What is Ambleside Online?
Ambleside online is an amazing, free online resource for parents wanting to follow Charlotte Mason’s methods of education. I don’t personally know the people behind the program, but I have followed their work for years and have been blessed by it tremendously. If you have a question about the Charlotte Mason method of education, Ambleside Online is a great resource.
For years I have sent new homeschoolers, and veteran homeschoolers who aren’t curriculum junkies, to Ambleside Online for the resources and the services they provide. Believe it or not, there are people who haven’t heard of Ambleside Online. When I happen to come across them during my interactions with other homeschoolers, I always, always recommend they go to www.AmblesideOnline.org.
More Than a Curriculum Schedule
More Than a Book List
I’ve sometimes read online that Ambleside Online is a book list that can be gotten anywhere. I personally think that idea is incorrect. In fact, I very seldom follow their book recommendations.
My Journey to the Charlotte Mason Method
When I first started homeschooling, I read For the Children’s Sake. (At the time, I hadn’t heard of Charlotte Mason.) The book made such an impact on me, I immediately passed it on to my sister-in-law, a public school teacher who loved the book as much as I did.
From that resource, I moved on (for a while) to the Well-Trained Mind approach. (A bit of an aside here. Initially, I fell in love with the neo-classical approach as outlined by Jessie Wise and Susan Wise Bauer. I love learning and education and all things related to books. In fact, some of my fondest memories from childhood involve the library. Well, after my family grew–four children in 7 years, the neo-classical method wore me out. I was exhausted. And the associated guilt that I felt as a result of failing miserably only compounded my exhaustion.
For the purposes of self-preservation, I turned back to the Charlotte Mason method. I started reading other books such as: When Children Love to Learn, A Charlotte Mason Companion, followed by A Charlotte Mason Education, and finishing up with Charlotte Mason’s Original Homeschooling Series.
Before, and during, all of that reading, I also read everything I could on the Ambleside Online website. Eventually, I concluded that the best way to implement Ms. Mason’s methods are to teach my children, meeting them where they are via curriculum that teaches skills and knowledge based curriculum simultaneously. This means that, first of all, to avoid any curriculum, or methodology, that is convoluted and unnecessarily burdens my children with busy work that teaches very little. And second, it means that I should choose curriculum that simultaneously teaches information and skills.
Often curricula is either skills driven or content driven. Children need both, and I know I have hit the jackpot academically when I find a curriculum that does both.
And I believe that is what Ms. Mason advocated. The purely skills based curriculum frequently falls into the twaddle category. (However, it totally doesn’t when the skill is so foreign or overwhelming to the student that they need lighthearted, trivial material to make the intake of the skills based material more manageable.)
How I Use Ambleside Online
I know there is a lot more to the implementation of Ms. Mason’s methods, but I think I have summed up the spirit of her process, by simply trying to train my children to be the people that God desires them to be. Individuals that desire to know him, and are equipped emotionally, to do his will.
My part in that process is to make sure that above any methodology, including the Charlotte Mason method, I teach my children, meeting them where they are. At this point, I’m comfortable enough, knowing myself and my children, to ignore what should be and work with what is.
This is actually where Ambleside comes in to play for me. Sometimes I forget my goals and objectives. Sometimes, in my over zealousness, I forget to ignore my children’s mistakes and instead celebrate their successes. I forget to work the plan rather than always planning the work.
When these times happen, I head over to Ambleside Online. The wisdom that Ambleside offers is in the approach and the spirit of teaching. It’s more about the daily small steps to success than it is to cramming information into their little brains. It’s about encouraging our children to be more of who they all ready are than it is about trying to mold them into people they aren’t.
Ambleside Online keeps me focused.