Three Tips for Scheduling Your Charlotte Mason Homeschool

This entry is part 6 of 8 in the series Getting Started with Charlotte Mason Homeschooling

Not long after I started my first son on homeschool lessons, I shared my process for scheduling a term with Ambleside Online (a free, Charlotte Mason homeschool curriculum). Since then, I’ve been through that process several more times and added another student into the mix. I know many moms wonder where to start with a curriculum like AO, and how to take the basic weekly outlines and create a daily schedule. This post follows my original scheduling post with new pointers that I’ve picked up over the last year and a half.

(If you’d like to see my schedule and ask me your scheduling questions, join me live on Zoom on Thursday, 7th October. For more details, visit my shop.)

Why set up a daily homeschool schedule at all?

Not everyone needs or wants to break down the weekly schedule into daily work. With AO, plenty of people print off the PDF term schedule, and tick things off as they go. This can be a great approach; however, I find a lot of benefit in reorganizing the information into daily schedules.

First, carefully working through the schedule helps me get familiar with the work for that term. When I’m done with my scheduling, I know what we will do when, and what we will accomplish that term. I like the confidence this gives me each day. I find I know (more or less) what we’re doing and where we are heading. Plus, as I work carefully through the schedule, I notice where I am unprepared. Maybe I am missing a book, need to order supplies for a handicraft, or that I forgot to choose our memory work. As I schedule, I take care of these details so they don’t impede our lessons.

Second, I’m able to balance our schedule out day-by-day. I’m often tempted to do a little more, to work ahead, and to finish early.But to be honest, this isn’t great for my kids. They are still pretty young, and I want to keep our daily routine within the limits of their attention spans. With my daily schedule, I know when we can, and should, stop for the day.

Scheduling your days in minute detail may not be your preference, or even be necessary for you, but if you’re interested, here are a few more tips.

Break up long readings into separate slots.

In my first term of Ambleside Online, I consistently made one mistake in scheduling. I would see a literature reading like “Beauty and the Beast” and think, “Oh, that’ll be fun. Let’s do that at the end of the week to make sure we end on a high note. But when “Beauty and the Beast” would roll around, I would realize that it was far too long. It would take thirty minutes only to read it aloud, without stopping for narrations. Hardly a short lesson by Charlotte Mason’s reckoning.

Now when I sit down to schedule a term, I have my books to hand and I split up longer readings over several days. Some literature readings get a slot every single school day, just because the chapter is so long.

When I do this, I consider page count, but I find it more helpful to go into Librivox and, if the book is available there, I will check how long the audio recording is for each chapter. Based on that information, I will divide the chapter into separate lessons. If I’m on the edge about how many slots we will need to cover a reading, I will schedule more rather than less, just in case. I prefer to not need a scheduled slot than to find I need to stuff them too full.

This has been a significant change for me: no more surprises at the end of the week, and no more missing books because we did not have time that week.

Include everything on the schedule.

If I don’t write it on my schedule, it will not happen. Map work and history charts? It now has a slot on my schedule. Flashcards for math review? On the schedule. Piano practice? You know where you’ll find that written.

While someone might look at my daily schedule and think, “Wow, that’s a lot!”, I look at it and find peace of mind. Really. By writing everything on my schedule, I no longer have to keep all the pieces in my head. Once I have completed my schedule, my role is to show up. I know that if we work through the list, then we will make progress in all of those areas that too often fall through the cracks (art instruction, I’m looking at you).

This is one reason Charlotte Mason says that “System is highly useful as an instrument of education.” Having an organizational system like a schedule helps me make progress toward my bigger goals of educating my children in a respectful and life-giving way. And as an extra benefit, it means I scramble less to figure out what we are doing for French that day, or which letter my year one student needs to learn for copywork.

Keep notes throughout the term.

My friend (and cohost) Leah mentioned this advice in a recent podcast, and it is so true. We need to make time to reflect on our homeschooling and be willing to change what we are doing. This is one reason I have so much on our daily schedules. It results from considering what is working and what isn’t.

It’s one thing, though, to reflect, and another to actually make a change. I’ve found the best way to remember what I need to do differently in the future is to keep notes on my printed schedule as I go through the term. When I sit down to plan the next six weeks, I pull out my now-obsolete schedules and flip through to see what I’ve written. Maybe our French curriculum is no longer helpful. I’ve forgotten history charts for five weeks in a row. One boy mentioned he wants to learn to sing. These are notes I’ve taken at one point or another in a term.

While I will never perfectly implement my scheduling plans, I think it is so important to keep making progress. Keeping notes on the way helps me incorporate my experiences “in real life” so that my schedules become more realistic and more helpful.

You may have noticed that I have an affection for scheduling. There is something about getting all of my ducks in a row before the start of a new term that makes me feel upbeat and excited about the term ahead, while also helping me mentally prepare for the learning we will do together. I know we will have plenty of days that don’t go to plan and times where I need to abandon some of my plans (ask me about copywork in Morse Code). But the funny thing about having a detailed schedule is that it gives me flexibility. As I cross off what we have done, I’m better able to determine our priorities and keep track of where we need a boost. 

Do you schedule your homeschool in detail or is this something that you want to do in the future?

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