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Let’s look at three areas that can help you evaluate whether you are giving your child enough in your home school.
Today I want to address a question that we hear a lot. In fact, I’m sure most of us have probably asked this question at some point in our homeschool journeys. Here’s how one mama put it:
How do I know how much is enough? If I do short lessons and do, for example, science 4 days per week, how do I know if I’m covering enough material? If I purchased a textbook, I would need to have longer lessons 5 days a week to cover all the topics/pages in the book. I couldn’t possibly cover this much in a CM short, varied lesson plan—or can I? I really want short lessons, I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get enough done, I don’t even know how much is enough. lol Help!—Sophie
Some of the answer to your question, Sophie, depends on how old your child is and whether you are working at an elementary, a middle school, or a high school level. But at any of those levels, keep in mind that a longer lesson does not necessarily mean that the child is learning more. The total minutes spent on a lesson is not the key to learning. The key to learning is how the material is presented and how well the child is paying attention.
Short lessons are a means to an end. They help the student develop the habit of full attention, but they are also the result of a habit of full attention. In other words, the reason the lessons can be kept short is because full attention is required on the part of the student, and because living books and narrating are powerful methods that can help a student learn something well in a short amount of time.
So don’t get hung up on short lessons just for time’s sake. A lot of learning can be done in a short lesson if the child pays full attention and uses Charlotte’s methods. And keep in mind that the lesson time lengthens as the child grows older. The keys are full attention and Charlotte Mason methods.
So, assuming that the full attention and the methods are in place, let’s look at three areas that can help you evaluate whether you are giving your child enough.
1. Look at Your Goals
First, look at your goals. What are your goals for that child in this subject? Having personal goals will help you not get stuck simply checking off the boxes of whatever curriculum you’re using. Goals will help you keep your focus on the big picture of educating your child as a person.
Remember, in a Charlotte Mason education, the goal is to educate the whole person; to shape the child’s character, habits, will, and mind in order to make him the best person he can be. So with that in mind, what is it you want to accomplish in this subject?
Goals will also help you make choices. It is impossible to teach your child all about everything. That can’t be done. You must pick and choose what you’re going to cover during the years that you have together. One of the key goals in a Charlotte Mason approach is to keep the child’s natural curiosity and love of learning alive, so that he will want to keep on learning his entire life and know how to go about it. Make sure that is one of your goals. It is possible to plow through a boatload of material and check off all the boxes, but kill your child’s love for learning in the process. So give your child a variety and keep learning a pleasant process.
2. Look at the Feast
A second area to consider is to look at the feast you are spreading. Charlotte encouraged us to give the student plenty of ideas, not just dry facts, and to spread a wide variety of subjects. So in addition to looking at a particular subject and how much you are covering within that subject, also look at how many different subjects you are doing during the week.
The minimum is to make sure you are complying with any subjects listed in your state’s or province’s laws. Some of them require certain subjects to be covered. Also, if your child is in high school, take a look at any graduation requirements (or admission requirements, if he is college-bound) and make sure you are on track with those required subjects. That’s your starting point.
In a Charlotte Mason education, you will be giving your child more than those. Here is one of Charlotte’s weekly schedules.
A good way to make sure you are giving your child enough of a feast is to look at her schedule and see if you include the same amount of variety in your subjects. I don’t mean that your schedule must look exactly like this one, but notice the wide variety of subjects that was covered, and the time table will give you a guide for how much time was spent on each subject.
You’ll find at least 17 different subjects sprinkled throughout the week. Some were done every day; others were done on several days; a few were done only once during the week. The key is to spread a wide feast. If you are doing only the basic subjects or only the 3Rs, you’re not doing enough—you’re not spreading a wide feast with a variety of subjects in a Charlotte Mason way.
So, look at your goals and look at the feast you are spreading.
3. Look at Your Child
And third, look at your child.
Your child will probably give you some good clues as to whether the material you are covering is a good fit for him. If your child growing? Is he frustrated? Is he bored?
If school time consistently calls forth tears, you might be pushing too much too fast.
If your student can zip through what you have planned with minimal effort and interest, you might need to raise the bar.
On the other hand, if he is interested in the world around him and growing as a person, you’re probably in a good place. Because education is not about what the child knows. Information is not education. Education is about shaping a person.
“The question is not,—how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education—but how much does he care? and about how many orders of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? and, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?”School Education, pp. 170, 171
So yes, look at your goals, look at the feast you are spreading, and look at your child, and make sure you are providing the best education you possibly can. But also remember Charlotte’s wise counsel and the next time you find yourself wondering, “Is my child learning enough?,” be sure to also ask yourself the harder questions: “What does my child care about?” and “Who is my child becoming?” For the answers to those questions will reveal whether you are giving him enough of what is most important.