I talked a bit in a previous post about why we are using Charlotte Mason's method to educate our children. As the primary requirement for books is that they be high quality "living" books, there are many different curriculum to choose from. Each one has been created with different goals in mind, and it's important to know what those goals are when settling on a final curriculum.
Ambleside Online may not be the only way to put Charlotte Mason's philosophy into practice, but it does have some wonderful things going for it. The curriculum has been around for long enough to have many graduates who used it all the way through their schooling, and who are able to answer questions about what their experience was and how it served them through life so far. Many of these graduates have chosen to use AO with their own children, which speaks to the quality as well. Some of the women who designed the program are still homeschooling their younger children, and in many cases available online via Facebook or the AO forum to answer questions.
But it isn't just the founders who are available. I doubt there is any sort of count to the thousands of families who have used this program, but finding help from a more experienced AO mother is not difficult. The forum is very active, and the Facebook page has more than 10,000 members. In larger cities, it is very likely that someone else is within driving distance who uses the very same curriculum.
Another thing AO has going for it is that it is affordable. The women who designed it have never been paid for their work and do not charge for the use of the materials. The books will need to be purchased, but as it was a priority from the start to make homeschooling affordable for everyone, nearly all the books are public domain (meaning, available for free online or very inexpensive in print). There are only a few books each semester that need to be purchased, and often these can be found in a library for the truly shoestring budget.
The curriculum content follows Charlotte Mason's recommendations--Art study, composer study, monthly (or so) hymns and folk songs, science, geography, history, nature study, poetry and biographies. The books are laid out according to grade, with clear weekly schedules for those (like me) who really don't want to spend their time tweaking and adjusting.
I think the thing that strikes me the most about AO is that the curriculum is both deeply loving and nurturing, but also rigorous. It is "generous" in the deepest sense of the word, and I am so excited to be able to give my kiddos this gift (and to be able to learn alongside them!!).
For those of you who are using Charlotte Masons educational philosophy, what curriculum did you end up going with? Or are you free flying and creating what works best for your family as you go? I'd love to hear more about it in the comments!!