Homeschooling: Charlotte Mason–Part 3: The Schedule is Your Servant

One of the most frequent frustrations I hear among homeschooling moms is that they feel pressured  by time constraints. They haven’t completed the day’s lesson in the time they should so they have the option of being “behind” or making everyone finish, regardless of the emotional costs.

I would challenge moms feeling this pressure to first ask themselves a few questions:

  • Who is setting your pace?

If the answer is “the curriculum guide”, remember that no curricula can fit your family’s needs exactly, and because you are the only one who knows your children’s individual needs, you reserve the right to override the guide. (Oooh…I like the sound of that–chant it in a sing/songy kind of way and let it become your mantra 😉 )There are advantages to “school in a box” but you must remember that no child is really “in a box” and tailor it accordingly. Let them be who they are in terms of speed and learning ability. This is precisely why the classroom model is weak….it is tailored to “the average child” and there is really no such thing. One of the very big advantages of homeschooling is so we DON’T have to usher the kids through an academic maze in the same time everyone else does it. Utilize your freedom!

  • Who defines “being behind”?

A question related to the first, let’s do a little de-programming.  Because most of us went through the system, we think in terms of grade levels, school years, and chunks of time.  In school, if we didn’t finish a certain subject in a given time period, we were “behind” because it was necessary to keep everyone at the same pace.  Not superior, mind you, just necessary.

Time frames and schedules are good and necessary for all of us.  But they shouldn’t rule us.  Education and the learning process doesn’t have parameters.  We can learn in the evening just as well as in the morning if need be.  We can learn about the Civil War in the fourth grade or the tenth, and we’re none the worse for it.  What we didn’t do today, we can do tomorrow and it’s OK!

  • What are your goals?

Do we simply want to check off an assignment, finish a book or complete “a grade”?  Or do we want our children to learn, to retain the natural curiosity that causes them to see everything around them as a “classroom”? I know when I was in school, it was really just about jumping through the hoops to get a grade to complete the year to be able to graduate.  And if we’re honest, did we really retain the majority of the information we were given?

I want my schedule, my lessons, my textbooks to be servants, not slaves.  It may take a constant reminder of our purpose in homeschooling, but we owe it to our children to attempt to inspire in them a love for learning, not a contempt of “school” where it’s all about getting done.

Practically speaking…

Some moms need more structure than others, for sure.  And I am a strong believer in structure.  I am going to throw out for you how we handle schedules just for your consideration.  Again, every family is different and I think it’s so important to make your homeschool work for you and not try to emulate someone else.

We simply start in the front of a book, whether it’s a text book or a reading book, and we do what I feel is a reasonable amount each day for each child.  If we have to miss a certain subject for a certain day, we just pick up where we left off.  We don’t try to double up.  We school year-round, so technically speaking, we can afford to miss quite a few days of our text book work.  We don’t really even keep up with “grades” simply because I don’t see how it serves a real purpose as it does in a school setting.  I asses which grade level each child is on and purchase materials accordingly.  One may be ready for 4th grade math but still need 3rd grade English.  They may be reading 6th grade level books, so it would be more of a burden to try to keep up with grades.  (And I keep asking myself, “why” do we need to be in a certain grade?)

This alleviates any stress from feeling “behind”, and truthfully, we probably cover more than is standard in a year simply because of the dynamics of the year-round schedule and being able to do more with fewer children.

One more hint…

Lots of things are taught in text books because a child in a classroom doesn’t have another option for learning them.  Learning how to tell time, for example, doesn’t require worksheets.  It makes much more sense to a child to learn it in a real setting.  All three of my oldest children learned to tell time by asking me about the clock when they wanted to know the time.  I don’t ever remember even announcing, “OK, today we’re going to learn to tell time”. The same with counting money, liquid measurements, and many others similar concepts.  Even with reading, it was simply a matter of teaching letters, sounds, then “sounding out” the letters together.  I have never even used a phonics curriculum to teach any of my children to read and they all read very well.

Sometimes just looking at things more practically can free us up from those pre-conceived ideas about how things must be done.  And believing…believing that God has already done an amazing thing inside those little brains, and that you are well-equipped to lead them to the answers they need at the right time!

Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason

Part 2-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Living Books

Part-4Homeschooling with Charlotte Mason: Writing, Spelling and Grammar

Part-5Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Nature Study

Part 6-Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: The Arts

Part 7–Homeschooling With Charlotte Mason: Daily Plans

22 Responses to “Homeschooling: Charlotte Mason–Part 3: The Schedule is Your Servant”

  1. Dezzi says:

    I am absolutely loving this series! I would really like to homeschool my daughter (she is 8 months old), since I was homeschooled and have seen the wonderful fruits of this labour! If I even need to call it labour. I am finding the tips very helpful in working out in my own mind of how I would like to do things and how I can start. Keep it up!

  2. Beth says:

    This is a good series.

    Let me address briefly the question “why grade levels”. I think grade levels are completely unnecessary in terms of the intellectual development of the students. However, IF you have any students who are interested in pursuing a college education (like my oldest son who desires to become a veterinarian) then it will be very helpful to have a rough idea which year they did which course for their high school transcript. Other than that, I can think of no good reason for grade levels.

    Half the time, I can’t remember which grade level a student is on. I have to go look at their lesson plan books 🙂

    And regarding high school transcripts for possibly college bound students, I recommend you set up a transcript form when they begin high school and keep up with it all the way through. That way, you won’t do what I did which was have to sit down and try to reconstruct his whole high school education a week before his college application was due! (You can tell I am not a born organized type, right?) Then, I gasped in distress when the university requested a description of EVERY SINGLE CLASS I had written in on his transcript.

    Praise our Heavenly Father, I muddled through it, He pulled me through it and dear son is working on his pre-vet studies. By the way, he began college with 24 hours of college credit under his belt from passing various CLEP exams. A CLEP exam here cost $80 compared to the equivalent college course which at our state university is about $800.

    So, if there is any possibility your children will go to college, just think of grade levels as a place to file the courses they take in high school for their transcripts.

  3. Word Warrior says:


    That’s a great point. We are beginning to construct our transcripts this year as well…which is not as daunting as I once thought. We are considering having our oldest daughter–regardless of what other interests she pursues (right now she has a strong passion for photography and I’d love to see her pursue that more in depth), complete a teacher’s certification on line in the case that she is required to have one to teach her own children.

    Even then, I would encourage moms not to get bogged down with keeping up with a set grade level, especially in the younger years. For those who aren’t there yet, and just to ease your mind, there are so many studies (including gardening, sewing, first aid, etc.) that can be counted as a high school credit.

  4. WW, you’re wise to have your daughter pursue her teaching certification – my husband and I have talked about one of us doing the same thing.

    And you’re right about not getting bogged down in grade level early on – it likely won’t line up with most traditional school grades anyway.

    I use my AO curriculum as an outline for a transcript in these early “grades” – we’re doing years two and three, which are comparable in our state to fourth and fifth grade (sometimes I think it’s more like tenth and eleventh 🙂 ) We printed out a list of benchmarks for each grade, marked with met or exceeded dates – just for my own peace of mind and to be prepared should anyone ask. For elementary level work, this will all fit in one 1-in 3 ring binder. TX is a generally home school friendly state, but I have our paperwork prepared should there be an instance we’re required to present it.

    I love the reminder about CLEP exams – I know many families who worry about college expenses, and this is one more example of how a solid home education has practical advantages. (wow, Beth, 24 hours – that’s almost an entire freshman year! Congratulations!)

  5. Kelly L says:

    Thanks for the reminders! I struggle sometimes with wanting to meet my families expectations on school.

  6. Brooke says:

    WOW! I love this series. I’m in the process of moving so I’m reading them quickly and will have to go back and look at them more in depth later, but a few questions came to mind from this post:
    Word Warrior: I love the principles of Charlotte Mason, I love your points about the schedule being my servant…I admit though to struggling with all those around me who look at me and think (often outloud) that I am a lazy mom and not really teaching my kids). Sometimes grandparents or others in our community will ask did you do school today and they’ll respond “not really.” Now, if asked what did you learn today, the answer would be totally different…however, I always shrink when this happens. And they really don’t fit into a grade either. My son reads at about a 6th grade level, although really he is about 3rd grade for everything else. How did your kids adapt to the Learning mode instead of the school mode? And how do you respond when someone asks you what grade your children are in?

