The Charlotte Mason Approach to Composition

We are back after our Lenten break (it wasn’t as restful as it sounds!).

Don’t forget we are offering a two-part webinar on Composition which begins this Wednesday.

graces notebooks
My Form 3 Child’s Notebooks

Writing is one of those areas, like science and math, where parents are afraid to depart from traditional schools’ methods. Sadly, parents hold on to these old practices, even while admitting they didn’t learn how to write well themselves and had such negative experiences that they dread teaching composition to their own children. These fears drive them to adopt a curriculum or hire a tutor, and the shinier and more expensive the more it allays their fears (they think).

Charlotte Mason offers us another way, just like she does for the study of history and art and nature.

We can lead our children in paths of delight, where writing becomes second-nature, something that must burst forth from the inside out. A student who is passionate about an idea, and has followed Mason’s course of study, can express their thoughts with precision and care.

Join us for this Two-Session Webinar Bundle for just $20.

FROM ORAL NARRATION TO

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From Oral Narration to Composition with Amy Snell.

Session One. Preparing for Written Narration in the Mason Method.

April 19. 7:00-8:30pm.

What steps should you be taking from the earliest years to help your student develop good communication? Is just “Oral Narration” enough? How can you make the most of transcription, notebooks, and dictation to scaffold your child for written narration. And what about the kids in my neighborhood who are writing “the Five-Paragraph Essay” in 5th grade?

This workshop will cover the elements of strong writing and how they can become a natural and enjoyable part of your child’s life.

Session Two. The Nuts and Bolts of Written Narration.

April 26. 7:00-8:30pm.

With Mason’s philosophy and methods you don’t need a separate writing curriculum to achieve good writing and real learning! In fact, Mason believed Composition lessons should be avoided! This doesn’t mean, however, that she didn’t have definite ideas about how students should learn to write. This session will tackle the common questions and give you the practical information you need for good writing.

Amy’s background allows her to provide a unique perspective on the Charlotte Mason approach to Composition:

-As a former high school and college English Literature, public speaking and composition classes for students of many learning types and ability, including special needs and honors, Amy knows what good communication is all about and what is expected at the highest levels of writing.

-Implemented narration in a wide variety of classes and subjects, including artist study, Plutarch, and Shakespeare and so has led narrations in a wide variety of forms, varying according to the subject taught. Narration is narration and yet a science narration differs from one in literature or history or artist study.

-Worked with children who’ve just begun Charlotte Mason as well as those steeped in the method.

-Guided parents and mentored teachers at The Mason Academy (a K-12 blended model school in the Philadelphia area) in implementing narration at home and in the classroom.

-Uses Mason’s practices on a daily basis with her own five children in their home schoolroom.

Register today to reserve your spot!

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Narration Webinar Registration Closed!

This is your last chance to sign up for The Art and Practice of Narration Two-Session Webinar.

Registration is now closed. Thank you to everyone who has signed up.We are going to have a full house and are excited to spend time with all of you!

The first session explores Mason’s principles on narration as integral to a child’s education, then moves to its practice. It will include a complete narration lesson plan from teacher preparation to the final Grand Conversation.

The second session refines your art and practice as a teacher and provides solutions for the common pitfalls and road bumps. How do you work with children who have nothing to say or forget details or are disorganized? When will these narrations start to have the sophisticated language and syntax I’ve been promised? Won’t this be monotonous? What about my artsy child who loves to draw and create?

Both sessions include a live Q & A  to cover your questions.

At $20 for two sessions, you will gain the confidence and know-how to start implementing narration right away. Say goodbye to worksheets, study guides, quizzes and other techniques that rarely lead to real learning.

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If you missed it, check back for ways to watch the replay!

BULLET JOURNAL “COLLECTIONS” FOR THE CHARLOTTE MASON MOM

One of the best features of the Bullet Journal is that it is a catch-all for your notes, your menus, your ideas. Rather than keeping separate notebooks for all of these things, it’s all in one place! This means that if you are working on your calendar or daily to-do list and your brain wanders to your meal plan or your child’s birthday party or your Christmas wish list, you don’t need to get your computer, an app, or another notebook, you just turn the page. This is the key to becoming better organized and being able to track so many things.

