Scheduling Your Lessons

I was a Music Major and for many years I have felt that Mason’s music curriculum was lacking in thoroughness. This past year, I decided to finally jump in and do my own research into the PNEU Programmes. I have come out of that experience very impressed!!  I am quite convinced that Mason’s Curriculum was actually very thorough, and I believe if I worked through her musical scope and sequence today (even after 4 years of Majoring in Music), I would come away with a better, more complete music education than the one I got in college. It really is that good, and that living!

When we look at Charlotte Mason’s Timetable, we see that in every Form (Forms 1-6, which would be our 1st-12th Grades), Mason included Drill and Singing (Folk Songs and Sol-fa/Ear Training) midway through the morning lessons.  I believe that this time period was to be a sort of “recess” time where they got up from their seats and moved, played, and sang to refresh their bodies and minds before completing their day’s work.  But instead of just playing, like a typical recess these days, she chose activities that could be both invigorating and educational for the children.

Based on the notes I have found in the Charlotte Mason Digital Archives, it seems to me that Piano Instruction/Music Theory and Music Appreciation/Music History were also always in the programmes and the content was addressed in the PNEU exam questions, but piano lessons were done in the afternoons at home with a mother or a hired teacher.  It is not clear to me yet if Music Appreciation (Composer Study) was ever done in the morning lesson times or if it was only to be done at home in the afternoons/ weekends. I am still looking into this. It was probably done in the afternoons, but my family does it in the morning because the lessons are short and if we didn’t do at least part of it in the mornings, we would forget to do it.  Composer Study is a subject I have always done with our CM Community (Co-op) for accountability as well.


On this page I will briefly address scheduling your lesson with Music Appreciation and Piano, but more can be found on their main subject pages!  Below this, I address in much more detail how to schedule Drill and Singing into the morning lessons.



Scheduling Music Appreciation:


Here is a new quote I found recently about Music Appreciation ( or what is often called Composer Study) regarding its placement in the school week:


” Musical Appreciation lessons should be held every week for half-an-hour. Ten minutes of this might be given to ear-training (Possibly more Sol-fa?). Saturday morning often proved a good time and several families could join for this class. To have Musical Appreciation three times a term was little good, and to play through the programme once a term was no good at all—this merely became a school concert. The children must not be given too much at a time; they would listen to a certain amount and then they would not want to hear any more that day. No piece must be left before the children were able to recognise it and really know it. The month before the opening of each term, an article on the composer to be studied appeared in the “Reviews.” Names of books on the subject were given and a programme of music to be performed for the children to listen to, with suggestions as to easier pieces which children might play themselves. Notes on each of the pieces in the programme were given—more particularly on things which were not to be found in books. Music should be fitted into the scheme of history-study, and  not left isolated—for instance, Frederick the Great and Bach, Joseph II and Mozart, Beethoven and Napoleon would naturally be linked together, and use should be made of the history charts.”   Parent’s Review Vol. 33 “Mrs. Glover on Musical Appreciation”   


Mrs. Glover is the woman who wrote the Music Appreciation Lesson Plans for Mason for many years.  When she passed away her son Cedric Howard Glover took her place. Mason also refers to this family in her Volumes.  Cedric was the musical baby that she talks about and because of his interest in music as a young child, Mason decided to include Music Appreciation in the Programmes. Even with Glover’s note about doing a family lesson on Saturday mornings for 30 minutes, it still isn’t 100% certain in my mind what this meant.  The time-tables don’t show music appreciation ever and the PNEU schools had Saturday School, so I am uncertain how music appreciation was included in the lives of school children.

