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How to Schedule Ambleside Online: How to Make it Work

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How to Schedule Ambleside Online: How to Make it Work.

If you are here, it is most likely because you have heard about Ambleside Online, (AO), but feel a little lost as how to implement it on the day-to-day. I have been there. Now that we have been doing AO for a handful of years, I often get asked “how do you schedule it”, “how do you make it work?”. So I share this because I want to help anyone I can, to dive into the feast that is Ambleside Online.

Please note that this post contains affiliate links. I may possibly earn a commission on qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you as I am an Amazon associate.

What is Ambleside Online

First of all, Ambleside Online is an outstanding Charlotte Mason-based curriculum.

The name for Ambleside Online comes from the town Charlotte Mason moved to in 1891, Ambleside, England. This is where she established the House of Education, where she trained governesses and other people who would work with children.

The “Online” part of the name does not mean you place your child in front of a screen all day and it teaches them. Far from it actually. The advisory board of AO has spent decades and countless hours of work pouring into this free curriculum, their generosity is rare. They have graciously left it wide open online to anyone to use for free.

Charlotte Mason herself believed that every child should be given the very best in regards to education. It made no difference of their economical or other societal rankings. She believed even the poorest children could benefit from a full and living education. Ambleside Online has held this belief well by keeping AO free to anyone.

Even though it is free for personal use, they do have a very strong copyright on all their material and content. This includes that I can’t share any pictures of the actual schedules we use. About now, you may be thinking, “So, Joanna, how then will you show me how to do this!?” Well, we are going to strip it all down and use a bit of our imaginations. But first, let me give you a little…

Disclaimer:

I am no Charlotte Mason authority. Like many others, I am a home-educating mom trying to do the best I can. I have been studying, reading, and doing a Charlotte Mason education with Ambleside Online for over 5 years. That really is a drop in the bucket to many other people out there. But I find value in sharing the journey because there are facets that can get missed and forgotten about the further down the “path of life” you may get. My goal in sharing this post is to help mothers out there see that AO is doable. It isn’t as overwhelming as it first seems.

Ambleside Online really does cover everything you need to know about how to implement AO in your home. It just takes some getting used to and some digging, too. Here is their FAQ section. Also, the Ambleside Online Facebook group or the Forum are great places for help and resources as well. If you have specific questions about AO, please direct your attention to one of these sources as they are the authority.

flat lay on table top with flowers, tea pot, tea cup and Ambleside Online schedules

How I Schedule Ambleside Online

I currently have a student in Year 4 and Year 2. (And two tagalongs that are 5 and 2 years old). I share that to say that this really can be done in a busy household.

Some people like to break things into a timetable, which holds true to the way Charlotte ran her schools. But I do not do that. I keep it simple and fluid because no day is ever the same around here.

close up of AO schedule term with flowers on table top

Yearly/ Term Schedule

First off, I start with one student at a time. I take a look at the big picture from the yearly Ambleside Online schedule.

You can find all of the different years at the top of AO. Select the year you are looking to schedule and hit “year ___ Schedule”. And then, at the top of that page, in the middle, it will say:

PDF DOC ODT

I work with the PDF form. The ODT is editable but I find the format gets messed up for me. These breakdowns of the schedule are where they have spread out the readings to fit within the 36 week school year. They have it broken down into 3 terms, 12 weeks in length each. It can look very overwhelming at first but I’m here to help.

term schedule for AO with flowers and white tea pot

The above photos are where we use our imaginations. I want to honor AO’s copyright, so I removed all the book titles and everything else in the copyright.

The actual PDFs will have much more details.

This large term-by-term overview is the basis of the rest of the scheduling. At first, it may seem like a lot. This one that I adapted is from Year 4. But keep in mind, this is 12 weeks worth of work! In my home, we take an even slower approach. I don’t often aim to finish an entire term in 12 weeks. It usually is more like 15 weeks or so. Because we have lots of events we attend for out of home learning.

Another little disclaimer: The Ambleside Online schedule is very full as is. But just like any curriculum, don’t let it be the master. You are the one in charge of your homeschool. You get set the pace and the peace.

Tips For Having Multiple Students

I print the coming term’s PDF file from the Ambleside Online schedule onto a different color of cardstock for each child. It will be two pages for each child.

My oldest daughter currently has a bright pink cardstock and my second daughter has a peach color. I do have a blue cardstock for my 5-year-old son to keep track of what books we are reading for his “year 0”.

By printing the term out on cardstock, it lasts the entire term. (Regular paper usually doesn’t hold up very long around here.)

I then cross out all the readings we have finished at the end of the week. Before I move on to the next week, I make sure we haven’t missed anything. If we have, I add it into the coming week’s schedule.

