2015 Homeschool Changes: Contemplating our First Six Weeks

My friend Heather asked me what worked in our first six weeks of the Big Changes we made for our Homeschool this year.

So, this is a good time to think through the good and the bad; the challenges.

Almost everything is good.

I’ve posted an update each week in which I’ve gushed about how much we’re enjoying school:

  1. Weekly Report: The We Start Back Monday Edition
  2. Weekly Report: January 12-16, 2015
  3. Our Weekly Amble: January 19-23, 2015
  4. Our Weekly Amble: January 26-30, 2015
  5. Our Weekly Amble: February 2-6, 2015
  6. Our Weekly Amble: February 9-13, 2015
  7. Our Weekly Amble: February 16-20, 2015

But, I thought for this post, I’d think about things in the order I wrote my 2015 Homeschool Changes series:

1. Spiritual Changes: This is not our rousing success. However, I have enjoyed the Bible reading we’ve done as part of Ambleside Online – We’re reading through parts of Joshua and Mark and the children narrate.  This is a challenge because we’re using the KJV for this.  We’ve also reviewed our memory passages and catechism which has been very good.  Following the reading plan? Didn’t make it out of January.  Time to pick back up and not try to catch up. Maybe during Quiet Time and not first thing in the morning when we’re not at our best?

2. Philosophy Changes: This has been fantastic. I’m so thankful for our CM Group that we’ve begun, the first meeting was amazing.  The shorter readings have been great. I’m enjoying reading Consider This and For the Children’s Sake and even CM herself in A Philosophy of Education. Brandy‘s book Start Here is a nice guide for our group’s reading and discussion and the extra readings she includes are wonderful.

One of my dear friends from our CM Group said something during our meeting that has stuck with me.  She said, “CM isn’t a method, it’s a philosophy.”   It’s a way of thinking about education and cultivating what God has instilled in persons that’s so beautiful and fitting.

3. To Ambleside or Not To Ambleside:  We decided To Ambleside and it is the best decision I made. We have always kept our children mostly together in the content areas (history, science, and last year literature) and I knew M-girl and N-boy would be able to handle AmblesideOnline‘s Year 4.  I also knew that R-girl could keep up mostly, especially if I modified it somewhat for her.  I asked a lot of people.  Had discussions with some others and we decided to go for it.  Some of the readings are a stretch for R-girl and she tunes out and doesn’t narrate but the beginning or end of a passage, but we’re working on that.

For me, I love that Ambleside offers pre-planned schedules for the readings and I just plug them into our weekly schedule grid.  I’ve had planning done each week … or can get it filled in really quickly Monday morning if necessary.  Knowing what to do when has been a huge help.  There isn’t the decision fatigue, the last-minute scramble to set assignments, the too-much to do everyday assignment sheets.  It’s accomplishable.  As I learn more of CM Philosophy, I think it will be that much better.

As for the work that is scheduled, it has almost all been a hit. I asked the family Friday night at dinner how they thought the first six weeks went.  The children were all very happy! They like this so much better, it’s fun! (While fun isn’t what I’m going for, enjoyment is). They like most of the books.  They like knowing the expectations.  They like math being limited to 30 minutes a lesson. There are some books they haven’t liked as much, but some – like Age of Fable – have grown on them once we got past the introductory information.

4. Narration Changes: My kids like oral narrations.  The older two are (somewhat) less resistant to one written narration per week than two per day (for each reading).  Their written narrations this week were good, obviously could be improved (we all could work on the idea that critique isn’t personal), and saved for the last minute (procrastination comes naturally).

Narration is still an area I need to improve.  I need to improve teaching it, modeling it, and varying it.  This week, I hope to do some more study of narration, reading through those links in my original post and the AO Forum.  We have loved reading Poor Richard at dinner and Daddy has modeled narrating it (he’s really good at narration!)

5. Schedule Changes (Big Blocks of Time): Knowing that six weeks was a finite period of time was huge to our success, I think.  The children knew this off week was coming. I was able to schedule all kinds of appointments for this week without feeling like we were “wasting” school time with them. We are going to get hair cuts this week.  I can learn more myself, we can rest, we can read some Robinson Crusoe at dinner and do some catching up, but I don’t feel pressure to catch all the way up.

Before, when we took breaks when I thought I needed them, we either never took a break, or took too much of a break.  Having them pre-planned is going to be wonderful, I think.

6. Physical Changes: One of the best things I did was plan to start our day with exercise.  The children continue with their sports, it’s basketball season for two more weeks.  I need to sign N-boy and R-girl up for baseball this week.  Soccer signups are done. But from 8-8:30 almost every day we do school, doing our pilates video has become a favorite part of the day. (Plus, I get a shower almost every day)  I’m excited for nicer weather when we can go outside in the morning.

7. Habits: A wonderful thing about habit-training in CM philosophy is that it is to be done slowly.  Our habit for the first six weeks was keeping our table and the area around it neat and clear.  We mostly did a great job with this! There were a couple of nights we had to go back and clean up, but so much better than it used to be!

Our next six weeks habit is going to be to refer to your own assignment sheet (to-do list).

And I can learn more about Habit training again.

