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What I Learned from Charlotte’s Schedule

Mom making homeschool scheduleAs every fall rolls around, the time comes to re-evaluate my daily schedule. Yes, I try to organize my children’s daily homeschool schedule, but the evaluating and tweaking go further than that. I like to take a look at how I spend my day’s allotment of time in all areas.

This week, as I was pondering what my day might look like, I remembered that The Story of Charlotte Mason by Essex Cholmondley contained a description of a typical day for Charlotte (pp. 62, 63). This typical day’s schedule reflects the time in her life when she was overseeing the teacher training school as well as the many children’s schools that were using her methods and philosophy.

Now, her schedule will be different from ours because she was not dealing with the actual teaching, not to mention cooking, laundry, and preschoolers. But I was able to draw several principles from her schedule to help me with mine. I’ll mention the principles in a minute; but first, Charlotte’s schedule.

Charlotte’s Schedule

8:00 Breakfast
9:30 Mail came; answer letters; organize household details; schools’ work
(Note: Sometimes at 11:00 she too tired to go on, if she had had a bad night. Then she would take a 20 minute rest and continue after that.)
12:15 Stop work; ten minutes of a classic author
1:00 Dinner with the students; read aloud a book of travel or biography
2:15—4:00 Nature walk or ride
4:00 Tea
After Tea Teacher training work; reading or proof-correcting
6:00 Old favorite novel (Charlotte Bronte, George Eliot, Thackeray, Meredith, Jane Austen) until supper
7:00 Supper; read aloud newspaper, book of travel, literary essays, memoirs
8:45 Retired to room; evening reading and a Scott novel

Principles for My Schedule

Obviously, our schedules cannot look exactly like Charlotte’s; and they shouldn’t, because we are different people living in a different time and different situations. But I think Charlotte set up her daily schedule with wisdom, and we can all learn from some guiding principles reflected in her day.

  • Set times for work and times for rest/refreshment.

    Charlotte had specific times to start work and to stop work in order to rest and refresh herself. It’s easy for us to schedule only times for work. We simply detail which kinds of work we will do throughout the day. But we rarely schedule intentional times for rest. We should. Times of rest will make our times of work more productive as we allow our brains and bodies a change of pace.

  • Take a short rest if needed, then continue.

    It’s happened to all of us at some time or other. We nod off while listening to a child read aloud. (I’ve even nodded off while I was reading aloud!) At those times we can take a lesson from Charlotte and take a short nap. Twenty minutes is ideal. I well remember the time I finally gave in and laid down on the couch for a twenty-minute rest while my preschoolers were playing on the living room floor. I set the timer to make sure I wouldn’t sleep too long. And you know what? They didn’t burn the house down or kill each other. I woke refreshed and ready to be kind again!

    But there are two keys to remember with this principle. First, don’t be afraid to take that short rest if you need it. Second, set the timer and get up and going again after twenty minutes.

  • Read aloud after dinner and supper.

    Meal times are wonderful opportunities to keep a read-aloud going, because you’re already gathered in one place. Those who aren’t done eating can finish without pressure while listening to the book. Those who are done eating don’t get fidgety waiting for the others to finish, because they’re listening to the book. It’s a win-win situation.

  • Schedule time outside every day.

    This is a tough one for me. It’s easy for me to think that time spent outside is wasted. There I said it. Yes, I can see the once-a-week nature study time being productive and needing to be scheduled, but time outside every day? Charlotte spent about an hour and a half outside every day, and look how much she accomplished in her lifetime. It’s a challenging principle for me. How about you?

  • Keep several books of different styles going for personal enjoyment.

    As nice as it would be to sit and read a favorite Austen novel for the hour before supper, that luxury is not practical for me. I’m usually in the kitchen cooking, and food has a tendency to burn if I’m reading instead of watching. But the principle remains: Charlotte had several books of different styles going that she could turn to—even for only ten minutes—to relax, refresh, or challenge herself. We can do the same. In fact, we should do the same as much for our children’s sake as for our own.

