Making Ambleside Online “Click!”

If you’ve ever looked at the Ambleside Online curriculum you have probably felt a little overwhelmed. Maybe you took one glance and said “nope!”

Well, I dismissed it pretty early on and when I was researching what curricula we’d use for first grade something made me take a second look. I’m so glad that I did.

I’d like to share how Ambleside started to make sense to me and how I order it to keep it simple.

year 1 books1


First, I realized that it isn’t just books that you read or this whole feast of subjects that you cram in to make sure they are covered. Ambleside Online is just a curriculum, that’s all. It’s a tool that helps you get the job done. What makes this amazing is how you lay out this feast of subjects and how you approach reading these books.

Ambleside Online is a Charlotte Mason based curriculum. Charlotte Mason is an approach or methodology and there are countless different ways and curricula available to follow a Charlotte Mason education. There are several aspects to a Charlotte Mason education and in order to better understand Ambleside Online you have to know some basics behind the Charlotte Mason approach.

There’s a lot. I know. I’ve been reading about Charlotte Mason on other blogs and in books and I have more to go. I’ve probably read the whole Ambleside site but I have yet to delve into Miss Mason’s original writings.

When I realized that Ambleside is more than a booklist, I began to actually read through the introduction page and the FAQ page and the articles and topical discussions. While reading, it all started to come together; this is actually quite simple, yet it’s so rich and full and challenging and beautiful is what I thought to myself.

To be honest, I wasn’t completely sold at the beginning of my Ambleside journey. I thought why should we learn about British history and why would we start way back in the first century. I thought we should learn history that would be more relevant. We should begin our lessons with early American history, when it wasn’t too long ago.

But then I started to look up books and drive myself crazy, wondering if the books I chose would be appropriate in content or length or if the book was actually a good book. I started to wonder if I would have to pre-read everything. And there were so many books I wanted to include. I realized that scheduled on Ambleside for history reads there were three books for the whole entire year. Three. Okay, so if I want to teach American History, how do I choose three comparable books?

I was making things much more difficult than they needed to be. I took a breath and opened one of the links next to a book that was available online (and most of the assigned readings are available online, for free). I read one of the stories that was assigned for week one. Wow, that is the story she gets to hear. I opened another book online. This is what I get to read to my daughter, she will love this! I opened one more book and read the assigned reading. I can’t believe we would have missed this!

PicMonkey Collage1

Now that I had done my research, thoroughly, and read all about Ambleside and read a few of the assigned readings, I was ready to plan it out. I was ready to accept Ambleside Online completely.

The easiest way, I have found, to make Ambleside Online not look overwhelming is breaking the assignments into three categories: Daily Work, Readings, and Weekly Work.

The Daily Work consists of copywork, phonics or reading instruction, math and foreign language. These are the subjects you may typically do at the table. Readings are the assigned passages or chapters from the books scheduled on Ambleside Online. For example, in year 1, there are between six and eight assigned readings per week. The readings you spread out across your school week. The Weekly Work are the subjects you focus on once a week: Nature Study, Handicraft, Picture Study, Composer Study, Timeline, Mapping, Hymns, Folksongs, and Art.

We keep the lessons short, 10 to 15 minutes. This is part of the beauty. There are many reasons for this, the primary reason is practicing the Habit of Attention. The total amount of time we spend doing our school work is about two hours. This leaves the remainder of the day for free time to play, be outside, meet with friends and of course we moms need a time to run errands or work around the house.

I work from a checklist in my planner. The Daily Work is listed at the top and starts off blank for the week. As we complete 10 to 15 minutes in each subject for the day, I put a check mark and write out which lesson was finished. Reading instruction/ phonics and math are not provided by Ambleside Online. They do list suggested programs. Then I list the readings and as they are completed they, too, get a check mark. Then the Weekly Work is listed. Each day we do 1-2 subjects and they differ depending on the day of the week.

Mentally, seeing only three categories of schoolwork a day makes it less daunting than seeing 16 or more subjects that need to be completed. I hope that my explanation has helped Ambleside Online “click.” I hope that it has become more clear. And, that you too can find this to be a delightful way to educate your children.



