Tuesday, February 17, 2009

More Rambling about Ambleside

Bear with me as I process a bit. I always seem to plan in February. Especially when it looks like this outside.

If I do continue to use Ambleside, not just for this term but for next year as well, I have Paddy nicely started on Year 1 -- I plan to spread it over the rest of this school year and next school year and also continue to follow some Year 0 suggestions with him. Aidan isn't yet ready for Year 1. When and if he is we will just go slowly through making adjustments as needed. On the other hand, Year 0 plus Montessori-inspired activities with an unschooly format is working really nicely for him and if it continues to work, I'll continue to go that way.

Now Kieron -- I have been thinking about him. I started him in the second term of Year 4. In one way, that seems very young for a 7th grader. In another way, if you look at the actual books, many of them are worth the time of an adult. Robinson Crusoe, for example, is not a light book; nor is Bulfinch's Mythology. (Of course, he will be doing 7th grade math and language).

But I would like to catch him up a little bit if we keep on with the program. So two possibilities I found for next year were this pre-year 7 page with a link to a reading schedule by Carol Hepburn (pdf), and this HeartSchooling Resource page by Melissa Grey. There are various "catch-up schedules" in pdf including one for Year 7, which combines years 5/6 into one year. Just thought I'd mention that in case it helps anyone else. If we continue with Ambleside, that would mean he would be at least approaching Year 7 by his Year 8, which seems about right to me.

I've messed around with Ambleside many times before, but this is the first time I've really made a serious attempt to follow the schedule closely. I had had it in my mind during this summer while discerning what to do about Paddy. It occurred to me that this was the first time all my ducks were in a row -- no crises, and a child just getting to the right age. During the summer, I wasn't sure if Paddy would be mature enough for the readings before he turned seven, but I've certainly been surprised during this year how much he's taken off. Starting this year gives me some time to work with. If he has problems, I can slow down. He is very young. But so far he seems very absorbed in the readings. It's fun to sit and go through them with him -- for me, that's homeschooling at its best.

For Kieron -- what made me consider trying to follow the AO curriculum more closely was how seriously I considered joining the K12 charter here in California. In some ways I KNOW I would have trouble with it -- rebel that I am. Just talk about signing in every day and I can feel bristles (Paddy calls Prickly Porcupine "the fellow with the hundred little spears in his coat" and that about describes my default reaction to scheduling from outside). If Kieron was really into the idea like his friend who lives in our area and is using the curriculum very successfully, I would go for it. But he isn't. That isn't really our family style. It would be me mediating, and I don't think I'd be able to do well with that.

But I realized I wanted some simplicity -- some guide or road map I could respect enough to actually have some hope of following. Ambleside works in well with my LCC "core" of math, Latin and composition, and it has the kind of literature I grew up reading. Furthermore, it is flexible. Last summer, I burned myself out on planning. I do better having something there already to work with. And I think I do better focusing on my family if I don't have an excuse for flapping all over the internet looking for resources. That latter is probably my main motivation.

This Teaching Type Test of Andrea Chen's places me as the kind of homeschooler who likes a basic guideline that can be flexed and adapted. That is basically where I am in reality.

This is a one-term experiment, particularly with Kieron. I won't know until later on in the year if it's actually something I will keep on doing. So this is a time capsule post. I'll be able to look back and see this milepost when we're further along the road (blech, is there a blog award for mixed metaphors? I would certainly take the prize). However, I can see how it could fit in with some of our more unschooly seasons as well, and complement them. The Ambleside attention to nature study, art and handicrafts and music can enrich leisure time... hopefully. To the extent that we used a CM/classical/seasonal unschooling style with the older kids, it did seem to work that way.

Whew! So that's where I am right now. One thing I learned a long time ago from Leonie was that it can work fine to try different things at different times -- to think in terms of seasons. It might seem like the scattered type of eclecticism, but I don't think it really is. Years before I was on the internet I read that some study showed that the children who were homeschooled in a flexible, adaptive style tended to be very successful in becoming lifelong learners and competent people.

I think one reason for that is that education is generally a bigger thing than the sum of one approach. I say that with care because I do think there is a "true" thread of education running throughout history, but that "paideia" is a wide room and there are lots of corners within the room where people can spend time. (MORE mixed metaphors -- it's another one of my superpowers!) Another reason for that is that in homeschooling we tend to be teaching in a family-oriented mode and that in family terms it is a success strategy to adapt methods according to the needs of the situation and the learners. I'm sure this could potentially be overdone and become scattered and indulgent, but it doesn't have to be that way. In that way it's a very different dynamic than the school one. I would rather dislike knowing that Sean's teachers were shifting the structure from season to season -- though actually, in many ways, they do -- like this week which is now "Ski Week" and a week off from school, probably to break up the February blues and maybe to prevent the schoolbuses having to drive through the kind of blizzard going on outside my window right now. So some variety even in the institutional schedule can be OK, but a homeschool can legitimately flex a lot more.


Us! said...

Are you tracking my internet surfing? (Just kidding)...I could have written this exact post (except not so concisely or well!). I am burning myself out these days figuring (the history thing has got me this time) and have been looking seriously at Ambleside all week. We use many of their books here and there but I thought it would give my year 8 guy some structure (which I am poor at organising these days) and give me some great ideas to share with my year 3 and 1 guys. My dd11 is not a reader, but she loves to listen to books on tape and create things. So she would have to have a very stripped down looking AO unless I was reading alot of it to her.

I should be in bed as it is so late here, but I just had to leave a little note....


Mama Monkey said...

Ambleside seems like a good fit for you guys. Grounded in classical/Charlotte Mason learning, but flexible.

Anonymous said...


I have ran into you at different times/places during the 5 years we've been homeschooling. This post is exactly where I am at this moment. We have used and loved Montessori, AO and LCC, but a new K12 VA is started this next year and I'm feeling pulled both ways. My dh wants the accountability of K12 while I want the freedom of AO and the classical core of LCC. I would love to chat with you about this, I can't find anyone close to me who understands all the diff sides of the equation. My email is havnababy@gmail.com. Michelle in OK (I actually googled AO K12 to get here)