Scheduling. It is a crazy business. In my years I have tried many iterations and I have decided that the PNEU schedule might be the best way to go. The PNEU was the parent education branch of Charlotte Mason's philosophy. You can see more about scheduling this way at Sabbath Mood Homeschool. This is the "original" schedule reorganized to show all grades on one page. Here is a sample chart, can this really make it easier??
This is for the youngest kids - 1st to 3rd grade. I won't go into details of what all these things mean but do want to talk about how it has helped our house. I do agree with Afterthoughts, who reminded us last week, that the charts aren't the point. But . . . they were used and with good reason. Here is what I have found.
1. Decision Fatigue - Do you see ALL of those subjects? Can you imagine trying EVERY week to figure out how you will fit everything in and for how long, etc? In Volume 3, decision fatigue is the modern term for what she is talking about. Her example is in relation to young children and parents asking them to make choices that aren't appropriate for their age. . . but. With such a "feast" it can be hard to decide how and when to lay it out. Putting together a schedule isn't easy BUT once it is done you have made the decisions and you can just go with it. If you find yourself making tacos and pizza every night for dinner and turning on the TV - it may be a sign of decision fatigue. CM was right again about decision fatigue and willpower.
I have tried to use block scheduling as explained in Teaching From Rest. It was not really restful because of the cajoling that happened around here. Which leads me to my next point . .
2. Less room for negotiating - With time blocks my oldest was still trying to negotiate ALL THE TIME. Well how about I play for the first 15 minutes (use up the margin first) and then work? Do I have to do it in this order or can I do it different today? What if I just do some of the time and save some for later? GOOD GRACIOUS! With a timetable it is pretty easy to just DO IT. I don't want to negotiate - just do what it says. He still tries but I have a firmer rule with a chart.
Gretchen Rubin in Better Than Before talks about different personalities and habit change. Some people need to go cold turkey and others can handle a treat every now and then. I am a COLD TURKEY person (who knew)? For me having a schedule is like quitting randomness in our schedule with no outs. Now, in reality, we still sometimes go to the park before we finish dictation but we are MUCH better than we were.
I have also tried the notebook method. Let's just say I was inconsistent and still tried to keep most things in my head. There was no order to the day and it wasn't easy to see where we had spent our time.
3. Keeping the Feast - Honestly, with notebooks there was always something that wasn't getting done because something else came up, we got distracted, etc. I would often realize that I left something out the night before and then the battle of "Mom, you are adding more - that's not fair" would begin. Often things like picture study or handicrafts never made it on the list. The timetables make sure that you have everything included in your week at some point. The schedule is posted and everyone (well, all those who can read) can help ensure that we are keeping it together. My oldest can read and know what is coming next and move on without me - if it is something he can do alone (read the next book). I can share the "keeping" with others because it isn't all in my head. I used to get frustrated because my son wasn't a mind reader - a timetable minimizes that issue.
4. Sanity and Attention - As I have added students, some subjects and children need more guidance than others. This is the first year I have had two in full time schooling. With the notebook method we ran into conflict everyday. My older son would wait until I was just settling in with someone else to say that he needed my help RIGHT NOW! Then, of course, it became my fault that he wasn't able to do his work. How convenient?? (Yes, I realize there are other character things going on here).
With a schedule you take these factors into account. You can think through who needs help with math and what someone else can do independently at that time. Factoring these things in your planning can save your sanity and cut down on disputes. It also allows you to more fully focus on the child in front of you because that is what is supposed to happen during that time (not that interruptions won't happen but you know where your focus should be). Now, some mom's with notebooks probably created a fantastic schedule to help kids move through their notebooks each day in an orderly fashion.
However the PNEU schedule includes one key element that doesn't get discussed many other places . . .
5. Variety - When I used the notebooks I lumped like subjects together. Therefore, we didn't switch the type of brain food we were getting that often. We would sit and read for long stretches (different things, but still). CM is big on changing out the type of work you are doing and using short lessons "because a change is as good as a break". We weren't switching tracks because once we started we just kept going. This wasn't good for any of us. Using the charts makes sure we are covering the whole feast AND switching up the type of work we are doing consistently. It also helps us keep the times short. Knowing you only have 15 minutes really does help you to focus in and apply yourself to a subject. Nebulous statements like do Ch. 15, don't have quite the same effect.
6. ENOUGH! - For me this works two ways. Looking at those schedules you realize just how FULL the curriculum is and I can say - that is enough. I trust that, over the course of a the year, we are probably going to cover enough to feed my children's minds and draw them into relationships with a variety of subjects. That is huge.
However, on a daily basis I can also say ENOUGH. Before I always felt like we were still missing something (often we were) or adding "just a little bit more" (Andrew Kern cautions strongly against this). Whether it was an "extra" (like art, that isn't extra) or going just a little longer with math - it wasn't helping us.
Using the chart I have already decided (with the help of others with many more years of experience) that this will be ENOUGH for today and that in the end it will be enough overall. So, if we follow what it says doing 2 or 3 hours of school is enough. I can be done, my kids can be done and we can move on to other pursuits. That never really happened before. I was always trying to fit in more. Now there is a time for everything and it is enough.
If you want to think more about this type of scheduling there are now even handy cards that can help you think through these things. I thought that randomness would lead to freedom. In my house it led to stress and frustration. A schedule has reduced conflict, enriched our curriculum and allowed me to enjoy the rest of my day. I'd love to hear what you do!