Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Streamlined Catholic CM Schedule

We will begin our fall term next Monday, so this week I am doing my final homeschooling preparations. Once again I have tweaked our Catholic CM loop schedule! Last evening I watched a youtube program by Christopher Perrin on the topic of multum non multa, one of a series on the 8 essential principles of classical education. It was very good.

I have written before on the question of Charlotte Mason and the classical tradition. CM is absolutely not classical in the sense of the trivium being aligned with stages of child development, as you will find in Susan Wise Bauer's The Well-Trained Mind. That approach is a modern invention which might more properly be labeled as neoclassical. CM is not centered upon the study of Greek and Latin, as was ancient classical pedagogy.

Charlotte Mason also differs from classical in her approach to a broad and generous curriculum. The classical principle of multum non multa is roughly translated into English as "much not more" or "less is more".  This reflects the idea of "depth not breadth", focusing first on digging deep wells which will, over time, produce educational breadth. Classical philosophy believes that it is better to study only a small number of things so as to master them. CM, on the other hand, taught spreading a bountiful feast of 15 to 20 subjects, believing from her experience that children can go as deeply into many subjects as they can into a few. She argued that children need variety.

In the webcast I watched, Christopher Perrin argued for reducing the number of books and subjects that we teach. His ideas are not completely opposed to Charlotte Mason's. In her schools, children took their time getting through books, reading some over a period of up to three years. Certain subjects were covered daily, while others only weekly. We can use a loop schedule to fit many books and subjects into our curriculum.

Perrin recommended block scheduling, as used in universities, in which you have a limited number of classes in each term. We can do something similar in our homeschools. For example, history in our fall term will cover only two "streams", world history and Bible history. We will alternate between the two with the goal of corresponding the historical events chronologically. Terms 2 and 3 will cover different branches of history. At CM schools, only one poet, artist, and composer were studied each term. You could block these subjects, perhaps doing poetry one term, art appreciation the next, and then music appreciation the last term.

Both Perrin and CM advocate for depth and breadth, but they use different approaches to get there. Perrin advises us to integrate and synthesize in order to reduce the subjects taught. Looking at subjects as a family group helps. So history, literature, philosophy, and theology can overlap in one book. This is certainly in line with Charlotte Mason's ideas of living books and natural correspondences between subjects.

Long story short, I streamlined the curriculum for the first term from what I had previously planned. I was simply trying to squeeze in too much in order to present the "fullness" of a CM structure. I feared the result would be to sacrifice quality for quantity, and to force mediocrity over mastery. It simply isn't reasonable to fit every possible CM subject into one term!

Briefly, the Daily Core subjects will be done each day, including one item from the Writing Loop. One item will then be chosen each day from the Extended Loop. We will be finished with the official school day by 1:00, in traditional CM fashion. However, there is also an Afternoon Loop. Afternoons are left free for children to pursue personal interests, but my daughter often needs some ideas for how to constructively fill the time. The Afternoon Loop will contain items such as handicrafts, nature walks and notebook, music appreciation, and writing letters to family members who are far away. I have also listed weekly activities outside the home.

I will keep you posted as to whether I have pared down the curriculum sufficiently. A quote from a CM homeschooler I once came across often comes to mind: "Pare back until you have peace in your home." 

Daily Core: (open with Pure Faith: A Prayer Book for Teens)

- Literature: Julie’s Wolf Pack (J.C. George, indigenous Alaska); Anne’s House of  Dreams (L.M. Montgomery, bedtime read aloud)
- Spanish
- Hamilton’s Arithmetic
- Piano practice
- A Book of Gratitude reader (Seton)

Writing Loop (copy work & dictation from Living Faith Kids devotional; reading books; Bible verses from Rosary mysteries; prayers, hymns & poetry):
- copy work
- dictation
- grammar workbook (Catholic Heritage Curricula)
- written narration  
- cursive writing (Seton Handwriting 3)

Extended Loop:

- The Rosary in Art (Seton): Rosary prayers and New Testament mysteries     
- Our Catholic Legacy (world history, Seton)
- Memory Work/recitation (review Rosary prayers; Mary’s Magnificat;
   The Ten Commandments)
- A Child’s Geography of the World and map work/visual enrichment

Afternoon Loop:

- Needlepoint project
- Nature walks & notebook
- Correspondence (personal letters)
- Beethoven Lives Upstairs (DVD & CD)

Gym & art classes at Catholic school; piano lessons; religious education class

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