Revisiting Ambleside Online

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I was not going to buy books. I just wanted to look. ūüėź

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. ūüėź ¬†)

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 IMG_20150810_082138for 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 KIMG1023can 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!

Getting Myself Ready – My Chizuk

Yes, I know that experiences cannot be equaled and in case I was not sure about it, after the past few weeks, there is definitely no doubt in my mind.  Over the past week and a half, our boys have spent many, many hours outside, in the water Рponds, creeks, etc. playing in the sand, feeling the seaweed, smelling the different smells, watching lobsters hide, seeing small schools of fish, as well as larger ones.  Not to mention watching out for poison ivy and poison oak as we hike through the neighboring forests and seeing, feeling and smelling all the wonderful things there.  Charlotte Mason definitely knew what she was talking about when she said the only science a child needs for the first 6 years should be nature study.

We have been doing Ambleside Online for 2 years now, and I could never really fit in nature walks like I should, even though I wanted too, and I thought I tried. ¬†I am hoping these wonderful experiences will encourage me to try harder. ¬†Really, it all boils down to having the right schedule. ¬†I find that I can stick to a schedule pretty good if I have one (and I’m the one that makes it, which is good!)

We are told that to raise good and happy children, the relationship between the mother and the father must be a good and happy one as well.  One of the ways to attain this is to make the relationship between husband and wife a priority over the children, that way the children can see how a good relationship should be and how they should act, for seeing has more of an impact than telling.  Homeschooling is not only about the children, it is about us, the teachers as well and therefore we need to nurture ourselves and take care of ourselves first.

We are just a few short weeks from Rosh Hashanah and we have had the most amazing few weeks. We do not get to interact very often with homeschoolers – we do not really have that much in common with the ones we know who are local, and to interact with religious Jewish homeschoolers on top of that is even more of a bonus. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, it is not that I have an issue being the “different” one, not at all, however, occasionally it is good to meet others who are different like you.

It was good for the children to be able to play with other religious¬†Jewish homeschoolers, and it was good for me to be able to talk to not just one, but two mothers who have similar philosophies as we do. ¬†It was so exciting to talk to mothers who have had at least double the amount of years of homeschooling behind them than I do for it gave me a chance to see where I could be as a homeschool parent – what kinds of ideas I could try to use, from “experts”. ¬† I was also glad I was able to share some of our experiences and see that I could be of some help as well. ¬†And, it was nice just to talk!

I once heard from a rabbi that all the spiritual connection and chizuk that we get from Rosh Hashanah through Sukkos is set so that it carries us through the dark times of winter, yes, we have a little bit of light from Chanukah, but there are no Yomim Tovim until Pesach, and our neshamas need the spiritual connection.  So too, I felt that Hashem has given me this boost of the visits of two wonderful mothers (and their children!) to help give me chizuk for the next while. I felt lucky to have such wonderful conversations with one of the mothers that came.  We took the children out in the afternoon and then they still did not have enough time together, so her son came over for a sleepover.  After the mother left, I felt not only spiritual happiness and chizuk, but I found it gave me chizuk in general to do some stuff around the house that I was trying to get done.  I tried to soak up all the chizuk and spiritual connection that I could so that it would carry me over until the next encounter.