A Peek at The Writer's Jungle and First Impressions and Thoughts about Brave Writer

Sunday, September 4, 2016

There have been many times when I've been absolutely sure that God led me to a certain book, curriculum, or resource.  (A few examples would be: All About Reading, Draw Write Now, Five in a Row, NaturExplorers, and Teaching Textbooks.)

THIS is certainly one of those times when I felt the Lord placed just the right resource in my lap. (He's so awesome!)

Let me explain:

When I got the okay to review The Writer's Jungle, I was uncertain what Brave Writer was even all about.  I had only vaguely heard of it and, quite honestly, I was skeptical.

We've been struggling our way through writing for a few years now.

My skepticism simply arose from the fact that I have really had a hard time finding writing programs that worked for our children.  Especially my eldest, who is an extremely reluctant writer. (He's 11.)

It only took me a short time of reading The Writer's Jungle and various other resources from Julie Bogart to feel confirmed that the Lord brought Brave Writer to us and our homeschool.  I am so (SO!) excited to starting using these philosophies and resources in our home.

I am nearly done reading through all of The Writer's Jungle.  I have about a billion sticky tabs all over the place to remind me of great suggestions, projects we need to do, and tips that will prove helpful more than once (I'm sure!).  It acts as a comprehensive, friendly manual for helping us understand how to better relate to our children and help them learn to write effectively.  The Writer's Jungle is not a curriculum, it is a description of a lifestyle and a compilation of chapters of insight and inspiration for moving past stumbling blocks and getting to the heart of what it really means to 'write well'.  It is fabulously inspiring.

Chapters include topics like: Narration, Copywork, Dictation, The Role of Communication in the Art of Writing, Rescuing Reluctant Writers, Revising, The Topic Funnel, Editing, Dumb Assignments, and so much more.

There are also loads of assignments to work on with your kids that correspond with the chapter topics.  A couple examples are:  The Communication Game, The Keen Observation Exercise, Topic Funnel Exercise, Journal Writing, etc.

I also decided to invest in A Quiver of Arrows and The Arrow for our language arts this year and so far, I'm loving everything I am seeing!  (More about that below.)

My first impression is that Brave Writer is a gentle, natural, intentional approach to not only writing, but also relationship with our children.

Julie Bogart (the creator of Brave Writer) describes that the Brave Writer philosophy/lifestyle often "...feels foreign, almost like entering a different culture."   

Honestly, I don't feel like we will have to change our educational philosophies at all - Brave Writer's philosophies fit so well with what we're already doing!  It's quite remarkable, actually.

If you lean towards gentle teaching and/or a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschool, Brave Writer is very likely to appeal to you and your children.

Julie also says:

"Brave Writer is focused on PEOPLE.  That's why it is called Brave Writer not Brave Writing... One of the reasons our program feels different is because I'm inviting you to get to know your kids.  To value what comes out of their mouths.  To be interested in their thoughts.  To have eye contact and big, juicy conversations.  To celebrate language with them not to do school to them. That's the difference....  We are about a lifestyle more than a program."

When I hear those words, I am overwhelmed with a sense of rest, peace, and great relief.

They affirm what I already know to be true in my heart, friends - that writing is a natural process that can and will develop if nurtured in the right ways specific to every individual child.  Especially when relationship is the core focus, children will thrive in their ability to communicate well with us and others.

Figuring out How it Works

So, it took me a bit, but I think I've pretty much figured out how Brave Writer works.  Or at least, what to purchase if you want to get started with it and get going on a great year of writing and language arts.  I mean, we still haven't put any of these resources into practice in our homeschool, so right now, everything is still only in my mind.  (We start next week!)

Basically, there are home-based study programs (like homeschool curriculum for writing and language arts) and then there are actually online classes you can take through Brave Writer's website.

The Writer's Jungle is the foundational book of the entire program because it goes into a lot of detail about the Brave Writer philosophy and how to implement this 'lifestyle' for not only writing, but learning and living in general.  I highly recommend starting with The Writer's Jungle if you are new.

Julie says you can literally stop there if you want to.  If you are motivated and understand the foundational principles, you can continue and implement the philosophies on your own.  However, if you want a little help (as so many of us do!), you can purchase more of the Brace Writer programs and/or resources to help you on your way to successful language skills and writing success.  This is what we've chosen to do, as I discuss below.

A Focus on Family Relationships and Reading Great Books

YES!!!  A writing 'program' that puts a complete emphasis on building great relationships with our kids and reading great books together!  Imagine that!?  The majority of everything Brave Writer offers in centred around relationships, an atmosphere of rest, and sharing age-appropriate living books together as a source of knowledge, inspiration, conversation, and enrichment.

Need I say more?  I was pretty much sold from 'hello' on this one, friends.

Poetry Tea Time and Friday Free Write

I'm sure some of you have heard the term, Poetry Tea Time.  Poetry Tea Time is encouraged for all families, once a week (at least)!  This is a time of rest, poetry, wonderful language enrichment, nurturing a love of reading and language, and of course, enjoying bonding time over yummy treats and soothing tea.

