Hello- Bible/History/Geography with SCM vs Ambleside Online

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  • llm

    Hello Everyone!

    Hope you all are enjoying the spring. 🙂 

    I have a quick question— I recently met a family who follows Charlotte Mason but uses Ambleside Online.  Anyone have any ideas/feelings about this?  I looked at it and it seems very true to Charlotte Mason.  My biggest concern is that it seems to split up the age levels for Bible/History/Geography, among other subjects.  It seems like a very good program. 

    We really like SCM but I have to say that, as I was packing up my history and geography books from this year, I could not remember much.  I felt very sad about this and was wondering how much of that is my fault and how much of it is b/c of the books.  I was thinking of seeing if perhaps there were other books to look into.  Looking over the 2 years we have used SCM, it seems that the books have changed, so maybe SCM has had the same experience?

    Thank you for any input you may be able to provide.  I really appreciate.



    Hi Lorna, I use AO.  Yes, the children have their own History/Geography.  (There are no bible readings for each year as well – those were added earlier this ‘school’ year – a lot of families do their own Bible together as a family though.)

    We are really enjoying AO.  

    I have a few health issues, so found when we were doing most things together, if I wasn’t feeling that well, nothing got done.  My 2 school age kids at the time that we did a CM program together, were in ‘grade 1’ and ‘grade 3’, so shared the same books.  (We also started a new math program and they placed at the same level, so did math together.)    I watched as my 3rd grade student started to ‘wilt’ over the year, and think that he was dumb.  It really affected him that his little sister was doing the same school as him, and in a few things better.    And I don’t think it was a good thing for her either, as she started competing with him.

    It does take a bit of work to co-ordinate the different levels, but it goes a lot better.  I do make use of audiobooks (with the student reading along with it) to allow them to work independently when possible.  They do enjoy having their own books.  Sometimes they hear some of their siblings narratives, or the books themselves.  My oldest has been known to say things like ‘oh, that is where you are!’, or “I remember that’.    The younger is looking forward to starting some books, or has been known to say things like ‘Oh boy, it is my turn to read Robin Hood’.

    I will admit that I’m concerned about next year, when I will have a student doing Year 4, one in Year 3, and one in Year 1 (and a preschooler doing a light Year 0…)   But I’m sure we will figure it out after a couple of weeks and I’ll wonder why I worried!


    I’m not sure I understand your question. We are starting the SCM modules this year. Are you wondering about adding more books to read to go with the curriculum?


    To those who use AO, would you consider it to lean more toward a secular program? For instance, do many of the books include an old earth view point or one that promotes evolution? I am very interested in knowing a comparison between AO and SCM and if any families integrate the two. I like some of the books from their booklist as well. .. sorry if I high jacked your post 🙂


    I have only read up to year 3 of AO, but no, it is not generally secular. I think most science books are young earth…


    We’ve had years where we’ve studied together as family (SCM style, SCM resources, or not.)  We did this almost all of the time with our older children.  Off and on with our youngest two. 

    Pros:  Simplifies planning, keeps us on the “same page” for conversations and field trip opportunities.  Writing follows the time period.


    Cons:  Didn’t/hasn’t allowed for some pursuits (that whole stick to the list/plan problem I have,) to go as quickly/slowly as needed for each individual child.  Keeping “children are born persons” in mind, I’m going back to individual plans. 

    That said, within the SCM modules, there is quite a bit of flexibility to tailor to each child’s needs.  We’re just at such an difference now between age and gender that our youngest two will rarely cover the same topics the rest of the time they are both learning at home.

    Family style worked excellently with our older children.  They were very close in age.  Our younger two (14yos & almost 8yod) have completely different interests and needs right now that have caused me to be more detailed in my observation of each of them.  Realizing they needed completely different studies has given me a new determination to apply CM methods even more carefully and I hope to encourage each of them to develop their abilities even further through these individual paths.

    Important note:  Slowly moving from five down to two children has meant being able to manage this path.  There were several years when combining studies was how I had to manage things.  I needed to have a main theme in order to be able to focus.  It didn’t allow for much individualized instruction, but it worked the way it did in a way that was fine for all of us.

    I think it’s a matter of choice, not a matter of rightness.


    Love the input here!   Thank you so much for everyone’s questions and advice.  (Jessalee you did not high jack my post! 🙂  I welcome more questions!!!). 

    My issue has been with the SCM history/geography books for the family— This past year, we did “Famous Men of Greece.”  I have to admit that my history is NOT a strong point.  I could memorize textbooks well for the test that allowed me to do well in school!  But I can’t remember much of anything!!  So I am excited to really learn along with the children.  So perhaps my background made it so that I was not able to wrap my brain around the different people as well as I would have liked.  Maybe I need to read some sort of history book to help with the background?  Or perhaps the book was not as “living.”  Anyone else have this issue?  That is why I looked into AO— but am concerned about trying to do different ages and cannot tell what the books are like.  Anyone like the AO history/geography books?

    We would love to have more children (we currently are blessed with 3) and I can see trying to do different ages may be challenging.  But it may fit the children best.  My biggest concern is that they have good living books at their fingertips that they love to read.  I have to admit we did not really love to do that with the history this past year, although Bible is always a favorite.

    Thank you everyone!!  You are a blessing!



    AO has different selections, but not necessarily better selections. I think that spine type books are less memorable in general, but a Book of Centuries can do wonders for helping as can narration, esp. written. Schooling together or separate is a different issue. Both can wok well dependent upon your needs. I add some AO books that I love to our SCM framework now.


    How old are your children?

