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
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
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
More than likely we will finish our home school (2010-2011)
with Y11, HEO's Modern History.
Copyright 1998-2010. Carol Hepburn.