Why we choose to use Charlotte Mason’s teaching approach in our Homeschool (and Ambleside Online as curriculum)


When it comes to homeschooling methods/philosophies, I’d recommend Charlotte Mason’s any day. Specifically, Ambleside Online, which is a free curriculum put together by a group of amazing volunteers. I use AO because it’s the most perfectly aligned with what Charlotte used herself in her PNEU schools.

Different things work for different people, that’s a fact. But her ideas speak to my heart…

Charlotte believed that Bible study built character, taught children about history and gave them a moral compass. It also taught them memory work, grammar and a love for poetry. An appreciation for Art and beauty is carefully interwoven into everything we do. Science is God-based. It is interwoven with Bible Studies and Art.

All the subject matter is based on living ideas. On awakening each child’s natural curiosity and love of learning. The curriculum is practical, teaching kids applicable things. Not abstract ideas they will never actually use, but must cram in to pass a test. It’s not crammed full of ‘fillers’ just to keep kids busy. The focus is on broadening their views of the world, not merely to keep them out from underneath your feet!

With CM, you work according to your child’s own pace. If they’re a bit behind, you put them a year or two ‘behind’ and work up to it. If they’re gifted in a certain area, you move them forward. Remember, AO is very advanced, so a child that is used to the public-school system will take a while to get used to the subject matter.

Amber started 2016 in Year 4 with all her subjects except for Math. That she started with Year 3 after working the whole December holiday to catch up all the Math she was behind in. In 2015 she was in Grade 2 in the mainstream school. She’s now busy with Year 4 Math, and can take as long as she needs. We don’t have to rush to meet a deadline. If we want to do hopscotch on a specific day for Math, then we do that!

We also have the freedom to add on as we choose. Next year I’m planning on adding in South African History. I’m planning on adding in Afrikaans again, as well as Latin. We started with French this year, and plan on expanding on that too. Amber has shown an interest in musical instruments and endangered animals, so we’ll continue to encourage that passion. See where I’m going with this? It’s interest led learning, but not unschooling.

I believe in the idea behind unschooling. BUT if we didn’t do folk songs, specific science readings, French, etc. this year, we never would’ve discovered how much of a gift Amber has for them. So I am very happy we didn’t go the unschooling route.

Furthermore, Universities prefer homeschooled children. Most people are shocked by this, because ‘homeschoolers are not used to a classroom environment, don’t know how to work well with others, are socially alienated’. No, my dear. Actually, they’re not.

Homeschoolers learn how to think for themselves. They learn how to get along with people from various backgrounds, with various ages and cultures. And, because they’re exposed to literature of exceptional quality, they function on a higher cognitive level (here I’m specifically referring to the AO curriculum).

We have a new amazing group of homeschooling families in our area that join us on excursions, Nature Walks and gatherings. Amber has made many new friends like this.

With CM, kids learn without noticing that they’re learning. Dictation and copywork teach them spelling, punctuation and grammar from a very young age, while instilling good handwriting/penmanship in them. History has landed Amber some new penpals in America, on whom she’ll also practice writing letters. At the post office, she had to help me work out how many stamps we needed, and how much they’d cost (Math). She watches the news, so is aware of what’s going on in the world. We recently had long conversations about politics, the American elections, corruption and what makes a good leader. She was praying fervently for her new friends in Florida when the storms hit them a few weeks ago. She has been watching the weather forecast and has shown compassion for the people that were swept off in this week’s floods in Gauteng. We also spoke about first aid and what to do in emergencies like that.

See, it’s a living education. A thing that lives and breathes and grows. Not a dry, dusty old textbook full of useless facts and without a soul.

A CM education is timeless. Even though it was written almost a hundred years ago, it is just as relevant today as it was then. Morals never go out of style. We learn that History and Science changes, yet it really stays the same. One has to question, test and objectively seek the truth in all cases, because what the ‘experts’ say today, may change again tomorrow.

This year, Amber read Plutarch, Shakespeare (midsummer Night’s Dream, Macbeth and Othello), Animal Farm, high quality poetry (Emily Dickinson, William Wordsworth, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Browning and Lord Alfred Tennyson) and Age of Fable. She can reason far above her age level. She has intelligent debates with grownups about morals, politics and religion. She thinks, and reasons, and questions things for herself. She tests things to find out if they are true. She doesn’t just accept what others tell her.

We want Amber to get a GED or Cambridge ‘matric’ one day so that she can, if she wants to, go overseas to study. And if she decides to go and do missionary work in Africa, she has her piece of paper that proves that she finished ‘matric’. All bases are covered.

The most important thing, I think, is that she’s having fun. She’s enjoying every minute of school! Where, in the past, she’d come up with all kinds of excuses and ‘illnesses’ not to go to school, she now comes to ‘class’ even when she’s sick. She wouldn’t miss it for the world! Oh, and because she enjoys learning so much, she has collected almost all of the Pick ‘n Pay Animal Cards (she still needs the lion!) and enjoys watching National Geographic on TV. She would also like to visit Greece, America and Canada one day to see if they look the way she thinks they do from the books.

As a parent and tutor I have personally learnt so much through our CM education thus far. I have been so immensely blessed. I’ve learnt more about myself and my kids than I ever thought possible.

I told Amber a while ago that it feels like we were zombies, just going through the motions, but this year has awakened us and we are finally fully present and free.

I’ve grown closer to God and my family.

I’ve read books I’ve never even heard of.

I learnt a new language!

I’ve grown to sit back and enjoy good poetry.

It feels like I’ve lost out on so many years when it comes to my own education. That’s sad, and I’ve mourned and moved past it. Now, I am grateful that I can give my children a fully alive, beautiful and glorious education most children can only dream of…

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