Why did you choose SCM over AO?

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  • Melissa Trotter

    I have 8 children (ages 10, 9 (sn), 8, 6, 4, 3, 2, 8m.) and have been researching Charlotte Mason over the last several months and have fallen in love with her approach.  I am switching from a fairly typical education approach.  I am now trying to choose a curriculum and am really struggling with what would be best for our family dynamics.  I would love any opinions you all would like to give.  I am thinking that SCM may be a better fit, just because we will all be on the same historical period.  But it may also mean that I am purchasing different books every year for each child.  I am so ready to jump into planning and purchasing, but I want to make a careful and educated decision and not just jump. 🙂  So why did you all choose Simply Charlotte Mason over Ambleside Online?


    Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!  🙂

    I like that all my girls are learning about the same history time period at the same time.  Different individual reads, but the same family read-aloud.

    I LOVE the spreading of the feast — little bits of music, art, poetry, etc. each week.  I think the CM approach personifies “precept on precept.”

    I like SCM’s version of CM the best because I think they pick the BEST of the Best literature available.  I do change out the occasional book, but not often.

    I love the forum and the ladies on the forum.  Very friendly, very kind, full of wisdom.


    Hi again Melissa! 🙂 I posted on your thread in the AO forum.

    SCM is more in line with the type of education I gave my son who is now almost 20.

    I have just discovered SCM in the past year or so because Sonya came and spoke at my state conference. I was so impressed with her talks and her presentations and bought a few SCM products then and there.

    However, I had already planned out our school year and was going to stick with my original plans so I didn’t do a full switch to SCM at that time. A few months into our curriculum, I realized that it just wasn’t working for us. I looked at SCM but didn’t have the budget to purchase all the needed books. I looked at AO and I was able to get started for free and slowly purchase the few books that I would need throughout the year so I started there.

    AO year 6 was a beautiful fit for my daughter at 12 years of age. We only used the history and science portions and we used SCM for picture study and Bible study and did our own thing for nature study, composer study, etc.

    However, this year I moved my daughter on to AO year 7 and it hasn’t been such a great fit. We’ve loved a few of the books but have switched out the majority of them. I am seriously contemplating switching to SCM next year and adding in some of the AO books for a bit of a challenge.

    If I had several children, I would go with SCM hands down. If both of my children were homeschooled together, I would go with SCM hands down.  It’s a nice, basic plan and you can add in extra books whenever you think your child needs to be challenged.

    My biggest take from our year with AO has been to push my daughter a bit to read some of the more difficult books because it really stretches her and enables to read more difficult books each year.

    AO uses Winston Churchill’s books for middle school and high school history. I just don’t like them. They are dry and I’m not a fan of his writing style. He was an amazing man but his books are not my cup of tea.

    I have also found AO to include books that are much more graphic in describing violent acts in history than SCM does. In fact, that’s a pretty big deal to me and my daughter. We really don’t need all the gory details that are included in many of their book selections-especially not in elementary and middle school.

    Also, you are going to be purchasing different books for each year for each child whether you go with SCM or AO. AO does use more books that are in the public domain and therefore, free but SCM really is a very cost effective choices as well-especially if you’re coming from a more traditional curriculum.

    I just looked at your children’s ages again, and it looks like you would have them all in most of the same books so I don’t think this would be too much of a concern for you just yet.

    Also, if I was in your situation, I would buy the books for the older kids and have the younger ones listen in rather than purchase both sets of books. I always read at my oldest child’s level and was amazed by all my younger child picked up. Your kids are close enough together in age, that this should work just fine.



    I’m mothering a large family as well (due with baby #9 this fall).  What drew us to SCM over AO was that the family is streamlined.  We actually don’t use SCM for history now, but we stick with programs that continue the family studies style we learned to love with SCM.

    There are a few ways to look at the purchasing of the books.  For me, I recognized that the books I bought for each level would be reused in 4 years time by the next children to hit that age grouping.  So if I bought books for the 1st-3rd grade and 4th-6th grade groupings this year, when we came back around to that history time period in a few years I would only need to purchase the books for the now older oldest children, who might be in the 7th-9th grade group then.  I would already have the books on hand for kids who did 1st-3rd grade books last time through and would now do the 4th-6th, AND I would have the books for my former babies and toddlers from the first time through who would now be using the 1st-3rd grade books.  Make sense?

    Another thing to consider – combine all the kids into the 1st-3rd grade books BUT use a few of the 4th-6th grade books for your oldest.  They will still get a ton out of the younger kids’ books but can have some more detailed/challenging ones aimed just at them as well.

    It works out similarly for most of the SCM areas – you all can learn about the same composers, artists, do nature study together, read the same living books for science as a group, etc.

    Also, where you can, take advantage of library books.  So, personally, I may have a year where I know our library system has plenty of books on our topic of the year (animals/life science) or our history time period (early American history) so I would purchase FEWER books and use more library books on the topics.  SCM has always said you can use the books you can find – their lists are suggested, not mandatory.  So in history I may choose to buy the family read alouds and books for an older student, while I would rely on my library having books for my early elementary kids to enjoy about pilgrims, colonists, and the American Revolution.


