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Phenology Made Easy

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

For all of 2019 I kept a Phenology Wheel, one for each month. This type of wheel requires hours of work each month and is something I personally enjoy and find meaningful. However, I understand there is a desire to do this sort of thing but not everyone feels they have the time or is comfortable committing to that much illustration work.

So, with that in mind, I thought I would share some resources to invite you do participate in a phenological study for 2020 in a way that’s inviting and meaningful, but takes less time.

What is Phenology?

Phenology is simply a recorded journal of what is happening in the natural world where you live over time. Theoretically you could have recorded data for year after year and be able to compare important seasonal shifts, like what day did you hear the first Red-winged Blackbird reappear in spring? When did the first Daffodil bloom? When did your favorite tree lose all its leaves? When was the first snow?

A phenological record can be many things: a wheel is a nice visual tool that looks pretty, but keep in mind you don’t need to have something that detailed to record your phenological year!!

Two great inspiring people who held a passion for Phenology are Edith Holden and Aldo Leopold. Both of these mostly have written records just like you would record a journal:

You don’t need to illustrate everything, is all I’m saying! In fact, you do not need to do any illustration at all to keep a Phenology Journal!

I keep a draft document on my computer and write in a few notes here and there as days pass. No illustration, just a quick note: “Spotted bobcat tracks on 1/15.” Simple. Easy. Quick. But it still has meaning and value — it’s so fun to go back over the whole year and read through and remember those experiences even if I do not have an illustration to match in my Phenology Wheel journal.

Phenology Resources Made Easy

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

First, one of my favorite resources is this:

Lynn’s Guide is so thorough and wonderful! She explains the whole process and provides many examples. She also provides a lot of ideas for what to include in your wheel! This tool is an excellent resource that is also kid-friendly. My own kids are excited about doing one like this in 2020.

Okay, so in my Phenology Wheel for every day of the year I track sunrise/sunset, daily low/high temperature, weather, and the moon phase. Below are other resources you could use as a way to mark your phenological study this year without the need to do all of that illustration yourself:

If you are using Lynn’s Phenology Wheel Guide you could easily add to your page simple data for each month (represented as one wedge of the wheel) such as:

  • Total precipitation for each month
  • Average temperature
  • Full moon name

This alleviates the time commitment to track this information every single day of the year.

Or, here’s the thing — as I said before, you do not have to have a Phenology Wheel in order to keep a Phenology Journal! You could simply use a few of the above resources to keep track of the moon and/or temperature, and then keep a written record in a notebook of what you notice in nature. No illustration required!

Favorite Nature Journal Resources

Phenology Made Easy - The Silvan Reverie

On this blog post I detail how I create my Phenology Wheels for each month and what resources I use to create it.

I plan to use the same notebooks with watercolor paper for my kids to do their phenology wheel, which will be just one year represented by 12 wedges.

I’m excited for another year of discovery and paying attention, being present to the created world and its natural rhythms, which root us in a real embodied life gifted to us.

“Nobody can discover the world for somebody else. Only when we discover it for ourselves does it become common ground and a common bond and we cease to be alone.” – Wendell Berry

Happy 2020!

 

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Morning Time & Morning Menus

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WHAT IS MORNING TIME?

“Morning Time is very much like a big group hug at the beginning of our school day. It sets the tone and atmosphere for learning. It gives us something to contemplate and mentally gnaw on for the rest of the day. And most importantly, it puts us in a right relationship with each other and with God.” -Pam Barnhill

Here’s the short version of what Morning Time means to me:

  • Liturgy
  • Knowledge of God
  • Community
  • Formation of Character
  • Living Book Read Alouds
  • Appreciation of Beauty

There are a wide variety of Morning Baskets out there and everyone approaches this a bit differently. What is most important to me is that our Morning Time be anchored in God. And anchored in simplicity. I do not want our Morning Time to be bogged down with lacing cards and copywork and “activities” or curriculum (though those things have their place). I want our hearts quiet, ready, and willing to receive. I want us to focus on God and each other and enter in to the liturgy of those precious 30 minutes.

By the way, regarding time — I see this lasting between 20-45 minutes for us. I think as kids get older this time can be built upon for more family learning like nature studies composer studies, history & geography, etc. It could last 2 hours or more! Right now, keep it short and rich is my goal. While “enjoyment” is not my highest priority, I do want the kids to value it and want to show up again the next morning.

The other thing important to me is that this should not require a ton of prep. It’s all just there and ready in the basket so I do not have to scramble. Bookmarks are kept in every book we are going through so I do not have remember where we were. The Morning Menu (more detail below) contains all the sheets of paper in an easy way and does not require me to change it more than once a week.

