Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 6 - Other Goals

Charlotte Mason has much to say about the power of developing constructive habits.  The science behind this idea was known somewhat even in her time and is confirmed now as we more fully understand the formation of neural pathways.  Sometimes, students of Mason make almost an idol out of habits, believing that if once they can form effective habits in their children the difficulties are over.

Charlotte Mason made a point of insisting that habits are not our most important or sole focus.
“The busy mother says she has no leisure to be that somebody [who takes time to gently guide a child exploring], and the child will run wild and get into bad habits; but we must not make a fetish of habit; education is a life as well as a discipline.”
Charlotte Mason  Volume 1 p. 192

Discussing all of her thoughts on habit training would require more than this single post, so we will pass on to another area of focus after just this one more note.   Mason encourages us to secure cooperation and participation through gentleness.
“Do not treat the child's small contumacy too seriously; do not assume that he is being naughty: just leave him out when he is not prepared to act in harmony with the rest. Avoid friction; and above all, do not let him disturb the moral atmosphere; in all gentleness and serenity, remove him from the company of others, when he is being what nurses call 'tiresome.'”  
CM Volume 1 p. 181

One last area of significance during the preschool years: storytelling and conversation.
“In connection with this subject let me add a word about story-telling. Here are some of the points which make a story worth studying to tell to the nestling listeners in many a sweet "Children's Hour";––graceful and artistic details; moral impulse of a high order, conveyed with a strong and delicate touch; sweet human affection; a tender, fanciful link between the children and the Nature-world; humour, pathos, righteous satire, and last, but not least, the fact that the story does not turn on children, and does not foster that self-consciousness, the dawn of which in the child is, perhaps, the individual 'Fall of Man.' But children will not take in all this? No; but let it be a canon that no story, nor part of a story, is ever to be explained. You have sown the seed; leave it to germinate.
Every father and mother should have a repertoire of stories––a dozen will do, beautiful stories beautifully told; children cannot stand variations. 'You left out the rustle of the lady's gown, mother!' expresses reasonable irritation; the child cannot endure a suggestion that the story he lives in is no more than the 'baseless fabric of a vision.' Away with books, and 'reading to'––for the first five or six years of life. The endless succession of story-books, scenes, shifting like a panorama before the child's vision, is a mental and moral dissipation; he gets nothing to grow upon, or is allowed no leisure to digest what he gets. It is contrary to nature, too. "Tell us about the little boy who saved Haarlem!" How often do the children who know it ask for that most hero-making of all tales! And here is another advantage of the story told over the story read. Lightly come, lightly go, is the rule for the latter. But if you have to make a study of your story, if you mean to appropriate it as bread of life for your children, why, you select with the caution of the merchantman seeking goodly pearls. Again, in the story read, the parent is no more than the middleman; but the story told is food as directly and deliberately given as milk from the mother's breast. Wise parents, whose children sit with big eyes pondering the oft-told tale, could tell us about this. But it must be borne in mind that the story told is as milk to the child at the breast. By-and-by comes the time when children must read, must learn, and digest for themselves.”

CM Volume 5 pp. 215-217
Rather than emphasizing reading picture books, focus on oral storytelling.
“Experiences with pictures attached, even when they involve looking at picture books and learning new words, are not as valuable, says [Dr.] Wells, because the child needs to learn ‘sooner, rather than later’ to go beyond just naming things that can be seen.  He concludes:
For this, the experience of stories is probably the ideal preparation. . . . Gradually, they will lead them to reflect on their experience and, in so doing, to discover the power that language has, through its symbolic potential, to create and explore alternative possible worlds with their own inner coherence and logic.  Stories may thus lead to the imaginative, hypothetical stance that is required in a wide range of intellectual activities and for problem-solving of all kinds. . . .” 

Jane Healy, Ph.D. Endangered Minds p. 92
“Telling stories over and over, expanding on characters, events, and ideas, also helps children learn to think carefully and give good explanations.” 

Healy p. 91

“Any activity that helps children use their brains to separate from the ‘here and now,’ to get away from pictures and use words to manipulate ideas in their own minds, also helps them with the development of abstract thinking. . .” 

Healy pp. 91-92
Conversation and storytelling both provide important frameworks for learning.
“Although writing--and the kind of talking and thinking that go along with it--promotes the development of school-like ways of reasoning, the arts of storytelling, oral history, and conversation have their own special niche in developing reflective thought, memory, and attention.” 

Healy p. 103
“Good language, like the synapses that make it possible, is gained only from interactive engagement: children  need to talk as well as to hear.” 

