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We all want the best for our children. From where we live to what we feed them, we make the choices that will benefit our children the most. But for homeschool mamas, we have one extra choice to make and that is the curriculum we use. We don’t want our children to miss out on anything so we try to be as comprehensive as possible. But sometimes, we just need to cut back.
When I started homeschooling my first daughter back in 2016, I knew only three things:
- It needed to be bilingual French/English
- It needed to be as affordable as possible and
- It needed to be as close to the Charlotte Mason This method as possible.
So I did a lot research online and came up with the perfect curriculum for two of my three criteria. Ambleside Online is a free curriculum that uses Charlotte Mason principles. Detailed schedules for grades 1-12 are available on their website. The only thing you need to supply are the books, many of which can be found for free or bought cheaply at new or used bookstores. Most of the books can also be borrowed from the library. The only thing this curriculum did not give me were the choices of books in French.
I decided that I would just follow the schedule laid out by the Ambleside curriculum and add the French equivalent alongside. In other words, we would have two lessons of everything, one in English and one in French. It didn’t seem like our day would be too busy even if we doubled up everything simply because the lessons were already short. My only problem would be finding the French living books.
Looking into how most bilingual schools structure their days, I found that generally they have full days in each language. So Mondays and Thursdays would be in English and Tuesdays and Fridays in French. But since I only had one student, I figured we could do both languages everyday.
It started out alright. We were able to keep up with the schedule I had created. It did seem to be a bit of a strain that it took 2-3 hours in the morning and another 2-3 in the afternoon. But I chalked that up to the fact that I also had a newborn (who would interupt for feedings or changings), a toddler, and a preschooler who needed attention as well.
And my daughter was soaring. She took to reading like a fish to water. Math was a piece of cake. And she seemed to understand all her readings, in both English and French, because her narrations were wonderful. Not to mention, we still had time for all the enrichments like artist study, composer study, folk study, drawing, handicrafts and even nature journaling.
But even with a vacation every six weeks, both my daughter and I were burning out. I was getting more and more tired and cranky. She was getting more resistant to her work.
There was so much to keep up with. I wanted to finish Year 1 Ambleside work before the summer as well as all the Boscher books we used for French. But we started struggling to get through the entire week’s schedule in time. Towards the end of the year, I remember, it took us an entire month to finish a week’s readings.
Something was seriously amiss.
We finished out the year only one week late. But I had started to drop some of the enrichment studies. We no longer did our nature study, handicrafts or drawing lesson. Artist study had been relegated to a weekly look at the picture without doing any painting or coloring. Music was now just a listening session when we were working on chores. And copywork was being done only a couple of times per week.
Clearly, my schedule would not hold up to the test of time.
So the next year, I changed things up a bit. I stopped worrying about have the exact equivalent of books for each language. We continued to follow the Ambleside schedule but my French additions were less rigorous. For example, instead of having a French and English history lesson at the same time, I spread out the readings to have only one reading per day, in French or English but not both.
I had cut back on the number of books and frequency but was still trying to give an equal education in both French and English. And it was still too much. We didn’t even finish our second year of work because we both had burned out long before the end.
By my third year of schooling, I knew we could not continue doing it the way I had so confidently planned at the beginning. Not only would I be adding another student to the mix (my second daughter had just turned 6) but my first student would need to catch up from the year we never finished.
I cut back even more. I did a purge. I’m still following the Ambleside schedule. But I have given myself grace with the French work. I know that if my children can complete just that curriculum, they will still be much better off than most kids being government-schooled. I’ve written more about how this looks in my post Bilingual Charlotte Mason Method if you are curious.
Homeschool Take Away:
I’ve learned that I don’t need to fill our days with work for them to learn and grow. We don’t need to do every subject in both languages every day. Their French will continue to progress by the simple fact that we live in France and all their outside activities are in French. And since English dominates our work at home, it will continue to grow as well.
If we had continued with the schedule I had envisioned at the beginning of our homeschool journey, we would probably no longer be homeschooling today. And for sure, we would have never made it to middle school, much less high school.
I learned through experience that sometimes less really is more.
About The Author
Bekah Morel is a Christian homeschooling mom to 4 wonderful children. An American who is married to a Frenchman, she began and continues her homeschooling journey in France. She is a passionate reader and fan of Charlotte Mason which directs most of her choices for homeschooling. Visit her blog, Mason à la Maison (literally Mason at Home) at www.masonalamaison.com for homeschooling information, Christian encouragement, reading tips and resources to add some French to your daily life.
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