The Homeschool Day

Hello! My name is Amy from @charlottemasonhomeschool I am so happy to share the flow of our homeschool day on Curator!

Our Charlotte Mason Homeschool

I grew up on the Isle of Skye in Scotland, in a village by the sea.  I now live in the USA with my husband, Stephen, and we are happily homeschooling our two little ones: Meaghan, aged 8, and Findlay, aged 3 ½. This will be our fourth year homeschooling, using whole, living books and narration, cultivating a love of nature and time outdoors, and encouraging lots of time for imaginative free play, handcrafts, art, invention and daydreaming.  We try our best to model the educational philosophies of Charlotte Mason, and follow a curriculum I devised myself.  The early childhood years are also inspired by the Waldorf philosophy of imaginative play with simple, natural wood toys, and an holistic rhythm to the day including explorations in nature, baking, handcrafts, art, storytelling, poetry and song.

IMG_0662The heart and soul of our homeschool centers around the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason, who said, “The Life of the mind is sustained upon ideas,” and believed the best learning was to be found from “living” books as well as plenty of time exploring the natural world.

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Our homeschool cabinet is filled with beautifully written books that stir the heart, soul and imagination of our children and enliven their minds. Each school day features reading, narration, note booking and discussion, balanced with arts, hand crafts and music, with plenty of unstructured time for imaginative play, exploration and creativity. We value being at home together, learning together, enjoying nutritious home cooked meals, and having plenty to time outdoors in nature.

Early Morning

We do formal academic lessons four days a week, and cocoon ourselves at home on these days, so that we can flourish within a predictable rhythm and flow to our day. The children get up early, around 7am, and I serve them a nutritious breakfast (usually home-made granola with plain yoghurt and fresh berries, or oat bran with pear puree) and then while the children play I usually have a warm bath and read quietly with a cup of tea before the busyness and distractions of parenting, housekeeping and homeschool begins.  I am a lot calmer, happier, patient and clear headed if I take this time to slowly and peacefully awaken first thing in the morning and nourish my own thoughts. We begin homeschooling around 9am, after breakfast and shared chores and the children have had a bath.

Morning Lessons

We begin our morning lessons at around 9am on the couch in the living room, snuggled together under a soft blanket.  A blanket tucked cozily around us helps the children focus calmly while I read aloud. We spend about an hour reading books on history, geography and nature study, the bible, and studying the lives and works of great composers, artists, inventors, writers and thinkers from a selection of whole, living books. This morning we read chapters from “The Golden Children’s Bible”, “Saint Catherine of Sienna” by Mary Fabyan Windeatt, “Bold Composer, A Story about Ludwig van Beethoven” by Judith P. Josephson, watched part of a youtube video of an orchestral performance of a Beethoven Symphony and read several pages from “Grasshoppers and Crickets” by Dorothy Childs Hogner.

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We follow a curriculum I wrote myself, and lessons are kept short in order to foster a habit of attention. Each reading lasts between 10-15 minutes, and my third-grader (age 8) tells back in her own words what she learned and we discuss her thoughts, questions and perceptions on the ideas presented. I keep a notebook for any special interests or questions she has on topics that we can explore in depth at a later point.  My preschooler (aged 3 ½) won’t formally begin homeschool until he’s 5, but he loves to be included in most of the stories and asks questions and examines the pictures.  He’ll also sit near us and play. Morning lessons are completed by around 10am, and then we take a break for an hour. Both children love handcrafts, art and imaginative play and choose an activity that best suits them that day. During this creative hour, their minds are given space, ease and time to quietly reflect upon what they’ve learned and discovered that morning.

Play and Creativity

By 10am our morning lessons are finished, and the children spend an hour of creative time doing handcrafts, art, personal reading or engaged in imaginative play.  I like to put classical music on at this time from the composer we are studying that term. Favorites activities include: clay, play-dough, paper crafts, drawing and water-color painting, and my third-grader also enjoys writing and illustrating her own story books, hand-sewing and embroidery. We have a craft table set up with supplies ready at hand for the children to use. In pleasant weather, the children love being outside to breathe in the fresh air, listen to the birdsong, gather sticks, examine leaves, find bugs, daydream, play or read on a blanket. I carefully foster and protect this unstructured time for my children as it is so important for their emotional, spiritual, and intellectual growth as well as their mood.

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Meanwhile, I deep clean our home for an hour so that it is a beautiful, inviting and organized space in which to live, create and learn. Each day I tackle a different housekeeping and home organizing task so that the whole house is cleaned and decluttered over the course of a week. I choose to do this in the morning while I still have plenty of energy and motivation, because if I wait until the afternoon it usually doesn’t get done!  At 11am I rest with a cup of tea for fifteen minutes before we begin our next set of lessons. This is when I like to look at Instagram and enjoy all the posts from the homeschooling families I follow from all over the world.

Afternoon Lessons

Having enjoyed an hour reading living books together in the early morning, our next set of lessons begin around 11:15am after the children have enjoyed some free time and I have tidied the house.  We work together to clear the dining table of any toys or craft supplies and spread out our school books, and begin a series of short, focused lessons for my third grader (aged 8).  We follow the same sequence each day: spelling, handwriting practice (cursive), then math (Ray’s Primary Arithmetic), Reading Practice (The New McGuffey Third Reader), music theory and French. I actively engage with my daughter in all lessons and provide guidance and answer questions as they arise. Each subject is studied for an average of 10 minutes, totaling an hour of focused work. Lessons are short order to maintain a habit of attention and an interest in learning.  My preschooler (aged 3 ½) is usually seated near us, coloring, drawing, doing puzzles, looking through a book, building with blocks or quietly watching. He loves to be close to us and part of everything, and he knows that if he causes distractions he can’t sit with us anymore!  When he was a baby and small toddler, we could only do these lessons during his nap, and we affectionately called it “naptime school.”