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MORNING TIME BREAKDOWN

CALENDAR WORK

I’m using these FREE floral calendar printable pages because (1) they are pretty and (2) they are free. The kids just circle or highlight the day. I will say doing this consistently helps ALL of us keep track of the date. Such a simple thing.

This sheet goes in the front of our Morning Menu — more details on that below.

Everyday Learn + Play has these traceable calendar pages that would be great option as well!

I also included the following page you can download for free in our Morning Menu:

In this file I included 3 pages: one for 2019, one for 2020, and one where the year box is left blank.

The kids circle or highlight the Month and Day of the Week, then we work on writing the date in the boxes above.

We also talk about the weather using the following:

Our wood clock is from Treasures From Jennifer

Update 8/16/2019 — These printables from Treehouse Schoolhouse are also fantastic options for calendar & weather work in a Morning Menu:

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PRAYER

We are currently doing the St. Francis Prayer. I recently came across this Litany of Thanksgiving and think we’ll do that next. The kids already know The Lord’s Prayer but that might be a good one to do if you are just starting out!

We also pray more personally for our day and also for others. For me, I really love Prayers rooted in church history and want to share those with my kids, BUT I also value personal prayer and want my kids to feel comfortable being conversational with God. I think how you approach this time will vary — just wanted to share what we do.

MEMORY VERSE

If you aren’t sure where to start with what verses to choose this list is helpful (from Simply Charlotte Mason). I also think it’s great to use verses that are personally meaningful to you!

HYMN

I mostly use Happy Hymnody as a source for hymns because I love the printouts, but I do not always follow that same order.

Note: I’m not a super musically-inclined person but I do not feel it matters. I do love singing hymns with my kids and we keep it simple. Usually the first time I introduce a new hymn we use the Happy Hymnody YouTube Channel to watch videos or listen. Sometimes I rope my husband in to singing with the kids with his guitar (he, unlike me, IS musically inclined!)

BIBLE

“Their Bible lessons should help them to realize in early days that the knowledge of God is the principal knowledge, and therefore, that their Bible lessons are their chief lessons.” (Charlotte Mason, Vol. 1, p. 251)

Right now we are using The Jesus Storybook Bible. I will read one story during a Morning Time. Probably 2-3 times a week.

I recently tried to crowd-source ideas for Bibles on my Instagram that have (1) a storybook style, (2) correct brown skin tones in any illustrations, and (3) relatively thorough. I say thorough because I do feel like there are a lot of great stories not covered in The Jesus Storybook Bible. Though, by far this is still my favorite children’s Bible, especially for ages 4-7. I designed my Bible character peg doll set to match!

Other Bible options to consider are below.

Youngest Children:

Early Elementary:

I do think the Catherine Vos one runs older than where my kids are right now.

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THEOLOGY

Right now we will be going through Leading Little Ones to God. I’ve heard mixed things about this but still think it will be a a helpful starting point for some bigger-picture ideas beyond just learning stories from the Bible. I plan to do this in order once a week.

Other options to use:

CHARACTER

This might be a Habit we are working on or just a more generalized character lesson. Lisa includes a weekly character trait with her A Year of Tales curriculum so I’m excited that will already be planned out for me.

I love this resource: Habits for the Early Years from Leah Martin at My Little Robins.

If you want to dive deeper, Laying Down the Rails from Simply Charlotte Mason is a thorough and excellent resource. I have this an do not go through it page by page with my kids, but I definitely use it as a resource.

Another great book we have for this is The Children’s Treasury of Virtues by William J. Bennett. This book is just wonderful and I have only had it for a month! I like the idea of learning character through story. Which basically happens every day whether we pre-plan it or not.

BEAUTY 

1. POETRY

We will be using A Year of Tales and there is a poem included for each week with that.

I currently enjoy reading from Sing a Song of Seasons each day.

We do a separate Poetry Tea Time where I usually read several poems so I do not feel like Morning Time has to have a ton of poetry. My favorite books of poetry are listed below:

2. MUSIC APPRECIATION

I love using Rooted Childhood for this! Meghann includes several seasonal songs each month (and links to helpful videos) that are so fun to learn and sing.

This time could also include a composer study, though I do this kind of differently right now. I honestly do not see myself including this in our Morning Time right now. Those following Ambleside will likely include this.

3. ART STUDY

I’ve found that I just like to do this on a whim, whatever strikes me for the month. However — we will be doing A Year of Tales and Lisa included a Picture Study for each week so I plan to put those in to our Morning Menu (see below).

READ ALOUD

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1. CHAPTER BOOK

My favorite sources for Chapter Book ideas are The Read Aloud Family, Honey for a Child’s Heart, and this list of 50 Chapter Books for Preschoolers.

