Subject Cards: A Great Homeschool Schedule Hack

Here’s a quick and simple tip for laying out
your weekly and daily homeschool schedules. Welcome to the Simply Charlotte Mason podcast. I’m Sonya Shafer. Planning for your home school can sometimes
seem overwhelming. But let me encourage you that the more you
do it, the easier it gets. And today I want to share with you a quick
and simple trick I use when I’m trying to lay out a weekly schedule and a daily schedule. I’ve been using this technique for more than
ten years and shared it with hundreds of homeschooling mamas all over the world. It’s really quite simple, but that’s the beauty
of it. You’ll need a stack of index cards and a large
flat space—it might be the dining room table or your bedroom floor. Here’s a tip: choose a low traffic area or
do this during a time of the day when you won’t have to share that space with little
hands and feet. If that’s next to impossible, you might
use self-stick notes instead. Now grab four or five cards and write on them
the days of the week that you do your schooling. That might be Monday through Friday; write
them one per card. Or if you homeschool four days per week, write
those days—maybe Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday or Monday, Wednesday,
Friday, and Saturday. There are many ways to set up your schedule. Do what fits your family best. Lay out those day cards in a row in order. For my example, I’m going to use a five-day
week: Monday through Friday, so I lay out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday
across in a row. Next, think about any outside commitments
that you have regularly. Perhaps you go to a co-op every Monday. If so, write “Co-op” on a card and lay it
below Monday. Maybe you have piano lessons every Thursday
or an occupational therapy session every Friday. Any regular weekly activities that occur outside
the lessons in your home, write those on cards and lay them below the days on which they
happen. It helps to put outside activities in place
first, so you can see those extra commitments as you arrange your home schedule. With outside commitments already in place,
you can plan around them and make sure you’re not overloading those days and setting yourself
(and your children) up for frustration and stress. Don’t worry about when those activities occur
during the day—morning or afternoon or evening. For now, just lay each one below the day on
which it occurs. We’ll arrange each day later. For my example, I’m going to add piano lessons
on Thursday. Once you have those outside commitments in
place . . . And by the way, this might be a good time to take a look at all of your
outside activities and see how much is there. Is that a manageable load or is it starting
to expand and beginning to encroach on the time you need for unhurried home lessons and
good home care? Only you can answer that question for your
family. But let me encourage you that if you look
at those outside activities cards and wonder how you’re ever going to be able to do it
all, don’t. Take steps now to simplify. Don’t set yourself up for chaotic, pressure-cooker
days. Give yourself and your children margin in
your schedule, and guard that margin. Rest is just as important as action. All right, enough on that rabbit trail. Once you have those outside commitments in
place, you can start adding in your school subjects. Take each subject one at a time, determine
how many days per week you need to do that subject, and write it on that many cards. If you’re going to be doing American History
two days per week and World History two days per week, write “American History” on two
cards and “World History” on two cards. If you want to do Scripture Memory every day,
write it on five cards. Picture Study is usually done once a week,
as are Nature Study, Music Study, and Handicrafts or Art Instruction. If you’re not sure how many days per week
you need to do a subject, let me refer you to the episode called “5 Steps to Planning
Your Charlotte Mason Education.” In that episode, I break down planning into
five simple steps, starting with the big picture, then gradually narrowing the focus to your
year, your term, your week, and your day. When I talk about your term and your week,
I explain how to figure out how many days per week you will need to cover a subject. So check out that part of that episode if
you need a refresher. I’ll leave a link to it in the notes. Once you get the subjects written on the number
of cards that you need, all you have to do is select which days of the week you want
to do them. I’m doing American History on two days per
week, so I’ll pop those two cards onto Monday and Tuesday. I’m doing World History on two days, so I’ll
put one on Wednesday . . . and then I have a decision to make. I have piano lessons already on Thursday,
so I know I want to keep that day relatively light so as not to overload it. I think I’ll put the other World History on
Friday. I want to do Scripture Memory every day. Since Thursday is a lighter day, I’ll put
Geography there. And I have the four once-a-week subjects that
I mentioned. I can spread those out, one per day. And so on. You get the idea. Just keep spreading your Subject cards out
over the days of the week, so you can see what the workload will be like and make sure
