This article was originally published in 2009. -WM
The goal of a quality home school is not merely to get children through lessons. The true goal is to
- provide your children with the best possible education and
- promote the overall happiness of your family.
Education, when done rightly can be simple and stress-free, even with a large family. It is a source of rich family culture and creates a healthy balance of work, prayer, study, and recreation. You should not be neglecting other important duties such as worship, personal study, household chores, business responsibilities to maintain a faulty home school program. Unlike most, the Classical Liberal Arts Academy simplifies the work of home schooling and helps create family culture not tear it apart.
Our recommended (not required!) schedule consists of three core study periods per day plus morning Catechism. Around those are scheduled all common family duties, including daily prayer. This schedule ensures that all family duties are addressed and that students have sufficient time for productive study and time for recreation, and to help around the house.
It should be no surprise to find that the greatest Christian minds have been cultivated in monasteries. The goal for the home school environment is to imitate the silent sanctity of the monastery. For studies such as those pursued in the Classical Liberal Arts Academy, worldly distractions must be eliminated, whatever the cost. Rather than tell you what you should or should not do, we give this simple advice: we must all choose the things we are not going to be good at so that we can be good at others. The results of your choices should not surprise you.
The Liturgy of the Hours
Our lives need to be anchored to keep us from harmful extremes and this anchor comes from the Liturgy of the Hours. We recommend you subscribe to our Weekly Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours and pray the Hours daily. This discipline will order all of your priorities rightly and provide a very satisfying life of prayer and reading. Your family can do this–we make it easy.
The School Year
We strongly recommend that the school schedule remain in place throughout the year (not only during “school months”). Take days or weeks off when needed–not months for no reason other than “everyone else does”. Remember: School was originally closed in the Summer for farming, not for summer vacation. The idea of taking 10-12 weeks off from the pursuit of wisdom because the season changes is one that needs to be abandoned. We strongly recommend that families work to employ this schedule as diligently as possible, and slowly customize it to their own unique needs. A detailed breakdown may be found below the chart.
1. Morning Preparations (6:00-9:30)
One of the most important elements of healthy family culture is that the parents are the first to rise and the last to retire every day. Children should wake to find a house in order, with a religious and quiet spirit established by parents who are up and in control of the home. We recommend having sacred music playing before the children wake up and setting a time before which they are not allowed to leave their rooms. This is easy when they keep a favorite book next to their bed for this purpose.
Family prayer must be a priority. Obviously, Dad may need to leave earlier than allows for family prayer, but for Dad to pray the Lord’s Prayer and offer a prayer for the family before leaving sets the tone for the day. We strongly recommend that families read Morning Prayers using our Liturgy of the Hours Guide on a daily basis as close to dawn as possible.
After prayer, let the family eat breakfast and clean up. Mom must make sure that everything is cleaned up after every meal–no messy tables, floors or piles of dishes can be allowed. The children should be assigned tasks to help prepare meals and clean up. If they wish to pass on helping, they can also pass on eating (read them “The Little Red Hen” as a warning). You’ll have ready helpers in no time (and no childhood obesity problems).
After breakfast, everyone should work to make sure the house is clean, school preparations are made and the home is in order. In our family, this includes outside chores, but you will need to work out the details for your own household.
Using the Classical Liberal Arts Academy Catechism program, all children complete their daily catechism studies.
Morning Study Session: Trivium (10:00-12:30)
The Trivium is the traditional name of the classical language arts: Grammar, Rhetoric and Logic. As the core of the classical study program, these should be given primacy in the daily schedule.
It is during this time that young children learn to read and write. The goal for young children is to train them to be able to study independently. Study programs that require heavy parental involvement (lesson planning, grading, etc..) should be avoided. Once child can work independently, they are moved to a separate area where they study using the Classical Liberal Arts materials and the parent’s attention remains with the next pre-schooler.
Once ready for independent study, children will begin with Grammar in the early years and later replace Grammar with Rhetoric and then Logic. Thus, this morning session will provide a continuous, focused time for language study. The Classical Liberal Arts study materials are aimed at this group and should require little more than supervision and help with organization. No lesson planning or grading is required of parents by the Academy. Details will be included with your course materials.
Morning studies are not over until all study materials are neatly organized and put away. When things are wrapped up, take 20 minutes to pray Daytime prayer using our Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours.
Midday Recess (12:30-2:00)
The same principles of breakfast should apply at lunch: “he who does not work shall not eat”. Lunch is prepared, eaten and cleaned up with little effort when all help. Note: Avoid meals that are messy and make lots of dishes!