These special pages in Bullet Journal lingo are called “collections.” For the full explanation of collections, visit the official bullet journal site. Basically, anytime you have “notes and tasks that are related by a common theme or purpose” you can start a collection.

How do you do it? Simple! “To create a Collection, simply flip to your next blank spread and give it a topic. Now find and migrate all your related tasks, notes, and events into this Collection. Finally, add the topic and page number of this collection to your index. That’s it!”  *

Because these collections are right there with my calendar and menu plan and the rest of my life, I turn to them much more frequently then if I kept them in another notebook or on my computer.

So what collections do we keep as homeschooling moms?

Our School Children’s Book and Supply List. I organize by subject and I put the book on the left and the supplies needed for that subject on the right. This way I don’t forget that I need a map of Ancient Greece or I need rulers for Paper Sloyd.

Our Morning Timetable. This schedule is fixed at the beginning of the year and is only tweaked a bit. I create my time-table based on Charlotte Mason’s programs and I use the Schedule Cards created by Nicole Williams to do it.

Books Wish-List for my own personal reading. You know, Mother-Culture! The beauty of this is I have my list with me when I’m out shopping or at the library. As soon as I hear a book recommended or one I’m interested in, I jot it down as part of this collection. I think this helps me spend less money too, because I use to go immediately to amazon to add it to my wish list there but would often decide to just buy the book! Now I do less impulse shopping!

A Book Log

I like to keep a log of books I read over the  course of each year. I categorize them by Evening Read Alouds, Fiction, and Non-Fiction because at one point I found myself reading books to the kids that were fiction and reading primarily non-fiction (usually education, parenting, and home related) when I was reading alone. I wanted to add more fiction so I started tracking it, and I’m thrilled to say I read 8 great fiction titles last year.


Our Afternoon Timetable. The afternoon schedule is much more fluid and changes often, so I write out our afternoon schedule every day, rather than having one static page. The afternoons are an important part of the Charlotte Mason method and an area that needs more focus in the Mason community. We hope to blog on our afternoons soon (let us know if you are interested!)

Our Habits. Every few weeks we add a habit we are working on. With 5 children and me to track, it’s very helpful to keep a page of the current habit each person is working on.

(At this time, I don’t put our reading schedule in my bullet journal, but I could see it being helpful.)

Rainy Day activity list. This PR article mentions the idea of having a shelf of toys and activities for children that they just get to do on “wet-days” when they can’t be outside. This led me to create a “collection” of ideas not just for wet-days, but any day that we seemed in a funk.

Inventory Lists

I don’t have many of these, but I did make one for our family games and I love it. Now, if we want to have a game night or the kids need an indoor activity, I can suggest a specific game without leaving my spot. 

Sub Plans. This is along the lines of the rainy day list, but is for any day I’m not feeling well enough to teach. No, sadly, I don’t have a substitute teacher, but I have found it helpful to have a time-table of the types of school activities that the children can do without me. AKA, true self-education days!!

Book of Century List. We add to our Book of Centuries/Century Charts in the afternoon time-table, not immediately after each morning reading. I found that the children had a hard time remembering who they wanted to add by the time the afternoon rolled around, so now if they think of someone they want to add, we add the name to this collection.

Month in Review. At the end of each month, before I begin the new month’s calendar page, I look over the previous month we’ve just lived and jot down on a new page, the highlights. Our work, joys, suffering is entered. Just a word or two as reminder. To see all that goes on in a month, all that we hadn’t planned on at the beginning, has been such a validating thing to do. It’s also valuable before I begin to plan a new month to have a clear sense of what life has been like for us all. By writing it down, I get a sense if we’ve been out of the house too much…haven’t had enough for one child…

Check-lists for Activities. Don’t you hate running out the door for a co-op or nature club and trying to remember everything you need? I have a heading for each activity and a list of all that we need to do and all we need to bring. So helpful! This way we don’t forget our water paint brushes, tick-spray, matches, water bottles, magnifying glasses, binoculars, compass, etc. along with our Nature Journals when we go to Nature Club.

Planning Routine. I plan to plan! It’s true. I have a list of what I need to do each night for the next morning. Each weekend for the following week. Once a month for the next month.

