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Ambleside Online ~ Charlotte Mason ~ Home Schooling


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This is our second full-year of home schooling using the Ambleside Online Free Curriculum.  We absolutely love this curriculum and are sold on the benefits of a Charlotte Mason education.  We follow the course sequencing and outline that is posted on the website and make only a few substitutions, mostly when a book is OOP (Out of Print) or not available through our library.  

The Schedules and Book Lists

The Ambleside Online curriculum is a skill-based program and allows for maximum flexibility when it comes to using it for only one child or for several children.  Children are placed into the program based upon their skills and not their actual grade in school.  While most young children, age 6, do start the program at Year 1; older children and teens can enter the program at any time and can work at a pace that is challenging to them but not overwhelmingly difficult.  

Tips on Using Ambleside Online

Year 4 and 5

We made some mistakes during our first year using this curriculum.  Most namely, we rushed through the books rather than savoring them.  We also tried to do everything listed on the schedule and all the special studies right from the beginning.  This proved to be too frustrating for my son and overwhelming to me as planner/scheduler/teacher/guide.  The Advisory suggests starting this program slowly and taking time to adjust to the complexity of a CM-education (low-key but very full).  Children who are not used to reading classical books also need time to adjust and especially those who come out of a public school setting or from a traditional textbook/workbook method, will need extra time to just unwind.

Advice to new families>  Go Slow.  Start at a much lower level than you think you should.  Group more than one child together to save costs, printing materials, and general scheduling issues.  Savor the books.  Work on habit training (forming good habits and replacing bad ones).  Take time for tea.  Play out of doors, draw, paint, study nature.  Read about Charlotte Mason - in her own words through the CMSeries link on the AO website.  Mostly, pray every day and just enjoy the journey.  AO is a family program and not just a curriculum.  The whole family is encouraged to participate in read a louds, sharing, praying, singing, and living out the CM Motto that "education is an atmosphere, a discipline and a life!"

  • Year 4/5  - Our schedule with links to Excel and MS-Word files as well as book substitutions we used.

Year 6

Our second AO year (first full-year) was wonderful.  Of all the years so far, we have enjoyed Ancient History and the Year 6 books the most.  This is a challenging year for most students and it is significantly harder than Years 4 and 5.  There is more reading scheduled then in previous years and although the books are not terribly difficult to read, some of the stories and subject matter are a bit more meaty (more complex).  Parental read a louds are required on some books and scheduling gets a bit more tricky as more days are needed for history and literature readings.

Advice to new families>  Do not rush through Year 6.  Enjoy and savor it.  If you haven't read "An Island Story" schedule it as a free reading choice and spread it throughout the year or read it during the summer before HEO 7.  An alternative suggestion is to read Charles Dicken's "A Child's History of England", online through  Books substitutions:  Missionary Travels of David Livingstone is very dry and dull, skip it and choose another biography or use "David Livingstone, Man of Prayer and Action" by Christian Liberty Press (very good bio and covers some of the same territory).  Books for read a louds:  Einstein bio (difficult) and Rachel Carson's "The Sea Around Us" (lovely to read, difficult.  Pro-EVOLUTIONARY - beware!).  Not to miss:  "Genesis:  Finding Our Roots" by Ruth Beechick.  Excellent book that answers all those "what happened to" and "when did" questions from Genesis.  If you don't want to rush your child through to HEO, consider breaking Year 6 into two years (see below) and taking one year to study Modern World History and one year to study Ancient History.

Optional Scheduling for Year 6

If you have an older student and would like for them to begin at Year 6 or would like to slow down your younger student and give them another year to mature before heading into Year 7, I would suggest breaking Year 6 into 2 years instead of one as described on the website.  I have been thinking about this for a very long time and feel that unless your student is very mature and ready for the discipline of the HEO years, you are better off lingering through the lower levels of AO 1-6 until your student is at least 13 years of age.

