Tag Archives: Year 0

How We Do…Schedules

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! 😉

How We Do…Art

Kid Uno has been an artist since birth. Even coloring was a social, collaberative experience for her when she was little. “Want to color with me?” Supporting her growth in art is an ongoing learning experience for me. My creative interests lean more toward tie dye, construction, and sewing with salvaged fabric. Hers are more fine art–ballet, classical music, satin and silk, paper dolls, and stacks and stacks of drawings, paintings, collages….I feel a bit out of my element, but Charlotte Mason includes picture study and handicrafts, so that gives me a bit of a framework. And one benefit of homeschooling is that you can tailor a child’s education, so I decided to beef up the art department as much as possible for Kid Uno. I have freely questioned kind uncles and aunts who have far more expertise than I in art and music. They been very helpful in giving me ideas about what supplies to purchase and how to encourage her. And I read an awesome (for me) book last year called The Art of Teaching Art to Childrenwhich I need to review. For someone with a great art background, it’s probably not too helpful, but for me it was great because the author covered several areas about which I am clueless (clay, printmaking…) and then broke it down step by step from planning to cleaning up. I was inspired to buy a Sculpey type clay, and then it sat in the cabinet for weeks, until we had free morning when all the stars and planets aligned. All four of the older kids (including my then two-year old) spent TWO solid hours at the table making clay tea sets!  And now they play with them in their treehouse.

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Uno (age 8) with colored pencils

My approach to art is two-pronged: creation and appreciation. They kind of go together. If you have some skill and exposure, you can create better, and if you understand the process of creating, you are more appreciative of other people’s art. So my goals for art education are providing the kids with materials that are enjoyable to work with and don’t frustrate them, providing them with time and space to create (and being generally tolerant of the mess), providing some opportunities to see art (whether Rembrandt at the National Gallery or fancy dresses at the mall or early pioneers’ handmade tools in a tiny rural museum), and providing them with basic skills in observing, drawing, photographing, sewing, sculpting, etc.

Here’s how we do art appreciation: In Year 0, we use A Child’s Book of Art: Great Pictures – First Words. I have her (Kid Dos right now) look at a painting closely for a few minutes. Then I take away the book, and she describes what she remembers. This is so she can learn to observe closely, to remember, and to translate a visual into words. Then we talk about the painting. Some days I’ll ask questions such as: Where is the light coming from? What is the first thing you notice when you see this painting? What kind of brushstrokes did the painter use? What season is it? What shapes did the artist use? What mood is that person feeling? Do you like this painting? How is this art like that other art? What kind of paint is that? How much of the canvas did the artist fill?

Then starting in Year 1, I pick three artists per year, buy a coffee table book of his/her art, and we spend twelve weeks on a single artist. Usually once a week, sometimes twice. Same process as Year 0. I think Ambleside Online has an ongoing list of artists each year. I just picked artist who I thought Kid Uno would like, I thought I would like, or we already owned a book. So that is picture study. I’d like to do more real-life art appreciation–when we lived in DC, we sometimes went to museums, but the kids were pretty young then. And the National Gallery of Art is the worst place I know of to take babies. Now that we are back in SLC, I’m slowly finding out about museums here, and cultural displays and things, but haven’t made much effort to actually get there 😦 Maybe this year. We have been to some ballets, though, and I think some concerts. So that’s something.

Now for creating art. One priority when we moved into this house was to round up a good variety of quality supplies, keep them near the kitchen for easy clean up, and put some things low so the kids have access them without help (and other things high, so they have to ask permission for play doh and paints!). That has worked out well. I also have a half-baked plan of doing a special project with all the kids, maybe monthly (like the clay). That hasn’t been so smooth, mostly because I have to be in just the right frame of mind to spend an entire morning intentionally making a mess, and then the next three days cleaning up the remnants! But I have some things in the works–needle felting, more clay, paper mache, plaster of paris, tree branch weaving…In the meantime, they all use reams of paper (for drawing, coloring, and cutting), love play doh, frequently use watercolors, use a paint program on the computer, take photos of the floor and walls with our old camera, build things all over the house and yard…there is no shortage of handicrafts around here!

Besides that, we use Drawing Textbook daily (one drawing per day), and I assign an art project every week or every other week. For Year 1, we used The Usborne Art Treasury which I was very impressed with. For Year 2, I got the Scott Foresman Art books starting in Grade 1. They seem pretty good, though maybe a bit heavy on the cut/paste/color type projects–less variety than the Usborne book. The Drawing Textbook is surprising good, IMO. Not at all flash, but it starts out with very basic elements of drawing and slowly works up to complex, multi-dimensional drawing (of objects). It fits well with the concept of short lessons, but it builds little by little. It has been interesting to see its effect on Kid Uno’s personal drawings–her perspective and scale have developed a great deal over the last year and a half. She’s getting close to the end; I’m going to look into some figure and costume drawing next, since she constantly draws beautiful ladies in fancy clothes.

Besides that, the older two took a four week art class, and they love watching Youtube art instruction videos. They’ve both gotten some great art kits and supplies as gifts from friends and relatives. And they go through phases: paper dolls for several weeks, then a sewing project, then snowflake cutting, then weaving potholders, then whittling arrows. I’m looking forward to them getting older and more independent, since there is so much creative stuff they can do on their own! I will try to expose them to as much variety as possible, and then if they are super-interested in something (jewelry making, for instance) I will probably outsource at some point. And there’s always Youtube!

How We Do….Books for Babies

We love babies here (obviously) 🙂

And we love books…so here is a short list of books, many of which have lasted from Kid Uno to Kid Cinco. That means books we can stand reading over, and over, and over. And they generally have nice illustrations. Most of these come as board books. Some other time I’ll post our favorite non-board books (for little kids).

First, some authors:

anything by Iza Trapani

anything by Sylvia Long

anything by Maurice Pledger

anything by Eloise Wilkin (if you don’t like 1940s culture, you may not like these)

many by Karen Katz

many by Cyndy Szekeres

Hop on Pop, Dr. Suess’s ABC, and Mr. Brown Can Moo by Dr. Seuss

some Corduroy books

some Curious George books

the Carl books (our kids love these; DH and I not so much. They are mostly wordless, so you have to make up the story)

a few by Sandra Boynton

And some titles:


Chicka Chicka ABC

The Napping House

Pat the Bunny

Wheels on the Bus

I Went Walking

Clap Your Hands

Five Little Ladybugs

Buzz-Buzz Busy Bees

Five Little Monkeys

(those last three don’t have much of a story, but the kids love the rhyming and counting)


So if you have a little (or big) baby who needs some little books, maybe these could be a beginning. But don’t pay full price! They are cheap used if you get ’em online, and I’ve seen lots of them at thrift stores and garage sales and library sales. If you have any favorites not on this list, let me know…board books are quick reads, so I’m always looking for new ones.