Packing Lists

Whether it is a weekend away or an afternoon Nature Study Club, I write down the items I want to have with me and check the list before I start packing up.


Current Pursuits. Just as Mason had a course of study for mothers, I try to keep a list of topics that I am trying to study. Homeschooling with a Living Books curriculum is a rich learning experience as much for me as my children. But I also want to be sure I am learning on my own as part of my own pursuit of culture and fullness so that my teaching comes from the overflow of my own disposition, interest and love. Here are some of the subjects I try to cover in some way:

  • Religion: Spiritual Life, Catechism, Church History, Biography
  • Education/Parenting: Of course, Mason, but I also enjoy reading popular books on parenting and education, along with a classic tome, now and again.
  • Food: I cannot keep interest in cooking unless I have a good foodie book or cookbook 🙂
  • Homemaking: See our most recent post of my favorite books
  • Culture: A book on our Artist or Composer we are studying.
  • Nature: Sometimes on our Special Study topic, other times our Nature Study, sometimes books on Nature and Children.
  • Hobby/Skill: this is probably my weakest area of pursuit 🙂

Having a list like this, spurs me to keep my “Mother-Culture” going!

Would you like to learn more? To see some of these collections and pages “live”?

Sign up for our Bullet Journal for Homeschooling Moms Webinar, now just $10!

Camille and Amy will walk you through setting up your bullet journal and maximizing its potential for homeschooling!

February 21st at 8pm.

We look forward to “seeing you” there!

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Register for our Narration Webinar Series

Hello Learning How to Live readers!

We are pleased to announce that we are offering a series of webinars this Spring!

Over the years we have taught at The Mason Academy and the Charlotte Mason Institute and we are now ready to offer our workshops to a larger audience!  We are excited to help you grow in your practice of Mason’s philosophy and be blessed as we have been by her methods.

The first Webinar Series is coming up quickly. The class is almost full so sign-up today!

The Art and Practice of Narration with Amy Snell

Session One: Narration: The Foundation for Communication and Composition.
Tuesday, January 31st. 7-8:30pm.

Session Two: Narration Beyond the Basics. Tuesday, February 7th. 7-8:30pm.

A Two-Session Webinar Bundle for just $20.


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“I should like to leave you with a picture of a class of enthusiastic bright-eyed children, bouncing excitedly up and down in their eagerness to be the first to [narrate]. Such children will never be at a loss later on when they have to speak in a school or college debate, or open a bazaar, or even make a speech in Parliament!

(Manders. We Narrate and Then We Know.” Volume 2, no. 4, PNEU, July 1967, pgs. 170-172).

If you have read anything of Charlotte Mason than you have heard of narration.

The idea of bright-eyed children eager to narrate intrigues us. The idea of throwing out the end of chapter questions, study guides, quizzes, tests, and expensive writing programs delights us. And yet, we wonder, will it really lead to children who can make speeches for Parliament?

In the day in and day out of homeschooling life, doubts creep in…

  • Am I doing it the “right way”?
  • Is my child really making any progress?
  • Should I be doing narration differently depending on the subject?
  • Won’t this become boring?
  • Does it really work for all learners?
  • Shouldn’t I buy that curriculum guide that gets good reviews in the homeschooling catalogue?
  • Will my child really be prepared for writing in the workplace and at university?

 We are told that Narration is simple, true to every child’s development and the way truly to know. And yet, these glorious promises don’t always seem to be taking hold in our own homes and classrooms!

If you want more than a primer on narration…

To be given the tools of the practice…

                                          Tied to a philosophy of who children are…

And how they learn best…

This webinar is for you.

When I first began teaching writing 20 year ago, I tried many curriculum and approaches to help my students communicate effectively. After a few years, I “produced” students who could write “5-paragraph essays” that garnered high scores on AP exams and the grades they wanted in their college classes. But when I was finally introduced to Charlotte Mason’s cohesive philosophy and methods, I found what was always missing, an approach which helped students write naturally and to find their voice. Through the practice of narration, students learned to express themselves clearly and powerfully without the tedium and artifice of “composition” classes.