Some all-time favorites of ours that are easy to revisit: Thornton Burgess, Beatrix Potter, A.A. Milne, and Elsa Beskow

2. PICTURE BOOKS

When we do A Year of Tales we will follow the suggested picture books used for each week to pair with the Beatrix Potter story.

You also know I’m a huge fan of any nature-inspired books.

3. FABLE OR FAIRYTALE OR FOLKLORE

We will one story from one of the following on a rotational basis:

BENEDICTION

Cindy Rollins includes a simple benediction at the end of her Morning Time and I love this so much!

HOW MORNING TIME FITS IN TO THE REST OF OUR DAILY RHYTHM

Basically after breakfast and self-care and saying goodbye to Dad, the kids play. When I’m ready, I invite them to morning time (in our living room, on the couch, because I’m never comfortable sitting on the floor). I have seen a variety of ways others go about signaling the beginning of MORNING TIME: light a candle, play a song, ring a small bell, etc. Do what makes sense to you.

Immediately after morning time we do something physical like dance or do yoga or just play. Gotta get the energy flowing again after sitting and attentively listening.

For my Kindergartener: Math, Language Arts, and Handwriting are done separate from Morning Time. This means even on non-school days (maybe we have an outing planned), we can still do Morning Time! Lastly, any other life skills, projects, handcrafts, nature studies, etc. will widely vary from day to day as to when they occur!

HOW I PLAN OUT MORNING TIME

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I created this blank template for a weekly plan. This allows me to see our Morning Times but also a breakdown of lessons for my Kindergartener and Preschooler together.

You are welcome to use it as well. Here is the free PDF version:

Remember I am NOT filling in every box for every Morning Time.

Also, for rotational readings I just write in the book but not what specific story we are on. That way I’m not having to keep track of too many details. So, for example, I’ll just write “JSB” for The Jesus Storybook Bible, and when we go to read I just find where our bookmark is.

MORNING MENUS

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I saw the idea of a morning menu several places on Instagram and thought it would be a great way to help organize our Morning Time and to have something for each of my kids to have ownership of.

What I’m Using:

A Restaurant Menu (one for each kid; there are 8 possible spots for printouts)

What Goes In the Menu:

  1. Monthly Calendar
  2. Date Worksheet (Month, Date, Day of the Week, Year)
  3. Memory Verse
  4. Prayer
  5. Hymn
  6. *Optional* Copywork Page (First & Last Name, Address, Mom & Dad’s phone numbers) — my kids are 5 and 4 currently so copywork is optional. I use the font KG Primary Dots
  7. Art Study printout page
  8. Music Appreciation – lyrics or composer info page

For older kids than mine you might include more copywork pages in the Morning Menu — for example, a copywork page of the Memory Verse you are working on.  You might also have  a vocabulary or spelling list from whatever book you are going through. A preschooler could have a letter-of-the-week page. Basically — you have lots of options to play around with what goes in your Morning Menu!

RESOURCES FOR MORNING TIME

There are also lots of other examples of Morning Baskets out there on other blogs!

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Preschool Habit Training: Obedience

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On Habit Training

“We are not unwilling to make efforts in the beginning with the assurance that by-and-by things will go smoothly; and this is just what habit is, in an extraordinary degree, pledged to effect. The mother who takes pains to endow her children with good habits secures for herself smooth and easy days; while she who lets their habits take care of themselves has a weary life of endless friction with the children” (Charlotte Mason).

I think Habit Training can be viewed in a variety of ways, but I was inspired by Charlotte Mason teachings to begin to do short but meaningful lessons with my oldest (now in his second Preschool year).

I am using the suggestion from Charlotte Mason to focus on just one habit at a time, and to spend 6-8 weeks on that one habit. When we move on to another habit, we still find ways to address and discuss the habit we already did. Obviously, many habits require ongoing parenting efforts, but I wanted to at a minimum set aside some time to address these thing with my children so they can understand on a meta-level why we strive to be people of good character.

Why Obedience?

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Charlotte Mason suggest these top three traits for young children, and it’s a great place to begin if you are new to habit-training because there are lots of great resources out there:

  • Obedience
  • Attention
  • Truthfulness

First, and infinitely the most important, is the habit of obedience. Indeed, obedience is the whole duty of the child, and for this reason—every other duty of the child is fulfilled as a matter of obedience to his parents. Not only so: obedience is the whole duty of man; obedience to conscience, to law, to Divine direction.” (Charlotte Mason)

Readings on Habit Training

My Habit Training Resources

Do I Really Need a Habit Training Curriculum?

The short answer: no.

Recently, lots of questions have arisen as to the use of Laying Down the Rails for Children for the Preschool years. It’s a pricey investment, so I really want to stress that I do not think this is something you HAVE to have. However, if you are interested in Habit Training as an ongoing thing (or interested in Charlotte Mason Homeschooling), then I do suggest adding this to your wishlist. I justified the expense now because I see us using it for years to come. It is not a curriculum that you just do for one year and then trash.

