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    The Fruits of My Labor

    June 27, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    The endless cycle of idea and action,
    Endless invention, endless experiment,
    Brings knowledge of motion, but not of stillness;
    Knowledge of speech, but not of silence;
    Knowledge of words, and ignorance of the Word.
    All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
    All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
    But nearness to death no nearer to GOD.
    Where is the Life we have lost in living?
    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?

    -T.S. Eliot in Choruses from ‘The Rock’

    I can’t think about much other than school since I planned most of it yesterday and I plan to spend today doing the final finishing touches. I am eating, breathing, living school right now. And I am so excited! I can see how the children will flourish with a new year of reading, thinking, and living together as we pursue the Good Life.

    I quote Eliot above because I think he is a good reminder as we approach the school year. In our school, we hope to grow souls rather than acquire an impressive list of things that our children know and can rattle off to impress others. In this age of teaching to the test, it is easy to think that acquiring knowledge is equal to acquiring wisdom, but it is not. In fact, the Greeks knew well that a child without poetic grounding and a natural awe of the created order was nothing but Hubris growing towards violence.

    On that delightful note, I thought I’d share the rough outline of my plans, knowing full well that my plans will likely change. I share them because I love it when other mommies share. I get so inspired by it. For instance, there was an older, more experienced Ambleside mom who shared her plans for the Artist Study this term. She explained what her students would do as they studied each piece. Even though her children are so much older than mine that her ideas hardly applied, she was like a springboard for me in planning to study an artist {Sandro Botticelli} with whom I am almost wholly unfamiliar.

    Sharing good plans is sometimes like iron sharpening iron, I think.

    What I am about to share is a schedule that I put together a few times a year. I call it my Average Day Chart. I like to call it a chart to emphasize that we are not slaves to it, but rather it is a tool to aid us in our diligence. The Bible tells us to make the most of our time. Some folks are very productive on their own, but I happen to need a planning session and a chart to be consistent. Otherwise, I would disintegrate into drinking coffee and reading {alone} while my children ran wild.

    I remind myself that sloth is a grave sin.


    This morning, I had a little conference with E. and A. and tried to explain what I thought our first month would look like. Then I warned them that we would take a break, O. would be born, and I have no idea how things will look after that because I don’t know what sort of baby O. will be.

    One of the themes I am bringing into our mornings for the first time is “work before play.” This is new, and only applies fully to our oldest, but I think that getting serious about chores and such will get our mornings on the right track. And it’ll get Mommy on the right track, too!

    Another thing I am trying to incorporate is the idea of varying the work. I know that Charlotte Mason was big on stopping a task before a child’s brain became weary of it. Our son struggles most with writing, so I am making sure that copywork and math are separated by at least a couple of hours.

    So here is my Average Day Chart. At least, I think this is it. Who knows? After two failed days, I might throw the whole thing out and begin again! I post this with our oldest in mind since he is the only one required by law to have a “full day” of school.

    • 6:45am-Wake. Dress. Copywork.
    • 7:10am-Family breakfast.
    • 7:45-Morning chores.
    • 8:30am-Circle Time.
    • 9:30-E. math, A. preschool.
    • 10:00am-Ambleside Time.
    • 11:15am-Recess.
    • 12:15pm-Lunch.
    • 1:30-3:30pm-Quiet Time.
    • 3:30pm-Afternoon snack and chores.
    • 4:15pm-Outdoor playtime.
    • 5:30pm-Family dinner.

    Copywork is something I create myself using a font that I purchased. It consists of copying a short passage of well written literature. We do not learn formal grammar at this age, but we believe that children will pick up the art and mastery of language by recreating it through copywork, narration, and the like.

    Circle Time is new this year. I wrote about it once before. I decided each weekday will have a special emphasis. I planned for Mondays to focus on manners lessons, Tuesdays on singing songs {learning one hymn and one folk song at a time}, Wednesdays on the artist we are studying, Thursdays on formal Bible lessons, and Fridays on the composer we are studying. I am trying to infuse Scripture in every subject, so there will be passages read aloud daily even though we only have one “formal” Bible day.

    Preschool will be a time for A. and I to work on letter and number identification. She informed me that I need to teach her, so I take that as a sign that she is ready.

    Ambleside Time is where we work through the weekly reading schedule from the Ambleside curriculum. During this time, I read aloud to E. and then he narrates back to me. The Ambleside reading list is rich with literature concerning nature, fairy tales, legends, and history. It is a wonderful way to expose a child to their heritage as a free-born citizen. We call the liberal arts liberal because they are suited to free people. We call the humanities such because they humanize {or rather, make human}. I love that Ambleside understands this.

    Quiet Time is for all of us. We all need a break from each other. E. doesn’t need a nap daily, but he still needs one on occasion. We have also stocked his desk with art supplies, building/construction toys, and learning games. We did this over time, knowing that the day was coming when he would have time to himself to experiment. He may also work in his garden if he is feeling especially energetic.

    I didn’t detail our evenings, but there is much reading in our home in the evenings as well. We also read on the way to the grocery store and other errands! Once we have a piano, we plan to incorporate extra singing. And evenings might also be spent learning construction and landscaping skills. One of the things we were looking for in a new home was a good backyard project. Projects like the one we are acquiring provide ample learning opportunities for the whole family.

    So there it is. It looks like a lot when I write it all down, but I was struck by the simplicity of it all. And then I realized that education really is simple. Sure, it takes time and discipline. But children are born with a natural desire to learn and grow. Regular watering, sunlight, feeding, and weeding in the appropriate seasons is, in many ways, what I think it takes in the early years.

    What are you doing for school this year?

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  • Reply Brandy February 28, 2009 at 4:00 am

    “My preparation needs to be discipline of myself.”

    I really like that. That would be a good line to put up somewhere in my house where I would see it daily. 🙂

    The transition to “bigger” school is a scary one. Or, at least, I was scared. I had to add in a newborn at the same time. Also scary. 🙂 And now I’m getting nervous about next year as the Ambleside reading looks to be about double last year. This seems totally appropriate, but intimidating to me nonetheless. One thing that has been working for me is to have set times for doing everything. They aren’t exactly where I had put them in the chart to begin with, but once I found a place for them, I’ve tried to be very consistent.

    I’ve read your blog enough to think that you will do perfectly well. 🙂

  • Reply Mystie February 26, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    Some folks are very productive on their own, but I happen to need a planning session and a chart to be consistent. Otherwise, I would disintegrate into drinking coffee and reading (alone) while my children ran wild.

    Me, too! This is my Achilles heel and why I’m nervous about beginning more school than can be done in an hour all together (as it is this year).

    My preparation needs to be discipline of myself.

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