By Gina Reich Guzman. Reprinted with permission.

At this site, you will not find a chart of sample schedules as everyone needs to find the rhythm that works best for their own family.  In determining your family schedule there are some key CM components to keep in mind.

Ms. Mason’s schools had a 6 day school week since they met on Saturdays as well as Monday through Friday, those with a shorter school week may find themselves needing to add in more lessons per day to get through everything.  In our family, we often do schoolwork on weekends so that we can keep a more leisurely and balanced schedule during the week. This also gives my husband a chance to participate in the children’s education since he is rarely home during the week. 

Components of the Day

I believe this is the basic structure that Ms. Mason advocated for those home educating. Nature studies would take place after lessons and could include masterly inactivity and handicrafts since, depending on how your child chooses to spend their time, the topics can overlap. Note that one of Ms. Mason’s goals was for children to spend their time wisely doing things that helped them grow as persons, even during their free time, and not be tempted by all that is not good in our society. I think this may be even more important today than it was in her day with all the technological and commercial distractions that our children are surrounded by these days. 

I have to admit that my own family’s schedule usually does not start with lessons since most of us are not morning people and I like to have mornings to get my own work done. We also need to keep in mind that Ms. Mason was not taking kids to various classes all over town on a regular basis the way modern parents often are. 

  • Academic Lessons
  • Masterly Inactivity
  • Handicrafts
  • Family Time

 My family’s summer schedule is more like this:

  • Masterly Inactivity (they do their thing while I write, read or take some mom time)
  • Handicrafts (which includes most of their chores)
  • Free Time (usually screen based or outside time)
  • Academic Lessons   

Our winter schedule often resembles this:

  • Masterly Inactivity (they do their thing while I write, read or take some mom time)
  • Academic Lessons
  • Handicrafts (includes chores and projects)
  • Free Time (usually screen based or outside time)
  • Family Time (watch tv, read alouds or play games together some evenings)

Length of Lessons

Note that these recommended lengths are only recommended times.  If your child becomes engrossed in a lesson do NOT make them stop just because the lesson time is up.  If they want to continue then let them continue until JUST BEFORE you notice them becoming distracted from the lesson.  Keep in mind that the entire goal of short lessons is focused attention.  As long as the learner has focused attention feel free to have longer lessons if that works for your child.  The key here is to stop each lesson JUST BEFORE the learner begins to lose their focused attention, not after!

These recommended lesson lengths are from the appendix of Catherine Levison’s book; A Charlotte Mason Education: A Home Schooling How-To Manual

Grades 1st-3rd: 10 to 20 minutes per lesson for a total of 15 hours per week.

Grades 4th-6th: 20-30 minutes per lesson for a total of 17-18 and a half hours per week.

Grades 7th-9th: 20 to 45 minutes per lesson for a total of 21 and a half hours per week.

Grades 10th–12th: 30-40 miuntes per lesson for a total of 24 hours per week.  

My own family’s lesson lengths look something like this. One of my children dislikes academic work and takes a good 5 minutes to get started, so for her I add that extra 5 minutes to each lesson length rather than fight with her about it. Seems to work and she still gets in the minimum amount of time required.  

Grades K-3rd: 15 to 20 minutes per lesson. Other than handwriting, I seem incapable of 10 minute lessons and so do my kids. 

Grades 4th-8th: 20 to 30 minutes per lesson. Some of our history and science lessons do last as long as 40 minutes but only if the children retain their focused attention. This seems to apply mostly to the hands-on lessons involving projects or experiments. Book dependent lessons definitely are done in the shorter bursts. 

Grades 9th-12th: 45 minutes to an hour per lesson. I find that the half an hour simply is not enough time for my teen to get through his lessons as much of what he uses is written for traditional high school time slots which are usually 45 to 55 minutes in length. I find that he easily maintains focused attention for this long.  

Order of Lessons

Charlotte Mason advocated that lessons be arranged so that they intrinsically motivated the children to WANT to learn. In order to actively engage the mind and enhance focused attention, she felt that the order in which lessons are taught is vitally important. We should make sure to alternate lessons so that the more rote learning would be alternated with more hands-on or thought-provoking lessons.  Inside time should be alternated with outside time and so on. For example, she would not want us presenting a math lesson and a copywork lesson back-to-back since they are too similar.  Instead, she would wish us to separate them with a picture study or nature study that engaged a different part of the child’s brain.  I will say that what I have read of current brain research backs this concept up.  Just wish I was better at making it happen!