It’s important to have a good homeschool plan in place before the term starts and to have it easily accessible.
Homeschool Planning For Success
One of the best things about a gentle approach and relaxed homeschooling method is the ability to finish morning basket time and table time topics by noon.
The afternoons are reserved for drawing, handicrafts, free reading, and out of door time.
This also happens to be one of the most challenging aspects to homeschooling at times.
The desire to be finished by noon and yet offer such a rich and diverse curriculum can be taxing.
Over the years, I have learned a few things that have helped me to be a consistent homeschool mom and have our lessons finished by noon.
- Short Lessons
- Loop Scheduling
- A Good Homeschool Planner
The first key to a successful and consistent homeschool morning is to keep the lessons short. Short lessons will hold a child’s attention and allow him to fully engage in the topic at hand. Isn’t it true of us as well? Most of us begin to drift in thought after about 20 minutes.
“You want the child to remember? Then secure his whole attention, the fixed gaze of his mind as it were, upon the fact to be remembered; then he will have it: by a sort of photographic (!) process, that fact or idea is ‘taken’ by his brain, and when he is an old man, perhaps, the memory of it will flash across him.”Charlotte Mason, Home Education, p. 156-157
For many years, I resisted this truth in narrations, and my children suffered for it. It goes against my grain when we don’t “finish the chapter” or “section” or whatever I have written in the lesson planner.
In fact, this is why it is so important to think through this when making your homeschool plans and not over schedule your days.
When I, at last, conceded to the wisdom of Charlotte Mason on this, I fell in love with it. It was true! My kids could learn in short bursts and retain what they learned. Better still, so could I!
In fact, it is my ongoing goal to increase my own personal reading using the same method. You would be surprised how much you can accomplish and read by setting aside a short reading period of 30 minutes to read three books across multiple genres. It can also be very rewarding.
You have to keep short lessons and loop scheduling in mind when you are choosing your page selections for each subject when homeschool planning.
It is more important that you keep the reading assignments shorter and allow more time for narrations. Even if you use a boxed curriculum, I recommend you be realistic with your planning. I’ve been known to turn a week’s lessons into two weeks or even three in order to keep it to my time table.
If you examine the Time-Tables that Charlotte Mason used in her schools, you will see that in most subjects, students were only assigned 30-40 pp. for an ENTIRE TERM.
For example, in their British History lesson (our students would have American history in the early elementary years), they were assigned from Our Island Story pp. 94-140 for the entire term. The students take history 2 times per week and a term represents approximately 12 weeks with a 13th week reserved for exams. Doing the math on that works out like this.
Our Island Story pp. 94-140
140-94=46 pp to be read over 12 weeks at 2x per week
46 pp/(12×2)= ~2 pp. per lesson
As you can see the, this is 2 pages per lesson. That’s only 4 pages for the week. It is important to keep this in mind when planning your curriculum.
The entire reading and narration should be short, no more than 20 minutes with the bulk of the time allowed for the narration, not the reading. Even if you don’t finish the 2 pages assigned in said lesson, stop reading after 5-7 minutes and let the child tell you back what you have just read. This is known as narration.
A good rule of thumb is that a 20 minute lesson should be NO MORE THAN 5-7 MIN OF READING, maybe less for a child who is just learning to narrate!
I generally try to operate with a ⅓ reading to ⅔ narrating ratio.
Also, it is ok, I repeat, OK, if you don’t complete an assigned lesson when the timer goes off.
RESIST THE URGE TO PERSIST!
Just move on to the next lesson and pick back up where you left off last time.
Afterthoughts Blog has some more great secrets on Scheduling for Peace which I find greatly encouraging and helpful in thinking about how to set up our morning and use short lessons.
The second thing that helps achieve a peaceful, consistent, homeschool is a loop schedule. If you add up the subjects listed by Mason for a Form 1 student (That’s what she calls students between the ages of 6 and 9 years), you will see that they are covering between 9 and 13 subjects. Some of these subjects are every day, while others are only once per week, two times per week, or perhaps 3 times per week.