Taking a Closer Look at Ambleside Online

The first time I looked at Ambleside Online I was completely overwhelmed. I couldn’t understand the schedule or how one would fit all of it in.

closer look at AO

It seemed like it was overkill and just too difficult to manage, you know making sure that nature study (how do I do that!) was done and composer study (I don’t know any composers!), and picture study (if I don’t know what this painting means how can I teach it to my kids!), and handicraft (handi-what? I hate crafts!), and recitation, and timeline, and mapping…

But then as I was doing my research for first grade, honing in on what curricula to use for this and that and the other, I came across Ambleside once again. I read it. I studied the schedule. I saw how many of the books were available online. I read passages of the books. And it was all coming together.

It just clicked! And it was all so simple. So lovely and rich. And, I’m hooked.

My homeschool journey began about three years ago when hubby and I decided that would be the way to go. I started to research everything I could and found out that I liked Charlotte Mason but I liked Unit Studies too. I found a few different curricula that I loved for history and science that I thought would be perfect for when Elle got to be in second or third grade. There was a bit from this learning style and pieces from that learning style, I could see it coming together. I was going to be an Eclectic homeschooler.

Fast forward through a couple of years of play, a year of Kindergarten, which consisted of inconsistent lessons in phonics and math with lots of books and playing. Just a few short months ago I was ready to get plans laid out for First grade. It was time to add in the science, history, geography and everything else, more formally than what Five in a Row had to offer. You know with a “real” curriculum.

(c) The Armitt Museum and Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

(c) The Armitt Museum and Library; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

I wasn’t finding exactly what I wanted for history because the ones I liked were more appropriate for grade three and above. I remember Charlotte Mason and the living book approach. I finally decided on TruthQuest History. I loved that I could decide which books to read and which topics to cover. But there was still missing parts to the plan. I kept on looking around and Charlotte Mason had brought me back to Ambleside Online. I kept hearing great things about it.

As I was reading through the site I wanted to know more; I was getting really excited because it was not only making sense but it was a whole curriculum that I could picture us doing – for years to come.

So, what is Ambleside Online? It is a free homeschool curriculum that uses Charlotte Mason’s classically-based principles to prepare children for a life of rich relationships with everything around them: God, humanity, and the natural world. (Stated on the AO website). This was created as a labor of love by other homeschooling mommas. They offer much more than just a curriculum: original Charlotte Mason writings and materials, a community support forum, articles and posts from experienced homeschool parents and other resources.

Next time I’d like to share how to use Ambleside Online; I’d like to help make it “click” for you too.


Planning My Homeschool Year

Yes! I love this time of year! I get to plan out my homeschool. Anyone else get as giddy as I do when pulling out the fresh new planner and bringing out the new school books and supplies?

pencil homeschool year

Now, I do have to say that my oldest is going into Kindergarten this year and you should know that I am an over planner. Which means I don’t have years of experience at this (but I have had homeschooling on the brain for over three years). And it means that when I plan, I tend to do more thinking than doing. But, because I know that about myself I have also learned where to simplify the planning process and I’ve learned that it doesn’t have to be tweaked and tweaked until it’s perfect. Because we all know that plans, no matter how perfect they are, always change.

I began with knowing what my state needs from me and what subjects they require me to teach. Our subjects must include Math, Reading, Writing, Spelling, English Grammar, Geography, U.S. History, and Citizenship. My curriculum choices are Kindergarten Earlybird Math, Logic of English Foundations, Five in a Row, Kids of Integrity, along with various other resources.

Then I took a look at the calendar. I decided to spread out my 36 weeks by doing six weeks of school and one week off. I like to be able to have the flexibility to cover things we missed and catch up during the off week. Or use the week as a planning time for the next term. Or use the time to work on mom projects around the house. This year I wanted to also take time off from Thanksgiving to New Year’s because I know it gets hectic that time of year. It would also be great to make time to truly focus on Christmas and enjoy family time. I also wanted to take a week off at Easter.


My schedule worked out like this: School starts August 10th, we school for six weeks. A week off at the end of September – apple season! Bonus: my Dad is visiting us then too! Then eight weeks of school brings us to Thanksgiving. It will be six weeks of break til the New Year. Then six weeks of school until the middle of February. Perhaps that week will allow us to recuperate from all the birthdays – the whole family, with me being the exception, has birthdays during the early part of the year. Then four weeks of school brings us to Easter break. A six week session of school and a week off at the beginning of May. We finish out with six more weeks, finishing the school year at the end of June.

I found a great planner that I purchased and printed last year from Teachers Pay Teachers by Tanya Rae Designs. It is editable and I get free updates. It’s designed for school teachers but totally works for homeschool moms too. I like it because it is super customizable and super cute (it’s a colorful chalkboard theme). I don’t mind the extra work of figuring out which pages to use and how to set it up. That kind of stuff is fun for me. In fact, another homeschool mom and I made a night of making our planners. It was great!


