Topic | Finishing Lessons by Lunch

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  • Tamara Bell

    On the most recent blog post and podcast, Sonya discusses how to finish lessons by lunch. This used to be an area where we struggled as a family. I was trying to do it ALL before lunch. When I started to utilize Planning your Charlotte Mason Education and looking at PNEU schedules, I realized that I was cramming all subjects together and not enjoying the feast. I was forgetting Charlotte’s words, “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.” I made some adjustments to our schedule and now our days are fairly smooth sailing. This means that we do nature study, art, handicrafts, and fun read alouds in the afternoon (this is how I make it part of life…not formal school work). There are some days when an older student of mine dawdles a bit but I keep his lessons short and then he must finish up his work in the afternoon and rarely on the weekend. He doesn’t like this so works harder the next day.

    I’d love to discuss the blog post and glean some ideas from you.

    ~Have you been able to create a schedule that allows for productive afternoons? What does that look like in your home?

    ~What challenges or obligations prevent you from working through lessons in the morning? How does this affect your schedule?

    ~Do you think that finding a good schedule or rhythm can affect the atmosphere of your home?

    ~Have you found yourself changing your schedule seasonally or by term? Why? What affect does this have on the atmosphere in your home?


    We have always finished school by lunch (now with high schoolers, they occasionally finish in the early afternoon). I appreciate that blog post because I got the impression that we were crazy and not doing enough because we were done so quickly. I am glad to know that I might have company. 🙂

    I think that it’s not so much our schedule that allows for productive afternoons, but many other factors, including: my kids are very motivated. They know the sooner they are done their work, the sooner they can go do other things. I don’t do every subject every single year; we do the 4 basics (math, English, history, science) plus one extra (geography, logic, etc.). Each of my children has a checklist so they know exactly what to do every day and can get started without me. I believe in short lessons so I choose curriculum accordingly. I only use one program per subject (some people like to supplement and add a lot of extras so they end up doing 3 different math curricula, for example).

    But as for a schedule, my rule of thumb is math and English every day, and history and science 3x a week. The extra subject is usually 2x a week, and then we have a few once-a-week things, like art. My high schoolers have science 4x a week and electives 3x, so not much different.

    I currently don’t have any obligations preventing us from doing lessons in the morning, thankfully. I purposely schedule appointments and such for the afternoons and limit our outside commitments.

    I think that having a good routine adds structure and peace to a home. I can’t imagine the chaos if all five of my kids didn’t know what to do when and were clamoring after me all the time!

    I love the idea of productive afternoons. We did more of this when my older kids were smaller, but now they all have their own work and interests that they pursue. I still read aloud to the younger ones in the afternoon, but my teens go out and work with dad, I have one who has many bird feeders on the go and is always filling and monitoring them, they all play outside, and we have a skating rink in our backyard.

    Interesting discussion!

    Tamara Bell

    Going outside and working with Dad is wonderful!  I’m noticing those changes with my older 2 (13 and 14) as well.  I miss the days I could go play with them out of doors for hours, or run to a play at the drop of the hat, however I see them maturing and developing the skills needed for adulthood.  For our home, this is what “productive afternoons” look like for them as they grow older.

    Thank you for sharing what your schedule looks like.  I do find that I change our schedule seasonally.  In the winter we start a bit later in the morning than at other times in the year.  Living in the far northwest corner of the country, our mornings tend to be dark and then dark hits us again around 4:30.   We use the winter as a time to rest a bit longer.


    Done by lunch has always been our plan.  Like Erin, I used to worry we weren’t doing enough, but I don’t worry much about that anymore.  I also try to choose materials that allow for short lessons, and my older children are also committed to getting done early.

    One thing that works well for us, which is kind of the opposite of the example schedules, is that my older children start early, the youngers start later, and we finish with family lesson in the early afternoon.  It gives me time to finish a few things in the morning before I’m needed for school.  And we like being done around the same time so that no one is still working while others are off playing.  Of course, it doesn’t work like clockwork, but that’s the general routine.

