Last Sunday I showed you our weekly school schedules; today I’d like to give you some follow up pictures as well as an explanation of how these schedules work for us.
If you look below, you will notice that I divide each child’s schedule into five categories, the headings begin rather self-explanatory.
Daily Alone: The majority of these items are what we call “table work.” These are daily tasks which the child is expected to accomplish on his own: five bubbles (for five days) per task.
Daily Together: Also daily items, these are group subjects meaning the child is dependent upon me to get them done. (After a few weeks of fleshing out our schedule, it became apparent that we were never going to do all four of these items five times a week, so the revised number of bubbles–three or four instead of five–reflects a more realistic set of goals.)
Weekly Alone: Some of these items are done independently by the child and some are done with an instructor, but they are not accomplished as a group. The bubbles indicate the number of times the child must do the task.
Weekly Together: These are the group subjects, accomplished once per week at the least.
Reading: This is the child’s weekly reading list, taken primarily from Ambleside Online. While the rest of the schedule remains the same week after week, the reading list is new every Monday.
Now at first glance these schedules seem rather daunting, so before I launch into how we get it all done, take a look at the next picture. You will see that we don’t get it all done! My goal is to accomplish most each week; I really do not expect to finish it all.
Instead, my primary concern is that we stay on task with our table work (in the Daily Alone) and our weekly readings, as the readings follow a very detailed 36 week plan. Our Daily Together section is important to me as well, but if we miss a day it is really not a big deal; we can just pick up the next day, or the next, or the next, as the case may be.
Weekly Alone and Weekly Together contain quite a few subjects, and even though they only need done once a week, there are still too many for me to reasonably squeeze in. I aim to accomplish 3/4 of the subjects, and then when the next week rolls around, I begin with the items we missed. In this way every item is seen to at least every other week.
In these pictures you can see that we did not accomplish all of our Daily Alone tasks for week 6; we took Monday off because my husband had a long weekend. You can see that our Weekly Readings suffered, too. We’ll just roll the missed readings into the following week, and if we need to we will delay a few group readings (Plutarch, Shakespeare, Marco Polo) to get the remainders done. I try not to stress over things like this. The schedule is a servant, not a master, and this is one of the great joys of homeschooling. Spontaneity can remain an important part of our lifestyle even if we have a schedule as a guide.
Contrary to what one might think, it does not take us all day to work through these lists. Well, that’s not entirely true. It does take all day, but only because the schedule is immersed into our real life so that in a day’s time we are intermingling school and the All The Other Things. The first book is usually cracked around 10 AM (unless a boy wakes up inspired and hits his independent work straight from bed) and the last book is closed around 4 PM. In that time we have a bajillion other things that take place–meals, snacks, playtimes, chore times, library runs, park dates, driving Papa to and from work, etc. We rarely barrel through school in one fell swoop, though I love my free afternoon if we do!
We follow a subject-driven rhythm, rather than a clock. We have “table time” in the morning, usually followed by computer work/music lessons for the boys. We have “reading time” in the afternoon, often joined with art and geography/history extras. My first grader may divvy up her day up into those two chunks, or we may do her lessons all at once, taking an hour to get her whole day done. All the weekly subjects are scattered over five days wherever they seem to fit best.
I so see the value in clock-directed schedules, particularly as a help for short lessons. (In fact, we do use a timer for certain subjects, like math, to keep the child motivated and free from burn out.) But for the most part I have found that my family flows best with a general rhythm rather than a schedule dictated by the clock.
We have short lessons (as mentioned above). By fifth grade, math is taking a bit of time, to be sure. But in the first grade, my daughter sits down for 10 minutes at the most. So on it goes down the list: 10 minutes for spelling/phonics/reading as a first grader; 15-20 minutes for Latin for my years 3 and 5. Even the readings are pared down into manageable chunks, some of them only lasting for 5 minutes, even for the fifth grader. My eldest selects four or five readings per afternoon, mixing longer passages in some books with shorter passages in others. Day after day the little bits add up, are they are very rarely too much at a time.
We do as much as we can together. Following the Ambleside rotations for nature study, hymns, artists, folksongs and composers frees up a lot of time. We all do Bible stories, Spanish, Scripture memory and Shakespeare as a group. I even combine my Year 3 and Year 5 for geography, and I’m on the verge of combining them for poetry as well. Anything that is teacher-intensive I prefer to tackle in the collective.
We do as much as we can independently. While I love our group activities, a primary goal for our family school is independent learning (probably because I have a hopping houseful of children). I think a Charlotte Mason approach lends itself beautifully to this goal. We feed our children a banquet of rich ideas, their independent minds do the work of forming relations/connections, and they emerge thinking rich ideas of their own. Because so much of this work happens by way of the reading of good books, I feel justified in my primal need to move my children toward independent reading as soon as possible. Other subjects that are not group subjects are also expected to be independently done. I am available to help and guide if need be, but the children own the subjects and take the lead.
We overlap subjects. Mapping is done while we read our geography selection; art is produced while I read Shakespeare or Plutarch or poetry. A creative writing selection will count as handwriting in place of copywork once a week. We overlap subjects whenever it feels natural to do so, and this lends itself to a very organic feel to our day.
We overlap school and real life. Many subjects are organically integrated into our days in other ways. Scripture memory and Bible stories happen at lunch, for example. Music selections might be played during breakfast. Map drills and geography concepts often occur during meals. Grammar concepts will happen by the way. Audio books are listened to in the car while many of our free reads are tried and true bedtime stories. As we flesh out our daily schedule, it almost seems as if the items on our charts manifest their presence themselves, showing us where in our daily rhythm they best fit. Sometimes, like my hopeful “Science Experiment” listed in every chart for the past six weeks, they show us that they don’t actually fit in this season of our life, at all.
Thus, We let things go. While our schedules serve as a guide and a servant, they also serve as reflectors of reality. Completed schedules tell me week after week what works and what doesn’t. I love this. It’s like having honest critique and feedback every Friday night, and I thrive on such generous communication.
A final thought: Our schedules being servants, they truly must serve. In seasons of quiet, a robust school schedule may bring with it life and joy and peace. In seasons of mayhem, a schedule may ground. But in seasons of stress, or loss, or pain, or change, quiet schedules and slower rhythms may fit the bill. I know that when my family has experienced military deployments, pregnancies, new babies or cross-country moves, schedules such as these would have only beaten me down. We must let the schedules serve us, we can set them aside if they fail.
Have you found a schedule that works for you? Do you like your schedule detailed or left bare-bones? Do you follow a clock, or more of a rhythm? Do you make your own schedule or adhere to one that is made for you? Does the very word “schedule” send terrors rolling down your spine? What works for you and what doesn’t? I’d love to know!
- Read part 1: intro to the charts
- Read part 3: how I make the charts, how the kids use the charts.
- Read: how we do first grade