I like to plan…It’s so much prettier and more perfect than actually implementing the lessons 🙂 It goes in spurts–there’s no set time I spend planning. I just get in the mood and start working on the future. It’s fun to change things till they fit us just right. The Ambleside Online schedules for each grade are my framework. We school year-round, with a couple weeks off here and there (for camping, for out-of-town visits, for vacations, for new babies, for spring fever). In theory, I’d like to accomplish the bulk of our academic stuff between November and April, when the weather here is not as nice, and we spend more time indoors than outdoors. The AO schedules are based on a 36 week school year (broken into three twelve week terms), plus one week of exams at the end of each term. So I round up to 40 weeks of school, and 12 weeks off. Our state requires no reporting, so we basically have complete freedom in the scheduling department. We can also teach whatever subjects we want, when we want, which is nice! And the compulsory education ages are 6 to 18, although there are so many exemptions for 16 year olds, I kinda look at it as 6 to 16. Which means I need to plan 50 years of education…so far 😉
For grade levels, we consider the kids to be whatever they would be at the local public school. So Kid Uno (age 8) is 2nd grade, Kid Dos (age 6) is Kindergarten, and so on. But their personal new school years start on their half birthdays (or a bit later). So Kid Uno started AO Year 1 when she turned 6.5, and Kid Dos is still Year 0. I try to get to a good stopping place in their schedules before we take time off, especially if it will be several weeks off, but I can see that getting complicated as we have more kids moving up into school age. Unless there are unforeseen issues, we will always have a kid in alternating years (so next year the three older ones will be Year 3, Year 1, and Year 0).
I’m thinking about combining them when possible, but I also think one of the great advantages of homeschooling is that kids can work at a very individual level. Some things–some readings, singing, and memorizing–could be easy to do together (in Year 1 and 3).
OK, now for the actual scheduling. For Year 1, I used the AO Year 1 Schedule pretty much as is, while adding and dropping a couple things. Then I printed and stapled each term. Every day, when we completed something, I marked it off (or wrote in the box), and sometimes added notes on the bottom. Not very hi tech but it worked great for me. When I plan Year 1 for Kid Dos , I will be making a lot more changes. It seemed like the readings weren’t spread out very evenly, and next time I can adjust that. For example, the D’aulaire and Holling books need to be sped up. And I will be treating a week of camp at a working farm as part of nature study. And so on.
For Year 2, I made several more changes, and the subject categories were very different in my head from AO’s. So I used the AO Year 2 Schedule with a lot of modifications. Actually DH did most of the formatting, since his skills are far more up to date than mine. This year I had a much better idea of how long certain readings and projects would take, and the weekly flow has felt much smoother than last year.
For Year 3 (it’s only in my head so far), I think we will be departing quite a bit from AO’s schedule, and somewhat from the booklist. Mainly in science and history. I’m feeling much more confident in knowing what materials are available, what is important for our family, what our kids’ interests are…and I’ve bought lots of books I’m more excited about using than some of the AO selections. 🙂 I feel like I have a good handle on how to do Charlotte Mason without being married to the AO way. So I can use it as a starting point, and then tweak it. And after completing a couple years, it’s getting easier to just choose a book, decide how long it should take, and divide up the chapters or pages or whatever into weekly readings. Or to look beyond books, and recognize a birthday origami kit as a handicraft, or raising bunnies and chicks as nature study, or future violin lessons as part of music appreciation.
I don’t really schedule Year 0. I print the Sonlight P4/5 book list, highlight the ones I like, and cross them off as we read them. Same for the Five in a Row booklists. And once the child is age six , I aim for 3-4 days per week of reading, writing, and arithmetic, plus lots of reading aloud, time outside, music, playing with friends…just regular family life.
in a nutshell, my scheduling method is
- Pick the books, projects, activities, DVDs, or whatever else I want to use for a year
- Divide them into three terms
- Divide into weeks
- Check them off as we go along
That way, I never really feel like we are behind; if we take time off, or miss a day, we just pick up where we left off. There’s no daily schedule. I like trimesters better than semesters or quarters. Enough variety, but enough time to get into a groove.
Oh, and I use the exam questions (modified to fit us), and DH spends 2-3 days or evenings administering the exam to Kid Uno at the end of each term. He records the answers, and I eavesdrop a bit; it’s entertaining! I like having him do it–it’s a bit of a safety net in case there is some huge gap or misunderstanding or weakness somewhere that I might have missed–he can alert me to it.
These two blogs have some helpful posts on scheduling:
And it’s been very helpful to me to hash things out with a good friend whose kids are in the same year, and to bounce ideas off DH and my mom when I’m changing things around.
So that’s my rather anal box-checking scheduling…sometimes I wish I could just grab random books and say “Read this”…but I really like those nice little spreadsheets with things crossed off….it feels like such an accomplishment at the end of a week! 😉