Healy p. 88

“The person who teaches your child to talk also teaches a way of thinking.  The ideas, values, and priorities of a culture are borne along on the stream of language that flows between generations.” 

Healy p. 89

“Many parents today try hard to provide elaborate ‘stimulating’ environments for their children, but not even designer toys substitute for good-quality conversation.” 

Healy p. 91
Jewels of Astonishing Worth - What is a Child? (Series Introduction)

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 5 - Free Play

Providing young children with ample opportunity for exploring the world and using their senses may be a key component of the preschool years, but along with that comes the  need for free play.

Certainly, as mentioned in the previous post, children benefit from some guidance as they explore the world, some assistance in learning to use their senses, but just a little.
“The notion of supplementing Nature from the cradle is a dangerous one. A little guiding, a little restraining, much reverent watching, Nature asks of us; but beyond that, it is the wisdom of parents to leave children as much as may be to Nature, and "to a higher Power than Nature itself."”

Charlotte Mason believed children must be fairly free to do as they choose during these years.
“Nature will look after him and give him promptings of desire to know many things; and somebody must tell as he wants to know; and to do many things, and somebody should be handy just to put him in the way; and to be many things, naughty and good, and somebody should give direction.”

Modern research confirms this as the "wisest course" because young children will find what they need for their proper stage of development on their own.
“Many studies support the notion that brains--and the organisms attached to them--tend to gravitate to the types of stimulation that they need at different stages of development.  If we encourage children to make choices from a selected variety of available challenges, both environmental and intellectual, we are no doubt following the wisest course.”
Jane Healy Endangered Minds p. 72

The children have to do the learning themselves.
“Children need stimulation and intellectual challenges, but they must be actively involved in their learning, not responding passively while another brain--their teacher’s or parent’s--laboriously develops new synapses in their behalf!”
Healy p. 73
“Knowing this, it's more important than ever to give children's remarkable, spontaneous learning abilities free rein. That means a rich, stable, and safe world, with affectionate and supportive grown-ups, and lots of opportunities for exploration and play. Not school for babies.”
Structured activities, as documented in a previous post in this series, negatively impact future learning.  Less structure has positive effects.
"The more time that children spent in less-structured activities, the better their self-directed executive functioning. The opposite was true of structured activities, which predicted poorer self-directed executive functioning."
Jane E. Barker, Andrei D. Semenov, Laura Michaelson, Lindsay S. Provan, Hannah R. Snyder and Yuko Munakata ORIGINAL RESEARCH ARTICLE Frontiers in Psychology

"Neuroscientific studies have shown that playful activity leads to synaptic growth, particularly in the frontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for all the uniquely human higher mental functions."
David Whitebread "School starting age: the evidence" University of Cambridge Research

"Physical, constructional and social play supports children in developing their skills of intellectual and emotional ‘self-regulation’, skills which have been shown to be crucial in early learning and development."
David Whitebread "School starting age: the evidence" University of Cambridge Research

Jewels of Astonishing Worth - What is a Child? (Series Introduction)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 4 - Training the Senses and Exploring the World

If we choose to counter popular culture by delaying formal academics until first grade, then what do we do during all the years before then?  The next few posts will touch on a few key areas.

Charlotte Mason says that “wider training of the senses” is a mother’s “primary duty.”  To begin with, this simply means allowing the child opportunities to use his senses, to explore his world.
“But it is possible that the child's marvellous power of obtaining knowledge by means of his senses may be undervalued; that the field may be too circumscribed; and that, during the first six or seven years in which he might have become intimately acquainted with the properties and history of every natural object within his reach, he has obtained, exact ideas, it is true––can distinguish a rhomboid from a pentagon, a primary from a secondary colour, has learned to see so truly that he can copy what he sees in folded paper or woven straw,––but this at the expense of much of that real knowledge of the external world which at no time of his life will he be so fitted to acquire. Therefore, while the exact nicely graduated training of the Kindergarten may be of value, the mother will endeavour to give it by the way, and will by no means let it stand for that wider training of the senses, to secure which for her children is a primary duty.” 
This "training" begins naturally if opportunities are provided.
“Watch a child standing at gaze at some sight new to him––a plough at work, for instance––and you will see he is as naturally occupied as is a babe at the breast; he is, in fact, taking in the intellectual food which the working faculty of his brain at this period requires. In his early years the child is all eyes; he observes, or, more truly, he perceives, calling sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing to his aid, that he may learn all that is discoverable by him about every new thing that comes under his notice.”
“A great deal has been said lately about the danger of overpressure, of requiring too much mental work from a child of tender years. The danger exists; but lies, not in giving the child too much, but in giving him the wrong thing to do, the sort of work for which the present state of his mental development does not fit him. Who expects a boy in petticoats to lift half a hundredweight? But give the child work that Nature intended for him, and the quantity he can get through with ease is practically unlimited. Whoever saw a child tired of seeing, of examining in his own way, unfamiliar things? This is the sort of mental nourishment for which he has an unbounded appetite, because it is that food of the mind on which, for the present, he is meant to grow.”

