Toward the end of the last school year, I started posting every Sunday evening on Instagram a quick snapshot of my homeschool planning for the coming week. To my surprise, these posts got a lot of engagement, with many people asking about different resources I included in the pictures and sharing that they were also doing their planning.
By far, though, the most common question I got and continue to get is how I lay out my weeks. Scheduling in the Charlotte Mason homeschooling world seems to be a topic that comes up quite often, especially for those new to it. The first time I looked at the term overview schedules on AmblesideOnline (AO), aside from being overwhelmed by the sheer number of subjects covered, I could not comprehend how I would go about spreading everything 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…) Based on the fact that I often get the request to offer weekly layouts of the AO schedule similar to those that I provide in my kindergarten curriculum, I know I’m not alone in this feeling of being overwhelmed.
After hemming and hawing about it for a while, I decided just to dive in. I began at the top of the column for the first week and just started inserting things into the schedule. And you know what? Overall, it worked. Of course, I have made changes along the way as I have learned what works and what doesn’t work for us, but the overall idea has always been the same. Just put it all in and see what happens. Be flexible. Make changes where we need to.
I think in my mind, I made it a lot more complicated than it needed to be, especially worrying about short and varied lessons and symmetry in days (because symmetry is essential to type-As) and making sure everything was covered and all of those other things. But when I sat down and started doing it, it was so much simpler than I thought it would be.
There are many blog posts on the internet covering how to do homeschool scheduling, and any search will turn up a gold mine of information in this area. AO even offers a page on their website about how to do it. There are also different types of scheduling, including looping, block, year-round, 4-day school week (which is what we do), different ways to schedule multiple ages, ideas for moms who work outside of the home but still want to homeschool, six weeks on and one week off (or taking a Sabbath week, which is something else we do), etc., etc. Looking at this list, you get the idea that there is no one-size-fits-all solution for scheduling. Every family is different, and even if there are two families in the same situation, different personalities might warrant different schedules.
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 we do it. It’s not the absolute right way. It’s not the worst way you could do it (at least…I hope not 🙂 ). It’s just what works for our family with two kids.
So, having said all that, let’s get down to business!
I like supply lists, so I’m sharing the supplies I use to get my weekly scheduling done.
- Charlotte Mason Homeschool Planner I’m a little biased because Anna is a very good friend of mine, but even before we got to know each other well, I LOVED this planner. I used an online planner for the first three-and-a-half years of our homeschool journey and thought I’d be using that through graduation until there were minor annoyances that kept popping up when I’d start scheduling. I decided to try a paper planner because, honestly, they were just so pretty, and I like pretty things, and I was utterly hooked. I love all of the extras in it, like tracking attendance and book lists and the little interviews for my students at the beginning of the year and the monthly mother culture check-ins and the Charlotte Mason quotes and the lessons at a glance and everything. It’s just a beautiful, thorough, and well-laid-out planner.
- Washi Tape This isn’t a must, but as I said above, I like pretty things, and because the planner is highly customizable, I decorate it with washi tape.
- Zebra Midliners/STABILO Swing Cool Highlighters Each kid is assigned their own color, and I can denote which task goes with which kid by highlighting.
- Pens I really like Microns, and Anna got me hooked on Uniballs.
- Mechanical Pencil I like this Mr. Pen variety pack.
- Lined Sticky Notes I use these to write out my son’s reading assignments that he does on his own (and then narrates to me later).
Each week is a blank slate, which I appreciate for being able to customize however I want. I chose Layout 3 for my weekly layout, so I have eight columns and five rows of grid squares. I generally only use four rows each week as we only have a 4-day school week. The last day is reserved for nature hikes on Fridays (which are often most-of-the-day events) or appointments that may pop up on other days that were scheduled in the morning (though I do try to schedule most non-school things in the afternoon). We also have a nature group that meets twice per month on Fridays in the afternoons and we’ll do at least math and reading on those mornings.