I LOVE this idea.  We have always read while eating... it's kind of something we just do.  Maybe because we're always eating?

But I've never intentionally had a tea/poetry time on a weekly basis.  We are starting this habit this year.  I'm pretty pumped about it.

Friday Free Write has also become a well-known phrase. This is an element of the Brave Writer Lifestyle that we plan to implement this year as well.  Every friday, we will attempt to free write for a short period of time.  For at least two of my children I am certain this will start with oral narration of their free write... and that's okay with me *smile*

Writing Programs

For Home Study programs there are both straight-out Writing Programs and also Language Arts programs available.  They all look so good, I'm tempted to buy them all, to be honest.

For Writing specifically -

If your child still isn't writing yet and is between the ages of 5-8, there is Jot It Down available.  This looks so Charlotte Mason friendly and I love the idea of allowing children to narrate aloud and Mom (or Dad) acting as the scribe for them.  We have done this a TON in our homeschool and it works wonders for getting more and better narrations out of them.

We are taking this year to focus on the main manual, The Writer's Jungle, which is applicable to kids age 8-18.  So, all three of our children will be doing the activities in it, some together, some separate.

We may choose to move on to other courses after that, but I'm not sure yet.

Language Arts Programs

Okay, so these programs are for if you are looking for more support in the area of Language Arts (not specifically writing, though many of these units include writing ideas and suggestions).

I am REALLY excited about my purchases of  A Quiver of Arrows (for Alex) and The Arrow (for Audrey and Simon).  

So, these are literary based language arts UNITS.  Each unit uses one book that is used to expand the world of language arts for our children.  So, there is suggested copywork, commentary about grammar and writing styles, questions to stimulate conversation, a monthly literary element focus, and suggested activities for writing practice and experimentation.  You are getting quite a bit with each unit.

A Quiver of Arrows is a bridge year between the younger program The Wand and the grade 3-6 program, The Arrow.  The booklists for The Wand, A Quiver of Arrows, and A Pouch of Boomerangs stay the same within the programs.  I see these as 'bridge' years.

The booklists for The Arrow and The Boomerang, however, change yearly.  They are digital downloads with a new title or unit every month.

One option for purchasing any of these is to use Homeschool Buyer's Co-op.  I got amazing deals on my purchases.  I paid only $47 for A Quiver of Arrows (instead of $79)!  

I particularly loved the way I was able to purchase units of The Arrow.  I actually bought a bundle of 10 back issues (instead of getting this year's titles month by month).  This was awesome because I paid a fraction of the price and was able to hand pick the titles we would do to suit our children's interests and what books we already had on the shelf.  Love it!  I also specifically picked 5 titles to suit Audrey and 5 titles for Simon.  It was $59 for all the issues instead of the regular price of $100.  

I love good homeschool deals... and since they are all digital downloads, there is no shipping or waiting to worry about.  Everything was smooth and easy!

Of course, you can also purchase directly from Brave Writer as well.

There are also countless online classes available through the Brave Writer website.  If this is something that interests you, you can learn more by browsing their website's Online Classes section.

If you are longing for a relationship-based, restful approach to language arts and writing?

Then Brave Writer might just be what you and your kids need.

I hope this preview is at least a little helpful if Brave Writer is completely new to you.

I am working on a full review of The Writer's Jungle along with my thoughts on A Quiver of Arrows and The Arrow, coming up in the couple of months.  We need to actually use the program for me to properly review and discuss it with all of you!

I just had to share this preview and my excitement in finding Brave Writer so you can start browsing their stuff if this sparks your interest!!!

More to come...

For those of you who are wanting more information about the foundations of Brave Writer and how all the pieces fit together - check out this video:

A *mini* Review of Teaching from Rest by Sarah Mackenzie

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Teaching from Rest is a great big breath of fresh air.  There aren’t enough words to express how much I love this book. Honestly – I would love to give a copy to every homeschooler I meetSarah Mackenzie (the author of Teaching from Rest) is the kind of person who probably makes instant friends everywhere she goes.  Her blog and her book read as if you’re out for coffee with a friend you’ve known since 3rd grade.  She’s honest, humble, and incredibly relatable.  She speaks deep wisdom and truth with a warm smile and a tender touch – I love that about her.

