You can enjoy a rich curriculum while homeschooling multiple children. If you love Ambleside Online curriculum, but are unsure how to make it work for your growing family, you need to read this post! Learn how you can make Ambleside Online Homeschool Curriculum work For A Large Family!
If you are new to the blog, my husband and I have ten children. This year I have seven in school, two preschoolers, and an infant. Here is the grade level break down for this year: 12th, 9th, 8th, 6th, 4th, 2nd, and Kindergarten. This is quite a large age gap! Here’s how we make it work.
Video: Ambleside Online | How We Make It Work for a Large Family
Why Ambleside Online?
I was introduced to Ambleside Online when we began looking into homeschooling several years ago. At that time, our oldest child was around four years old. (He is now 18!) I instantly fell in love with the Charlotte Mason style curriculum which emphasized short lessons, living books, habits, science through observation and relationships, history learned chronologically, and a knowledge of God as understood through the Bible, not to mention their excellent book list!
Over the years and as our family grew, it became more challenging to find a way to make AO work in a large family, but at the same time, I wasn’t willing to give it up. I remember googling “Ambleside Online Homeschool Curriculum For Large Families” about ten years ago, but I could not find much content out there on this topic. In spite of this, I continued to use AO with our kids and managed to find a way to make it work. In this post, I am sharing all the ways that make Ambleside Online work in our family of twelve. I hope it will help someone else who might be searching for information on this topic like I was all those years ago.
This recent comment on YouTube also inspired me to write this post.
After reading this, I realized that there are probably other people who also love Ambleside Online and are wondering if it is possible to do with a large family. I am not sure that we have the best system, but in 13 years of homeschooling, these are the ways that we have captured the best of AO in a home with multiple children.
How We Use Ambleside Online in Our Large Family
If you are new to Ambleside Online curriculum, it would probably be helpful to first head over to their website to familiarize yourself with it before continuing with this post. I have written this for people who are already familiar with AO to help find ways to use it in a growing family.
I think it is important to say from the start that Ambleside Online is not necessarily a curriculum designed for a large family. It is just the curriculum I have loved from the very beginning. I have adapted it and made it work through the years as our family has grown.We view AO as a feast. We don’t do all of it. Currently, I only use my personal favorite books which is why I will give book lists below for the books I have picked to use with our family.
Additionally, we don’t ONLY use Ambleside Online. I have outsourced history to Veritas Press Self-Paced History lessons and we use some of the AO history book suggestions as supplemental reading. Also, we use seterra.com to teach geography. Additionally, there are also AO subjects that we don’t do because of the size of our large family. One of these is Plutarch.
You may also enjoy reading how Brandy Vencel is using AO with multiple children in this post. Making Ambleside Online Work For A (Very) Large Family.
Books We Love
What are our favorite must-read Ambleside books? You can browse our list of personal favorites below.
Through the years as our family kept expanding, I had to assess at the beginning of every year how best to cover the books that are on my must-read list. For this reason, I won’t give a detailed description of how we cover these books. It changes from year to year based on pregnancies, babies, and ages and number of kids in school. Also, I don’t necessarily do them in certain years or grades. I just try to make sure that either by reading aloud to them or them reading on their own, these are the AO resources that each child gets at some point in their elementary years.
*This post contains affiliate links which means I may make a small commission at no cost to you.
Year 0-We use almost all the books recommended for Year 0, so I will not list these.
- Aesop’s Fables for Children by Milo Winter
- Blue Fairy Book by Andrew Lang
- Just So Stories by Rudyard Kipling
- Paddle to the Sea by Holling C Holling
- Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan. We have an audio version of this book. A few years ago everyone listened to this before bed. Currently we are reading The Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen L. Taylor as our Read Aloud.
- Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield Fisher
- Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
- The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle. The old English in this book is tough at first, but once you get used to that, this book is just fantastic. Loved by all our kids!
- American Tall Tales by Adrien Stoutenburg
- The Princess and the Goblin by George MacDonald
- Children of the New Forest by Frederick Marryat
- Optional: The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Not an absolute favorite of mine, but if time allows.)
- The Life and Adventures of Robinson Crusoe by Daniel Defoe
- The Incredible Journey by Sheila Burnford
- King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green
- The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Black Ships Before Troy (Retelling of The Illiad) by Rosemary Sutcliff
- The Wanderings of Odysseus (Retelling of The Odyssey) by Rosemary Sutcliff
In addition to the literature books, I love all the AO Free Reading book lists. We have collected several these books and I refer our kids to them when they are looking for something good to read.
Read all the Ingri and Edward D’Aulaire books. They are excellent!
- Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (Covered in Morning Time)
- The Little Duke (A challenging book best suited for kids who love a good story, but so good once you get into it!)
- Leonardo da Vinci by Emily Hahn- A challenging but good book. I read this aloud to my kids.
- Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare by Peter Vennema and Diane Stanley-This is a picture book and a child can read on their own.
- The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daugherty- Fun to read at Thanksgiving!
- Poor Richard by James Daugherty, Kids absorb more if I read this aloud.
- Abigail Adams: Witness to a Revolution by Natalie S. Bober, I have older kids read this on their own.
- Of Courage Undaunted: Across the Continent with Lewis and Clark by James Daugherty
- Carry a Big Stick: The Uncommon Heroism of Teddy Roosevelt
- Never Give In (about Winston Churchill), by Stephen Mansfield
We complete copywork, oral and written narration, dictation, and grammar as suggested by AO using Charlotte Mason’s methods. When practiced regularly, copywork and narration, specifically, cover so many concepts in one lesson.
