AO Year 1 Favorites


We used two different phonics books for K-1st grade:

Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons

Phonics Pathways

We started with Teach Your Child To Read and slogged through until about lesson 70 at which point we picked up Phonics Pathways and my first grader’s reading took off. Teach Your Child To Read was very boring and frustrating for her so I encountered a lot of push-back each day when we worked on a lesson. I am not sure, however, if this was an age issue (she was only 4 when we started it), a dyslexic issue, or if the book was simply a bad fit for her. Once we got to Phonics Pathways she was reading simple Bob books, and in the past couple of months she has taken off with her reading. Her current free read is the unabridged Alice in Wonderland. Isn’t reading miraculous? The ability to go from “Frog and Toad,” to Lewis Carroll in just a few short months!

Over the summer we are just finishing up Phonics Pathways, and she has free reading for 30 minutes each day during my exercise time. I plan on including her in little sister’s Logic of English time this upcoming school year, just to really cement the phonics concepts since she does struggle with dyslexia.

Copy work

Under the Home Curriculum

For copy work, I used the copy work curriculum from Under the Home. Under the Home is public domain curriculum a mother uploaded for free use on the above webpage. My year 1 student did 1 copy work page a day.


We used Singapore Primary 1 and she did great. It’s a good mix of manipulative and book work for us, while keeping our track with our state’s Standards of Learning for math.

Singapore Math grade 1

Foreign Language

We’d really like to go back to live in Japan long-term someday, so we work on Japanese as on foreign language. There are a couple of free resources we use to facilitate Japanese learning in our home:

Jan Ken Pon Elementary Japanese Curriculum

This curriculum is free through the University of Oregon and is very user-friendly. We do about a lesson a day, four days a week, during morning time. The curriculum is set up for a classroom, and since I only have two students, we usually add puppets to our “classroom” and make them “answer” the questions, too.


Irasshai is a Japanese learning show produced by the George Public Broadcasting station in the 90s. The teacher, Tim Cook, is Japanese American, and my girls love to learn with him. There are two seasons of Irasshai, to correspond with two semesters worth of Japanese. We typically watch an episode while we eat lunch.


The story Bible suggested by Ambleside Online is Catherine Vos’ The Child’s Story Bible and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the storytelling and the orthodox theology.

Vos’ Story Bible

The catechism we used this year was the New City Catechism, and we will finish that this year before moving on to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, which is what most of the families in our church use with their children. The New City Catechism has an app available on Google play which is helpful (and free)!


We skipped AOs Trial and Triumph this year because it was just too descriptive and gory for my kids. I’d like them to revisit it in high school, perhaps. A friend of mine recommended the book Peril and Peace, as a gentler introduction to the martyrs, but I’ve not looked very far into that as a possible alternative.

My daughter’s favorite history selection was Jennie Hall’s Viking Tales. She loved the stories in Our Island Story by H.E. Marshall, as well. I think it is a testament to the wisdom the AO members had in their selections for this age, because while ancient history wouldn’t have been an obvious choice for my 1st grader, the tales of King Arthur, Ethelred the Unready, Rowena, were all so fascinating to her in a way I couldn’t have predicted.


We didn’t actually read any of the biography selections over the school year both because I was concerned about the D’Aulaire books historical accuracy, and because I didn’t want to pay $15 plus per book. However, my mom recently was given a huge box of homeschool supplies from a homeschool friend of hers, including all of the D’Aulaire books, so we are reading the year 1 selections over the summer.


My daughter’s favorite was Milo Winter’s Aesop’s Fables. The edition we used was the cheap printing found on Amazon here. Keep an eye out on eBay, ShopGoodwill, or at your local antique store because there are old, beautifully bound editions of this same book from the early 1900s.

As for my favorite literature selection from this year, I enjoyed Kipling’s Just So Stories immensely and am excited to read more Kipling with my students as they progress through the Ambleside Online selections. The stories lent themselves well to character voices and there were many humourous quips directed to the adult that reminded me of some parts of Winnie the Pooh.

Parables of Nature is one of the selections that we abandoned early on, because it was just too much for my daughter. I kept hearing such good things about it, though, and trust the ladies behind Ambleside because of the selections that we read and came to love, so we are working through the year 1 selections over the summer before we begin year 2. However, we are using the freely available Modern English Paraphrase by Leslie Laurio instead and it has been much smoother so far and the narrations have come more easily than with the original.


