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Renovating the Routine

Morning Lessons

I’ve made adjustments to the typical daily routine of a PNEU student. Each adjustment is meant to help this newly renovated schedule fit a modern family’s habits and routines and to allow teachers to bring their students together more often.

According to several sources, including the PNEU article “The Work and Aims of the Parents’ Union School” by Miss O’ Ferrall, children spent the morning in lessons and this was when most of the “bookwork” was completed. She writes:

And now we will take a look at the carefully arranged time-tables. Practically all the bookwork is done in the morning when the children are fresh and ready to tackle the more arduous part of their work. The hours are not long—two and a half for the first form, four for the Vth and VIth; an hour more later in the day for II, III, and IV and a couple for the Vth and VIth. This is exclusive of practising, dancing, sewing and a certain amount of reading. The lessons are carefully arranged for the various days, no lesson is longer than twenty minutes in the first form whilst in the Vth and VIth the average length is about forty minutes. (pp. 777-787)

In accordance to this general layout, the suggested daily schedule which follows these notes sets the morning hours to be devoted to the main bulk of lessons for each day. Be sure to fit a short 15 min. break midway through the morning for children to play outside for fresh air and exercise, refreshing their minds and attitudes for further lessons.

Lunch and Free Play

After morning lessons, the children would then break for lunch and more free play. It would be beneficial if students ate lunch just after their morning lessons as they would be in need of sustenance, although this also benefits children in that their free play can then move smoothly into a nature walk or nature experience.

Nature Experiences

Typically, PNEU students were expected to spend time outdoors experiencing nature in the afternoons. This is labeled as “Nature Experiences” on the suggested schedule and follows lunch and free play. It is expected that one day per week is allotted to allow for a longer nature experience. This would also be a great day for nature-related field trips. This longer experience is scheduled by this curriculum on Day 5. It’s the end of the week and a good day for breaking away from the routine and getting outside.

Charlotte Mason considered these longer experiences important for all ages. She writes: “It seems to me a sine quâ non (an essential condition) of a living education that all school children of whatever grade should have one half-day in the week, throughout the year, in the fields” (School Education, p. 237).

The nature walks and experiences on Days 1-4 can be of a shorter nature, keeping the teacher from feeling overwhelmed with additional travel or time constraints on those days.

Children’s Hour

After researching through Charlotte Mason’s own Home Education series as well as through articles from the Parents’ Review, I’ve collected a handful of quotes in reference to this phrase. It seems that the “Children’s Hour” was in reference to a time period each day when parents might read aloud to their children, typically, it seems, in the evening.

Here Ms. Mason refers to it when writing about geography in Home Education, “But we are considering lessons as ‘Instruments of Education;’ and the sort of knowledge of the world I have indicated will be conveyed rather by readings in the ‘Children’s Hour’ and at other times than by way of lessons” (Vol. 1).

She again refers to it here with: “In connection with this subject let me add a word about story-telling. Here are some of the points which make a story worth studying to tell to the nestling listeners in many a sweet “Children’s Hour”;––graceful and artistic details; moral impulse of a high order, conveyed with a strong and delicate touch; sweet human affection; …” (Vol. 5) as she writes in Formation of Character.

In general, it seems that most of the books listed in a typical PNEU program for Form I could be read during the allotted lesson time hours, except with some specific books included for Sundays and holiday reading. These latter books might be read during the "Children's Hour". Additionally, there is a caveat found at the end of the PNEU article “The Home Training of Children” that Tales, not included in some versions of the PNEU time tables, might also be read during the “Children’s Hour”.

By Form II, where students were generally reading many books independently, books set aside under the category “Reading” in the PNEU programs were understood to be read in the evening and on holidays. Additional, different books from Form I were selected for Sunday Reading for Form II and up as well. Several articles from the Parents’ Review share suggested book titles for the “Children’s Hour”.

One program for Form II gives this in the General Notes, “Members are asked to remember that an average pupil should cover the whole program suitable for his age. The lighter portions of Literature (novel, play and poems) are read for amusement in the evenings and also in the holidays” (Program 125). This suggests that many books listed under Literature were to be read independently by the student in the evenings and during the holidays, so it was important that teachers and parents accounted for that when scheduling the lessons.

Charlotte Mason built her curriculum on the idea that students would love to read and that reading works by Shakespeare, Longfellow and Scott would be enjoyable. This meant it was not thought of in the same way as “homework”.

