Sunday, June 12, 2011

Scheduling and How We Do Ambleside

One of the most common questions new homeschooling Moms have is "What does a day look like?"

I remember my stomach churning in knots the summer prior to my oldest starting Kindergarten. Everything I had read about the Charlotte Mason method resonated deeply with me - treating the child as a person, living books, not dumbing things down, time in nature, short lessons, art and composer study, DELAYING GRAMMAR!

But the Ambleside Online site, which was the curriculum I kept hearing about, didn't seem to 'map it all out' for me. All I saw was what seemed like lists of books and pages of reading I had to do before implementing. September drew nearer and I grew more and more exasperated until one day, my sweet friend Johnna who I had met on a homeschooling field trip through Exploring Homeschooling, invited me over and shared her daily schedule with me.

That day the clouds parted, the shadows dispersed and the sun shone bright as everything became clear.

Oh, so that's what you do!

In hopes of parting the clouds for others who may be feeling the same way, I'd like to post a couple of things here that may help.

First, I came across this depiction of what a CM day might look like in Susan Schaeffer MacAulay's highly recommended book, For the Children's Sake. This example was taken from her chapter "Children are Born Persons" (p.38) so it isn't intended to be a comprehensive outline for a schedule, but it gives us a glimpse for starters:

Let us apply this principle to the actual detailed practice in school or homes.

A seven-year-old happens to need a short period of phonic practice, followed by reading a story out loud to you haltingly every day. He then laboriously concentrates on learning the mechanics of writing for ten to fifteen minutes. This does not mean to say that his mind should be left "frozen" at the level of his skills. When the essential, regular practice has been completed, the child puts all his little books and papers away, and turns his full attention to the adult. She will now be the medium through which he can "read" real books (not second-rate books).

Perhaps she reads a short portion from Pilgrim's Progress. She must, of course, be a person who wants to understand and enjoy this herself. When she has finished, the children might tell back the story, or act out the episode in play. They could make a scroll, as our children did in their PNEU school. As the pilgrim proceeds through various experiences, the children draw pictures of what they remember of the story. They end with the knowledge that life is a pilgrimage. They hear about the River at the end. (By the way, this is the only book that the PNEU recommended to be slightly abridged.)

Pilgrim's Progress will be read perhaps twice a week. After this, the children's next lesson might be a chapter of a well-written biography of a historical figure. Again, the children listen with interest and build up knowledge. And so one proceeds. Science books will not be written in "second-grade language," Choose an interesting book that really explains things in lively language. Perhaps you will start with one on the animals and plants the child can see in his environment. Again, you read a short while. The children respond with a narration. You stop before they become restless.

The morning's program is intense, interesting, but fairly short. It finishes early, leaving the child free to relax and "be."

By the time such educated children are nine or ten they will, of course, have been reading for themselves a long time. They will be ready to read a Shakespeare play. They will enjoy and understand a really rich diet of books, essays, letters, plays, and poetry. They will have thought, discussed, and shared these ideas along with their own personal ideas.

Is this idealistic? Does it work? The answer is, yes.

For the practical side of scheduling, here is what our day looks like; or more accurately, what I hope our days look like. I say 'hope' because we have a 2 month old as well as a newly potty trained 3 yo in the home (delayed due to constipation issues which is a whole other blog post for another time) as well as a husband who runs his business from home, who I am at times a sounding board/assistant for... needless to say, distractions are commonplace; flexibility is a non-negotiable.

Hence, you won't see any times on my schedule, it's really more of a list. Some days we start at 9am, others 2pm. It all depends on the day. Will my children suffer from lack of structure - perhaps. In any case, that's how we roll around here to meet our current needs and both parents are okay with it.

In no way am I suggesting this is how AO is meant to be structured, it is just how our day is structured so take it for what it's worth. Also, this isn't our first schedule, nor is it likely to be our last - scheduling for us has been a process, it takes time and tweaking to get it to what works for your family so don't get discouraged if things don't 'fit' right off the bat.

Most of our school is done on the couch, they do their writing at the dining table. Some days we'll head out doors for a change.

I have a 9yo daughter in YR3, a 7yo son in YR1, additionally I have a 3yo daughter and the 2 mo old son. This is our Daily Schedule we pop the weekly AO readings into. Since we meet for nature study every Thursday, we don't do any school that day except for nature study, recitation (monthly) and nature journaling (weekly).

My strategy is to clump together things both kids do together, then alternate their independent work with things that need my attention - so I'm with one while the other is doing their independent work.

I print this schedule, as well as a copy of their week's reading (a printed copy of the 36 week AO list of weekly readings for their year) and give it to each to encourage self-education. They take more of the reigns when they are able to see what needs to be done for them to finish school that day instead of constantly asking "What's next Mommy?"

Morning Chores (get dressed, make bed, wash face, brush hair)
Chores (I have a separate chore chart with their chores mapped out for the week)

Hymn (1 new hymn each month)
Read Scripture (Monday - Storybook Bible, Tuesday - Psalms/Proverbs, Wednesday-Old Testament, Thursday - New Testament, Friday - Catechism)
Scripture Memory Cards

Poetry ( 1 poem each)
Art Study (Mondays only)
Story for 3yo (this usually happens right before nap and is sometimes read to her by older sibling)

Phonics (7yo son reads to me for 15 minutes)
9yo daughter does copywork (M, T, W she does copywork followed by dictation, Friday she practices cursive)

I read to 7yo son his reading for the day & have him narrate (YR1 ends up being about one reading/book per day)
9yo daughter reads to herself one of her readings & narrates (YR3 ends up being about 3-4 readings/books per day, I split up longer readings to shorter sections being read 2/3 times a week)


Math - Right Start Math

7yo son copywork
I read to 9yo daughter the remaining 2 or 3 readings

Foreign Language - Japanese


Free time for play, handcrafts, etc.

