Well, it’s that time of year again. I have been working for days trying to get a schedule going for 4. Yes, Mr. Little is not so little and will actually need to have a schedule of his own. I am so glad we are doing a Charlotte Mason styled learning, I would hate to think how things would be going otherwise. A CM styled learning allows me to teach more than one child without me going crazy. (I am going to apologize here for the lack of pictures, I have not gone out too much lately for one beautiful boy had a bike accident and now has one leg all straight in a cast. A black one. In 100 degree heat. 😐 )
I still remember sitting down at the computer 5 summers ago. I was just not finding what I wanted. Money was a big issue, and anything I wanted to do cost money. I remember the boys were at a camp, with one little one at home, and I spent all morning on the computer. Searching. I remember noting somewhere that I saw “Free” written beside a link. It was not what I was looking for (so I thought), but it had been several hours and I had nothing, that after I exhausted the page for what I thought I was wanting, I decided to go back for I might as well look at whatever that was that had “Free” written beside it. It was one of the most amazing things I could have done. No, it was one of the most wonderful gifts from Hashem.
At that point I had three boys learning, with one who just started walking. I started reading. I honestly felt my heart racing. I clicked from page to page, reading everything I could read. The whole concept of whatever I was reading really felt good. I remember thinking, “This is what I want for my kids! This teaches middos (character traits)! I can have time for all my kids!” Whatever this was was a G-d based curriculum that was geared to raising well rounded children with good middos.
I typed to my husband about it and sent him some links, saying that I found something really neat! No, I don’t intend on doing this, don’t worry, but it is so interesting and so what I am looking for! (So why was I not going to do? I am not sure, but I knew it was not for me. *cough*) I went to see him at lunch time and again, briefly told him about this so interesting new thing (I still was not sure what it was), and knew I was not going to do it but it was so interesting!
After lunch, I had to go back and read everything again and then again. I just could not stop. By the time I had to get my boys from camp, the decision was made. Whatever this was, and I was still not quite sure what it was, for it was a very different kind of way of teaching, this *thing*, this is what we are going to do. This is what I need. The schedule was all laid out for me, in a way that made it so easy to use with our family, most of the books I needed were available for free, linked to right from the website, for they were out of copyright books, and the best thing is that it was free. The philosophy so matched our family. This is what I always wanted for my kids. And bonus, there was minimal work in preparation needed from me for there was even a weekly schedule set out to follow. I texted my husband. I felt so relieved and so happy. I cried all day, from the first time that morning that I started to read, and even for days afterwards I was crying. It was all wonderful, except I had one obstacle. It was Thursday. We were supposed to start school on Monday. Just 4 days. And don’t forget a Shabbos in the middle so no reading, learning or preparation then! To top it off, I had no clue how to implement the teaching. That was not going to stop me. We started our year of schooling on time.
This was the beginning of our journey with Ambleside Online. The year was strange. I had never heard of Charlotte Mason nor of her teachings, and frankly, in the 4 days between first hearing about it and starting school, I was busy getting books printed, and preparing for Shabbos. After that, I was busy trying to teach. I did not get to do my due diligence and really understand. It took me a year to really figure out how we were supposed to learn with this new method, and by the second year I was definitely getting the hang of it and as I was understanding, my love for CM learning increased.
As it often happens, once we get into a routine, we keep chugging away. I have enjoyed learning with the boys. I really enjoy the books, though for the later years I do not get to read most of them. There are several that I would love to read, however, I might have to be content to wait until the boys have gotten older so I have the time to read. I was preparing for this coming year when AO’s Facebook page started getting really active. They have a forum, but I don’t normally go to that, and I tend to just stick with Facebook. All the wonderful questions and comments and even the help-me’s got me thinking again. I know my boys need more outside time, and besides the 105 degree weather we had for a while, there really is no excuse not to send them outside. We have not done the art or composer study (yes, I’m a musician… don’t ask, that is for another time,) and we have not done too much with the nature study or walks, though I have taken the boys out more and more each year.
I want to add more, but it is hard. It finally donned on me today why it’s hard. Yes, there are Bible readings and other religious books read, and all I have to do is replace them with our Chumash, gemara, mishnayos, dikduk and whatever else we are doing. However, when I looked at it, I realized that really, we are doing a lot more than what is laid out, which takes away time from doing other things. I don’t feel so bad anymore, but I really do want to do more, and I figured it out. I have figured out how to add in music lessons that the boys have asked for but I have failed to follow through with… each year… and I have figured out how to add nature study and our walks in every week. I am about ready to add in composers and their music – I’m almost done printing out short biographies of various composers – and I think I finally have a timeline and a Book of Centuries (a timeline for older children) that will finally work for us. I don’t think I can add in more, but it is all well. I do not consider the rest necessary for our lives and that is just fine. I have been doing some reading and getting chizuk (encouragement) from other AO members on the Facebook page. I was telling my husband about the nature studies I am adding and I told him I just feel so relaxed and happy about it all. I am still not quite sure how I want to do it, but that is fine, there are various ways and we will use trial and error to find out what works for us.
As we start our 5th year with AO, I am feeling more confident than ever. I almost feel like I am starting fresh and new. I guess I am. It’s a new learning year and I am ready with new thoughts and ideas to bring to our lessons that I hope will help make our children more well rounded and ready for whatever they intend to do in the (near – yikes!!!) future.
Wishing all of you a wonderful learning year!