As the program numbers continued (increasing by number as the years increased), more details were included in the programs. These later programs included suggestions for Sunday Readings and even a newly added list of suggestions for Holiday and Evening Reading for Form I.

Books typically included for these categories are listed below:

Sunday Readings

Books to support religion –Bible history, prayers, hymns, etc.

Books to support moral lessons such as Parables from Nature and A Book of Golden Deeds

Biographies such as The Story of Christopher Columbus and The Story of Nelson

Holiday and Evening Readings (these were often categorized as Reading for Form II +)

History and Geography such as Stories from Chinese History and The Book of the Long Trail

Myths and Legends such as The Mabinogion and Age of Fable

Poetry such Longfellow’s Golden Legend and Homer’s Odyssey

Shakespeare such as Julius Caesar and King John

Fiction such as Gulliver’s Travels and Theras: The Story of an Athenian Boy

In order to better fit our modern times, I’ve moved the suggested evening time period for the “Children’s Hour” to an earlier afternoon time period. This allows families more free time later for those who participate in extracurricular activities. Feel free to add a snack or tea time element to it. I’ve also added in several other Charlotte Mason activities that were often completed in the afternoon such as picture study, poetry readings and composer study. Rotate between the book selections being read aloud and your additional activities such as art and music study.

Please note that while some time tables show a specific time allotment for “Tales” in Form I, some do not. In fact, the one which did not suggested that these be read later, such as during the “Children’s Hour”. Tales, myths, legends, poetry and literature will all be included in the works read during the “Children’s Hour” for this curriculum. Any of these selections which do not fit during this time period can be moved down to the later period of “Storytime”. Please adjust as best fits your family.

Quiet Time and Extracurriculars

Next, in the renovated routine, comes “Quiet Time and Extracurriculars”. This time allotment is designed to allow students to work quietly on handcrafts, painting, (watercolor, brush painting, etc.) and independent reading. Additionally, older students will work independently on nature notebooks, Century Books and perhaps other work not quite finished from the morning.

Children today are typically involved in extracurricular activities. This is very different from children of late 19th Century and early 20th Century. These activities are generally scheduled with children who attend school until the late afternoon in mind, meaning the hours of 4-6 pm. This schedule was adjusted with this in mind. It’s important to note that the work listed above would take place on days when children are not engaged in extracurricular activities. This time might also be used for instrument practice.

This is in keeping with a typical PNEU student’s day as we know from Miss Ferrall’s account in the previous article “The Work and Aims of the Parents’ Union School”. She writes “Then comes 3:45 when the children have an hour’s work before tea—handicrafts, singing, painting, picture study are the type of lessons given at this time. Then comes tea, after which the children read and sew and have some time to amuse themselves” (pp. 777-787). Additionally, in “A Liberal Education for All”, it is written under General Notes that “Music, Handicrafts, Field Work, Dancing, Nature Note Books, Century Books, are taken in the afternoons.”

I’ve included some of these activities to fit within the time period for “Quiet Time and Extracurriculars” and some have been allocated to a different time period. For example, Music technique, which focuses on singing and music theory, takes place in the morning as it requires everyone to be together and more direct instruction. Composer study takes place during the “Children’s Hour” but could also be listened to during this time period. Some handcraft work takes place in the morning, allowing for some instruction, while some of it can take place independently during this time period. Nature Note Books can be finished up, as needed, and Century Books can be worked on by older students as well. Picture Study will take place during the “Children’s Hour”. Many of these adjustments were based on the simple idea that some fit better with the idea of quiet independence and some fit better with the idea of group work. It better benefits the teachers if the students can do much of the work themselves during “Quiet Time and Extracurriculars”, leaving them with some much needed quiet time for themselves or options to work individually with a student, as needed.


The next time slot allows for a family to have dinner or supper.

Storytime/Independent Reading and Games

This is then followed by “Storytime/Independent Reading and Games”. “Storytime” falls into the time period where the “Children’s Hour” was originally intended. It’s in this time bracket that families can fit books which overflow from the schedule (such as from “The Children’s Hour”) or simply allow for free reading choices. Many of the books which fit this same description could be read on Sundays or over the Holidays, too.

Older children may wish to read independently.

Consider creating an occasional Game Night for the family. It’s fun for everyone and allows the family to be together.

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