you’re not overloading one day and doing next to nothing on another day. The subjects that I have laid out so far are
the ones that you can do all together as a family. The Simply Charlotte Mason curriculum is set
up to work this way. The only subjects that need to be done individually
are math and language arts and the upper level sciences. If your curriculum has each student on his
or her own separate track for every subject, you’ll need to arrange a separate set of cards
for each student. But with Family-together curriculum, we can
do one layout for all of the Family subjects. I’ll show you how to add in the Individual
subjects of math and language arts in just a minute. Once you have your Family work distributed
across the days of the week the way you want them, then go back and focus on each day,
one at a time. So let’s look at Monday’s subject line up:
American History, Scripture Memory, Picture Study, Family Read-aloud, Science, and Hymn
Singing. What we want to do is arrange Monday’s cards
in a way that will alternate intense subjects with less intense subjects. By arranging your daily schedule to use different
parts of the brain as you go through the sequence, you make it easier for your children to pay
full attention. What you don’t want to do is put two read-and-narrate
subjects back to back; that will overwork and tire out the read-and-narrate part of
the brain. The more tired the brain gets, the harder
it is to pay full attention. So make sure you put other less intense subjects
in between the read-and-narrate subjects. Use a different part of the brain. On Monday we might start with Scripture Memory,
then sing our hymn. After that we can read and narrate history,
but then use a different part of the brain and do picture study—looking at art and
discussing it. After that we can do another read-and-narrate
with our science book. The Family Read-aloud is another subject with
reading from a book, so we don’t want to do that back-to-back right after science. But we usually do our Family read-aloud later
in the day anyway, during snack time in the afternoon. So we can leave it there and know that there’s
a nice break in between those two subjects. Then do the same thing with your Tuesday cards:
arrange them in an order that uses different parts of the brain as you work through the
day. You can do that with all of your remaining
days. The cards just help make it quick and simple
to play with different arrangements in order to find the one that will work best for your
week and for each day. Now let’s add the Individual subjects: math
and language arts for each child. An easy way to add the Individual subjects
is to color code those cards. Let’s say, Joey is in second grade and his
math and language arts will be red; Suzy is in fourth grade and her individual subjects
will be purple. You could use red and purple felt-tip markers
to write the subjects on the cards or just put a little color squiggle somewhere on the
card or get a pack of different colored cards—whatever you’d like to do. Then tuck those subjects into each day as
it will work best for your family, keeping in mind that principle of sequencing the subjects
to use different parts of the brain as you go through the day. This little exercise will also help you see
when you will be working with one student and need to figure out what the other student
could be doing on her own. For example, I can have Suzy practice piano
or do typing practice while I’m working with Joey on his math and language arts. If you need some ideas for good independent
work—that’s not busywork—check out the episode called “40 Ideas for Independent Work.” So that’s how the Subject cards work. Using cards to arrange your week and your
days gives you a great visual picture of what’s going on and a lot of flexibility to move
things around as you go through the process. Once you get the cards arranged the way you
like them, take a picture of that schedule and you’ll be good to go. You can copy it onto a sheet of paper or type
it into a spreadsheet if you want to. Then post it where everyone can see the schedule. Hang onto your cards; keep them in a safe
place, and you’ll have a handy tool at your fingertips when you’re ready to change your
schedule. We have a set of Subject cards that you can
download free on our website at simply charlotte mason dot com. I’ll leave a link in the notes. There will be several cards for each subject,
but that doesn’t mean you have to use all of them. You decide how many of each you want to use. And there will be some empty cards included
that you can use for special subjects, independent work ideas, and those outside commitments
that all have a place in your schedule. I hope this idea and the free set of cards
will make it a little easier and a little simpler to lay out your weekly and daily homeschool
schedule. If you enjoyed this video, subscribe through
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miss an episode. You can also subscribe to the audio version
of this podcast or read the blog post on our website at All of those links will be in the notes along
with links to resources I mentioned. Thanks for joining me. See you next time!

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