Jul 30, 2013

Schoolhouse Review Crew: Circle Time Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day!

I had four kids in under four years, so it seemed like forever that someone was learning the alphabet, numbers, the days of the week and/or the months of the year. In those years, we did Circle Time on a regular basis because it seemed like a perfect way to cover those kinds of facts. As the kids got older, though, our Circle Time started dwindling away. We were pretty much down to reading a chapter from the Bible and saying the Pledge to the Flag. I was slightly adrift and considering canceling our Circle Time altogether when Daniel and Abbie got old enough to read the Bible on their own. Then, a few weeks ago, I was given the opportunity to review the ebook Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day! which was written by Kendra Fletcher from the blog Preschoolers and Peace
I was hoping to find some ideas to help out our sad little Circle Time. What I found was inspiration to breathe some new life into our daily group work and ways to get a lot of stuff done that we previously couldn't find time to do. This 32 page ebook has eight chapters full of  ideas on how to start planning, how to keep it peaceful, how to get your kids on board with the idea, and how to make it all work no matter how many kids you have and what their ages are. There are also plenty of suggestions for what to do in your daily Circle Time, answers to questions from other moms, words of wisdom from two other Circle Time pros, a list of resources, activities, and ideas and a few printable worksheets to help you sort and plan your ideas.
It didn't take me long to read through this book, but I have gone back and re-read many times, slowly digesting all it really has to say. As I did, I started overhauling our Circle Time. First, I was convicted to start our days off with prayer time. Kendra included some ideas for prayer that I think will be super easy to implement no matter how young your kids. It has worked well for us. 
The second big change for us was that she suggests not calling it "Circle Time". So I called the kids together and we had a quick meeting about the name. They were all in favor of choosing our own title, since, as Nate pointed out, "Circle Time is for preschoolers and public schooled kids and we are neither." So, after a lengthy debate, we chose "Creche Conference" because a group of baby penguins is a "creche" and they felt important going to a conference every morning. 
And after that, it was just a matter of using the provided worksheets to figure out what I wanted to add in to our time together. Reading this book was perfect timing, because I have tried for years to pull off picture study, memory work, and learning hymns, but I kept leaving it for the end of the day and, well, it just never got done. When we moved it to Creche Conference, lo and behold, it really happens!
Just to reiterate that circle time is NOT just for little kids, I'll tell you a little bit about how ours will look for my elementary aged children in our new school year. 
We will start with prayer, then the two older kids and I will take turns reading a Bible chapter aloud. Then we will say the pledge of allegiance to the flag and to the Bible. The kids will then each get a turn to share something: a joke, a bit of nature, a tidbit of knowledge they have learned, anything they like, really, as long as it is short (my kids can be chatty if allowed the spotlight). Then we will do a quick artist study, I'll read a poem from our current poet, we will sing a hymn, (we usually sing the same one every day for a week and then choose another) listen to and sing along with a Spanish song from youtube, and listen to a chapter of the Bible in Spanish. Finally, we will work on memorization and then segue neatly into our read-alouds and narration. Lastly, we will do science or geography (depending on the day) and some journaling. 
I created a sheet to fill out each week so I can keep all of this straight and I don't have to keep hunting down info. 
Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day!  is only $4.99 which I think is a good deal for all the info and encouragement you will find inside. If you are a newbie, wanting to start a Circle Time, but you just don't know how, this ebook is for you. If you are an old veteran, like me, who is wondering how to continue with Circle Time now that everyone knows their ABCs, this ebook is for you. And if all you really need is a breath of encouragement to keep on keepin' on, then this ebook is for you, too!
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