Episode 33: Scheduling a Charlotte Mason Education


This Charlotte Mason podcast focuses on time management: how do we get organized to spread this feast of innumerable subjects, how do we fit everything in, and how do we manage multiple children at various levels with differing needs and subjects. Practical tips, resources, ideas, and time-tested wisdom is abundant in this conversation.

Listen Now:







Our Podcast Episode that talks about the Habit of Attention

Nicole's step-by-step guide to preparing your CM schedule

A Form by Form breakdown of which subjects are studied when and what lessons those subjects include at each age level

Liz, Emily, and Nicole can help you create your own schedule and/or custom curriculum

43 comments:

  1. Loved it! We are finishing up our eighth year of homeschooling and our schedule went very smoothly this year and I still found such wonderful value in this podcast!

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    1. We are so glad to hear this, Cassie!
      ~Nicole

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  2. A friend recommended this podcast and I zoomed thru all of your podcasts, one after another, so hungry for all the things you had to say as I begin my Charlotte Mason journey. So thank you!!!!! A question I was hoping you could address some time was... I know different people have different opinions but I heard you mention the possibility of the whole family studying one part of history together, on different levels. This idea seems to be a way to unify the history study as a family but... It doesn't seem to go along with the Ambleside Online history readings as different kids are all on different time periods in history. Would you address this!? I think I remember hearing that maybe some of you don't use AO. Are you just hand picking the readings for science, history etc? Do you ever use AO as a guide??

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    1. Julie,

      There are many options and routes for selecting curriculum within the Charlotte Mason method. In her day, she had an organization that parents could belong to and the curriculum was set by Mason herself. We try to dispense information from those programs and from the guidelines Mason suggests in her writings, with some adjustments for the changes in the fields of science, art, music, and literature, and with another 100 years of books for children having been printed. Not everyone has the time to figure everything out for themselves and we love to share what we have learned, hence, the podcast. You are correct that some plans out there would indeed make it difficult to follow history as a family together as Mason did in her schools. If you are just beginning and want help selecting appropriate books for your school year, we could help you privately with a consultation, or you could "zoom through all the podcasts", and put it together yourself. You will find a lot of resources by reading the show notes and comments on this throughout website, especially the history book recommendations on episode 14. Our Living Books Library website also has a wealth of information about living books in all subjects, and Nicole's Sabbath Mood Homeschool website has details for science and nature study, as well as scheduling your day. Let us know if we can be of further help to you.

      -Liz

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  3. I'd like to piggyback on Julie's question because I have wondered the same thing, and history is not even as much a concern as some of the other subjects because you have resources like Truthquest and Simply Charlotte Mason to help guide you there. But there are SOOOO many subjects in a CM curriculum, and the thought of choosing the right book for each subject for each child when you have multiple children at multiple ages overwhelms me. Do you guys have a secret resource list you pull from, :) or is it just your years of experience with living books and CM that makes it easier for you to know what books to pick for whom?

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    1. Ruth Ann,

      It does take some time and experience reading living books to have a wide range of books to choose from. My own blessing was living near a woman who had an extensive collection of out-of-print books (over 20 thousand) and loaned them to us. We now have our own such library and a huge database of books, as well as many books about books (find our top picks list of those on LBL website). Because of these blessings, we are happy to share book ideas, but want to encourage you to start digging for these treasures and reading them yourself and you will soon discover that they have a way of finding you. Children can only absorb so many books a year, and in the meantime, you can be working on the books they could use the following year--don't be overwhelmed thinking you need to know now all you must select for the next 12 years. Mason herself did not believe in planning more than a term ahead, "to keep things from getting stale" and was consequently always searching and studying books to make her decisions for coming years. A side benefit to reading widely yourself is that you will be fed in your own spirit and have more enthusiasm for their schooling. We all get more enjoyment out of home-cooked food and doing our own feasting rather than being spoon fed. It is a great example for your children to see and follow. You have the same needs they do because you too are born a person with a thirst for knowledge--otherwise, you wouldn't be asking this question. We will be happy to help any time.

      -Liz

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  4. Ladies, thank you so much! I really enjoyed this! It was so encouraging to hear what you are doing and how things play out in your homes. :) I especially liked the part about focusing on the younger student and let them be on their way to free time and then tackling the older student. That's helpful for me as I'm always trying figure that out...I liked what you said about planning ahead so no student is waiting on YOU the mother...very good point. I'm going to be thinking on that...how can I be using our time wisely. Good points about not trying to stuff housework etc into the middle of school...I know because I've tried it! ;) There was so much good stuff in here, that I think I will listen again with my journal!