    Also, to Cottage Child: I started the year with AO, but have gotten so off track (again…in my perspective…still not totally adapted the perspective Kelly shared today) I didn’t know how to start the curriculum in the with my K, 2nd and 3rd (roughly) kids. Do you have any suggestions for me. I love the readings and was so excited when we began…but now I am just frustrated…any ideas?
    Thanks, Brooke 🙂

  7. Brooke, you and I have so much in common – moving, ages of kids, new to AO – I will share with you what my husband and I decided would be our initial approach, so far so good:

    1) AO is an incredibly dynamic resource – it’s not Scripture – meaning, there’s no life or death consequences to following it or not. It’s meant to be an outline, not a commandment.

    2) Exhaust all free resources (and there is a mountain out there) before buying a single thing (this is SO HARD for me – I want those books!). If you don’t have a KJV Bible, borrow it from your Church or the Public Library. The logic behind this is multi-faceted – one, as bees in the trees as some people think CM is, the curriculum is actually a call to an academic standard most of us haven’t considered. The time and intellectual energy required is an investment itself. If you have been doing work from home, you might find yourself less available to pursue that during the first term as everyone adjusts, and you don’t need to add the burden of high dollar book purchases. Two, this is a new way of going for most folks – if you commit to adding no fewer than one but no more than two texts to your schedule each week, you stretch your mind without overloading your head, if that makes sense. Three, you can make it through a less than perfectly structured twelve week term, the academics of which will still rival most year long grade equivalents in a public school setting.

    3) AO is intended as a Creator driven curriculum – start there, every day. We begin with prayer, the Pledge, a hymn, and a Bible Lesson. If you don’t do this already, I think you’ll be surprised at it’s effect on your resolve to carry on.

    Remember that you’re educating yourself also, and a couple of false starts are to be expected. There can be lots of crossover between years 2 and 3, no need to do them separately, and your K can participate in art, Bible lessons, etc, with a few modifications for ability. Do not pressure yourself into frustration – our enemy crashes only the best parties. Take a deep breath, say a prayer, and start again tomorrow. Love.

  8. Steph says:

    WW, would you consider letting your daughter take a photography course at a local college? I’ve always thought it would be so much fun to learn to shoot manually/use a darkroom (but I am a terrible photographer anyway, LOL). I’m sure you could learn most of it at home but it might be nice to have unlimited access to a darkroom so you don’t have to buy and stock all those crazy chemicals.

    Anyway, I love the idea of not having specific grade levels – I was always lightyears ahead of my fellow students when it came to reading and sciency things but quite average at math.

  9. Jennifer says:

    I love God’s timing! It’s been a rough morning as my 9 year old has had an absolute fit about writing! I’ve been going back and forth in my mind about what to do about it. He hates to write, I got Writing Strands last year and then put it away because he found it too frustrating and pulled it out again this year he’s the same! I want him to start learning how to write but I think he needs to start learning how to think first…sound crazy?
    Anyway part of the reason I think he should be writing is because if he were in school he would have to be doing so in grade 4 right!?

    *sigh* so anyway if you have tips/suggestions for encouraging creativity in this area, please pass them on:)

  10. Word Warrior says:


    I’m sure we would consider it if we felt like it would benefit her. Honestly, I think a better method of learning just about anything is an apprentice-type model, one-on-one if possible. Thankfully, that idea is gaining momentum and there are some really talented and willing people around who have a passion for teaching their gifts.

    Our art teacher shared a snippet of his vision the other day and it was so exciting! He envisions an arts academy (all types–culinary, fashion, music, etc.) where there is a focus on “dominion theology”, specifically as it applies to Christians “taking back” some of these areas that our culture has dominated. His point was so profound…that the love and ability to create and appreciate beauty is in each one of us because we have the characteristic of the Creator in us.

    Recognizing His gift to us in this area should spur us to pursue them with excellence and use them to influence the culture around us for His glory!

  11. Word Warrior says:


    I meant to say too, that one of our dear friends is one of those talented people who love teaching others. She is a photographer with a dark room 😉 Better, cheaper, safer *grin*

  12. Word Warrior says:


    I’m not sure how it applies to writing, but I know Charlotte Mason felt that several subject needed to be delayed because of the rate of brain development. For example, I think she suggested not even talking about grammar until the child is 10 or so; same for some math concepts. I have heard from a lot of moms who were “pulling their hair out” over a subject/concept, and decided to put it away until later and found that it was a breeze after some time had passed.

