I first stumbled across Ambleside Online when I was still in highschool. My parents made the decision to homeschool me, and I am grateful they did. As a result of my education, I always planned to homeschool my own children one day. Additionally I was raised in a literary home so Ambleside Online caught my eye because of the good books around which it is centered.
I was mesmerized by the booklists. I spent a lot of time looking over the recommended books and longing for that type of education myself. But I didn’t understand the philosophy undergirding a Charlotte Mason education. I was simply attracted to the books.
Fast forward almost ten years. I was married, and I had two children. My oldest was still several years away from starting school, but I began to consider what curriculum I wanted to use for homeschooling. I started listening to Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket podcast, and through her, I was reintroduced to Charlotte Mason philosophy and ultimately Ambleside Online. As I learned more and more about Charlotte Mason philosophy and Ambleside Online, I knew it would be a good fit for our family.
I chose Ambleside Online because:
1) of the strong emphasis on the individuality of the child. At the same time I was learning about Ambleside Online and Charlotte Mason, I was also learning about attachment parenting. I became firmly convinced that viewing children as born persons had to be integral to my parenting and then eventually my homeschooling. It seemed to me that everything I was learning about attachment parenting and child development went hand-in-hand with a Charlotte Mason educational philosophy. Charlotte Mason’s teachings on children being born persons resonated so deeply with me that I wanted to continue learning more about how she advocated educating children.
2) of the structure around good books. I’ve loved books for as long as I can remember. Even before I chose Ambleside Online as our homeschool curriculum, I worked to create a literary environment in our home. We’ve always owned a lot of books, and in various seasons of life, regular visits to the library have also been part of our regular routine. I naturally gravitated toward a literature based curriculum. Choosing a literature rich curriculum was a natural extension of the family culture I wanted to create.
3) of the emphasis on appreciating other cultures and people groups. Charlotte Mason’s emphasis on learning history, on learning foreign language, on reading books to understand God, the world he made, and the people he put in it drew me in as well. I wanted an education for my children that focused on viewing people the world over as created in the image of God and worthy of our respect because of that.
4) of the priority on the arts just as much as the academics. I realized that I agreed with Charlotte Mason’s emphasis upon the arts as an essential part of education. I didn’t view success in education as ensuring that my children are good at the three R’s. I wanted to be able to present a full and rich education to my children so they could find their own niches in which to excel. In a Charlotte Mason education, a child who is creative has ample space to explore her interests in nature journaling, in handicrafts, and in art lessons. A child who loves math is able to pursue that as well. This ability to recognize that artistic education is just as important and valid as an academic education was a big reason that I was drawn to Ambleside Online.
5) of the way Ambleside Online pushes me to greater self-education. A cornerstone of Charlotte Mason educational philosophy is how the mother is to continue educating herself. A mother should always be learning and growing so that she is able to educate her children to the best of her ability. I’ve noticed a distinct growth in myself as I’ve learned more about Charlotte Mason. I’ve become more disciplined in pursuing various avenues of self-education. These areas of education aren’t always linked directly to homeschooling or the subjects my third grader and first grader are learning about. These are areas that I’m interested in. I’m an individual with interests outside of being a homeschooling mom. Educating myself broadly and deeply (I’m currently learning cheesemaking and cooking from scratch) allows me to be a fully formed person and lets me show my children what a self-educating adult looks like.
“To give a child the gift of time to imagine, to dream, to create, to engage, and to wonder is to allow time and space for his heart to be touched by the beauty surrounding him, for his mind to have room to grow strong on the feast laid out for his imagination, and for his emotions to bathe in the tranquility of a peaceful life in an unhurried rhythm. Then we offer a feast of theology, math, story, literature, virtue, faith, science, nature, art, music, and culture upon which to apply his wondering and wonderful mind. To lay this foundation is to give our children beauty and strength of imagination and the strong pleasure of learning and acquiring knowledge over a lifetime. Wonder is the catalyst in shaping a powerful, engaged intellect.” — Awaking Wonder by Sally Clarkson