    Btw, this is on a different podcast, but I tried what you suggested for Plutarch! It went SO MUCH BETTER. YAY! :D My daughter and I read the WHOLE lesson in one sitting, but in small chunks, narrating after each time. So much better and then we didn't get as confused! :) Thanks. :)

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    1. Amy,

      I'm so glad to hear you are finding much useful information and have tried it and it is working. Great news about Plutarch. I also hope the thoughts on scheduling make your mornings more delightful.

      -Liz

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  5. Could I have a list of some of those toys you used? I have one girl (the oldest) followed by three boys and my boys LOVE being outside. So much so that the almost 2 year old has learned to unlock all the doors and sneak out! (I have tried schooling outside, but I have to stop to retrieve my toddler often so its hard to stay focused). Even though we have legoes and such- no toy that I have found is enough to entice them to stay inside JOYFULLY for a while. Another question- when did you transition to a morning school routine? Right now I am schooling at nap time because I have more kids out of school then in school. But being in my 9th month of pregnancy, I am finding that I need rest durring that time and so school has slowed way down (which I am okay with). BUT school time at nap time seems harder to protect then the morning school time routine proposed. I hope that makes sense! You all are so helpful- I love the podcasts!

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    1. Katie,

      Everyone's family dynamics differ, so I cannot say what is the very best in your case; however, I think the training to morning time even for little ones is important as there will be little ones coming up for quite a number of years ahead. Mason said education was an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life. That doesn't begin at age six. You may have to do lessons for 30 minutes and take a break, then repeat a few times before lunch. It is not harmful for little ones to learn to be quiet for short periods, to learn to come instead of you chasing them, or to learn to occupy themselves.

      I think we mentioned some activities for the little ones on the podcast, coloring and Playdough, puzzles, sewing cards, little animals and people, scissors and paste, special books and pictures, play food and dishes, shape sorters, paper dolls, special trains or trucks--anything that can be tucked away and used just for schooltime; older preschoolers may enjoy occasional audiobooks or special music. We also had a little indoor tent, or old blankets work, that could be set up for little ones to play in.

      I do pray all goes well with your newest little one about to be born and that you don't neglect your naps. Afternoons are important for children, and possibly more important for their mothers.

      -Liz

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  6. Hi! Just wanted you to know that the link off your main episodes page to episode 32 is broken. Just tried to pull it up to listen and couldn't. Thanks!

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  7. I have a question on schedule. I have a high schooler who really does not like the short lessons. He really prefers to work for a couple of hours straight on one topic rather than constantly changing it up. If this is effective for him is there any reason to push him to change?


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    1. Ladybute,

      Your son is in good company--most people naturally prefer long, uninterrupted stretches to accomplish work. This may be a new discipline for your son and you could just ask him to cooperate with it as an experiment for an entire term, then you will discuss the pros and cons again. Remember, a short lesson in high school can be up to 45 minutes long. Perhaps it would help for you to hare some of the latest scientific evidence about efficient and superior work resulting from changing the focus of our attention.

      -Liz

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  8. All of your episodes have been so valuable to us in our family growth in a CM lifestyle--thank you! I have a question about scheduling--the daily schedule is making more sense to me now, but I'm curious about the school calendar. What do you suggest for a schedule for the year? As far as holidays, breaks, and summer vacation are concerned, would a traditional American school calendar be applicable to the CM schedule, or does it need tweaking? Thank you so much!

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    1. Rachel,

      One of the advantages of homeschooling is the freedom to choose your own school calendar. Mason's schools used three 12 week terms, which is the same number of weeks required in traditional American public school calendars. I have always found the three to be more practical for mothers--it makes a more manageable and attainable block to work with and, just as we mothers may be getting weary, we come to the end and can take a break. Also in homeschooling, life throws us many curves--illnesses, new babies, unexpected moves or deaths or disasters great or small. I think it helpful to choose a starting date and make a plan for the year ahead, putting in the breaks, holidays, or other foreseen vacation or visits from outsiders ahead of time. If you break during a term, just pick up where you left off when you return, even if that means you have to lengthen your original "year." Mason's students had a long Christmas break and summer break. If you find it helpful because of your neighborhood, or sports involvement, to follow the public school calendar, feel free--it is all up to you.

