AmblesideOnline Year 1 Primer: Tips on Beginning AO for Beginners



Year 1 Guidebook

You and your child are about to embark on an amazing journey! You will visit places, times, and people you've never seen and possibly never heard of. It's a journey that can and probably will change the rest of your lives. You don't have to learn all about it before you set out, but whatever preparation you're able to do will be repaid. Here we offer you a guidebook of sorts, to help you get started on this first phase of your fantastic voyage.


Ready Yourself

Start by preparing yourself to lead this excursion. This is going to require a bit of reading and thinking. How much reading and thinking depends on how much you already know and how much time you have. If you're well versed in Charlotte Mason's philosophies, then you need little additional preparation. Or if you're needing to start right away, you have little time for preparation. In either of those situations, read the Ambleside Online FAQ. Here you'll find answers to the vast majority of the common questions people have about Charlotte Mason, AmblesideOnline, and homeschooling in this way.

If you have a bit more time, pick and choose from these helpful resources in addition to reading the FAQ:

Articles and Topical Discussions from the AO Advisory and Others
ArchipelagO the Advisory blog
Charlotte Mason's Volume 1: Home Education
AmblesideOnline's forum
AmblesideOnline's Facebook group

If you need to listen rather than read, Brandy Vencel's AfterCast podcasts are helpful.


Prepare Your Supplies

When you get ready for a long trip, you gather and pack all that you expect to need, before you leave. This trip is just the same. As with any trip, some of what you think you will need will not be used, and you'll discover necessities you didn't anticipate before setting out. That's fine. Don't over-think this. Prepare, but be ready to adjust to the reality once you start.

Your main supply list is the Year 1 Booklist. This lists all the books and some of the additional materials you will need. Not all of this must be purchased! For instance, books can be checked out from the library or downloaded from the internet onto an e-reader or other device, or even printed from your printer. The booklist uses a variety of symbols after the title and author to link to online texts, audio downloads, and purchase options. Also, the title of the book may be hyperlinked, taking you to the online text. If you do decide to purchase some or all of the books, check prices from different online sources before deciding where to buy and whether to buy new or used. Near the very bottom of the Year 1 booklist, you'll find a list of books that we recommend you purchase even if you're on a strict budget and trying to avoid making any unnecessary purchases.

You might want to print out a map for your history studies and one for your geography studies, so you can look at it after each reading to become familiar with where these stories take place. The AO forum has threads for each AO year with links to free online maps that might be helpful. Don't print all of them! Just pick out two or three that suit you and keep those handy. Some people like to fold each map and tuck it inside the cover of the book it accompanies. Others like to put them in a binder.

The booklist reminds you of a few subjects you need to decide on for yourself. For some subjects, AmblesideOnline makes some recommendations, but you select your own materials.

Besides the booklist, you'll want to look at the lists for subjects that all the years do together: artist, composer, folk song, hymn, and nature study.

For artist study, you will want to look at the list of art works assigned for the first term in the year you'll be starting school. You can click the link for each art work and download the picture to your device. Looking at the art on a screen can work if you need something easy and free. Or you can find the link for that term's pdf artist packet, at the bottom of the list of art works for the term. Download that pdf, then either print it yourself or send it to a print or copy shop (office supply stores often are convenient) to have color prints made. These should cost less than $2 each. If you have prints made, store them somewhere safe and easy to find.

For composer study, you will also find a list of pieces for the term. Each of these will have one or two asterisks after it, each linking to a YouTube video of a performance of that piece. You can make those into a playlist or purchase one or more CD's or make a playlist on your choice of streaming music services. Just choose a mode that's easy for you to access when you need it.

Folk songs have one song assigned per month during the school year, so nine per year plus a couple of Christmas songs. The title of the song on the list for the year normally links to the lyrics. Asterisks after each song title usually link to YouTube videos. You can create a playlist on any platform that works for you, or you can purchase mp3's of the songs and burn a CD or play them from your device. We recommend the folksandhymns channel on YouTube, where an AO mom has made lovely, simple recordings of each song.

Hymns have one song assigned per month throughout the entire year, so 12 per year. The title of the hymn should link to the lyrics, and the asterisks after the title link to YouTube videos. Again, you can create a playlist on any platform you choose, or you can purchase mp3's or CD's. We recommend the folksandhymns channel on YouTube for the hymns as well as the folk songs.

Nature study primarily requires just a notebook for each of you, not necessarily anything fancy. An inexpensive art notebook will work fine. If you're planning to try drybrush watercolor painting, you may need a bit thicker paper, and you'll need the watercolor supplies. Otherwise, you need just a simple pencil or colored pencils. Over time, you may want to improve your supplies, but you can start simply. This podcast interview with Auxiliary member Naomi Goegan may help inspire your nature studies.


Map Out Your Plan

AmblesideOnline provides the plan to get you from week 1 to week 36 of your year. This is the schedule linked from the booklist for each year. Your "map" is provided in four different formats: a plain text list or a chart available as a pdf, a Word document, or an OpenOffice document. Each one of these schedule formats has the same route mapped out. Each one shows you which assignments to complete every week. It's completely your choice which format you prefer or to create your own format. Also, the schedule is offered to you, but you are free to modify it to accommodate your family (just keeping in mind the principles you read about in the FAQ as you make changes).

The schedule shows you what to do each week, but not each day. That's because your days won't look like any other person's days. Some people just look at the schedule for the week, count the number of assignments, divide them by the number of days they plan to do school that week, and do that many assignments each day, crossing them off the list as they go. So if the week has 9 assignments and 5 days of school, they would do two assignments each day, plus the daily work that isn't listed on the weekly schedule. Remember to include the weekly work that happens every week (listed at the top of the plain list schedule and at the bottom of each term on the chart schedules) when you are counting assignments. Also, some longer or more challenging readings benefit from being split up across more than one day, so as you identify those you may want to count them as two assignments.

There are probably as many ways to plan as there are AO families. Here are some posts with different planning explanations or examples:


Enjoy the Journey!

Every trip has unexpected detours or mishaps, but you can't wait to set off until you've anticipated and prepared for all of them. Just go, and make the adjustments you need to as you discover the need. Most of all, enjoy this expedition into new worlds, new lands, new times, and new friendships.



Kathy Livingston, 2020