Why would AO be seen as more rigorous than SCM?


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  • sheraz

    Agreeing with the above posters!  Plus, I think some of it probably has to do with our cultural perception of old books, classics, and our perception of people who read them. 😉  In reality, anyone can read a book. But it is what they do with what they learn that really matters…and maybe that is partly why I prefer SCM. There is a “whole person” focus and feel here at SCM. From what I have read, CM changed things that needed to be changed when it needed it….she wasn’t afraid to try different books if the first one didn’t work for whatever reason.

    “Eduation is an atmophere, a discipline, a life.” – SCM makes it so accessible, so easy, so doable that looking at it after looking at AO makes SCM look so very deceptively “light.”  

    I too prefer the “mainframe” for our school be based on SCM, but add in other things from AO (as well as other booklists). Both are excellent and both have their place, though SCM has my heart!

    @Claire – that is exactly what I have been doing, too. lol


    Claire, I choose my own books too. I have never been able to follow scheduled lesson plans…but I do follow booklists like SCM, AO, and All Through the Ages.

    —AO helped me see a pattern to picking books: history, nature, poetry, literature.

    —SCM helped me to incorporate Bible seamlessly into our studies (love the Scripture Memory system).


    Claire, I actually haven’t explored AO’s site much and have used SCM as the framework of our homeschooling since we started almost five years ago. One thing about your post is incorrect for me, personally, and that is that we follow the booklists to the letter. Many of us, and I’m including myself in this group, take what SCM has graciously given in the Curriculum Guide and do modify it for our own families. I suppose there are some who follow it “to the letter”, but I am not one of those, even though it is the main framework for our school year. I have always felt free to take out a book here or add another one there, and frequently do this every year. I don’t even follow the Modules exactly when choosing artists or composers for those studies. I kind of just do whatever I want, and keep myself in check with the Curriculum Guide.

    What I have seen of AO does look pretty intense and rigorous. I have felt the vibe that they feel they are “the CM purists”, and I gather that they feel somewhat superior to the CM sites that sell materials rather than providing them for free. It is a blessing that AO can provide so many free resources and lists, but honestly, I’m with Christie. I’ll happily spend money on something that makes my life easier or makes my children’s education richer. On the flip side, I also love that the money I spend goes to support the fabulous people at SCM who have generously provided the Curriculum Guide, many e-books, encouraging blog articles, and more for FREE! And the items that can be purchased are not priced so high as to be out of reach for normal people. 

    I’ll have to explore AO more, if for no other reason than to know what you all are talking about!




    Whew!  I was thinking “AM I REALLY EVEN DOING CM?!” after reading some posts.  Ok, so my choosing my own History book and then Hisotrical Literature and Historical Biographies doesn’t make me the weird one. Good!  Sometimes I need to fit in to the crowd.  So, that’s what I do for all my subjects.  And I do all the subjects on AO.  Not because I follow it, but because I thought they were all on SCM too.  I don’t see the differences in subjects that some of you pointed out, but I haven’t really sat and compared a list from both sites either.  I see that some find AO more rigorous … there is no way they are sticking to “short lessons” hee hee … but then again I have struggle with that aspect of SCM for a while too.  Always wondering why I couldn’t be done by noon and have all afternoon free every day of the week.  Now I see that it’s the choices I’m making, time I’m allowing to finish and number of subjects I’m covering.  Plus a multitude of other things too probably.  Ok.  Again, good to finally, finally have a sense of “ahem!” about these two curriculums. 

    Love that y’all are all doing that too! 

    Now you see why I’m always begging the SCM crew to let us all add our books to the Bookfinder with or without being users of the CM Organizer.  Example:  If I/you could show you/me American History this year maybe you/I wouldn’t have to do anything more than adopt it. Or maybe we’d rather a place (as members of SCM) to post in some simple, mandated format our booklist for each subject.  We’d have this massive collection of American History booklists, or Literature booklists …. maybe that’s getting too crazy?!  🙂  I’m a total curriculum junkie so I would sit there and flip through them gobbling up all the best for us. 


    Dittos to all these great posts. What I wanted to add is that understanding Charlotte’s method better has helped me to choose real, LIVING books for our family – instead of following someone else’s list.

    SCM has helped me to understand what a living book is… *stage whisper*…it isn’t just a ‘classic’.

    So now that I feel capable of choosing great living books for our education as a family, I feel more confident and happier as a homeschool mom. And, even though we are paying for those books and resources, I find that I am spending much less money now than I have with previous curriculums – because we love our books and want to use them again and again!


    I greatly appreciate these responses. I used AO year 1 and the beginning of year 2 . It became overwhelming. I didn’t like some of the books, so I wasn’t really surprised or bothered when my 8 year old daughter voiced her agony! I do find the CM studies at the AO Forum enlightening and helpful. Interestingly, I read Karen Andreola’s book this summer, after reading much of CM’s own books. I found her perspective refreshing at a time when I was beginning to see a CM education as burdensome, which I know it should not be.

