Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Why I Love Ambleside Online


I knew that we had changed the original, official Ambleside Online Year One booklist quite a bit to suit our family this year. I had not realized until this week, though, how very much we have changed it. Really, I can't even say my children use the curriculum right now. However, I can most definitely say that I use the curriculum... a lot!

Have you ever taken the time to just read the AO website? I mean really dig in and read it? Just tonight, I re-read the section that comes up when you click "About AO" at the top of the returning users page. There is a link to Leslie Noelani's account of how Ambleside Online began and how it has become the incredible resource that it is today. If you haven't read the story behind Ambleside Online, really - stop reading this post and go read those pages. I have the utmost respect and admiration for the AO Advisory, and I really don't think I'll ever be able to fully understand how deeply their contributions have impacted my little family. These women have blessed me, a complete stranger, beyond measure with this labor of love called Ambleside Online.

If you're still reading this post, I'll assume you've already read those pages at AO ;) Reading them more than once doesn't hurt, either. You can always come back and read me blabbing away later on.

What do I mean when I say that I use Ambleside Online, even though my children currently do not? I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that I have literally studied Ambleside Online. I printed out every single one of the AO articles and put them in a 3-ring binder! I have studied their book choices, studied their comments, studied their explanations. As a result, Ambleside Online has an extremely personal feel for me. When I log on to that website, even though I have never met any one of the dear souls that put it together, I feel like I'm walking in to the most rockin' Charlotte Mason support group I could possibly find. One of the most incredible things about AO is that it was completely developed by CM moms- to use with their own children! How could a curriculum get any more personal than that?! As I have read Miss Mason's series (which I first read online at AO, by the way), read books about CM, emailed back and forth in CM email groups, and blogged, the women at Ambleside Online have held my hand all the way. When I have a question, I go to Ambleside Online. What does Wendi say about this? What does Karen say about that? It is my curriculum :)

I know, so you're wondering why I went and changed the books. Sometimes I wonder the same thing. Part of it (a big part) is personality, part of it is practicality. I may wind up using AO Year 2 exactly as it's written. I may look back on this year and wonder what in the world I was thinking using these books. I may kick myself for not sticking to AO as is. Who knows? One thing is for certain, though. I will definitely read the Ambleside Online pages again, and again, and again. And I'll take comfort in knowing that these moms put all of this together knowing that some of the "users" would change and rearrange it beyond all recognition. That does not mean that I don't value the work they have done. It does not mean that I do not make use of the work they have done. I just use it in a different way - to help me make my own educated decisions. Not everyone likes that kind of autonomy, but I do. For now, anyway :)

So, beyond Miss Mason herself, the women on the Ambleside Online Advisory stand as some of the most influential women in my homeschooling days. What a tremendous blessing they are to me. I can't say it enough. If, by any very slight chance, any of you ladies are reading this post, with tears in my eyes I thank you, thank you, thank you.

God has blessed the work of your hands.