    I wonder if it could be the spine, or time period, what did you and the kids think of the other read aloud books? Our first year we did year 5 and it was a good year. I decided to go back to the beginning with year 1 and it was tough. The kids liked Boy of the Pyramids but I was struggling with teaching acients to 2nd and K. We then moved onto reading the year 2 read alouds, “My little …. cousin”. We tried Famous men of Greece and then Famous Men of Rome and blank looks, LOL.

    This year I am planning on doing year 4, but I don’t know if we will be reading the Famous Men of books. They look good, but I don’t know if right fit for my kids at this time. The rest of the read alouds and 1-3rd grade books look great though!

    I think for me it was the time period, Ancients, for a yound crowd was not right for us; and I had to give myself permission to set books aside that just did not work. They have plenty of time to rotate back through and I look forward to doing Ancients when we can dive a bit deeper when they are a bit older Smile


    I also wish I had made my own Book of Centuries. I don’t know why I didn’t. I kept thinking we would start when my oldest was old enough to start her own; but we could have been making a family one and then as the kids get older they start their own; then we all have one. I think it would have helped me, and plan on starting one this year.


    I’ve used some of both … SCM and AO. The most memorable books from AO for my kids (ages 10, 8, 6, and 5) have been Our Island Story and This Country of Ours (and Joan of Arc, Burgess, Holling, Lang … lots). They especially love the librivox recordings from Kara Shallenberg. Wink So, I think that whether a child resonates with a living spine/narrative or beautiful living picture books/short chapter books is utterly dependent on the child. I did not feel that the narrative in Mod5 held my kids attention quite as deeply as TCOO, but again, not better, just different as was said previously. Aside from Bible readings, I also find that ancients is a tough one for the younger set, at least it has been for mine.


    I’ve done both, and done “my own thing” as well.  I think there is a real virtue in keeping the family together for some subjects and I was sad to lose this during my few years using AO exclusively.  I DID like the books very much, except for one author (H.E. Marshall being just not my cup of tea.)  I am less enthusiastic about some of the high school level books, which are very, very tough and dry.  So. I like the SCM FRAMEWORK better.  So I use that.  And I just import in the geography and nature study and biography and Plutarch and Shakespeare that I like, and tack it on.  🙂  Problem solved.  The Organizer makes it easy to add what I want.


    Yes, the organizer is genius.


    I agree with Bookworm re. H.E. Marshall, we did not enjoy her books at all.


    Dear Lorna,

    I have also tried AO and though there was good, rich literature, it just didn’t work for our family.  I stress ‘our family.’  I believe and wanted to make Bible the central theme to my childrens learning.  SCM does this as best as possible.  Therefore, having Bible/Geo/His combined works perfect for us.  With that, we are able to have wonderful conversations, after thoughts and of course lots of learning together.  Our family believes everything is connected to God, Creation, and so forth.  Also, AO was just too much for me.  I was extremely stressed…having to lead most subjects in different grades, planning, and so forth, I just couldn’t do it.  Not to say it isn’t a good program, just not for me.   SCM lives up to its’ name in that it is put together to make things a lot simpler.  Yet, it also a wonderful program.

    As for retaining information, specifically history;  the Book of Centries is a good tool and how you personally connect is what matters.  The Bible is History ( His-story ).  It provides the richest learning of the past, present, and future.  Not to mention, how to live.   But again, it works for us ( SCM ).  What matters is what suits you and your family best, what your goal is. 

    I also notice with SCM that there is great repitition, which works for better understanding and retaining of information.  I love how we can connect the dots with Bible, History, Geo, Science, Personal Development, and just overall life!  SCM is wonderful with this.  Sorry, for going on and on.  In a nutshell, it seems your concern was retaining information and the richness of the lesson books for History.  I would say, ask you children what they would like out of it all.  What is it they want to learn and know and then compare that with your goals for them.  You can’t go wrong with the books from either AO or SCM, but it’s the style and method that you would have to decide upon.

    Also, with AO, my children were confused on what subject they were actually working on, because of all the books. My kids love reading, but it just seemed bunched together rather than gently spread out.  In other words, SCM has a much more enjoyable and smooth flow.

    I wish you well, because I struggled with this and much more myself!  I truly hope it works out for you and your family.




    WOW!  You are all such a blessing to me.  Thank you for your input and honesty.  I had to literally laugh out loud about the blank looks with Famous Men of Greece.  Same thing here and part of it was me!  Ha!!!

    YES— we too want to make sure Bible is at the center of our school.  I love how SCM works through the Bible, and I feel like we are learning that portion quite well.  I like that.  History is just not where I would like it to be, but we are only at Grades 1-3, so I am wondering if the books for the higher levels are more engaging/living? 

    I just found the “Famous Men of Greece” very dry and not enough background.  Even with my Book of Centuries, it was not a good read.  It did not become a “part” of us as other books do. 

    Okay— any thoughts on Susan Wise Bauer’s “The Story of the World”?  I just feel like we need a more solid base. I have read excerpts and it seems like a better fit.

    So I am thinking I would like to stick with SCM but include AO’s books as they fit.  But the tricky part is— How do I know if the SCM books are not suitable/living enough/engaging before I buy them/order them at the library?  I just want to put it all into one package and be done!  HA!  But I chose CM because I wanted to tailor this education.  I want them to love learning.  I want them to love, first and foremost God.  I want them to know the Truth.  It’s just hard as I don’t like to make mistakes and waste our money and time on books that do not engage.  I have to admit I dreaded reading some of those books this year.  Sad!

    Thank you everyone!!

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