Ambleside Homeschooling Q & A: Math and Science, Start Time and College

ambleside homeschooling

Thank you for all of the questions about Homeschooling a Large Family with Ambleside. In this post I’m going to answer some of the ‘easy’ questions. Eventually, I will get out some posts that answer some of the questions that require something more in-depth.

I noticed you group your children, with 3 working through Ambleside year four and 2 working through Ambleside year one. Do you simply skip certain Ambleside years with some kids so as to keep them together? Are you planning to do Ambleside instead of Sonlight now with your up and coming little crowd?

I do not have a long-term plan to skip Ambleside years. As you know, the years do not correspond to grades, so they will be suitable for a wide age range of kids.

Additionally, my group of three children who are working in Ambleside Year 4 are really all very close to the same academic level. They are within 2 1/1 years of each other in age, so reading through the same books is appropriate for them.

As they move into high school, math and science may look different for each of them, but maybe not. Two of our older kids are the same academic year in high school even though they are different ages (one will graduate when he’s 16). So that may also happen with these three.

I am planning on using Ambleside with my up and coming little ones. We switched to Ambleside because two of our middle children are not primarily auditory learners and I personally think that Sonlight is geared more toward auditory learning (most educational systems are). That said, our children are continuing to read Sonlight books during their free reading time and I intend to cover the War Between the States with the Sonlight materials, as I was extremely pleased with how balanced and fair the selection of books was for that time period.

I would love to hear what math and science you recommend?

One thing that I have learned over our homeschooling years is that different curricula works for different kids and different families at different times. So I will not give you a recommendation, but I will tell you what we are currently using. 🙂

First, our children love math and science. Even our children who are not naturally inclined toward math and science now enjoy those subjects and I do think these curricula choices are a factor. Also, the combination of these two programs has allowed our children to work quickly (remember that several of them finished the school year months early) and easily through these books with very little parental help. I’m not sure if this is because they are good independent learners or if it’s because both of these programs are designed for independent learning or perhaps a combination, but that is a benefit to our family.

Science – Apologia – We have used this for 5-6 years and love it. It’s biblical, rigorous and a good fit for our family.

Math – Life of Fred – We’ve used this for 4-5 years and love it also. If you want lots of drill and repetition then this is not the program for you. Life of Fred uses all word problems and teaches the children how to think deeply and apply mathematics. It does not require a lot of rote memorization.

We do not use Life of Fred with our elementary kids. Our children generally begin Life of Fred somewhere in middle school with the fractions book and then our kids have continued on with Algebra 1 and 2, Geometry and Trigonometry.

Before Life of Fred, our math program is much less formal. We simply require our children to memorize their math facts and become proficient in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.

What time do you begin “Basket Time” in order to finish around lunchtime?

The goal is to start our school day by 7:30 or 8. Our Morning Basket usually takes about an hour and a half, so we are usually finished by 9:30 or 10.

Ideally I prefer to have my main teaching responsibilities done by lunch time. And although, it’s not uncommon for the middle kids to be narrating to me in the late afternoon, I am generally finished with all the group teaching (morning basket and reading aloud to the middle kids) and the little ones (7 and 6 year old) by lunch time.

Do you let the littlest play outside unsupervised?


We have a terrific deck that is completely fenced and is very visible from both of our main living areas and Bella (3) and Valor (1) are allowed to play out on the deck during school time. We do allow Bella to play in the back yard with Colby (7) and Nicholas (6), but one of the older kids needs to be outside to supervise if Valor goes out.

How do you handle lunch prep?

This varies by day. The 4 oldest children get their own lunch. Sometimes I’ll make lunch for the youngest 7, sometimes one of the older children will volunteer to do it and sometimes one of the youngest 7 will get lunch for everyone.

I used to use this menu plan for breakfast and lunch. Now, we are more fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants. It’s easier to be that way with older children.

My question is, do you plan for your children to go to college?

The short answer is, it depends.

Currently two of our three children in high school have plans to attend college, one believes that God has called her to get an RN degree and one is interested in chemical engineering.

That said, we have no desire for our children to go to college because that’s what ‘everyone’ does, but we do want our children to be prepared for the life that God has called them and for some of them this will require a college.

I’m overwhelmed, how do you keep up with everything, especially all the levels of math and grammar?

The actual question was about when our kids start working independently and I hope to address this in regard to Ambleside in a separate post, but this question was specifically about grammar and math.

I know that this advice is not popular, but I’ll give it anyway. Our children do not begin formal instruction in math and grammar until they are older, about age 10 or so depending on the child. They do daily copy work and/or dictation and they have a lot of exposure to numbers, adding subtracting, fractions, etc. through daily life, but we delay formal instruction in both of these subjects until a bit later and so far this has worked well for us and for our kids.

Laura asked, What do you do for those who don’t get it (school work) all done?

The underlying issue with this question is diligence. Perhaps these posts on teaching diligence will help.

Hannah said, “I’ve just heard its (homeschooling) pricey so I wasn’t sure I could afford it.”

Ambleside Online is a free homeschooling plan. They also provide links so that you can obtain most of the books that they use for free or very low cost.

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11 Responses to Ambleside Homeschooling Q & A: Math and Science, Start Time and College
  1. Lindsey
    May 15, 2014 | 6:43 pm

    I’ve read your blog for a long time but don’t remember if you’ve addressed this. So many people have so many conflicting views I just always wonder what the biblical way to address this is.

    I see you say one daughter feels God leading her to RN school. Does this mean you feel allowing young women to go to college and prepare to be something other than a wife and homemaker is biblical? I am being serious. I personally feel that working outside the home is not a sin, but also not God’s best. However, before a young woman marries she would need a job if she isn’t going to stay under her parents’ roof, which I don’t know what to think of either. Just wondering your views on this. Thanks!


