Nicole Williams, who blogs at Sabbath Mood Homeschool, gave what was, for me, a life-changing presentation on how to set a schedule for our homeschool that fits within Charlotte Mason's principles of short lessons and living books. Now, I'm pretty good with living books. The problem is there are so many excellent books, it can be hard to keep the list to a reasonable number. Also, the expectations of what "school" should look like in our society today are vastly different than what Charlotte Mason advocated, and it's all too easy to slide into doing "just one more thing" or feeling like children should be making more progress in math simply because they are not keeping up with the schedule someone else has dictated for their age or grade level.
Here is what I learned: It is more important to keep lessons short, within the timeframe set by Miss Mason, than it is to finish every book.
What does this mean for my family?
Firstly, it means letting go of the expectations I have in my mind for what we should be able to accomplish. That's a hard one for me, but as I look back over the years of our homeschooling, it's probably what's caused the most stress for me. In fact, I can say that it impeded progress in many areas because there were too MANY things to do and I didn't know how to cut back - or even that I could, and needed to, for the sake of my learners.
Secondly, it means taking a careful look at the schedules used in a CM school, and seeing how those can be adapted to our homeschool. In Nicole's conference session, she talked about a couple of things that were significant to me. She noted that CM schools were in session for 6 days per week, because at that time, parents worked 6 days per week. In our society, Monday-Friday is the norm, and she encouraged us to keep to that - although she mentioned that a 4-day schedule would NOT be enough. She cautioned us against trying to fit the Saturday time slots into a Monday-Friday schedule, too, because that would make the days too long. You can see examples of PNEU schedules on Ambleside Online here.
Thirdly, it means that we will be more intentional about our Masterly Inactivity time in the afternoons. Nicole pointed out to us that there are no slots on the time tables for picture study, composer study, or nature study, just to name a few, but we know those things were just as important as the rest of the subjects.
I'll be sharing more about our scheduling process as I go.
- Nicole shared her planning documents from the conference talk in this blog post
- Nicole is also writing a series on Preparing a CM Schedule
- Read Christy Hissong's guest post on Afterthoughts on Scheduling for Peace
- Ambleside Online has PNEU programmes you can see for an idea of what students studied in Mason schools
- If you're REALLY excited about all this and want to do even more research, check out the Charlotte Mason Digital Collection, hosted by Redeemer University!