Ambleside Online Curriculum Review: Why I Chose Ambleside

In this Ableside Online curriculum review, I’ll show you why Ambleside was perfect for our family and why I love Charlotte Mason’s educational philosophy. But, first, let me tell you how I got there…

Rebbecca Devitt

I hope you enjoy reading this blog post. If you want to do my course on how to homeschool, click here.

When my eldest son was a baby, I discovered the blog of a homeschooling mom, and it excited me. While I had attended a public school myself (and homeschooling always seemed a little ‘out there’),  something about this mom’s story struck a chord. I hadn’t precisely loved my education. Maybe my children could enjoy something different.

Soon I plunged deep into internet rabbit trails. First, I learned about Charlotte Mason and her ideas about education. After that, I came across… Ambleside Online.

Ambleside Online is a free curriculum that follows the Charlotte Mason method. My son was still a baby, and I had more than a few years to shop around for curriculum, but Ambleside Online captured my heart.

My son isn’t a baby anymore. We have now finished three years of Ambleside Online. This curriculum provides my children with a rich feast of ideas.

I recommend it to any family who wants to bring Charlotte Mason’s ideas to life in their home.

An Ambleside Online Curriculum review.

Affiliate links are included in this article.

Why choose Ambleside Online for your homeschool curriculum?

Here are just a few of the many reasons we use Ambleside Online as our homeschool curriculum.

Ambleside Online is a solid Charlotte Mason curriculum.

If you’re like me, you love the idea of a Charlotte Mason education for your children. Living books. Poetry and Shakespeare. Short lessons. Ambleside Online helps me take that idea and make it a reality.

The women who made this curriculum were all homeschool moms.

They read and applied Charlotte Mason’s ideas as they taught their children. They also studied the curriculum she put together for her schools.

As a result, Ambleside Online uses Charlotte Mason’s educational theories and method (if you don’t know much about her method, you can watch the video below to find out more…and please SUBSCRIBE!).

Ambleside Online accommodates my needs.

No family is the same, so no homeschool should be the same. 

I am an American living in the UK with my British husband and children. My kids need to learn both American and British history. I also want my kids to learn about both places’ geography and natural history. 

With Ambleside Online, I am not committed to teaching about one place. The curriculum includes both British and American history. But even if it was missing one part, I can easily adjust their plans. It helps that I haven’t purchased a set curriculum with a particular set of books.

Instead, I look at their schedules and book lists every term.

Then I swap books in or out to cover the areas we need to cover. With Ambleside Online, I can give my kids a custom education.

Ambleside Online has the best community.

When homeschooling gets hard (and it will get hard), you want the support of people who get it.

Over and over, the many people who use Ambleside Online have encouraged me to keep going. The Ambleside Online Facebook group is an excellent resource for support and ideas in using the curriculum. 

I head to the Ambleside Online forum for input on adjusting the curriculum. There are also active book clubs and Charlotte Mason studies in the forum.

You will also find a place for prayer requests and chit-chat. 

Ambleside Online is STUNNING VALUE. Because it's free. Check it out in this review.

Ambleside Online works.

Charlotte Mason did not promise guaranteed results. 

After all, children are not machines!

Instead, she said that her method would help children keep their love for learning. She also believed that her method would help children remember what they learn and connect with it personally.

Ambleside Online has helped make this happen in our home. My children are interested and engaged learners. They remember what they have learned months and even years later.

There is nothing better than to see my eight-year-old’s eyes light up when we hear of someone we read about in our lessons.

It might be Horatio at the Bridge or an old Norman king like William the Conquerer. Whoever it is, I can see that he has built a relationship with these stories.

For me, this is my most significant reason for using Ambleside Online. I can see the fruit it bears daily.

Is Ambleside Online for you?

As much as I love Ambleside Online, it isn’t for everyone. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Firstly, you will need to learn about the Charlotte Mason method. Bec’s homeschool parenting program will give you an introduction. After that, you’ll want to read more about Charlotte Mason’s ideas.

For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay is a great place to start. Karen Glass’s In Vital Harmony is also a great resource. 

Secondly, Ambleside Online does not plan your daily schedule for you. You will not find lesson plans for each day.

Instead, they provide a schedule of what to cover each week. You will need to take the weekly list and decide what you want to cover each day.

I like to adjust our lessons to suit our schedule. However, some people may like more structure and direction.

Thirdly, Ambleside Online schedules a different historical period each year. This arrangement means that your second grader studies medieval history while your fourth grader studies the American revolution.

Many families like all their children studying the same era at the same time. If this is you, you might want to look at other curriculum options (see further down the page for ‘More Curriculum Options’).

Want a Charlotte Mason Curriculum that is free You'll want to look at this program. Ambleside Online is garuanteed to surprise you!

Common questions about the Ambleside Online curriculum

If you’re considering Ambleside Online, you may have some questions and concerns. Here are some of the most frequent questions about this curriculum.

Have more questions? Pop them in the comments!

Is Ambleside Online accredited?

Ambleside Online is a curriculum for you to use, not a school.

Therefore, it’s not accredited.

However, if you have requirements for reporting to your state or government, you will almost certainly be able to make it work.

The Ambleside Online community includes families around the world. You are almost sure to find someone who can advise you about reporting.

Is Ambleside Online too hard?

Ambleside Online often recommends older books, and they sometimes use more challenging language than new books.

But when children are in the right year of Ambleside Online, many parents find their children rise to the challenge.

If unsure where to place your child within the Ambleside Online curriculum, you can head to the forum or Facebook group for help.