Learning to use his senses, exploring the world around him, prepares him for later more abstract learning.
“The child has truly a great deal to do before he is in a condition to 'believe his own eyes'; but Nature teaches so gently, so gradually, so persistently, that he is never overdone, but goes on gathering little stores of knowledge about whatever comes before him.
 And this is the process the child should continue for the first few years of his life. Now is the storing time which should be spent in laying up images of things familiar. By-and-by he will have to conceive of things he has never seen: how can he do it except by comparison with things he has seen and knows? By-and-by he will be called upon to reflect, understand, reason; what material will he have, unless he has a magazine of facts to go upon? The child who has been made to observe how high in the heavens the sun is at noon on a summer's day, how low at noon on a day in mid-winter, is able to conceive of the great heat of the tropics under a vertical sun, and to understand the climate of a place depends greatly upon the mean height the sun reaches above the horizon.”
Charlotte Mason realized that a hundred years ago.  Educators still know it to be true today. Audobon magazine in winter 2012 featured a nature-based preschool:
“Noticing differences between objects, like seeds and burrs, helps wire the brain, nurturing initial math and pre-reading skills that develop from the ages of one through four.”

Researchers recognize that mental readiness often relies on physical development, specifically using the senses.
"In order for children to read, write and spell they must be developmentally ready. Some are ready at the age of four or five, some not for many years later. This readiness includes complex neurological pathways and kinesthetic awareness. Such readiness isn’t created by workbooks or computer programs. It’s the result of brain maturation as well as rich experiences found in bodily sensation and movement."

Charlotte Mason encouraged mothers to take their young children outside for as much of the day as feasible. In her first volume, she catalogues many ways in which outdoor time can be spent to good purpose.  (Do read through the Out-of-Door Life section of Volume 1.) This time spent outdoors doesn't just provide the sensory opportunities already mentioned above.

One purpose of the outdoor explorations is to learn about the world.
“It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.”

This requires both opportunity and some gentle direction.
“Now, consider what a culpable waste of intellectual energy it is to shut up a child, blessed with this inordinate capacity for seeing and knowing, within the four walls of a house, or the dreary streets of a town. Or suppose that he is let run loose in the country where there is plenty to see, it is nearly as bad to let this great faculty of the child's dissipate itself in random observations for want of method and direction.”
“There is no end to the store of common information, got in such a way that it will never be forgotten, with which an intelligent child may furnish himself before he begins his school career. The boy who can tell you off-hand where to find each of the half-dozen most graceful birches, the three or four finest ash trees in the neighbourhood of his home, has chances in a life a dozen to one compared with the lower, slower intelligence that does not know an elm from an oak––not merely chances of success, but chances of a larger, happier life, for it is curious how certain feelings are linked with the mere observation of Nature and natural objects.”
Time outside also provides exercise for the body.
“The afternoon's games, after luncheon, are an important part of the day's doings for the elder children, though the younger have probably worn themselves out by this time with the ceaseless restlessness by means of which Nature provides for the due development of muscular tissue in them; let them sleep in the sweet air, and awake refreshed. Meanwhile, the elders play; the more they run, and shout, and toss their arms, the more healthful is the play.”
“The outdoors is the very best place for preschoolers to practice and master emerging physical skills."
Rae Pica "Take It Outside!" Earlychildhood News

Current research has found other benefits from hours outside.
“Studies also show that just 20 minutes spent outdoors improves concentration in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as much as, if not more than, medication. That’s in addition to the physical benefits of exercise and exposure to vitamin D (which helps build strong bones).
“The outside is also important because the outdoor light stimulates the pineal gland, the part of the brain that regulates the "biological clock," is vital to the immune system, and makes us feel happier.”
Rae Pica "Take It Outside!" Earlychildhood News
“Outside, children are more likely to invent games. As they do, they're able to express themselves and learn about the world in their own way. They feel safe and in control, which promotes autonomy, decision-making, and organizational skills. Inventing rules for games (as preschoolers like to do) promotes an understanding of why rules are necessary. Although the children are only playing to have fun, they're learning
  • communication skills and vocabulary (as they invent, modify, and enforce rules)
  • number relationships (as they keep score and count)
  • social customs (as they learn to play together and cooperate)."
Rae Pica "Take It Outside!" Earlychildhood News

Jewels of Astonishing Worth - What is a Child? (Series Introduction)

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 3 - Do preschoolers need academic instruction?

