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    How to Use AmblesideOnline for Groups: A Tutorial

    July 8, 2019 by Brandy Vencel

    Was it only last year that AmblesideOnline debuted their new AO for Groups curriculum? I think so. It’s still fairly new, and many folks don’t even know it’s there. Those who do sometimes find it confusing. It’s actually quite simple. You just need to learn to think about the years in a different way: it’s basically a series of three-year loop schedules.

    If you have closely-spaced children who are also school age but currently illiterate (or just not literate enough for AO’s high reading level), AO for Groups (abbreviated AO4G) is for you!

    This tutorial is meant to show you the sequencing. It’s “How to Use AO for Groups” in the sense of how it’d work out year by year for a family — who would do what year of AO4G at what age? How does the progression work? I hope that by watching this video, how the A-B-C years will work with many children will start to make sense.


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  • Reply Anne King January 28, 2023 at 3:46 pm

    I am in my first year using AO and love it, but am trying to find our groove with the scheduling. This year I have a Y6, Y4, 2 girls who are doing AO for groups Year IB together, and a 2 year old. The two girls in AO for groups are 9 and 6 (3rd and 1st grades). I put the two girls in AO for groups because I was thought it would be helpful for our first year to combine where we can. My older two are literate, but the AO selections are so advanced that there are a few of their selections I read with them. However, now I’m not sure what to do with my 9 year old for next year. The only year of AO she’ll have finished will be AO for groups year 1B. She would be in n 4th grade in public school-do you think I should move her to AO year four or keep her combined in AO for groups 1C and move up to AO year 4 the next year? As a side note I wasn’t sure which years to start with this year and since we were transferring from other curriculum I put my 7th grader in Y6 and my 5th grader in Y4. Thanks for all your help!!

  • Reply Julie August 10, 2022 at 7:58 am

    Hi! Thank you so much for this helpful video! I am trying to plan out AO for groups for my 9 children. My question is I noticed the youngest child in this example only gets to year 7 by graduation. Is that okay?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 19, 2022 at 4:53 pm

      Well, that is the year that child is when the *oldest* child graduates, not when he himself graduates. So that child will continue through to AO Y12 by graduation. ♥

  • Reply Kristen September 5, 2021 at 10:00 am

    Hi! this tutorial was so helpful! We are starting AO and I want to use groups – kiddos are 10 <– new dysleixa diagnosis and is immature in a sense… so I will be reading much of his material with him (and utilizing audioboks), 7, and 4 — should I group my older 2? I also fear my older will miss out if we don't start at the beginning of AO (if that makes sense?!) I don't want it to be overwhelming for him (or me!) – I'm a box checker person so I need to plan out each day's readings and such – I plan to do as muhc combined as we can. Thank you SO much!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 6, 2021 at 3:17 pm

      I wouldn’t worry too much about what he’s missed in the earlier years — I definitely wouldn’t consider that for placement. You can always put a few must-reads on his free read pile. Plus, considering the dyslexia, plundering the books in the younger years for free reading options is probably your best bet.

      I have combined my second and fourth children — who are currently 16 and 13, so same age difference — for *some* things, but never for everything. The nice thing about groups, though, is that you can spin off an older child at any point when that makes sense. Personally, unless you observe they are almost entirely on the same level for everything, I would stick to just combining what makes sense to combine rather than doing all of it together… But I’m saying this without knowing you or your children, so take this advice with a big grain of salt! ♥

  • Reply Andrea February 21, 2021 at 5:50 pm

    Hi Brandy! Do you know if there is going to be a plan for Form IV in AO4G???? By the way, I’ve been using this adaptation with our family, and it’s working great!!I am really enjoying it. I am a Mom of 6, currently four are in school age.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel February 22, 2021 at 9:12 am

      I haven’t heard of there being a plan in the works. I will ask around to be sure, but I don’t think so. Sorry! I think so many families tailor their high school plans so much that there hasn’t been a demand.

      • Reply Andrea Chavez March 8, 2021 at 10:51 am

        Thank you! I guess I will have to do the same 😉

  • Reply Charmaine August 3, 2020 at 11:53 am

    I’m curious Brandy. What would you suggest for a 9 year old who is still learning to read. (I am using All About Reading for him) Cannot read on his own yet.
    A 6 year old just beginning to read, who I’m thinking, I will also be using All About Reading with, and a 12 year old who is reading at a level like, Swiss Family Robinson or Kidnapped?
    Last year we did AO Y1 all together. My 9 year old was doing A.A.R and I did the read alouds. My 12 year old loves the stories, but maybe I should put her in year 4 and do the AO Groups with the two boys?
    So hard to know what to do.
    Thanks for any suggestions you may offer.

    • Reply Elisabeth December 31, 2020 at 12:28 am

      Hey Charmaine, did you find an answer to your question? What did you end up doing and how did it work? My older three kids are very similar ages and abilities to yours, so I’m wondering how to juggle them! I also have a high-needs four year old and a baby so it’s tricky 🤪 curious what you chose to do though!

