Friday, January 30, 2015

Scheduling Family Keeping

One question I asked in the January prompt for Keeping Company concerns scheduling: do you schedule your Keeping or has it already become a part of the family culture?  

For us, it's a bit of both.  I schedule our Keeping, even my own.  I do not do this because it's a chore for me--not at all.  I do it because sometimes it just doesn't feel like I have time to sit down and write in my commonplace or to sit down and paint in my nature journal.  (Sitting down without small people crawling on me is very rare here.  In fact, I often type these posts standing with a baby on my back! ;))  

But if it's on my schedule, it's a reminder to me that I do need to take that time--not because I don't want to, but because I do.  I pencil it in, just as I might a date night with my husband or a run with a friend.  know the time out or the exercise is good for me, is needed for my mental or physical health, but if those activities don't have a place on my calendar, they're the first to go when a busy week rolls around.  The daily tasks of life have the tendency to engulf seemingly-frivolous pleasures if we don't guard them.  

So yes, to take the analogy further, my notebooks are much-loved companions, and I schedule dates with them to make sure I get some one-on-one time without the kids interrupting! ;)

That said, I don't tie my Keeping to a particular day or time, and I only schedule what I consider my personal minimum--the least I need to spend to feel like I got that intellectual Mother Culture time in.  Any Keeping I do beyond that is bonus.

Here are my personal minimums:

:: Weekly nature journal entry - We spend a morning each week on a nature study outing, and if the baby goes down for his nap when the toddlers do after we get home, I sit down and journal along with my kids.  If not (and more often than not right now, their naps do not overlap), I put our tray away for the day and pull it out on the weekend, when Daddy is home to watch the little ones.  Sitting down with watercolors is one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon!

:: Weekly commonplace session - While I'm reading, I mark with post-its or dog-ear pages with quotes that I want to add to my commonplace book.  At least once a week, I spend some time transferring those quotes.

:: Weekly Calendar of Firsts and Life Lists review - This one we actually do as a family, but it's on my to-do list rather than my kids' since I'm the one that pulls it out and makes the entries.  Every week when my kids are doing their nature journals, we consider whether we have anything we'd like to add to our Nature Binder, which includes both our Calendar of Firsts and our Life Lists.  (As I've mentioned before, we keep ours more as a Nature Calendar than a true Calendar of Firsts, simply so that we can add a variety of seasonal observations.)  We usually have some notes to add each week, but not always.  I at least check in weekly, though.

My kids' routine looks slightly different:

:: Weekly nature journal entry - They are free to add whatever they would like from observations over the course of the week and particularly from our weekly outing.  They usually complete a page each week of notes and illustrations, probably because that is about what I do. :)

:: Five minutes copywork into their commonplace twice a week - This year is the first year my big kids are keeping a commonplace, which I call their "copybook."  Right now they have penmanship practice in both cursive and printing, so we alternate between the two, five minutes daily.  In cursive, we're still working on letter and word formation, so they do that on pre-printed practice sheets.  But for printing, they are now choosing sentences and passages from their school reading to copy.  They love choosing their own copywork, and they also love copying it into a book instead of on looseleaf print-outs.

:: Weekly mapwork entry - We have maps going of Europe, Asia, and the Holy Land this year, and they trace journeys and mark places read about in our readings.  We pull out the maps at least once a week to make additions.  This year, their work is more practical than lovely, but I hope to combine the two next year and make our map-Keeping an art project of sorts.

:: Weekly timeline entry - They each have a binder timeline that they have been adding to since Year 1.  At least once a week, they pull out their timelines and add any new figures or events that they choose.

(And just a note: my kids aren't old enough to have a Book of Centuries yet, but when they are, that will be a once-weekly task for us both as well.)

My personal goals get listed on my weekly planner...

...and my kids' goals are on our weekly schedule sheet.

So that's just how it works best at our house.  In the (far, far) future, I imagine I'll have free hours to fill however I like.  I'll take day-long hikes with my journal and watercolors, and I'll fritter away many an afternoon with a book and my commonplace by my side.  These are not those days. ;)  But I can still make a commitment to myself to carve out some moments of Keeping on my calendar and, at the same time, encourage my children in those habits.


  1. I've so been enjoying this series!! Currently my two oldest keep Nature Journals and a Timeline similar to your children's. I keep a Common Place and I'm seriously thinking of starting a BoC myself so that I will have a good idea of how that goes for my son who will be in Y4 next year. I do not keep a nature journal, I seriously dislike drawing because I have no talent. So it stresses more than blesses. But I love lists!! So I think my nature journal that I have a whole 2 entries in might just become more of a calendar of firsts/life lists. Your idea is beautiful and very open to more words and less drawing. I love it! =)

    This series and Brandy's notebooking series have really helped me to flesh out keeping in a way that is CM, but also practical for a life w littles and a family w multiple years of AO w more coming up. So thank you again!!

    I am curious about your children's copywork/copybook. Basically they do 2 or 3 days of print copywork they chose and 2 or 3 days of cursive that is more focused on formation? I am asking because we do something similar w my oldest in Y3. We alternate as ya'll do. Cursive is more learning formation right now. But his copywork (in print) he choses 2 days and I chose 1 day, but it's not really common placing. It's more to have exposure to beautiful language, work on spelling and some discussion about very basic grammar. So w your kid's copywork do you just have them put it in their copybook and let it be common place or do you actually discuss it with them to help learn grammar, spelling, etc?

