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Recently, someone on my Facebook page requested that I take the same weekly schedule format I offer in the kindergarten curriculum and use that to offer an ebook for our Year 1 schedule as well. I’m so glad people are finding it useful! However, because we’re using Ambleside Online’s Year 1 book list and schedule with very few modifications, as well as the fact that I want to respect their licensing requests (including not reposting their schedules in any form), that’s not something that I can offer. What I can offer, however, is a little rundown of how I do my scheduling!
Scheduling in the Charlotte Mason homeschooling world seems to be a topic that comes up quite often, especially for those who are new to it. The first time I looked at the term overview sheets on Ambleside Online, aside from being overwhelmed by the sheer number of subjects covered, I could not comprehend how I would go about spreading those readings out over a week. What if we had a day that had more readings than the other days? What if some of the readings were longer than others and it wasn’t all even? What if a particular reading went longer than the suggested 20 minutes? Whatifwhatifwhatif?! (As you can see, I have some type-A tendencies….)
After I made the kindergarten curriculum, which was a little less intense than AO Year 1, I obviously ran into the same problem of spreading those readings out over a week. I was lucky enough to have found a coupon code for Lessontrek for a lifetime membership for free (unfortunately, it no longer works), so, after hemming and hawing about it for a while, I decided to just dive in.
I started at the top of the column for the first week and just started putting inserting things into the schedule. And you know what? Overall, it worked. Of course I did make some changes along the way as I learned what worked and what didn’t work for us, but the overall idea was the same. Just put it all in and see what happens.
I think in my mind, I had made it a lot more complicated than it needed to be, especially worrying about short and varied lessons and symmetry in days and making sure everything was covered and all of those other things. But when I actually sat down and started doing it, it was so simple.
There are a LOT of blog posts out there on how to do homeschool scheduling and any Google search will turn up a gold mine of information in this area. AO even offers several pages on their website about how to do it. There are also different types of scheduling, including looping, block, year-round, 4-day per week (which is what I do), different ways to schedule multiple ages, ideas for moms who work outside of the home but still want to homeschool, etc. etc. Looking at this list, you get the idea that there really is no one-size-fits-all solution for scheduling. Every family is different and even if you have two families in the same situation, different personalities might warrant different ways to schedule.
I say all of this as a way to emphasize that if you’re looking for the Definitive Guide to Homeschool Scheduling the Charlotte Mason Way, this post is NOT it. This just happens to be how I do it. It’s not the absolute right way. It’s not the worst way you could possibly do it (at least…I hope not 🙂 ). It’s just what works for my family right now while I am only really teaching one kid. This may actually look entirely different in a few years when C starts!
So, having said all that, let’s get down to business…
We’ll start with what Ms. Mason says about scheduling for younger children:
the lessons are short, seldom more than twenty minutes in length for children under eight; and this, for two or three reasons. The sense that there is not much time for his sums or his reading, keeps the child’s wits on the alert and helps to fix his attention; he has time to learn just so much of any one subject as it is good for him to take in at once: and if the lessons be judiciously alternated––sums first, say, while the brain is quite fresh; then writing, or reading––some more or less mechanical exercise, by way of a rest; and so on, the program varying a little from day to day, but the same principle throughout––a ‘thinking’ lesson first, and a ‘painstaking’ lesson to follow,––the child gets through his morning lessons without any sign of weariness. (vol 1 pg 42 – emphasis mine)
We can also take a look at the timetable that was used for children in Form 1 (which includes Year 1/First Grade). In both cases you can see that the lessons did not go longer than 20 minutes (except in the case of reading), with some even as short as 10 minutes, and varied quite a bit. This is our guideline for planning our own schedule.
Having covered that, the next thing I’ll mention is that I do not plan out every hour of every day for the entire year before the school year starts. I actually started to do that before we began our kindergarten year, but quickly ran out of steam. I also found that by planning things only a week ahead, everything is kept fresher in my mind, I have a better idea of what to expect the following week, and making tweaks to our routine throughout the year (which happens often) is easier to do. So, each Wednesday or Thursday, I open up my planning program and plan the assignments for the next week.
