Ambleside Online is a support group for families using the Ambleside Online Homeschool Curriculum. Named for the area surrounding Charlotte Mason's schools in England, the Ambleside curriculum is the product of a continuing effort towards a specific vision: to design a course of study that would provide as close a modern approximation as possible of the curriculum designed by Charlotte Mason for her PNEU Schools, within the limitations of the current availability of books and materials that match Mason's high standards. The curriculum is a work-in-progress, which we continually revise and polish as we study Mason's writings and receive feedback from families using the curriculum. The Ambleside Online curriculum is provided free for the private use of homeschoolers worldwide. We are a group of international Christian homeschooling mothers who have joined together to study and propose an educational plan of excellence 'for the children's sake.' As others begin to implement this educational plan, it is our fervent hope that it brings 'life' to those who do so.
This curriculum is free; there is no tuition, no dues and no donations are required, although we appreciate volunteers who can donate texts to Project Gutenberg, compile online resources to enhance the curriculum, write applicable lesson plans, enhance the curriculum, and offer to the list subscribers various other free or non-profit-making resources in keeping with the Ambleside vision and Charlotte Mason's educational method. All materials submitted for posting on the Ambleside website or shared files will be subject to Advisory review and approval.
Please note - while we appreciate the willingness of anyone wishing to provide products that benefit members for profit, the Advisory is not able to donate time to help with projects intended to generate income for others.
Ambleside Online is not the only way to implement a Charlotte Mason education, and, in fact, Charlotte Mason herself warned that simply taking her booklist and applying it to a school would not be enough - her method is more than a booklist. It is the principles and philosophy behind the approach as well as books with a high literary standard that are the distinctions of a true CM education.
Does that mean you should not use any booklist, or curriculum? While Charlotte Mason warned against simply applying the booklist she used, she never intended teachers or parents to attempt to school without a plan, and always provided them with a booklist and schedule, and it was expected that her books (what we know today as the 6-volume Original Homeschool Series) would be studied. Charlotte Mason is not alive today to consult for book choices, but Ambleside Online is one way to provide parents with a guide on their homeschool journey. However, following Ambleside Online's schedule without also learning about Charlotte Mason's approach will not give your children the full benefits of a CM education, and we cannot emphasize strongly enough the importance of reading her series and learning all you can as you school. Ambleside Online is not intended to replace a parent's own understanding of CM's methods, but is a way to remove the burden of creating a curriculum from scratch while discovering more about the method itself.
If Ambleside Online does not meet your needs, we encourage you to adjust the curriculum as fits the needs of you own family, use the ideas or book suggestions found here in your own schedule, or to implement a Charlotte Mason education of your own from various other sources.
Ambleside Online began when, during a discussion of boxed curriculums on the CMSeries email list on September 4, 1999, Leslie Noelani Laurio fantasized about a boxed Charlotte Mason curriculum: "Charlotte Mason in a Box. Hmmm...intriguing idea. Well, its day will come, no doubt, but it won't be me who gets into the curriculum-selling business. But it would be nice for moms to be able to find, all in one place, most of what they need to start teaching a CM education, starting with the booklist, the FAQ, some poetry online and access to hard-to-find books with the use of etexts, maybe some kind of a guide to teaching music and art. It sure would be nice for moms not to have to start from scratch and build their own curriculums like I think most of us probably did through trial and error. Just think, if classical music MIDI sites and art sites were included, and links to CM-friendly math curriculums like Math-U-See and Math Made Meaningful... there could actually be a free CM curriculum online!"
Karen Glass, Susan Craven and Leslie Noelani Laurio had just completed a Charlotte Mason booklist that was sent in its entirety to the CMSeries email list with URL's given for books that were online. "I think putting together the booklist was a kind of attempt at putting together a CM curriculum, although it would be nice to sort the books into suggested grade levels for those (like me) who would be using the booklist to assemble their own curriculum guide." (from the same CMSeries post) That got Susan and Leslie to thinking... "what if we divided up the booklist into appropriate grades? We would end up with a virtual curriculum guide!" They asked Karen Glass and Cathy Russell to help divide the booklist with them for grades 1-6. With the addition of some history, geography and science, it was practically a complete curriculum! And if it could be posted online and make use of free etexts, it would be virtually free as well as a higher standard than most basic curriculums because of the quality of texts used. For two months, books were considered, pages counted, and texts were divided into subjects to get a basic schedule assembled.