  2. Joy
    May 15, 2014 | 7:59 pm

    I have never heard of Ambleside but I’ll be looking at your links. I work from home as well as homeschool so I need stuff that is already planned/mapped out for me. Just from a quick glance (I opened Ambleside in another tab on my browser in the middle of writing this reply) I can tell it might be super beneficial to me! I’m gleaning a lot of information from your posts about schooling, thank you!


  3. Cynthia Carr
    May 15, 2014 | 11:04 pm

    I’m loving your posts on Ambleside! We have been moving toward a CM style over the last couple years and this upcoming year will be our first with an (almost) entirely Ambleside school year. I always appreciate hearing your approach to things 🙂 Why haven’t I thought of a morning basket?! I see one of those in our future. Thanks for sharing. Would love to hear more in the future.


  4. Irene
    May 16, 2014 | 8:50 am

    Hi Kimberly,

    You’re opinions are especially valuable to me because you’ve got a few children nearing the end of their homeschooling. I would very much like to know: what have you learned in your years of homeschooling? mistakes and/or successes in overall goals and priorities? Mistakes and/or successes in execution?

    Curriculum info and tips are great, but experience and wisdom, from someone who’s been doing this for years, is golden.


  5. Emily
    May 16, 2014 | 7:44 pm

    Hi Kimberly,
    Thanks for doing this series. I’m considering AO for when my eldest turns 6 next year. But still tossing up between FIAR, sunlight or AO. Do you have any recommendations for what you would go with at what age. Not sure if FIAR might be good as his younger brother can also participate more so with picture books?
    My other questions were – what is your schedule for before you start morning basket? I’m wondering how you fit so much in (bible reading, chores & breakfast) before 7:30am.
    Another question with AO, is what do you do about books that have witches/fairies etc. Do you pre read and skip these? If so, how does this affect the number of books you read and the routine/plan laid out by AO?
    What does art/music/nature/geography & timeline look like for you? Can you share some more detail.
    Also, I add to the others in that I’d love to see a post from Mark about how he does homeschooling with the older crowd.
    So just a few questions 😉
    Thanks so much, I’m just loving the tips and inspiration in this series.
    God bless you 🙂


  6. Joy
    May 17, 2014 | 12:34 am

    I’ve had a lot of time to look at Ambleside since my last comment above and I am so excited that you’ve posted about it! I wish I had heard of it sooner. I love that it is put together by moms for other moms (errr and homeschooling dads!). I’ve also had a chance to look at your links for meal plans and recipes – loving it all. Such an inspiration! I’ve been so tired since baby #5 was born this summer. Your posts are sparking motivation!


  7. Mel
    May 20, 2014 | 2:38 pm

    I am a high school science teacher in the Great Lakes Region. I have a couple of ideas for your older students.

    With two high school students who are interested in science related college degrees, your family may want to have them do the advanced Apologia Chemistry and Biology. Those materials are topically closer to what is expected for a college-bound student than the ordinary courses.

    For math, finishing through trigonometry may be enough math for nursing depending on the program. Chemical engineering requires a ton of math and so if that student can complete at least through Calculus AB or BC for an AP test or the equivalent for CLEP that will save a lot of money in tuition.

    Good luck!


    Kimberly @ Raising Olives Reply:

    Actually, according to Apologia’s information, the advanced chemistry course combined with their first chemistry course covers everything normally covered in a first year university chemistry class.

    Our two current alternatives are that our children take the university level course at a university so they actually get the college credit. Alternatively, depending on what their school of choice requires, we may have them CLEP chemistry (and some other classes) during their high school years.

    In regard to math, our plan is for all of our children to take algebra 1 & 2, geometry, trig and calculus before they enter college. Mark loves math and plans on passing that enjoyment down to our kids. 🙂


  8. Mel
    May 20, 2014 | 3:54 pm

    Let me try to explain this a different way because I don’t think my earlier point was clear:

    Apologia Chemistry covers topics at a depth that would be sufficient for a student who wanted to major in a non-science area. The topics may be at a depth that would be acceptable for the nursing category, but incoming freshmen in an Inorganic Chemistry class required for Chemistry majors or Chemical Engineering are expected to have completed work that is more complicated than the initial Apologia Chemistry book alone covers.

    Apologia Advanced Chemistry covers the rest of the material needed prior to that initial Inorganic Chemistry class. Yes, it covers some of the material in the college class, but not all of the needed topics and not at a depth expected of a class for a student who is majoring in that area. (This isn’t a criticism of Apologia – all textbooks, even ones specifically designed for the AP/CLEP tests, often need additional materials for adequate preparation. AP teachers spend hours comparing notes and trading materials to try and help students adequately prepare.)

    Ideally, Apologia would produce a third book leveled between the general Chemistry and advanced Chemistry title for students who want to pursue science majors in college. (A girl can dream, anyways 🙂 ).


  9. Erin
    May 20, 2014 | 10:40 pm

    As my daughter said, “This year we had our own ‘long winter’,” and it made everything difficult including homeschooling. I never knew there were free lesson plans out there and am excited to look into Ambleside. Wondering if 9th grade is too late to start with that type of learning. Things are so tight financially that I feel like I am constantly in crisis mode so free is what I need!


  10. Carrie
    March 10, 2015 | 4:00 pm

    I know this post is older, but I too am wondering about what Emily asked. “…what do you do about books that have witches/fairies etc. Do you pre read and skip these? If so, how does this affect the number of books you read and the routine/plan laid out by AO?” Would be willing to share the books you’ve removed from the AO book list? Whether for this reason or another? I really value your opinion and would appreciate the heads up.



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