Right now, we have school Monday through Thursday with co-op every other Friday. On the off Fridays, I try to take the kids for a field trip or nature hike and tea and poetry in the afternoon, but sometimes we have exams scheduled or some other appointment that week so we haven’t been able to do that as often as I had hoped. However, because I have to have at least 172 days of school per year and maintain an attendance sheet for our umbrella school and the state, I always try to make sure we have educational things to do for Fridays, aside from math, which we do every school day, (eg. baking/cooking, reading together, Junior Ranger books, etc.) even when the week is busy and we don’t have time for a nature hike.
Our school time starts at around 9 am. I’d love to say we’re prompt, but life, you know? So I aim to start at 9 and we’re usually done by 11 or 11:30, depending on how much we have to cover and how often I need to help C with something. We always start with morning time except for the extremely rare occasions when we have something going on that day and we need to be done early. C takes part in morning time, but usually gets bored quickly with the actual school time readings, so she’ll busy herself with something quiet (hopefully) while we do our thing, like drawing, looking at books, or playing with blocks, or go to her room or the basement to play and listen to audiobooks.
Before each term, I grab the term overview schedules from Ambleside Online and copy and paste them into a spreadsheet in Google Drive. I make any changes (eg. we had a different Bible reading schedule and did not read Trial and Triumph) and fill in the empty cells (like math, handwriting, foreign language, nature study, etc.). If I make changes to the schedule throughout the term, like skipping readings due to content I’m not comfortable with or some other reason, I go back into the term overview I have in Google Drive and cross those off so I’ll have that in mind when I start planning for C in a few years.
For some of the subjects that are left blank on the AO template, like math, there won’t be much to write as that is more a time-based subject (20 minutes per day) rather than a certain number of lessons to do or pages to read. However, I do like to have something in the cell as a reminder that I need to add that to my weekly schedule later on. So, for instance in math, instead of putting specific lessons for a week, I’ll just add “20 minutes.” For poetry, I’ll insert “2 poems/day.” For reading, I’ll write “1 lesson/day.”
And now we get to the nitty-gritty. Once my term schedule is set (and I only plan one term at a time), I can then use it to make weekly plans. As I said earlier, I use Lessontrek to plan my weeks, however, you could do something very similar with a spreadsheet program which is what I’m going to use in this post (specifically with the spreadsheet app in Google Drive). If anyone has any interest in seeing how I use Lessontrek specifically to plan our weeks, let me know!
First off, I have the days of my week laid out. I don’t have rows for specific subjects here (as I would in the term overview) because different subjects will be covered each week. First I decide what will be covered during Morning Time:
- Composer Study
- Picture Study
- Foreign Language
I don’t add these to the schedule as I have a separate sheet just for our Morning Time routine (a post is coming on this!). After this is determined, during our “regular” school time I know there are certain subjects that I will do every day and a few that will only be once or twice per week, so I start with these:
- Bible (1 reading/day – this year I’ve followed both the Penny Gardner and AO schedules at different times)
- Poetry (2 poems/day – I calculate how many to do each day by adding all of the poems assigned and dividing by the number of school days)
- Math (1 lesson or no more than 20 minutes per day from RightStart Level B)
- Phonics/Reading (1 lesson per day for 3 days from Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons and 1 BOB Book the other day – I do this to give us a break from 100 Easy Lessons, usually on the last day of our school week but it’s definitely not necessary)
- Copywork (the amount varies – when we were doing print, it was just 1 page from Worksheetworks.com using these settings; with cursive it’s just been 1 or 2 lines per day from specific cursive worksheets)
Once or Twice Per Week
- Habit (2 times/week – another subject that is not necessary but something I added last year, though I’m not sure I’m going to continue with it next year)
- Nature Study (1-2 times/week depending on if we do a hike on Friday – read more about what our nature study time aside from hikes looks like here)
- Timeline (1/week – [01/16 means the first quarter of 2016] read about that here)
So I start with these. I like to begin our “regular” school time (after Morning Time) with Bible to give it top priority. Math is next in terms of priority because I like to get it done as soon as possible and it’s best to do “sums first, say, while the brain is quite fresh.” 🙂 However, both of these are “heavier” subjects, so I stick poetry between them just to add a little bit lighter fare in there.
