Ambleside Online is an extensive K-12 curriculum based on the Charlotte Mason method. This means kids read real books rather than textbooks, spend time in nature, and are allowed time after school to pursue their own interests. The resources on the Ambleside website are completely free, as is membership in the support network. The authors are adamant that simply reading the books on these lists won't give your child a Charlotte Mason-style education, though: you'll need to thoroughly understand and apply her methods, which they've made available to users in free online e-texts via a contemporary-language translation of her 6-volume homeschool education series.
If you plan on using Ambleside Online, your first stop should be the FAQ section for information about the curriculum and basic instructions.Do not attempt to use this curriculum without first reading the FAQ's. Homeschoolers hoping to raise their children to be readers, as Charlotte Mason urged, owe it to themselves to take the first step in reading by looking over the instructions for the curriculum they plan to use. The FAQ section has all the questions that people routinely ask, with detailed answers and explanations collected from two years of responses to user questions.
The resources collected for Year 9 represent some of the best for this time period. Even Ambleside Advisory members aren't able to cover all these with their own students, and are forced to be selective; pick and choose from the suggestions. If all this looks overwhelming for your student, you might consider "plan B"—a lightened load for Year 9, which you can see here.
This year marks a transition for parent and child in terms of effort, involvement, content and goals. High school is hard work, and students should be encouraged to approach it as their first full-time job. Parents must remain involved—even as the child matures toward independence and becomes able to take over some of the decision-making and record-keeping. Some students already have specific career goals in mind that can be integrated into their school work, while college-bound students will need to tailor their studies to meet admissions requirements.(Read about high school credits here.)
A word about books and the design of Year 9
Choosing the best books is a challenge that increases each school year. High school students are moving into adulthood, and the books they should read at this level reflect the adult world. Previewing the content of mountains of books for the high school years, the Ambleside authors have been aware they can't predict how far into that world other people's children may be. Families vary greatly in their views on sheltering, protecting and preparing for adulthood, so it would be futile to attempt to be the censor or guardian for all House of Education Online scholars. There's a very high standard for these materials; however, parents will still have to exercise their own discernment. The homeschool parent's job, even at the high school level, is to accept responsibility for matching your child's sensitivities and sensibilities and your family's standards with the books you select for study.
In the booklist below, there are a few notes on potential concerns in certain books, but it goes without saying that not every potential concern in every book has been identified. The absence of a comment doesn't necessarily mean the absence of anything your particular family might find offensive or inappropriate.
For these and other reasons, the Ambleside high school years are not single curriculum lists (like the preceding Years), but rather represent a "Salad Bar" approach. In many subject areas, a variety of options to choose fromare presented. The final product is your design. Those who prefer the comfort of a single booklist may simply select "Option One" where options are presented.
To arrive at the best high school plan for your child, expect to burn some midnight oil, dig a little more than you did to prepare for the younger grades, and make more personal choices. You should budget time over a few weeks to focus on previewing and selecting books. Look on the bright side: you'll emerge from this process more conversant and familiar with the era and books your student is about to cover—and discussion is vital for upper grade students. You'll also be more sympathetic to your hardworking young scholar!
As you devise your own Year 9 curriculum, whether using our book suggestions or your own substitute titles, it's useful to keep a page count in mind. Charlotte Mason's students covered approximately 1600-2000 pages in a term by Year 9, using about 40 different books. This loose guideline will help you gauge whether your own academic load is in keeping with Mason's.
Before beginning these upper years, please do yourself one very smart favor: zealously pursue some teacher preparation time for yourself. It's a little investment that will pay you back double every single school day. The Ambleside authors suggest you read (or reread) volume 6 of Charlotte Mason's six volume set; Volume 5 may also be helpful. Both are available online as free e-texts.
You'll also find it useful to scan the sample Programmes from Mason's own PNEU school, linked from the Ambleside Online homepage. Forms III and IV are the ones relevant to Year 9. You'll find a wealth of helpful articles at Ambleside Online, so plan to spend a few evenings exploring the site. It's also helpful to have on hand a good current book on homeschooling through high school. And you'll find terrific support on the House of Education Online email list— subscribe and participate!
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