When creating your schedule, you need to determine which subjects you will do on which days. In addition to that, I add in chore time before and after our school time so you may wish to allow for that as well.
We achieve this by looping the schedule. The only subjects which are covered every day are:
- Reading Lessons
No matter what you wish to achieve in a given term, your schedule should be planned in such a way that you always finish before noon. If you will stick to the allotted times for each subject (I use a timer like this monkey timer. Kids love this!), then you will have no trouble.
If you would like to see a sample of what our typical morning looks like, you can get a copy of it by signing up for our newsletter. As a subscriber, you will also receive more tips on how to create this atmosphere of learning and how to achieve a peaceful and gentle learning style in your homeschool.
A Well Thought Out Homeschool Plan
Along with having a good homeschool plan comes keeping things organized and all in one place. The first few years, I was always having to dig out my plans or resources, hunt down a book, or dig up a website I had read about and jotted down on a piece of paper.
I fully admit that I am a work in progress when it comes to being organized and our homeschool day is no different.
If you haven’t read about how I found the Charlotte Mason approach, left it, and then came back again, read How To Achieve Homeschool Success Every Day.
Pay particular attention to my story under the section titled, For The Children’s Sake.
When you have little ones in the house while you homeschool, you quickly learn every second counts so eliminating the time you take to hunt for things can dramatically improve your homeschool day.
We have devised a crate system for each child as well as what we call a “weekly box” (not pictured) for the things on our loop schedule.
The system “ideally” goes like this:
Every child has their own crate.
Every child has their own lesson plans (copies of the ones in my homeschool planner) printed out and put into a binder. [Incidentally, I also keep their daily chores in this binder, but that is a post for another day :)].
At the end of the morning, while I prepare lunch, the children check their schedule for the next day and pack their boxes. Anything that was on the loop schedule goes in the weekly box and will be retrieved when it is on the schedule again.
This has helped tremendously in decreasing the amount of time it takes to “get ready” for each of the subject changes.
The Busy Mom’s Homeschool Planner Bundle
In an effort to help you get your homeschool schedule organized as well as your life, I created The Busy Mom’s Homeschool Planner Bundle. It’s called a bundle because in includes 4 planners in 1.
- The Gentle Learning Homeschool Helper Life Planner & Bible Reading Plans
- The Gentle Learning Homeschool Helper Menu Plans
- The Gentle Learning Homeschool Helper Lesson Planner
- The Gentle Learning Homeschool Helper Term Exam Planning Note Pages
In, How Shall We Homeschool, and in Homeschool Success, I discuss the need to get yourself ready, mentally and spiritually. I have found that if I follow the same principles in my daily life that I follow in our homeschool, then my day goes smoother. What principles are those? Charlotte Mason says,
“Of the three sorts of knowledge proper to a child,—-the knowledge of God, of man, and of the universe,—-the knowledge of God ranks first in importance, is indispensable, and most happy-making”Charlotte Mason, A Philosophy of Education
Clearly this principle is true for more than just the children so The Busy Mom’s Homeschool Helper includes a 12 month Bible Reading plan to help you spend time with God first.
Additionally, I have found that keeping your plans for other daily activities at a glance along with your homeschool schedule can help as you go throughout your morning to stay organized.
Instead of trying to remember later that grocery item you noticed missing as you were preparing the kids’ morning snack, you can simply grab your planner and jot it down on the grocery list sheet. You will also find sheets for weekly, monthly, and daily menu planning as well as blank calendars for jotting down appointments that may arise which you can take time to enter into your phone after school is over.
If you can glance at a daily or weekly schedule, have a place to jot down grocery lists as you notice things you are out of, and keep notes for exam questions while the kids narrate, then you have all that you need in once place.
The other principles I have begun using in my daily life include the concept of the short lessons by keeping my reading sessions to 30 minutes and spreading that over 2-3 books. And, of course, being out of doors whenever we can either at home or on the road.