Education Is...

Why I Chose Ambleside Online

The upcoming blog carnival is about chapter 17 of Charlotte Mason’s third book: the science of relations.

On what does Fulness of Living depend?––What is education after all? An answer lies in the phrase––Education is the Science of Relations. I do not use this phrase, let me say once more, in the Herbartian sense––that things are related to each other, and we must be careful to pack the right things in together, so that, having got into the brain of a boy, each thing may fasten on its cousins, and together they may make a strong clique or ‘apperception mass.’ What we are concerned with is the fact that we personally have relations with all that there is in the present, all that there has been in the past, and all that there will be in the future––with all above us and all about us––and that fulness of living, expansion, expression, and serviceableness, for each of us, depend upon how far we apprehend these relationships and how many of them we lay hold of.

I co-led a discussion of this very volume earlier in the year on the AO Forums (a free & quick registration is needed for access). You see, just after the forums for AO opened I jumped back in. Full speed. We’d done a bit of AO when my eldest was young, but I had not grown as much then and we had some learning issues to deal with, so we floundered around.

We floundered because I love to tweak. I just couldn’t leave anything alone. I had to make it “better” for our family. Then I’d literally lose sleep trying to make sure we did, in fact, have the best and that we didn’t “miss” anything. But I’ve reformed. And, due to many posts I’ve seen about radically changing AO, or just using parts of it, I wanted to put in my defense of AO as a complete package. It’s summertime, I feel like a list.

Why I Chose Plain Ol’ AO:

  • Balance. This has to top the list. You’ll notice in CM’s work, including chapter 17, she casts a wide net. Not sheltering, but not throwing them to the wolves (figuratively). Not just books, but also people and activities (like riding) and habits — Charlotte saw children as whole persons, not little beings for us to mold as we see fit.
  • Integration. We’ve just finished a combo year for my eldest (years 4-6 in 2 school years — never again!). We did term 2 of year 6 almost straight. It felt like living in the days of the Greeks and early Romans – watching their discoveries, hearing their stories. We read from: Ben Hur, Augustus Caesar’s World, The Story of the Greeks (history), Archimedes (science biography), Secrets of the Universe (science), Age of Fable, a retelling of The Iliad (literature). We’d already read The Hobbit, but it ties in wonderfully with the epic quests and tales of the Greeks. I couldn’t do that on my own.
  • Variety. Or not too integrated. While in term 2 we spent much time with the Greeks and Romans, we didn’t drown in them. Connections aren’t forced.
  • Individuality. My kids are all very different. To be honest, I don’t want to combine them too much (a common question about AO). I want them to stretch individually, without comparison. And how do you combine a bright but immature child with one who is very mature but has a learning issue? One (or both) is going to feel inadequate or proud. I want to learn together, true. But we are together a lot. We all live in a small house, you see. So I feel homeschooling is an area where each can blossom on their own timetable and in their own ways.
  • Quality. I love how we are stretched just the right amount with AO’s books. There are some tough books (Madam How & Lady Why,Wild Animals I Have Known). And some easier books (Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Archimedes and the Doorway to Science). But AO gives us that push without being over-whelming. I would have a very, very hard time doing this on my own.
  • Riches: Shared. Although the AO is built around yearly booklists, many things are shared. The riches, people have been calling them. Nature study, artists and composers, singing of hymns and folksongs, read alouds from the free reading lists. It’s also easy to group children for poetry, recitation and oral language learning.
  • Ease of Use. All the above are already set up. Most of the books have multiple links to buy or access. Some books have alternate titles, in case one proves a poor fit or hard to acquire.
  • Freedom. Unlike other laid out programs, AO doesn’t try to tell me what math or Latin curriculum to use. Which is wonderful, because not all children progress at the same pace in the skill subjects. Sometimes they need more time, other times they jump ahead.
  • Not Teacher-Driven. What I mean by this is that their education doesn’t start and stop with my knowledge. They read directly from the best minds. I don’t have to prepare lectures and clever activities to drive the lesson home. They aren’t limited by my interests and education.
  • Free. Not only is AO free, but many of the books are low-cost or free.

I’m sure I could come up with more reasons. Brandy at Afterthoughts wrote a lovely post some time back, which I can’t find right now. She defended the validity of just using AO, as written. Sometimes there is pressure to make our homeschool the very best, the perfect fit for our family. It is a vision full of everyone discovering together, sharing everything. But, for us, that isn’t the best. It is better that I have time to read non-homeschooling books, to play the piano and go for walks. To model my nature journal and commonplace book. Plus, I need a lot of time for the “other” things in life. Running a household, helping my husband with his business while launching myself as a writer.

From one mom to another: you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You may not choose Ambleside, but what you do choose should give you peace. I have found peace in our homeschool. And I’d like to thank the Ambleside Online advisory and auxiliary for their excellent work.

6 thoughts on “Why I Chose Ambleside Online

    1. Yes! Thank you for finding it. And we left out things to combine. Some by design (seeking balance in subjects and free time). Other things fell by the wayside because of “life” and because my child is not a fast reader. (Unknown to me my combination was unnecessary, because part way through an official “years 9-11” in 2 years combination was published.)

  1. I’ve needed to substitute year 9 & up because we’re not from the US. It is a lot of work which I’d prefer not to have had to do. So thankful for Years 1-8! You can waste a lot of time as you say,’reinventing the wheel.’

  2. A great article! Our best year ever homeschooling was with AO. We’ re going back to it this year, but I confess ‘tweaking’ a tad. I love TruthQuest History by Michelle Miller. I am keeping a copy of her chronological scope/seq nearby to read to my kids as we go through AO. Actually, that’s not a tweak as it is suggested. I also keep a chronological list of Henty books by my AO schedule. I love love love those!! My youngest two are now 14 & 16, 9th/10th respectively. Wish I could start all over with them with AO!

  3. I am with you, I do need to read other books, nature walks, model my nature drawing, common place book, writing… amen, I rather stick to the beaten and trodden path, which is excellent, that wing it or tweak it, or reinvent the wheel. With the path cleared for me, I have much room and freedom to make it our own journey.

Comments are closed.