Also, I’d like to suggest that most habits for preschool-aged kids seem to come through (1) your everyday parenting, (2) incorporating chores & responsibility into your daily rhythm, and (3) developing intrinsically valuable habits like Attention as you go through your preschool curriculum.

That said, after spending a decent amount of time on the Habit of Obedience with my nearing-5-year-old, I am super grateful that we have done these lessons. We have a new framework for discussing rules, why they are in place, and why it’s important to obey instructions. Not surprisingly, we lately have had some tough moments as I write this where discussion like this have been super relevant.

Playful Learning Obedience Lessons for Preschoolers

Memory Verse

Obdience Memory Verse

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right.” (Ephesians 6:1)

Feel free to steal the image above I created for our memory verse!

Week 1

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Define Obedience: Obedience is behavior that’s respectful and mindful of rules and laws. In terms of the Bible, to obey God means to hear God’s Word and follow it.

** Before each lesson each week, we reviewed our Memory Verse and reminded ourselves what Obedience means!

Review The Ten Commandments – discuss why God’s laws are in place: We must not do these things because God says they are not right. Give examples of lying or stealing.

Resources PicturedThe Jesus Storybook Bible and The Ology and Bible Peg Dolls

Week 2

Play Simon Says. Discuss how important (1) listening to instructions and (2) taking correct action are to obedience. What happens if you don’t listen or if you do the action at the wrong time?

Other options: Mother May I? or Red Light, Green Light

Week 3

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Read Library Lion and talk about obeying rules and when it might be okay to not follow the rules (e.g. safety issues). We also played “library”, transforming our living room into a library and role-played following and not-following rules like being loud or running.

Read Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus and talk about what makes it hard to obey rules (e.g. not listening, wanting to do something other than what is being asked of us)

Week 4

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Obedience for protection – blindfolded maze game. Blindfold the kids and have them walk using your instructions around the room or outdoors without running in to anything. Discuss the importance of listening precisely to instructions.

Also: proceed with caution if you have a wild & daring little one.

Week 5

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Obedience lesson with traffic signs.

Resources:

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Play around with toy cars, pretend roads, and traffic signs. Explain what all of the signs mean and have the kids try to follow them. If someone does not obey the signs, have a police car come pull them over.

Added bonus: my kids, as a result of this lesson, are now super in to finding traffic signs on our car rides. It helps make the car rides a little more fun!

Week 6

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Biblical example of obedience: Noah

Craft: God told Noah to make an Ark according to specific instructions. Make an Ark out of craft sticks.

Resources pictured:

Week 7

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Do some dog training together. How do we get our new puppy to do a new trick? What makes him want to obey? (We recently adopted a new dog so this actually lined up perfectly)

If you don’t have a dog maybe watch an instructional video online or find a friend with a pet to go visit.

Week 8

Play King/Queen for the Day OR Police Officer for the Day. Discuss authority structures and how being in charge means a lot of responsibility. Parallel this to God being in charge and how he is the perfect example. God loves us perfectly and wants the best for us, so of course we should listen to what He says and do it!

When Did We Do These Lessons?

I typically saved these for our afternoon — either during our tea & snack time or for our outdoor time. This way, we were not doing anything else “scheduled” during that time. Again, I only did this once a week.

What’s Next?

Next we will be doing the Habit of Attention. I plan to follow a similar format where we’ll have a memory verse, Biblical example, game (or two), craft, and some picture books.

Additional Info

You may also find my blog post on our Preschool Daily Rhythm helpful, to see how Habit Training fits in to our overall weekly schedule.

I also enjoy some of the Kids of Integrity site and their Obedience post — there are several great memory verse and Bible story options here. I do not use all of that info but it’s certainly helpful if you are not interested in Laying Down the Rails for Children.

Burgess Book Lessons: Obedience — this post has a lot of other ideas for Obedience lessons.

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A Charlotte Mason Inspired Preschool Daily Rhythm

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Our Preschool Curriculum

In May 2017 we started our preschool at home with The Peaceful Preschool plus additional activities based on my children’s interests and seasonal changes in the natural world. I have mainly been “doing school” with my now-4 1/2-year-old and including my youngest (just now 3) to the degree that she is interested. It’s actually amazing what she has been able to pick up without direct schooling efforts on my part, just by participating and watching her older brother!