    Also, since I've already written a book I will ask one more question. Have ya'll started written narration? My Y3 is 9 and he does 1 written narration a week. We focus on getting thoughts on paper in an interesting way, not making corrections at this point. Although I do note horrible misspellings so that I can put them into the once a week copywork selection that I chose for him. If your children do their copywork as more common placing, then how do you cover working on spelling and grammar? Or do you not do that at this point?

    I love reading your blog, because we have kids of similar ages, although I only have 4. =)

    1. Hi Virginia -- Love that you say"only 4"! LOL

      I should actually post some recent photos of my nature journal because although I do really enjoy drawing and painting and appreciate the detailed observation it requires, I also do a lot of writing in my nature journal--it is mostly writing, really. I like keeping notes of our outings, seasonal changes, etc. I definitely think that there are many beneficial ways to keep a nature journal. :)

      Yes, you described their penmanship schedule exactly: two days printing into their copybook, two days cursive on practice pages. As for your question about the difference between commonplacing and copywork--I see the two activities as overlapping quite easily. I do have my kids choose their copywork from their school books only, so that ensures that the selections they are copying are of literary value. The act of copying helps their spelling visualization and internalization of grammatical patterns. So yes, they're making a copybook of favorite quotes, and yes, they're learning spelling and grammar as they are doing that. The two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. I occasionally call attention to spelling patterns, word families, punctuation rules, etc., but they have been picking that up fairly naturally up until now, so I haven't needed to do much other than let the copying itself work its magic. ;) But I imagine how heavy-handed a child needs his spelling/grammar lessons to be varies quite a bit based on personality and natural ability. If my children were struggling more with writing skills, I would be more intentional about discussing their copywork. That said, I still think their choosing their own quotes and keeping them in a little book is of value--at least based on my kids' response to the activity. They have much more ownership over their penmanship practice since they became old enough to do it this way. Long story short: grammar and spelling has been very low-key around here so far and will be until Year 4. :)

      As for written narrations: we do very few and are waiting until next year to add that skill in a routine way. They do a couple for exams and maybe two a month beyond that, just for something different. They do quite a bit of writing for fun outside of school time, though, so I do see problem areas that need addressing. (For my son mostly--he is the math-brained one, while my daughter is a natural writer/speller.) My son keeps a list of words he doesn't know how to spell but wants to learn. He refers to it several times a week. And I do encourage him to keep that list grouped by word families when applicable, so I think that helps too. But we don't do any other spelling/grammar.

      Anyway, I'm not sure if that all makes sense. Let me know if it doesn't! :)

    2. Thanks, Celeste! Makes perfect sense. My daughter in Y1 seems like she will be similar in the writing/spelling ability to your daughter. I'm already seeing some of this just in her free time. My son (9) does beautiful written narrations, interesting and concise. I know others have said this takes awhile for their children. With him, it just flows out. But his spelling is scary. I mean it amazes me how he spells things. I think he gets so busy writing his thoughts on paper, he does not even try to spell. In Y4 we will start dictation, so I'm hoping that helps. I've used his copywork to help, but we've focused on just a handful of words that way. He catches onto grammar so easily through help in copywork, but not spelling. It's funny, he reads widely and very well. But I see that he's really going to need the "rules" of spelling pointed out to him. That's why I was curious as to your copywork and what y'all do in the spelling/grammr area.

      And I would love to see some of your nature journal pages that are more writing! Although if I could draw and paint as you do I would love filling my pages that way. Even with the little time you have to do it your sketches or water colors are always beautiful.

    3. Thank you so much, Virginia. :)

  2. This is a good idea, Celeste! I admit to be more of a "fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants" type person, but I do schedule things for the children within "school" hours to get it done. I need to do that more faithfully with things like handicrafts or they just don't happen. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Love, love, love this post, Celeste! SO much food for thought and so lovely too :-) Do you have special commonplace journals for your children? I was thinking of doing that with my boys as well. I too am curious about your children's copywork/copybook. I clicked on a few links and found another lovely...your binder timeline :-) Love that too! Do you place all of it in the same binder? If so, what do you include in there? I am thinking I need to schedule our time similarly to what you have mentioned because you are right, things get eliminated quickly if they are not intentionally written in a schedule. Working my way through The Living Page and loving everything you have to add! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Their copybooks are hard-cover, wide-ruled notebooks that I found at Walmart. I bought a few to have on hand because I was so pleased with them. :)

      Their binders are separate and hold their binder timeline, mapwork, cursive penmanship pages, drawing drill pages, memory work print-outs and so on.

    2. Celeste,
      With your binder timelines, did you do that freehand or did you use a template?
      I am trying to do it on the computer to make all the sheets the same, but, it is not working out for me.
      Thanks so much for your thoughts. You don't realize what a HUGE inspiration and help you've been this year.
      Thank you, thank you, thank you sweet friend!

    3. I'm happy to help, Ann-Marie! I drew a blank template with a ruler and marker onto paper (no dates--just the lines) and then photocopied that onto cardstock, front and back, for however many pages I needed. Then I wrote in the years with marker.

  4. This is so helpful, Celeste! I've been thinking about tweaks that we need to make to our schedule now that I have two 'official' students, and this is very helpful. I never thought of adding nature journal, timeline entries, and mapwork to her checklist...that might be the solution.

    1. Yes, I think having these Keeping assignments on their personal checklists makes these habits a bit more independent. We usually do our Keeping together, but when we don't, they know it's their responsibility to get in that minimum. And my motivation is the same as yours: next year I'll have two in Year 4, one in Year 1, and one in transitioning to independence is high on my list of priorities. ;)

  5. Replies
    1. I'm glad, Phyllis! Thanks for the kind comment. :)