IMG_0609 Our lessons are finished around 12:15, and we clear away our school supplies and the children set the table for lunch. I usually pre-prepare our lunches on Sunday so I can quickly and easily heat up and serve a nutritious home cooked meal on homeschool days.  Favorite lunches include vegetable soups, chicken salad, salmon with brown rice and cold chicken. I enjoy about 15 minutes after lunch to have another cup of tea and write a post for Instagram before our afternoon lessons begin.

Main Lesson

By 1:15pm we have finished lunch and are ready to begin our “Main Lesson.” Our “main lesson” is a single subject, studied in depth every school day for a prolonged amount of time, over several weeks, in order that the child may fully immerse themselves in the study of that subject and begin to live and breathe it, and for it to occupy a prominent place their thoughts and imagination. It is a concept from the Waldorf educational philosophy that we have thoroughly enjoyed in our homeschool. We choose to study world history, American history and geography this way, and study each for a period of 12 weeks, 4 days a week. Each lesson lasts 45 – 60 minutes, and comprises different activities and disciplines.  This term we are studying Ancient Egypt for world history. We begin by reading, narrating and discussing some carefully chosen living books for about 20 minutes, then we watch 20 minutes of a documentary together and discuss it, and finish with writing and illustrating a page in a note-book on the themes and ideas presented in that day.

IMG_0716School is finished for the day at around 2:15pm, and we have completed approximately 3 hours of focused work, split over 3 hour-long sessions. We work together to clear away our school books and supplies, then the children have free time and I put the kettle on for some tea.

Daily Quiet Time

School is finished for the day for my third grader (age 8) around 2:15pm, having completed around 3 hours of study. After so much concentrated talk and discussion with my children, I like to spend 30 minutes with a cup of tea and be still and quiet, gather my own thoughts, and read a book and I encourage the children to have their own quiet time to rest, read, draw and color or play outdoors. This is called our “Daily Quiet Time” and the children know that if they respect my need for uninterrupted quiet time, I am a lot happier person!

Quiet TimeIt uplifts my soul and stimulates my mind to read, and I think it is important to model for our children the joys and benefits of continuing our own self-led education throughout adulthood. I also like to discipline myself to read as it leads to interesting and diverse discussions in the evenings when my husband gets home from work and wants to hear what everyone has been thinking, doing and creating during the day. At the moment, I am reading “Last Child in the Woods” by Richard Louv. If the weather is pleasant I will read in the garden, and the children will play outdoors.

At about 2:45pm my daughter and I work together for 30 minutes on a series of assisted stretches she needs to do for her ballet training, then afterwards we all do a quick afternoon tidy up together; picking up toys and books, tidying up crafts and putting the house to rights.  My daughter has a ballet class several afternoons a week at 4pm, and when we get home around 5:15pm I’ll make dinner. My 3 1/2-year-old loves to sit on the counter with me and help cook. On Afternoons without ballet, we like to spend an hour at the play park behind our house before dinnertime.

Hidden Homeschool

We have a lot of “hidden homeschool”; a family culture of learning that doesn’t look like formal school.  In the evenings once my husband gets home from work we discuss the ideas, inspirations, events and values that are important to us around the dinner table, and a lot of valuable learning takes place here.  We have our evening meal together at around 5:30pm, and my husband will ask the children to tell him what were the most interesting things they learned that day, and they tell him at great length and show pictures and diagrams from our school books, and any note-booking pages completed. They are so proud and happy to show their papa what they’ve learned.

IMG_0614We don’t have a TV in our house, but a few of evenings a week like to enjoy documentaries on our iPad together as a family, and “YouTube” is a treasured resource for art tutorials, videos of craftspeople working in their studies doing woodwork, pottery, metalsmithing and weaving, gentle and informative documentaries about history, geography, travel and archeology and videos of live opera and symphony performances are all favorites. The children learn a lot and also how to discern the qualities of good programming. At 7:00pm we read for about 30 minutes from a selection of well written fairytales, folklore, poetry and fables (The “My Bookhouse” series is one of our favorites.) Bedtime is at 7:30pm so the children can get at least 11 hours sleep – which is another essential component to a successful homeschool day! Once the children are in bed I take a 2 ½ mile brisk walk around our local park which takes about 40 minutes, and listen to a podcast or audio book on my headphones, then my husband and I share a few hours alone together before we go to bed around 11pm.

Weekend Nature Walks

outdoorsThe fifth day of the school week for us is especially reserved for nature walks, visiting museums, and any catch-up note-booking or reading that needs to be completed. This is also when we plan any major homeschool projects such as elaborate craft projects or model making, as we find these too time consuming to complete on regular school days.

Nature walks take top priority in pleasant weather – we are lucky to have a nature preserve 15 minutes’ drive from our house, so we take a picnic and a bag packed with art supplies and sketchbooks and head out for a few hours to explore and do some nature journaling. This time in nature is so restorative for all of us… our hearts are lifted, our souls enlarged, our spirits mended as we enjoy the calm tranquility and sublime beauty of the natural world. Sometimes I will bring a nature inspired book to read to the children while we eat our picnic by the lake.

On the weekend, Saturdays are a favorite time for play dates, trips to the play park, errands and grocery shopping, and Sundays are deliberately quiet and relaxed at home for us to enjoy time together as a family.  We usually have a Sunday “family art time” where we do art together around the dining together with some classical music in the background, and we go to church in the afternoon. I also take a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon to pre-prepare some nutritious lunches for the upcoming homeschool week. Thank you so much for reading about our homeschool day, and you can follow our homeschooling adventures over at @charlottemasonhomeschool

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Amy O'Meara

Founder of Curator.us

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