      -Liz

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  9. looking at the PUS schedules you have on here - i see the content of repetition/recitation seems to have been split over the week - so one day for poem, one for hymn, one for scripture, rather than running through all the new memory work pieces everyday plus 1 or 2 review of previously learned things (like i see suggested by scm's memorybox system or memory binder system and other online places.) have you spoken already on the mechanics and method of 'how' to do repetition/recitation the cm way? can all the different grade levels do it together in "morningtime" ? if so do they all learn the same passages? or should each child have their own different pieces to recite in their own time? thanks, Jo

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    1. Jo,

      We have not specifically addressed recitation yet--hoping to continue with more school subjects in the fall after our summer podcasts. You are right that the PUS articles are revealing.

      As far as memorizing together, I think you would know best as the mother. Much depends on the age range and ability of the children involved. Certainly they could all be learning from the same poet, but older children possibly accountable for more challenging verse. I have found it to be helpful for all to do this subject together, but that also depends on your own family dynamics.

      -Liz

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  10. My family will be moving back down to serve as missionaries in Guatemala (where my children were born) and, due to a severe lack of good schooling options, I am now seriously investigating homeschooling our children. I am completely sold on the CM philosophy and method, as it aligns beautifully with our ministry vision. That is that God created us to be in right relationship with Him, with our own selves, with others, and with His creation, and all of our programs are designed to encourage these four relationships.

    Given that our kids have grown up in a bilingual environment, I want their education to be bilingual as well (aside from any foreign language they may study). What courses would you suggest I give to my children in both languages? I was thinking of doing all lessons in English and Spanish (swapping between the two every other lesson), but based on availability of translated books, that's probably not practical. What would your suggestion be and how would I fit this into a homeschooling schedule? Also do you have any suggestions on living books in Spanish or of the history of Central America? I think we should definitely learn both American and Guatemalan history since they are dual-citizens.

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    1. Larenda,

      Charlotte Mason's method of educating children at home is indeed perfect in your situation. In her day, thousands of children around the world were being educated this way. I think we could do a little research for books on Guatemalan history for you, as well as the availability of many of the best living books that have been translated from Spanish.

      I want to encourage you to continue to speak with your children in both languages as much as possible, in school. They could also begin studying another. I think, even though many geography or history or science books may be difficult to obtain in Spanish, to hold lessons in Spanish, their narrations and your discussion, in Bible, math, picture study, nature study, even copy work. If we can help you with a consultation to firm up your course study, please let us know--that would be a challenge we would relish.

      -Liz

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    2. Liz,

      Thank you for your insight! And yes, I would love to know of any translated living books you come across (ebooks would be ideal for the purpose of packing suitcases). We still have a year before we make the big move but I am already beginning some lessons with the kids (poetry, fables, math, historical lit; we're calling is "pretend homeschool" even though I am already seeing progress with their reading and narration skills). I have also been looking into devoting a class period to a Spanish playwright or author (possibly Cervantes or Lope de Vega) or maybe we'll switch playwrights each term.

      I would definitely be interested in possibly consulting with you about this. I will contact you on that page when I'm ready to take the plunge! Thank you again for your insight and inspiration! Your podcast has been a blessing and breath of fresh air in the seemingly overwhelming task of preparing to homeschool.

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    3. We look forward to hearing from you when you are ready, Larenda.
      ~Emily, Liz and Nicole

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  11. I have a quick question regarding the PUS schedule that is linked here, and how it coordinates to the scheduling cards that I purchased through your website. I'm seeing that reading has considerably more time devoted to it on the PUS schedule than it does on the cards. Is reading combined with something else on the cards to equal all that time? (For example American History...does that count as reading as well?) Thank you!

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    1. You are correct, "Reading" on the PUS schedule included the 10-minute reading lesson, but also time for the child to hear/practice reading in literature and history (you will notice those subjects are absent on the PUS schedule; the programmes note "Poetry and books used for History, Geography, and Tales" under the material to be used for reading lessons).

      Mason said that once a child could read, he should read himself. Her living books as the lessons meant that whether the child was reading, or the teacher, reading was going on quite a bit. The "reading" lesson in form I is the actual technical teaching of how to read. Once a child could, they were practicing with their actual schoolbooks. I gather that if there was some extra time, they might be reading in a subject and the time allotted for extra reading was just labeled "reading."

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    2. Thank you so much for the clarification. I started listening to your podcasts on a trip and knocked out 8 hours worth in two days. :-) We've been homeschooling for 5 years, but with the addition of my daughter last year, I now have three different grades going on. This has really helped me to come up with a better plan for this year.