We’ve been doing this thing for going on 8 years now and we homeschool using much from Charlotte Mason’s philosophies. Teaching from Rest is a wonderful source of encouragement for moms who are longing to embrace not only a more classical/Charlotte Mason approach to homeschooling but also embrace a home life brimming with life-giving atmosphere.
My copy of this book is so dog-eared and underlined that it is hard to pick only a few things to touch on, but I’ll try my best. Something I really appreciate about Sarah’s blog and this book is her focus on helping us find peace in the midst of a hurried world.  And homeschoolers are often guilty (I know, I’m right there with you!) of living a bit of a frenzied existence.  We can easily be trapped by the stress and chaos of not only everyday living but also the constant quest to offer our children ‘the best’ of everything.  We seek the ‘best’ books, the ‘best’ curriculum, the ‘best’ extra-curriculars.  And sometimes, we can get lost along the way – forgetting what truly is good, and noble, and ‘best.’  Sarah speaks truth and calms hearts by reminding us tosimplify. I love this:
“Much of the best learning cannot be proven, measured, or easily demonstrated.  The kind of encounters that form our children’s hearts, minds, and souls occur as they come in contact with great books and learn to ask hard questions – and their minds are trained to think logically and well… Pacing doesn’t matter if you are sacrificing mastery and love for truth, goodness, and beauty.  Change the way you assess your success.  The quality of study matters far more than the mere quantity of learning.”
Sarah goes on to encourage Moms to lighten the load.  To breathe deep.  To do school intentionally.  Not frantically.  Not carelessly.  Not to ‘get through’ the curriculum.  But to study and learn intentionally – whole-heartedly, slowly, peacefully, purposefully.
One more thing I can’t possibly leave out is how Sarah Mackenzie (and Pam Barnhill) have inspired me to bring a focused, intentional Morning Time in our home. Sarah writes about how Morning Time (her family calls it Symposium) brings a focus on what is beautiful and lovely into the homeschool in a very special way.  We LOVE our Morning Time routine.  It truly has infused our days with wonderful gifts: scripture, memory verses, poetry read alouds and poetry memory work, art and picture study, composer study, folk tales, literature of all kinds, foreign languages, I could go on.  Morning Time is a huge part of what we do and what makes our little homeschool so rich and meaningful.
I absolutely love Sarah Mackenzie’s heart and absolutely love Teaching from Rest.
A must-read for homeschoolers, new and veteran alike.

To Read what other Hip Homeschool Mamas had to say about Teaching from Rest and for access to a special coupon code, follow me over here...

The Real Answer to the Question: "How do you DO it?!"

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

I’m in our favorite supermarket with the kids.  We’re at the bakery waiting for a free cookie.  Goodness knows how we love that free cookie.  

One of the girls behind the counter knows me from elementary school – knows I homeschool.  She chuckles, shakes her head, and says the words that have so often made me cringe:

“I don’t know how you homeschool.  I could NEVER homeschool my kids.  Seriously, HOW do you do it?!”

(Have you heard those words before? They are usually accompanied by a look of total exasperation at the mere thought of homeschooling her own children.)

I find these kinds of statements incredibly uncomfortable for a few reasons…

1. My kids are usually with me, which makes them feel that I’ve taken on some impossibly miserable task by choosing to be with them 24/7.  (Which, of course, is the farthest thing from the truth!)

2. The statement suggests that I’m some kind of Super Mom with powers that far surpass those of every other ‘regular’ Mom in the room.

3.  It also suggests that homeschooling is radically hard and unnatural but SOMEHOW I’m struggling to manage.  *sigh*

To read more about the REAL answer to how I Homeschool... READ ON at Hip Homeschool.  *smile*

The Truth about Teaching our Children to Read {and 5 Simple Steps for Nurturing a Love of Books...}

Monday, August 22, 2016

A couple of days ago, I shared a special moment on The Unplugged Family Facebook page.

My nine-year-old daughter had just finished reading through The Boxcar Children for the first time and was starting into the second book in the series.  It was mid-morning and our home was peacefully quiet with children all engaged in their own activities.  Audrey unfolded her legs and rose from the couch with a satisfied sigh.

"Oh, Mama... I just couldn't LIVE without reading,"  her voice was whimsical and sing-song.

I smiled and she continued,

"Reading is just delicious."

Oh, my heart.  Those four words will stay emblazoned in my soul forever.


I love her use of words - and I couldn't agree more.  Reading IS delicious and don't we DEVOUR books?  So why not delicious reading?

It took a solid 9 and a half years of nurturing a love of books for a statement like that to bubble up out of her little heart.  And it is music to my ears to hear my children tell me they LOVE to read.  It is a sweet reward after many years of investment and perseverance.  Isn't it?

And, friends, I don't believe a true pleasure in reading just 'happens'.  I mean, maybe for the occasional child, but more often than not...

a genuine love of reading is like a well cared for garden.  

It takes a ton of work.  We must create the right environment for that garden to grow, we must till the soil of the heart and mind, we must plant the right seeds, nurture the seeds - then the plants, and continue to water that garden and weed that garden and nurture that garden for as long as it takes.

And sometimes that can mean there will be many years before we see the 'fruits' of our labor.

Yep.  It takes good old fashioned TIME to grow passionate readers.

After 'teaching' three children to read (so to speak), there is one MAJOR truth that I feel every Mom, homeschooler or not, should know.  I mean, there are many (which I plan to cover in this new series on reading!) but there is one BIGGIE.

