Recently, when I shared a few images on Instagram about preparing for our new term of Circle Time, I was asked by several people what this was & what we were doing. I feel a bit funny sharing our plans before we begin (our new educational year begins in August) but since majority of this is the same as we have been doing for years, I thought I'd tackle it now when I have a bit more time to write. (I'll note anything new & untried.) I also feel a bit funny sharing because any wisdom here is gleaned from other sources. But that just means I can share links, which is always fun!
This will be long. And will contain few pictures. You've been warned.
Circle time. Memory time. Morning time. It goes by many names. My favorite is my friend Dawn's term: whatchamacallit. :) I first discovered the idea of a time of review & memory work from Veritas Press & then shortly after, by Kendra at her blog. I grabbed onto the idea & when Patricia was 2ish, we began our Circle Time. It was simpler then: read a bit of Bible, work on memorizing a Bible verse & Catechism, finish with listening & memorizing a poem. It was also quicker then: 15-20 minutes. But it laid a foundation for ordering our affections and thoughts. Those parts are still foundational to our Circle Time. In some seasons of craziness (usually around pregnancies & babies... which happens a lot around here!), sometimes this is all we did. And that plus reading aloud & math was enough.
For years, our Circle Time meant basically memory work. Many years later, I discovered Circe Institute, Cindy Rollins, Ambleside Online & Charlotte Mason- all who encouraged me to add a bit more truth, beauty & goodness to our Circle Time. This meant adding in more reading aloud, hymns & Bible songs, Shakespeare, folk songs, music appreciation. We still memorize a lot but it feels more rounded now, more beautiful. I love what Cindy Rollins says in her new book, Mere Motherhood:
Morning Time was for remembering, and remembering is the most profoundly significant thing we do in education... If we understand the difference between memorizing and remembrance includes memorizing, then it will help us choose what to memorize. Remembrance is culture.
The time we spend has lengthened- this year I planned for one hour (last year we did one and a half hours)- it could go much longer but there's only so much time in the day. :) Before I walk you through what we do (I promise I'm getting there), just remember we didn't start there. We added in bit by bit. My children know the routine, well... at least most of them do. ;) If you're new to this, start slowly! I can't help myself... another quote from Mere Motherhood:
Morning Time is a way to collect little grains of sand. It should not be a way to complicate life but rather simplify it... If you have something that you want your children to assimilate like poetry or scripture or music or Shakespeare, forget the grand schemes, forget what the Konos mom is doing down the street, start giving that thing one or two minutes of your time daily and watch the years roll by.
A few logistics: 1) Everyone usually gathers together because the youngest is soaking it all in way before they can say the words. I say usually because I'm not afraid to lay a baby down for a nap and there was one season where I laid a certain red-headed toddler down for a nap because we just needed to focus and not train that child. :) (I'll let you guess which one that was.) 2) If they can't participate, I prefer letting little ones draw instead of playing. Mine can't play without making noise or arguing. 3) Prepping is key- all music is ready to go on iTunes, all books in one location & all the material for memory work printed out. 4) Music makes memory fun & easier to learn! iTunes truly is my best friend. 5) We have little conversations during our Circle Time just because we have a lot to get through.
Circle Time Order:
- Daily Bible: we open with Bible reading (sometimes based on a short devotional I read) & song (either hymn and/or Bible song).
- Daily New Material: NEW THIS YEAR! I listed out new memory work that we will review every day for one term. Hopefully, each term will have new material. I printed the material, slipped them in page protectors & put them in plastic folders for each child. Before now, I was the only one with a binder & the children simply repeated after me. (Thanks, Mystie, for the idea!)
- Daily Review of Old Material: I print ALL of our memory work & keep it in a binder for me (the children all do this part from memory) so that each day we can review a bit of old material. We do not cover every topic each day- I break up what we review by days of the week (it's listed on an excel chart in my binder & saved on Evernote). I just flag where we stop & pick up there the next day. For some of the younger ones, the material is new so they just listen in but it's amazing how quickly they catch on even before I've assigned it as their own memory work.
- Read Alouds: last year I had an entire 30-45minutes assigned to this portion. It was heavenly. Perfect for after having a baby! This year, I just have 10-15 minutes but rest assured, we read aloud LOTS of other times during the day!
- Doxology: we close by singing one of our doxologies. (Prayer comes at the breakfast table when we review plans for the day & also at night during family worship with Daddy.)
NEW Material for Fall Term, part 1 (2016-2017):
- Hymn: Faith of Our Fathers
- Bible Memory: Exodus 20:1-17 (this is not new for the older three children)
- Bible: books of the Bible (this is only new for Katherine; we use a song from Jamie Soles' Good Adivce)
- Catechism: the children will continue working through wherever they are (Children's Catechism, Shorter Catechism or Heildelberg Catechism)
- Latin: Animal Song & Animal Song cont. (these are fun songs from Song School Latin)
- Shakespeare: we will continue to memorize portions of A Midsummer Night's Dream & listen to it, following along in books I bought (this is our guide; this is the audiobook; i bought Folger's copies because it opens to text with the opposite page of definitions)
- Poems: Patricia, Benjamin & Matthias: The Touch of the Master's Hand; Jonathan & Elizabeth: Jonathan Bing and Whole Duty of Children; Abigail: Days of the Week; Emily: Ooey Gooey and Days of the Week; Katherine: Ooey Gooey (I collect poems when I find them but we've mainly used this for years- its AWESOME!)
- Folk Songs & Other Tunes: I've Been Working on the Railroad.
- History: Timeline Song (I bought the MP3 of the song & also have their cards from Classical Conversations but we do not use their entire curriculum)
- Grammar: trying something completely new this year: a grammar catechism! (I bought the workbook but the meat will be the catechism)
- Read Alouds: 101 Hymn Stories; Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History; Franz Schubert and his Merry Friends)
Odds & Ends:
- We are currently using this for our devotional.
- We do not have the most musical voices but it doesn't stop us from singing. In addition to hymns, fun tunes come from favorite artists like Judy Rogers, Jamie Soles & Steve Green's Hide 'Em in Your Heart. Newer to us is singing folksongs & we are loving it! Ambleside Online has great selections for those here.
- Other fun things we've already memorized & will review: various religious creeds, nursery rhymes, Geography Songs, math skip counting & President Song (both Classical Conversation tunes), Shurley English Jingles (I do not use their materials beyond this) & several speeches/literature selections collected from past history/literature studies.
- I'm tabling history & science sentences we've worked on in the past. I'm undecided if we will return to them.
- New this year: Plutarch will come during another part of our week with the older 3 children but it would fit lovely during Circle Time. Use Anne White's materials!!!
- We study composers this way: each term I pick one composer. During breakfast, we listen to selections usually based on Ambleside Online's suggestions. I try to find a book to read about the composer- Opal Wheeler is my favorite & I also like reading the corresponding chapter from this. Every December we always listen to lots of Christmas music & Handel's Messiah.
Resources to learn more:
- Mystie has some great insight!
- Cindy Rollin's old blog has Morning Time posts. Go read her 31 Days to Morning Time! (Oh, and buy her book!)
- Pam Barnhill has a wonderful podcast & website
- Preschoolers and Peace
- I always love seeing what my real-live friend, Dawn is doing. Here's her whatchamacallit list for her current year.
Phew. That was a lot. I'd love to hear what you do during your Circle Time!