My planner has to have a few key elements to make it work well for me. In my planner I want a “year at a glance” grid page showing which weeks we have school and which weeks are break weeks. I want a page where I can list the subjects and the curriculum I’m using for each. I have a scope of sequence page, it looks like a grid with the weeks down the side and the subjects across the top. I use this page to show the outline of my year. I also have to have the monthly curriculum planner. This layout allows for more detail and for me to write notes if I need special materials. The most important pages are my weekly planner pages. I can plan out which lessons are done on which days. These are my go to everyday pages.

After knowing what subjects will be taught, the curricula that will be used, when we will have school, and getting a planner, then it’s time to put it all together. The idea of planning my homeschool year is to have a guide or an outline from which to work; I don’t want each and every day planned before my school year begins. I just want that overview from which to work. Go week by week, but without starting from scratch.

Do you plan out your whole homeschool year or do you plan homeschool from day to day?

4 Reasons for a Morning Routine

The door is rattling, it’s 5:34am, the two year old is awake and ready to start his day. I am in bed wishing that for just one morning 6:30 would be considered an appropriate time to rise and shine. Finally, I stumble down the hall to open the bedroom door.

reasons for a morning routine

“Mama” he calls out with his arms up. This is the point where, depending on the day my mood, my heart melts at his loving cry or I feel utterly deflated. Knowing that “my time” is gone, I sometimes set him up at my desk to watch Curious George on my computer so that I can steal away a few more moments of sleep. Sometimes, I give him an applesauce cup at the table so that I can get in some time on the computer before my daughter awakens.

Before I know it, everyone is up and ready for me to make breakfast or coffee or help is needed with getting dressed. I make coffee while my hubby is the shower. I find clothes and dress my son. Then, I usually make eggs or pour cereal into bowls for breakfast for the kids and myself (hubby is not a traditional breakfast eater so I’ll make guacamole or he’ll heat up leftovers).

Back to my desk: I want to plan my day, read my Bible, prepare for lessons, and play a little bit in blog-land (reading and writing). A little while later I realize that I have spent entirely too much time at my desk… and I haven’t even showered or dressed myself. Stress and worry ensue. This is NOT how I want to begin my day.

My routine (the one that is written down, not the one that I practice) begins with making coffee, making my bed, making lunches, putting away dishes, and getting dressed by seven o’clock. Then by eight I want to have read my Bible, checked email, and finished doing what I do on the computer. At eight I can begin breakfast and finish chores such as laundry, dusting, vacuuming, and cleaning the bathroom. It’s better to get all that stuff done early so I don’t have to worry about it. If this is all complete by 9:00am when I like to begin school, then I’m a happy camper.

Now that is all great, but over the last couple of months it just was not working for me anymore. I questioned why it wasn’t working and what I needed to change to make it actually feel like I am accomplishing my tasks and getting ready for the day in a reasonable amount of time – AND how to do all of this with little to zero stress.

Reflecting upon my routine made me realize that I had not factored in a very important piece, or two important pieces who run around with wants and needs calling me Mommy. My “perfect” routine consisted of me doing desk duties, things that tend to require a little more focus, right in the middle of the morning scramble! No wonder things aren’t working.

Here are 4 reasons for a morning routine:

1. To ensure that quiet time with God happens. Every day.

2. To provide a time to shower and get dressed. Because we moms tend to spend more time on the little people in our lives. And let’s be honest, making an effort to be dressed (sweats don’t count) can really boost your confidence and make you feel super terrific.

3. To prepare and plan for my day. The day just works better when I know what’s on the agenda.

4. To complete a few key tasks. There are a few which can help keep the day moving along smoothly if they are done ahead of time.

These are things that have to happen to start the day right. And these reasons are why it’s so important for me to attain a working morning routine.

Routines don’t have to be confined to strict time limitations, but they do provide structure. This framework creates a flow or rhythm: do task one, do task two, etc. Once in place, a routine naturally gets you doing what needs to get done. You know what is first, what’s next, and what’s last. Chaos is avoided because you and your kids know the order things should go. Without a routine you never know what you’re gonna get.

Stick with me to see what changes I’ve made in my morning routine in an upcoming post.

But for now… Do you have a morning routine? How do you start your day?

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