Jack is seven and will be starting 2nd grade. Aidan is 5 and will be starting Kindergarten. Kate is 21 months and will be destroying the school room while we work. Haha. But seriously.
Last year we began using the Ambleside Online Curriculum, which isn’t really a curriculum nor is it online schooling, so I guess the name can be a bit confusing. AO is basically a collection of booklists and schedules for Charlotte Mason style homeschoolers. Charlotte Mason’s philosophy of education lines up so perfectly with my own beliefs and values as a parent and educator, and the AO Curriculum has been an excellent (and did I mention FREE!) resource for me as a CM homeschooler. For those of you unfamiliar with Charlotte Mason and her philosophy of education, you can read a brief intro here.
To me, a CM education could best be explained by the mental picture of an educator preparing a great feast of living ideas and concepts, a buffet of goodness, truth, and beauty to nourish the children’s hearts, minds, and souls and then giving them free time to work out these ideas in a richly resourced environment. In more practical terms, it looks like learning from the very best books that will capture their hearts and imaginations while also teaching the truths of history, science, and morality and then giving them plenty of time to play and explore and create both outdoors and in an environment where they have access to more great books, quality art supplies, and open-ended toys.
I love homeschooling because it gives me so much extra time with my children and more time means greater influence over them and more opportunities to shape their character, teach them about their identity in Christ and His Kingdom purposes, and help them uncover their unique gifts and talents. But while I love homeschooling, it isn’t always easy and I definitely have my share of bad days. Us homeschooling moms rarely get a break from our children, and that can be a little overwhelming at times. Sometimes I fantasize about sending my kids to school and think about what I would do with all my free time. I would drink lots of coffee, read great books, and craft the hours away. But as I fantasize, I quickly realize that I would rather do those things with my children than without. I would rather learn and create together, and although that reality is a lot messier and noisier, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. Raising my children is both my career and my ministry. There isn’t a paycheck, but the eternal benefits are great.
So anyway, about those plans. Other than the challenges of homeschooling with a toddler, last year was a really good year, so I am only making a few small adjustments in my plans for this upcoming year. The main thing I want to improve is our schedule. I am kind of a free-spirited homeschooler and although there was a rhythm and order to our days last year, we often started late and carried lessons over into the afternoon. We would usually spend way too much time on Language Arts and Memory Work, and not enough time on Art and Nature Study. My goal this year is to aim for an earlier start time and use a timer to keep our lessons short, so that one subject doesn’t throw off our entire day.
I have been carefully crafting a schedule that looks very similar to our natural rhythms of last year, but also brings into consideration the length of time Charlotte Mason suggested to spend on each subject. I found this series on Preparing a Charlotte Mason schedule to be very helpful.
So here is the schedule I have come up with.
6:00am I will get up to have my quiet time, check my email and start working on my to do list for the day, as well as get ready. If the boys wake up during this time, they will be allowed to play quietly in their room.
8:00am I will head downstairs to start laundry and make breakfast while the boys work on their morning routine. (Get dressed, make beds, brush teeth, etc.)
8:30am We will eat breakfast and then have family prayer time and sing a hymn. Afterwards, I will clean up the kitchen and begin prepping for school while the boys do their morning chore. (They have one chore for each day of the week that they work on together as a team.)
9:30am We will begin school for the day. At this time, I am going to stop looking at the clock because I don’t want to be stressed out about getting off schedule. Instead, I will just use a timer to make sure we don’t spend too much time on one subject.
Circle Time (10 min) We will gather in the school room for circle time where we will sing folk songs and nursery rhymes (for Kate), read poetry, do an artist or composer study, and read a picture book or two. We won’t do all of these everyday, but loop them throughout the week. For poetry this year, we will be reading poetry selections from the Ambleside Online Year 2 Plan covering Walter De La Mare, Eugene Field, James Whitcombe Riley and Christina Rossetti. For our artist study, we will choose an artist each month to study by looking at and discussing their art. I will line these up to go along with the Deep Space Sparkle Master’s series, which will be using for afternoon art projects. For our composer study, we will continue working through this book. The boys LOVE to listen to the CD that goes along with this book and one of their favorite things to do during lunch is to play a game where I play snippets of the songs and they try to guess the composer.
Bible (20 min) Monday through Thursday we will alternate reading selections from the Old Testament and New Testament following the AO Year 2 Plan. On Fridays, we will do a devotion from My Brother’s Keeper: Learning to Love Your Siblings God’s Way.
Memory Work (10 min) We will work on memorizing passages of scripture, poetry selections from this book, Shakespeare passages from this book, and the Gettysburg address using this book, as well as reviewing our memory work selections from the past two years.
Literature/History/Natural History (30 min) This is where we will do our bulk of reading from the AO Year 2 Plan with books such as A Child’s History of the World, Our Island Story, This Country of Ours, Leif the Lucky by D’Aulaire, Columbus by D’Aulaire, Trial & Triumph, The Little Duke, Tree in the Trail, Seabird, Tales from Shakespeare, Pilgrim’s Progress, and more.
Narration/Timeline (10 min) We will pick one person or event from the reading selections above to narrate via notebooking or using our timeline book.
Language Arts (30 min) Jack will be working on Reading, Spelling, and Grammar using Logic of English Foundations Book D and he will also do Copywork by writing out passages and selections that we are reading and/or memorizing. Aidan will be using the Logic of English Foundations Books A & B which cover Reading, Handwriting, and Spelling.
During our school time, I have prepared a bunch of busy bag toddler activities and puzzles to keep Kate occupied. Many of these activities can be found here on my blog.
If we did the above lessons back to back, we would end at 12:00pm. But I know that we will need to take short restroom and energy breaks between lessons as well as tend to Kate, so I have given myself a 30 minute buffer.
12:30pm Lunch and clean up.
1:00pm I will put Kate down for a nap and read a book on my Kindle while she falls asleep. During this time, the boys will have quiet reading time in the den. Until Aidan can read independently, Jack will read aloud to Aidan.
1:30pm During Kate’s nap, we will work on the following subjects, doing one per day in a repeating pattern or loop. (Sarah McKenzie does a great job explaining looping here.)
2:30pm The boys will have outside play time while I have some free time of my own to work on crafts and projects.
3:30pm I will work on a cleaning task while the boys pick up toys and straighten the house. We will call this our Home Blessing Half Hour. (I personally prefer to do one small cleaning task per day versus one big cleaning day per week.)
4:00pm We will have afternoon tea (snack) and read poetry and work on habit training using this book.
After tea time, our scheduled day is officially over. The boys will play and I will work on dinner preparations. After dinner, we will have family time or church or extracurricular activities. Before bed, I will usually read aloud to the boys a chapter book chosen from the AO Year 2 Plan free reading suggestions.
So that is our plan. It looks a lot like last year, so I am pretty confident that it doable, but I am also realistic enough to know that our days will never look exactly like this. My children are people and their needs matter more to me than the clock or a booklist, so flexibility and grace will be key. This schedule will serve simply as a guide and a reference.
I have made some big changes to the school room that will hopefully help this homeschooling-with-a-toddler season go more smoothly than it did toward the end of last year. I will take you on a little tour of our updated space in the next few days.
Are you a person who thrives on schedules and routines or do you prefer a more free spirited approach to your day? If you are a homeschooler and have blogged about your plans for this upcoming year, feel free to leave a link in the comments.