Sending a child to first grade without having had several years of formal or semi-formal academic instruction almost, these days, amounts to parental neglect as far as most parents or schools see it.  Middle class parents routinely consider two or three day preschool for academic preparation even when a parent stays home to care for children, and barring that, the at-home parent expects to begin lessons of some sort by age two or three.

Charlotte Mason discouraged formal lessons before the age of six, for developmental reasons.  Prior to that age, she believed, children's brains required freedom to choose their learning opportunities, within boundaries.  Young children have so much learning to do simply to satisfy the demands of their own brains and bodies that imposing additional learning burdens, even if they are fun, would be too much strain as well as limiting the opportunities for the learning they naturally need.
“His nerve centres and brain power have been unduly taxed, some of the joy of living has been taken from him, and though his baby response to direct education is very charming, he has less latent power left for the future calls of life.” 

Is an early start on academics necessary for later success in school and, more importantly, life?  Research says it is not.
"[Dr. Lillian] Katz also writes in the report that 'earlier is better' is not supported in neurological research, which 'does not imply that formal academic instruction is the way to optimize early brain development.'”

“On the contrary, a number of longitudinal follow-up studies indicate that while formal instruction produces good test results in the short term, preschool curriculum and teaching methods emphasizing children’s interactive roles and initiative, while not so impressive in the short term, yield better school achievement in the long term (Golbeck, 2001, Marcon, 2002; Schweinhart & Weikart, 1993).”

Actually, research shows that formal instruction impedes development rather than assisting it.  For one thing, teaching specific concepts to young children keeps them focused on those specific concepts and prevents their learning how to discover for themselves.
“Direct instruction really can limit young children's learning. Teaching is a very effective way to get children to learn something specific—this tube squeaks, say, or a squish then a press then a pull causes the music to play. But it also makes children less likely to discover unexpected information and to draw unexpected conclusions.”
“Youngsters who are hurried from one activity to another may get lots of sensory input but be shortchanged on the time-consuming process of forming association networks to understand and organize experience meaningfully.”
Jane Healy, Ph.D. Endangered Minds p. 74
"Studies have compared groups of children in New Zealand who started formal literacy lessons at ages 5 and 7. Their results show that the early introduction of formal learning approaches to literacy does not improve children’s reading development, and may be damaging. By the age of 11 there was no difference in reading ability level between the two groups, but the children who started at 5 developed less positive attitudes to reading, and showed poorer text comprehension than those children who had started later. "
David Whitebread "School starting age: the evidence" University of Cambridge Research
Also, young brains, as Charlotte Mason suggested, have vital learning tasks of their own to do, and formal learning gets in the way of that work.
“It is much more difficult, however, to reorganize a brain than it is to organize it in the first place. ‘Organization inhibits reorganization,’ say the scientists. Carving out neuronal tracks for certain types of learning is best accomplished when the synapses for that particular skill are most malleable, before they ‘firm up’ around certain types of responses.”  
Healy p. 53
Significantly, young children may not be ready for the skills being taught, which can cause the growing brain to develop inefficiently.
“Before brain regions are myelinated, they do not operate efficiently.  For this reason, trying to ‘make’ children master academic skills for which they do not have the requisite maturation may result in mixed-up patterns of learning.  As we have seen, the essence of functional plasticity is that any kind of learning--reading, math, spelling, handwriting, etc.--may be accomplished by any of several systems. Natureally, we want children to plug each piece of learning into the best system for that particular job.  If the right one isn’t yet available or working smoothly, however, forcing may create a functional organization in which less adaptive, ‘lower' systems are trained to do the work.”  
Healy p. 67
Delaying formal academics, far from being a sign of neglect, allows young children to learn what is neurologically appropriate for them at the time they are developmentally ready.

Jewels of Astonishing Worth - What is a Child? (Series Introduction)

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 2 - Should instruction be left to experts?

Lately, culture here in America has encouraged parents to send their young children to formal programs for preschool and kindergarten.  People assume that trained professionals need to prepare children for school.

