help with planning-AO/SCM

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  • treasuredkids

    Hi all, 

    I am new to CM and homeschooling. I have 3 kiddos aged 4.5,2 and a baby..started with AO booklist for yr 0, just found SCM. It looks awesome! I am kind of overwhelmed with info from both sites. What’s a simple schedule I could follow? I think I would like an SCM base with some book lists from AO. Also wondering if this would mean a lot of extra planning for me every year? Maybe I am overthinking/overplanning…


    With your ages I would do this:

    1. Focus on habit training. Be consistent.

    2. Read aloud chapter and picture books, scripture. Begin with these lists:

    3. Then spend lots of time outside enjoying nature and real life!

    Of course SCM has it all laid out simply here for you:


    Tristan just told you to do exactly what I’d do. No over planning. Just enjoyment for quite a while!!!


    Hi there and welcome! First, take a deep breath! Homeschooling is something you learn as you go, and with your oldest child only 4 and a half, you have lots of room to grow. Don’t worry, you won’t mess up your child if you try something that doesn’t work. You will make mistakes, and learn from them…and keep on growing and learning.

    This committment to lifelong learning is actually the basis of a Charlotte Mason education – and it applies to both you and your children! You won’t reach the end of learning, and neither will your children. You will just keep getting better and growing stronger as a family day by day.

    Practically speaking:

    Your kiddos are still very young to start formal schooling. So you have some time to educate yourself on the process. If I were starting over knowing what I know now, I would:

    1. Read everything to do with CM educating that I could get my hands on. “Laying Down the Rails”, “Educating the Wholehearted Child”, “For the Children’s Sake”, and practically all of the ‘free resources’ listed here at SCM. These resources lay the foundation so that you really know what you are doing and why.

    2. Start with the basics. Snuggle and read living books, take meanders outside and stop to talk about the birds, plants, and bugs, read a good quality children’s bible, sing with your children! Read them some good children’s poems and play classical music around the house. Get some kid friendly art books and let them discover them. Teach your kids how to live a balanced life and make room in your life for their curiosity and wonder. At this early age, you are creating an ‘atmosphere’ of learning for your child.

    3. Begin habit training by focusing on one thing at a time and gently teaching it until it is firm. For most people, the habits of Obedience and Attention come first. Short lessons (no more than 15 minutes) early on are key to establishing the habit of attention.

    4. When you feel they are ready, you can begin teaching reading, handwriting and copywork, math skills (hands-on), and some of the more disciplined studies. Be careful to keep the dividing line between ‘school’ and ‘life’ very loose. You don’t want to conform to the educational system so much that your child loses interest in ‘school’ and then in learning. It should be a very natural part of life.

    Hope that helps and please remember to be gentle with yourself! You don’t need to perfect to be a great mom who educates her children and loves them well. Blessings!


    CoolYou are definitely over-thinking everything. I have a 5 DD and a 2 DD. SCM was a breath of fresh air to me. It gives you permission to RELAX!!! You have found the best place in the world for homeschoolers (especially little ones), in my opinion. CM methods give you so much room to breathe and you will be having so much fun with your kids that it won’t even feel like school. Your kids only need you to read to them, play with them outdoors, and if you are Christian, make Bible the MOST IMPORTANT part of your day, every day. SCM helps you discover how to teach your children good habits.

    So relax, take a few weeks to look around this wonderful website and do NOT get overwhelmed. Your kids are still very, very, very young and you have PLENTY of time to take this new method in. Just follow the preschool guide and enjoy the simplicity!!!  Use the next year to really get to know the CM method and to explore all of Sonya’s resources and you will feel equipped to start formal school next fall. I know it seems far away, but trust me!!!! Don’t follow the societal pressures to duplicate traditional school at home. Make your homeschool a haven for your children. Do what YOU think is best for them. You will learn by trial and error but it is so much fun. 

    I have never combined AO and SCM so maybe someone could else could help you with that.


    This is our typical day:

    Bible 5-10 mins (Always includes a memory verse until we know it.) – We do various things like catechism, Jesus Storybook Bible, Bible Study Guide for All Ages Beginner Pages.

    Habits – work on all day every day and twice a week we do a lesson in SCM’s Laying Down the Rails for Children

    Outdoor Play – you have permission to play play play! Enjoy those babies!!!!