In the next season of life, it was an unexpected gift to teach the practice of narration to many different families through workshops at The Mason Academy and to mentor teachers in their practice in a wide range of classes from Artist Study to Plutarch. It has also brought me great joy to listen to my own five (different and unique) children’s narrations, watching their syntax and vocabulary grow in complexity out of a love for words and what they are learning.  All of these experiences have confirmed what I recognized about Charlotte Mason the first time I read her Philosophy of Education.

So what will be covered in this webinar?

The first session explores Mason’s principles on narration as integral to a child’s education, then moves to its practice. It will include a complete narration lesson plan from teacher preparation to the final Grand Conversation.

The second session refines your art and practice as a teacher and provides solutions for the common pitfalls and road bumps. How do you work with children who have nothing to say or forget details or are disorganized? When will these narrations start to have the sophisticated language and syntax I’ve been promised? Won’t this be monotonous? What about my artsy child who loves to draw and create?

Both sessions include a live Q & A  to cover your questions.

At $20 for two sessions, you will gain the confidence and know-how to start implementing narration right away. Say goodbye to worksheets, study guides, quizzes and other techniques that rarely lead to real learning.

Sessions are expected to fill quickly–register today!


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Bullet Journal Daily Logs and Weekly Spreads for the Homeschooling Mom

At the heart of the Bullet Journal is the daily log.  This is the page that stays open all day to keep us on track.

Camille and I have tried the many ways of keeping a daily log/weekly spread. Today we are sharing our favorites with the hopes that you will see the flexibility of this method and maybe even find one that fits your life!

There are two things we need to live a more organized and peaceful life: resolution and method.

“The real truth with most of us is that it requires a little more resolution and a good deal more method than we possess to so arrange and carry out the work of the day… (The Parent Review, “Simple Things” by S. F. S.Volume 12, no. 12, 1901, pgs. 958-960).

The Bullet Journal is such a method to arrange and carry out the work of the day! And when we have a method the resolution becomes easier and easier. The method is our way of laying down the rails and then finding freedom. So often we have the resolution but not the method to fulfill it!

But back to the weekly spread!

Amy

This is the main spread that I have used for over 2 years:

Left Side:

The left page is where I do my brain dump of all that is going on in my mind for that particular week. After doing this for a few weeks, I saw that I had a few major categories and divided this page into 5 categories:

Home: Everything that relates to our family life! Reminders to make a dentist appointment, call someone back, send an email, an idea I want to explore.

Work: Everything that relates to my Charlotte Mason initiatives: CM Reading Club, Nature Club, Truth, Beauty Goodness Symposium, the Charlotte Mason Educational Center of PA.

Liturgical Year: I take the time to note any important feast days for us to celebrate that week. This particular week I reminded myself to prep for our All Saints Day celebration and then created a separate page for planning.

Grocery: This isn’t my grocery list, but where I jot down if I notice we are out of one our pantry staples. You know, the things that nag at you but you always forget when you actually sit down to make your grocery list. This week I noted we were running low on tea.

Errands: This is a list of the out-of-the ordinary things I might need to pick up or drop off during the week. This week it was a birthday gift for my daughter’s friend.

Right Side:

Then on the right is my weekly list. First, I write in all of normal weekly events, like basketball practice, choir, violin lessons. Yes, these are on my Google Calendar that I share with my husband and yes, they repeat every week, but I still write them out each Sunday night. When I do so, I feel like I really get a hold of the week and feel so much more at peace. My next step is to then migrate things from the left page over to the right on the day that actually makes sense for me to do them. Its only after doing the brain dump on the left and then filling in our normal weekly events that I can accurately plan when I can do what needs to be done!

Just recently I switched to a new spread and I really like it. I love that my menu, my events, and my to-do are all on one big spread and then I have a column on the far left for my brain dump. It’s small but I found I don’t need a ton of space for the brain dump and that I usually want to create a whole page for many of the items anyway.


Camille

My main spread that I could not get through a week without is relatively simple.  I always set this up on Sunday afternoon or evening in preparation for the week ahead.  I happened to take a photo during a school break week, so I’ve also included one for a school week, though I don’t make a lot of school notes on my main spread.