I am guessing not all home school rooms had Saturday school.  I think families must have gathered together, maybe like a co-op, because they didn’t have gramophones in the earlier days of the PNEU and they would have needed to hear a real pianist play through the composer pieces. I think the important thing here is that it’s about 30 minutes once a week at least. She indicates that part of the lesson is Ear Training which would add more sol-fa time to the other singing lessons from the week. Also, we should keep in mind that “the children must not be given too much at a time; they would listen to a certain amount and then they would not want to hear any more that day. No piece must be left before the children were able to recognise it and really know it.”  I think that if you can fit Music Appreciation in the mornings go for it! If not, then try it at a co-op or as a family on Saturday mornings.   I will update my site as I find more conclusive evidence about this subject and how it was scheduled.




Scheduling Piano or Instrumental Instruction


Piano or Instrumental Music is noted to be an afternoon occupation.  Mrs. Curwen, the author of the PNEU piano curriculum recommends in a Parents’ Review article that students have a one hour lesson per week with a teacher (this is what was typical in that time) followed by daily practice with parent OR 15-30 minute daily lessons with mother based on age and developmental readiness.  Lessons and practice were to include short 5-10 minute segments (like short school lessons) alternating between different skills (scales, ear training, sight reading, and dictation).   So if you or another parent can play piano, start teaching your kids 15 minutes each afternoon and build as they are ready to 30 minute lesson/practice times! If you have an outside teacher, these lessons can be in the afternoon or evening. Typically, these days they are 30 minutes long, not an hour.


“One thing more. You will ask “Is it possible, in the time usually allotted to a music lesson, to attend to so many topics?” I think so. If the child is taught at home, a short lesson of a quarter of an hour daily — increasing by and by to half an hour — will produce the best results. Let five minutes be given to finger exercises, taught at first by pattern, and five minutes each to two of the other topics, the lesson being varied from day to day. If there is a visiting teacher, the usual lesson is an hour a week. The constant change from one topic to another prevents the long lesson from being wearisome, and it is a better arrangement than two half-hours. I have divided it thus in my pianoforte method [“The Child Pianist,” with Teacher’s Guide (J. Curwen & Son). ]:–


Finger exercises . . . . . . . . . 10 minutes
Naming notes . . . . . . . . . 5 ”
Writing notes from dictation . . . . . . . . . 5 ”
Reading intervals . . . . . . . . . 5 ”
Ear Exercise in Time . . . . . . . . . 5 ”
Reading Time . . . . . . . . . 5 ”
Ear Exercise in Time . . . . . . . . . 5 ”
Reading Time and Tune combined 5 ”
45 minutes.


Leaving a quarter of an hour for the recreative music, which should come last, as a sugar plum.


If the child has a weekly lesson from a visiting teacher, it is absolutely necessary that either mother of governess should be present, and should superintend a short daily practice, giving five minutes to finger work, and taking the other topics in rotation day by day. I know several children who are being taught very successfully on this plan; the music lessons being a pleasure both to teacher and pupils, and the results a delight to the parents.”  The First Music Lessons. By Mrs. J. Spencer Curwen Parents Review,  Volume 1, 1890/91, pg. 607


Music Theory


Older students who are skilled in their instrument can study music theory further by learning about harmony, counterpoint, and other more difficult areas of music. I assume this reading was also done in the afternoons, but exam questions were given on it as well.





Drill and Singing in Morning Lessons


I am excited to share that I found a more detailed Time-Table in the Digital archives. The Pamphlet “A Liberal Education for All,” in the CMDC, includes programs, exams, and timetables for 1928 and 1933. Both are after Mason’s death, but they helped me to see more clearly how the 30 minute time slot was used specifically!  They don’t vary much from the 1908-09 one we have available on Ambleside Online.


Here’s an up close look at the time frames for Drill and Singing in each form since we do know these two subjects were included in the morning lesson times.  I have also given my recommendations on how you could schedule these into your morning lessons based on a 5 day school week and not lose time for the content.  