    “Never be without a really good book on hand. If you find yourself sinking to a dull common place level, with nothing particular to say, the reason is probably that you are not reading, and, therefore, not thinking” (The Story of Charlotte Mason, p. 162).

  • Organize the household early in the day and train your children to help.

    You’ll notice that one of the first orders of business in Charlotte’s day was to organize and supervise household matters. Yes, she had help with the meals and the laundry, but we can still learn from her priority to organize and supervise those matters early in her day.

    And one thing that isn’t reflected on this schedule, but we know from reading in other places, is that the teachers-to-be who lived and trained in Charlotte’s house were assigned chores and tasks within that household. Time spent training our children in household chores and life skills is time well invested. I spent a lot of time training my children in the earlier years. Now I (and you) are enjoying the fruit of that labor. My children run the household while I’m on the road with SCM, plus they are well equipped to run their own households someday. Organizing, supervising, and training in household tasks is time well spent. Do it early.

Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of every single thing Charlotte did throughout the day, but it’s interesting to get this little peek into her daily life. Do any of these principles strike home with you? Do you notice any other principles from Charlotte’s schedule? Leave a comment and share your ideas.

SCM 2-Day Conference in Savannah, Georgia

We’re gearing up to come to Savannah next week and we would love to have you join us for two full days of encouragement and practical how-to’s in the Charlotte Mason Method.

The 2-Day SCM Conference on September 9 and 10 will include

  • Laying Down the Rails: The Power of Good Habits in Your Home School workshop;
  • Details on how to teach each school subject using Charlotte Mason methods;
  • Practice using those methods yourself;
  • A look at Charlotte’s school schedule and principles we can draw from her students’ days;
  • Digging deeper into narration: how to do it, what to expect, and why;
  • Instruction on teaching your children to draw;
  • Lots of resource recommendations and samples to get your hands on;
  • Four Ways to Destroy Your Child’s Love for Knowledge workshop;
  • All the SCM resources available at a discount;
  • Lots of fun and opportunities to connect with other CMers near you;
  • plus much, much more!

Registration deadline is September 6, 2011, so check out all the details and register today to be a part of this great conference!

15 Responses to “What I Learned from Charlotte’s Schedule”

  1. Trisch August 30, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

    Thanks so much for this! I’m getting ready to work on our fall routines, and this was very timely–especially about scheduling rest times and different types of reading. And yes, *I* need to get outside daily, too! :)

    Thank you!

  2. Jenn August 30, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    The bit about dinner burning while reading a novel made me chuckle. :)

  3. Jenn August 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    I also wanted to say … that is a great point about how much Charlotte accomplished in her life even though she took time for rest and refreshment regularly! I am going to be thinking on that one.

  4. Jenni August 30, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    Wow, thank you for this! I’m fresh off my afternoon nap and am happy to see Charlotte was a nap fan too.

    Also, my husband and I have a long-standing difference of opinion on what time is ideal to start school in the morning, so this article is very timely.

    Your personal comments about nature time are very interesting too. We love our outside time. If it wasn’t for that, we’d all have cabin fever and wouldn’t be able to concentrate on anything. Many days, we end up outside for lessons instead of sitting around at a table indoors.

    Blessings.

  5. laura August 30, 2011 at 9:09 pm #

    great article! thank you for it – I find it encouraging and inspiring. I too have a very difficult time going outside – I’m just a home-body, indoors and my daughter (while enjoying being outside more than I) doesn’t seem to miss it that much and we don’t get cabin fever. I recall as a child, though, spending most of my time outside – so I definitely see the benefit, still – bleh! But I will improve that! I will!
    Regarding reading while cooking – if we’re inspired to read during that time, we look for an audio book – it’s a great way to enjoy a book together when our hands are otherwise busy. Also, if we’re not listening to a book we’ll listen to Your Story Hour or online children’s programs like Whit’s End or Kid’s Corner (I’m sure there are many more from which to choose).

    Thanks again!

