Learn to create a CM routine with no timers or alarms.
Does the thought of keeping a rigid school schedule with a timer make you feel like you're back in public school drudgery? Does it give you flashbacks to gray hallway lockers and cliques of popular kids laughing as they walk past you?
Does a niggling part of your brain tell you that if you don't follow a time table, you're just not doing it right?
You're not alone in your dislike of bells and rigid lesson times.
This year, I've tried to keep the timetable for Form I students (ages 6-9) for my 7 year old, and when we're able to follow it, it works wonderfully. Short and varied lessons, and neither of us --usually -- gets bored.
But I'll be honest: we started our first term the last week of July. It is now the last week of March, and we've just finished.
Our first term.
Why? Because many days I would look at that schedule, shudder, and think "hmmm.... those blinds look like they really need dusting."
And then my daughter would ask to please please please make some homemade whipped cream for the picnic she's planning... and who can resist that?
Because what I'm really avoiding is the feeling of a straight-jacketing schedule. The feeling that someone else is telling me what to do when.
And then I came across this in an article in the Parents' Review, the periodical edited by Charlotte Mason until her death:
I arranged her day in the following manner: From the age of five or six to nine--Scripture, hymn, and English reading with me at 10; easy French lessons with her French bonne at 10.30; walk at 11; sleep at 12 to 1, or as long as she wished. I may add here that she slept regularly up to the age of nine, when this rest was had by lying on the floor for thirty minutes or so in the schoolroom. In the winter, if fine, another walk or run till 3 o'clock, when a young daily governess came for an hour and a half or so for easy lessons in geography, sums, music, and writing.
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Parents' Review alternate schedule
A-ha! Not everyone followed a strict time table, even back in Charlotte Mason's day.
Writing that out into a schedule of sorts, we get:
10:00 Scripture, hymn, and English reading
10:30 French lessons
11: 00 walk
(outdoors until 3)
3:00-4:30 geography, math, music, writing
Put more simply, an hour of lessons in the morning and an hour and a half in the afternoon, with plenty of time for both sleep and to be outside.
The article doesn't say what "English reading" consists of. Is this learning to read and literature, or does it also include history, tales, and natural history readings?
Regardless, this is a very simplified schedule that most of us can apply to our own lives.
It's a rhythm
What strikes me the most after its simplicity is the easy rhythm. There is a daily walk as well as a daily rest.
It's rhythmic. It's regular. It's routine.
Lessons are naturally kept short not because of a timer, but because there were time blocks-- that is, blocks of time that were designated for a set of subjects.
Scripture, hymn, and reading for half an hour, then the French teacher came. An hour and a half to do geography, math, music and writing in the late afternoons.
This builds flexibility while also keeping lessons short. Not an hour and a half of geography one day, but an hour and a half of geography, math, music, and writing.
Do you know what else is nice about this? It's not a checklist. It's not a list of page numbers or even an amount of time that "should" be spent in each subject. It's a block of time in which you work on certain subjects.
Maybe today you want to spend 20 minutes on geography, but tomorrow only 5 minutes, or none. That's ok. This rhythm flows with you.
I love this idea. It feels so organic and natural. Create time blocks and a general order of subjects, but leave the details loose.
This is another example of how you can make Charlotte Mason fit your lifestyle, rather than molding yourself to fit Charlotte Mason.
If you can't do a timetable-like schedule, it's ok to have rhythmic one instead. Keep lessons short, but make Charlotte Mason homeschooling work for you.