Our journey to the “best” homeschool curriculum
When I first began homeschooling, I thought my chosen curriculum (KONOS) would be the one to see us through high school. It was activity based with lots and lots of great ideas for every unit, as well as an emphasis on character building, which my 5 year-old daughter needed at the time! (Our first unit was ‘Obedience’!)
I think we were about halfway into our second year when I noticed that one of our next assigned activities was to make handmade deerskin moccasins and pemmican. Now, I have nothing against either of these but at the time I was running a business and had to draw the line somewhere. Moccasins and pemmican was that line. I simply didn’t have the time for grandiose crafts and projects every week. I also wasn’t convinced that we were covering the most important basics by building a “castle” out of the dining room table, chairs, and bedsheets. So, I began searching for the next “best” curriculum.
It took a couple of false starts before we found Ambleside Online, a curriculum we all love. First, the curriculum is free. I didn’t have to pay money for a weekly schedule of assignments in addition to a collection of books and workbooks. Rather, we use the schedule online and track down the books we need via eBay, Kindle, and Amazon. Since my son is following in his sister’s footsteps, I only need to buy her set of books once and then sell the books once he’s finished with them. That’s not all, though. My kids help put together this list of reasons why we love Ambleside.
- It’s a lot of reading and history, and I like both of these subjects.
- It’s easy to understand.
- If I work hard, I can get all my work done in four days.
- It’s a Christian curriculum.
- It’s easy and fun.
- I get to read a lot of adventure stories.
- It doesn’t get boring.
- My kids are reading real literature, like the original Mary Poppins, Oliver Twist, King Arthur, and other top-notch books that are rarely used in the public school system anymore. They aren’t intimidated by these titles or under the impression that anything more difficult than Captain Underpants is beyond their ability.
- Their written and verbal vocabularies are amazing.
- I use the weekly schedule online to create individual, daily schedules that I can adapt to whatever is going on in our lives at the moment.
- Four-day school weeks are entirely possible.
- The curriculum includes art history, drawing lessons, classical music, foreign languages, hymn/folk song studies, physical education, biographies, memory work, nature studies, Latin, Shakespeare, Plutarch, and poetry. Got all that? The variety of what my kids are learning is impressive, and there are no workbooks!
- Ambleside is based on the techniques, practices, and in some cases, the actual books used by educator Charlotte Mason in her schools. The more I read of her philosophy, the more I found myself nodding in agreement. For example, she believed it was important for kids to verbally summarize what they learn and have read long before they’re assigned written summaries. Coming from the public school system, I was exceedingly familiar with the difficulty kids have with summarizing information in their own words, and Charlotte’s method makes so much more sense.
- My kids scarcely know what a textbook is. They learn most things from “living books” written not by a committee of adults who haven’t taught real kids in a real classroom in more than a decade. They do use textbooks for math (Math-U-See) and Latin.
- I’m learning right along with them. I’ve been reading the original Marco Polo to my son, and I love learning something new!
If you’re considering homeschooling or are taking a second look at your own curriculum, spend some time learning about Ambleside Online. I’ll be happy to answer questions via email or your comments.
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