8. Schedule Changes (Small Blocks of Time): Our Weekly Schedule, with only some school work on Thursdays, mostly Circle Time and our Extras (composer study, art study, Shakespeare, Folk Song), has gone well.  Except for getting to the library.  I would really prefer that be a regular part of our routine.  I was listening to the Read-Aloud Revival podcast, and was reminded how important regular visits at regularly scheduled times are.  My kids love the library and always ask to go, we need to get back into the habit and I want it to be on our schedule.

Getting moving at 7 isn’t always easy.  Jason usually awakens the children, but we all struggle with up, dressed, grooming, breakfast, and chores in an hour.  This week I want to make a breakfast (and lunch) schedule for every day.

I already talked about how exercising first thing, about 8 am, is working great. The children love that they get a break while I shower.

Circle Time from 9-10:30 is wonderful. I’m thinking about moving Latin into Circle Time and snuggly read alouds to after lunch and right before Quiet Time during the next six weeks.  The children seem amenable to that idea.  This past term, Circle Time was mostly review, I hope it will remain as successful when we’re working on new studies.  The children have *loved* having Circle Time notebooks with the things we’re studying and memorizing.

Knowing that they get a break from 10:30-11:00 is also helpful.  They like getting a break.  I don’t hate it because it is scheduled and planned. I know that they work better both before and after their break at least partially because they know they have to for it to continue being in the schedule.  It is supposed to be a break and snack.  During our off week, I hope to get some snacks packed away and ready to go. Making Homeschool more Homey, to use kort’s words.

Limiting 30 minutes of math is helpful.  There have been few days any child hasn’t completed a whole lesson in that amount of time. I would like to set a timer to better be sure I’m limiting it more carefully.  Toward the end of the six weeks, I made a schedule for our lesson time and that has helped us direct our time. Of course, I’m already thinking of making changes to it.


This exercise has been helpful to me, thinking about what has gone well and what challenges we need to address. You will note – as I do – that almost everything that needs to be changed pertains to things *I* need to do better.  Yikes.


  1. I'm so thrilled for you- that you have found a method of living & learning that compliments your family! I'm thrilled you've founf peace & joy in it! :):):)

  2. I envy you your CM group! I know one younger mom who is a little interested in Mason's ideas and has a friend who also is, and I've suggested a time or two that we get together and have a reading/discussion group, but it hasn't gone anywhere — they're both so very busy.

    Now, a suggestion regarding #1. I consider reading the Bible devotionally as being a different thing from studying it. We use the BCP, which includes daily Bible reading with Prayers, so there's no narration and the only discussion is when the kids have a question. Bible Study is a completely different activity — it's an academic activity, a school subject.

    If you're interested, scroll down to page 12 at this link for the form we use — it's simple and beautiful. The daily readings (a Psalm, read responsively, and another brief passage of Scripture) fit between the passage from I Peter and the period of silence.


    1. I actually have a copy of the 1928 BCP. I was hoping to read the whole Bible this year … something I've never successfully accomplished. I get behind and then try to catch back up. I'm going to try just picking up where I left off.

      Our CM group is wonderful. We're all busy too, but decided to try to make one night a month a priority … it's wonderful that the group is all friends from church who I see weekly too.

      Thanks for the recommendations 🙂

    2. There's a lot that I love about the 1928, but I don't really like the daily prayers for families — besides saying Our Father together, the rest of the service is the parent praying one long prayer after another with the family saying Amen at the appropriate places. I like it for personal devotions, but not for using with the children, especially when they were young. So I like the 1979 better for use with children. Actually, after we say Our Father we use the Suffrages from Morning Prayer Rite I, then either continue with the General Thanksgiving and the Prayer of St Chrysostom, or turn back to the form for families and close with that collect. It's very flexible.

      I hope you're able to finish your reading goal! I've tried that several time and never succeeded. One year I managed to read the whole NT during Lent, but it took me at least two years the one time I actually managed to read it straight through. I always get distracted and want to read my favorite books over and over again. o.O

  3. Love your blog, Dawn. It's such a place of encouragement and inspiration to me. 🙂 I envy you for having a CM group in your area.
    Discovering the CM educational philosophy and using the AO curriculum is the best thing that has happened in our home school. Years ago, I home schooled my oldest 2 with the textbook method. While they did well, they hated their lessons and often told me they were boring. If only I would know about Charlotte Mason back then! Oh well, no more looking back and regretting; just looking ahead to more wonderful years with my 5 youngest children as we continue on our CM journey. 🙂
    Have a blessed day!

  4. What a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading it and was immediately set to thinking about how I could accomplish some of this in our home.

    1. Thanks, Amy! I'm glad it has encouraged you. My advice is to take your time considering, though. Don't speed into anything.

  5. Thank you for sharing!!! I love hearing the "brass and tacks" of how CM plays out in people's homes and lives. 🙂

  6. A CM Study Group is such an encouragement! I have one that meets in my home every second month…lots of fun. We study CM's Volume 6, and you've just reminded me that I want to get Brandy Vencel's study guide to help me with preparation. 🙂

  7. There's nothing better than finding a schedule that really works well and clicks in your homeschool! I'm glad you seem to be finding what works and what doesn't work for you! Thanks for sharing this week on The Homeschool Nook, and don't forget to add our button somewhere on your site! Hope you have a great Holiday Dawn!

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