For parents who understand the Charlotte Mason method, the Ambleside Online homeschool site will have a familiar look. Based directly on the teachings and actual curriculum of Miss Mason, this site offers free online schedules, curriculum suggestions and links to resources for each grade from kindergarten through high school.
The Basics of Ambleside Online
Ambleside is an online guide to the Charlotte Mason method of education. It follows the principles and suggestions of her Original Homeschool Series. The complete series of six volumes is available to read on the Ambleside website, and it is suggested that interested parents familiarize themselves with her work before using the site.
Each grade is provided with a curriculum guide, schedule and book list. Many of the books are available online and the site links to these. Resource lists are also provided so that the parent can collect the various materials and books needed to successfully implement the course. Each school year is based on 36 five-day weeks.
Individualize the Program
Most parents will not follow the program exactly but will change it to fit the needs of the student. If you don't care for a particular book, it can be left out entirely and another book substituted. The entire plan is designed to be flexible. You can use as many, or as few, of the resources and curriculum suggestions as you want.
What the Program Doesn't Do
The curriculum at Ambleside Online is not an umbrella program. It does not keep records of your child's grades or progress, nor will it issue your child a diploma. It is merely a suggested curriculum guide for implementing the Charlotte Mason method at every grade level.
It is important that you know your state's laws and requirements before using this program.
There is no charge to use the curriculum, lesson plans, schedules, or other resources on the site. You may need to purchase books that are not available to read online or check them out through your local library. You will also need materials for art, music, or science lessons. You don't even need to register or join the site, although there are e-mail lists and support groups available for you to join.
The curriculum is based on what Miss Mason called living books. These are not textbooks in the normal sense but books that hold a child's interest while presenting information. Each grade level is given a list of books that should be read during that year. In addition to the links provided for the books that are available on the Internet, there are links to worksheets and other helps. You can find these in the Ambleside Online library.
Steps to Using Ambleside Online
It is easy to become overwhelmed when looking at the site, but the process can easily be broken down into manageable steps.
- Find out your state's homeschooling laws and requirements for curriculum and record keeping.
- Read about the philosophy of Charlotte Mason. It is a good idea to read her series but that takes time. In the meantime you can familiarize yourself by reading a summary of her 20 Principles.
- Decide which year your child should be in. If your student has been in a traditional school setting, especially if he is older, you may want to use a curriculum that is a grade or two lower than he would normally be in. The books suggested at Ambleside Online tend to be at a higher reading level than in public schools. Skim through a few of the online resources to help you decide which level is right for your child.
- Familiarize yourself with Charlotte Mason's methods. For example, narration and nature notebooks are an important part of this curriculum, but many parents may not know how to implement them.
- Gather the materials that are not available online. Check with your library to see if they have copies of books that you may need. Other materials you will need are art supplies, paper, pencils and the math program of your choice.
- Go through the weekly schedule for your child's level and schedule the classes. Charlotte Mason believed in short learning periods so, especially in the early years, the classes should not be more than 10 to 20 minutes long. You will not do every class every day.
Is This a Good Fit For Your Family?
Ambleside Online is not for everyone. Reading is an important part of the schedule and the student is expected to read increasingly more challenging books. Some parents may not feel the need to study Plutarch, for example, and some students may get bogged down in the more complex language and sentence structure of 19th century literature.
It requires a large investment in time from the parent in the early years. In the first few years, parents spend a lot of time reading aloud. There are very few, if any, worksheets used.
Since so much of the program is based on reading and narration, students are evaluated rather than tested on each subject. For a family that feels that letter or number grades are important the lack of grades can be intimidating.
Charlotte Mason believed that children were not vessels to be filled with information. Her methods encourage students to think outside the box, and ask questions and find their own answers. Ambleside Online homeschool curriculum is a helpful, free resource for those families that choose to use this method.