I start by putting some washi tape along the top of each page with Monday’s date on one side and then the term number/week of the term number/week of the year on the other side. Then I put in all of my headings at the top of the rows in this way:
- Reading #1
- Reading #2
- Reading #3
The Rotation box is for things that repeat every week that we generally do together (with a few exceptions) at different times of the overall schedule but don’t necessarily have a specific reading or assignment. This includes:
- Morning Time – I have a separate sheet printed out for this that I tape into the monthly section of my planner.
- Poetry – I read one poem per day from the AO selections.
- Math – We are using RightStart Math and I start with my Year 2 student first for 20 minutes. During that time, my Year 5 student finishes anything leftover from the previous lesson that he can do independently or gets started on the warm-up for the next lesson. Then I do 30 minutes of math with my Year 5 student, and my Year 2 student finishes anything she can do independently. This isn’t strictly Charlotte Mason as math was scheduled for only a certain number of minutes based on age, but my students often dawdle with math, and they know that if they don’t dawdle, they don’t have to do extra work outside of their math lesson time. We can also get through our math books at a reasonable pace.
- Spanish – This alternates per day with a Salsa video on Monday for my Year 2 student (which my Year 5 student likes to watch as well), working on a series from Speaking Spanish with Miss. Mason and François with my Year 5 student on Tuesday and Thursday (we do one series for two weeks), and we sing/learn our Spanish song from De Colores on Wednesday all together.
- Nature Study/Swedish Drill – This term, we are going through the lessons in Nature Study Hacking: Mammals twice a week on Monday and Wednesday. Then we review the routines we’ve already learned in Swedish Drill on Tuesday and learn new exercises in our latest routine on Thursday.
- Reading – This is ten minutes of my Year 2 student reading to me every day. Right now, Monday through Wednesday, we’re reading through Reading-Literature The Primer, and Thursday we’re reading through Bob Collection 2. As she progresses, we’ll begin reading chapter books every day, and I will have this time as part of our schedule through her Year 3.
- Grammar/Dictation – With my Year 5 student, I work on grammar with Junior Analytical Grammar for 25 minutes on Monday and Wednesday. We do one dictation lesson from Spelling Wisdom on Tuesday and Thursday (these usually only take about 10 – 15 minutes depending on how much needs to be written). This is the most flexible of the loop items as sometimes, if we’re running late on a particular day, I’ll do dictation instead of grammar since it’s usually faster.
- Repetition – My Year 5 student reads aloud his dictation piece, and I read my Year 2 student’s dictation piece to her. These are an Old Testament passage on Monday, a New Testament passage on Tuesday, a Psalm on Wednesday, and a poem on Thursday.
- Copywork – This is not slotted in at a specific time but serves as more of a reminder to me that I need to check their copywork for the day as this is a task they’re responsible for on their own.
The Bible and Reading boxes are for specific reading assignments. We always do Bible lessons right after Morning Time and follow with poetry before going into Math. The Alternate boxes are for subjects that can be reading or something else (usually drawing or writing). I try to vary the types of activities (e.g., math followed by reading followed by nature study followed by writing or drawing followed by reading) as much as I can, and this is the routine that I feel helps with that goal.
Right now, the schedule each day works out like this:
- Morning Time (all together)
- Bible Lessons followed by Poetry (Year 2 student then Year 5 student)
- Math (Year 2 student then Year 5 student)
- Spanish (these are mostly done together – Salsa is optional for my Year 5 student, and the Speaking Spanish with Miss. Mason and Francois series is optional for my Year 2 student, but they generally both stick around for these)
- Reading #1 (Year 2 student then Year 5 student)
- Loop (Nature Study/Swedish Drill all together)
- Alternate (these are primarily for my Year 5 student: Monday is Plutarch, Tuesday is Shakespeare, Wednesday is Map Drills, and Thursday he does his Book of Centuries entries while my Year 2 student works on her personal timeline)
- Loop (Reading with Year 2 student then Grammar/Dictation with Year 5 student)
- Reading #2 (Year 2 student then Year 5 student)
- Alternate (these are usually random things like a Handicraft reading [to introduce us to what we’ll be doing later in the day or week], a science activity, or any extra readings we may need to schedule in)
- Reading #3 (these are usually our Literature readings)
- Afternoon (we go for walks in the afternoons, do our handicraft activities, and my Year 5 student does 30 minutes of piano practice)
With this schedule all laid out, I just fill in the blank from our term schedule sheets. Before each term begins, I copy the term schedules from AO into a new spreadsheet and customize them for us. I like to keep track of how many readings I’m doing in a week and how many my Year 5 student has so I make sure I don’t overload either one of us. I separate his readings into his own section and have two totals at the top of each column with the counts of both of our readings. This way, I can add extra things like the geography concepts that are not included in the AO term schedules on weeks when we have fewer readings or move readings from one week to another if the schedule looks lopsided. I also fill out extra things like handicrafts, drawing, foreign language, composer and picture study, etc.
