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Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education (DVD and Book) Review by Heidi Shaw

Sonya Schafer
PO Box 892
Grayson Georgia 30017-0892

I have just finished working through Sonya's amazing planner, and I am thrilled! This is the helper I was dreaming of during the early years of our homeschool journey. Planning your Charlotte Mason Education may well be the only planning book you will ever need--even if you aren't schooling according to the Charlotte Mason philosophy. Sonya has thought through every step of the planning process for a school year and packaged it into a very useable, very workable system that will ease your path and bless your socks off.

I have been working from a classical/traditional method of homeschooling towards a Charlotte Mason ideology. This planner made it possible for me to take the plunge with my two children still at home and commit to a full-time program that I designed, without the fear and guilt usually associated with such a venture. I have known this style of teaching was best for my family for several years, but it took working through this book and watching the DVDs for me to believe in myself!

The basic premise behind the package is that you can plan your whole school year for all your children, be they many in number or just one, and you can do it in five easy steps. Work through each step, adapting and inserting your specific info (which Sonya helps you identify), and you will be set. And I am talking K-12 set! You will have an overview (big picture) of the year ahead as well as specific breakdowns of the year, term, week, and day ahead of you. There are blank sheets for choosing and plotting curriculum from each subject area, breaking down the books into workable chunks, according to the CM philosophy of short, varied, interesting lessons, so that you can tell how long each particular novel or text will take to complete.

The steps are so easy and the process so liberating that you may wonder, as I did, just why you have been unable to make a workable plan in the past. Whether you are a natural-born organizer or one who "wings it," you will find gems in this package. Sonya goes through each step on the DVD explaining, assisting, and giving personal tips and hints. The format is set up so you can pause the DVD while you work on any particular step.

Beginning with the Big Picture, you will be guided in mapping ahead to see when, or if, certain subjects are necessary (according to state requirements) and if so, when to introduce them (taking into account personal preferences). With a big picture in place, you will be able to participate in discussions with other homeschool moms who are using a different program than you, and you won't have any guilt or anxiety second-guessing yourself. It is a very good feeling!

After the Big Picture comes a look at Your Year. Here you will list all you would like to do and then easily decide if your choices are doable or will need reworking. I love the way you work with the whole picture in mind yet focus on the year at hand. It works so well! Part of this step is learning how to combine students into groups for as many subjects as possible. Following Charlotte Mason's philosophy of learning together as a family and having the younger learn from the older (and vice versa) is a lifesaver for many families, large and small. You will enjoy your family topics and be able to commit to them without the frustration of feeling you should be doing math with this child or hearing that child read aloud. After working through Sonya's plan, you will know when and where everything fits in, and you will enjoy learning together. I was so excited as I worked through my topic list and watched my year come together, I know you will be encouraged as well.

Next comes Your Term, and from here on things get really fun! Seriously, I had fun with this planning! If you knew me, you would know how amazing that statement is! During my term planning, I could see where some of my choices for reading wouldn't work, how in another area I needed to make a few more choices to supplement certain studies, and how a few of my choices could be spread out in order to make them more enjoyable for both my children and myself. I no longer feel the pressure to push my children to get through a whole chapter of a book when I know that if we just carry on with our gentle learning plan, everything will get finished. More than just finished--enjoyed!

After Your Term comes Your Week. Here you will plan out when each child will be doing each chosen activity, when you will do your family work, etc. You will be guided through the process of choosing how many times per week each subject has to happen and how to make a schedule that keeps you from being pulled in several different directions at once. There are oodles of helps, hints, and ideas as well. You will find charts, time tables, and even guides for history rotations. You will find tips for including your preschoolers in the mix and even ideas for developing your own unique homeschool goals. Charts are all reproducible for your family. And there are many sample schedules, so there's no need to reinvent the wheel completely.

After planning out Your Week, including outside activities and appointments, you will take a look at Your Day. Here you will work through the details that will help your day to go as smoothly as possible. I am printing out my own schedule as well as my kids' daily schedules so we will all know what is coming next during the day. I have just two at home this year, and the planner helped me organize our time so that I can work with one while the other knows exactly what he/she needs to be doing. I have had the time to make sure that those independent times will be productive, not wasteful.

Even if you have finished your planning for this year, you can benefit from the contents of this package. It can help you focus and streamline your plan, integrate times to work properly so you are not panicky, and assure you that your year, term, and days will flow with a gentle, easy pattern. Areas that are causing you to struggle can be ironed out with the forms and plan Sonya has prepared.

This planner package helped me understand that CM isn't a curriculum; it's a way of learning, a way of life that can be implemented in many different settings and with many different curriculums. I highly recommend you visit and read about this lovely, gentle way of learning.

For over 20 years, I have schooled my kids at home, and we have had such a crazy eclectic lifestyle that I had just about given up hope of getting through even one year with an intact plan. I have tried, but the plan would be so rigid and limiting (or lacking the depth to plan all the facets of my life) that I would end up tossing it. This CM planner is the first one that seems truly doable, and it fits. I highly recommend SCM's Planning Your Charlotte Mason Education.

Product review by Heidi Shaw, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, July 2009