Part 2: Order Your Time
In Part 1, we gained a new perspective by seeing Challenge as the culmination of our homeschool program. Here are six practical steps to help you effectively schedule your homeschool days from this new perspective.
1. List Connections
It has helped me greatly to connect the learning in the early years to a Challenge strand.
Challenge has six strands. You don’t need to fully understand everything these strands entail. Just know Challenge has these same six strands for six years.
You’ll notice these strands are more a description of skill than a description of content. We are using various content to gain skills. Everything accomplished in Foundations will directly prepare the student for one (or more!) of these strands. (Part 3 will highlight more connections between Foundations and Challenge strands, but for now here’s a chart.)
|Challenge Strand||Foundations Subject/Skill|
|Grammar||Reading, Phonics, English Grammar, Spelling, Editing, Latin|
|Exposition||Handwriting, Composition, Literature, Poetry|
|Reasoning||Memory Work, Presentations|
|Debate||History, Geography, Timeline, Read Aloud|
Every subject or learning activity in the early years will fall mostly into one of these strands. For a Foundations student, you can think of these strands as skill groups, and your goal is to make progress in every skill group every week. It’s not so overwhelming when you just have six areas to make progress in every week!
2. Prioritize Goals
Make a list of goals to focus on for each child in each strand (skill group). Then put them in order of importance.
Consider their strengths and weaknesses. What skills are most foundational that everything else will build on? In the Grammar strand, don’t prioritize spelling or editing if your child is struggling to read. Prioritize learning to read.
You don’t have to do all the things all the time. Little by little, keep making progress and it will add up by the end of the year.
When listing goals within each strand (skill group), consider the NAMES acronym listed in the Foundations Guide (naming, attending, memorizing, expressing, storytelling).
Pray and discuss with your spouse the list of goals and priories, and set a date to reevaluate together and make changes as necessary. You can do this monthly or quarterly, but at least do it twice a year.
3. Set Time Expectations
Now that you have skill groups divided out, and skills within that group prioritized, set a goal for how long you expect each child to work in each strand (skill group) each day. Consider your availability, your family routine, number and ages of children, their abilities, etc.
By the time they enter Challenge, they are expected to work for up to one hour in each strand every home day (4 days a week). Starting with a 4-year-old, you may spend only 5 minutes a day in each strand (skill group). As your kids grow, increase the duration they spend in each strand. By the time they enter Challenge, they will be ready to work the full hour in several strands.
Examples of Minutes Per Day
|Strand (Skills)||Age 5||Age 8||Age 11|
|Logic (Math)||15 min.||30 min.||45 min.|
|Grammar (Reading)||15 min.||30 min.||45 min.|
|Exposition (Writing)||10 min.||30 min.||45 min.|
|Reasoning (Memory Work)||10 min.||20 min.||30 min.|
|Debate (History & Geography)||10 min.||20 min.||30 min.|
|Research (Science)||10 min.||20 min.||30 min.|
4. Plot a Week
Considering your priorities and time expectations, jot down what you’d like to work on in each strand for each child.
Remember you don’t have to do everything every day. Just write down the next thing to make progress in that strand (skill group).
Keep the same basic format each week.
I keep this very simple by having one sheet per week with the stands listed down the left-hand side. Across the top are the four home days, and this creates a grid with a box for each strand each day. There are four checkboxes in each square giving one per child (my twins are on the same level and share a box on my page). Top left is Child #5… bottom left is Child #4… top right, Children #2 and #3… bottom right, Child #1.
I print this same sheet every week and jot down the specific things to work on for each person in each strand. I list what I hope to accomplish, but I also use erasable pens, so I can change it and keep track of what we actually accomplish!
Since this matches exactly with the Challenge strands, I keep track of my Challenge kids’ progress on this page too. For all five kids, I only use one page per week.
5. Communicate the Plan
Communicate to your kids what they will do and when they will do it.
Young kids or highly visual kids may need pictures. Older kids can read a schedule or follow an assignment sheet. Nevertheless, you need some consistent way to tell your kids what they should do and when they should do it.
Here’s an example of an assignment page I use for my kids:
If possible, keep the same flow each day so you don’t lose time trying to figure out what everyone should do next.
I know some families set a “flexible” day each week and take care of their outside-the-home obligations on that day. Even when running errands, consider which skills can be practiced while in the car or a waiting room and which ones will be tackled when you get home.
6. Track Your Progress
You’ll want the ability to easily look back and view your progress.
I simply check off the boxes on my weekly plan and write down lesson numbers or pages finished (again… erasable pens). I can look back and see the progress we are making and ensure everyone is moving forward in every strand.
For some books I copy the table of contents and check off the lessons as we progress.
A Few Notes
You’ll notice I have “Memory Work” as the skill for the Reasoning strand. This is because you need to know how to memorize new information well in order to assimilate it and use it appropriately with clear reasoning.
The beautiful thing about CC is that when you review the memory work, you are making progress in every strand.
Many ask, “Is that enough?” Well, on a day when you can do only the bare minimum, I would agree, “Yes! that is enough!” When your kids are age 4 or 5, “Yes! That is enough!”
Of course there are days you can and should do more. As your kids grow, you will need to add in a Math and a Language program, but ensure they serve your needs in gaining essential skills instead of forcing you to serve it’s unrealistic demands! Once your child is old enough for Essentials, all you need to add is math.
While “Presentations” may also reinforce every strand (it is a culmination of many skills), I group it with the Reasoning strand because this reminds me to give time towards preparing presentations during the week.
Bible and Fine Arts are not given separate space in the above plan.
We include Bible daily in our morning time and in our family worship, which Dad leads in the evening.
In our home Fine Arts work their way into every strand. Occasionally, I will plan a project, activity, or event in place of the “regular” work for that strand. Maybe a painting for History, a drawing lesson for Research, or a poem for Exposition. Wouldn’t your kids love to study different rhythm patterns using percussion instruments instead of getting out the math book one day?