Looking ahead, I plan to finish the curriculum through Letter Z, and then start over again with The Peaceful Preschool Letter A with both of my kids (adding a few additional reading and writing lessons for my son as he continues to show signs of readiness). My son (4 1/2) checks off all the boxes on the lists of “Kindergarten Readiness” but I do not wish to start a kindergarten curriculum just yet with him. Why?? Because of Charlotte Mason…

A Quiet Growing Time

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“In this time of extraordinary pressure, educational and social, perhaps a mother’s first duty to her children is to secure for them a quiet growing time, a full six years of passive receptive life, the waking part of it for the most part out in the fresh air.” (Charlotte Mason)

Charlotte Mason believed no formal schooling should be done until a child reached the age of 6. Now, I’m obviously not in that exact same frame of mind but I do love and appreciate the heart behind that.

Recently I wrote down my ideal focuses for my children’s days right now:

  • Read Alouds
  • Outdoor Play & Exploration
  • Knowledge of God
  • Habits & Character
  • Gentle Preschool Academics
  • Appreciation of Beauty

—Since my children have been tiny tots Read Alouds and Outdoor Play & Exploration have been the easiest and most natural for me to include in our days. Even on the rough days where I feel like I’m running on empty, we still do these two things. At the heart, these things inspire our deepest connections and incite my fondest memories.

—Knowledge of God includes: Bible stories, memory verses, and prayer.

—Habits & Character includes: daily and weekly chores, manners, self-care, and then the top three habits for Charlotte Mason in the early years are attention, obedience, and truthfulness. 

Appreciation of Beauty includes: poetry, art, music, and handcrafts.

Gentle Preschool Academics can be a harder thing to “nail down.” I will admit over the last year not all of my preschool activities for my kids have fit in to the “gentle” category.  Over the last year I have done a lot of add-on letter-of-the-week activities as we moved through each letter of the alphabet. I plan to still do some of these things, but definitely will be doing a lot less extra the second time through.

I have come to realize through my own efforts and by comparing curriculums, that The Peaceful Preschool absolutely fits the bill when it comes to a gentle academic guide in the early years, in line with Charlotte Mason’s “quiet growing time.” I plan to stick to The Peaceful Preschool moving forward.

Additional Charlotte Mason Resources on The Early Years

The Importance of Rhythm: A Platform for Growth

I highly recommend reading Simplicity Parenting for inspiration as to why having a daily rhythm matters!! Overall this book is so inspiring, but there is one particular chapter devoted especially to rhythm that I revisit every couple of months.

“Children depend on the rhythmic structure of the day–on its predictability, its regularity, its pulse…. By surrounding a young child with a sense of rhythm and ritual, you can help them order their physical, emotional, and intellectual view of the world. As little ones come to understand, with regularity, that ‘this is what we do,’ they feel solid earth under their feet, a platform for growth. Such a stable foundation can facilitate their mapmaking: the connectedness that they are charting in their brains, in relation to other people, and in their emerging worldview.” (Simplicity Parenting by Kim John Payne)

Our Daily Rhythm: At A Glance

Below is a scan of our Daily Rhythm sheet I hand illustrated for my kids, and we keep it hung on our fridge.

This is for those of you who are super busy and do not have time to read this entire blog post. I see you. I hear you. Here is the condensed version of this post:

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Our Daily Rhythm: In Detail

7:00 – 8:00 AM | Breakfast and Self Care

We have one hour between when my kids wake up and when my husband goes to work.

Most days my husband and I are awake for an hour or more before the kids. I like to read or paint or workout before the craze of the day begins.

All four of us eat breakfast together and then get ready for the day. Sometimes there is a decent chance for the the kids to get some just-dad-time in before he goes to work: lately they have been having him read books to them or play a short game.

7:00 – 8:00 AM | Chores OR Physical Play

“As has been well said, ‘Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.’ And a great function of the educator is to secure that acts shall be so regularly, purposefully, and methodically sown that the child shall reap the habits of the good life, in thinking and doing, with the minimum of conscious effort.” (Charlotte Mason)

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I used the chore cards from The Peaceful Press as a guide to create our personalized weekly chore plan you see above. There are daily chores listed at the bottom just as a little visual reminder of what we are already doing on a daily basis (e.g. dishes or toy clean-up) but do not need to happen at a designated “chore time.”

Each day I have 3 things listed and there’s at least one thing the kids can do mostly independent of me (except for Sunday: those tasks are for me). Usually I am able to give them a choice on which task they want to do. I expect their participation and I make it fun: lately we have been playing some Mary Poppins songs while we work.

We mark off the chore with an “X” when completed. “We entertain the idea which gives birth to the act and the act repeated again and again becomes the habit” (Charlotte Mason). I do not do stickers or rewards — chores are for responsibility, not reward: when the task is complete, the kids feel capable for completing the work and responsible for taking care of the home they live in.

With chores there is obviously some flexibility: we can decide something can be done a later time, or maybe we need to do a little extra on a given day if we have guests coming over.