    It has taken me 11 years to tweak our routine, but it is finally working well for us.  We only school 4 days per week. Dad is off on Friday, and we got used to HOD’s schedule back when we did it. 🙂

    But, my 8th and 10th grader get started right after breakfast on independent work.  My 5th, 3rd and 1st graders play outside after getting chores done.  I finish cleaning up the kitchen, getting ready, etc.  Then I do English (ULW 3) with my two oldest and check to see if they need any help with Algebra and Geometry.

    I call the littles in, and we work through their subjects.  I check back with my oldest two and help with anything they need, and then we have lunch.

    After lunch, we meet in the living room and have family time.  After family time, we have “naptime”, but I’m the only one who actually naps. 🙂  The rest of them are to read, draw or listen to audio books or Adventures in Odyssey.  They are also able to watch a show together when naptime is over so that I have a little bit longer time in my room. 🙂

    Then the rest of the afternoon is playing outside, board games, baking, crafts, etc.  We do have ballet, band and piano lessons on two afternoons.  But piano lessons are at my mom’s house, and they enjoy playing outside, games or crafts there.

    My older two also have French and Spanish class on one morning, but there is a study hall where they can finish their work while the other is in class.  We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use an actual classroom setting for foreign language at that level.  Otherwise, we have tried to keep all outside classes in the afternoon.

    Even though we are off on Fridays, we still read, read, read. 🙂  By keeping read-alouds every day, we keep learning an atmosphere.  We also often try to use Fridays as something nature related.

    It’s probably more information than you needed, but it’s been working well lately.


    We have generally always been done by lunch, with that varying a bit each time I have a baby (we use those afternoon naps when needed!). Here’s my crew currently, with details about school for us:

    12th grader – She is out the door at 5:30am for an early morning scripture study class M-F, then home around 7:15am. She is done by lunch each day unless she is working a lot that week (works 20 hours at a bakery), then she may do more work on days off in the afternoon to lighten up her school load on work days. She does not have any group subjects with the family this year. She does sometime help teach younger kids, or listen in on read alouds, but only if she wants to.

    8th grader and 7th grader – These two are with the family for history, do Apologia Physical Science together, and are independent for everything else. Done by lunch.

    5th grader – With the family for history and science, independent for the rest of his subjects (my teaching/help as needed, but no siblings in other subjects). Done by lunch most days, occasionally later if he has a grumpy day and drags things out.

    4th grader – With the family for history and science, independent for the rest of his subjects (my teaching/help as needed, but no siblings in other subjects). Done by lunch.

    2nd grader – With the family for history and science, independent for the rest of his subjects. Definitely needs my one on one help with reading, math. no siblings in other subjects. Done by lunch.

    1st grader – With the family for history and science, independent for the rest of his subjects. Definitely needs my one on one help with copywork, math. Reads pretty well, but still doing reading with me most days. No siblings in other subjects. Done by lunch.

    Kindergartener – He’s 5.5 and the only ‘subjects’ he has are reading lessons, handwriting, and math, and ONLY if he comes to me and asks to do school. If he doesn’t ask to do school then he doesn’t do any. I don’t do formal lessons before age 6 unless the child asks each day. Generally he asks, but some days he is busy playing and never asks to do school.

    3yo, 11 month old – Playing. Being read to. Getting into things. Making messes. Enjoying life!

    One challenge we regularly have is daily medical care several times a day, regular medical appointments and weekly physical therapy for my 1st grader, Mason. He’s got a lot of medical needs (spina bifida, hydrocephalus, osteoporosis, etc). Right now PT is Thursday mornings at 10:30am. Not my favorite, but it is what it is. Kids know that they need to seek me out for school help early on Thursdays or they will have to finish up in the afternoon when I’m available again.

    Routine is essential for us with a large family! When our routines are in place life goes smoothly, school is done, and kids have many hours of their day left to explore their personal interests, play, etc. If routines falter then everything is chaotic and nobody is happy.

    We DO have seasonal changed to our routine. Winter finds us playing more games, reading aloud more, building things, and doing handicrafts and art more. Summer is similar, as it gets too hot to go outside for long (again, Mason has medical issues that cause him to overheat easily, so that impacts how long we can be out at a time in summer). Spring and autumn we tend to be outside more and play fewer games.