From my experience, my children find Ambleside Online challenging, but in a good way. The challenge keeps my kids working hard in their lessons, while the beautiful books bring delight.

I think that’s a win!

Is Ambleside Online enough?

Sometimes people wonder whether Ambleside Online is enough. They want to know that their children will have a solid, well-rounded education.

I think there are a few reasons for this.

First, some people think a literature-based curriculum doesn’t contain much science and STEM. This is a misunderstanding of how a Charlotte Mason curriculum operates.

Charlotte Mason believed that nature study is the foundation of science. She scheduled time outdoors, nature journaling, and the reading of books on nature. 

Ambleside Online schedules this time outdoors as well.

Then, as children grow, Ambleside Online uses a range of books to cover science topics.

These aren’t textbooks! Instead, they are well-written, narrative books that really engage children in the study of science. Children will also do experiments and keep notebooks. 

Second, some people wonder if Ambleside Online includes everything they need to give their child a well-rounded education.

This is an important question.

Ambleside Online provides a detailed curriculum for literature, history, geography, science, and many other subjects. However, you will need to choose a few extras.

Mainly, you will need a math curriculum and a foreign language curriculum. You may also like to use a program to teach reading, handwriting, and grammar.

While Ambleside Online doesn’t cover everything directly, they will help you find the other pieces you need. You can find suggestions on their website.

Want a Charlotte Mason Curriculum that is free You'll want to look at this program. It's garuanteed to surprise you!

How does Ambleside Online compare to other curriculum options?

Ambleside Online is one curriculum of many. So how does it stack up against other options?

There is one common difference between Ambleside Online and the curriculum options below.

Ambleside Online is free!

You will need to purchase books, but the schedules and book lists are freely available. Many other options require you to pay to access schedules, instructor guides, and book lists. 

Ambleside Online vs. Sonlight

Like Ambleside Online, Sonlight is a literature-based curriculum. Sonlight avoids textbooks. Instead, you will find books that will interest and excite students. They are also both Christian curriculum programs.

However, there are important differences. While both schedule excellent books, Sonlight is not specifically a Charlotte Mason curriculum. In practice, this means that you will use books in a slightly different way.

Namely, Ambleside Online uses narration to help students learn from their school books. Narration is telling back what you read in your own words. A child’s narration is the starting point for any discussion.

Alternatively, Sonlight provides detailed instructor guides. These include questions to discuss with your child. This discussion is more directed than narration. You can read more about Sonlight in this full curriculum review.

Ambleside Online vs. Classical Conversations

Classical Conversations is a classical Christian curriculum and community (some call it a homeschool co-op).

It follows the ages-and-stages model of learning. You may have heard of these stages as grammar, logic, and rhetoric.

You can read more about this at Classical Conversations. Bec also has a helpful article for you on these three stages (called the trivium).

Classical Conversations and Ambleside Online have similar elements. Both schedule memory work, and there is a focus on communicating ideas through speech and writing.

However, Classical Conversations schedules several years of taking in knowledge and ideas (grammar stage) before children put them together (logic stage) and, eventually, communicate them (rhetoric stage).

Charlotte Mason, though, believed that children are capable of all these types of learning, regardless of their age. Therefore Ambleside Online schedules books that introduce children to a wide variety of ideas.

Then through narration, children communicate what they have learned and sort, compare, and connect new ideas to what they already know.

Ambleside Online vs. A Gentle Feast

As opposed to the previous two options, A Gentle Feast is a Charlotte Mason curriculum. You will find a similar range of subjects in Ambleside Online and A Gentle Feast.

They also both use narration as an important learning tool. 

A Gentle Feast is a paid resource. It is also more planned and structured than Ambleside Online.

Many home-educating parents like it because it is more open-and-go than other choices.

Another big difference is that your children will study the same period of history in A Gentle Feast. As a result, you can combine your children into more lessons and reduce your workload.

Want a Charlotte Mason Curriculum that is free You'll want to look at this program. It's garuanteed to surprise you!

Making Ambleside Online Work

You’ve looked around Ambleside Online. You have explored the curriculum and considered the book lists.

After looking at other options, you want to try it out.

But how do you go from the schedules and lists to actual homeschool lessons?

While implementing Ambleside Online is straightforward, it takes more space than I have in this blog post. However, I’ve shared how I make Ambleside Online work in my home through a series of posts on my own website. Here you’ll find posts on scheduling, tweaking the curriculum, and sourcing schoolbooks.

An Empowering Charlotte Mason Curriculum

Ambleside Online is a blessing for our family.

Through this curriculum, my family has grown to love nature and history.

We have journeyed through beautiful books together and visited new lands in geography lessons. Learning is challenging yet delightful.

Most of all, though, Ambleside Online has given me confidence in bringing the Charlotte Mason method to life in my home. I am so grateful for the support of this curriculum and community.

Head to the Ambleside Online website to explore this curriculum!

More Curriculum Options

Perhaps you’ve read this post, but you’re thinking to yourself, ‘I’d like to look at some other options.’ Well, you can do that by checking out the following:

Also make sure you take a look at another great free (Christian) homeschool program, Easy Peasy All-in-One. You can look at a review of Easy Peasy here

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Amy Fischer

Amy is a homeschooling mom of three boys. Originally from Indiana, she now lives with her family in the northwest of England.

She connects the Charlotte Mason philosophy with the Charlotte Mason practicalities at her blog, Around the Thicket. You’ll also find her co-hosting the Thinking Love podcast, a show that explores homeschooling, Charlotte Mason, the early years, and more. She is the author of Before Curriculum: How to Start Practicing the Charlotte Mason Philosophy in Your Home.

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