Description by Johanna,
Lower Hutt, NZ
Ambleside Online Curriculum (AO) is a free curriculum found at www.amblesideonline.org. It is designed to be as close as possible to that used by Charlotte Mason (CM) in her schools in the early 20th century. It was created by the Advisory, a group of experienced CM homeschoolers and educators, and is their gift to other homeschoolers.
The only cost of the curriculum is that of the books and other materials listed. Many are in the public domain and can be read online for free. Others are available in public libraries.
The curriculum starts at Year 0, which is for children aged 6 and under. There is a separate Yahoo! group for Year 0 parents, which I have found to be a wonderful source of information, challenge and encouragement.
Year 0 is meant to be a period of working on habits, lots of outdoor time, and a minimum of or no formal instruction. This is as recommended by Charlotte Mason in her Home Education Series, Volume I.
The curriculum goes up to Year 11, and Year 12 is being written. It follows a history rotation, focusing on a different period of history each year. The cycle repeats in the high school years (7-11).
Because the books are so challenging (for example, students start to read Plutarch and Shakespeare plays in Year 4), many students begin at a year lower than their 'grade level.'
Children can start AO Year 1 at age 6, or wait until they are 7. Students do not have to complete Year 11 to receive an excellent education. The books on the list are challenging, interesting and free from 'twaddle.' I have loved reading the Year 1 books with my daughter (who was 6-1/2 when we started), and have learnt a lot myself. Each week we read Aesop's Fables, history, a literature selection, living geography, poetry (daily), the Bible (daily) and science/nature stories. We are now half-way through Year 1, and I follow Year 0 suggestions for my three younger children.
Ambleside Online curriculum is not just about books - it also includes Nature Study, Composer and Artist Study, handicrafts, and foreign language. A different composer and artist are scheduled each term, with recommended works. Nothing is compulsory with AO - you can tweak the curriculum to suit your and your family's needs. We do not do American History, for example, but find books on NZ history to replace the US History scheduled. At times I have used a different composer or artist to the one scheduled. Non-Christian families avoid some books and substitute others. Some families are not comfortable with fairy tales or Shakespeare and are free to omit these. You can choose whatever foreign language you want to study.
The Ambleside Online Yahoo! group and the AmbleRamble group are an excellent source of information on how to implement (or tweak) the curriculum and follow Charlotte Mason's methods. The Ambleside Online website makes it clear that it is vital when using AO to also study Charlotte Mason's methods, as books alone (even excellent living books) will not give you a CM education.
Here are a few words I would use to describe AO:
challenging, rigorous, thorough, historical, literary, living, flexible,
classical, open-minded, Christian (though non-Christians can use it,
and many do), exceptional and life-enhancing.
Sometimes it is really hard to work out what is the best homeschooling curriculum for your family.
Tell us how you used this curriculum.
Show us an example of a project you created using this curriculum. How did you mould and integrate this curriculum in your family? Will you continue to use it?.... Your answers will help another homeschooling family make a curriculum choice!