which is the minimum age to join.

I know this is a long post, but I love seeing how other people do things, so I thought I’d toss out my method for you, as I try to keep our life full, peaceful, and balanced.

And I can guarantee these plans will change. But hopefully I’m at least close to the mark.


  1. Amy Marie

    I really liked reading this…thank you for sharing! It helps me to see what others are doing as well! 🙂

  2. Joy

    I loved reading this Amy Jo. Just great. This line, “Like a good mother, I read AO’s footnotes” made me almost laugh out loud because I too have been there, not wanting to miss a thing. Thank you so much for sharing.

  3. Melanie

    Great post, Amy. Your “thinking out loud” helps me tremendously as I plan for Year 7.

  4. Celeste

    Thank you for this step-by-step, Amy!

  5. Patty

    Thank you for putting down your thoughts on year 7. I am currently doing year 6 term 2 with my son, and I’m wondering how we will handle year 7. It helps me to see how others think through each year.


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