I have written several posts on how we implement these.
Copywork and Dictation
Simple Step-By-Step Guide to Homeschool Writing
Helpful Habits for Writing Well #2: Copying the Best Pieces from Great Authors-In this post you can access free downloads of copywork we use for each AO year.
Simple Ideas for Memory Work in Morning Time
Helpful Habits for Writing Well #3: Narration
Our Large Family Homeschool Curriculum This post explains our overall homeschool curriculum, but one whole section shows how we teach formal grammar beginning in 4th grade as suggested by AO.
Helpful Habits for Writing Well #4: Notebooking
Our formal history curriculum is not part of AO history suggestions. We outsource history by using Veritas Press Self-Paced History. You can read more about that here. We do, however, supplement history with many of the AO history book suggestions. Below are the books that I have used either as read alouds or assigned readings for my kids.
- 50 Famous Stories Retold by James Baldwin
- An Island Story by H.E. Marshall (up to around chapter…..)
- Child’s History of the World by Virgil Hillyer
- This Country of Ours (selected chapters)
- Note: Some chapters of the book This Country of Ours are little too detailed for my preference. I usually pick and choose the chapters that we use in this book. Another book I have enjoyed for United States history is…..
As much as I love the concept of a Book of Centuries as suggested by AO, we have not found a way to successfully complete one. This is still something that I still want to try, however!
Ambleside Online gives several math curriculum suggestions. From these, we have chosen Singapore Math U.S. Edition. With Singapore, the kids are mostly able to work independently with assistance from me as they approach new concepts. Other than helping the youngest child get started with the basics, I do not teach individual lessons to each of them. They read the lesson and sample problems in the textbook and complete the correlating workbook exercises. Kids who are old enough and trustworthy can check their own work in the teacher’s manual.
Another excellent AO suggestion is Right Start Math. Initially, I started out using Right Start with our oldest three children. I love their approach and philosophy, but the lessons were too teacher-intensive for our growing family. We switched to Singapore, BUT I still use many of the math games to teach concepts. The games are excellent! I highly recommend their Math Card Games book.
Nature Study and Science
Here are some of my favorite AO science suggestions.
Burgess Bird Book and Burgess Animal Book- (Two of my absolute favorites!) I buy the Peterson Field Guide Coloring Books and the kids will color along as I read the chapter. They love doing this! Afterward, we watch short YouTube clips of the animals we studied. Rebekah, from A Humble Place, has links to YouTube videos that correlate to each of the 40 chapters in the Burgess Animal Book.
James Herriot’s Treasury for Children by James Herriot
Story of Inventions by Frank P. Bachman
Archimedes and the Door of Science by Jeanne Bendick
Story Book of Science by Jean Henri Fabre
Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann
Although AO lists the Handbook of Nature Study for several years in a row, we have found field guides and apps to be more our style. One thing that has worked well for me is to assign the kids to do a nature notebooking page one day a week in place of copywork on that day. We base the format for these on the book The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady.
Subjects Covered in Morning Time
For a more detailed description of how we do Morning Time, you may enjoy reading How to Simplify Your Homeschool with Morning Time
When I was new to AO, they suggested The Child’s Story Bible by Katherine A. Vos as a resource for teaching Bible stories. I no longer see this on their website, but we continue to use and love this resource. We read a chapter every morning.
**Although AO has three terms for subjects like picture study, composer, and poetry, we only study one or two per year for each of these subjects.**
Although we don’t necessarily follow the suggested rotation for picture study, the lists are inspiration for which artists we choose to study. We love the Simply Charlotte Mason picture study portfolios.
We have only successfully studied a handful of composers. I love the Opal Wheeler books. We use Apple playlists as well to play composer pieces.
Using the AO suggestions, we choose a poet to focus on for a period of time. I choose 4-5 of my favorite poems that they have written. We read one poem a day until it is memorized. Then we move on to the next poem until all (4 or 5) of them are memorized.
Church History/Missionary Biography
One day a week I read a chapter from Trial and Triumph (or other missionary biography) in place of our Bible reading. Trial and Triumph is a chronological collection of church history biographies.
You may also enjoy reading this post on a similar topic. 11 Excellent Christian Biography Resources for Your Homeschool
I love AO’s idea of studying a different hymn every month! I have adapted it, however, and plan the hymns we study for the year based on hymns that my husband and I love and prefer to pass down to our kids. A few of the hymns AO suggests are unfamiliar to us. Likewise, some of our favorite are not included. As part of our bedtime routine, we sing a hymn and pray with the kids.
I have not been successful at reading Shakespeare plays with all of our kids, BUT they love reading the retellings from Tales From Shakespeare. We read one or two plays per year either during Morning Time or Afternoon Read Aloud.
Summary of Ambleside Online Homeschool Curriculum for Large Families
This sums up the basics of how we use Ambleside Online Homeschool Curriculum with a large family. Another option to try is AO for groups. I have not done this personally, but it is worth looking at to see if it will fit for you. What questions do you have about Ambleside Online? Is there something I missed? I would also love to know which AO books are a must-read in your home!
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Hi, I’m Sheri! I am a Christian saved by grace, married to my high school sweetheart, and a thankful mom to ten incredible kids. I’m a former public school teacher who never thought I would someday be a homeschool mom! Drawing on 13+ years of homeschooling experience, follow along to find help for getting started, tried and true homeschooling advice, life skills learning, simple Morning Time ideas, and interviews with everyday homeschool moms just like you!
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