It isn't really about whether our child CAN read.  

It is much more about whether our child WANTS to read.  

Does that make sense?

In other words, the most important task you have in the journey of your child learning to read is this - teaching your kids to LOVE to read.

The less important task is the teaching of the actual act of reading words on a page.

WHEN your child learns the mechanics of reading on her own is completely irrelevant in the long-run.

Let's chat about what I mean, ok?

Our culture is loaded with kids who CAN read.  They probably even learned when they were as young as 4 or 5 at school.  But do the LOVE to read?  Now that is often a much different story.

Come on. We've all seen that Mom.  Maybe we've even BEEN that Mom (gulp). The one sitting on the library couch with their Kindergarten aged child and a beginning reader book on her lap.  The child struggles madly to read the simple words on the page while the Mom grows more and more frustrated, making the entire experience quite stressful and miserable for all involved.  The parent is visibly annoyed, the child feel defeated, and the idea of reading (in this instance) sure doesn't seem very enticing for the child, does it?

This is often what happens with the pressure of having a time-frame in which a child MUST learn to read.  Parents of children in school feel this pressure as teachers tell them their child is 'behind' or not reading on level. (I have so many friends who have gone through this!).  This creates an environment of stress where the struggling child learns that reading is hard, stressful, and unenjoyable.  They learn that reading invokes feelings of defeat, frustration, and disappointment.   This is not at ALL what we are going for, friends.

And before we go crazy pointing fingers at parents of kids in school - so many of us are guilty of the very same philosophy.  Somehow, we can't seem to shake the idea that there is this time-frame for learning to read.  If a child doesn't read by the time they are 5 or 6, well, something MUST be wrong.

This perspective is just as prevalent in the homeschooling community as it is in the school community.  We feel the heat for our kids to learn to read probably more than any other milestone. We feel it from our family, friends, other homeschoolers, even ourselves.  

But why?

Why are we so obsessed with WHEN a child learns to read?

Why aren't we more concerned about whether a child WANTS to read?

Because these are two very different goals, in all honesty.

My goal has always been to raise kids who LOVED books and desired to read.  This meant that I was very relaxed about teaching the mechanics of reading.

My first son taught himself (YES, TAUGHT HIMSELF) how to read when he was about 5 or so, or maybe he was 6? (See, I don't even remember!)

My daughter took about 2 years to really learn to read fluently. She was 8 1/2 when everything really clicked.  (All About Reading really helped her!)

My youngest son learned to read at about 7 after a really short time of very relaxed instruction with All About Reading Level 1.

See?  Even in one family, each child is so different.

But you know a common thread?

They all like to read.

Praise God, they LIKE to read.

No matter what stage in the journey our children are at, the primary goal needs to be nurturing a LOVE of reading.  

Forget about their age.  

I know, right?  But, seriously... forget about their age.

Mama, if your child is 4 or 5 and cannot read - that's OKAY.  In fact, that is completely normal.

Mama, if your child is 6 or 7 and cannot read - that's OKAY.  There are many, many children at that age who are not ready for the mechanics of reading yet.

Mama, if your child is 8 or 9 and cannot read - that's OKAY too.  Because children learn at all different ages and stages.

I have heard story after story of children who struggled with reading, learned later (as late as 10 or 11 even), and because of their parent's perseverance and patience, are now completely voracious readers.

Friends, we are not bound by a deadline.  

The world will not fall apart if Suzie doesn't read when she is 6 years old.

We are not slaves to a system.  

Have we forgotten that we broke free from these restrictions?  Why do we cling to them and judge ourselves and our children by them?  

Who in the world ever asks a teenager or adult how OLD they were when they learned to read?  No one, that's who.  And the reason why is because it is irrelevant.  When they learned doesn't matter at all - the only thing that matters is if they can read.  And they can.  So there.

But... DO they continue to read? Now that might have something to do with how they learned.

When a child learns to read is so much less important than HOW.

And by how, I mean the kind of environment in which the child learns to read.  Is it one of nurture, patience, love, respect, and understanding?  An environment filled with a love of books, lots of read-aloud stories, and peaceful and joyous experiences with books?

Or one of stress, frustration, deadlines, and rush to learn a 'skill' by a deadline?

Five Simple Steps for Really Teaching our Children to (love to) Read:

1. Start with REST.

Alright, here I go again.  Have you read Teaching From Rest by Sarah Mackenzie yet?  Yes?  Then you know exactly what I mean when I say 'Start with REST'.    No, you haven't read it?!  What are you waiting for, Mama?  And... let me explain this idea of starting with rest the best I can in a couple sentences -

This philosophy of Teaching from Rest is all about teaching from the perspective of resting wholly and entirely on the Lord's leading and Christ's faithfulness.  We are not in control of how or when our children truly learn anything.  We are simply called to be faithful in the calling God has placed on our lives to raise up our children in the best way we can according to His will and word and by His leading and grace.

