Saturday, 22 August 2015

Schedules, Schedules, Schedules

It’s that time of year. Facebook and blogs and Yahoo groups and forums are full of people’s schedules. I used to write mine up in great detail on Excel — talk about Throwback Thursday (even though it’s Saturday!)

Here two of my schedules from the past:

Best laid plans of yesteryear

And what about now? How do I home-educate four children between the ages of 8 and 15? Well, now my schedule looks like this:

My plan for this year

How have I gone from ticky-boxy to book-stacky? Basically, three things have changed in the past two years:

  • I have fully embraced the idea that homeschooling is as much as about a relationship among the family as it is about a relationship with our studies, and therefore, I’m committed to teaching the kids together as much as possible.

Homeschooling is so much more than just studies

  • I have fully embraced the idea that recording what we’ve done is as successful an approach as planning what we will do: more so, in fact, because the stresses of “falling behind” are gone entirely, and the joys of “capturing the moment” are here to stay.

Recording what you've done is less
stressful than planning what you might do

  • I have fully embraced the stage of the children’s lives that they can both work together, and work independently; this means that we study together in the morning, and the afternoons are free for play/handicrafts/Spanish/music lessons/hobbies, or further studies for the older two.

Afternoons are free for hobbies

Sometimes, my friends accuse me of being very off-hand with my approach, as though it’s as easy as falling off a log. I think I give this impression because I’ve been homeschooling for twelve years now. With time (and children’s maturity), one tends to grow into their individual rhythm.

However, if you want to embrace an all-together policy of home-education as I have, then it's possible for you to start now. Here are some suggestions.

First, following a flexible educational philosophy like the Charlotte Mason method. Sometimes, her method is made to seem overly complicated if you look at various websites. The hoops to jump through are made to seem overwhelming, as though each child has to have his or her own complete curriculum, and therefore, you have to spend your entire day in leaping from one child to another to support their studies.

To me, that’s the way to madness.

This is what madness looks like

Look — what they tell you is that their way is a CM curriculum, and I say to you that my way is a CM curriculum.  In fact, both ways — all ways of homeschooling — are curricula, because the definition of curricula is those subjects which you study. If you happen to study the lyrics of Janis Joplin songs 24/7, then that’s your curriculum. It doesn't have to be someone else's pre-set way of educating your children.

It’s a bit like saying you’re on a diet. Everyone is on a diet. Diet is what you eat. Some people are on a low-fat diet, or a low-protein diet, or a low-Starbucks’-vanilla-latte diet, but a diet is just describing that which you eat. Period.

That's the English Cream Tea diet

So my curriculum is the collection of subjects that we’ve chosen to study, and we do so by using the Charlotte Mason method.

Charlotte Mason, by the way, was a Victorian teacher whose forward-thinking ideas about education continue to be ground-breaking when it comes to churning out thinkers instead of hoop-jumpers. (She would have abhorred today’s focus on teaching to an exam rather than igniting interest in a subject)

In short, the CM method is characterised by:

  • short lessons
  • use of living books as opposed to dry textbooks
  • employing narration, dictation, and copywork for Language Arts skills
  • nature study
  • art- and music-appreciation
  • free afternoons to work on handicrafts, outdoor pursuits, or other personal interests

Our CM-inspired timetable consists of reading really good books for about 20 minutes each, sometimes getting to six or seven of them in a morning. We rotate through about twenty books at a time, and generally they have a similar theme. 

This autumn, we’re focusing on North America at the time of the early explorers, including the indigenous peoples who already lived there. Our science is botany with a focus on trees. We use Life of Fred for secondary school, and a mixture of Singapore and Shillermath for primary. We’ll also dabble in artist study, composer study, quantum theory, Shakespeare, US politics and economics, character study, and of course, biblical history and Christian faith.

We’ll work our way through this whole stack of books in the year, supplementing with great documentaries like Crash Course, local workshops, trips to museums, concerts, plays, and even creating a lapbook or two.

Most of these supplemental activities are reserved for Fridays, because we only “school” four days a week (see my blog post about the importance of Free-Day Fridays for us).

Free-day Fridays are just plain fun!

I realise this has been a really long blog post — probably the longest I have ever written — but I wanted you to know that it’s possible to combine your kids for a great learning experience. If you have babies or toddlers, you will be a few years away from this luxury (I used to employ a lot of Montessori-type activities to keep the toddlers busy: Tot Trays is a great website for ideas), but start getting everyone into a routine of learning together in the mornings, and it won’t be long before your youngsters are right in the thick of it, discussing which Canterbury Tales is their favorite, or arguing whether light is a particle or a wave, or saying they're sad because we'll only be in the penumbra and not the umbra of the solar eclipse. 

Honestly, with a diet of great books and great thoughts, stuff like this really happens!


  1. I can't believe how similar our attitudes are regarding homeschooling (right down to the Free Fridays)! I just finished your ebook Boyschooling...and came here to let you know how helpful it is. I have cut and pasted the parts that I especially want to remember and put them all one one paper that I can laminate and remember (-; ! Thank you so much for such great advice as well as all of the links to more resources! I would be more than happy to give a formal testimonial if you need one (-: .

  2. Great, Milia! Glad to help! Please share the link to the blog thread so more stressed-out moms can see the Type B personality alternative!

  3. Thanks so much for this post - I think I came across it on a CM Facebook page?? I've been fighting my nature as a Type B personality and as a result we've done hardly any school... and yet our kids are soaking things up and learning. Could I be more deliberate with things? Of course, and I should with many of them. But it's good to hear that other Type B personalities don't have personality lobotomies to be successful at this. Today I was thinking maybe I should just send my kids to school - I'd have room to breathe, time to clean and wouldn't be depriving them of structure. Thanks, too, for the thought that CM style hs CAN work with combining kids. I've felt a strong resistance to it on various forums, and while I see some advantages to not (like I've seen my younger girl get frustrated easily, I think bc she's comparing herself to her older brother), I love the idea of being together and learning together. Will look forward to perusing your blog more. In the meantime - thanks! :)

  4. Interesting read. As an undecided parent it was a useful insight into the reality of home-educating. Thanks :)


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