    Before I read Andreola’s book, I had read Norms and Nobility. There’s a hefty one for you. Somehow, I was led to believe that AO would prepare a child for the rigorous curriculum and classics outlined in that book by David Hicks. But many of the books listed at AO are difficult. I do not like Parables of Nature. That may be sacrilegious, but it is difficult to read aloud, and long, and boring… So many mothers report on AO that their children love it. That left me wondering if I’ve been too easy on my daughter, reading the Little House on the Praire books and Charlotte’s Web, etc.

    Thanks for sharing, ladies! So glad this question was posted.


    I would agree that AO is more rigorous – the book choices ARE more challenging. But that doesn’t have to be a good/bad/either/or sort of thing. AO is not inherently ‘better’ than SCM, nor is SCM inherently ‘better’ than AO…nor is following either fairly closely inherently ‘better’ than devising your own plan. It is more of a personal choice based on our personal goals and personal family situation. Thankfully we have AO and SCM and others to look at and get an idea of how to implement a CM-style education that works for our unique family situations.

    We personally do use AO because that is what I have found is the best fit our OUR family situation. I personally find it easier to organize and implement (and even tweak as needed) than when I tried to make SCM or a booklist of my own devising work for us. I appreciate the challenge/rigor aspect of it both for my children, as well as for myself. I appreciate their emphasis on going to the source (CM’s own writings rather than other’s interpretations of it) and have learned a lot from hanging around on their forum. I appreciate how much they make available freely and inexpensively – while I certainly don’t mind paying for a good resource either, we are overseas and so I have limitations I have to work within, and using AO as my primary framework helps me to be better able to do that. But that certainly doesn’t make it the only way to DO CM. The main thing is that we are spreading a feast for our children and encouraging them to take ownership of their own learning rather than force or spoon feeding them. The precise booklist we follow to accomplish this matters less.

    Hope no one takes offense by this…none is meant…just wanted to put in a voice as someone who DOES primarily use AO.



    I have been part of the AO community for four years. My take away has been monumental in terms of knowledge about CM philosophy. I think I have narrowed down what my experience has been although I haven’t officially started either curriculum.

    If I liken it to athletics, AO is for those who want to climb mt everest or enter the triathlon. The workouts will be rigorous and the rewards life changing. The impression I get from SCM is guided tours to the Swiss Alps and treks to the peaks of Yosemite both of which are breathtaking and life enriching.

    I recently was feeling anxious to get (my son) ready for AO but feeling unsure that he would ever be ready. That in itself is a problem. I shouldn’t be getting my son ready for a curriculum. I need a curriculm that meets my son where he is at. I never liked the idea of having to draw out a year over two years to make that happen.


    We see that David as a sheppard boy was faced with confronting Goliath. He tried the polished armour of King Saul which was considered the best armour for it’s time. In the end, His faith in God and the SIMPLE slingshot were more than enough to secure a victory.

    Each of us must choose the armor that is best suited for us for the task at hand. You need to wear the armor and not let the armor wear you. Don’t get me wrong. I think what the advisory has created is absolutely outstanding for what it is. But, if your child’s studies don’t “serve for delight” as Ms Mason said, something MUST change.

    I truly see a feast here at SCM where options and changes are the NORM and not the exception. It’s a breath of fresh air. My son is ASD so options are a must and I find that here.

    Ms Mason left us methods and principles. Both AO and SCM have created ways to apply them as well as other CM curriculum. I am glad for all of them as they all meet the needs of all types of families which means more children have access to a CM education. I celebrate that.

    I recently started going to the gym. I go because I want to be fit and enjoy life. I knew before working out that I am not preparing for the triathalon so my workouts aren’t overwhelming me physically and much more enjoyable. What’s great is the T.V. in front of the treadmill where I can see Mt Everest from a distance and admire the climbers.


    I have been skimming the responses and see many excellent points. Something I’d like to add is the fact that SCM is more conducive to using with multiple students or large families. AO is designed for each student. It’s much harder to combine kids with AO.

    In the beginning, AO was overwhelming to me and I didn’t like that my kids would be in different time periods so I used SCM and some other resources to build my own program. Now that my kids are older and we’ve made one full six year rotation, it’s not such a big deal. We have used many AO books, but I move them around to make them more developmentally appropriate as someone mentioned, and to fit our history rotation. This is frowned upon by the AO Advisory Board. However, I’m of the mind we should teach each child, not the curriculum.

    In addition, when I first started learning about CM, it was through secondary sources as CM’s volumes also seemed overwhelming. I really appreciated how SCM gave practical hands on advice and made CM seem doable. Our CM Study Group started by watching Sonya’s DVD series. Eventually, we moved into Charlotte’s Vol. 6, and then a couple other books, and more recently Charlotte’s Vol. 1. SCM provided a building block foundation that led us to a gradual much deeper understanding of Charlotte’s philosophy and methods.

