Year 0 is not a formal AmblesideOnline year like the other years for which we have booklists and schedules. Year 0 covers all the time from birth until formal school begins somewhere around age 6 or later. Year 0 does not have a schedule as such, but it does have definite goals and suggestions for the best ways to achieve them.
The early years with Charlotte Mason require a bit of a different focus than most of us are used to. Instead of academic goals, we focus on the "many relations waiting to be established; relations with places far and near, with the wide universe, with the past of history, with the social economics of the present, with the earth they live on and all its delightful progeny of beast and bird, plant and tree; with the sweet human affinities they entered into at birth; with their own country and other countries, and, above all, with that most sublime of human relationships--their relation to God." (Charlotte Mason's Original Homeschooling Series, Volume 6, pp. 72-73) The rest will come! This may even sound like a huge task, but in reality we accomplish this through simple activities and interactions--no scope and sequence is necessary.
AmblesideOnline refers to these early years, before a child begins formal academics at about age six, as Year 0. The most important Year 0 goal, after physical health, according to Charlotte Mason, is time spent outside. ". . .[T]he chief function of the child--his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life--is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects. . . ." (CM's OHS, V1, p.96)
A close priority behind outside time is habit formation. ". . . [T]he education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions--a running fire of Do and Don't; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose." (CM's OHS, V1, p.134) CM has much to say about the why, what, and how of habit formation, which involves far more than just establishing a routine. CM refers to such habits as obedience, attention, imagining, cleanliness, and more. Take the time now to learn about it and implement it. Volume 1, Volume 2, and the first part of Volume 5 help explain how to do this.
Ambleside's Year 0 sometimes functions as a kindergarten year for a 5 or 6 year old. Children of this age often begin reading lessons (although CM-style reading instruction would begin with simple games even earlier than this). Sometimes other gentle lessons begin at this age. You can read more here: Charlotte Mason Kindergarten.
Year 0 also encompasses the preschool years, below the ages of 5 or 6. Those years should not have formal academics, but some parents may plan short activities each day. The most important objectives at this age, though, are lots of time outside and habit formation. Select only the very best books, and don't let reading keep you from time outside and habit training. Charlotte Mason actually recommended learning a few excellent stories and telling them to your children instead of reading books, during these first few years. "Away with books, and 'reading to'--for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child's vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets." (CM's OHS, V5, p.216)
Children in these early years should be working with concrete objects from the real world, like planting a flower and watching it grow. Between hearing great stories and spending time with nature, you'll be amazed what they'll learn. For more learning goals for the preschool years, look at the items on the Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six, an excerpt from a curriculum outline from one of CM's schools. Remember that this list was meant to be addressed after a child turned six, not prior to the child turning six.
The Year 0 years provide an opportunity to begin AmblesideOnline art appreciation, hymn study, folk song, and classical music. Try gently beginning a foreign language. Develop the habit of tea times. Teach your child to sew and draw, hammer and paint. Play card games and board games. These are all CM-friendly activities for the Year 0 ages.
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