Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Creating a Charlotte Mason Weekly Schedule

I began putting this blog post together awhile ago.  I had hoped to get it posted shortly after my last entry, but we spent this past week in Wyoming at the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  Someone blessed us by giving us this trip.  I tell you...GOD IS SO GOOD!  It was an amazing nature study too.

Anyway, blogging fell off my plate while we explored God's creation.  I'm getting back to my Charlotte Mason blog posts now...

To keep from reinventing the wheel here, I will not be going into great detail to define Charlotte Mason's educational philosophies.  Entire books and websites are dedicated to that, and I hope that if you're not familiar with it, you will spend some time discovering the wealth of information written about it.  A good book that I highly recommend is Charlotte Mason Education by Catherine Levison.  And two websites that will get you started are Simply Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online.  Both websites have excellent information, and I have used both as reference and information sources to put together our schedule for this school year.  If you are new to Charlotte Mason, I would suggest beginning with Simply Charlotte Mason, as it is less overwhelming than Ambleside Online.  That will give you a wonderful overview, and they also have a step-by-step guide to help you put together your own CM education.

Just by doing a quick search online, I found many blog posts about the details of a Charlotte Mason education.  One homeschooling mom posted 10 different blog posts that broke the CM method down into bite-size pieces.  You may want to hop over there to get an idea of the different aspects of the CM method.

Here, I will give a quick look at how I put together this method of homeschooling...a little peek into our CM-style schedule and what sorts of resources we use.

Before that, though, let me address something that someone asked about my last post.  After seeing the photos of our homeschool room, someone commented that they liked the idea of having less stuff out on shelves, and they asked me where the clutter is.  :)  Well, here it is...

In our basement, in the room beside our homeschool room, we have 2 sets of shelves filled with Rubbermaid tubs.  Everything we are not using goes into these tubs, and each tub is labeled and arranged for easy access.  Some tubs are for items we only need every few years (i.e. U.S. History), while other tubs are accessed every day (i.e. math manipulatives).  This has allowed our shelves and cabinets in the homeschool room to be less cluttered, and everything has a "home" so that I can find any book or manipulative within minutes.  Sure beats looking through hundreds of books on a shelf and wondering where in the world the Abe Lincoln book has escaped to!  :)

Now for some nuts and bolts on how I plan our school year...

If you go to Simply Charlotte Mason and click on their sample schedules, you will find a great place to start.  I looked at their "typical schedule" to get a general idea of how to arrange our week.  I printed it and used it as a loose template.  I had looked into using another schedule I had found in the back of Catherine Levison's A Charlotte Mason Education, which was a schedule actually used by Charlotte Mason.  But I preferred Simply Charlotte Mason's typical schedule, because it has a chunk of the day where the whole family is learning together (which we have grown to love!).

If you like this schedule, you can simply print it off Simply Charlotte Mason's website and off you go!  It really is as simple as that.

I, however, had to complicate things a bit <grin>, because I did find things I loved about Charlotte Mason's actual schedule she used for her students.  I wrote down the things I liked (i.e. studying more than one science during each week), and I made notes of those things.  I wrote down how many minutes and how many days that Charlotte Mason had her students study different subjects.  All the ideas that I liked, I plugged into our schedule.  This did take some time, but I really wanted to make sure we found a way to do a large variety of interesting things ("spreading a feast," as Charlotte Mason would say) that would otherwise slip through the cracks unless they were written on a schedule.

And then I began to plug everything into a rough schedule.  I plugged in all the time slots for my high school child first, and then I went back and figured out the schedule for my other 3 children.  My high school child will have longer lesson blocks, simply due to her age.  Charlotte Mason's schedule for a 9th grader had lessons that were between 30-45 minutes long, while lessons for younger children were shorter.  So, our schedule reflects this.

Figuring out a schedule for 4 children is much like fitting pieces of a puzzle together.  It's time-consuming, but once it's all fit together, it's beautiful...much like gears all turning together in unison.  Because 2 of my children will be doing some of their lessons on the computer, I also had to make sure that their computer times wouldn't conflict with each other (hence, the different colored crayon underlinings to indicate when certain children would be on the computer).

This schedule will be typed up soon, after all the kinks are ironed out and after we decide that this is the schedule we intend to keep for this school year.

Let me also say that I'm NOT a minute-by-minute planner.  I prefer windows of time instead of exact times.  However, because I have 4 children, different lengths of lessons depending on their ages, and those sorts of details, I found it easiest to go ahead and put it on a schedule with exact times.  This allows me to make sure that computer times do not overlap and that my other children are plugged into certain lessons while I work one-on-one with a particular child.  I don't like being tied down to a strict schedule, so this is a just a guideline to help us stay on track.  If, however, we discover something extra amazing on our nature walk, we will stay to explore it and not rush back in to make sure we stay on exact schedule.  Keep that in mind when you read our schedule.

Because a Charlotte Mason education includes such "extras" as poetry, Shakespeare, hymn study, picture study, nature study, music study, drawing, etc, there simply isn't enough time in one day to study all those things (not to mention science, math, language arts, foreign language, etc).  By looking at Charlotte Mason's schedule that she used with her students, it's apparent that she spread all these things out across the week.  Some things were studied every day (i.e. copy work), while other things were studied 1, 2, 3 or 4 times per week.

