I can hardly believe we have made it through this whole SERIES. There, I said it – series. I have been so hesitant to say that word, because sometimes I have greater expectations than I can actually pull off! But I did it!
Thank you so much for for hanging in there with me, and a special thank you to those who have left comments. Sometimes I feel like I’m blabbing out into cyber world, but no one is listening. The reality is that it’s fine if I’m here alone, because most of what I post are words that I need to hear anyway.
As a finale to this series I have just a few more things to say:
You made the schedule, now stick to it as much as possible. Someone at the conference told me that she left with this guiding thought: Protect the atmosphere. That is brilliant! It’s your job as the homeschool teacher, as the mom, as the dad, to protect the atmosphere.
Don’t worry if a book can’t be completed in the “assigned” term, or even over the whole year. It can be finished over the summer or continued the next year. Consider the pages per subject that are assigned on the Programmes. For example, on Programme 92 Form II, Bulfinch’s Age of Fable has assigned pages 186-215. That’s 29 pages over the whole term! Even in form V and VI the students were only reading approximately 25 pages per day. Now 25 pages of Plutarch would sink a person, but we have variety in our day, and presumably, we are doing a good portion of it together.
Don’t rush. Again, a quote from Miss Kitching during a discussion of what subjects to leave out when time is limited:
“It is better to leave the term’s work unfinished, than to rush the pupils through for the sake of having finished the work set. ”
In order to give a little accountability, set your timer, or have a clock in your peripheral vision, so that you can get the hang of sticking to your schedule.
- When we have our table time, a clock is on the wall behind the children, but directly in front of me. I keep an eye on it.
- When we sit in the living room to read something together, I set the timer on my phone. I typically set it for a few minutes short of the time scheduled to allow for narration.
- If a chapter is close to being done, you can go ahead and finish it, but remember to shave a little bit of time off another subject.
- But don’t give in and read another chapter. Oh, there have been times of wailing for just another chapter, but trust me, saving that chapter will get you through another chapter of whatever difficult book is scheduled before it next time! It’s good to figure out what the favorites are, (you might be surprised at times,) and save them for the end. Don’t save the things you don’t like for the end. It’s like saving dessert.
Remember that your children have their whole life to learn. You don’t have to squeeze in every book before they turn 18. The more I learn about Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, the more I realize that books are the tool, not the source. Some may not agree with me on this, but I think it’s true. Charlotte Mason USED books. Her students read them and narrated, they read them and discussed, they read them and parsed the grammar, they read them in other languages. Books were a tool. These day, as followers of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy, we have the attitude that it’s all about how many pages or how many books we can get our children to complete by 18 years old.
Listen, I remember ONE book from high school – a living book by the way – and a couple Oprah selections from my early twenties. I was virtually uneducated by my current standards. But I was a successful person in all areas of my life. Learning to love books through homeschooling my children has made my life richer, and has likely made me smarter and more interesting, but it hasn’t pulled me out of some gutter. Your children will know more than me by the time they are 8!
Just remember that Charlotte Mason emphatically emphasized that education was like a three-legged stool. Each part was just as important as the rest. Education is a life, a discipline and an atmosphere. It’s all three, not just one.
Your big kids should work independently for some portion of their day, but not nearly the amount of time that some parents are allowing. Our homes are a community. A little community in which we learn how to live in a big community. We do a lot of things, like chores, for the greater good of this community. We learn to live with each other in peace, despite differences in personalities. And we share experiences as a way to bond us.
This idea hit me like a blow – we share experiences as we homeschool together. When we all pull for a character in a book, or despair over another character’s bad decision, or when we all laugh hysterically at the silly antics of another character, we are bonding. When we struggle through a hard Plutarch lesson, or grapple with what Shakespeare was saying, we are bonding.
We have this idea that each child should progress through the ranks of their education alone. Ever advancing. If the goal is that they finish books and lessons, increase in intelligence, and get into that famous school, then I guess progressing through the ranks alone might make sense. But I think we would, or at least should, all agree that there is more to life than solitary achievement. I can’t help but come back to Charlotte Mason’s point that education is more than just a life, or a discipline, but is also an atmosphere. It really is worth reading her exposition on these three points in volume three.
At our house we all sit around the dining room table and do Bible, hymn, poetry, memorization, copywork, dictation and foreign language together. (There is one for you – who would want to do foreign language alone if there is a household full of other people to gabber in Spanish with?) Then we move to the couch and read three books together. Typically this looks like English history, literature and Plutarch; or a US history biography, geography and Shakespeare; or a science biography, CM’s Ourselves and mythology/ancients. After this my little kids do math with me, and the big kids do some other subject alone, but in the same room.
But what if the little kids are distracting? Go to the far side of the room then. Everyone knows that in real life there are distractions, and we need to learn to focus well enough that they don’t hold us up. Furthermore, I intend that these older children adhere to the time schedule I have prepared. They may not care about their outside time, but I care about it for them. I know they need down time, time to ruminate on what they have taken in, so I must insist that they move through the schedule with the rest of us. (I might schedule them an actual number of pages to complete, but I will base that on my having read the section previously, and therefore know what is reasonable.)
In the past I have changed my schedule several times throughout the year, but after working through this process my schedule has stayed the same for the entire year. Sure I moved a book from one day to another, or switched the order of the things we did during our table time, but that is minor. Having a schedule that was right to start with gave us so much peace as we worked through the school day. When easy things were up next we enjoyed them together. When it was time for something hard, we buckled down, knowing there was an attainable finish line. In the end, not only did we have our most peaceful year, but we also had our most successful year. We accomplished far more, by doing less.
One last point – Mom, Dad, you must take care of yourself. You set the attitude of your home. If you are sick, school stops. If you are sleep deprived, you will be grumpy, and so will everyone else in your home. On the contrary, if you take the time to refresh yourself with the stuff that fills your soul, you will be a better parent, a better teacher. Get a morning routine established, so you can start your day in a successful manner. (More about that tomorrow.) Get to sleep on time and get up earlier than your kids. Go outside every day. Charlotte spent about an hour and a half outside every day, and look how much she accomplished in her lifetime. Last, but definitely not least, read.
“Never be without a really good book on hand. If you find yourself sinking to a dull commonplace level, with nothing particular to say, the reason is probably that you are not reading, and, therefore, not thinking” -Essex Cholmondeley, The Story of Charlotte Mason
I know I said I had just a bit more to say, and look, I rambled on for an hour!
I hope this series was a help to you all. Say “hi” in the comments maybe. Tell me if there is something else you want me to say about this subject or any other. It’s nice when you let me know that you’re out there somewhere.
Here’s to the best year ever!!