ditl: circle time

If you've been around here for any length of time, you'll know two things I'm passionate about are documentary photography & circle time (the first part of our educational day where we gather to learn together). I love capturing a whole day in the life, both for myself & for others. And while I strive to get myself in the frame, the process can be difficult. (Completely worth the effort but not easy, especially when shooting a ditl!)

Back in May, the amazing Kaleen Enke came a documented a 12-hour ditl of our family! I knew her work was amazing but I'm truly blown away with what she captured that day. I love Kaleen's sense of humor- for instance, she documented a lot of feet throughout our day. Each image she delivered is a treasure, weaving a story of our family. I'm grateful beyond words for these pictures! If you're local, you need to connect with this lady!

I thought I'd share our circle time in this post & then come back later to share the remaining parts of our day. I want you to notice a few things: 1) how much the littles do not sit & 2) the food because someone is always eating around here or at least, asking to eat. Hopefully, you also notice the love. Gathering together as we begin our day, learning alongside one another, bearing with each other... I truly believe it strengthens our family's culture, feeds our souls & educates all of us. Yep, all of that goodness!


fall term, part 1 review 1

As I started to type this out, it got really long so I'm breaking into two reviews. This first part covers an overview of our educational approach and those things we do all together. Part two will cover what each child was learning during our Fall Term, part 1.

We break up our years into terms, which are usually around 6 weeks each. I plan our terms around our co-op schedule first.  In between each term we usually take 1 week off but sometimes more (3 weeks off around Christmas, an entire month in the summer, etc). These break weeks are not often vacation time (though sometimes they are & that's fun!) but instead used to catch up on life, though we try to always have a few fun activities & enjoy sleeping in. I highly recommend Mystie's blog (& courses!) to learn more about terms (she calls it interval planning). We've done this for years now & it's really helped us establish a workable "groove." 

We finished our first term of the school year & are currently on a baby break which is 4 weeks. Yikes! That's not ideal- we had just got into a good groove of lessons & I'm a bit concerned they're gonna forget everything but we've been here before & it all worked out. Besides, co-op & music lessons are continuing so their brains are not completely going numb. I thought I'd share an overview of our first term along with some pictures. I'm hoping to do so again after each term.


Fall Term, Part 1 Review:

This first term was scheduled for 6 weeks but actually ended only being 4 due to taking one week off to visit with our friends from Texas & then Timothy's arrival. We'll make up for it by adding on 2 extra weeks to the next term. We started back to lessons before our co-op began because I wanted to re-establish habits + I knew we would have a long baby break & I didn't want to extend lessons too far into the summer. As I mentioned above, during our baby break, the children have returned to co-op & music lessons which has helped fill their days a bit but still left more free time & enabled me to not have teach {much}.

We follow a classical & Charlotte Mason (CM) approach to educating, pulling a lot from Ambleside Online (AO) though we do not use it completely. I can't recommend their site highly enough! I'm blown away that so many ladies offer so much wisdom & guidance for FREE! I didn't come to a deeper understanding of CM until recently. I wish we could have done it this way from the beginning! I'm grateful I still have lots of little ones to go from start to finish with but even my older children have benefited from this approach.


Circle Time for ALL: From the beginning of having children, the foundation to our day has always been circle time. (It happens even we are not doing "school.") This is a set time each week day where we all gather together for memorizing & feasting on riches/beauty like music, art, poetry, Shakespeare, literature. (We do not meet on co-op days.) For years, my focus was on Bible study, poetry & memory work but CM showed me the importance of incorporating not only truth & goodness into our learning but also beauty. So we added Shakespeare, composers, folk songs, art study & reading aloud to our circle time. In addition to a bit of review each day, we spend one or more intervals focused on a set amount of work. Repetition makes it stick!  Here's the Circle Time plans for Fall Term, part 1:

