22 Oct 2012

On substituting AO books

Okay, so here's the deal.  You can substitute whatever you want from the AO recommended curriculum. Yep. It is your homeschool, and you can do whatever you think is right for your family. True.  You can do what you like.

Before you do, though, please be aware that when that wonderful group of ladies who is the Advisory added a book to a year's work, they considered the character of the people, the subject matter, the era, the quality of writing, the page count and the reading level as well as whether it was a good fun book. They looked at them all in tandem.

You can combine your kids in one year if you want.  You can take books out of one year and read them to three of your children of different ages.  You can substitute a book because you don't like the author or because the subject matter doesn't suit your faith or your moral beliefs or because you don't like white pages with black print.  You can substitute the D'Aulaire's Buffalo Bill that is hard to get for this one that you have already on Kindle. You can do whatever you think is right.  When you do, though, consider what you're actually doing.  What will your alteration do to page count and reading improvement?  Why was this book there in the first place?  Why do you want to change it?  Does your book have all the same benefits that the original had?

You can also take a book out of one year because it's too difficult and put it in a later year.  You can substitute The Pilgrim's Progress in the original language with one written in modern English.  You can chose to read Little Pilgrim's Progress or Dangerous Journey instead.  You can do this.  When you do, though, remember that in Charlotte Mason's schools children of six and seven could understand The Pilgrim's Progress in the original, and ask yourself whether you really believe that the children today are less able than those of a hundred years ago.
Form IA (7 to 9) hears and tells chapter by chapter The Pilgrim's Progress and the children's narrations are delightful. No beautiful thought or bold figure escapes them.

 Charlotte Mason A Philosophy of Education p180
On that note, each AO year has its difficult books.  Parables of Nature, The Pilgrim's Progress, Unknown to History: Captivity of Mary of Scotland, Kidnapped, A Book of Golden Deeds, Oliver Twist, Kim.  You can take them all out if you wish.  You can move them to a later year.  If you remove Parables, though, don't expect your child to be able to understand Mary of Scotland.  If you remove Golden Deeds, don't expect Kim to be easy.  Books like these build muscle.  Each one stretches your reading level enhancing your ability to read the one that comes after.  (People tell me Mortimer Adler's How to Read a Book talks about this, but I wouldn't know.  That's an AO7 book and we're just finishing up AO5.)  When you remove one book, think about the implications.

Personally, I substitute lots of books because I am in Australia, and the majority of AO users are in America. I want Jemimah to know about James Cook and Hume and Hovell and bandicoots and kangaroos and platypuses and brolgas and quolls and cassowarys and quokkas and galahs.  I want her to to understand the mythology of Ned Kelly.  I want her to know and love Norah and Judy and Dot and Blinky Bill and Wombat and Mouse and Tabby.  I substitute, but when I do, I take into account the number of pages, the readability, the reading level, the subject matter, the era and the story.   I look for the types of characters that CM would have chosen in her schools.  Sometimes in Australia that's hard - we don't have as many Godly role models as Americans appear to have.  We do have some, though.  Mostly the substitutes I find are pretty good.

If you want to change a book in your homeschool then that is okay.  Don't make the decision lightly, though.  Don't change something that ain't broke.  Sometimes a listed book might be difficult to source.  Sometimes you might not find it in your local library or in your favourite homeschool catalogue.  Sometimes you might even need to part with hard earned cash.  If you chose to substitute then ask yourself why.  Ask yourself what the implications of your decision might be.  Ask yourself if the book you've chosen is as good as the original...or even better.  Ask yourself if the substitution is worth it.

If the answer is Yes, then go ahead and substitute with impunity. I do.  If the answer is No, then personally I would think again.

Just sayin'.

PS Have I told you recently how much I appreciate the ladies of the AO Advisory?  They're my heroes.


