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I actually found Ambleside Online (AO) early in our homeschooling journey. We did Year 0 (Preschool/K) and fully intended to use AO straight through. We started Year 1 but we just couldn't find our rhythm. In hindsight, I should have just waited a few months or a year, as was suggested in the depths of their never-ending website. (I kid you not, you will never stop following rabbit trails on that website-there so many resources!)
Over the years, I have come back to Ambleside Online, considering it on and off, and I almost made the decision to switch this summer when researching curriculum. I just couldn't commit to separating the boys, because I still had that "keep them together for as long as possible" mentality. However, after starting up this fall, I knew it was time. As I said, they needed their space. We were about 8 weeks in when I finally felt convinced to just drop almost everything and change gears. It was time.
Ambleside Online years do not correlate to standard grade level. Their levels are more advanced, and after perusing the website and forum, it seems a common recommendation to start a transitioning student a year or two below their grade level. This gives them time to become familiar with the CM method, living books, etc. The objective is to find a year that will challenge them, without overwhelming them.
For a 3rd and 5th grader, that meant I basically needed to look through years 1-6, looking at where to place them now and ahead to see how things progress. I decided to place Emory (3rd grade) in Year 2 and Elliott (5th) in Year 4. This seemed like a good place for both of them, considering the workload, the content of the books, and their personal needs. I plan to write more about their individual years soon, and I will probably expand more on my placement decisions there. Overall, I feel this was the right decision for both boys.
I am making a few small adaptions* to the curriculum, but most of those are related to combining the boys in a few books, not because of the curriculum itself.
*The Ambleside Online is a beautiful and thorough Charlotte Mason curriculum. These "tweaks" I have made are for my family's unique situation, and are not a reflection of the quality of AO, nor are they endorsed or specifically recommended by the AO advisory. I do not want to take anything away from the dedication and hard work of the AO advisory.
What do we think?
We started the second week of October, so we're 5 weeks in now. The first few weeks were a struggle to find our balance and rhythm, but we're making huge strides, and Elliott specifically is much more comfortable with the books. (He doing more independently than Emory.) My biggest challenge is juggling so many books and keeping up with their history streams (I remember none of this stuff from my public school days!) and they distract each other during geography. So we may make some changes there. However, it is getting easier!
As I said, I plan to share more about the boys thoughts and our experiences with the individual years as we progress through the curriculum.
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