The two A.A. Milne collections were, of course, our favorites because both of my girls love all things Pooh Bear. Older, cloth-bound editions are quite common and cheap on eBay and I recommend buying the older editions for the charm of it!

The Gyo Fujikawa collection, A Child’s Book of Poems is a modern classic and children love to see themselves in her drawings of children.

The Oxford Book of Children’s Verse, edited by Iona and Peter Opie, is actually a volume I’ve been familiar with since college as my German professor had such high regard for their translation of Grimm’s that I read everything I could get my hands on that had been written or edited by them.

There are many nice editions of Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses, including Tasha Tudor’s and Gyo Fujikawa’s. The one I used is a vintage edition with the sweetest Art Deco style line drawings. I highly recommend looking around for this edition because the illustrations are exquisite!


I must admit that we have not kept up with geography beyond Hollings’ Paddle to the Sea. The goal is to finish up the Long and Mason geography selections over the summer so that we can be caught up once we start geography in year 2. Paddle to the Sea was enjoyable for both my 5 yr old and my 3 yr old, and even the 3yr old wanted to participate in the map-making.

Nature Study

I have an old edition of The Handbook of Nature Study that my mom used with us when we were kids, and that’s the one I used this year. I used it in conjunction with Exploring Nature With Children by the amazing Lynn Seddon. We did the activities listed for each week together and often checked out a few books from the library pertaining to the theme of the week. I would basically narrate what I had learned from the Comstock book as we went on our nature walk each week. I did not follow the AO nature study rotation, but hope to next year.

One of the greatest pleasures of nature study has been to become familiar with an area of nature because you visit it so often. We live above one of the most beautiful rivers in the world, the New River, and go down to swim or catch crawfish and minnows 3-4 days a week during the summer. We know where the crawfish burrow, where the goldfinches wash their feathers, where the heron stalks, and where the osprey perches. We were witness to hatchling mud and snapping turtles going for their first swim last year, and we hear the spring peepers singing at night. Another favorite spot for us is the duck pond on our local university campus where we have front row seats to baby ducks and geese each spring, not to mention the weekly change in the flowers that bloom along its banks all spring and summer.

The James Herriot Treasury for Children was also a favorite and why wouldn’t a book about animals be? I especially enjoyed the illustrations in that book of the lovely English countryside.


We used the free resources offered by the blog A Humble Place . The Botticelli section was my daughters’ favorite, and mine was the van Eyck (I love Dutch art!).

Composer Study

My yr 1 student loves Hilary Hahn, so the term during which we studied Bach was especially delightful to her. We also listened to Saint-Saens’ Carnival of the Animals narrated by Leonard Bernstein many times going to and fro in the car.

Ambleside Online recommended the great resource Classics for Kids which we found especially helpful to listen to before we “met” a new composer.

Hymns and Folksongs

For hymns and folksongs we followed the AO rotation, printing out the coloring page lyrics found in the “files” tab on the Ambleside Online Facebook page. We listen to the song 2-3 days in a row during morning time using the YouTube links provided by Ambleside Online, then we cut the cord and sing acapella following the printed lyrics. Singing together in the morning has been one of my greatest joys in this first year of Ambleside Online! My husband is an excellent musician and plays a lot of Irish, Scottish, and Appalachian folk music just about every day, so folk songs were already a part of our family culture. It has been nice to methodically learn new songs and tunes as a result of AO!

Free Reading

We do a lot of free-reading in our house, especially over holidays and during breaks between terms. We read all of the suggested free reads listed by AO for year 1, but we also added a few that I chose. We read the Little House series up to By the Shores of Silver Lake. It will be quite a while before we read By the Shores as I remember being traumatized it as a young girl when I read in the first few pages that beloved Jack had died.

A surprising favorite of my daughter’s was Pinocchio, which we listened to at lunchtime using the Simon Vance narration on Audible. The book Pinocchio is, in my opinion, strange and even a little frightening, but something about its masterful writing taught virtues without being moralistic. Very well done.

I am looking forward to starting year 2 of Ambleside Online in September, and am continually amazed and blessed by the wisdom the advisory members put into creating the curriculum for us.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s