Physical work AND play

My kids wake up with a lot of energy so I like to let them get some of it out before requesting that they sit down at a table for 30 minutes for morning time or preschool activities. Luckily, doing chores is a GREAT way to get the blood circulating and do some physical work. If there aren’t many chores to do we may also have some physical play, a living room dance party, or do their yoga workout DVD, or a song & movement game from Games Children Sing & Play.

8:30 – 9:30 AM | Morning Time OR Preschool OR Unstructured Play

I see three different options for our time together in the morning:

  1. Morning Time
  2. Preschool
  3. Unstructured Play

Remember my kids are 4 1/2 and 3 so there is not an intensive amount of academics to get done in the course of a week!

I separated out “Morning Time” from “Preschool Activities” below and hopefully it will make sense why after I describe the differences below:

(1) Morning Time

“But let the imaginations of children be stored with the pictures, their minds nourished upon the words, of the gradually unfolding story of the Scriptures, and they will come to look out upon a wide horizon within which persons and events take shape in their due place and due proportion.” (Charlotte Mason)

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If we have a “morning time” this will include some but not all of the following in one day:

I will not have a morning time like this every day of the week. More than likely this will be once a week. The important part for me is that I plan for it. I must plan for my children to have contact with God’s Truth–if I leave it to chance, it won’t happen.

As for the habits / character lesson — in Laying Down the Rails For Children they really suggest ONLY once for a habits lesson per week. And, they suggest spending 6-8 weeks on just one habit! We will first go through Charlotte Mason’s three core habits for the early years: attention, obedience, and truthfulness. Added bonus: many of these require habit-training for parents, not just the kids! For us — fun, age-appropriate games are involved: for example, for our Obedience lesson last week we played “Simon Says.”

An important point to add, in keeping with a “gentle” structure to our days: I will not do a morning time like this AND do a bunch preschool activities on the same day! Quality over quantity is my goal, and Charlotte Mason even advocated for short lessons to develop the habit of attention. When we move towards Kindergarten, I should be able to extend our morning time to include Bible time AND school. 

That said, if we do Preschool as detailed below, we will still do a prayer and brief review of our memory verse…

(2) Preschool

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For days in which we do preschool, we will continue to follow The Peaceful Preschool through Letter Z, and then we will begin again with Letter A. The aspects of The Peaceful Preschool we will do are:

  • Read Alouds (Here’s my blog post detailing how I select books for Preschool)
  • Phonics & Letter Formation (for my oldest I have begun to include some more advanced reading and writing activities (Montessori-based) and my daughter will follow the curriculum as-is)
  • Counting Skills
  • Fine Motor Skills

I often skip the Large Motor Skills from The Peaceful Preschool because I feel that our outdoor play & exploration time covers this pretty well. For more on that topic, I highly recommend reading Balanced and Barefoot!

I often will save the following activities from The Peaceful Preschool for later on in the day:

  • Practical Life Skills (baking / cooking project)
  • Art Skills (unless it directly relates to the Read Aloud)
(3) Unstructured Play

There currently are and will continue to be days where I have zero things pre-planned for my kids in terms of lessons. We play a lot. And: I leave plenty space for my children to be bored and figure out what to do with their time on their own.

Again, I recommend reading Simplicity Parenting if you are looking for ideas on how to create an inviting play environment at home with a minimalist approach: having fewer, high quality open-ended toys actually enhances children’s ability to have longer stretches of imaginative play.

During this time, even if I have no pre-planned learning activities, we often read stories too. See this post for book lists I reference to find read alouds!

Also, I want to point out: so much learning in the preschool years can happen naturally through play! In fact, often the best “teaching moments” happen with prompting from the kids through their play, not through something I pre-planned.

9:30 – 11:00 AM | Outdoor Time OR Errands OR Fun Outings

<INSERT SNACK BREAK>

The transition from the above time to going outside is made by having a snack break. If we are going outside we may just bring some snacks in the yard or on our walk with us. If we run errands or go out of the house, we may bring a snack in the car. The bottom line: morning snack is essential for my children’s happiness.

(1) Outdoor Time

“Never be within doors when you can rightly be without” (Charlotte Mason).

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Often in the mornings, our outdoor time involves movement: we are walking or hiking or off exploring. We live on a camp property so there are lots of options of places for us to explore. After a walk we stay outside and play in the yard until lunch.

I also LOVE using the outdoors as our natural learning environment because it requires zero pre-planning on my part. We use all of our senses. We pay attention to seasonal changes. We observe, we collect, we treasure. We nature journal. We share stories of our experiences.

Additional Resources on Outdoor Time:

(2) Errands

I am a morning errand-runner because I feel that it avoids crowds and traffic. I try to keep errand I do with the kids to once per week.

(3) Fun Outings

A children’s museum, playground, nature walk with friends, the zoo, the library are some options for us. We typically have something like about once a week.