First, I make a mini brain dump of things I want  to remember, do, or accomplish that week.  In the first example, my daughter had a feast day that I wanted to remember because for two years in a row we have either forgotten or been travelling so it could not be properly celebrated. I wanted to make sure we had time to let her choose dinner and dessert, as well as time to buy the ingredients needed, if any.  It was also epiphany week and I wanted to remember our king cake.  We had also been gifted a membership to the art museum and I wanted to go before school started up again.

I then start up a list of what I can reasonably accomplish the following day.  Not grand hopes of things to accomplish, but realistic plans.  These smaller lists for each day also include smaller tasks that need doing, such as errands, a reminder to put away that basket of laundry (so I can’t claim I forgot it…), or phone calls and emails that need to be made.

This particular week, being a week of no schooling, I also had a list of projects I wanted to complete, which is an unusual addition.

In the following spread, you’ll see that while the format is the same, the usefulness changes because I was beginning to prepare for Thanksgiving guests, planning my Advent Term as well as Term 2 for school, and I had a lot of small tasks that needed to be taken care of such as phone calls and errands.

While this is my home base spread for the week, it expands as these tasks get carried out.  For example, I created new spreads for school planning, as well as my Thanksgiving menu, and gifts that needed ordering for birthdays, hostess gifts, and Christmas.

Now, the other part of my Sunday afternoon routine is menu planning, but it doesn’t fit on my main spread and gets one of its own.  That is a post for another day!

We hope you enjoyed this sneak peak into our lives and found it helpful! Please share below any questions you have below!

Next week we will be sharing with you all the Collections we keep as Charlotte Mason moms. Subscribe so you don’t miss a post!

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Would you like to learn more about keeping a Bullet Journal? To see some of these collections and pages “live”?

Sign up for our Bullet Journal for Homeschooling Moms Webinar, now just $10!

Camille and Amy will walk you through setting up your bullet journal and maximizing its potential for homeschooling!

February 21st at 8pm.

We look forward to “seeing you” there!

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THE PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE BULLET JOURNAL FOR THE CHARLOTTE MASON MOM

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We here at Learning How to Live love the method of the Bullet Journal for planning, collecting, and organizing.

The longer we use it, the more we use it.

The more we use it, the better at “life” we get.

Over the next few weeks, we’d like to provide you with

A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO THE BULLET JOURNAL!

We’ll show you how the Bullet Journal works for managing our homes, our personal goals, our money, our menus, our life.

We’ll blog on how the  Bullet Journal fits so naturally for homeschool planning–book lists, future goals, evaluating our children. It especially works well for a Charlotte Mason approach!

We’ll write about how the Bullet Journal has simplified our routines, organized our lives, and helped us find peace.

But first, we want to talk about why the philosophy behind the Bullet Journal fits with the way we see the world. Like so many of our readers, as we’ve read Charlotte Mason’s life-giving philosophy of education, we’ve learned principles that haven’t just made us better teachers and parents, we’ve become better humans!

So principles first, then practices for a cohesive, integrated whole!

Why is the Bullet Journal such a useful and revolutionary, yet simple way to get a hold of your life?

We believe that its success is because it’s a method, not a system.

The Bullet Journal is a method, not a system!

Charlotte Mason writes on the importance of method vs. system in education and her ideas are all of the same reasons the Bullet Journal works.

So what’s the difference between a method and a system?

A SYSTEM is a machine, like a bodies, like a factory conveyor belt, that breaks down when it comes into contact with our very real, very human life. We are not cogs in a system; we are persons!

A METHOD, like a system, is way to achieve a desired end, yet it provides for “the vital growth and movement of a living being” (Volume 1 page 11).

Method implies two things––a way to an end, and a step by step progress in that way. Further, the following of a method implies an idea, a mental image, of the end of object to be arrived at. What do you propose that education shall effect in and for your child? Again, method is natural; easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple as the ways of Nature herself; yet, watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling. Method, with the end of education in view, presses the most unlikely matters into service to bring about that end…Charlotte Mason.Volume 1 page 8.

  1. We all need a way, a path, a step-by-step guide to achieve the end, the idea, the object we have in mind.

This is true in education, but it also true for menu planning, party planning, homeschool planning, list-making, tracking appointments, wish lists, recording memories, collecting ideas, brainstorming for the future.