If some of the readings are too long for one sitting, I will make note of it on the term schedule. I do this by writing a 1 or 2 in that same space. For larger readings like Shakespeare, I continue the numbers through the weeks of the term to help remind myself to keep picking it up. Things like Pilgrims Progress have gone missing from my schedule once in a while if I don’t place something in the empty spaces when the schedule says something like “800 words a week”.

I mostly keep track of where we are on the first/ top page of the Terms Schedule. The subjects on the second page I have covered either on the weekly schedule or our Morning Time Loop. (More on that at the bottom of this post.)

close up image of filled out Charlotte Mason weekly schedule with flowers on table

Breaking the Ambelside Online Schedule Down to Weeks

Usually, on Sunday, I sit down and break up the coming week from the Ambleside Online schedule into a weekly chart I have created. Click the image below to download the files for weekly schedules. There are multiple options for you to choose from, hopefully, one works well for your family’s needs.

On that Term Schedule that you got from the AO site, look at the top of the schedule. You will see that from the top down to the bottom, it is blocked off into weeks. I take the information from there, for ONE WEEK AT A TME. Then I spread out the readings into the weekly schedule.

From LA down to Foreign Language, I don’t fill any specifics in as we are just working through things. Usually, I just put a checkmark in those spots at the end of the day, for the things we did accomplish.

Click image for download of weekly schedule

More Tips for Teaching Multiple Students

Things I take into consideration are how many readings do I need to be a part of. My Year 4 daughter is fairly independent. But I do help her more at the beginning of a new year till we get comfortable with each reading. I try alternating heavy reading days between my two daughters.

For example, I may do weightier books with my Year 2 daughter on Monday and Wednesday. Then on Tuesday and Thursday, focus my help on my Year 4 student more.

I use one weekly sheet per school-aged child, and keep them in a 3 ring binder.

Also, I combined our “Riches” together in our Morning Time. Here is a post where I cover all my Morning Time Menus here. My Riches page on the back of my morning time menu has all our “loops” that I keep track of on this weekly chart. I will cover that at the end of this post since people have asked about that as well.

tea cup filled with tea, flowers and Ambleside Online schedules laying on table

Schedule Down to the Day

Once I have the weekly schedule figured out, I write out each student’s upcoming day in a 1 subject notebook. This is one time I splurge and buy “fancy spiral notebooks.” You know, the ones that cost like $4 each just because the cover looks special. The kids love having their own notebooks. Being able to know what is expected of them every morning, as well as checking off their daily work gives them some power and control.

I first heard about this simple way of planning and record-keeping from Sarah Mackenzie of Read Aloud Revival. You can check out her post about it for more details.

I only do one day at a time. This gives flexibility. If we miss something or need to switch something due to time, we haven’t messed up the entire plan. Then we can just adjust the schedule at the end of the day when I fill out the following day’s plan.

daily schedule AO with snack near by
The top items with the bracket are things we do all together in the morning
How to Schedule Ambleside Online

Tips for How to Make it Work

If you are new to Charlotte Mason, you may be overwhelmed by all the variety of subjects. Instead of the usual 4-5 subjects, there are about 14 subjects with different aspects to all of them! My advice is to start simply. Our first year looked like taking those traditional 4-5 subjects and learning how to do them in a “living way”. From there, we have built upon that firm foundation and added in more habits of additional topics/subjects.

You may notice in the daily schedule that I like to alternate readings with something else, like copy work or math. This is a Charlotte Mason principle. To give a break from one type of study and give some variety with a new topic. Reading and narrating for hours a day will tire most people out. All those extra subjects have a place and use. Be sure to start tucking them into your schedule.

Keep lessons short. I mentioned at the beginning that I am not one to use timetables. When I try timetables, we all just get frustrated. But I do believe in the short lessons. I won’t get into that now but if you would like to study up on it, here is a great post over on Afterthoughts.

schedule page inside of a morning time menu

Morning Time Menu Daily Plan

The back of my Morning Time Menu has gotten a lot of questions. This page is pretty much my brain. I keep it face up to me during Morning Time to keep our pace moving along. It saves me from wasted time thinking “what’s next?” after every short lesson.

Some people have things set to a static day. For example, Artist Study is always on Monday, Composer Study is Tuesday… That doesn’t work for us. Because we are very active with our local Wild and Free group and are a part of a small Charlotte Mason Co-op. Days out change weekly and things get thrown to the wayside if we get in the habit of skipping things.

How to Use a Loop Schedule with Ambelside Online Scheduled Riches

Ambleside Online has scheduled all the riches for the year. Artist study, composer study, nature study, hymns and folk songs are all chosen and planned on their site. Having this many different subjects can be a lot of differnt parts to figure out and put into place.

This is Why I Like to Loop Riches

At the bottom of my Morning Time page, you will see a Loop Schedule. This just means that the first thing at the top of the list is our Co-Op Folksong. I use the parenthesis to give myself reminders or options of what we need to be doing within that topic.