After lunch, the children should complete any and all necessary household chores. For their helpfulness, they may earn the privilege of afternoon recess. If they are slow to do their work, no problem–they have all of recess time to get it done.
Around 2:00 little children go down for naps, which gives (a) older children a quiet afternoon study session and (b) Mom time to focus on the older children. Time may even be taken at this time to review the older children’s morning work.
Afternoon Study Session: Quadrivium (2:00-4:30)
The Quadrivium refers to the four classical mathematical arts, which are studied at this time. This begins with Arithmetic and continues through Geometry, Music and Astronomy. Once again, when the Classical Liberal Arts Academy materials are used, multiple students can be easily managed, doing most of their work independently.
Evening Recess (4:30-7:00)
Once again everyone helps to prepare and clean up dinner and with any necessary chores to keep the home calm and clean. It is important to note that, among her duties, the wise woman of Proverbs 31 assigned “tasks to her maidens”. While we may lack the help of servants that ancient mothers enjoyed, we have many conveniences they lacked like running water, electronic appliances, computers, etc.. We also have self-control which can eliminate many of the unnecessary tasks American housewives are busy with. Remember Jesus’ words to Martha (Luke 10:38):
“Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things; one thing is needful.”
Martha’s busy-ness was her own fault. If your children are playing or watching TV while you work, you are not managing your household as a parent, but serving it as a slave, which is not your role. Be strong and require that everyone contribute.
After dinner, the family should gather and close the day with Evening prayer using our Guide to the Liturgy of the Hours. The young children (under 8) then go to bed and the older children stay up for a third study session.
VII. Evening Study Session: Humanities & Philosophy (7:00-9:30)
Once the babies are in bed and the house is quiet, the older children spend the evening doing their Humanities and/or Philosophy work. This consists mainly of reading and writing, so it should be a quiet time for all. There are two important issues to focus on during the evening study session. First, Dad gets some time to be involved in schooling and both he and Mom and focus on the older children’s work. Second, the family has great opportunity to use the older children’s courses as an opportunity to read and discuss the lessons as a family, cultivating a common family culture and communicating the family’s faith and values to the children through the Classical Liberal Arts Academy’s assigned studies.
At 9:15, the children should organize their study materials and prepare for the morning. Before bed, they should take some time to think through their day, confess their sins and pray. This closes out a great day.
VIII. Quiet Time (9:30-??)
Now that all the children are in bed and the household work is done (you managed your servants, remember?), Mom and Dad should enjoy a quiet hour or so without any children. Put on some music, have a glass of wine and enjoy the time together. You’ve earned the rest and the marriage relationship is the foundation of the entire family. Use the time to pray the Office of Readings in the Liturgy of the Hours. Before going to bed, pray Night Prayer together or separately.
Thus, you’ve not only completed a great school day, you’ve also consecrated the day by praying the Liturgy of the Hours and maintained an orderly home. These three goals must be pursued every day.
What About Music Lessons, Sports, Art, Science and other Studies?
The schedule should be organized around the core studies allowing everyone to have a “normal” daily routine. For other studies and activities, simply take a day off from the normal routine and do whatever it is you wish to do. There’s no time stress when the schedule is maintained throughout the year. Remember, there are 260 weekdays in a year and only 180 days are required for school attendance. That leaves 80 days that allow for a flexible year-round home school schedule. Of course, you should not take 80 days off, and as you begin to enjoy an orderly home you won’t want to take too many days off. Also, rather than trying to cram everything into time slots in a busy school calendar, consider the benefits of planning by season as well. Intensify music lessons in the winter and athletics in the summer. Complete an entire CLAA course in the Summer rather than adding it to the September course load. Schedule with a bigger picture of available time.
We hope you find this schedule helpful. It is intended to provide you with a practical look into an effective classical home school arrangement. The advice we offer is based on our own successful experience, but is not offered as a necessary system. You must work to customize it to your family’s unique vocations and circumstances.
Please contact us with any questions or comments. We would be happy to help you work out a schedule that suits your family’s unique needs while maintaining the same principles and priorities. E-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mr. William C. Michael is the founding headmaster of the Classical Liberal Arts Academy. He graduated from Rutgers University with an honors degree in Classics & Ancient History and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa. Mr. Michael has worked in private education as a Classics teacher and administrator for over 20 years. He is a Roman Catholic homeschooling father of ten children, and keeper of a quiet family farm in North Carolina. Mr. Michael enjoys studying ancient natural philosophy, gardening, and running.