So, here is what our schedule looks like for a typical Monday:

8-8:45am Breakfast while we pray as well as read our Bible, a section in our Child's Story Bible, a section in Window on the World, and one chapter in our missionary biography.  I keep all these books in a cute basket near our dining table so that I have them every morning when I need them.
***I will say that of all the things we do in our day, our bible time and missionary biographies are by far the best part! They have taught life lessons, character traits and eternal values far better than anything I could have hoped for.  Usually, we read one of the missionary biographies from YWAM (Christian Heroes Then and Now...amazing books!), but this month we are reading Kisses From Katie (I HIGHLY recommend this one too!)

After breakfast, we clean up our mess, get teeth brushed and head downstairs to our homeschooling room.  Until about 10am, we are all learning together.  This, as well as our breakfast reading time, is the part of the day we all love best, mainly because we are all working and learning together.

Here's MONDAY'S Family Learning Time:

Almost all of the books we will need for our morning family learning time are located on the same shelf for easy access.

9-9:05am  Auditory and Visual exercises (which I learned from a neurodevelopmentalist for our child with special needs, but I use these exercises for all our children to fine-tune auditory and visual skills)

9:05-9:15am  Scripture Memory

9:15-9:30am  Hymn Study (We plan to learn one hymn every 6 weeks or so...as well as learning the story and the songwriter behind each hymn)

9:30-9:45am  Geography  (We are using the geography book actually written by Charlotte Mason, so it is very conversational and interesting)

Please forgive the sideways photo...it didn't want to turn  :)

9:45-10:10am Read aloud / Literature (This particular read-aloud time will center on the literature selections recommended by Simply Charlotte Mason for the younger children, and all 4 children love to listen along.  I simply choose a book and read.  For the first couple of weeks, we are choosing to read The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and will also read some selections from the list of recommended pre-school literature.  The older 2 children have their own literature selections that will be read independently later in the day)

At 10:10am (remember, this is not an exact time...just a general guideline to keep the day rolling and to make sure all the gears are turning in unison), we move into independent and parent-guided work.  For some subjects, like history and science, 2 or 3 of the younger children are combined together for learning.  For other subjects like math, each child is working individually (older children independently and younger children with Mama).

To keep from making this blog post a complete mess by writing every time slot for every child, I will simplify it to just give you the flavor of the day...

High school student's Monday schedule:
10:15-10:50am  Algebra 1
10:50am  <Snacks are passed out before beginning next lesson>
10:55-11:20am  Old Testament
11:20am-12:05pm  History
12:05-12:50pm  Mandarin Chinese (Rosetta Stone)
12:50-1:30pm  Physical Science
1:30pm Lunch

The 3 younger children have their own schedule, with shorter lessons.  For example, while the high school student is working on Algebra 1, the younger 3 are exercising and then having a snack.  When the high school student is working on history, the other 3 students are finishing up math.  Then the 5th grader is working on Simply Grammar...the 2nd grader is working with Mama on language lessons...and the pre-K princess is coloring/drawing.  On and on the schedule changes, with differing time slots throughout the day.

Afternoons (after lunch) are primarily spent on hobbies, handicrafts, individual interests.  But we also have a few more things on our to-do list.  Our afternoon schedule looks like this:

1:30pm Lunch / Clean up

2:15pm Chores

2:45pm Younger 3 children are doing music practice, while high schooler is exercising

3:15pm High schooler is practicing music, while younger children are playing

3:45-5:30pm  Handicrafts / hobbies / outdoor play / individual interests

5:30pm  Showers / vacuum / tidy up / set table

6:00pm Quiet reading time until Daddy comes home

This has been a look at our typical Monday schedule.  The other days of the week are basically the same at the beginning of the day (our breakfast reading time) and at the end of the day (after lunch).  They differ in other parts of the day.  For example, at 9:15 am, instead of hymn study, we have poetry on Tuesday, picture study on Wednesday, music study on Thursday and drawing on Friday.  Instead of Monday's Geography, we have Latin and Greek root words on Tuesday, Shakespeare on Wednesday, nature study on Thursday and hymn study (again) on Friday.  This is what Charlotte Mason described as "setting a feast" before the children...a generous variety of many different subjects to keep the mind engaged.  Every day we can look forward to something different in the "buffet" of lessons.  Boredom is never an option.  :)

There is also a bit of variety in the independent and mother-guided work.  For example, the older 2 students will do their regular math lessons every day except Wednesday, when they will spend that time slot working on drilling math facts and also solving an intriguing Math Perplexor.  Another example: at 11:40am, our 5th grader will work on Simply Grammar on Monday, Typing on Tuesday, Grammar 101 (online) on Wednesday, Typing again on Thursday, and Simply Grammar on Friday.  To be able to accomplish this switching up of their schedule and yet still make sure each child spends enough time on each subject is the exact reason I put everything into a grid of sorts in order to plug every subject for every child into a good time slot.  This schedule will soon be typed and will stay on the wall in the homeschool room, and copies of it will also be placed into the notebooks of the older 2 children so that they have an easy reference point to remember what comes next in their day.

I will soon blog about some of our Charlotte Mason-style books and resources.  And I will address the question of how we are making this Charlotte Mason education work into high school transcripts and portfolios (yes, it CAN be done).  :)