If we don’t stay on the path, we will get lost in the details or lose a detail. We miss  appointments, stack up library fines or forget to pick-up more vanilla and toilet paper at the grocery store. Without a method, we feel stressed and anxious.

The Bullet Journal allows you to create a way, a path that is flexible, meeting your individual families needs and the way you think.

2. We all need a way, as Mason says, that is “natural, easy, yielding, unobtrusive, simple.”

The Bullet Journal is just that. A simple Pinterest search will show you the thousands of different ways people set-up all the things you might ever need to track, all in one place.You can doodle, add art and stickers, or you can be plain Janes, like Camille and me! If you need to change your weekly spread, you can!

The blank page of the Bullet Journal is key.

The problem with other planners, apps, or systems is that they operate on creator’s ideas but may not work with your world.

Take the example of Meal Planning. You want to meal plan and make your grocery list on the same page. You only want to plan dinners but your planner has a 3 row by 7 column grid. Or you like to have your menu list in your calendar on that day of the week, you don’t want a whole separate table, but the cells aren’t big enough to hold your to-do list, your appointments, and your menu. So you have different notebooks, papers all over the house, sticky notes, apps. You end up needing a system to keep track of all your systems! Or you just give up!

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3. The Bullet Journal, as a Method, is “watchful, careful, all pervading, all compelling.”

We use it for everything–work, family, creativity, home-making, holidays, journalling. And it helps us to be more “watchful [and] careful”!

A great example is planning for one of my children’s birthdays. When I create the monthly calendar and fill in my child’s birthday on the 9th, I immediately turn to the next open page and create a new page titled, “Birthday.” Perhaps, I also had that nagging thought that she wanted new shoes and I had an idea for a great theme so I jot them down and then head back to the calendar. The “Birthday” page is there for me to come back to and create menu plans, wish list, shopping list, RSVPs, etc, etc!

4. As an analog method, the Bullet Journal also helps us be more “careful.”

With technology we can move at such a fast-pace that we often let details slip. As we are forced to slow-down and write out our plans and ideas, we ruminate on them. This plants our plans in our minds, new ideas grow, and we feel at peace.

5. The beauty of the Bullet Journal is that once you figure out your method, you can turn it into a system.

But if that system stops working, you can try a different method, but you don’t need a new notebook or a different approach. The Bullet Journal allows for you to change as you need.

Mason tells us that “There is always the danger that a method, a bona fide method, should degenerate into a mere system.” Volume 1 p 8.

Since the Bullet Journal is just a blank book, we can always turn to the page and start again as we need. After trying different weekly spreads, for example, I have one I mainly stick to week after week, but if it’s a very different week, Christmas or illness, I can change it up easily.

Method…aid[s] the many sided evolution of the living, growing, most complex human being; but what a miserable wooden system does it become in the hands of ignorant practitioners!

We are living, growing, complex human beings. In the Snell home, there are 7 of us, living growing, complex human beings! No wonder wooden systems have failed before.

If a human being were a machine, education could do more for him than to set him in action in prescribed ways, and the work of the educator would be simply to adopt a good working system or set of systems.

But the educator has to deal with a self-acting, self-developing being… (Volume 1 page 10).

Thus, a bullet journal is needed.

So how do we Bullet Journal? What do we recommend? Would you like to see how we keep track of our curriculum as Charlotte Mason mamas? Subscribe today so you don’t miss out future posts!

Would you like to learn more? To see some of these collections and pages “live”?

Sign up for our Bullet Journal for Homeschooling Moms Webinar, now just $10!

Camille and Amy will walk you through setting up your bullet journal and maximizing its potential for homeschooling!

February 21st at 8pm.

We look forward to “seeing you” there!

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5 Steps to Begin Again After a Holiday

Happy New Year! It’s time to begin again in the Snell household after a full holiday season.

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Our Holy Family of Nazareth remains as a reminder of Christmas lessons

“Ordinary Time” sounds like a good idea after feasts, travels, a new puppy, family-time, a teething baby, gift-giving, and more. My 5 year old keeps saying, “I’m so tired and I don’t know why!”

But starting again is often easier said than done. I love Mason’s metaphor of “Laying Down the Rails,” because it rings true. When our whole system is up and running, it just keeps running. When the train falls off the track, it’s so hard to get it moving again…

So here are 5 steps I take to get back-on-track, after holidays, travel, extended illness, or at the beginning of a new term.