Teaching to read from a state of rest means letting go.  It means trusting the Lord and trusting the process.  It means bringing our best, being obedient and faithful, teaching with love, respect, joy, and peace - and then trusting the plan God has for our children and ourselves.  Teaching from Rest means we get to be at peace with the journey.  It is a truly lovely place to start any subject.

2.  Give them a reason to WANT to read.

So, now that you've entered into a state of peaceful teaching and trust in God's timing and leading, you need to work hard at laying a good literary foundation.  Your child should learn at an early age what a read-aloud culture looks like.  This means, reading is established as a part of normal life - just as common as eating or sleeping.  We read because we breathe.  

Reading is also established as something wonderful - something of great worth.  Reading is something that makes us feel cozy, joyful, full of wonder.  There is this overwhelming sense of  togetherness when a family reads a great living book aloud together.

We must fill our shelves and our children's lives with great books.  Every kind of book too - of course, the Scriptures, fables, folk tales, great picture books, classics, novels with stories of adventure, mystery, history, biography, and fantasy, things to make us laugh out loud and even shed a tear.  This is the literary glue that will stick a love of reading to your child's young soul.

This is the kind of culture that gives them a REASON to want to read.  They must first fall in love with stories and with the act of looking in a great book to gain knowledge or experience the joy of story.  Only THEN can they develop the desire to want to read for themselves.  Not because they have to, but because they WANT to.

3. Do not push your child to learn to read.  Choose to ignore cultural pressures.

While you are (hopefully) doing as much nurturing a love of reading as possible - don't rush your child.  Just because they are 5 or 6 or whatever age you think they SHOULD learn to read doesn't mean they will learn to read at that age.  (Trust me, I know this!)  And maybe, just maybe, it wouldn't even be beneficial for them to learn quite yet.  Maybe the soil of their heart just isn't quite ready.

I believe one of THE BIGGEST mistakes we can do as home schoolers is pressure our children to read.  Pushing and prodding and getting frustrated with the reading process is a huge no-no.  Not only will it prove very unenjoyable for you and your child, it could potentially completely sabotage the lovely foundation you tried so hard to lay.  You know, the one where you established a love of books in your child's heart?

Also - all that pressure might not prove fruitful anyway.  Children will always (always!) learn best when they are ready.  I have found this to be so true with our children.  I waited until I saw a readiness in my daughter and second son before introducing reading instruction to them.  And for my daughter, I did try to go through 'lessons' for phonics with her and it just wasn't clicking.  The minute I saw her getting frustrated and discouraged, I let it go.  We went back to just enjoying great books together.  I didn't want to push her and lose this beautiful love of literature she had.

Guess what?  About a year later, she was ready and picked up reading quite easily and very enjoyably.  (This is when we used All About Reading with great success!).

4.  When your child IS ready to learn, nurture a love of reading with an atmosphere of warmth, love, peace, patience, kindness, and lots of tea and brownies and more books.

I knew when our children were ready to learn to read because I could see their desire to learn the mechanics of reading greatly increase.  They were now understanding and responding well to short, simple lessons.  There was no stress in the process because they were fully on board and had a personal desire to learn.

Maybe you've heard it said before - WHAT we teach isn't nearly as important as HOW we teach it.  I love this sentiment because it is so, so true with homeschooling.  It also completely mimics Charlotte Mason's philosophy on the Atmosphere of the Home being of utmost importance in teaching our children.  Well, the atmosphere of how we teach reading has the same affect.

If we want to establish and preserve a love of reading in our child's heart and mind, we NEED to teach them to read in a room filled with warmth, love, peace, patience, and kindness.  They need to know we are SO on their team and are willing to do whatever it takes and work for however long is needed to help them achieve the ability to read for themselves.

In our home, we snuggle up, have snacks and special treats, giggle and just enjoy that special time of learning to read together.  Which leads to the last point...

5.  Enjoy the journey.

We will only have these precious children with us for such a short time.  Really, in the course of a life-time - we have our babies for a blip, it seems.

I can't believe my eldest will turn 12 this year.   I honestly BLINKED and he went from 2 to 12.  Let's just commit to surrendering our fear, anxiety, stress, and feeling of overwhelm and ENJOY the journey with our children. Because, honestly, this journey will not last forever.

It is a miraculous thing, how a child learns.  It truly is a holy experience.  And we get to be part of it as homeschoolers!  Every step of the journey, we are privileged to share with our children, walking hand in hand.  And learning to read is one of the most wonderful and powerful things they will learn.

It is HUGELY rewarding to play a leading role in teaching a child to read.  I have always been overcome with emotion when each child starts really 'getting' it for themselves.  But that doesn't mean rushing the 'getting it' part of the journey.  It will come in the right timing.  I promise.  Enjoy this blessed and special journey with your child- breathe in the reality that you will teach her to read but once.

It is a precious time and should be treated as such.

Above all, trust. Trust in the Lord's divine leading and will for your child.  And trust in your child.

