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Ambleside Online ~ Charlotte Mason ~ Home Schooling


Getting Started with Ambleside Online

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Getting Started | Getting Organized | Some Schedules and Forms | PDF Files

I created this page to help new families maneuver through the massive Ambleside Online website. Leslie N. Laurio, AO's web-mistress, has done a superb job organizing all the files on the website and there are  oodles of files with which to browse. However, to a new home schooler, figuring out how to get started using this FREE curriculum can be overwhelming, if not daunting. Hopefully this brief tutorial will help some new families get comfortable finding the files and subscribing the various Yahoo support groups.

Just Looking:

If you are simply browsing the website and want to get a feel for how the curriculum is used, my .02 cents is to just click and read through the Yearly Booklists listed down the left-side of every AO page. This will introduce you to the books and subjects taught in a CM-inspired home school.

**You might want to read some of my tips on placement and a course of study.

Ready to Roll:

If you are ready to make the commitment to AO and want to get started using it, then you need to follow these steps:

1) Choose a Year for each child

You have two choices to make before you can get going using this curriculum. This first is whether you will put all your children in the same Year or if you will put each child in their own Year. The curriculum was not designed to be used as a unit study or combined. However, there are families who do this and have had some success. It is easier to have each child in their own Year but this is a personal decision you need to make first.

It is important to keep in mind that the AO years do not correspond to grades. If you are starting your 6 year old in Year 1 than more than likely you will follow the course sequence through Year 12. There is a lot of leeway in the program so if you are starting with an older child, then you will want to put them in a Year where they will be challenged but not overwhelmed.

2) Print out the Booklist and 36-Week Schedule

You need to print both of these documents to start. The Booklist will help you find books and the 36-week schedule will tell you when and what to read each week.

a) Login to your public library's website to see which books are available for loan
b) Visit your local used bookstore to see if any of the books are available to purchase
c) Note which books are e-books and could be printed out

Plan a tentative start date and begin collecting your books. Purchase any books you cannot find used or get on loan. Print out the first couple chapters of e-books OR save the entire book to CD and take it to a copy store to have it spiral bound. You can also print the book out yourself and bind it using brads and duck-tape, a GBC binder (available from local stores), or 3-hole punch and put it in a binder. You can also read the books off the computer.

Some tips on finding books and/or printing e-books is here.

In addition to AO, you will need a Bible or Bible program; a phonics program; a math program; and a foreign language program. Of these, a phonics and math program are the only essential purchases.

3) Create a Home School Binder

Purchase a 3-ring binder to store all your home school/AO materials. At a minimum you will want to put the following items in your school binder:

  • Booklist
  • 36-Weekly Schedule
  • Monthly calendar pages
  • Weekly Reading schedule
  • Attendance sheet (if you need to track attendance)
  • Grade Book (if you need to track grades)
  • Subject Tabs for each of the subject headings listed on the booklist

There are many ways to get organized for home school. Here is a page with some methods I have used in the past.

4) Weekly Reading Schedule

You need to decide when you will read each AO book. If you are a seasoned home schooler, you can easily adapt AO to your previous daily/weekly schedule. If you are new to home schooling, this step will be the most difficult because you do not know what works or doesn't work well in your home. Fear not! You can always change this schedule -- it really will be a work in progress the first year so relax and just give it a good try. Here is a page on how I make a schedule.

For Years 1-6, you will need to plan on teaching daily

  • Penmanship or Copywork
  • Phonics (1-3)
  • Math
  • Foreign language

You will teach the following subjects one time per week:

  • Art
  • Handicrafts
  • Grammar (4-6)
  • Music Appreciation including folksongs and hymns
  • Nature Study
  • Artist and Composer study

* CIMT offers a free math program for grades 1-12
* offers a free grammar program that is good for grades 4-6

You will teach the rest of the AO Subjects one or more times per week, depending on your individual family dynamics (can your children sit and listen to a whole chapter or do they need smaller, more frequent readings).

You can browse through some of my sample schedules to see how to schedule the AO readings. Keep in mind, that there is no right or wrong way to do AO. These are just samples of how you might schedule your day and week.

Once you have a weekly reading schedule created, then you are ready to begin teaching AO.

5) What About Charlotte Mason?

You will want to read more about teaching using Miss Mason's methods but for now you can work on doing the very basics. In time and as you gain confidence, you will want to begin reading her original home school series and join the CMSeries email loop (where Mom's read through the series together.)

There are no scripted lesson plans in a CM home school. This gives you great freedom but it also can be a bit overwhelming to a newbie home school mom.

  • Always begin your day with Bible. Get a good children's story Bible or read directly from the NKJ or KJV. You might also want to follow Calvary Chapels Online Sunday School Curriculum and print out their coloring sheets, activity pages and use the memory verse (also good for copywork).
  • Sing or listen to the hymns for the term after reading the Bible Story.
  • Read a poem per day after Bible
  • Vary your subjects so that you are not doing all seatwork. Music, math, art, nature study, science, etc.
  • Do not do every subject every day
  • Spend no more than 10-20 minutes on each subject. If your child doesn't finish their lesson (math or phonics), stop and begin the next day.
  • Drill or play is important so schedule in some movement -- watch an exercise video or go outside for 10-15 minutes and play
  • Copywork is done every day. Children just learning to print should work on letters -- not writing verses. Strive for excellence in penmanship (one perfect letter a day). Older children can copy Bible verses (short - 1 or 2 lines only).
  • Memory work - memorize Bible verses
  • Read aloud -- schedule time each day to read out loud to your child. No matter how old they are, they need time to listen to another person reading out loud to them. This will develop their attention span and their ability to process information auditorally.
  • Narration consists of telling back what has just been read. Begin with a paragraph and ask for a narration. Narration is a difficult skill and takes time to learn how to do it well. Be patient and do not correct your child unless they are obviously making it up. Remind them that they weren't listening and will have to listen better next time. Narration occurs after every reading!

Your school day should take no longer than 1.5 hour for Year 0-1 students, 2 hours for Year 2-3 students and 3 hours for Year 4-6 students. Upper level students will need 3.5 hours per day not including science and math. These times are approximate and are calculated if you did everything scheduled in a day without any interruptions (babies and toddlers will always intervene!) Just remember that it is not about the amount of time you spend each day in school, it is about the experience you are having schooling your children. Do not let other hsing mom's who use other types of curricula make you feel that you are not doing enough. Textbooks, Unit Studies, etc., require a significant amount of seatwork and therefore take much longer to complete each day. CM is a literature-based program and as such will seem to move much faster. It is quality versus quantity -- strive for quality!

6) What do I do if I need Help?

You will want to join the Ambleside Online email loop. This is a Yahoo support group for families using this curriculum. It is awesome and you will find super help on this list.

and read the FAQ page here:

7) Where do I find the e-Books?

There are formatted copies of every e-book listed for every AO year. They are ready to be downloaded and printed off your home computer. You will need to join the AO Year group for each year you are using.

8) More Help for New Home Schoolers

Click here to read some helpful tips for new home schoolers.


**Next: Getting Organized


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