Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Homeschool Planning Thoughts (way) after the Feast of Our Lady of Good Counsel, 2016 Edition

This is the fourth year I've prayed the Novena in honor of Our Lady of Good Counsel, asking specifically for wisdom and guidance as I consider our next school year.   Each year I've found this an excellent and clarifying experience, and it has become an essential part of my homeschool planning process.

This April was a particularly busy one for me as I planned and helped lead a retreat, finished the spring Shakespeare session, had my work-from-home husband away for a conference, and prepared for and traveled to a family wedding.  I still diligently prayed the novena, but I didn't feel like I had time to process what God was telling me during this time.

As I continued to consider this experience over the last few months, the message gradually became clearer and clearer, and as I re-read what I wrote last year and the year before, I can see how it fits into the continuum of what I have learned before.  The phrase that kept coming into my mind was the idea that "education consists of books and things".

Now the word "things" is not particularly profound, and it is both vague and encompassing.  I've heard Sonya Shafer talk about this idea, and I think that's why this particular phrase kept coming back to mind.  We've certainly improved over where we were a couple years ago, but there is still room for improvement.  For example, my kids could be more physically fit and active. There's also more work we should be doing with our readings beyond narration, and we should be making more of an effort to do that.

In considering how to move forward, I realized that a couple things needed to change.  I needed to figure out how to free up more time in my children's day so they could have that ample free time that the students in Charlotte Mason's schools had, and I needed to figure out how to maximize the work they were doing in each of their lessons so we can get the most out of our books and other work.  It is easy to get stuck in the read and narrate rut, and pass over the other sorts of work the students in the Charlotte Mason paradigm are supposed to do as well.  Narration is certainly the cornerstone of the child's work, but it is not the only work she expected from the students.

Studying my Form 1 and Form 2 schedules to make sure I wasn't double-booking myself and trying to make sure it all made sense.

In the end, and after re-listening to a number of the Delectable Education podcasts and re-reading Nicole William's scheduling series, I decided to move to a completely schedule based system.  My books would be picked such that they filled the blocks of time I have set out for the different subjects, and if the book didn't fit into that block, then it would move to the free reading shelf or it wouldn't get used at all.  I believe this will keep me from that subtle booklist and activity creep that gradually makes the day longer and longer.  I'm so good at thinking, "oh, why just do this twice a week?  Let's  do it every day!"  Or, "this would be a great book to add, why not add this one in too?  It is just one more book..."  The scheduling cards from A Delectable Education were extremely helpful with this endeavor.  There was something about working with physical cards that made the process much easier, more creative and actually even enjoyable.

The other piece of the puzzle is procedure lists.  I need to communicate clearly what I expect from my children in the course of their lessons.  And I need to have a clear idea of that myself!  We need to move beyond a simple read and narrate model, which is all we had time for (barely!) when we had so many books.  We'll still have that wide and varied curriculum that Charlotte Mason's philosophy is so known for, but I anticipate fewer assigned books in our core school time and more books on the free reading shelf and sprinkled throughout our week.


  1. i'd never come across those cards. thanks for sharing that you found them helpful

    1. Yes, there are pretty new - I think they just came out in June. I wasn't sure about them at first, but after using them I am so glad I decided to buy them.

  2. Oh dear, I tend to be this way, too! I'm so good at thinking, "oh, why just do this twice a week? Let's do it every day!"