  1. Good thought there Jeanne! I'm also very grateful for the AO advisory woman who have worked hard to search for living resources for each year, as well as yourself for searching out fabulous Australian substitute living books for us Aussie Aoers. :)

  2. ditto to what Sarah said:) admittedly we are using Little Pilgrims Progress this year and going to use the original next year! AO is really challenging me a lot more than Rebekah lol if I was totally honest):)

  3. I'm sending you a blog award, feel free to use it or smile and move on. http://www.ourcurioushome.net/2012/10/22/some-australian-sunshine-for-me/

  4. Hi Jeanne! As you know, I have strong opinions about books. I mostly stick with AO selections. I do move things around a bit. For example, we are in Yr 6, but are now reading Exploring the Holy Land, a Year 5 title. And there are reasons for this choice. Also, with my literary background (I have a master's degree in literature), I sometimes know of books I'd like the girls to read in addition to or instead of an AO title. For example, they are reading a Noel Streatfeild bio of Queen Victoria right now. Also, I'd like for them to read more about Odysseus's adventures after the Trojan War, so I've selected a book from Heritage History. Later, when they read Homer's poem, they'll have a firmer foundation (IMHO).

    You are so correct in both your building muscle analogy AND the extremely high quality of AO's selections. I am grateful to the Advisory for winnowing out the chaff for us! Blessings on their heads.

    I am also grateful that I have the opportunity to peruse an abundance of literature and make choices for my girls -- choices that I pray will make for a rich education. What a privilege. What a responsibility.

  5. "we don't have as many Godly role models as Americans appear to have. "

    "Appear" being the operative word. There's a lot of dominionist twaddle out there to making some folks into heros that really weren't the Evangelical Christians they're made out to be. We have inane rubbish like "Sea to Shinning Sea" which write a history of our nation that I barely recognize in places. This is an area where the Muggle World and The Wizard World are parallel universes. We Muggles know little or nothing about big heros of the Christian faith which, since most of us went to secular public schools, is understandable. We also have to read amazing accounts of the "faith" of some of our founding Fathers who must be rolling in their graves at the hairgography of their lives.

    On changing books. I rarely did it except for a couple--Pilgrim's Progress because the kids were little and didn't know English well and one of them had a very, very short attention span. We read the "Little" version and it's still one of my daughter's favorites. And another book because it because I just couldn't stand it. There were ones I wasn't thrilled with but appreciated and saw the merit to and kept on.

    FYI "Parables of Nature" is still fondly remembered--"those animal stories we read at dinner."

  6. Jeanne: our history has been written by the ungodly. You might be surprised,if you read the original sources in people's own words, how many of our founders were devout Christians. I do think this shows up in our children's literature in a very Aussie way. It is rarely overt,never said baldly but people's actions speak volumes. One of the few outright references I remember is Norah & Wally on their honeymoon trip but I would be hard pressed to come up with an older Aussies children's author whose characters were horrible & acted in ungodly ways. I think we've all got too used to the way America presents its belief system & fail to see ours when it is staring us in the face. I forget which bible verse Col Stringer referenced but he declared the whole mateship thing is biblical & backed it up with scripture ~ which certainly puts a whole new slant on a great deal of our literature! ☺ Anyway thems my thunks on the matter for what they're worth. Have a blessed day.

  7. Oh, Jeanne, I could hug you for writing this! I completely and totally agree, as you probably guessed. We've done some moving around--I'm sure *everyone* has at some point. But as I've realized what the Advisory has done--that for every book ON the list there were many that didn't make the cut, for various reasons, I've realized that this list is superior in so many ways.

    I need to start brainstorming for a replacement for The Hobbit, though. Somehow I missed that this was on a list and my oldest has read it many, MANY times. That is a tough one, though. How in the world do you replace a book like that? In many ways, it stands alone, you know?

  8. I am also grateful that I have the opportunity to peruse an abundance of literature and make choices.I have strong opinions about books. I mostly stick with Brisbane Cars Removal.

  9. It looks like several of us are thinking and writing about book choices in a CM education lately.

    I think your perspective is excellent and is a good reminder.

    "Ask yourself if the substitution is worth it."

  10. Thank your for this post, I have been thinking about this so much being new to AO and Charlotte Mason and Australian, I am so blessed to have so many gone before me with such great advice. Tara.

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