The rewards will come, and they are breathtaking.

This is a worth-while link to check out - videos from Sarah's official  Teaching from Rest book club.


Other 'Learning to Read' Posts coming soon:

-Nurturing the developing/emerging Reader (ideas, tips, things that have worked for us)
-The Powerful Role Family Read-Alouds play in Nurturing Passionate Readers

-Wow! My child can read!  Now what?
-How to Make your Kids Hate Reading (mistakes I've made, mistakes I've seen)
-Do I really need a fancy Reading Curriculum? (Thoughts and experiences)
-Continuing to Nurture a Love of Reading AFTER they know 'how' to Read

The difference between a Schedule and a Rhythm (and how Rhythm brought Rest to our Homeschool)

Monday, August 15, 2016


A. a plan for carrying out a process or procedure, giving lists of intended events and times.  

B. to arrange or plan events to take place at a particular time.


A. a strong, regular pattern of movement or sound.  

B. a repeated pattern of events marked by natural flow and regular reoccurrence of certain activities.

When I first started my Homeschooling journey,  I tried desperately to create (and re-create) very specific Homeschool Schedules I wanted us to follow.  These comprised of many boxes and many little increments of time, all filled in with exactly what we would do every second of the day.

When the children were preschoolers and toddlers, I tried something like this:

8 am - Break-fast
8:15 am - Wash hands and faces, stack dishes in sink
8:17 am - Leave Kitchen and enter the Learning Room
8:20 am - Morning Time prayer and songs
8:25 am - Morning Time calendar 
8:30 am - Poetry Reading
8:35 am - Letter Review with songs

Um... who wants to guess if THAT worked with a 4, 2, and 1 year old?  *cough*

When they were in early elementary and preschool, I tried something like this:

9 am - Morning Calendar
9:15 am - Printing
9:25 am - Math
9:45 am - Drawing
9:55 am - Snack
10:10 am - Story time

Nope, that one didn't work either.

These rigid schedules never (ever, ever, EVER!) worked for our family.

By the time our kids were 7, 6, and 4,  I was so done with the fight and I remember literally writing out a "Schedule" that poked fun at the whole thing.  It looked like this - 

Monday through Friday: do homeschool stuff.


This is also about the time I 'met' Charlotte Mason and my philosophies on life, education, and scheduling really started to change. 

And I've got to be completely honest - for a long time (before my little personal Charlotte Mason/gentle education revolution), I thought there was seriously something wrong with us.  Wrong with me.  I mean, why couldn't I get my kids to just do what I wanted WHEN I wanted?  Why wouldn't they just follow the schedule?  Why couldn't they do Math when I said so and keep Drawing to the allotted time frame and move flawlessly through the tasks on my little checkmark system schedule?!

Instead of offering the structure, flow, and productivity I was hoping for, our rigid schedules brought frustration, burnout, and full-on meltdowns.  

The kids were miserable, I was exasperated, and nothing was happening as I thought it should.  In fact, not only were things not happening the way I wanted - they weren't really happening at all.  It was a disaster.

If I let that Schedule rule my day, my emotions, and my reactions it wasn't good.

I saw that it wasn't working but I couldn't understand why.  It seemed like so many other Homeschoolers were using these types of time-slotted schedules and their kids were following along.  I mean, seriously, just google "Homeschool Schedule" and you will find countless schedules that aren't that different from the ones above.  And THOSE Moms even have stars and velcro charts and all sorts of fancy things to go along with the time slots. 

I wondered why I felt compelled to march to the beat of the rigid-schedule drum.  And, thank goodness, it didn't take me too long to see that I was only marching to 'that' drum because I was copying what I saw other homeschoolers doing.  

Not because I fully believed in it or even had research or philosophical reasoning to back up my plans - just because other people did it too (yep...).

Well, I've come to realize, after 7 years of homeschooling, that it is TOTALLY OKAY to not have a Schedule in my Homeschool.

Just like with any other decision you make for your homeschool and family, you need to know your "why".

If you are going to plan and implement a strict Schedule - why?

If you are not going to plan and implement a strict Schedule - why not?

Simple as that.

You must (MUST) know why you are choosing one or the other.

Schedule VS. Rhythm

So, to me, a Schedule means just what it's definition says - a plan and list of events (or lessons/activities) to take place at a specifically given time. When you have a Homeschool Schedule, you want to see Math happen every day at 10am.

A Rhythm, on the other hand, is quite different.  A Homeschool Rhythm is a regular, established pattern of work/activities based on a natural flow.

See the difference?  The Rhythm works wonders for us, so I want to encourage you that it might really work for your family too.  Especially if you've been trying more strict schedules and been really struggling.

These days, we have an extremely simple Homeschool Rhythm. I spoke about it in my Morning Time and Family Loop Plans post and it is up on the kitchen wall, but more for decoration than anything.  

Our Rhythm goes like this:

Morning Time (all together)
Morning Rotations (Individual Work)
Family Loop

There is no real time frame in terms of an hourly, time-slot type schedule.