The next item is Nature Study. Depending on the day’s plans I could possibly do our Folk Song singing and a Nature Study lesson all in the same morning. I can then do that if I wish. Other days we may have plans or things just aren’t going smoothly, I can cut it back to just the Folk Song. The loop is always there, and ready for what is next.

close up image of filled out Charlotte Mason weekly schedule with flowers on table
Riches Listed Second from the Bottom

I keep track of where we are in the loop on our weekly schedule.

Let’s continue the example that day 1 we did Folk Song and Nature Study. On day 2 we could do one of our Composer Study readings, and then we usually listen to the selection as well. I would make a note of that on the weekly schedule, and I could refer back to it the next time Composer Study appears in the loop. I would then remember the next thing to do is one of the Composer Study activities.

Day 3 would be our Co-Op Hymn and probably Artist Study on the same day.

Do you see how this is working? It is flexible. It works for us, it doesn’t dictate what is next just because the schedule says so. We also don’t miss out on anything. We just pick back up where we are. When we get to the bottom with Sloyd, the next day we start at the top with our Co-Op Folk Song again. The songs, artists, composers, and nature study topics will change throughout the months and terms. But the loop is still there, carrying us through.

Click image to download morning time menu

Free Printables

If you would like to print out the Morning Time Daily sheet/ loop schedule, you can download it by clicking the photo above. I tried to adapt it a little bit in case you could use it as is. But it is very personalized to our specific needs. Hopefully, it gives you a good reference for making one for yourself, if that would be helpful to you. I make all the pretty things on Canva.com.

Last Thoughts

In summary, this is the quick version of how I schedule Ambleside Online.

  1. I print off the terms schedule from Ambleside Online.
  2. Then I take one week of readings from the Term Schedule, spread it out on the weekly schedule.
    1. * (One sheet per student.) I consult my Loop Schedule for our Riches and fill in that area of the weekly schedule.
  3. After that, I take one day at a time and write out our daily work in a 1 subject notebook.

  • I also add words of encouragement/ little notes for them in their notebooks. My children often write notes back, which is sweet. Their notebooks are filled with their personality and doodles by the end of the year. Not only are they our “record-keeping” but also our memory keepers to some extent.
  • I hope this has taken some of the mystery out of “how do I make Ambleside Online work?!” I know this way won’t work for everyone, but I hope you do glean something from this.

    Is there something from what I’ve shared that seems it will be helpful for you? Or perhaps I missed something? Please leave a comment and I will do my best to help.

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    6 Comments

    • Jenn Wandler August 13, 2021 at 9:35 pm

      You’re so awesome for sharing this!!! I was just reading a post on one of the cm fb groups where the majority of the people who disparaged AO said it was bc they couldn’t figure out how to schedule it. I know, from my own experience, that it gets easier once you dive in but your scheduling is even helpful for me!!! Thanks for sharing what you worked hard to understand and implement! So awesomely gracious of you!!

      Reply
      • Joanna August 13, 2021 at 11:21 pm

        Oh friend, you just made all the long hours of writing this worth it. Thank you for taking the time to share this. Hugs!! Hope y’all are well and dealing with the fires O.K.

        Reply
    • Rachel August 15, 2021 at 1:27 pm

      I’m in Y0 with my oldest being only 4, so we have some time to figure it out. Even so, I’ve had some minor “how on earth do you manage all that?!” feeling pop up anytime I look at AO Y1. This is right up there with another scheduling suggestion I saw that was literally “just print out the schedule, check things off when they are done. The end.” Haha. Love the simplicity! And I don’t want to buy a $40 homeschool planner each year, so this method looks like the way to go! Thank you for sharing and making it look doable.

      Reply
      • Joanna August 15, 2021 at 4:38 pm

        You are so welcome! It really doesn’t have to be complicated! I know of other friends who (eventually, with age) just hand the kids the printed-out term schedule and they do it themselves.

        I also remember being where you are, looking at year 1, and feeling overwhelmed by it. But once you realize that one vertical line of the cells is a week, it because manageable. Year 1 is so fun! My third child will be doing it next year, 2022, and I’m looking forward to it already. 🙂

        Reply
    • Alana August 16, 2021 at 8:30 am

      We use AO too! I was intimidated at first, because it is really jam-packed with information. They just re-vamped the website, so I think it is much more user friendly than when I first started.

      Reply
      • Joanna August 16, 2021 at 1:44 pm

        Yes! I think the re-build of the website helps some. Even so, I have people that want to move on from an open-and-go curriculum to AO, and it’s just a lot different. Many times when I have tried to explain it, they say “I just need to SEE how you do this.” A CM education is very different than traditional homeschool, even the one I grew up in, so this is my humble attempt to help. 🙂 I love that you also use AO. We have really enjoyed it for years.

        Reply

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