Thursday, August 6, 2009

How We Combine LCC and Ambleside

Someone once asked how I combined LCC (which stands for Latin Centered Curriculum) and Ambleside. It's really not too difficult to do that -- several of the book choices overlap. The major difference is probably in emphasis. LCC has Latin and Greek for the core, Math, and then: Classical & Christian Studies, American and Modern Studies (these are both history classes that contain geography), English Literature, Science/Nature Study, and Enrichment which includes Art and Music (I think I may have missed something...).

Though Classics are more heavily emphasized in LCC, and modern languages and fine arts/nature study more of a focus in AO, the actual book selections aren't too disparate. I'm refering to the curriculum from the first edition of LCC because it fits in closer with Ambleside, which also uses a two-track history system.

I have these categories, which are similar to LCC's:

  • Religion (Bible reading/study and catechism, plus liturgical year and saints' lives as enrichment)
  • Latin/Greek
  • Mathematics
  • Classical & Christian Studies (more emphasis on early British history for the youngers, more classical for the middle schoolers and high schoolers)
  • American and Modern Studies
  • English Studies (Literature and Mother Tongue)
  • Science and Nature Study -- very informal for as long as possible
  • Enrichment -- the "once a week" subjects go here. Or another way to think of it is that the unit type "extensions" for other subjects can go here.

I uploaded a Year at a Glance (2009-2010 for Years 1 and 8) -- Word 2007 -- which shows how I categorize Ambleside into LCC categories, though sometimes I get muddled about just where a given history resource might go. It doesn't really matter though, when we actually read the books themselves.

This Highland Latin School catalogy (pdf) shows some possible weekly schedules as well as giving some course descriptions not too different from the LCC ones. I like the way the school reserves Monday for a reading and "home study" day, and Friday for enrichment plus Greek and one other subject. I am going to try to design our schedule somewhat like that, with Tuesday through Thursday as the core days.

Charlotte Mason's curriculum has a lot of richness -- it is described as "broad and generous" (I picture the Nile delta) rather than "non multa sed multum" (there was a 4RL thread on that here). Ignatian ideas, which are the ones for which I employ LCC and Ambleside both, didn't rigorously exclude richness and generosity in the curriculum. However, it was distinctive in focusing very closely on certain subjects. For example, as you can see in this post, the lower grammar classes (middle school level) only had Latin, Greek, Religion and History. Sources like LCC imply that some basic numeracy (arithmetic) was taught as well, but it wasn't a primary focus. Natural science wasn't really taught in the earlier levels, only at the high school or post high school level. Later on I think this changed as knowledge of natural science exploded, but still there was always a definite push to keep the humane subjects front and center.

Charlotte Mason places a lot more emphasis on nature study, natural history, art, music, and modern languages, and rather less on classical studies. LCC would seem to put these in the "informal" or "enrichment" category. This actually works well for me. I prefer to approach these subjects in an unschooly, family-oriented way. Not that they aren't important, but that they can be ruined by doing them too intensively too early. (Here, I'm not counting study of a musical instrument which both methods consider very important).

Both AO and LCC have the student read carefully from a small number of very well written books (though AO has more book selections than the earlier edition of LCC, at least) and then have a wider "free reading" category which is more ad lib. LCC probably recommends more analysis of the core reading, while AO recommends narration. I do a combination. Lit ana is almost non-existent in the elementary years in my homeschool, and very light indeed in the high school years, operating by discussion mostly. I'm an English lit major and work on the Hippocratic method "first do no harm" type principle with this. However, I do use the LCC principle of choosing a couple of readings which are higher priority (Ratio Studiorum lingo is "lectio stataria" meaning close reading) and a few which can be dealt with more quickly and casually ("lectio cursiva"). More here and here.

Their English programs are quite similar. Ambleside doesn't teach formal composition until middle school, using the "snakes in Ireland" principle. I think LCC recommends starting the progym a bit earlier than that. I do it the CM way in the early years, the LCC way in the later years (but LCC and AO seem to overlap quite widely in the later years). Reading and writing are subjects that we tend to approach very informally up till high school and honestly, often through high school, for these reasons.

Both tend not to talk about math much in the early grades, not because some math isn't important, but because the customary methods seem to work all right for the lower grades. In the upper levels CM and LCC both recommend Euclid.

The key difference where I try to go with LCC is in the emphasis on classical languages and literatures. I have had a difficult time with this through the years. My firstborn progressed the furthest because he was willing to study Henle and Machen (NT Greek) on his own during his high school years. I hope to put Latin at front and center this year. Charlotte Mason had Latin study begin in the middle school years. She advocated French and German in the elementary years because of the importance of acquiring an accent early. If you get the vocables down in the primary years you have them for life, whereas it's difficult to acquire them after adolescence. This is an area where I have to be careful not to lose my focus. I would love to teach French and German. I even have a working knowledge of French and a minimal knowledge of reading German from college. However, the curriculum so quickly gets overloaded. I feel wistful, but something has to go, and I really don't want to lose the Latin in particular. So I try to keep the playing field open for the study of that language. Also, I couldn't myself teach a pure accent in either subject, and we don't tend to do very many audios as a family. I'm considering some Spanish on Fridays for enrichment for the two little ones.

So there's my long rambling post on combining LCC and Ambleside. Needs editing... oh well, at least it's out now!


  1. What is LCC? Just curious,

  2. Latin Centered Curriculum. I'll add a link to the text... sorry about that!


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!