  1. Hymn: O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing
  2. Bible Memory: Exodus 20:1-17 (the Ten Commandments) & The Lord’s Prayer
  3. Catechism: the Children’s Catechism, The Westminster Shorter Catechism, the Heidelberg Catechism
  4. Poems: The Pessimist & the Optimist (Patricia, Benjamin & Matthias); The Swing (Jonathan & Elizabeth); After the Party (Abigail); Ooey Gooey & Celery (Emily & Katherine).
  5. Shakespeare: Julius Caesar (memorizing lines & listening to it while we read along)
  6. Folk Song: the Outlandish Knight
  7. History & Geography: Pledge of Allegiance & the Northern Border of the United States
  8. Plutarch: Marcus Cato the Censor using The Plutarch Project, Volume One
  9. Read Alouds: Little Pilgrim’s Progress; Poetry for Young People: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Reformation Heroes
  10. Composer: George Gershwin (we listened to Appalachian Spring & Billy the Kid)
2016-08-22 mobileditl6 circle time.jpg

Mama's Assessment of Circle Time: need to be better about reviewing each day so we do not forget what we worked so hard to memorize. There are several things still to fold in next interval.

Reading Aloud for ALL: Reading has also been foundational to the culture of our home. (btw, I count audiobooks or my being read to under this category in addition to Eric it I reading aloud.) Those stories have knit us together & our imaginations have soared to places we could never travel as we laughed or cried or discussed characters & plots. Often, older children have picked up books & read aloud with no prompting from me and I especially love watching that unfold! Besides Circle Time, we tend to read aloud at lunch (audiobook, Patricia or I) & at dinner (Eric or I). I need to get the boys reading more though everyone takes turns helping to read at Circle Time. Jonathan & Elizabeth are reading aloud the Little House series to me- they get their own hardback copies as they read. (All of my older children did this also!) I usually alternate one of them reading to me each day.

In the beginning, majority of our educational lessons were completely together & I read aloud everything. I miss those simpler days because now I've got my eldest & three sets of children + littles, each working at different things. Glorious but phew- it's a lot! That's why things like family worship, Circle Time and reading aloud remain foundational- they bring us together & enable me to cover more things in a set amount of time. We only finished one book during the Fall Term, part 1: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson. (Patricia read this one.)

Mama's Assessment of Reading Aloud: We definitely didn't read the quantity of books we usually cover due to pregnancy/sickness. Get the boys to read aloud too!

Friday Afternoons for ALL: in reality, this didn't happen because I had iron transfusions every Friday afternoon during this interval. So sad! Next interval, this will be our time for a nature walk or Law's study if the weather is bad. We tried to fit nature study into other parts of our day since we couldn't do it on Fridays:


Afternoons for ALL: Following CM principles, we set aside time in the afternoons for time outdoors (free play, walks, bikes & yard work), handicrafts, music, baking, art & crafts and reading. I require EVERYONE to get out of each other's face & be alone for at least a half hour- they usually read during that time & most take longer than a half hour. Littles always nap & often, so do several of us older ones. I'm trying to limit screen time- it slipped into our days with pregnancy & sickness. Sigh. Breaking that bad habit is not easy. Chores finish up our day before we eat & have our evening routine (dinner, family worship, reading aloud, baths, meeting with Daddy, bedtime).


Mama's Assessment of Afternoons: I'm still learning to love this time. I'm tired after teaching & I'm not one to love crafting with children... but I'm trying to embrace the riches of these things. It helps that as the children get older, they can do more independently & clean up after themselves. It also essential for me to get some alone & quiet time- it brings much needed refreshment to my mind & body.


Note: life with increasingly older children means their social calendars are growing + Benjamin works 3 days a week. If an older child misses one of these above group gatherings, they are required to catch up on their own. They rarely miss Circle Time but if they did, they would need to go through it by themselves. They're required to read the portions we read aloud or do a similar nature study on their free time.

Be sure to read part 2 of our Fall Term, part 1 review here!