    I also love this SCM forum! There are times when I need to step away given time constraints and then there are seasons when I’m here more often. Every time I come back, I’m amazed by the outpouring of support offered here in a non-judgmental way. This really is a generous community 🙂


    I like and use both.  AO is a higher level when you compare grades.  My oldest (DS 6th grade) started AO in 2nd grade.  He is an excellent reader and comprehends well.  The first three months were hard and we went slow, but once he got use to the language we haven’t had many problems except one book.  He likes Parables of Nature.  I read a bit and narrated it until he adjusted to the language.  It was a bit tedious but there is a lot of good stuff in it.  None of his lessons are over 30 min and we get it all done by 12:30 with everything except for two of the books which I left out.  He does Spelling Wisdom and Using Language Well.

    My DD 4th grade began hitting a wall by the end of AO’s year three so I switched her history to SCM and she is thriving in it.  AO became too challenging for her because the books are too hard for her to read.  Her reading level is a year behind as she has dyslexia.  She also has ADD and several sensory processing disorders.  I don’t have time to read all the AO books to her and her younger brother and get done by 12:30.  I do add some of the bios from AO that I read to her like Abigail Adams by Natalie S. Bober which is an excellent book.  SCM allows her to be more independent; both of us like this 🙂

    My DS 2nd grade also has dyslexia, ADD, and sensory processing disorder.  He did okay in AO’s year one but year two proved to be too much.  I probably should have slowed down year one but I didn’t and switched his history over to SCM as well.  He loves the viking books!  We both are really enjoying A Castle With Many Rooms.

    We do SCM geography and artist study together which all my kids enjoy.

    I have a four-year-old in the mix 🙂

    Both have a lot to offer.  I think you have to love whatever you end up teaching.  If you don’t, the kids pick up on it in my experience.  Love what you teach as you teach to the child!  🙂


    Mrs. K

    @greenebalts, have you shared before how you’ve adjusted AO? Just curious as to how you’ve moved things around. 🙂


    I just re-read this post. I can’t believe it’s been almost 5 years ago. Time does fly. 😉  There were a couple of things that I have learned in that time I thought I might share.

    I have had the opportunity to really dig in and read Charlotte Mason’s original series as well as many other CM oriented books. In all that time, I have been so pleased to realize how much of her actual words I recognize from reading Sonya’s books. She is PHENOMENAL in her ability to make a CM education desirable, accessible, and doable. SCM is my go-to source on introducing people to CM.

    I have also joined the AO forum. There is a big difference in the conversations of the forums. While it is true that they do not (in general) discuss other curriculum, what I find so refreshing is the focus that some members have placed on mother education for it’s own sake – they regularly read and discuss  books, Shakespeare, educational theory, etc. They read, they think, and they comment. That is what I enjoy most about the AO forum.

    I still create my own plans using several different book lists. AO’s books are at a higher reading level, but truly, SCM selections also teach appropriately and in way that appeals to a lot people because it is more accessible, especially for anyone whose child struggles with any kind of learning.

    Mostly, I think that I have realized that the PRINCIPLES of a CM education are really key. If you understand them, you can do more for your children than you realize. Brandy Vencel said something once that kind of struck me (this is a definite paraphrase): We need to keep the end goal in mind. The curriculum itself is not the goal. It is a tool we use to get to the goal. In other words, for this situation: don’t get so caught up in the pursuit of the “most superior” anything (curriculum, book lists, etc) that we forget who we are serving and what the goal is.


    I move things around depending on the child but they all look different.  For example my DD is in “4th grade” so we are in”Y4″ with AO.  I don’t do the Old Testament with her as her dad reads the Bible in the evening.  I feel the NT is better for her to read and discuss with me.  We don’t use the SCM spine for history but she is reading Story of the Nations, Stories of America and some of the other books recommended that she can read on her own.  I also loved George Washington’s World from AO so we are slowly going through that.  I am reading Abigail Adams to her and she is reading a biography by Ben Franklin (not the one suggested on AO).  I know this seems like a ton of history but there is only 15 min of reading per book and 5 or so min. of narration.  Spread over a week, it is easily do able.  Geography is SCM and is done during our Morning Time.  Natural History is A. Buckley books suggested for Y3.5.  (I bought Yesterday’s Classics for my Kindle years ago so I have all of Buckley’s science books)  She does a drawn narration for this.  Literature is D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths instead of Bulfinch’s as she just cried when I read her Bulfinch’s.  She loves mythology so I didn’t want to make her hate it.  She is listening to an audio of Kim by Stevenson.  We read poetry together in Morning Time.  I rotate Parables of Nature, Shakespeare (by the Lambs), artist study, composer study and whatever else during MT.  I am not a nazi about the just mentioned.  We do them just at our own pace and depending on the mood.

    I do something similar with my second grader.  I haven’t changed much with my oldest Y6.  We do some Plutarch, we will listen to a dramatized version of Pilgrim’s Progress this summer and I haven’t even touched Shakespeare’s original work.

    We don’t do much for handicrafts.  We just listen to CDs for Hymns and Folksongs while we are drawing, cleaning, or just background music.

    After doing this for some years I really like how all the books build on each other and connect dots in AO.  I could go slower through AO but my daughter’s independence is important to both of us.  She can’t be if she is doing all the suggested AO books which is why I sub.  My oldest was able to do all but one book in Y4 (Poor Richard by James Daugherty).

    I hope this helps.  Happy to answer any questions 🙂




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