      • Reply Charmaine January 1, 2021 at 6:56 pm

        Hi Elisabeth! oh man, I felt so overwhelmed just trying to make that one seemingly simple decision. I ended up putting my 12 year old in year 6 and she is loving it. She is pretty much working independently. The only thing I read to her is The Sea Around Us.
        My 9 year old is still learning to read and not independent yet. I put him in year 3 and I read his books aloud. My 6 year old I put in year 1 and read his books aloud. When I’m working with one child the other is doing chores or playing. Or the 9 year old joins in on the 6 year olds read alouds because he really likes the stories too. It’s not a whole lot of extra reading for me. I’ve also given myself grace and told myself that I don’t have to read all the books everyday if I feel stressed or lack the time. I try to look at ambelside as a framework for great literature and enrichment activities and not my boss, if that makes sense. I can very easily slip into perfectionism that everything has to be followed to a T.
        I pray this has helped and you will be able to find a way to make it work for your family.
        In Christ,

        • Reply Elisabeth January 6, 2021 at 4:44 pm

          Thank you so much for taking the time to reply! That is definitely helpful as I weigh up all the options and try to plot out the year. It is so nice to have wise input from others who are that bit further along! Blessings ❤️

  • Reply Kate Boughton July 27, 2020 at 7:41 pm

    I’m still struggling to figure out where to place my kids. Coming form text book education, they’ve never done narrations (nor have I). My oldest is almost 11, going into 5th grade. He reads all the time, loves to read, always has. But not this kind of literature. Another consideration is that I want him to get all the beginning reads! My next kids are 9 (4th grade), 7 (2nd grade) and 6 (k). I’m tempted to out all three of my younger kids in form 1, but would that hold my 9 year old back too much?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 29, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      I think it’s totally appropriate to put all three of your younger ones into Form 1, especially since you need to train narration. If you think it’s too light, you can add something — grammar? Shakespeare with your older child? — to beef it up.

      As far as getting him through the beginning reads, not all of them are necessary (in my opinion) but you can give them to him as free reads as you go along. At least, that’s what I’d do. ♥

  • Reply Leslie May 29, 2020 at 8:22 am

    Thank you so much for this, it really brought comfort to this anxious but eager mama.

  • Reply Lindsey August 9, 2019 at 9:49 am

    Oh this was so very helpful. I wonder if you might have this in written form somewhere that a I can print out? I’d love to have the examples as hard copies…
    I appreciate you so much; your site has been a huge blessing to me this year as I add new students to my crew.

  • Reply Lori Leibbrand July 28, 2019 at 9:39 pm

    Hi Brandy! This was super helpful! I would love some feedback on if this would be the best for my crew. I have four kids…an eight year old boy (he will be nine in October), a girl that turned six in April, a four year old boy with a birthday in November, and a ten month little girl. We have been homeschooling from the beginning but this will be our first year doing AO.
    My oldest is a great reader (already reading chapter books, retaining what he reads, etc), has a strong grasp on spelling, grammar, math, etc…great memory retention and all around one where school comes fairly easy for him. He loves to learn and is a very curious guy!
    My six year old girl is the opposite. She is still struggling to remember the letters of the alphabet. She does know a majority of her letters sounds just remembering the names is a struggle. I think that is a bit who she is…she struggles to remember her own friends names half the time :). We will see how that develops over time. She is very creative, has outstanding penmanship, and loves school time. She really does love to learn it just doesn’t come as easy or natural as her older brother which is ok!
    The other two are just along for the ride at his point :). Because my two kiddos are on such a completely different level of skills would it be most beneficial for them to place them in Y3 and Y1 or would I be able to do Form 1 with them? Since this is our first year doing it (and I still have two others at home one being a very active four year old boy and an into everything almost one year old), I want to make this year as doable as possible for all of us. I didn’t know if it would be realistic though to start with Form 1 this year or if I should start separated since they are on such different learning levels. My four year old will eventually overlap with my six year old since they are only 19 months apart too. Again, I am new to all this so just trying to figure it all out. I would love feedback!

    • Reply madelyn conlee August 20, 2020 at 12:42 pm

      Lori, I am in the exact same situation. Did you ever get a reply or email to this question?

      • Reply Brandy Vencel August 23, 2020 at 8:10 pm

        Hmmm … well … I don’t know how I missed that comment! So sorry, Lori!

        In general, I think the AO Forum and FB group are great places to seek counsel for placing specific children. ♥

  • Reply Jennifer July 10, 2019 at 7:35 pm

    This is wonderful! You are amazing!

  • Reply Tirzah Woodward July 9, 2019 at 3:33 pm

    Loved it! Thanks!
    Do you ever combine all the kids for history (TCOO and CHOW) and read aloud the chapter books (I.e. Little duke, etc.) (as opposed to having the older kids read the chapter books independently?)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel July 11, 2019 at 1:45 pm

      I never have. 🙂 I’m sure it could be done, though.

    • Reply Carrie July 28, 2019 at 12:42 pm

      This is a lot like my situation! I’ve used AO4G for 2 years now, just Form 1. This fall, I’m starting my oldest in Form 2, with two younger ones still in Form 1. I have really liked the way the Forms are structured; using AO4G has been so helpful with having several children close in age! (Thank you for the tip about starting Year 7 after Form 2, though. That’s what I’ve been assuming I’ll do once we get there, but your explanation makes sense!)

  • Reply Amanda July 9, 2019 at 3:04 pm

    That was amazing, Brandy!

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