Over the weekend it was my privilege to gather together with the ladies of Amblesideonline.org for an “at home”–a day of retreat and rejuvenation for these very dedicated home school moms. Back in 2005-2006 both of my children and I spent a glorious year with this incredible home school curriculum. I was drawn to it for its love of beauty, scholarship and relationships. That composers and their music, artists and their art and amazing literature was included was just gravy. In 2008-09 my daughter and I spent an additional year together in Ambleside. Finally in 2009-2010 my son spent his freshman year of high school partially in Ambleside, partially in another well respected curriculum. These years provided such amazing academic growth as well as memories to be treasured for a lifetime or two.
The Amblesideonline.org curriculum provides an amazing array of subjects, depth, richness, texture and academic rigor. This involves the development of habits that lead to success, to ordered, purposeful lives and to the enjoyment of those lives. Based on the writings of British educator Charlotte Mason, those habits are today well supported by scholarly, peer-reviewed research. Many of them are in the Student Success Skills Workshop I teach on my “real” job to adult college students. A little aside, the only time the famous Mitford sisters went to “school” as such was to use Miss Mason’s correspondence curriculum! How’s THAT for an endorsement! [photo of Miss Mason https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Mason%5D
So, when my dear friend Jeanne at A Peaceful Day announced first that she was coming all the way from Australia for this event and then, second, that I was to join her….well….I couldn’t say “no” now could I? I HAD TO BE THERE. I just couldn’t NOT be there, now could I? My most loyal reader. My true friend. My book-mate. I packed and went even though it meant possibly having to share not only a motel room, but also a motel room bed, with a total stranger.
And, am I glad I did so. For the record, my two roommates not only graciously let me have the second bed alone [thank you ladies!] but they were delightful companions. As were ALL of the ladies at this event. (I did not have the opportunity to talk to the 2 or 3 men so will keep saying “ladies” in this post).
Friday night was arrival night, we mixed we mingled, we worshiped and then I was asked to accompany some of the big shots, the “top table,” if you will to a private home. Now, don’t get the wrong idea–no one in this group is a “big shot” in attitude. But here I was face-to-face with some of my real life “heroines”–the creators of this incredible educational path that takes children from pre-school to arguably well beyond high school. They were RIGHT. HERE. Plus, there was an Irish Wolfhound, too! How Cool is THAT? I’d never met one before, but I immediately called up Clancy from James Herriott’s wonderful novels as my reference point.
Saturday morning the fun began. We gathered again in the Church’s sanctuary, albeit sans coffee or tea, to again worship and to be inspired by Cindy Rollins–a speaker who offered her heart as well as her wisdom. As toddlers played quietly here and there and Mom’s nursed babies without fear of condemnation, Cindy extolled her fellow homeschooling mothers too keep the faith. As Charlotte Mason, the educator upon whose work Amblesideonline is based, said “All education must be outward bound.” Cindy told us to “hook our children to the past to prepare them to the future.” She told us about the use of a ritual her family has of “morning time” in which essentials are done daily. She related this to a little book she’d found, Daily Rituals, in which famous writers tell of their daily writing routine.
The remainder of Saturday was spent as though we were Victorian ladies paying calls at various friends’ “At Home” days. We selected our sessions and left our cute calling cards in the tray provided. Although I thought, to be proper, the cards for the married ladies should have read like this–styled on my great-grandmother: Mrs. J.H. Fulwider. Far easier to know our friends in the modern way.
It was very difficult to choose from among so many excellent “engagements” or break-out sessions. The various church classrooms were renamed in the style of a great Victorian home–the Conservatory, the Parlor, etc., prompting many jokes from Clue of the “It was Colonel Mustard in the billiard room with the candlestick” variety.
I choose the most unusual for my first engagement: Swedish Drill in the Charlotte Mason Home School. Dawn Duran, military wife, physical therapist and incredible instructor led the session based on this Guide. She helpfully pointed out that many things in it were today known to be useless or dangerous and kindly showed us the effective exercises from the book. These were charmingly demonstrated on video by her two young sons who did their Swedish Drill with rifles ala their soldier or Marine dad! The benefits of this exercise include help with focus and undoing the physical effects of spending too long before a screen or steering wheel. I am keeping up the practices I learned–my turkey neck and slumping shoulders thank you, Dawn! I sincerely hope she goes on with her plan to create a modern guide or youtube lessons for this great workout.
Although I am in NO WAY a science person, I had to attend my friend Jeanne’s session on the new AO Science curriculum. Jeanne, shown here with co-presentor, Kathy, has put together an amazing collection of living science books that integrate the sciences rather than separate them. Kathy is the math lover and helpfully pointed out some places where math is part of the language of science. I fell in love with this book–and have downloaded it’s app—the first-ever Amblesideonline-endorsed app!
You can see the book Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Element by Theodore Gray. The app is available here. Another great new book is A Drop Of Water, selected for Year 3 students.
My final engagement was on one things that drew me to Amblesideonline long ago as a home schooling Mom wanna be: Composer Study. I never understood why so many parents were put off by artist study and composer study! We’d have done both each day! Each year Amblesideonline.org selects three artists and three composers to study. This is a great addition to an already outstanding education. Megan Hoyt, author of a forthcoming book on composer study, led the session. The composers for the 2015-2016 year were introduced. I loved the Brahms quote:[There is] “no real creativity without hard work.” So true.
Megan helpfully played selections from this year’s composers to give everyone the feel and tone of the year’s study. I like the way the web page ties the artist and composer making it all come together so nicely. Megan, like Miss Mason, recommends the use of Scholes’ book Listener’s Guide to Music.
In addition to the books Charlotte Mason used and those that Megan and the website introduce, author Susan Barnett Braun, who studied piano at Indiana University, has created a one volume compilation of the Child’s Own Book(s) of Great Composers, available for kindle. [Additionally, she also has put out a volume of Burgess Nature Stories.]
It was hard to say good-bye to everyone. The day was so fun-filled and packed with discussing good books, sweet memories and good jokes.I came away a bit sad that my kids did not get to have all of their education in this manner, but even more grateful for the few years we did get to share. Homeschooling as a single Mom is very complicated unless you are self employed. These ladies are all blessed to have supportive husbands who value having a stay-at-home-wife, albeit often one who earns money part-time from home as well as being the family educator.
If you are interested in Charlotte Mason homeschooling, I urge you to read her works linked here, though do take note of the copyright restrictions and stay within them, please. Do not simply grab a book list and start–you will be doing yourself and your children and injustice. Take time to read and absorb Miss Mason’s writing, then tour the curriculum and pre-read some of the books in the early years to get a feel for the experience. Then bring on the children. You will never regret it.