    Not knowing what your writing expectations are, I would suggest starting with a very small amount until that is mastered. Not worrying about quantity, but quality.

  13. Allison says:


    I really appreciate your Charlotte Mason series. I am also using AO and have loved it. This has been a good reminder for me as I have been lamenting these past few weeks about “falling behind.” Thanks for all of the great encouragement!
    -Allison H.

  14. Angela Cribb says:


    I have had the same struggle with my daughter and this is what worked for us. Last year, I put away all writing assignments except for a journal. We used a spiral notebook for it. Two or three times a week, I would have her write about whatever she wanted to. I did not read what she wrote unless she inviteed me to. This has made her more comfortable with just getting her ideas on paper. We don’t worry about spelling or grammer. She is 8 now and has moved on to some very simple directed writing assignments. But the key is to let them write about something they will be interested in for them. I don’t know if this would help in your son’s case but it may be worth a try.

  15. Angela Cribb says:

    I should also say, with the directed writing assignments, we do work on her actual writing skills, grammer, spelling, etc. But she still has very few of these assignments.

  16. Steph says:

    It’s great that you have an available photographer friend! I think photography is just so cool and I’m jealous of anyone with a real talent for it. =)

  17. Lori says:

    I haven’t read the other comments, so forgive me if I’m restating a tip, but regarding teaching phonics remember:
    say only the sound of the letter, so “F” says ffffff… sounds obvious but there is a tendency to tell the child it says “fuh.”

    “J” says “jjjjjjj” and not “juh,” etc.

    This is very obvious with the vowels.

    If a sound is made with a short spurt of breath,like “b,” “c,” “d,” “h,” etc, it helps to teach right alongside a vowel,because it’s a bit hard to not have an “-uh” sound.

    Helpful words:
    Bed, “b-eeeeeeed, bed”
    cat, “c-aaaaat, cat”
    hat, “h-aaaat, hat” etc. You get the idea. I taught my son his sounds at 2 1/2 and reading at 3 1/2 just as something to do, since he was easily bored and a quick learner. He learned most of his letters at Ikea and restaurants, on the backs of paper placemants while waiting for service/food. It’s really that easy.

  18. Lori says:

    I’m not saying I didn’t use a curriculum, I had a book, I’m saying he did most of his learning in the casual moments.

  19. Lori says:

    Jennifer, I agree with Angela Cribb, just have your son write. After a while you could be more structured: give him a reading assignment that he will enjoy, maybe a bried bio of a sports star in his favorite sport. After reading the assignment he writes one paragraph (length very generally suggested by you, but at least three sentances). You glance when he’s done to general length and shows a grasp of the material. If you want in the future you could do guided writing, where you give the first sentance of a creative writing endeavour and he writes the rest. You can find lots of these materials online. The crucial thing is for him to learn to get his thoughts on paper (or screen) in a cohesive understandable way. Another benefit is improving reading comprehention and if he’s reading well-written material he’ll pick up a lot of good grammar that way. And built up a little at a time it’s very non-threatening.

  20. Jennifer says:

    Kelly & Angela,

    Thank you for your comments. I do like the journal idea, we may try something like that combined with talking out his thoughts. He is so slow to gather them sometimes-or maybe I should say-I’m in such a rush. Need to relax and let him take his time, and help him connect the dots when he’s having trouble.

  21. Brooke says:

    THANK YOU, Cottage Child! 🙂 Thank you! I’m going to read and re-read your comment as I have time more time after our move, but I really appreciate you taking the time to comment for me. And glad to know it is a new way for others as well…everything is still new to me! 🙂 Thanks again 🙂

  22. Lori says:

    CC/R – “We printed out a list of benchmarks for each grade, marked with met or exceeded dates ” That’s a very good idea and one I’d like to copy, at least in the future around middles school or j.h. When I lived in Texas I was familiar with TEKS, but then they changed it. Any idea what it is now? For those in other states, would you care to share what your states’ formalized benchmark guides are? Thank you in advance.

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