Grades 1-6 of the curriculum were ready for the first testing phase in November 1999. Invitations to help try out the new curriculum were sent to a few Charlotte Mason email lists, and the response was surprising. A name had to be chosen, and the one Charlotte Mason used herself - "Parents Union" - was modernized by adding "Online." Thus, the original PUO was born.
During the first couple of weeks of use, list members Leslie Smith, Anne White and Jackie Fulop were added to the Advisory because their list posts showed an obvious understanding of CM principles and knowledge of texts. When it came time to plan later grades, Wendi Capehart was asked to help.
Within two years, there were 400 families using the curriculum, and issues about continued growth and long-range goals of the direction of the curriculum resulted in a slight change in leadership and a name change to Ambleside Online, Ambleside being the British Lake District in which Charlotte Mason taught. New advisory members were added as individuals showed a desire to be involved and capability in understanding the aims of this project - Donna-Jean Breckenridge, Lynn Bruce, and Amy Toomsen joined in July, 2001. The number of families using Ambleside Online has continued to grow and, without the burden of inventing a curriculum from scratch, mothers are able to devote time to understanding the philosophy behind the Charlotte Mason method. The original vision - a CM curriculum available to anyone for nothing more than the cost of those books which are not available online for free - has remained the commitment of the current Ambleside Online advisory, and it is their aim to make sure that dream remains alive and available.
It is hoped that Ambleside Online will be a blessing to your family!
If you'd like to read a more detailed version of the history of Ambleside Online, you can read what Leslie Noelani said at AO's Jul 2005 conference here.
You can also see a timeline of books written by and about CM and her method; it helps to show a timeline of the history of the CM movement.
From our FAQ:
A group of moms very much like you who are often busy, tired and distracted, who sometimes raise their voices when they shouldn't, who don't always get the laundry done when they should or meals on the table on time, who deal with sick children and plumbing emergencies, and who worry about not doing enough in their children's schooling. If they can do a Charlotte Mason, so can you -- especially with the help and support the e-mail list offers. We all help each other.
The Advisory members are all homeschooling moms who have seen firsthand what Charlotte Mason's methods have done for their own children and homeschool experience and believe with a passion that her approach can have just as beneficial an effect in any homeschooling family. They are encouraged that such an education might be a positive influence on the next generation, but that parents discovering her methods may need the kind of practical help that a curriculum outline such as Ambleside Online provides while learning about Charlotte Mason's philosophy and implementing it in their own homeschool. Although the Advisory receives no payment or dues for their work on the curriculum, they do benefit from the collective pool of research and information, which enhances and takes some of the burden from their own attempts to homeschool. As the Advisory are all busy moms themselves, the information here is posted in the hopes that homeschooling parents can obtain enough information and confidence to apply a Charlotte Mason education in their families. Unfortunately, Advisory members' roles as mothers and teachers and hours planning and maintaining the curriculum does not often allow them as much time to handle individual questions as they might like.
Advisory members receive no funds, fees or dues, and the curriculum is as free as they could make it. There is no charge for using the books, booklists, or any other material found on this website or offered through our list. The vast majority of scheduled books are available free, online, as e-texts. A few books will have to be purchased, but never from Ambleside Online or the Advisory. You purchase the book from the source that works best for you. So how much you have to spend on the curriculum will vary from family to family.
Yes! Any contribution to the virtual worldwide library of texts online, whether Ambleside Online uses a specific book or not, is in the spirit of Ambleside Online's vision to make available resources and information at no cost to the public at large, provided by volunteers for the benefit of others without expectation of return. We encourage members to help put etexts online by either scanning, typing, or proofreading texts to put online. If you would like to know more about getting etexts online, Project Gutenberg's volunteer page is the best place to start gathering research.
In the same spirit, list members have written lesson plans to go with the curriculum for the free use of members, made art prints available at no more than their cost of production, shared resources such as online websites that enhance the term's studies, written biographies to enhance the term's artist or composer, exchanged ideas for implementing the curriculum, shared narrations and exam results with one another and worked together to create audio readings of public domain books for participating members. Individual list members keeping their email posts on topic also contributes to the fine-tuned focus, which enables parents with limited time to participate in the email list.
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