Monday, March 31, 2014

Revisiting Plans and Schedules with The Well-Trained Mind

Believe it or not, I'm a highly distractible mom who gets sidetracked easily and chases rabbit trails to infinity and beyond.

Yes. I'm afraid I'm a desperate example of a never-ending work in progress.

But… maybe this is why plans are so important to me. If I don't have a plan in place, our homeschool derails. And life provides enough derailing for me to not run off the tracks before an adverse circumstance hits. That's not to say I don't still chase rabbits with my children - because the freedom within the grammar stage is that you can spend quite a bit of time on interest-led learning.  I love flexibility, but definitely with a plan in place so we don't completely unravel all of our school days.

I hesitated for quite a while before I finally bought (and read) The Well-Trained Mind.  Its thickness was foreboding. Little did I know, it is a book that does not need to be read in its entirety but is a reference manual that will be used for many years to come. Even so, it actually shocked me that it was such a readable and practical book. I actually enjoyed reading it!  For those who fear the price tag or the length, here's some of what it contains for each stage of learning:
  • How to teach each subject at each stage (from birth to 12th grade)
  • Time required for each subject, general instructions, and how to implement it
  • Where your child should be with each subject in each year
  • Overview of daily schedules with specific details for each subject
  • Resources for each subject (book lists for absolutely everything - including read-alouds and curriculum for all subjects!)
  • How to set up notebooks and make them part of your everyday routine
This book helped me to realize the importance of immersing my children in words rather than chasing so many crafts, worksheets, and online activities. It helped me to realize the importance of what I originally thought were mundane and meaningless tasks, such as notebooking, narration, dictation and copywork.

But that is just my very high-level overview. You can read some wonderfully detailed reviews of The Well Trained Mind at Living and Learning at Home's Classical Mamas Read Book Club.

Rather abashedly, I admit that I finally finished reading The Well-Trained Mind last semester. Since then, I've been working on a graphical representation of the schedules contained within because I am sort of a visual learner. (This took me months to do because… I'm a highly distractible mom who gets sidetracked easily and chases rabbit trails to infinity and beyond.)  Would you believe I couldn't really comprehend the schedules without seeing them in a planner format?  Ridiculous, but... that's me in a nutshell.

Please note that this is my own interpretation of the Well-Trained Mind schedules and, as such, may contain errors. Because these schedules lack the details (by "science," it does not mean "science lecture" but includes such things as investigating nature, doing experiments, reading books, creating a notebook page, etc.), it is difficult to interpret what is truly meant by these schedules without having The Well Trained Mind to provide those additional details. To fully understand what is meant by each subject, you will likely need to reference the book itself. Nevertheless, here is our quick at-a-glance reference that I'm using (very loosely) as we travel through each stage of learning - a way for us to gauge our tasks and keep our school days efficient and focused (although, believe me, I will not be setting up a timer for such things).

Lest anyone take these schedules too seriously, you must read what someone shared with me:
Recently, I personally shared my exasperation with Susan Wise Bauer (at the VA Homeschooler Convention) how difficult it is to adhere to these schedules. Her response was that these schedules were added by her publisher - she has a much more relaxed approach to scheduling than how it seems in her book. I was surprised - and relieved - to learn this. So, for all of us type A personalities and others out there, feel free to use these schedules as a GUIDE. I've had to remind myself that flexibility is one of the top reasons why I homeschool in the first place.
Very well said!  So... with that in mind, here are the schedules to be used as a rough GUIDE.

Remember:  The main idea throughout the grammar stage is to immerse your children in words. Reading comprises the most important part of a young child's education.  

To download a pdf version of the above schedules, click here.

My hope is that this is not overwhelming but helps to simplify what a classical education might look like.  Finally, I encourage anyone and everyone to read The Well-Trained Mind.  I wish I had read it before we ever started homeschooling!

Disclaimer:  This is a rough guideline interpreted from the advice and wisdom of professionals who understand classical education much better than I do. I offer it as a guide, not as a means of placing anyone in bondage to schedules and plans. After all, I haven't okayed this schedule with Isaac (upcoming baby boy #4), who will be the one dictating what our schedule will really look like next year.

Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.  Proverbs 19:21

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  1. Wow, what a treat! By coincidence, I pulled out my WTM tonight to start looking over Grammar stage again in preparation for next year. This is such a great graphical reference to help. Thank you for all that you do!

  2. I've been re-reading my copy of WTM as well. Like you, I like to follow the rabbit trails but am having to think about getting back to a more rigourous training for my son. Your graphical representation of the schedules is a great help. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Thanks for the layout, it helps. Although, I think for the younger students 4-6 hours a day is too much. It seems it could contribute to burnout in parents and students. I don't want to burn myself our too early and then give up when I am worn out!

  4. I love that you put these in chart format. I really like the plan for Kindergarten. After that though, it starts to get way too much for me! We just finished 4th grade, and if I had tried to make my son do 7-8 HOURS of school a day we'd all be dead. There's no way that would work or be enjoyable for any of us. So I want to encourage people too that they can do sort of classical without this rigor. We do CC and MAYBE 4 hours of structured school per day, with reading, and lots of playtime, and my kids are learning tons, doing well, and we're all happy. And I do the Iowa test for my own reference to know where we stand and my kids were both above 95%tile. Not that that is really much of a measure of hearts, interest, aptitudes, etc. But if you are worried if they're "getting everything they need" then I want to encourage people they can do it with way less time than this plan (or the CC plan laid out in Foundations) recommends.

  5. Okay, I guess 4th grade says 5-6 hours, but still. There's no lunch in there. No play-with-brother time, no playtime. Still way too ambitious for our house. But if that works for some family, that's awesome. I just want to say if it doesn't... you're normal.

  6. This is an excellent resource as I start to plan the Kindergarten year with a newborn and some toddlers in tow. It helps me prioritize! Thank you very much!

  7. Thank you so much! I love The Well-Trained Mind! It is what sold me on the classical style of education and helped me wrap my head around the style of education I would want to teach my children. Your resource (all your resources) are so helpful. When I finally get a moment to sit down, read and explore your posts, I feel like I've had a bit of candy for the day. You are a blessing.

  8. Seriously, Amy! Thank you for your kind words! I appreciate it so much!

  9. Your charts are very helpful for comparing the amount of schooling I do to what WTM recommends but I have one question. Why is such a small amount of time devoted to religious studies? I am homeschooling in large part to raise God loving kids who can think Biblically. How could that be accomplished with such a low priority given to prayer/worship and Bible study?
    BTW, I love your site, so many good resources.

  10. Yes, I agree with you on that, Jennifer!  In our studies, our family seeks to connect all the subjects back to God, so Bible study ends up being integrated into much of what we study throughout the day.  There's a chapter about religion in WTM.  Quoting: "Education cannot be neutral when it comes to faith: it is either supportive or destructive.  The topic of education is humanity, its accomplishments, its discoveries, its savage treatment of its own kind, its willingness to endure self-sacrifice.  And you cannot learn - or teach - about humanity without considering God."  It goes on to talk about biology as an example of the religious assumptions that are made as we teach a subject.  When an educator claims the absence of God as a neutral viewpoint, they are being intellectually dishonest because "education cannot be neutral when it comes to faith."  It talks about how a separation of religious faith from education yields an incomplete education. So… by 10-15 minutes of religious study, I think it's just that they're formally assigning time to a focused Bible lesson, but, in reality, our faith should play out in all aspects of our education.
    I hope this makes sense!  Please let me know if you have further questions!

  11. You are awesome. I've read the book, but this visual is extremely helpful!

  12. Thank you for doing the work. I was planning on doing this myself because I have to see it too. I agree this is just a guideline. Just because it says an allotted period of time doesn't mean it will take the child that much time to complete the lesson. It seems like some subjects my kids might fly through and some would take the whole hour. I am not going to do an hour of math just the check off an hour of math. We will complete the lesson for that day and move on.

  13. You are welcome! Thank you for your comment!

  14. AHH!! Thank you!! I'm just getting started at hs'ing and I couldn't quite wrap my mind around this! We've already started this summer, and I really like the Writing with Ease for my 1st and 2nd grader. They like it so I might just stick it in that spot. Thanks again!