As 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.
|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|
|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.