Charlotte Mason says parents must direct and instruct rather than defer to professional educators.
“It seems to me that we live in an age of pedagogy; that we of the teaching profession are inclined to take too much upon ourselves, and that parents are ready to yield the responsibility of direction, as well as of actual instruction, more than is wholesome for the children.” 
CM Volume 1 p. 169
She also suggests that parents must learn educational principles and decide how to apply them in their own home, rather than trying to replicate in the home what the schools are doing.
“Though every mother should be a Kindergartnerin, in the sense in which Froebel would employ the term, it does not follow that every nursery should be a regularly organised Kindergarten. Indeed, the machinery of the Kindergarten is no more than a device to ensure the carrying out of certain educational principles, and some of these it is the mother's business to get at, and work out according to Froebel's methods––or her own.”  
CM Volume 1 p. 178
Many considerations may lead to this preference that parents take charge of their children's educations, not least being that parents have the most personal interest in the well being of their own children.  Just the fact of being a parent apparently confers some skill in working with children.
“Overall, being a parent may confer a special advantage.  One recent study compared children’s interactions with parents and with other well-intentioned adults who were not parents.  Parents did a much better job of guiding the children’s language, even if the children weren’t their own.”
Jane Healy, Ph.D., Endangered Minds p. 94 

Charlotte Mason recognizes that a well conducted preschool or kindergarten can be beautiful.  An exceptional teacher may impress, but not all teachers are exceptional.
“It is hardly necessary, here, to discuss the merits of the Kindergarten school. The success of such a school demands rare qualities in the teacher––high culture, some knowledge of psychology and of the art of education; intense sympathy with the children, much tact, much common sense, much common information, much 'joyousness of nature,' and much governing power;––in a word, the Kindergarten method is nicely contrived to bring the child en rapport with a superior intelligence. Given such a superior being to conduct it, and the Kindergarten is beautiful––'tis like a little heaven below'; but put a commonplace woman in charge of such a school, and the charmingly devised gifts and games and occupations become so many instruments of wooden teaching. If the very essence of the Kindergarten method is personal influence, a sort of spiritual mesmerism, it follows that the mother is naturally the best Kindergartnerin; for who so likely as she to have the needful tact, sympathy, common sense, culture?”

Even in such a lovely and unusual situation, the teacher manipulates the environment to make it so pleasant--and this, says Charlotte Mason, is not ideal.
“Our first care should be to preserve the individuality, to give play to the personality, of children.”

The charming teacher encourages the children to be good through her “zeal and enthusiasm”, and at home the children do not behave so well, but the school environment is for that reason probably not best for these young children.
“Most of us are misled by our virtues, and the entire zeal and enthusiasm of the Kindergartnerin is perhaps her stone of stumbling. 'But the children are so happy and good!' Precisely; the home-nursery is by no means such a scene of peace, but I venture to think it a better growing place.”

In this artificial environment, all ideas pass through teacher--and this is also not ideal.
“Everything is directed, expected, suggested. No other personality out of book, picture, or song, no, not even that of Nature herself, can get at the children without the mediation of the teacher. No room is left for spontaneity or personal initiation on their part.”
CM Volume 1 p. 188
Besides, too much peer interaction overstimulates children.
“The clash and sparkle of our equals now and then stirs up to health; but for everyday life, the mixed society of elders, juniors and equals, which we get in a family, gives at the same time the most repose and the most room for individual development. We have all wondered at the good sense, reasonableness, fun and resourcefulness shown by a child in his own home as compared with the same child in school life.”

In the next post in this series, we'll look at what Charlotte Mason and modern researchers say about what preschoolers really need.  What works, and why?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part 1 - What is a child?

Jewels of Astonishing Worth Part I - What Is a Child?
Have you ever felt pressured to send a child to a preschool or Mother’s Day Out because if you didn’t, your child would somehow be less?

Ever worried that if you didn’t make sure your child mastered identifying shapes and colors, letters and numbers, counting, reading, or some other subject before kindergarten that your child would start school at a disadvantage?

Have you been concerned that keeping your child at home with you would warp the child’s personality, creating a clingy child afraid to venture out?

Our culture today tells us that young children must have professional educators to shape and mold them, or at the least have formal instruction, before they can be ready for the rest of their school career.

Even homeschoolers often find these arguments convincing.  But are they true?  What do young children need to prepare them for learning and life?