Because I want to do “varied” lessons, after math I insert the remaining subjects in every other row, leaving a row between each one for me to read our other books to B. I also use a single row for all of our once- and twice-per-week subjects. So after all of this, the week looks like this:
After those are in, I then have a little framework in which to insert all of the other subjects. These include:
- History and Tales
- Natural History
These can vary from week to week, so for this example, I’m going to be grabbing AO Year 1, week 7. I start at the top of my column and go down, looking to see which books we’ll be reading that week. When I get to a book that I know generally has longer chapters (eg. Parables from Nature or The Blue Fairy Book), I look in the book to see how many pages exactly are in the assignment for that week. I have learned that with most of our books, 5 to 6 pages are our limit (yours may vary) for both reading and narration within a 20-minute time frame. If there are more than that, I spread the reading out over multiple days, aiming for about 5 pages per day. This may mean that I have to add another row to my schedule, but it’s better to space the readings out than try and cram 10+ pages into one lesson.
For this week, I check Our Island Story (4 pages) and A Midsummer Night’s Dream (from Lambs’ – 18 pages) and determine that since our Shakespeare reading is more than 2 days’ worth of reading, it will take up its own row. So I insert that in the lowest empty row. This, again, is personal preference. I like to start our days with heavier history, so I put the lighter literature readings at the end but your family may be different.
Then I go back to my term overview and start working my way down the column, copying each assignment that’s left and then going over to my weekly schedule and inserting what I copied as I go across. (And a note… if you compare my schedule to the original AO schedule, you’ll notice there’s no reading for Trial and Triumph assigned but there is an extra geography reading. I actually chose to drop Trial and Triumph and inserted the extra geography readings suggested in those spots with one empty one for the term).
Some weeks on the AO schedule have a reading spread out over two weeks (usually with Shakespeare or D’Aulaire), so in that case, I just take the number of pages that are in the assignment and divide it by 8 (at 4 days each week), then read that much per day. You could break this down even further and only assign it for a few days each week reading more pages, and I will do in this in cases where I already have a lot of readings for a given week. But dividing equally between all the days does make scheduling it a little easier as I just add a new row for that reading. In this case, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was assigned for this week only so I don’t have to do any of this.
When I’m done putting all of the assignments in, I take a look at everything and see if there are any empty cells or rows. If there are, I delete those just to make sure everything is fairly even so I don’t have one day that has a lot more readings than the others. Not all weeks will be perfectly even and that’s okay. Somedays you just have more work to do than others. If I do notice a big discrepancy, I’ll look to see if I have a few lighter readings and put those on the same day (like Aesop and Paddle-to-the-Sea) while keeping the heavier readings alone.
So our final schedule looks like this:
And I’m done. 🙂 There are of course variations on this. I generally like to keep Aesop for the last day of our school week because it’s shorter and I like to keep that day lighter, so I insert that accordingly. However, for the sake of making things less complicated, I did not do that here.
You could probably also do something similar in Google Calendar, but as spreadsheet programs are pretty well universally known, I thought I’d offer up an example there. Ultimately, no matter what app you use (or paper!) to lay out your weeks, know that you will get the hang of it and find a system that works for you! Just dive in and experiment! If this particular one doesn’t work for you, there are many others you can try as well. 🙂
If you have any questions about any of this (or if it’s about as clear as mud), don’t hesitate to leave a comment or drop me a line!