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  12. Hello! One more question...you all were so very helpful before! I have my entire schedule figured out for all three kiddos, with books lined up for everything but ancient history. I'm really struggling in my search to find something that I'm happy with. Do you have any suggestions for a spine or supplemental books (other than just studying Scripture?) Help! ;-) Thank you! -Tiffany

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    1. How old are your students, Tiffany?

      Are none of the suggestions on the History Books page (including in the comments) what you're looking for? If you give us some more information we might be able to make a better recommendation.

      -Emily

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    2. Hi Emily,

      My only student ready for ancient history is my 11 year old. (The other two are 8 and 6.) I did see the Mills' book suggestion after I posted this, but was really hoping to find something with a Christian/biblical worldview. Would this one fall into that category? Should I just pick and choose what I have my son read out of it? My degree is in Biblical Studies and some of the curriculums and books I've looked at make me cringe a bit with the liberties they take regarding Scripture (ah-hem...Story of the World.) :-)

      -Tiffany

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  13. Dear Ladies, I humbly ask your help.....I'm having panic attacks (not exaggerating) when I start trying to plan our year (which should start back next week!) - to nail down plans for starting our cm education and making book choices for all the boys (age 6, 13 and 14). I feel sick, I cry, my heart races.....I don't know where else to ask.....do you have a simple procedure for getting this going? i don't mean the scheduling of the books per se....as i have been through Nicoles 'scheduling' series, and bought your scheduling cards..but having got to the stage where subjects are scheduled....I'm stuck...too many decisions to make and trying to fit in everything for the 3 boys,and normal household duties and a 2 yr old.... can you suggest a sort of 'transition' into cm schooling procedure....I don't know how else to phrase it ....but a baby step by baby step order to start and do things in building up to the full "menu"? I guess I mean....what is the most important elements to start with whilst you slowly add in the others? I have 0 budget so cannot chuck money at this to buy more "planning helps" and resources which just confuse me more anyway, nor ask yourselves to consult (besides I am in the UK so I imagine your help with book choices would be more limited). On the back of 2 yrs of failing to get school going (I'm calling those years 'unschooling' years) I feel utterly spent and can't cope with trying to get this banquet up and running from day one....I need to start with a section and work up to it I think....else just send them back to school - whoch I can't do....but neither can I do this (or at least haven't been able to since baby (now 2 ) came along. I have huge guilt and no joy or peace....if you have any pointers for starting up I'd be beyond grateful.
    Jo in the uk

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    1. Jo,

      I do think we can help you. Can you email us at contact@adelectableeducation.com? We can't find your contact info...(And we have a rather large selection of British books too, if you need a recommendation or two :) )

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  15. Hi! Thank you for all you do! I had commented on your nature notebook podcast (episode #20) about my girls that were in private school. After praying and truly looking into CM we decided to pull the girls. Everyone one will be home with us! I am beyond excited and beyond nervous. I have done a schedule/rotation/plan for my kids (5, 7, 10). I work every Sunday night, and therefore can do only limited school on Mondays. I do plan on using a curriculum (AO) because I prefer someone else do to do that part of the planning for me. I think I have a good "plan" but I honestly have no way of know because I haven't done this before. Anyway you all can take a look at my plan?

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  16. Hi ladies,
    Just want to share what a joy it's been to listen to your podcasts. I've listened to every one since the beginning and have gleaned so much. This past year was our richest yet and I can trace it back to so many nuggets of wisdom you provided here. I shared with Nicole at the recent CM Institute in CA that in November we completely switched over to CM 100%. I jokingly ask my girl if she wanted to turn our homeschool up on it's head! She was a little nervous at my enthusiasm! We set aside all textbooks, workbooks and only used living books and narration for every subject and more consistently after listening to your series on narration. It completely opened my eyes as to narration as the cornerstone of which everything flows from. Again - thank you!

    Now, my biggest change in the coming term will be to have our schedule be the guide and not the books/chapters. This will be different, but I know it will bring so much freedom! I'll have to check in and share how it goes after a month or two of our new schedule.

    I do have a couple questions. For Composition, I see narration (and essays, etc.) - how is this narration different from the narrations to be done with each subject?

    Also, can you expand on grammar and what a lesson parsing & analyzing lesson books would look like?

    Thank you!

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    1. Melissa,

      Thank you for sharing with us about your journey to CM and continuing hopes for the coming year.