  6. Jen R. August 30, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

    I like the idea of a 4:00 pm Tea Time…think we will be adding this time of rest and refreshment to our schedule, with perhaps some poetry read aloud.

  7. Lauren August 31, 2011 at 8:53 am #

    Good idea in the comments about putting on audiobooks during cooking. I need to find more good audio books.
    I am thankful for these thoughts on Charlotte’s schedule as I prepare our revised daily routine for the school year– especially loving tea time, lots of outside time, and above all else reading SO much. I can think of more minutes in our day to read aloud even more.

  8. Caralee August 31, 2011 at 12:19 pm #

    I really appreciated this article. Though I was really surprised that Charlotte took alot of time in her schedule to read and do things she enjoyed. Though, I think she had a different way of thinking than those of us now, in that, she saw the need for reading and nature walks as extremely important to her well being and life as a whole. She also obviously wanted to be a good example to those she was teaching and leading by living the same kind of schedule and life she wanted others to enjoy and implement.

    Though I appreciated seeing her schedule, I would really like to see how a 2011 experienced Charlotte Mason homeschooling mother’s “actual” detailed schedule for a day or rather for the week so I can see how it is actually implemented. We have much added work that Charlotte did not have (as mentioned in the article – home management, being a wife and mother, homeschooling etc…).

    I did appreciate the insights into the schedule. For myself, I often over schedule my day and do not feed my own spirit with things that are enjoyable. I do know I need a paradigm shift in how I view our learning, how to incorporate our learning in our home life, and practically implement times of rest and refreshing. I am doing this very change this week.

    If anyone would be willing to share a real detailed schedule of their day or week, I would greatly appreciate it, as I am sure others would like to see it too. I am interested how you as a mother spend your day along with your children.

    • Sonya Shafer August 31, 2011 at 2:59 pm #

      Caralee, you might also check out the SCM Forum for some ideas. I know there have been some discussions on typical daily schedules there. Plus, you are welcome to post your question there as well. There are many wonderfully encouraging CM moms who frequent the Forum and will graciously share their experiences as they have time.

  9. Cindy August 31, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

    Get outside in all weather (except Hurricane Irene!) Call it recess, physical education, nature study, R & R but do it. Climb trees, scrape knees, be Indians, pioneers, explorers, cavemen, monkeys or ants. Grow food and flowers. Read or sleep under a tree. My best memories are of times that I was outside. I learned about physics trying to build dams in the creek and gravity while swinging from a grape vine. I’m so glad that CM wants you to get outside. Enjoy!

  10. Cindy D. September 1, 2011 at 12:03 am #

    An interesting article in the Tuesday, August 30th, Wall Street Journal compared the value of a coffee break, an outdoor walk in an urban setting, and an outdoor walk in a natural setting: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424053111904199404576538260326965724.html

    The research showed that the coffee had no beneficial effect, nor did the urban walk. But a 15-20 minute walk that included a touch of nature (trees, plants, etc), was truly restorative and returned the worker to his tasks with fresh outlook and energy. Perhaps we cannot carve out a 1 hour, 45 minute outdoor break every day, as Charlotte’s schedule shows. But 15 minutes outdoors in nature apparently yields great benefits!

  11. simple home September 2, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    Well, I have to say that a coffee break with a good book does me LOTS of good. ;)

    I think sometimes many homeschool moms can get in a rut of working too hard, and spinning burned out wheels. I agree that we all should wisely schedule refreshment. Thanks for the article.

  12. stephanie boda September 7, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    thank you so much for sharing charlotte’s day.thank you for taking the time to do the research as well.pray someday to attend a workshop.

  13. Jennifer R. January 17, 2013 at 5:51 am #

    What a grad idea, to do a family reading book at the supper table. My husband’s shift changes, but we Still eat at least one sit-down meal each day as a family, but have had a challenge with both waiting for our young daughter to finish eating as well as finding an alternative reading time when he works in the evenings to the normal story before bedtime routine.
    Thanks!

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