    Tristan, I can’t remember if you’ve mentioned somewhere what you are using for family history and science this year.


    Never mind. I found your blog again. 😊


    LOL, glad you found it Keri! I’m using The Good and the Beautiful History 1 (loving it, only 6 lessons left for the year). For science for the 5th grade and under crowd we have done a mix of studies on our own and will be trying out some of TGTB science units in Feb/Mar/Apr/May that I’ve collected for free over the last year or two.


    Question #1: Is my schedule my servant or my master?

    I gave up on trying to finish by lunch.  We are more relaxed.  If we get into discussing a topic, I don’t want to cut it short because the schedule says we have to start math now.  We get too hungry if we go more than four hours after breakfast to eat again.  And we need time for bathroom breaks, snacks/drinks, cleaning up messes that happen, etc.  I have to allow enough margin in our schedule for these.

    I used to feel like a failure because our days take longer.  But I have learned to look at what we did do instead of what we didn’t do.  I just wanted to offer a different perspective on the topic and let others know that if they don’t get finished by lunch, it’s perfectly okay.

    Our schedule/routine changes often, at least each new term.  We have a lighter day once a week when we go out to a park or museum or to run errands.  Finding the schedule that works for your family certainly does affect the atmosphere of the home.


    We are never ever done by lunch. Not because we do s much, but we simply are not morning people. Sometimes we dont even start till lunch! That being said we do have a routine and out school day is never more than 5 hours with breaks, projects and rabbit trails. We typically start about 10am. A typical day would look like this:

    10 – 11ish family time (history, bible, enrichment, foreign lang, geography)

    11-12 independent work, I bounce from kid to kid as needed

    12-1 lunch, read aloud

    1-3 finish independent work, science experiment or handicraft

    I think the main take away is that school should not be a wild beast that consumes your world. As long as lessons are short and enjoyable (as much as possible anyway) the time is not the most important thing.

    Tamara Bell


    It looks like you have a wonderful routine going!  I love that you keep read alouds going every day.  Thank you for sharing so much detail concerning your daily schedule.  It has given me some things to think about concerning my schedule.  We are soon to bring our almost 6 year into the “formal” fabric of school which will mean tweaking our schedule.

    Tamara Bell


    I’ve long been amazed at the schedule/routine you keep with your family!  We tend to stay indoors more in the winter, not because of snowy winters but because of dark, wet, wet, wet winters.  Creating (handi-crafts), extra read-alouds, formal art, and Shakespeare make their way onto the schedule during the winter.

    Tamara Bell


    It’s wonderful that you’ve found what works best for your family!  It is  important that each family/mother finds the routine/schedule that works best for them.  Margin is important too.  I remember when I first started my CM journey…for some reason I threw margin out the window.  That made for less than enjoyable days.  We were stressed, the kids no longer enjoyed learning, everything became another item on the checklist.  Once I allowed margin (I have had to cut back on the rabbit trails my older children love to take), and moved some of the items I was trying to accomplish in the morning hours to the afternoon, my children and I enjoyed learning and our time together more.


    My daughter is 16 (will be 17 in a couple of weeks) and we could finish by 1ish if we chose to but we prefer to be a bit more relaxed in our routine. We often finish formal school by 2:00. We don’t even begin lessons until 10 because we have a longish P.E. time every morning. That gives us 2 hours of work before lunch and 2 hours after. It works well for us. We live in South Florida where it is too hot to do much out of doors in the afternoons for much of the year so we’ve learned to get our exercise and fresh air in the mornings before school starts. We also get out in the evenings when it cools off.

    We really enjoy our literature so we often spend extra time on that subject in the afternoons. My daughter also draws, paints every afternoon and knits or crochets on many evenings.

    Just to keep it real, she also plays video games every afternoon and we enjoy nightly family tv time as well! We are faithful jeopardy watchers and HGTV fans 😀 I throw this tidbit in even though it has nothing to do with the topic just to add some reality to my post. Sometimes these types of discussions can make it sound like we are perfect families with perfect children who only pursue extremely worthwhile and noble goals. That’s certainly not the case in my family!


    Yes! We also have video games and tv time at some point during the day and evening. 😊

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