When I used to blog about homeschooling with Charlotte Mason, I wrote about our experience of beginning a Charlotte Mason education with an older child. We began Ambleside Online back when my oldest daughter was almost in high school. There was so much to learn and it felt a bit overwhelming at times. The Ambleside Online curriculum and the wonderful people I met through their then yahoo groups and now the AO Forum helped me so much! I know there are many who are just beginning their Charlotte Mason education journey with older children. So I want to share what I wrote a few years ago about how I went about implementing Charlotte Mason methods with our oldest daughter.
Implementing a Charlotte Mason education with an older child, we had to make a transition from what we were accustomed to doing (textbooks, workbooks, etc.) to a whole new way of approaching schoolwork. This not only involved a transformation in our day to day schooling, but in how I viewed education. At times, it felt overwhelming. There was just so much to learn about this philosophy and its methods. Other times, aspects of it seemed so simple that I wondered how in the world it would work. But I’m here to tell you that even though it was a bit challenging trying to transition to this style of education with an older student, it was totally worth the effort for us.
As we began to implement more of a CM approach in our school, I chose to ease into it by focusing on three key cornerstones of her methods:
- Living Books
- Generous Curriculum
First, I began using more living books vs. textbooks. I chose to begin using the Ambleside Online curriculum (a free Charlotte Mason curriculum). I knew that by using AO’s curriculum, I wouldn’t have to go searching and reading and searching and reading and planning and more planning to put together living books for a year of studies. That saved me a LOT of work. Now mind you, I still wasn’t quite for sure how this was all going to pan out; but I wanted to give it a try. So we began with AO’s Pre Year 7 booklist over the summer, reading books that my daughter had not already read. Then we ventured into Year 7. That year was a huge leap for both my daughter and myself. I’d like to say that we stuck through all the books in Year 7 but we didn’t. I switched up that year by covering the middle ages along with the renaissance and reformation and using different history books altogether. Some of the Year 7 books were very challenging for my daughter and since we were just beginning to implement CM methods in our school and transitioning to that, I felt we needed books that were a little less difficult. We basically ended up doing a combo of Years 7 and 8 with AO as our framework but picking and choosing some different resources for history. By the end of that year, I felt like we were progressing much better in our transitioning and that we were ready to give the full AO Year 9 a go.
Along with implementing more living books, we also began narration. For the first full year, we just focused on oral narration for the most part. My daughter did do some written narrations after a while; but we still continued oral narrations the whole year. Then the following year, she did more written narrations but still continued with oral narrations as well. It was a process.
Finally, I implemented a more generous curriculum. Again, AO helped me with that. We didn’t do everything our first year as it was challenging enough fitting in a basic framework; but we still did more than we had. AO made it nice because they did a lot of that work already by incorporating things like Plutarch, Shakespeare and poetry into the schedule. And they provided resources for artist and composer study.
Easing into the Charlotte Mason approach worked well for us and throughout the high school years with my oldest daughter, I saw much good fruit come from implementing CM methods in our homeschool. I began with those three key methods and continued to learn more about the philosophy and methods along the way. Even with homeschooling my youngest, I’m still learning and growing with the Charlotte Mason method. Because each child is unique…and therefore, how the CM approach is implemented might look a bit different with each child.