Beginning Year 1 with Ambleside

Z turns 6 this year (how is this possible???), and, because of her cut-off date birthday, will only “officially” be starting kindergarten. We’ve been doing some homeschool preschool for the past year or two, but KINDERGARTEN sounds like the real-deal, right? now she is tall and old enough that people question why we aren’t “in school” when we are out and about on a weekday (that is, when they don’t First question if I’m due any day now or if I have my hands full).

Because I’ve had the month of July off from teaching my online classes, I decided to get all my homeschool planning for the next year (or so) planned THAT FIRST WEEK (I’m a firstborn, if you can’t tell), and so I began researching curriculum.

A little about what I like–I’d say we’re mostly Charlotte Mason but I haven’t read the volumes yet so I’m probably messing up some CM style stuff here and there. I believe in a lot of poetry, nature study, and literature, and hope to stir up a love of learning in my children rather than bore them to death with endless worksheets and days spent at a desk or require memorization of disconnected facts. I want to treat each of them as individual People (born persons) right from the start and have us all learn more about God’s world Together.

So! Some moms love looking at curriculum; I, however, tend to find it overwhelming. There are so many choices, and so many curriculum that all have great qualities! So here’s some brief thoughts on a few that I looked into for kindergarten–

  1. My Father’s World. I have friends that use this and Love it; it is a Christian unit-study type curriculum, and open-and-go, all things that attracted me to it. However, I already have started on our math and reading, and both of those are working for us, soooo this one was out for me. I wasn’t sure how much I loved the idea of lots of worksheets anyways.
  2. The Alveary. This one is pretty new–its Charlotte Mason based, open-and-go, and has an online community. I almost went for this one…but it is $200 per year (I think?) and that doesn’t include books, so it is a little out of our price range. Plus, I like to do things as tech-free as possible, and I read a review of this curriculum that discouraged Luddites from using it.
  3. Heart of Dakota. This one looks pretty good, but I wasn’t sure about devotionals being included in with it–B and I are real particular about theology.
  4. Simply Charlotte Mason. I love the free PDFS on that website but couldn’t figure out how exactly you make all that into a curriculum?
  5. Sonlight. Great booklists, but there was nothing that really resonated with me on this one.

I’m pretty sure I looked into maybe five or six more, but none that are coming to mind right now. What I landed on was Ambleside.

Ambleside is a free literature-based curriculum. It follows Charlotte Mason principles, and provides a 36 week weekly schedule for each year, starting at Year 1 (which is generally for 6 year olds, at the youngest).

Here are some reasons I’m going with it:

  1. We were already hitting the subjects Ambleside incorporates in our circletime/preschool. We do hymn study, bible reading, nature study, folksongs, poetry–in fact, we’ve accidentally already read all of the required poetry for Year 1 (oops! guess we just need to get more poetry!). I don’t have to worry about adding in subjects that are missing.
  2. No need to buy a certain math or reading. I’d already started some math (math-u-see) and reading (all about reading) with Z in January (yes, this is bad, not CM style at all–however, I wanted to go at a nice-and-easy pace and felt this was a better time to start than in January ’18, where I’d feel like she was playing catch up).
  3. The bible reading are straight from the bible, not devotionals written by so-and-so
  4. The books are classic and interesting–it is all I can do to keep Z from wanting to read them all straight through
  5. It fit the budget. It is FREE! and we already owned quite a few of the books. I set a book budget and bought as many as I could in that budget, and the rest we’ll get over time (and hopefully through thrift stores) or borrow from the library
  6. My other littles can sit right in on 95% of what we’re doing. math and reading is where they get bored/ Z needs individual attention, so I do need to find more to do with them during that time. W will typically wander off and play, but J wants her Own School (she is 4). I tried Before Five and A Row and personally think its too babyish for her, so I’m thinking I’ll just do some letter recognition and number games with her–keep it light and simple–since she gets so much of what Big Sis is learning about too.

The thing about Ambleside is that it is NOT open-and-go. Though it was the most attractive curriculum to me initially, I worried that with a new baby I wouldn’t be able to implement it on a week-by-week basis.

That’s where the internet saves the day! Some generous homeschooling mamas have posted their own checklists and weekly schedules for Year 1 up on Scribd, which I downloaded (with a free trial) and printed off, making a few little changes to accommodate what we’re specifically doing (guitar lessons with daddy starting this December, J’s preschool).

I wanted to give this thing a test run before baby arrives, so we are in week 2. I’d read somewhere that thinking of the weeks as “units” instead of literal weeks helps if you school year round and want to go at a casual pace, so that’s what I’m doing. I plan on us getting through with Year 1 in probably a year and a half or so, and just continuing on to the next level Math/ Reading as we complete this one.

It is honestly pretty against my nature to take things slow and easy with education–I’d rather push them and make them perform (firstborns–we always want the gold star). But who does that benefit? My own ego? Certainly not their love of learning. So instead of traditional education, I’m thinking more about Discovery; instead of setting them up for pretty performances, I’m thinking character building.

so I’m pretty excited about this first “official” year (paperwork turned into the gov and everything!), and can’t wait to dig into all these books!

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