  1. Order and refresh your home.

  • Toys: Often on a break, I’ve let out more toys from our toy library or we’ve been given gifts so I take the time to go through play areas and bedrooms and return items to our toy library in the basement.

  • Food: I make sure we’ve restocked our pantry and have a solid meal plan. Over a break, it’s much easier to wing it, but since starting back is hard to do, having all of my meals planned (even breakfast and lunch), means I have one less thing to think about. Also, I try to purge all of the sweets and extra sugar that has made its way into our house and be sure we have lots of healthy snacks around instead.

 

  • Clothes: I try to do a quick purge of items that the children have outgrown or seasonal items no longer needed (Holiday dresses put away, for example). And then we catch up on laundry.

  • De-clutter Hot Spots: It’s easy for piles to start when everyone is in holiday mode–the stairs, the kitchen table, the mantle, a coffee table. We spend time to put things back in their places. After Christmas gift giving, there are usually a few items that need to find a new home.

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  1. Order and Refresh the school room.

 

  • Schedule/Timetable: I look over our time-table to be sure it is still will work for this new season. Has a new activity or sport started? Will the upcoming few weeks entail more travel or any disruptions I need to plan around?
  • Refresh Supplies: It sure is nice to begin with freshly sharpened pencils and to be sure all of our notebooks are ready to go.
  • Organize Bookshelves: I purge any books no longer needed and any books that have found their way to the school shelf that don’t belong. Books have a life of their own, don’t they?
  • Weekly School Prep Page: I walk through “my weekly school prep page” in my bullet journal
  • Pre-reading: I make sure any books I need to pre-read are up in my bedroom so I can skim them at night before bed.

 

  1. Choose one new habit.

Though we have turned the page of our calendar to a new year, for the Charlotte Mason mamma, not much changes…We think in terms of habits, not resolutions. The New Year is a natural time to pause and reflect, but we know that refinement is a slow, steady effort. Not a wild goal. Resolutions tend to be easily broken, frustratingly out-of-reach, quickly discarded. Big goals may help motivate us for a time, but we are in it for the long haul.

  • Habits are part of our regular, every day life.
  • Habits are consistent and reliable.
  • Habits become involuntary. Like eating, breathing, and making our beds
  • Habits are something we do because it is part of who we are.

“Learning How to Live” means we are in the Habit of Building Habits.

What new habit do you need most?

  1. Bullet Journal! (Yes, it’s a verb)

The bullet journal has truly revolutionized my life—I’m better organized and much more at peace. Here’s what I do:

  • Brain Dump: I just list out all of the things that have been swirling in my head—thank you notes, items to be returned, a check to send, a worry about a child, a goal I have. There is no rhyme or reason to the list.

 

  • Monthly Calendar and Project list: I migrate items from the brain dump that belong here and add anything that might be missing.

 

  • Weekly Calendar: I create the new weekly page.

 

  • Planning Routine: I look over my planning routine page just to be sure I’m not forgetting to do what I’ve planned to do to plan.

 

  1. Start with a modified schedule.

 

I plan to start at least a half hour later, if we’ve been sleeping in, so I cut back on a few blocks on our time-table for that day to account for the later start. I also know brains will be a bit sluggish so I lower my expectations. This might mean I read smaller sections than usual before asking them to narrate or I might allow a child who has difficulty writing, draw their narration. I might re-arrange the week to put the books and subjects that bring us the most delight on the first day.

I know the temptation to just jump back in and not take additional time off, but time and time again, I’ve seen this backfire. If education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life, it make sense that we need to think on these things for our days to go well. Putting things in place will mean that the train will chug smoothly down the rails and in the end much more will be accomplished.

Often, I am disappointed that I didn’t “accomplish more” when a break comes to an end. But it’s important for us as parents and teachers to take real breaks too. So now I just tack on a few more days at the end of each break and try to fully embrace each holiday. “Work while you work, play while you play, this is the way to be happy each day.
Remember school teachers have in-service days to plan and organize–homeschooling moms need them too!

So take that extra day or two or three, after you’ve gotten off the tracks, and you will find delight again in your home, your children, and your day!