Sunday, November 25, 2007

Adapting the AO Booklists to Fit Our Needs

Recently, cb, one of the frequent visitors here asked me how we fit all of the Ambleside Online readings into our weeks. The truth is that we don't. I've tried to credit AO for the books that we do use from their list (and give those dear women thanks, too!), but also make it plain that not everything we use is from the AO booklist. We have adapted the AO coursework quite a bit, and we continue to do so. Ambleside Online is an excellent resource for the CM family, and I truly praise the Lord for the work the AO advisory has put into helping others develop a curriculum that works for them. But, I think it's important to remember that the advisory gives us the freedom to adapt things here and there to fit our needs. They even mention on the AO site that many parents take an individualized approach to AO. That doesn't mean that those families are using "lesser" versions of Charlotte Mason's methods. There are many excellent books available today.

I prepare our little "schedule" (read that word loosely) for the school week each Sunday night. I'm doing it a bit earlier today because my children are under the weather and napping right now. I may not feel up to it tonight. I've been thinking some about our books for the term, and trying to pin down exactly what wasn't feeling "right" about our lesson time. For instance, I have felt a bit overloaded with the AO literature selections. Not that there is too much to read in a week, but I have felt that the bouncing back and forth between four literature books and a book or two for free reading has left me feeling a bit scattered. The children enjoy all of the books and look forward to all of the books, but I began to consider knocking a few out of the schedule and just letting the girls read them on their own when they had the inclination.

The first book I took out was Parables From Nature by Gatty. This is an excellent book and a beautifully written one. I found, though, that Charlotte Mason's PNEU schools used it as a "Sunday reading" book, and we decided to designate it the same. It is now one of the choices the girls have for their Sunday afternoon reading. They often choose it and enjoy the readings. They do not, however, need to narrate it or read it on a schedule. I read the book before the term began, so I can sometimes strike up a conversation about the story, but sometimes I don't.

Just this weekend I looked through the PNEU school curricula for Year One again. I wanted to see how many books Miss Mason's schools used for literature. Each year, Miss Mason chose different books for the children. Each term was different than the same term from the preceding year. So, some of the Year One literature booklists had only fairy tales and Aesop's fables listed or only two books such as Pilgrim's Progress and The Heroes of Asgard while other (later) years had three. None of the PNEU curricula that I reviewed had more than three literature selections for a single term in Year One. Ambleside Online lists five different books for the first term of Year One: Parables from Nature (which we moved to Sunday reading), Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, The Aesop for Children, Just So Stories, and The Blue Fairy Book. What does this mean for us? This means that now I get to personalize the AO booklist :) Five is too many for our little family right now; so, we made a few "cuts", but still kept the cut books in the bookshelf for free reading. We cut out everything from the official schedule but the fairy tales and Aesop. I firmly believe that this is not too little for us. More than a few of the PNEU years used only these two books for "tales" for the youngest students. In fact, the curricula list only three of each for an entire term! That means only nine fairy tales all year and only 9 Aesop's fables all year! I plan on reading a little more than that, so I'm actually doing more literature reading than the PNEU schools did even after dropping three AO books!

With these changes made, I have more time to read a few of the "extra" read alouds that I really look forward to reading with the children. We're finishing up The Secret Garden, and then we'll be reading The Magician's Nephew. The children will still pull Kipling and Gatty from the shelf to read on their own regularly. I feel really good about the way this fits us.

So, that's one example of how we modify the great information from AO to personalize our curriculum :) Hope this encourages someone!