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Ambleside Online - how to determine which year?


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Here's a link to the FAQs about where to place a child:



(I've copied and pasted it from the page.)


" At which Year/level should I place my child?


(This is the most frequently asked question posted to the email list!)


In general, the best Year for each child is the Year that challenges him without paralyzing frustration. An Ambleside Online "Year" does not mean "Grade" as it would in public school. Ambleside Online's Year levels (year 1, year 2, etc) are loosely equivalent to grades, but, true to Charlotte Mason's standards, the curriculum is rigorous, so a Year level of Ambleside Online will be advanced compared to the same grade in most public schools - some gifted sixth graders doing Ambleside's Year 4 find it plenty challenging! Charlotte Mason placed her students in their form or grade levels somewhat according to their ability as well as age. It's normal for parents to place children coming from public school in an Ambleside Year that's a notch or two below his actual grade level - which works out fine because, even if a child graduates from high school after having only completed Ambleside's Year 8, it still may be more than they may have learned in many public high schools.


All children should be working at their grade level in math and language arts regardless of which Year of Ambleside they're doing.


Where you start your children will depend on what they can handle - the books should be a challenge, but not so frustrating as to be discouraging. Some people look at the booklists for each Ambleside Year and if their children have read most of the books in a particular Year, they start with the following Ambleside Year. These books may be more difficult than some children, even good readers, are used to. If you've been using a different curriculum, you will probably want to look at Years a year or two behind their actual grade level and adjust by moving up or down from there.


Consider the level of difficulty of the books the children currently read and compare them to the majority of the books in the curriculum for the year you are considering. If a child can read classic books like Pilgrim's Progress, Black Beauty, Water Babies and other books on the Year 3 and earlier lists like Heidi, he should be ready to attempt Year 4, even if he hasn't read all the books on the Year 3 list. The books should not be too easy, but neither should they be nearly impossible. Many times children will rise to the occasion when placed in a Year that looks at first glance above their abilities. One parent, whose fourth grade child was still having trouble reading, decided to try Year 4 anyway: "I went ahead and put her in Year 4, but was afraid. It was a tough, tough year. However, we persevered, and by the end of the year her reading skills had leapt forward at an astonishing rate, and she now says Plutarch is her favorite school book."


Is it preferable to place a 9 or 10 year old child in Year 1 so he doesn't miss all the great books? Generally, no, it is not. Parents who did start an older child in Year 1 found themselves having to jump ahead a couple of Years after finding that the books were too easy for their child. If there is a concern about missing books done in earlier Years, they can be read in the child's spare time or in the evenings as family read-alouds.


When choosing which Year to place children, it's important that the workload not be too easy or boring. It should be a challenge, something they work at and think about - but it shouldn't be so difficult that the child is frustrated and dreads school. That generally means that the ideal is for each child to be working at his own level rather than placing two children in the same Year for the ease of the parent.


It is not necessary that the child be able to read all the books himself. In fact, it is assumed that the parent will probably be reading the books to the child at least in years 1-3; gradually, as his reading level increases, the task of reading the books will be handed over to the student. Limiting early texts to those a child can read himself sacrifices literary quality, and the early years are the prime time for exposure to well-spoken language, which isn't found in early graded readers with limited vocabulary. Ideally, by Year 4 he should be able to read them himself, but this is the ideal and there are many situations and circumstances where this won't be the case.


Some texts are scheduled over two or even three years - don't worry about starting in the middle portion of the history books. Most of the chapters in the history books are rather self-contained. Having a child "speed read" in order to get the whole book in may cause more problems than just starting in the middle and is not recommended, as rushing results in less time to linger and absorb what's been read. With "so many books, so little time," it's important to remember the value of emphasizing quality over quantity and not try to squeeze in more books than the child can assimilate. There may be gaps, but no education is free of gaps, and it's better for a child to learn a portion and learn it well than to rush to cover much and remember nothing. If your child is ready for Year 4, don't worry about missing earlier history books - reading This Country of Ours, An Island Story and A Child's History of the World are not prerequisites to starting Year 4.


When deciding where to place a child, consider that, by the time he finishes Year 6, he will need to be prepared for the more difficult work in Years 7-12. It may be beneficial to put a child as old as 12 in Year 4 as preparation for the more advanced later years. Year 4 is not at all insulting to the intelligence of a 12 year old. Many of the Year 4 books, like Kidnapped and Rip Van Winkle, are ageless classics, yet are still very engaging.


Year 4, being a transition year into more advanced work, is a jump in difficulty and is considerably more challenging than Year 3 (this is true of almost all curricula). In Year 4 children begin reading Shakespeare's actual plays and Plutarch's Lives. One option might be to use Year 4 but scale it down a little by omitting some of the books (at least temporarily) or proceeding at a slower pace at first, then picking up the pace later. By Year 4, children should be reading the bulk of their books themselves. If an older elementary child is still working on reading skills, it may be helpful to drop back to Year 2 or 3 to give the child time to improve their reading skills. Or, difficult books can be read with or to the student. Some parents "buddy read" with their child by taking turns reading a paragraph at a time to help get them through a challenging book. (If your child completes Year 3 and is not quite ready for Year 4, you might consider Year 3.5 as a transitional course of study between Year 3 and 4. It has been designed so that it can be started at any week during the first term, so if you get started on Year 4 and find that your child is struggling, you can switch mid-term.)


Year 7 is also a transition year. Like the Ambleside Online curriculum, the House of Education (currently Years 7-10, with Years 11-12 still in the planning phase) is quite advanced. Many of the books scheduled for Years 7 and 8 (middle or intermediate school years) are used in public high schools, and even in college work, so don't assume your student is ready for Year 6 or Year 7 based on age alone."

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After reading many posts on the topic at the AO Yahoo group- I think it depends on what type of books he is used to reading. Being a good reader is different from being accustomed to reading books like the Swiss Family Robinson or other Classics. People on the lists usually seem to recommend several years younger than grade level, but I think it really depends on the child. My ds12 is dyslexic and not an advanced student by any means- probably behind in maths and writing- yet he handles Year 6 very well because he is a good reader and is used to Classics.

It also depends on how much you want him to do independently. If you are prepared to still read aloud a fair bit, he could probably handle a higher level than if you have lots of other children and don't have much time to read with him.

For me (I began Ambleside a few months ago) where I was in the history cycle helped me decide- we had finished 4 years of SOTW and I was looking for how to cover the next 4 years. We just happened to fit into Ambleside/ HEO at the Ancients level, Year 6- perfect for us.

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