11:30 AM | Lunch

After lunch my kids clean up the common space: all toys and books and art supplies go away other than what my son wants to keep out in the kids’ room for his quiet time.

12:30 – 2:30 PM | Quiet Time

The kids typically get 30 minutes of screen time after lunch. I like having a set expected time that the screen time happens, because then they aren’t requesting (or demanding) it all throughout the day. Weekends we may watch an extra show in the evening or a movie as a family.

My daughter naps in our bed (since the kids share a room). I always read her a book first.

My son has his quiet time in the kids’ room. I read him a book and he either looks at books or plays with toys and puzzles.

The time they are actually in their separate rooms & the time I get in solitude to myself usually is about 1 hour 20 minutes. I usually read or do something creative or catch up on computer stuff.

2:30 – 3:00 PM | Tea Time OR Additional Preschool Activities

Generally speaking the focus during our afternoon together time will be beauty and togetherness: sharing tea, poetry, stories, art, music, baking, etc. I really enjoy this time because we all come together at the table for some arts and culture (and sweet treats) after our separate quiet times.

(1) Tea Time

“Poetry is, perhaps, the most searching and intimate of our teachers…Poetry supplies us with tools for the modeling of our lives, and the use of these we must get at ourselves” (Charlotte Mason).

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For tea time, we make either cinnamon or peppermint tea (because the kids actually drink it), and either:

(a) Read a few poems. As of now we do not work on memorizing any poems, but on Charlotte Mason’s Formidable List of Attainments for a Child of Six she has listed “to recite, beautifully, 6 easy poems and hymns,” so I would like to start doing this.

Here are our favorite poetry books:

OR

(b) Read short stories that aren’t poetry but we enjoy reading during this tea time:

OR

(c) Read from chapter books. I find that this afternoon tea time is a great time to read chapter books which do not hold my 3 year old’s attention as well at other points in the day. If she’s sitting at the table with us and has a snack, she’ll stay and listen.

Lately we have been enjoying Beatrix Potter and Thornton Burgess Animal Stories.

(2) Additional Preschool Activities

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At this time we might do any ONE of the following additional fun Preschool Activities. I never feel like these following things have to happen; but, our afternoon time at the kitchen table where we come together after our quiet times has proven to be a nice time to explore some poetry or art or culture together. This is an example of our natural daily rhythm existing before adding in activities. These activities are built in to our natural daily rhythm, and not some academic agenda or checklist:

  • A baking project from The Peaceful Preschool
  • An art project from The Peaceful Preschool
  • A Picture Study from the Ambleside Online schedule (to incorporate art into our days in an informal way, as opposed to doing a true academic Picture Study the Charlotte Mason way (for a child greater than 6))
  • A Music Study from Ambleside Online schedule (again, keeping this more informal, I plan to select one classical composition at a time to listen to, naming the composer for my kids — we are not doing a detailed academic study of a composer as you would with older children but I thought it would be fun to coincide with the Ambleside schedule)
  • An Arts & Culture study from The Habitat Schoolhouse
    • This may involve looking at art, learning about artists, musicians, or other countries and cultures (likely using our MAPS book)
  • An Animal & Plant study from The Habitat Schoolhouse

Note: I would never do several of these at once! And, further: I will not hit all of these categories in a given week. I see this not a checklist, but more of an opportunity.

3:00 – 5:30 PM | Outside Time

“We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things” (Charlotte Mason).

This may include unstructured play, a hike or walk, maybe a specific nature study, or maybe even a trip to a close playground.

There may be some outdoor play and learning activities that I have for us to do as well.

A Note About Nature Study:

For our “nature studies” — to me this mostly means that we are present to the natural world around us, taking everything in with all of our senses. We observe, we discuss, sometimes the kids add to their nature journals.

I do not do anything super extensive by way of academics here. I like to keep it fun and playful, but mostly just keeping in step with the season we are in and knowing fully the place in which we live.

I have looked through Exploring Nature With Children and this curriculum is an absolutely wonderful resource! Right now I do not plan to use this week-by-week, but I may reference it as-needed if there’s some aspect of the natural world my kids seem to want to explore further.

Additional Resources on Outdoor Time:

5:30 PM | Dinner

We eat food. Together. Light candles. Pray for the meal. Share about our days.

A Note About Dinner Prep:

Often I prep dinner once my husband gets home shortly after 5 PM. He can play with the kids outside or inside and I can do dinner. Often, though, we have leftovers or do really simple meals that I can even prep during the day. If I do pre-prep I likely do that during lunch time since we are all in the kitchen anyway.

6:00 – 7:30 PM | Family Together Time

Outdoor adventures, board games, books, puzzles, animal shows, random trips out for ice cream, coloring, playing with Dad-as-a-jungle-gym, etc.