There are several subjects and tasks that we want to accomplish every day and we work towards accomplishing them.  Period.

Every day, we wake up, we spend time together, we do Morning Time, the kids know what Individual Work they have to do, and will rotate through spending time with me to accomplish their Morning Rotation.  Then, at some point, we will fit in our Family Loop subject (either History, Geo/Bible, Nature Study, or Hands-on Science).  We have a daily pattern that is predictable and reliable.

The kids know what we are doing even though it is not rigid or tied to the clock or a checklist.  They know what is expected and move freely within those expectations.  We are pretty relaxed but have enough of a pattern that everyone still feel secure and productive in that daily 'beat'.

We DO try to do Morning Time in the morning because, well.... you know.  

Honestly though, beyond that - it's just got to be done by the time the sun sets.  Or sometimes, not even.  Sometimes (gasp!) we carry over work that we didn't do on Monday to Tuesday or even Wednesday.  (I know, I know... unheard of, right?)

And OH, the peace this structure brings to our home, friends!  I can't speak highly enough of this kind of relaxed, yet purposeful plan.  We are not lazy.  We are free.  And within that freedom we are actually more productive because we have nurtured the atmosphere that lends itself to peaceful, restful learning.

Let me express to you some solid reasons why I strongly advocate for adopting a Homeschool Rhythm instead of a timed Schedule-

Rhythm leaves more room for God's leading and life's 'divine interruptions'.  

C.S. Lewis talked about this when he said: 

“The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one's 'own,' or 'real' life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one's real life -- the life God is sending one day by day.”
Now, I don't think all the interruptions to our days are unpleasant.  In fact, many of these little interruptions are sweet and beautiful!  But nonetheless, these unscheduled events and needs can often be seen as annoying interruptions if we are set on a specific schedule that runs in a minute-by-minute time frame.

Honestly, I desperately want to live with eyes wide open to where God is leading and what ways I can reach out to our children, love on them, love on others - family, friends, the children in our lives.  If we are faced with the question of choosing between 'doing homeschool' or encouraging and helping a friend in need - I want to be the ones who choose people over tasks every time.

And the strict schedule makes choosing the unexpected very difficult - especially when you feel tied to the schedule, 'or else'.

Rhythm allows for more play and more creativity.  

I'll admit it - there are mornings when we are barely starting Morning Time before 11am.  It's not because we've slept in for hours or watched videos or are just lounging around eating chocolate in our PJs.  (I wish!)

If we're getting a 'late start' to the day, it's almost always because the kids have been completely engaged in something else that I deemed worthwhile to let them continue.  Whether it is building with Legos, painting a picture, creating a play together, building a fort for reading, making something with the sewing machine, spending time with the chickens, nurturing relationships, etc.

When the children are happily engaged in productive projects, activities, and play, I usually leave them be.  This is part of that space Charlotte Mason called 'masterly inactivity'.  Where the parent chooses to 'let the child alone'.  So she can create, imagine, dream, play, and grow in her own giftings, skills, and focus.  This IS 'school', friends.  It is the most profound type of education because it is that self-education we so desire for our children to grow into.

The minute-by-minute schedule would never allow for me to do this 'letting alone' as much as I do.  I would constantly feel behind because we would NEVER be starting (or finishing) on time.  I prefer to breathe deep and enjoy this time for them to just be children.  We get to the 'work' eventually.  Some days, it just takes longer to get to my plan because they are first doing some 'work' of their very own.  *wink*

Rhythm allows for more Delight-Directed Learning.  

Apart from having more time to play and be creative, having a Rhythm allows for more time to take educational detours.  I love to watch for the sparks in our children and work hard not to ignore them, but to instead, nurture them.

So, if we are reading about some aspect of Early Modern History and all of a sudden our kids are completely captivated by Queen Elizabeth - we are likely to camp there for a while to nurture that interest and soak up all the delight-directed learning we can do.  We just have more freedom.  If 'History' takes 2 hours, that's okay.  There's nothing telling us we have to rush to the next time slot.

Rhythm removes the pressure to blaze through things.  

When you're supposed to be done Math at 10:15 so you can start Spelling at 10:16, and done Spelling at 10:30 so you can start Copywork at exactly 10:31 - um, it's a bit stressful.  The temptation is the get through the first thing so that we can flawlessly move on to the next thing, so that we can again move on (quickly!) to the NEXT thing on the schedule.  If we lag behind, the whole day is just messed up.  And if you are an A-type Mama, that will drive you NUTS.  So, guess what?  You'll rush through things to stay on schedule.  It just might become about that darn schedule instead of about the little person in front of you and the learning that is or is not taking place.

Rhythm gives children more say in how they manage their own time and tasks.  