Charlotte Mason lived during the Victorian era, when these same pressures came to bear on parents.  She knew that at its heart this was a question of assumptions about what children are and what they need.
“But is the baby more than a 'huge oyster'? That is the problem before us and hitherto educators have been inclined to answer it in the negative. Their notion is that by means of a pull here, a push there, a compression elsewhere a person is at last turned out according to the pattern the educator has in his mind.
The other view is that the beautiful infant frame is but the setting of a jewel of such astonishing worth that, put the whole world in one scale and this jewel in the other, and the scale which holds the world flies up outbalanced.”
Charlotte Mason Volume 6 pp. 33-34

When considering any educational theory, we need to know what that theory assumes about the nature of children and how they learn.  Is the child a lump of clay to be molded by adults?  Is the child a receptacle to fill with information?  Charlotte Mason's methods, tested and refined over decades of work in schools and homes, rests solidly on her 20 Principles.  The first point on Charlotte Mason's list of principles, truths we know about children and education, is this:
“Children are born persons.”
CM Volume 1 p. 5

Charlotte Mason believed that children were precious treasures, already, from the beginning, and were actual people from the start.  One significance of this point is that children come already with a mind prepared to learn.  We do not have to prepare them for learning.
“Reason is present in the infant as truly as imagination. As soon as he can speak he lets us know that he has pondered the 'cause why' of things and perplexes us with a thousand questions. His 'why?' is ceaseless.”
CM Volume 6 p. 37

From the start, according to Mason, an infant* "perceive[s] and receive[s]" from the world about him.
“His [the infant’s] business is to perceive and receive and these he does day in and day out.”
CM Volume 6 p. 34

Rather than relying on parents or educators, the child's mind produces his education.
“. . . he always has all the mind he requires for his occasions; that is, that his mind is the instrument of his education and that his education does not produce his mind.”
CM Volume 6 p. 36

Modern neurological research supports this view of the young child's mind.
“Genes set the outlines of mental ability, but the way children use their brains determines how their intelligence is expressed.  The experiences with which a child chooses to interact determine each brain’s synaptic structure as well as the way it functions for different types of learning.  If children change the way they use their brains, their synapses are rearranged accordingly.  The more they are used in a certain pattern of response, the less flexible they appear to become.”
Jane Healy, Ph.D. Endangered Minds p. 81
“External pressure designed to produce learning or intelligence violates the fundamental rule: A healthy brain stimulates itself by active interaction with what it finds challenging and interesting in its environment.”
Healy pp. 81-82

Do we believe that our children are jewels of astonishing worth?  Or do we believe that they cannot shine without our constant active intervention?

*"Infant" here includes toddlers and probably preschoolers as well.

Articles and Research - Read more about best practices during the preschool years.

Posts in this series:


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sample Term Schedules

I use AmblesideOnline in our homeschool, and I appreciate the chart-format schedules that are provided for each year.  Before I use those schedules, though, I modify them to make them work for our family.  Here are some samples of a shortened version of my edited schedules for a few different years to give you an idea of what these look like.  (The samples show only two weeks of each term so as not to violate AmblesideOnline's license by reproducing the schedules on another site.)

Two terms of Year 1

One term of Year 3

Two terms of Year 5

All three terms of Year 8

Briefly, I follow this basic process to prepare the schedules for the term ahead:

I download the art prints from the art prints Yahoo group and send them to Kinkos (upload to their website) to be printed.
I find the music for the composer study.
I buy the folk songs and burn them to a CD to play in the car.
I print maps for our history and geography and sometimes even for literature.  Remember that in each Forms area there's a thread stuck to the top that has links to the map threads for each year, where you can find the links you need.
I make sure we have copywork and grammar at least sort of figured out.
I add to the chart for the term, after the table for that term, the recitation passages that student will be learning.

Then I adjust the chart schedule.
I make sure all the subjects/activities we want to cover each day or week are listed.
I group together weekly subjects that seem to fit together in content type or difficulty.  Sometimes I change this later to balance the workload across the week, but this is where I start.
I look at each grouping of subjects to see how much work each week in the term will have.  I really want only four assignments in any particular grouping each week, although older students might have five.  Occasionally I'll shift an assignment from one week to another to balance out the load.

I then create a checklist.
I list all the weekly work in one column and every weekly category plus all daily work in another column.  The second column should all be checked off each day, and one item from each section of the weekly column should be checked off each day.  This isn't as necessary now that we've been doing this so long; generally my kids can work off of the chart, but at first this made the schedule easier for them to manage.

I hope this helps to encourage you if you're having trouble visualizing all this.  It does take a little time, although terms 2 and 3 are always easier than term 1 and each successive year I get better at this.