    Read Aloud – tip…if their mouths are full, they can’t interrupt. 🙂 Mine eat a snack on a picnic blanket while I read until they tire of it. It’s usually lasts 20 mins or more. They get stories at bedtime and naps, also. I use the SCM booklist, the AO booklist and the Honey for a Child’s Heart reccommendations, especially her Christian rescourse list in the back. 

    Music – I play Classical music from our Direct TV channel or Pandora radio all day and we talk a little about the composers. I just find a fact or two online. No biggie.

    Art – I have an art print on display from various sources; we also do a book called Artistic Pursuits about once every other week. Those are fun but not necessary for CM. They may be a little young for a 4.5 yr old. but just try and see. I also just sit and draw with my daughter. We have a few “How to Draw” books from Dover that we pull out when we feel like it. 

    Poetry – once a week I read poetry from SCM suggested resources and various others that are twaddle free.

    Handicrafts – nothing official this year, but I include my dd in every household project I undertake, just talk about how to “do” anything and everything that comes up…laundry, dishes, hanging a picture, planting the garden, mending a shirt, etc. 


    If (and only IF) she is interested: (NO PUSHING!)

    Math – RightStart Second Edition, Level A. We LOVE LOVE LOVE this math program. Costy but well worth the cost. We came from MUS and I would pick RS anyday over MUS because of the manipulative and math game selection. Completely thorough program. It needs no supplementaion in my opinion. Becuase I already had them, we use the Family Math series ( I have all three. ) I pick games from those to play as well. 

    Reading – All About Reading Level 1

    Handwriting – probably about to start cursive instead of manuscript due to dd interest in it…… may want other opinions on this subject since we are switching at the moment

    (Science – we take nature walks and “journal” what we find by drawing pictures and looking up our item online, in ref books, etc. )

    I really let my kids lead me as to what they want to do. I provide a basic framework and a few must do activities but they do the rest. We are on autopilot finally and I have Simply Charlotte Mason to thank for it. I wish you luck! 



    Well, as usual these lovely ladies said in a few well-chosen words what I said in 500!!!

    “Brevity is the soul of wit”.


    Serving with Joy – your post is so perfectly CM. I love it. 


    Everything has been well said.   

    I did start a little bit of school last year with my (then) 4yo – but only because she wanted school like her older siblings.  We did

    Teach your child to read in 100 Easy Lessons  (this is not CM based) – then reading outloud a few books

    and eventually added in

    RightStart Level A.  (edition 1 – but edition 2 looks even better!)  – and some of Level B as she finished A early

    and that was it.  She did do Picture Study with her siblings, and any nature study we did…


    This year (age 5) she is doing

    some reading outloud to me

    RightStart Level B

    italic handwriting with “A new Handwriting” by Mona Bridges (that CM actually recommended – so it isn’t new….)


    She doesn’t school everyday – depends on my availability, as well as if she wants.   She will probably start AO Year 1 next year.

    My older kids are doing AO Year 3 (10yo) and AO Year 2 (7yo) – but I suspect this year we will take more than a year to do it as I am trying to relax a little…


    All my kids learned to read with “Teach Your Child To Read in 100 Easy Lessons” too. But we both got frustrated when the lessons were long, so we do about 2 pages in 15 minutes, mark our place, and start again the next day.

    Some of them learned to read at 4, some at 5, some at 6…but they all are excellent readers (2-4 grades above grade level). Mostly, I attribute that to the continued reading of excellent books that a CM education provides. A child who is motivated to read will read well.


    I agree with all these ladies. As you dive into the world of homeschooling you will come across all sorts of curriculum, methods, websites and books. I find it fun to read up a little and become familiar with some of what is out there – BUT BE WARNED! – do NOT try to implement every great idea you come across!! You can easily ‘chase rabbits’ online, and in your homeschool trying to do too much. I love to explore what other families mention, so I know my family’s options, but I just love coming home to SCM and being reminded that enough IS enough, and relationships mean more than book smarts!!



    I just wanted to add to my post that I, too, keep a timer or watch handy and keep handwriting to 5 mins of best effort. Reading and Math is kept to 10-15 minutes but I watch my child closely and stop before she becomes disinterested even if we haven’t had 10-15 minutes.

