There is an update here.
The most important Year 0 goal, according to Charlotte Mason, is time spent outside. “. . .[T]he chief function of the child––his business in the world during the first six or seven years of his life––is to find out all he can, about whatever comes under his notice, by means of his five senses; that he has an insatiable appetite for knowledge got in this way; and that, therefore, the endeavour of his parents should be to put him in the way of making acquaintance freely with Nature and natural objects. . . .” (CM’s OHS, V1, p.96)
A close second in priority behind outside time is habit formation. “. . . [T]he education of habit is successful in so far as it enables the mother to let her children alone, not teasing them with perpetual commands and directions––a running fire of Do and Don’t; but letting them go their own way and grow, having first secured that they will go the right way, and grow to fruitful purpose.” (CM’s OHS, V1, p.134) CM has much to say about the why, what, and how of habit formation, which involves far more than just establishing a routine. CM refers to such habits as obedience, attention, imagining, cleanliness, and more. Suffice to say it is the key to CM’s methods. Take the time now to learn about it and implement it.
As for scheduling, that depends on the age of the child. Many moms (or dads, grandparents, etc.) on this list have one or more children in Year 1 or higher. For those children they are probably planning 2 or 3 hours (or so) of formal lessons each school day. Sometimes when a post talks about scheduling and planning, it’s referring to children in that age range (6 or 7 and up).
Year 0 is sort of a kindergarten year, so some moms are using it for a 5 or 6 year old. Those moms may be beginning some formal lessons, like reading. Generally those wouldn’t be more than 1 hour a day. Year 0 doesn’t require this sort of structure, but as long as it is kept short and lots of time is left for time outside and other non-academic pursuits, it’s still in line with CM.
Year 0 also encompasses the preschool years, below the ages of 5 or 6. Those years should not have formal academics, but some moms may plan short activities each day. The most important objectives at this age, though, are lots of time outside and habit formation. Reading is good, but select only the very best books, and don’t let reading keep you from time outside and habit training.
If you want to cover academics, the best thing to do is read a few really great books. We have some booklists on the Yahoo group site (see below). Children in these early years should be working with concrete objects from the real world, like planting a flower and watching it grow. Between reading great books and spending time with nature, you’ll be amazed what they’ll learn. For more learning goals for the preschool years, look at the items on the Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six, an excerpt from a curriculum outline from one of CM’s schools. You can read it at the bottom of the page here: http://www.amblesideonline.org/00.shtml. Remember that this list was meant to be addressed after a child turned six, not prior to the child turning six.
In my family, we do the Ambleside art appreciation, hymn study, folk song, and classical music (although we sometimes don’t use the assigned selection). We work on Spanish and sign language on an occasional basis. My dd’s know quite a few folk songs, including lots of patriotic songs and a few obscure ones. They recognize some classical selections and musical instruments. They know a handful of hymns at least. They can recognize several of the art selections from previous terms. They memorize Psalms and other scriptures, not through drill but through my reading it every morning and then after a few days of that we all try to say it together. We read some of the Ambleside poetry selections, particularly AA Milne and Robert Louis Stevenson. They have (infrequent) tea times. The older dd is learning to sew and draw. We play card games and board games. These are all CM friendly activities for the Year 0 ages.
Check out our Yahoo group site at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ambleside_year0/ . Look in the Links section, the Files, and the Database. All three sections have the content categorized by subject, so be sure to look at more than one category. You’ll find many helpful resources. Then read Charlotte Mason’s writings. They are the key to implementing a Charlotte Mason education.
***UPDATED to reflect a new understanding of the relative priority of outside time versus habit formation.