It's okay to let our kids decide when they want to accomplish their work.  I've actually realized that my children work far better under these less restrictive perimeters.  My eldest really enjoys reading his personal reads in the evening, so that's when he reads and often narrates to me.  My daughter loves to get her work done early in the morning because she feels a weight off her back by getting it done!  My youngest likes to wait until I am fully available so he can sit on my lap, play with my hair and just completely enjoy his time with "Mama".

There are days when another project (say Lego or an Art project) overpowers my child's desire to do Math work.  And that's okay.  The Math can wait if a child prefers to do it a little later in the day.  The child still knows they need to do it and they are still learning through the activity they are currently engaged in.  In fact, they are probably learning MORE than they will during that Math lesson.

This method helps children learn about when and how they work best and how to manage their own time and tasks on a daily and weekly basis.  It is worth noting here that this structure also really helps with atmosphere - it keeps the kids MUCH happier because it respects them as people.

In fact, I feel so strongly about this, I'll make it another point...

Rhythm helps maintain a peaceful and productive home atmosphere (at least in our home it does!).  

Guess what?  I'm going to let you in on a little secret -  kids often have their own little agendas.  They don't always WANT to do what we want them to do, when we want them to do it.  I know, right?  Wait... you already knew that?

So, if I'm aiming for peace in the home and homeschool, I'm going to try my best to understand how I can structure our days for the most peace and productivity.

I work with how I function best and also consider how each of the individual little people in my home functions best.  What makes them most capable of learning and absorbing these great ideas I want them to contemplate?  What helps them thrive?  What really frustrates them and hinders them from learning?  What times of day or types of situations push their buttons?  And what kind of atmosphere renders them incapable of learning (literally)?

Identify these things and don't be afraid to work with exactly where your children are at.  It's OK.  You are not being a push-over or overly accommodating to acknowledge their personalities, strengths, weaknesses, and unique learning styles.  This is part of the whole reason so many of us chose to homeschool - to have the freedom to educate our children in an individual manner that helped them learn in the most optimal way.

I'll tell you something - I write this blog usually between 10:30pm and 1am.  Partly because that is the only time I have to myself (chuckle) but mostly because it is the time of day when I think, organize ideas, and write most coherently and effectively.  It might sound absolutely insane to some people, but it is the way I've been since I was very young.  I don't think it could have been trained out of me - this is just the way I tick.  (PS.  It is 11:15pm as I type this...)

Kids are no different than us.  They have personalities and their own needs and likes/dislikes surrounding their work and their play.

This is a lesson I had to learn the hard way through many, many months (years?) of tears, arguments, melt-downs, and complete frustration in our homeschool.  I thought things should be done the way I wanted every single time, no compromises - and it caused so much upset and much of it was avoidable.  It was simply a matter of taking into account my children's' personalities, abilities, and personal limitations.

Rhythm supports Charlotte Mason's philosophies concerning education and children. 

 If you look at how most typical true-to-Charlotte Mason 'schedules' are structured, you'll notice a common thread.  They are almost never charted with specific times for specific activities.

There is, however, usually a grid with the kinds of subjects your family will cover each day, and sometimes these 'schedules' will show how MUCH time you may want to spend on each subject, but rarely are they super structured with regards to exactly when and where to complete each subject.

Why?  Because Charlotte Mason spoke of giving children freedom in their own homeschool scheduling and spoke of how this freedom would serve them well.   In other words, I believe she would have advocated a Rhythm.   She did, however, strongly enforce good attention skills, no dawdling, and a strong adherence to lengths of lessons.  She spoke of keeping lessons short for younger students and even moving on to something entirely different when the child becomes exasperated with one topic or task.

Some quotes from Charlotte Mason:

"We should have a Method of Education not a System of Education.  A method is flexible, free, yielding, adaptive, natural.  A system is endless rules and very rigid.  The system would teach the child how to play but then he has no initiative. A wise passiveness - let the children take the initiative; follow the lead of Nature."

"That the child, though under supervision, should be left much to himself - both that he may go to work in his own way on the ideas he receives, and also that he may be the more open to natural influences."

"We are very tenacious of the dignity and individuality of our children... Do not take too much upon ourselves, but leave time and scope for the workings of Nature and of (God)..."

Want more inspiration?  Check out Julie Bogart (from Brave Writer) in this video about Schedule VS. Routine.

I will end this post by saying - obviously, I am very pro-Rhythm.  But that doesn't make me entirely anti-Formal-Schedule.  I'm anti-Schedule in my own home because it doesn't work at all for us.  And, honestly, because of what I know about children - I think a formal and rigid schedule will be hard on most every child.

I do, however, I have friends who say they could not function any other way than on a strict schedule.  

So, to each her own.  If you are a strict Schedule Mama, power to you if it works!  *smile*  I am simply sharing my thoughts and my heart on why tossing the strict schedule and adopting more of a relaxed Rhythm has worked for our family.  

The hope is to encourage other Moms, like me, who feel pressured to adhere to a Homeschool Schedule when it isn't working for their home and to express how Rhythm can bring rest and peace to the atmosphere of home.


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