Tag Archives: planning

Helpful Changes

Last year I made a few changes which helped me streamline as I’m adding children, but not hours, to my life.

  1. Instead of scheduling a 36 week school year, plus 3 weeks of exams, I scheduled a 30 week school year. Each 10 week term is divided in half with a “project week” and ends with an exam week. I added the project week because I always have ideas for fun activities and outings during the year, but in my head they take away from “school” days and put us “behind” so it’s hard for me to actually take the time to do them. By scheduling a week for activities, it helps legitimize the activities in my head. It’s mostly a mental thing for me, but it gave me more freedom this year. We did a big collaborative painting one week. We went to the zoo and a museum several times…and didn’t do school when we got home. The last term, we shipped Kids Tres and Cuatro off to their FL grandparents and they had a 10 day project week of kayaking, swimming, fishing, making slime, building styrofoam boats, having tea parties, playing at the beach, and launching rockets. Kids Uno and Dos had less fun–they spent their week helping me with some organizing and cleaning, but they did a lot of reading, some weaving on a new loom, and going to 7-ll for Slurpees. 🙂 Exams don’t take us a full week, but scheduling a week for them gives me more mental flexibility. As far as planning…books and curricula divide just as nicely by 30 as they do by 36. Imagine that! Overall, decreasing my school year by 6 weeks eased a lot of pressure on me to fit everything in, so I’m keeping that schedule for next year.
  2. I started the year with 4 kids using Ray’s Primary, Intellectual, and Practical Math as their main math curriculum, supplemented by Miquon, Strayor-Upton, and a couple living math books. Within a week or so, I was going nuts trying to keep over a dozen math balls in the air. And the teacher key for Ray’s is horribly incomplete; instead of just being able to flip a page and check the kids’ work, I frequently had to work the problems myself because the answer was not in the key. I just do not have time for that! So I ended up putting the Year 3 and 5 students in Strayor-Upton (which is written to the student and has a full answer key), supplemented by Miquon or living books twice a week and doing Ray’s Intellectual orally twice a week (to keep up their mental math skills). The Year 2 and Year .5 still did Ray’s Primary or Practical with me every day since their math is still all oral. But I limited their lessons to 10-15 minutes daily, which kept my time very manageable, and kept them alert through the whole lesson. The Year 2 also had Miquon 2 days a week, and I Love Math weekly. So the math year ended much less frantically than it began. I’m definitely keeping that format for next year.
  3. The other positive change was how I laid out the schedules for each term. Luke kindly reformatted them for me so they are easier to read (his word processing skills are much more current than mine). And instead of scheduling every single box to check every day or week, we made some more open-ended boxes. That gave my box-checking mind more breathing room. As I plan 2018, I think I’ll use even more open-ended schedules (more logging and less scheduling). I feel like we have a good handle on a Charlotte Mason lifestyle (outdoor time, nature study, art, music, living books and things, practical skills, etc.) and instead of planning everything in advance, I can just fill things in as we do them as part of life. Serendipity meets Type A, or something like that. 🙂
  4. Finally, in looking for other ways to streamline, I calculated that I spend about 20 minutes each night writing next-day lists for 4 kids. I think I can get that down to 5-10 minutes if I template a to-do list, print it, and fill in the relevant bits for each kid. As much as I love lists, I’d rather spend less time writing them…and more time blogging about them 😉

Kid Uno’s Year 4 Course of Study

Here’s what I planned for Kid Uno:

She will be almost totally independent this year, although I may read something aloud with her because she and I both enjoy it, and it would be sad to give that up completely. We are waiting till next year to begin Plutarch, and probably two more years for Latin (I want to cover some English grammar first). (??) means I’m still waffling among options:)

Bible/Spiritual Reading: She reads and does oral narration

Joshua, Judges, Mark

The Great Divorce (??): We could read 4 pp. per week and discuss this together. It might be a good fit for her spiritual journey. It’s written in first person, which Kid Uno hates, so that might be a drawback.

Memorize and Recite one Bible passage per term

History/Biographies/Geography/Cultures: Theme for the year is world history and geography with a focus on exploration. She will read, map, and write narrations. I help her enter people and events on her timeline every three weeks–she’ll start either a Book of Centuries or a new timeline this year.

Our Island Story: Finish reading the book with written narrations for each chapter.

Builders of the Old World, Medieval Days and Ways, Makers of the Americas: We spent the last two years covering world history by me reading aloud from CHOW. This year she will cover most of world history by reading these three books herself. They include a fair amount of social history, which is more engaging to her than battles and politics. There are some good discussion questions at the end of each section. I would like to move away from narrations which are mainly re-tellings (who, where, what) and move toward deeper discussions of why, how, and ought.

Landmark and other biographies about Vikings, Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta, Zheng He, Columbus, Balboa, Magellan, Cortez, Pizarro, Raleigh, Hudson , Cook, Livingston, Perry, Amundsen/Scott ??, Himalayas [Everest].She’ll spend 2-3 weeks reading each book, filling in blank maps of their journeys, and writing a brief narration at the end of each book. I’d also like to supplement with some travel or cultural documentaries so she can see the places she’s reading about, but I may wait till next year when she reads Halliburton’s Marvels. Instead, I might assign her Maya Quest and Africatrek since they are short but vivid.