    I guess I can share the opposite as well, why we didn’t choose AO.  I don’t like separate subjects and topics in every subject for each child.  When we share a topic (even with books on different age levels) we are able to have lovely shared discussions about how they all relate.  In AO I could have children studying 5 different time periods and the ‘common ground’ is lost so conversations about what we’re learning are not as naturally occurring.

    An example: If my 14 year old is reading a book about Napoleon while the 10 year old is reading about Benjamin Franklin, the 9 year old is reading about Galileo, the 7 year old is reading about Vikings, and the 6 year old is learning about Ancient Egyptians there are so few natural connections and conversations that will crop up.  If Oldest tells about Napoleon and his exile on Elba nobody else has any frame of reference for France, Napoleon, the wars he is involved in, or other people of his time period, so they don’t comment much and conversation doesn’t develop. That would be an example of everyone in different time periods with AO.  It might be fine for some families – and that’s ok!!  But we prefer something more like this:

    Oldest is reading The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin.  Next oldest is reading A Young Patriot.  Third child is reading Johnny Tremain. Next is I’m reading aloud Benjamin Franklin by the D’Aulaires to the next two youngest and also everyone is listening to the family read aloud of Stories of America Vol. 1.  Not everyone is reading the same book, but everyone is reading about people from the same time who all were part of the events of the American Revolution.  There is a lot of common ground to prompt conversation – when oldest mentions something from her book about Ben Franklin another pipes up with something about the continental congress and the declaration of independence, a third talks about the war, and everyone remembers when we read together about King George and the redcoats, colonists billeting (housing) the soldiers, etc.

    Again, some families like this, others prefer each having their own studies.  Neither is bad or wrong, just different.


    Tristan, you just sold me on including my little ones in the Middle Ages Guide and moving forward like that. I was thinking I would just do a separate K type social studies thing with him but I should really take advantage of family topics, even for his age.

    I agree, SCM has book lists that surpass others in keeping living book attributes and high moral standards. The only other book lists I have pulled from occasionally are Beautiful Feet (which I still have to watch for intensity level) and Heart of Dakota’s book suggestions (which have similar high biblical and moral standards as SCM). I found too many intense and/or dry reads on the AO lists to be bothered to pick through. Possibly some laziness on my part. I have never been dissapounted with any SCM products and am a promoter of the CM Organizer to all home school mamas I get to know. SCM brought more simplicity and richness to our home school.


    Cedargirl – You made me laugh, in a good way.  I really love having us all on the same time period.  It has been such a blessing over the years.  Enjoy!


    I also love having everyone combined as much as possible.  I think it’s great to read one book and have everyone listening in.  I have 5 DC (ages 12, 10, 8, 5, and 16mo) and like to have everything streamlined as much as possible.

    The layout of SCM’s free curriculum guide is very easy for me to use.  I have a harder time navigating through AO’s pages.  I guess because they are organized by year for most subjects.  SCM’s are organized more by subject.   I have seen other HSers comment that AO layout is easier to follow, so some must find it the other way around!  lol

    Another thing I didn’t care for some of their book choices.   I feel many of their books would be better saved for later years.   SCM’s book choices are books I’d pick on my own.  I love the mix of newer and older books that SCM includes.  AO depends more on public domain books (which would be a good thing if you are on a tight budget)!  Both programs are easy to substitute out books, and we often do…mainly to work with books I already own.

    I do feel that SCM is more large-family friendly.  From what I’ve seen, most AO users have smaller families (4 or less DC) or the ages of their DC are more spread out.  I imagine there are exceptions to this, but that’s just what I’ve observed.

    AO has been a great resource for me…there poetry selections are great and I often look through their booklists or at their family studies.  I may use their Plutarch study guides down the road.  However, I can’t see myself using the entire program (especially the history portion).

    Melissa Trotter

    Thank you!  This is all very helpful!

    Michelle Brumgard

    I love that you asked this question. We just finished our first year of homeschooling and using SCM. AO just looked confusing to me and SCM’s curriculum guide was just so simple and streamlined for this new homeschooler. I’ve stalked the CM method since first contemplating homeschooling. It does seems expensive to invest in SCM in someways. However, I like to hold the actual book and my library did not have many of the AO suggestions. When comparing costs for my second grader last year, buying physical books, AO was pretty much the same. My children and 4.5 years apart and I look forward to the future discussions they can share in studying together. I have fallen in love with SCM. Yet, I second guess myself once in awhile when I meet someone using AO successfully but then am reminded that does no one justice. I’m doing what works for us.


    I started homeschooling before I knew about SCM or AO.  I had read the Charlotte Mason Companion, For the Children’s Sake and Educating the Wholehearted Child  (later read the original CM series) and had come up with a vision and philosophy for our family.  As I’ve continued on my journey (I just graduated my oldest and my 7th is “preschool” age this fall) the SCM resources most fit in with the vision I developed at the beginning, particularly that the family can be on the same “course”.  I didn’t want everyone to be separate–it has served our family well over the last 14 years to be together and I expect that to continue.


    I chose SCM o er AO because when I was first starting to homeschool AO was confusing to me and SCM was so much simpler.  I try to combine as many subjects as i can with children in 2nd, 5th, 6th and 7th grades next year; I can’t imagine trying to homeschool four different grades seperatly.  I would go bonkers. Plus, when comparing book lists of SCM to other curriculum they are quite similar imo.

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