Pre-Year 7 Reading List

The Ambleside Online Advisory has created a Pre-Year 7 reading list for those families that enter the program without completing Years 1-6.  This reading list contains all those books from Years 1-6 that the Advisory considers pre-requisite to studying in the House of Education (HEO).  We are slowly working through this list, reading from it over the summer and as free reading selections.  Eventually, we will have read through the entire list.  Many families with older teens create a Pre-Year 7 using this list.  There is no weekly schedule so families must create their own.  They will often pull books off all the Years to fill in the gaps and create a full-year or semester program.

Year 7

It is no surprise that House of Education, Ambleside Online's upper level program (grades 7-12) is significantly harder than years 1-6.   Many families find it difficult to make the jump from AO 6 to HEO 7.  The amount of reading in addition to the types of books make HEO a rigorous and thoroughly classical program.  However full HEO may appear, it can be used as is written or modified to suit individual needs.  Leslie Noelani Laurio has created modified schedules for her sons.  These schedules are linked here as well as my own Year 7 schedule.  Please remember that you do not have to do this program as written for it to be enjoyable and thoroughly challenging.  AO and HEO are tools and resources and as such should not feel like a straight-jacket.  Make them fit to your family and work with your needs and desires, not the other way around.

Year  8

As we move further and further into House of Education, one thing really stands out and that is how difficult this curriculum is for junior and senior high school students.  HEO 7-8 are definitely Honors levels courses and HEO 9-12 (12 is coming soon) are the equivalent of college-level work.  Not all students will be able to make the transition from AO 6 up to HEO 7.  We found that not only does the amount of reading increase over previous years, but the "type" of books change as well.  No longer is the student reading fairy tales, engaging biographies, tall tales of far away lands; but now,  they are asked to read significant historical non-fiction, adult biographies (not always in content -- but in readability), more difficult classical literature, and are introduced worldview courses.  This is a curriculum for serious students and for those who enjoy reading "good books."

My one word of caution to new parents is to consider HEO carefully.  Leslie Noleani has created several schedules that offer a lighter load and these are excellent starting points for new families.  HEO can be modified and it should be done so to match the skills, the abilities and the  interests of your students.  Some students will read through HEO as written; but many others, will read a much lighter load.  Do not let HEO scare you -- just take  a deep breath and remember that you control your child's coursework -- not a predefined booklist.

Ok, our experience.  We had very few problems with the books themselves in HEO 7 but we encountered quite a few difficulties in Y8.  The main issue we faced was maturity, or lack thereof.  My son is a very young student (age 12/Y7 and age 13/Y8) and although he had no issues reading the books, he did struggle with understanding them.  I think older students or those with more developed critical thinking skills and the ability to think ABSTRACTLY will do well with Y8 (suggested age 14).    So caveat emptor -- make sure your Y8 student is ready for these kinds of books!

Year 9

Year 9 actually began shortly after we finished up Y8.  We didn't take any break, which was a mistake on our part.  Y8's books were difficult; Y9's books were impossible.  We read about 1 term of Y9 and then quit and took a long 4-month hiatus (focusing on math, living books, science, music, etc.)  The break was just what we needed and we came back to home schooling with a refreshed attitude and some bonus maturity.

We didn't finish Y9, instead we used A Beka DVDs for one semester.  With some family health issues, the thought of using a packaged curriculum was welcome.  Unfortunately, we had spent too many years reading good books to find the comfort in a traditional textbook/DVD classroom type approach.

Our Y9 actually ended up quite well.  Instead of returning to AO, we did a British unit-study for two terms.  This was styled off of HEO so it had a CM feel to it.

Note:  We actually did finish Y9.  We read a condensed two terms this past spring (10th grade).

Year 10

After trying my hand at making my own CM-styled program, I followed Y9 with a rotation in Ancient History.  My version (a la AO/HEO Y12) offered an integrated approach, combining some video with living books.  We finished this course up in March of 2009 and then used AO/HEO Y9 terms 2-3 for our remaining school work.

  • Our Year 10

Year 11

Planning for fall 2009 includes a return to HEO and the Year 10 book list.  This period will continue our study through American History and will focus on the Civil War.

Year 12

More than likely we will finish our home school (2010-2011) with Y11, HEO's Modern History.  


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