    Also, I use All About Reading (not CM approved) only because reading is my weakest subject to teach. I can read just fine, I just don’t know how to teach it since the English language is so diffifult. AAR makes the teaching part so easy for me. 

    I have a 2 yr old as well and half the battle is keeping her occupied. 🙂 Don’t get frustrated. I struggled with this frustration and I let it make me angry. Then I turned it over to God, relaxed, and now we just have fun. If you have your own firm agenda for this young age group, you are only setting yourself up for feelings of failure. Learn from me who has learned the hard way, that it is best to be flexible and treasure the ability to just have fun with them. Do not listen to outside opinions on the way you run your family. 


    We’ve used 100 lessons, McGuffey’s, and other resources to learn to read at our house. Short lessons kept it “CM”. ;0)

    The timer has been my friend and a friend to most of our children off and on through the years. It helps ME develop my own habits as well as those of our children. I HIGHLY recommend LDTR workshop as the first place to begin. The inspiration you’ll receive will help you stay the course for years and will remind you why you’re doing this in the first place.




    I agree with everyone’s suggestions about what to do with your young children right now.  I just wanted to address the part of your question about planning in the future if you aren’t using ‘pure’ AO or ‘pure’ SCM.  I’m using a bit of a mix, so here is how we do it. 

    One of the major differences between the two approaches is that in AO, each student in the family is working on their own individual program for things like science, history, and literature, whereas SCM has the students combined for those subjects, although the older kids will have additional books and assignments.  For various reasons, combining subjects isn’t a fit for my family, so I do more of an AO style set up.

    I like many of the SCM book choices, particularily for history, but, I like AO’s pacing (not quite so much time spent on the ancients) for history better. So I have subsituted some of the SCM books in place of the AO books.   For literature, I like many of the AO choices, so I stick with mostly those, and often use the SCM books as extra free-reads or family bedtime stories.  I also like the introduction of Shakespeare earlier with AO, so we keep that.  And so on. 

    How I make it work is that I use the AO schedules in chart format as my guide.  I use approximately the same number of books/chapters and try to keep the same balance between subjects as planned for each AO year, but switch out some of the books that I prefer from SCM, and a few other places as well.

    It takes a bit more planning than just printing off the AO schedule or just opening the SCM history modules, but it is worth it to me to have a program tailored to my family.  Most of the planning time is just in prereading the books and determining which I want to use.  Then it’s just a matter of plugging them into the right slots.  It can be done.  I can also make a mid year change of books if necessary, without feeling like I’m messing up a set schedule.

    Of course, in the 2 years before you need to do anything other than play outside, develop good habits and read a few good stories, you have time to read more, study the programs more, and decide whether AO or SCM will work for you as they are laid out, or how much ‘tweaking’ you will want to do.  And it may take a few years after that before you settle in to one or the other, or a combination, or something else entirely.  That’s fine too.  Flexibility will serve you well in your homeschooling career!

    Enjoy the journey.



    To add to Joanne’s helpful information, Charlotte Mason Help has charts for a tweaked version of AO that I find helpful. I cross out what we don’t plan to use for the subjects which we follow more closely to CMH than SCM. That may cause you to take another rabbit trail, but it is an option that can either be followed as is, or just used for more scheduling/planning ideas.

    While I was homeschooling more of our children, we stuck to more family style studies as it seemed easier for me to manage. Our eldest three are finished, so I only have two right now. They are almost seven years apart in age. This year we still have family style history, but next will mean separate studies for the most part (with the exception of nature study, picture study, and composers.) This means that CMH appeals to me and to our children from now on, most likely. Next year’s split will be 9th / 3rd grade. Most likely unnecessary explanation. ;0)

    Here’s a link to Lindafay’s helpful site,


    I like to primarily follow the SCM free curriculum guide and “plug in” a few books from other CM sites (like AO and CM Help).  SCM also has an e-book on “Planning Your CM Education” that I found helpful in creating my own plans.

    For K, we spend a bit of time on phonics and math, but I keep it pretty low key.  In the past we’ve used Explode the Code primers (I like that they have little writing).  We also do informal math at that age…lots of playing with math manipulatives…my DC especially like when we use cereal or raisins as our manipulatives!  In addition to that, we read picture books and they might join in with some of the older DC’s lessons.  When I just had a K’er, we did some fun projects like cooking, art, and spent lots of time at the local parks.

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