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Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education - In 5 Simple Steps. Review by Heidi Shaw

DVD and/or planning Manual
Sonya Schafer
Simply Charlotte Mason
PO Box 892
Grayson, Georgia 30017-0892

Sonya Schafer has compiled a planner to rival all planners! If you are a fan of Charlotte Mason and her educational methods, you will know that it is practically impossible to find a prepackaged 'CM curriculum' in a box, or a manual of any sort. CM educators know that the best education is one filled with living books, lots of narration, dictation, copywork, short lessons etc. Just how one goes about planning and preparing for such an education used to be as daunting as the process itself. No more.

This is the planner I wish I had when I embarked upon the homeschooling adventure with my family. I have tried many methods and philosophies in regards to home education and I have to say the one constant with them all would have to be the planning process. With a CM 5 step planner you will learn to think through your family's needs, your curriculum requirements, your year, your week, your day! This planner may have been designed to meet the needs of CM educators, but it answers the call of any who have been struggling to put it all together and still have some time left in their day for being mom and wife as well as teacher. Lets take a look at Sonya's plan and I am sure you will agree with me that this book is the best thing since well, since sliced bread! (I know, corny, but true!)

Sonya begins her book with a little story about a brand new homeschooling mum who is attending her first support group meeting after having a successful day with her family. The new Homeschooler is soon caught up in the discussion of how to fit new things into your curriculum etc. She isn't worried however since she has spent the time planning her CM education for her children and she knows she has the bases covered. Now, really, I have been homeschooling for a long time and I have seen many planners come and go. I was going to need a bit more than just a sugar sweet story to convince me that this was the one I needed all along. I decided to take the planner and the optional DVD as a project. I would devote myself to listening to the DVD and going through the planner step by step as I set up my children's schedules for the coming year. What an eye opener! I absolutely love how Sonya takes the time right in the beginning to talk about how important the Big Picture is in regards to our children's education. I have tended to think down the road a bit but I have to say, I am guilty of not thinking of the beginning, middle, and end of our journey. The included quote by Charlotte Mason is worth repeating here, "Do not let the endless succession of small things crowd great ideals out of sight and out of mind." Sonya will take you step-by-step in either learning what your Big Picture is for your family, or like myself, help you reconnect with ideals you had that have been forgotten in the bustle of daily life.

What a great way to start a planning session. I felt as if I had been to my own mini retreat or convention right in my living room! The rest of the book just gets better and I have never been as relaxed heading into a new year at home as I am this year, even in the midst of taking my children commercial fishing on a 50' boat for 6 weeks. My planning sessions helped me know that what needs to be done will be done and there is still room for alternative learning!

In the chapter on the Big Picture, you will look at things like legal requirements for your area as well as your children's interests and your personal interests. You will set goals for your home school and determine which subjects are studied when, and that goes all the way through high school should that be one of your goals. You will brainstorm and research a little and be entirely encouraged, guaranteed. The manual has generous margins for notes, thoughts and questions; it is liberally sprinkled with great quotes from Charlotte Masons' writings and includes all the worksheets, planning guides and sample plans you could possibly want.

Sonya walks you through the five steps to planning and assists all the way through. After the Big Picture, you will spend time planning your year, with lots of aids and helps including lists of famous artists, composers and lists of handcrafts and life skills. All the components of a CM education, in easy to manage bites, with no stress attached.

Your term comes after your year and in this section you will learn, while using your goals and plans already set to block out your chosen books so you won't need to worry that it won't be covered. There are so many goodies all through the book that I can't divulge them all here, it would take too much space!

After your term, comes your week. Here is where you will begin to see all your planning coming together. Sonya hints that this is where it all 'clicks' and indeed it did for me. "You will use just one weekly Schedule chart. This chart will combine all the info you have been figuring out for your family and each student." Sonya then goes on to show how to schedule and work with things like out of home activities and errands, appointments etc. The scheduling is flexible and personal-you have already gathered all the particulars about your specific situation and now you are learning to put it all together in a way that fits you and yours-perfect!

The last of the five steps is planning your day. Now this will look as different from each others as could possibly be, but Sonya has given plenty of sample schedules for you to see as you design your own. There are lots of helps here too and you will be quite smug by the end of the process, it just flows so well. Sonya takes the time here to give hints and thoughts about when and how often to do each step of the process. I have just done it once, but I can see where I will be taking the time 3 times a year as suggested to do the term planning and the weekly planning. I am actually looking forward to it! Though designed for a CM education and that includes helps with the idea of short lessons, transitions, group activities and lots of Nature Studies, I can see this planner being just as much help to someone embarking on a Classical route, or even a mixture of methods. Whatever your educational leaning, this planner will make your life a lot less complicated. For those who truly love the CM philosophy, there are lots of helps and notes about her actual methods included, as well as how to school with preschoolers in the mix. The whole thing is just brilliant and I am not over emphasizing that. The relief and the time saved are just two things I was not expecting when I set out on this journey. There have been many blessings and I can only say I wish I had discovered this treasure earlier. It is an absolute gem. I think it would be a blast to get the DVD, and do a planning weekend with a few like minded friends. You can do the planner alone, but the DVD makes it much more personal.

Product Review by Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, October, 2008