We are glad you're here! We believe that every child -- including yours -- has a right to an excellent education following Charlotte Mason's principles. Educating your child this way may seem daunting, and the plethora of resources available on our website can seem overwhelming, but thousands of moms are currently educating their children this way, and you can, too. First of all, take a deep breath. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, sit down, relax, and we'll walk you through how this works.
"AmblesideOnline is an awesome curriculum. I love the flexibility yet the academic rigor." --Amy S.
Curriculum is Only Part of the Picture
Before getting to the nuts and bolts, we'd like to emphasize that our confidence in Charlotte Mason's method and the philosophy behind it is what prompted us to put this curriculum online. But this curriculum is only one tool and was never intended to replace your understanding of the principles behind a CM education, what its goals are, how it works. Without the understanding of Charlotte Mason's vision, even a curriculum like AmblesideOnline won't give your children a CM education. It will just be another booklist, a collection of texts and subjects to mark off a checklist. We designed this curriculum so that, instead of spending your time trying to figure out the best CM-quality living books to use, your children can jump into their schooling right away and you will be freed from the burden of trying to create your own CM curriculum, so you can spend your time familiarizing yourself with Charlotte's Mason's vision for raising broad-minded, thinking children who are as concerned about their duty to others, as they are their own rights.
If you're brand new to this, don't worry -- we have resources to help you learn more about Charlotte Mason's way of educating. We'll talk about that later . . .
First Things First
If you're just starting out with homeschooling, you should find out what the requirements are for your state -- whether you need to register with someone, what kinds of records you're required to keep, where to find support. If this is your first experience with homeschooling, you can find regional laws here.
How Does This Work?
Here's the short version: AmblesideOnline provides you with a list of books you'll need for each Year (level) which includes history, literature, poetry, geography, and science. We schedule our entire AmblesideOnline community together doing the same Picture Study (art appreciation), Composer Study (classical music appreciation), folk songs and hymns -- and links are provided right in the booklist to those resources. For students in Year 4 and up, Shakespeare and Plutarch's Lives (biographies of Greeks and Romans) are added.
You'll need to add in your own math curriculum and a foreign language program.
Your child will also need to do copywork (transcription) and dictation at their own level. Reading, copywork and dictation make up much of language arts, so purchasing a Language Arts program is unnecessary. There are no vocabulary lists, you don't need a handwriting program, and even a spelling book isn't required or even recommended. Reading, writing, spelling, developing a good vocabulary -- these things develop naturally as the child hears well-written books read aloud, sees and reads words on the printed page, copies well-turned phrases spelled correctly from his school books, and, later (around fourth grade) writes dication after studying a passage from a book.
What Should I Do First?
Your first stop should be the FAQ for some information about the curriculum and basic instructions. It is not advisable to attempt this curriculum without first reading the FAQ. Homeschoolers hoping to raise their children to be readers, as Charlotte Mason urged, owe it to themselves to take the first step in reading by looking over the instructions for the curriculum they plan to use. Yes, it's long, but the FAQ has all the questions that people routinely ask, with detailed answers and explanations collected from two years of responses to real questions from AO moms.
What do I Need to Do to Start? What Does it Cost? Where Do I Get the Books?
There is no charge for using the books, booklists, or any other material found on this website or offered through our support groups. You don't even need to notify AmblesideOnline or get our permission to use this curriculum. You may join the forum for support or to ask questions if you wish, but even that isn't required.
You'll need to gather your resources: a math program, a phonics program if you have pre-readers, and your books.
Decide which Year your child will be doing and click on that Year's booklist to see the resources we've recommended. Years 7-11 provide "Basic" or "Detailed" options; we suggest using the "Basic" list for each year, since the "Detailed" list offers additional options that can be confusing if you're just starting out.
Each Year has a booklist and an optional weekly schedule based on a 36-week school year to break the resources into smaller increments and help with pacing the books throughout the year. If you're more visual, we also link to the 36-week schedules in a grid format. In order to provide flexibility for your individual family's needs, we leave it up to you to decide how to tackle a week's list day by day. If you have a weekly co-op, or a day when Dad is home for half a day every week, no problem -- simply plan around that.