Swim Team

Dinner (kids tidy up while I make dinner & set the table & help clean up)

Free reads before bedtime

* 9yo daughter is in transition between having all books read to her to reading some on her own so my hope is that the amount she reads on her own will increase as we go. I do hope to utilize more audio recordings like the ones found on librivox next year when the reading for both kids increases.

* composer study and folk songs are played at random times while I'm doing dishes, at dinner time, or when the kids are drawing/playing quietly, or on car rides.

* Free reads are read to them in the evenings before bedtime or my 9yo reads some to herself or we listen to them in the car.

* With multiples, children inevitably have to wait at times so I leave it to them to find something to do quietly. If they can't find something on their own or if they interrupt, I remind them to be quiet or I find something for them to do - chores, push ups, a nap if they're tired and cranky, etc. The same goes for if they complain when made to come back to do school after they were playing while waiting. These are the habits I try to be tight on because when they aren't, it affects everything.

I'm sure I've forgotten some things here so if this raises any unanswered questions, feel free to post them in the comments. Hope this helps!


  1. This was a revelation to me. Bless you for sharing!! :)

  2. LOVE this! Thank you! I have 4 smaller ones also (7,6,3,2) and am expecting a baby as well...this is a wonderful "fly on the wall peek" at what someone else with similar aged children does...
    I really like how you have certain days for art, nature studies, hymns etc...right now I kinda end up just trying to fit them in here and there!

  3. Thank you as well!

    I like the way you organize the Scripture reading.

  4. This will really help people see how it works! I don't think flexibility will hurt your kids in the long run. My Y5 has just learned to flexibly manage her own schedule.

  5. this was a big help! thank you!!

  6. Great peek into your day. Thanks you for sharing.

    This is very similar to how our day is structured. I have a daily chart on the wall with our subjects listed. It includes once a week items under the listing "Special Activity" (M: science, T: composer study, W: nature walk/journal; R: drawing; F: Bible activity). I also created a weekly "to do" list, which includes AO readings, our math and science assignments, current composer selection, Bible memory verse, and checkboxes for each time my student does copywork. That stays in the clear front cover of my teacher binder, where I can easily refer to it and check things off as we finish them.

    The nice thing about posting our checklist on the wall is that I can point my daughter to it when she asks, "How much do we have left?" or, "Are we almost done?" I'm hoping that this will help her as she transitions to her own assignment checklist in the next couple years. (She is only Y1 now.)

    I love Ambleside - and home schooling in general - because of it's flexibility. Our day is also structured, but not scheduled. For now, it's working for us!

  7. This is wonderful.
    I'm up late tonight, reading th words of Sonya Shafer through the pages of 'Getting Stared in Home Schooling', trying to figure out how I'm going to do all of this.
    I want to do it, I know I won't do it perfectly, but I need to start somewhere ..right?

    This post will be so helpful to me..especially juggling the different children at different ages.

    I'm liking your blog :)

  8. English and Science?

  9. Project Girl,
    It's a process! It's hard to quantify CM into one nicely packaged box, and with AO, it takes some effort and learning and reaching out for help (as you're doing) to figure it out. But it is so. completely. worth. it!!! The curriculum is absolutely remarkable and I find myself thanking God profusely for ever allowing me to stumble upon it, often.

    So I'm glad you found this post helpful :)

    English - my YR4 daughter has grammar through a living book called "Grammarland" that we are reading, spelling is learned through transcription and dictation combined with reading their own books, she is doing written narrations this year (about one a week), and we sit together and co-read books together - I read a paragraph, she reads a paragraph so that she is continuing to learn with some of the more challenging language - like Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stephenson which has a lot of Scottish Dialect making it more difficult to read as well as Abigail Adams' biography which has political terminology she is still learning. Minn of the Mississippi is also a challenge because of dialects and sayings from the local area being discussed that pops out of nowhere to describe something. We read these together so I can help her through them. Shakespeare and Plutarch I read to her at this point.

    My YR2 son reads to me daily for about fifteen minutes. Right now we're reading Raggedy Andy. He also has fifteen minutes of transcription daily where he is copying word for word so spelling is being learned.

    Science is incorporated through nature study and nature journaling and looking things up and learning about the things we see. We do that weekly on Thursdays - that is the 'storing up' part where they are in touch with many things from nature through all the seasons getting a very real, first hand look at them. Additionally, starting in YR3, AO incorporates some science books like "Sciencelab in the supermarket" and then in YR4, there is "Physics in the Home" and living books such as "Madam How, Lady Why" by Kingsley as well as "Storybook of Science".

  10. Hi I just stumbled upon your blog and find it very inspiring. I've been homeschooling for two years now, but am always looking for tips and ideas. Thanks for sharing!

  11. thank you and bless your heart for taking the time to spell it all out. SO helpful!

  12. I used to be Project Girl. I can see my comment above and I can't even remember coming here. It's been years of reading different blogs. Now we are officially starting AO and I have found this post, yet again, VERY helpful.

  13. Hi Naomi! This is so helpful. Would you be willing to post an update to how scheduling will look for you guys this year? :)


    1. Hi Chaun! I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to blog here much for some time. We are definitely more structured now that I have 3 kiddos - YR8, YR6, and YR2. I also just heard Cindy Rollins speak at the AmblesideOnline conference in Indiana and what she talked about with morning time really resonated with me. You can read her posts here: http://www.ordo-amoris.com/search/label/31%20Days%20to%20Morning%20Time

  14. Thank you so much! This is my first year homeschooling my 7th grader, and like you said, no one tells you what the schedule looks like! I spent forever deciding on the philosophy etc. We are 3 weeks in and struggling with the schedule. This was an "aha" moment!