Nature Study/Science: This year, I am revamping how we use Building Foundations of Scientific Understanding. I used volume two to organize Kid Uno’s science readings. These are mostly books from the Let’s Read and Find Out series. I may also use some books from the All About… series or the First Book of …. series, which are a little more (or a lot, depending on the book) advanced. The Body and Building books also tie into these themes. We will read, and discuss (rather than narrate), and I hope to incorporate projects, experiences, and some documentaries. We may do some of this with another family.

BFSU Topics for this year: Term 1–How Things Fly; Center of Gravitiy, Balance, Wobbling Wheels; Energy in Motion: Momentum and Waves; Mechanics: Levers and Discovery of Underlying Principle; Inclined Planes, Pulleys, Gears, and Hydraulic Lifts   Term 2–Electricity: Electric Circuits, Switches, Conductors, Non-conductors; Static Electricity, Sparks, Lighting; Parallel and Series Circuits, Fuses, Ground Wires, Light: Basics of Light and Seeing  Term 3–Cells, Microscopes, Observation of Tissues, Cell Theory; Cell Growth, Division, Differentiation, Introduction to Reproduction; Integrating Cells and Whole-body Functions; Cause and Effects of Seasonal Changes; Water Cycle and Its Ramifications

The Human Body : this is a great age to study some anatomy! She will read one chapter per week, and narrate or discuss.

Ultimate Building Book: a lot of this ties in with BFSU, so she will read and discuss. There are plenty of projects to do, so this will be one of her art options.

Nature Journal: draw assigned topic every week. I’ll probably line up the topics with BFSU  or outdoor explorations as much as possible

Literature: read and narrate orally or with drawings

Shakespeare: I’m still waffling. Leaning toward watching one play per term. But maybe listening to the audio. Or both?? We are not going to actually read them yet (although I have the Complete Works so if she listens to the audio she could follow along).

Mythology: probably Bullfinch, according to the AO schedule. Although I also have Hamilton, which looks like easier reading.

Gilgamesh trilogy: these are short and easy, and will be scheduled at the same time she’s reading about the ancient world.

Arabian Nights: These are scheduled while she’s reading Medieval Days and Ways, and after Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta

Robinson Crusoe

Treasure Island

Short Stories: one per week during Term 3. Rip Van Winkle, Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, To Build a Fire, Thank You, Ma’am, Gift of the Magi, Gold Bug, Tell-tale Heart, Lady or the Tiger, Three Questions, Sound of Thunder, Fun They Had. These might be good read alouds to do together. I might introduce a bit of literary analysis.

Poetry: read aloud together daily, one poet per term, memorize and recite one poem per term

Tennyson, Dickinson, Paterson and/or Lawson


Ray’s Intellectual, Practical, and Test–daily: Mostly fractions this year. I explain, assign, and check her work.

Strayer Upton Red book: second half. Probably alternate with Ray’s

Miquon–2-3x per week; she can do this mostly independently and will finish the series this year


McGuffey’s Fourth Reader: she reads aloud to me 2x per week

Non-fiction: she does not love reading fiction (prefers fiction), so I will have her choose one book from several non-fiction options to complete about every four weeks


Prepared Dictation: this will be our first year, so I’m not sure how it will look. I think I will choose a literature passage, she will read it, then study it, then I will dictate it to her and she will copy it from memory. All that is spread over 4-5 days. I may do dictation one week, and grammar the next.

Grammar: this will be her first year with formal grammar, and she’ll start at the beginning of Rod&Staff 5. It  is very thorough, so I won’t assign everything. I’ll probably alternate grammar weekly with dictation, or daily with handwriting.

Handwriting: Pentime Grade 7, then 8. When she finishes those books, she can begin keyboarding.


Drawing: She will pick an area to practice and do a bit daily. Probably fashion drawing, though I haven’t found a good book yet.

Art Project: Alternate between Private Eye and Ultimate Building Book every four weeks. I want to emphasize continuity, and working at something over a period of time.

Handicraft/Skill: work on a project or skill every week. I have a feeling cooking/baking will continue as a favorite 😉

Picture Study: one artist per term, one painting each week, Leonardo da Vinci, and two others ??


Violin Lessons: weekly

Hymn (T): three hymns/worship songs each term, sung together 2-3x per week

Appreciation: 3 genres ?? per term to listen to 2-3x per week

Sport/Physical Activity: probably weekly, depending on her interests this year. Probably ballet.

Foreign Language: Duolingo languages of her choice or Salsa Spanish (T) episodes, a little bit every week.

Outdoor Exploration: at least monthly. This is usually a family activity, like camping or playing in a stream or visiting a farm or zoo…

Cultural Event: at least monthly. This is usually a family activity like attending a ballet or concert, visiting a museum or art show…

Service:at least monthly. This is usually a family activity like community service with our church, doing something kind for a neighbor, visiting a nursing home…

And that is….a lot! We’ll see how it turns out.

Here’s what Kid Uno and I thought of how it actually  turned out:


A Helpful Resource for Scheduling

I came across these printable Subjects by Form charts at A Delectable Education, and I really like them! They’ve done all the work of deciphering what Charlotte Mason’s students did each year, but without the constriction of listing specific books. I find them much easier to use than Ambleside’s schedules where I have to look at each book and try to figure out why it is scheduled that year, and for what purpose it is assigned. I’m pretty comfortable picking my own books now, and these charts provide a nice framework for putting it all together. Anyway, I’ll be using them as I plan next year, and thought I’d link to them in case anyone else finds them useful.