To see an overview of each level, click on the appropriate Year:
The vast majority of the scheduled books are available for free as online e-texts. Just click on the title of the book to access the e-text. Etexts can either be read right off your computer screen, or printed and stapled or bound together to make your own copy. A few books will have to be purchased; they can be purchased from most large booksellers, such as www.amazon.com or any general homeschool bookseller. If a book is only available from specialized publishers, there will be a link on the booklist to guide you to that seller. Otherwise, you can buy from whatever source that works best for you. We provide links to amazon.com for "real" books (click on the $) or their Kindle versions (click on the K), Those are affiliate links. They are links to the editions we believe are unabridged and well done, but you do not have to use those links. You are free to purchase books wherever you'd like.
To transfer online text (ebooks, articles, AO booklists) to your device's Kindle app for free: Install Push to Kindle.
Find the address that amazon has assigned for your Kindle (amazon has some helps for finding your address: "To find your Send-to-Kindle e-mail address, visit the Manage your Devices page at Manage Your Kindle.")
Copy the URL link for one of the volumes and send it to your Kindle account via "Push to Kindle" app. Click on the device you wish to send the Kindle document to.
If you are overseas this will usually cost something, so it would be better to copy and paste the entire version to a document and then save it to your kindle docs using a usb cable from your computer to your Kindle. (View 2-min tutorial for using Push to Kindle on YouTube)
Which Year/Level Should I Begin With?
If your child is just starting first grade, begin with Year 1. (If you're brand new to AO and your child is just starting Year 1, we have a Year 1 Primer to guide you. This is only available for Year 1.) If your child is older but has been in public school or isn't used to reading 'heavy' books, you might want to consider a year or two below your child's grade. This is a challenging curriculum, and many of the books are advanced, so Year 7 books will be harder than what most public schooled seventh graders are reading.
Don't worry about not having time to finish all twelve years; a child graduating after completing Year 9 of this curriculum will have read the equivalent of senior high books. Look over the different levels and pick the Year that your child can handle. If your child is already in seventh grade or older, we suggest that you begin by spending a year easing into this with our Pre-7 Booklist, and then begin next year with Year 7, even if your child is a high schooler. Pre-7 lists the most important books from the first 6 years that your child should have read before going on to Year 7. Pre-7 is a nice transition into this curriculum for older students.
Don't be concerned if your child doesn't have enough time to finish all twelve years of AmblesideOnline. Don't try to double up or rush through material to "catch up." This kind of education encourages reflection of ideas to build character, and there's no shortcut for that. Whatever your child does get will be enough if you allow time for the ideas to simmer.
What if I Have Multiple Children?
Since the levels only loosely correspond to grades, you can combine children in the same level if that's more convenient -- this is particularly helpful if your children are too young to read their own books. Certain subjects work best done with all your children together: Bible, Nature Study and observation, Picture Study (art appreciation), Composer Study (classical music appreciation), Shakespeare, Folk Songs and Hymns. Plutarch's Lives (biographies of Greeks and Romans) are also done together, but students don't need to begin those until fourth grade, or whenever they begin Year 4. Younger children do simplified versions of Shakespeare stories. Those are already included in their booklists and schedules in Years 1, 2 and 3, but you can just pick one and do it with all your children.
Another option is to use our modified plan for cottage schools, co-ops, and large families: AO for Groups. It works like a one-room schoolhouse, combining students into groups that are roughly correlated to grades 1-3, 4-6, and 7-9. Watch Brandy Vencel's 15-minute video explanation and tutorial of AO for Groups (AO4G) at afterthoughtsblog.net.
How Do I Schedule My School Days?
Daily planning isn't as daunting as it sounds! As you look at the week's reading assignments, plan 2 or 3 readings a day (or 3 or 4 if your child is older) -- add in math 4 or 5 times a week, daily copywork, and you're almost done! Every day, schedule one of the "riches" -- picture study, composer study, nature observation, Shakespeare. Break up each day's routine with either a folksong or hymn, and throw in a daily poem. A week's assignments may look like a lot, but when it's broken down into daily increments, it's very manageable. A Year 1 child can often get through a day of AO in a couple of hours, and even high school shouldn't take more than four or five hours.
