Sunday, September 06, 2009

How One CM Homeschooler Stays Organized

I am not one of those "school in a box" homeschoolers nor do we use workboxes. In the Barbie-pink crate are the books we are reading and the myriad of folders for each subject that hold graphic organizers, narrations, notes, math materials, printed out stories and poems, etc. I prefer pronged folders over three-ringed notebooks because paper doesn't tear out as easily. Since Pamela loves going through her old materials many years later, pocket-only folders do not work for us either.

Over the weekend, I type up the weekly plan in Excel and print it out. I also prepare graphic organizers, math manipulatives, etc. if time permits. Pamela, like her dear daddy, gets jazzed about marking off items as she goes and picks the order in which she does her work. She is quite the doodler, too.

Charlotte Mason considered a schedule one of the sound principles of a well-managed homeschool. Students need to know what they need to do and how long each lesson should last. On page 142 of Volume 1, she explained, "This idea of definite work to be finished in a given time is valuable to the child, not only as training him in habits of order, but in diligence; he learns that one time is not 'as good as another'; that there is no right time left for what is not done in its own time." To emphasize that point, I have a stopwatch to keep us from taking too long on a lesson.

Since things do not always go according to plan, on the weekend, I revise the list from the previous week to document what we actually accomplished. Then, I print out a clean copy and file it in a folder, pronged, of course.

You may look at our schedule and think we must spend every waking hour homeschooling! We do not.

Last week, we worked about four hours every day, doing the majority of the work in the morning. What we do is the antithesis of block schooling, which is all the rage in the schools in my town (four classes per semester, each class earning a year's worth of credit). We have very short lessons on wide and varied subjects, just as Charlotte Mason did at her schools. On page 286 of her third book, she stated that students aged elevenish to fifteenish spent 3 1/2 hours a day, using thirty-five books, to cover Bible lessons, recitations, English grammar, French, German, Latin, Italian (optional), English, French, and Ancient History (a la Plutarch's Lives), Singing (French, English, and German Songs), Writing, Dictation, Drill, Drawing in Brush and Charcoal, Natural History, Botany, Physiology, Geography, Arithmetic, Geometry, and Reading.

The secret to so many subjects is having short lessons. Notice that reading a poem only takes five minutes on my schedule. Most lessons are twenty minutes or less, even math because I have three twenty minute math lessons (Geometry, Algebra/Arithmetic, and Number Theory). Charlotted Mason recommended short lessons for reasons beyond having a wide and varied curriculum on page 142 of Volume 1,
  • The sense that there is not much time for his sums or his reading, keeps the child's wits on the alert and helps to fix his attention.
  • He has time to learn just so much of any one subject as it is good for him to take in at once.
  • If the lessons be judiciously alternated––sums first, say, while the brain is quite fresh; then writing, or reading––some more or less mechanical exercise, by way of a rest.
  • The program varying a little from day to day, but the same principle throughout––a 'thinking' lesson first, and a 'painstaking' lesson to follow,––the child gets through his morning lessons without any sign of weariness.

They had no homework!

Neither do we! If Pamela finishes everything up by Friday, she has no work on weekends and holidays. Charlotte Mason held classes on Saturday mornings, so our days last a bit longer. I find no need to dole out rewards or stickers because of one lovely, natural consequence: Pamela has more time to do what she enjoys doing, whether that be rocking on the porch rockers, using the computer, playing with her toys, making calendar lists, etc.


Jennie said...

Thanks for sharing, Tammy! We use a big basket for all our books!! I like the idea of pronged folders because we always have a problem with the notebooks! My youngest is homeschooling this year for the first time. She's a junior and is finishing in 2 1/2-3 hours. We are starting slowly and then each week I add a new assignment. So far, so good. Sounds like you are having a great year. Blessings!

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Thanks for sharing this! We do a lot of stuff from prepackaged curriculum so that my lesson planning is easier, but the same principle applies.

Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

Thanks for sharing this! We do a lot of stuff from prepackaged curriculum so that my lesson planning is easier, but the same principle applies.

Penny said...

Thanks for posting this -- it's incredibly helpful for me in terms of framing.

Donna said...

I am still trying to figure out our grove. Got the schedule (thanks to ambleside online) but still trying to figure out WHERE to keep it all. I like the crate...I'm a simple girl! Thanks for sharing Tammy!

Susan said...

I really needed to read this. You've shown me the error of my ways in thinking that my kids don't really need to have school pre-planned by time. I've shied away from using a timed schedule in the past due to the lesson always seeming to take longer than I'd planned on. But, I can really see your points about the importance of our children/students knowing that there is an endpoint for getting their work done. Thanks! Off to change my ways now...

walking said...

It took us many years to find our grove, too.

Susan, as we all know, CM was big about everyone learning to accept or reject ideas . . . I am glad to help you work through that process! LOL!

Joy said...

I'm glad you addressed this -- I've been wondering how on earth you find the time for everything, including developing your own lessons. I'm floundering in the midst of our first week trying to figure out schedules and work boxes or not and so on. So this is some good food for thought. I'm also newly trying to incorporate RDI (and CM -- thanks to you) into our homeschooling. It seems to take me incredibly long to think each course/assignment through. Having a work box helps me frame it, but I'm way overwhelmed with the prep involved.

I like Jennie's idea of adding a new assignment each week, and the visual of your checklist schedule.

Thanks for all you've been writing on the last two weeks especially, by the way. I haven't had time to write comments on them individually. I don't know how you you do it, but it is tremendously helpful for me!

walking said...

Stay tuned, Joy. I have another week in review with thoughts about how we are doing beginner Spanish, and it's free!

walking said...

Joy, just start small: pick a couple of things and build on that. Once you get in a groove, add a few more things. Do not think lessons have to be long. They can be short.

Right now, I am trying to teach this lefty to crochet. Pamela's maximum attention span for that is only five minutes because it is difficult, even though I am scaffolding her by sitting side by side and controlling the yarn while she controls the hook. There is no way I can demand more out of her. That is what Charlotte Mason called the habit of perfect execution: we should only assign what they can do. If a child can only write six letters nicely before tiring and getting sloppy, then only assign six letters!

Joy said...

I wish someone had told me about the "habit of perfect execution" six years ago, but -- better late than never!

Joy said...

What I meant I wish I knew is the part about " If a child can only write six letters nicely before tiring and getting sloppy, then only assign six letters!"

walking said...

I think it is important to keep in mind that spectrum children often struggle with dysgraphia. So, I think "six perfectly executed letters" is the best six (or three) that a child can do. When Pamela learned to write (look at the side bar of my blog, it's buried in there), perfect meant:

* Paper attached to a slant board.
* Paper enlarged to four times the normal side.
* Marker used to avoid pressing too hard and ripping the paper.
* Letters shaky but the stroke done properly.

Twelve years later, Pamela has fairly neat and legible writing.