With five little learners ranging from a fifth grader doing junior-high-level work to a tiny tot stacking blocks and sorting colored pom-poms in muffin tins, my home is a daily frenzy of activity. Couple that activity with the INDEPENDENT spirit of nearly all of my kids, and you have the makings of a school day that could easily become disjointed. (THis post contains affiliate links.)
While I encourage all of my kids in their individual passions and gifts and support independent courses of study, I also know that one of the biggest strengths of HOMEschooling is schooling in the HOME...schooling alongside and with your siblings...making memories together...forming lifelong bonds.
Early on in our homeschooling journey, I determined that chunks of our day would be spent intentionally learning TOGETHER.
With purpose, I begin each school day with all my little chicks huddled around my lap...or crawling into it, as the case may be, to enjoy some much-needed GROUP LEARNING time. After they've mentally checked off all the items from our Good Morning Board, my kids gather in the living room for a homeschool version of "circle time" and our Start-the-Day-Together Basket.
What is circle time?
Often used in preschool classrooms, circle time is a daily group meeting of sorts where everyone gathers together...often in a circle...to greet each other, discuss the days' TO DOs, and complete a few simple group activities. It's a great way to start a busy, everyone's-going-in-their-own-direction day with unity.
What does it look like in our home?
While many homeschool families begin their day together with family devotions, my husband's work schedule renders that impossible for us. (In case you're curious, we do our family devotions right after dinner each night.)
With firm resolve, I attempt to recreate that morning time unity SANS The Hubs. A hybrid circle-time has always provided a nice group start to our day.
I, typically, sit in our living room rocking chair with our Start-the-Day-Together Basket off to the side. My children each find a comfy spot on the floor...or the couch...or my lap. It's actually not unusual to find one of my boys balancing against the wall ON HIS HEAD. (But as he does some of his best listening in that position, I shan't complain.)
I always begin with a song.
We take turns picking songs to sing each day, so it's always an eclectic mix of preschool Bible songs, Go-Fish-style jams, or traditional praises/hymns. (I typically try to teach a new-to-my-kids hymn every couple of weeks.)
I read a short excerpt from one of our basket books.
These readings are always short...2-3 minutes a piece. This has been a great way to enjoy some non-fiction, topical-type books that do not necessarily fall into any particular subject category or may not easily weave into other group times in our schedule.
I rotate songs and books until we are done.
I am a firm believer that children...especially young children...have much more educational success when their learning follows a rotated pattern of physical movement and sedentary mental focus. In other words, after they sit for a while in deep concentration, they need to MOVE. Once they move, they can sit for a while in deep concentration. It's a pattern I weave into EVERY aspect of our day...not just our school day.
For this reason, we rotate the singing of an active song (which require clapping and sometimes hand motions) with a short reading from one of the books in the basket until all the books have been read.
I give any scheduling announcements.
My kids, like most kids, like to know what to expect from the day ahead. If we have an appointment, a field trip, or really ANYTHING that would veer us off "the norm", I make sure to end our circle time by letting everybody know about it. Often times, I will announce early on in the day, before we even start circle time, that I have an "announcement." The build up of curiosity helps to motivate the kids to come to circle time without even having to be asked.
What is in our Start-the-Day-Together Basket?
Every year, our basket and its contents look a little different. It, like every other aspect of our homeschool, has to ebb-and-flow with the current needs of the family and its little learners. This year, our basket is filled with the following gems.
- English From the Roots Up-We learn one new Greek/Latin vocabulary root each week and review old ones.
- color-coded 3 x 5 cards packs for reviewing our Greek/Latin roots
- Manners Made Easy for Families-This book is set up like a daily devotional book. We read one page each day.
- You Can Change the World-Each two-page spread of this missions-focused book emphasizes one country or unreached people group around the world. We usually read these spreads over the course of two mornings.
- a world atlas-When we begin a new country/people group in our missions book, I like to refer to its location in our atlas.
- a 3 x 5 card of our weekly memory verse
- 2 homemade Bible song books for song-time inspiration
Occasionally, I'll add other things to our basket such as articles about current events or short picture books about upcoming holidays.
What else could be included in circle time?
Circle time activities are limitless. Although I have yet to implement it, I think it would be wonderful to have my kids give short little recaps of their own independent learning from the previous day. Other ideas include:
- practice/review calendar time by announcing the current day/date
- read a Bible story
- discuss current events
- read a chapter of a fiction book
- complete a small portion of an on-going family project
- listen to a book on tape or a section of an audio series
- share prayer requests
- set weekly academic goals
With its modest basket of group activities, our daily circle time has been one of the most unifying elements to our crazy-busy days.