I have considered myself a Charlotte Mason homeschooler for 2 years now. I started with my newly-turned 6 year old son, creeping through AO’s year 1 at a snail’s pace as we figured it all out. It took 2 years to finally get through everything. By the time he was almost 8, he was a fluent narrator, and we were regularly implementing most of the “riches” and becoming more involved in our local CM community.
However, this last March threw a wrench in our routine (which was already iffy, if I’m honest). I added my now 6 year old daughter into the mix. My son had just finished year 1, and I had plans to start her in year 1, and him in year 2. I couldn’t decided between the new groups option that Ambleside just launched last year, or separating the two. Based on the rotation, and the fact that my son already went through year 1, Form Ib seemed like the best fit for everyone. But that meant that my son would miss The Little Duke, which I’ve heard is just wonderful. I didn’t want to miss a single book, so I opted to separate them.
We run on a 6 week on, 1 week off schedule, and we gave it the full 6 weeks with separated subjects. There were things we did together, of course, but honestly I ended up micromanaging what they could do and when they could do things based on whether or not it was even remotely independent. The reading load for year 1 is very familiar to me, but year 2 knocked me back a bit. There is quite a bit more, and my son isn’t reading anything on his own yet. The sheer amount of reading was honestly such a chore – It felt impossible to get through more than 1 or 2 readings per child each day.
So, after 6 weeks, I decided to jump ship and dive into Groups. We are in Form Ib, and while we’re only 1 week in, I feel that a huge burden has been lifted!!
Here’s how our day is structured:
M-Th – Morning Time: devotion & prayer time, memory work, poetry, and Spanish (we use this program).
Together: copywork, all scheduled AO readings (2-4 a day)
Separate: math, reading
F & S – all weekly work (nature study, enrichment), field trips, errands, appointments, etc
Sundays – Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, Trial & Triumph
Combining the workload has been a huge help. Also, I’ve switched to using more audiobooks. I know audiobooks are sometimes frowned upon in the CM community, which is why I haven’t used them as much in my more purist attempts. However, I’ve noticed that I’m much calmer when I don’t have to manage a read aloud and wrangle my rather rambunctious and attention-loving 4 year old, or nurse a baby while balancing a book and trying to remind everyone to pay attention!! If I’m able to delegate that to some talented actor who reads beautifully, and maintain sanity, then I call that a win-win. I also read aloud during meal times, which helps with attention as well. 😉
I haven’t seen much info out there regarding experiences with AO Groups, which makes sense, seeing as it just came out last year. Therefore, I decided to write about our experiences here, in the hopes that it will help others! I don’t claim to be an expert, by any means! Just a mom figuring things out!