7:30 PM | Bedtime Routine

Bath, PJs and brush teeth, and then either my husband or I read to the kids for about 30 minutes before lights out.

Bedtime stories has always been a favorite time of day for me. We read for a long time! We read books we own, but I also keep a shelf of library books that I pull from a variety of sources. These are often seasonally appropriate or related to our preschool curriculum in some way.

8:00 PM | Bedtime

Phew. We made it!! Likely not without some messes and failures and fights and tears.

A Sample Week: Letter V

Putting ALL of this together I decided to share a sample week of what I planned out for our Letter V week (click here for the PDF version of what is below). Mostly I think it’s important to see how many categories are left blank on any given day. I’m not trying to check off ALL the boxes on every day. And the truth is: this week was a fuller than an average week in terms of my planning because we just did not have any scheduled outings. Normally one of these days would be left totally empty in terms of my planning.

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Just for a frame of reference, each day this week the morning block of activities where we sit together and read and do some preschool actives took maybe 20-35 minutes, except for Tuesday when we spent a lot of time learning a variety of orchestra instruments and did extra learning with videos and music and supplemental materials–that was probably more like a hour. Afternoon tea time & projects range from 20-40 minutes before we head outside.

And OF COURSE…

Obviously there are days where NONE of what I just mentioned is happening. We’re sick. We’re off our groove. We’re traveling. I just want to have a “break day” for no particular reason. Please do not read this and think I’m a perfect human and totally nailing it every day. There are good reasons and not-so-good reasons why our days sometimes are not fully perfect and flowing nicely. The truth is, though, I am glad it’s that way because it means we are normal.

Another thing I want to be clear about: I have 2 children, but in a way school right now is like schooling only 1 child. We have 1 curriculum, and basically my 2 kids are doing the same things with the exception of my son doing some more advanced language arts. This will change. Our daily rhythm will change. I am happy to shift things around when it is appropriate to do so!

EVERY SINGLE FAMILY is unique and different and what works for me will not work for you in the same way. It’s just a fact. But — I know that when I first started out this homeschool journey it was so so helpful for me to read other mom’s daily rhythms just to have somewhere to start! I understand it can feel overwhelming to start.

If I have any advice it’s this: dive in, and expect to fail. Sometimes the only way you’ll find your “groove” is to find out what doesn’t work through failure. When I started out Letter A with The Peaceful Preschool in May 2017 I did an INSANE amount of activities in a 2 week period! I cringe a little. But, here’s the thing — I don’t regret it. I had to know what was “too much” in order to know what was “just right.” And I had to learn that checking off all of the boxes on my to-do list did not inherently make our day a good day. And then I had to go back and re-read Teaching From Rest because clearly it didn’t sink in enough the first time!

Additional Resources on Rhythm

Small Beginnings: A Homeschool Starter Guide

This ebook is an EXCELLENT starting point for homeschooling with themes from Charlotte Mason. There is a whole section in here on rhythms. Rachael Alsbury & Kate Heinemeyer share their daily rhythms as well as so many more additional resources.

The Peaceful Preschool Curriculum

The introduction pages of this curriculum have SO MUCH guidance and wisdom for creating a Family Vision and ideas for establishing a daily rhythm. Included is a sample daily schedule. If you buy this curriculum do not skip these pages! For those following The Peaceful Preschool, I also recommend reading Kaitlyn from Simply Learning‘s daily rhythm here as well as Lyndsey from Treehouse Schoolhouse‘s daily rhythm here.

Simplicity Parenting

I mentioned this book already above but the chapter on rhythm in particular of this book is so good, aimed at simplifying our home environment and lifestyle.

Teaching From Rest: A Homeschooler’s Guide to Unshakable Peace

This is not directly about “rhythm” per se but this serves as an excellent invitation to approach the daily grind with a peaceful heart. Sarah Mackenzie beautifully encourages us how to have reasonable expectations for our homeschooling days and how to simplify our goals to get at what really matters to us. Daily rhythms are always evolving and we, the homeschooler, set the tone. We are the atmosphere. The biggest take-home for me after reading this book was the fact that how we interact with our children matters more than getting through the curriculum material.

Encouragement for the Little Years (Cloistered Away)

This blog post was so lovely and encouraging to me last year before I began our homeschooling adventure. I re-read it whenever I am feeling crazy.

The Life Giving Home

Sally Clarkson has a lot of wonderful books on homeschooling and mothering, but this one in particular considers the rhythms of the home, and gives month-by-month ideas for creating a rich home environment full of intention. Charlotte Mason said that “education is an atmosphere” and our daily rhythms can be enhanced by cultivating a meaningful home atmosphere full of beauty, life, and order.

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