As you school each day, just remember to keep each lesson short -- 10 to 20 minutes long for younger children, 20 to 40 minutes long for older children. You don't need to do every subject every day. Change it up, with a book following a folksong, or math following history, to make things interesting and keep your child's mind fresh and engaged. Your schedule won't look like any other homeschooler's or a school's timetable because it's individualized for your family.
AO Auxiliary member Brandy Vencel has some tips with videos on her "AfterThoughts" blog to help you create blank weekly chart templates and weekly schedules. Advisory member Leslie Laurio has posted many of her students' daily schedules here and Auxiliary member Kathy Livingston has sample schedules here; you are welcome to use/tweak those, or to use them as an example to see what a day's work might look like in various grades.
AO Auxiliary member Kathy Livingston wrote about how she dealt with scheduling when homeschooling with mutiple children began to feel more like herding cats! You can read it on the Afterthoughts blog.
What is the One Most Important Thing I Should Do To Make This Work?
Have your child narrate, or tell back, what has been read. As your child mulls over the material, decides which parts to tell and what to leave out, what order to tell things, tries to remember names and places, his mind is actively engaged and he is learning.
What's the Second Most Important Thing?
Don't get discouraged if the books seem hard, even in Year 1. The long-term goal is to give your child the skill and confidence to tackle difficult reading material later -- classic literature, works of non-fiction, original historical documents. This skill and confidence comes slowly, through reading books that are a little more challenging every year, starting with Bearix Potter's Peter Rabbit in pre-school, and moving through The Little Duke, Secrets of the Woods, Oliver Twist, and Beowulf in successive years. If you're really stuck, use a paraphrase or even an easier book once in a while to get you over the hump, but keep the long-term goal in sight, and remember that swapping out hard books for easier ones too often will hinder your child from reaching that goal.
What If I Need Help?
We provide free support on our active online Forum. Advisory members, Auxiliary members, moderators and helpful moms are always happy to answer any questions you may have, walk you through any issues you might run into while starting this program, help you with scheduling, or simply provide support. If the whole Forum seems overwhelming, or if you're hesitant to come "all the way in," you might prefer the area of the forum we reserve for new members, called The Patio.
The forum has separate areas for AO members with special circumstances, such as homeschooling overseas (Canadian users, click here), moms with health issues, students who are gifted or struggle with learning issues, and group book discussions for your own self-education.
How Do I Learn About the Charlotte Mason Method of Schooling?
Truly grasping this way of education is a process. It takes a shift in the way we view children, the way we view education, and even the way we ourselves live. A beautiful, thoughtful life filled with nature, art, ideas isn't just for our children, it's for us as moms, too.
We strongly urge you to read Charlotte Mason's books, The Original Homeschool Series. They come in a six-volume set, but, if you don't have a copy, you can read them online here. If the language is too archaic, you can purchase or read (for free) a modern-language translation. Or, if you want to start with a quick overview, you can read these concise summaries online or purchase the collected summaries in one book. Not sure which volume to start with? Click here for help. There's even an online study group on our Forum so you don't have to read them alone!
If you'd like a slow and easy way to get up to speed in all things Charlotte Mason, AmblesideOnline has a series of brief, friendly "Patio Chats" shared every week that will introduce you to the why's and how's of this method over the school year. You can think about them, discuss them online in one of our social groups, or use them as springboards for discussion with your local Charlotte Mason-ey friends. Get them three ways: by joining our announcement-only email list at Groups.IO where you will receive these brief emails without any discussion or chatter, on our Forum, or in our Facebook chat group. For more information, click here.
Any Further Questions?
You can find answers to more questions you may have about scheduling more than one child, implementing nature study, science, math, and foreign language, what we use for history, record-keeping, and much more by reading our FAQ.
For questions about which Year/Level to start at, read these responses from veteran users, and Cheri's article about AO placement for students coming from a textbook education. You can also read responses to questions that new AmblesideOnline members asked on the old email list; that is here. There are even some examples of how members have scheduled their days here.
AO Auxiliary member Brandy Vencel has even more helpful tips to help AO beginners gather resources, plan a daily schedule, and get a vision for AmblesideOnline on her "AfterThoughts" blog: Making AO Work: The Gory Details. She has also made a video to walk you through navigating the AO website.
We hope this helps you get started!
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