Ok, this is the last post for a while on Circle Time, I promise. I’ve been putting together the materials for it, bit by bit, in snatches of time, so it’s the project on my mind.
I know most people include their read-alouds in Circle Time, but I count that as a separate time — even though it usually flows right after Circle Time. For me, Circle Time is composed of those things that we do all together as a family that center and ground us, that focus us on what truly matters: reading the Bible, praying, singing, memorizing Scripture, and then some other memory work because it’s a convenient time for it.
So, here’s the Circle Time plan for our coming year:
Circle Time Phase One: Personal Devotions
I have been challenged and encouraged from several places over the years to ensure the children have time set aside to read the Bible for themselves — to establish as children the habit of daily Bible reading. I’ve tried putting it at different parts of the day, but it came as no surprise to me when the only time that worked consistently was as a first thing. So that’s where it goes.
When I call everyone together for Circle Time, we’ll sit around the table, each with our memory work binders, crayon & pencil boxes, and Bibles (a picture Bible for Ilse). I will encourage the boys to read one chapter or part of a chapter, and copy one or two favorite verses on the notebook paper in their binder. They both enjoy copying from books. The binder also has a checklist of all the chapters in the Bible, so they can keep track of what they’ve read. I’m not going to supervise or make sure they do any particular plan or order, though; this is their time in the Word, which never returns void. I’ll set the timer for 15 minutes, and we’ll all have 15 minutes of individual Bible-reading time.
Next, we’ll all take turns praying aloud for the day and our work, and also pray thanking God for his blessings.
Circle Time Phase Two: Memory Binder Time
During the next chunk of time, we’ll work through our memory binders:
- Hymn: We’ll learn one hymn per term by singing it through everyday for six weeks.
- Psalm: We’ll learn one Psalm every two terms by reading it aloud together everyday for twelve weeks.
- Scripture Passage: We’ll learn one paragraph-sized portion of Scripture every term by reading it aloud together everyday for six weeks.
- Poem: Each day each reading student will read his poem for the term aloud.
- Hymn: We’ll sing a hymn we’ve learned in previous years. I picked out five I want to make sure the little ones know, and we’ll sing them, one a day, each week, for all thirty-six weeks.
- Creed: On different days of the week, our creed will be different, rotating between Heidelberg Lord’s Day 1, Nicene Creed, and Apostle’s Creed
- Catechism: Each day we review about 15 Q&As from the Catechism for Young Children and 2-3 Heidelberg Q&As. We’ll do the same 12 Heidelberg weekly all year, and we’ll go through the Catechism for Young Children every two terms.
- Psalm: We’ll review 5 previously-learned Psalms each term, one a day for a whole term (i.e. for Summer Term, Psalm 1 is said every Monday, Psalm 8 every Tuesday, etc.)
- Scripture Passage: In the same way, we’ll review one or two previously learned passages each day, reviewing the same set weekly all term, then changing them out for another set the next term.
- Hymn: We’ll rotate review of 4 other previously learned hymns each term, one per day.
- History Sentence: We’ll learn three sentences per term, saying one every Tuesday, the next every Thursday, and the next every Friday.
- Motto: We’ll learn three mottos per term, saying one every Tuesday, the next every Thursday, and the next every Friday. One or two of the set will always be a review motto.
Circle Time Phase Three: Listen to the Playlist
Finally, we get a little change of pace and I turn on that day’s memory work playlist. The kids follow along together for Latin chants, Veritas timeline song, and Geography Songs in the binder with the reference materials for those (Latin chant page, timeline cards, and maps). Then it’s the songs and they can get up and move and sing along.
- Latin Chant (one chapter a day)
- Veritas Timeline song (8 events per song, 1-2 songs per day & all 160 on Fridays)
- Geography songs (1 per day, a different continent each term)
- Shurley Grammar definitions chant (once a week, a different one each term)
- Bible Memory song (once a week, a different one each term, like the Books of the Bible)
Circle Time Phase Four: Bible Lesson
We do one set of lessons together: Bible. We use Covenantal Catechism by Rev. Van Dyken, and I really enjoy them. It is set up with Bible-knowledge catechism questions incorporated, but I use those as review & discussion questions rather than memory work, because I figure we have enough catechism and memory work as it is. We are doing Old Testament again this year. I have the books broken up so that we do two a year: a year in Old Testament and a year in Gospels & Acts, and we’ll rotate between them for a number of years. Eventually I will likely dismiss the older ones for these lessons and only do them with younger ones, but I will probably be switching back and forth, teaching this rotation for eight or ten years yet.
I follow, roughly and inconsistently, the following weekly pattern:
- Tuesday: read aloud or listen to the audio of the lessons’ passage.
- Wednesday: read the lessons
- Thursday: discuss the chapters’ questions
- Friday: illustrate the lesson (and write 3-4 sentences about it for the 9yo)
The children all have related coloring sheets they can color while they listen, also.
This plan puts us at about an hour and ten or fifteen minutes total, if things flow smoothly, which they almost never do. My ideal is to have Circle Time fit into an hour, so we’ll have to see how it goes the first few days and see if it works and what needs to be tweaked.
There is always tweaking needing to be done.