      The reason "narration" is listed with "composition" is that it is composition. Before we can write anything, our mind has to think of something to write, right? Quite literally, the art of narrating orally is the beginning of this skill: summarizing, organizing, reasoning, connecting, being creative, etc. I'm sorry I don't know how old your daughter is to give more details, but I'm guessing by your next question that she may be in high school?

      At any rate, after oral narration skill is comfortable, Mason proceeded, by degrees, to written narrations. We do have podcasts coming up in September regarding these subjects, too, by the way. A written narration is exactly the same as the oral, only written--the child's response to what has been read. In transitioning to written narrating, you could have her give you an oral narration dictated to you and you write it down longhand, which will help in her step to slowing down the flow of thought that is necessary to write.

      Actual composition is a step beyond this to writing on a given topic or theme given without a book to respond immediately to. Naturally, the thoughts written in a composition will reflect what she knows and has written, however. No corrections or instructions are necessary. But she should be encouraged to use the grammar, spelling, and penmanship skills she has. Just let her become comfortable with independent writing on a topic and wait for style, form, punctuation, etc. corrections for a year.

      For all these written subjects, reading is critical--to know how words are used, how different authors say them, organize them, reveal in words their thoughts and ideas.

      Grammar is simply the abstract science of naming or analyzing the things we already know through reading, similar to how learning the name of a particular insect or weed follows experience and observation of it in nature.

      Mason knew grammar was uninteresting to children, that Latin study made it easier, and that a child should begin with the most tangible aspect of grammar first: the sentence itself; study of sentences come before learning the parts of speech. Grammar concepts should be introduced gradually, slowly, progressively over years. The use of books with grammar is for the child to observe the things he is learning in his grammar lessons in actual books. For example, yesterday I had my son find all the verbs in our hymn for memory work; find his favorite descriptive sentence in a page of Swallows and Amazons--his leisure reading; divide each sentence in a paragraph from a book into it's subject and predicate.

      I hope this gives you some ideas.

      -Liz



      It was great to meet you this last week, Melissa! Thank you for sharing your story. I hope people read it here and are encouraged to do that same.
      ~Nicole

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  17. How would you schedule mental math if all of your kids are doing math at the same time? My form 1 students have math with me, so I can do that. But my form 2-5 kids do math independently at the same time. Suggestions?

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    1. Debi,
      I suggest that at the end of the math lesson, say, the last 6-8 minutes, you have the children gather and each share what they have learned today, their narration, and then do some mental math work that all can participate in. Or, at the beginning of math, you could ask mental math questions to the younger children, and at the end of the lesson, do mental math with the older students. The form 1 students should have at least 10 minutes less of math time anyhow.

      -Liz

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  18. May you please explain the reasoning behind the way CM schedules arrange subjects in different sequence each day of the week? I'm trying to understand why even the subjects that are done daily (like math, reading, copywork, etc) are not done at the same time or in the same sequence throughout the course of the week.
    Thank you!

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    1. Erika,

      Mason did believe in varying the lessons from one another to offer the brain new kinds of tasks and make the quantity of subjects, instead of more wearisome, less laborious. "A change is a break." As you realize from scheduling your 20+ subjects, there is not room for all of them on the same day, or distribution of them equally throughout the week, and their lengths also vary. There is no rule against having math at at the same time every day, but often it has to be moved this way or that to allow room for other subjects that should not be placed together, such as visualizing subjects like copywork or dictation or picture study. When you have many children in many forms, however, I do recommend you find the most workable plan for your family, even if you do have to have several subjects in the same order on consecutive days.

      -Liz

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  19. Hi Ladies,
    I appreciate your podcasts and resources so much. After looking at the subjects by form lists, Nicole's scheduling cards, and trying to remember what I learned in the various podcasts, I have some questions about when in the schedule for form 3 books are read. . .. Is the historical novel read in the afternoon? Also, are the history of English literature and the Classic works read during the once weekly "Literature" lesson? When do we read Shakespeare? Also, do we read two biographies a year (one tying in with that term's science as well as a history steam and the other just in line with history)? Are these read during the history lesson or assigned for the afternoon? Thank you!

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    1. Maple Grove Mom,

      Historical fiction is not a history lesson book, but a leisure reading option. Biographies are read during the lesson, and are not limited to two. Science biographies are helpful and could also be leisure reading options, but may or may not fit into your science lessons every week. Literature was a subject where Mason's students read some of their assigned books outside of school lessons; however, since most American teachers do not handle a second or third foreign language, it is convenient to make Shakespeare a separate lesson.

      Keep up the good work,

      -Liz

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