Form 1 ( 1st – 3rd Grade) 10:20-10:50
Monday: Drill or Dancing (30 minutes)
Tuesday: Sol-fa (15 minutes, Sight Singing lessons) and Play ( 15 minutes.  I am guessing that “Play” here was just free play, but I am not certain yet. It may have also included things like skipping rope or musical games that she includes in her programs)
Wednesday: Drill or Dancing (30 minutes)
Thursday: French Folk Song (15 minutes) and Play (15 Minutes)
Friday: Drill or Dancing (30 minutes)
Saturday: Sol-fa (15 minutes) and Play (15 Minutes)


Since we don’t usually do Saturday school in the U.S. I recommend that during this “recess”/active learning time, you do a slightly modified scheduled such as this. It still allows you to do Drill 3 times per week and Singing 3 times per week. It just shortens one Drill time and removes a 15 minute play time:
Monday: Drill or Dancing (30 minutes)
Tuesday: Sol-fa (15 minutes) and Play ( 15 minutes)
Wednesday: Drill or Dancing (15 minutes) and French Folk Song (15 minutes)
Thursday: Sol-fa (15 minutes) and Play (15 Minutes)
Friday: Drill or Dancing (30 minutes)



Form 2 (4th-6th grade) and 3 (7th-8th Grade) 10:20-10:50
Monday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)
Tuesday: German Folk song (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)
Wednesday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)
Thursday: French Folk Song (20 minutes) and Play (10 Minutes)
Friday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)
Saturday: Sol-fa ( 20 minutes) and Play (10 Minutes)


Once again, a little tweaking might be needed for us here in the U.S. with a 5 day school week.  I have met very few families here in the U.S. that use do CM education, who are doing two foreign Languages, my family included. So here are two suggestions – one includes the two foreign languages and one does not.

Monday: Drill (30 minutes)
Tuesday: German Folk song (20 minutes) and Play or Drill (10 minutes)
Wednesday: Sol-fa ( 20 minutes) and Play (10 Minutes)
Thursday: French Folk Song (20 minutes) and Play or Drill (10 Minutes)
Friday: Drill (30 minutes)


Monday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)
Tuesday: Sol-fa ( 20 minutes) and Play (10 Minutes)
Wednesday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)
Thursday: French (We do Spanish) Folk Song (20 minutes) and Play (10 Minutes)
Friday: Drill (20 minutes) and Play (10 minutes)

Form 4 (9th Grade) 10:20-10:50 (30 minutes total) and Form 5-6 (11th and 12th Grade) 10:25-10:50 (25 minutes total)

Monday-Saturday: Drill and Dancing everyday during the time period allotted. My guess is that the time was divided evenly. Sol-fa lessons were mostly completed by high school. At this level, they were mostly singing English and Foreign (French, German and sometimes also Italian) Folksongs, so they probably sang through them daily.  ( Form 4 differed a bit in 1908 from 1928, but generally speaking it’s the same idea.  We do see in the programmes that Form 4 students were still doing Sol-fa Lessons, so they probably did that during Singing time even though it didn’t say it on the 1908 timetable)

These forms are of course easier to adjust for our 5 days of school. Just sing and do drill every day for 25-30 minutes and do it for fun when you can on Saturdays!




If you want to learn more about how to do each of these subjects you may navigate with the tabs at the top of the page!



Go here to learn more about Sol-fa and Singing Folk songs! (On the Morning Timetables)
Go here to learn more about Drill! (On Morning Timetables.  It seems that after Form 1, Dancing was to be done in the afternoons. Dancing,  Sports Teams and Swedish Drill Classes were offered for PNEU Students in the Afternoons through the Parent’s Review Magazine that went out monthly, so I think that the main things that students did during Drill time in the morning were short Swedish Drill lessons which also included, Marching, Skipping Rope, and Games. Some of this, but probably not all, was also done to Music.  See my Blog post  series on Charlotte Mason Poetry for more info on Drill!)
Go here to learn more about Music Appreciation (Composer Study)! (Probably Afternoon Occupations or Weekends in PNEU  – our family does this in the morning)
Go here to learn more about Instrumental/Piano Music Instruction! (Afternoon time, not on Timetables)