Each kid gets their own term schedule sheet which I keep on a clipboard in their cart. When I sit down to do my scheduling, I pull out the term overview sheet and start at the top, filling in the boxes I outlined above. Here is a little video I made of the whole process.
And here is a little clarification on how I add everything:
Bible – This takes the most time as I like to split the readings as evenly as possible, but this can be challenging with many weeks covering two different books of the Bible. Usually, I go through the scheduled readings and count up how many “sections” (which is how my Bible splits them up) there are in total. If it’s a number that splits up into four days easily, I’ll go with that. Otherwise, I’ll count verses, divide by four, and get as close to that number as I can within reason. If the verse count for the day ends in the middle of a section, I’ll read to the end of that section and then do less the next day. If we’re doing both an Old Testament reading and a New Testament reading in a week, I’ll divide them in two and then split those two parts into two days. If there is a lot more of one than the other (usually, the OT readings are more than the NT readings), I’ll do the lesser of the two in one day.
Reading #1 and #2 – For these, I go through all of the “subject” boxes (e.g., history, geography, science/natural history, literature) on the term schedules that are not assigned to my student to read on their own and count up how many pages have been scheduled to each book. I write this number in the box for that reading which allows me to figure out how many “slots” I need to get all of our readings done. I have a good idea as to how many pages we can get through with reading and narration in a 20- (for Year 2) or 25-minute (for Year 5) session depending on the book, so if I have more than that amount, I know I’ll need to schedule that reading over more than one slot (or day). This can change as sometimes I don’t guess the amount of time it will take us to get through a reading correctly, but I never allow us to go over 20 or 25 minutes.
Once I have all the readings counted, I figure out the number of slots I’ll need and lay them out in the “Reading” and “Alternate” boxes as needed. If I have more readings than slots, I’ll put those in the second alternate slot or try to do them the following week or later in the year. This rarely happens as AO has laid their weeks out very evenly.
Alternate #1 and #2 – The first alternate slot is for set items, so this doesn’t change each week. For Plutarch, we are using Anne White’s guides, and she has divided each Life into 12 lessons, so we just do one lesson per week. This was my first year planning Shakespeare (it was done with our co-op in the past), so my process may change depending on how things go. For our first term, I looked at how many acts/scenes there were and divided them by 12. I only have Shakespeare scheduled once per week, so I’m hoping all of these readings fit within that time! The second alternate is for any extra readings or activities we have to do like handicrafts or science activities. Sometimes there is nothing in this column.
For the readings scheduled for my Year 5 student to do on his own, I keep a lined post-it note next to my planner while I’m filling things in and add those to it as I go, then I pre-read everything the Sunday before I give him the list. He is responsible for reading them when he has time, then he narrates when he’s done and I have a free moment.
With this schedule, we start between 8:30 and nine each morning and are usually done by 1. Occasionally, some readings aren’t done before lunch, so I may do those immediately after lunch. This is one of the reasons, though, why I save the Literature (aka. “more fun” readings :)) for last so it’s not too much of a struggle to do them after lunch. If I feel like we really do need to stop for the day, I’ll try and work those readings into a later week.
And that’s what it all looks like now! Over the last five years, I’ve tried to remain flexible and fluid and change things as we go, but this is the process I use right now to plan our weeks, and it works very well for us!