Homeschool Day Planning: Circle Time 2013-2014

I love the planning time of year. The possibilities seem boundless and the potential is invigorating.

2013-2014 school year plan

None of these elements are a completely new thing in how we do things; each is a slight development and building upon previous years. The following Circle Time plan is simply continuing to develop our previous years and experiences. We started with 10-15 minutes five years ago. I tried a 60-90 minute plan at one point (way too early) and pared it back. Last year we spent about 30 minutes singing & reciting, and it was the right amount of time. The pace was brisk, I didn’t belabor anything (I can be a killjoy), and it didn’t [usually] leave the children exhausted by the end (not that I can say the same for myself). So I’m keeping the format and the amounts that worked so well last year, and only adding a 2-3 minute additional tab to my binder (not the children’s) for even/odd where we’ll work on short verses (like Proverbs) and catechism, repeated from memory rather than reading along.

Our 2013-2014 Homeschool Plans

circle time homeschool

This year my third and fourth children are the same ages as my first and second were when we began Circle Time and short official school times. So, as I put the materials for the year together, I tried to balance adding in new and challenging work for the older set and yet not leaving out and leaving behind the old stuff suited for the 5 & 3 year old. It does the older pair good to have it repeated, anyway.

1. Personal Devotions

Everyone will finish up math at different times, so instead of letting them run off and get lost or wrapped up in something else while they wait for Circle Time, they will grab their Bibles (or Bible picture book in the case of non-readers) and have the time to read the Bible for themselves. Last year I printed off a Bible reading checklist so they could check off how much they had read. In the daily wear and tear, those sheets didn’t last long. I’ll try it again this year, printing it on heavier paper with hole-punch reinforcements. However, mostly I am just hoping to instill the habit of daily Bible reading, and they can pick and choose where they want to read, since all Scripture is profitable.

2. Group Devotional Reading (3-5 minutes)

At 8:30 (so my hopeful schedule says), I’ll pull out the binders, tell any still working on math to set it aside, and open our time together by reading aloud a short chapter from a devotional-type book. Just in the last couple months of school I started opening Circle Time by reading a chapter from Boyhood and Beyond by Bob Schultz, and Hans and Jaeger both really enjoy it. We didn’t finish the book yet, so we’ll pick up with the last handful of chapters when we begin again. Here’s my line-up of selections for the year:

Some days the reading will be skipped if I am pressed for time, or have a sore throat, or some other excuse. Rather than schedule the books out with specificity, we’ll read the next chapter and move on to the next book when we finish one. Just as we didn’t finish Boyhood and Beyond by the end of our school year, we might not finish these by the end of this school year. No big deal. This is a “do the next thing” category, not a “must finish this set amount” assignment.

3. Prayer (2-3 minutes)

I start by praying for our day and our attitudes and thanking God that we have this time together, then each of the children takes a turn praying, with an emphasis on thanking God for all He has provided.

4. Binder (30ish minutes)

Then we open our binders and begin our singing and memory work. I’ve written before about how I organize these and put them together. They held up all year, so I’ll be doing it the same way again.

circle time homeschool

Daily:
  • New hymn (one per term); new this year: Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, All Hail the Power of Jesus Name, All People that on Earth Do Dwell, I Waited for the Lord, Rock of Ages, It Is Well.
  • New Psalm (one per two terms); new this year: 16, 100, 20
  • New Heidelberg selections (two per two terms): Lord’s Day 2 & 3, Lord’s Day 9 & 21, Q&A 52 & 53
  • New Scripture passage. This year we’ll recite Ephesians, one chapter per term.
  • Hans’ poem (one per term): Charge of the Light Brigade, Tennyson; The Children’s Song, Kipling; To Be a Pilgrim, Bunyan; The Sluggard, Watts; Land of Counterpane, Stevenson.
  • Jaeger’s poem (one per term): A Good Play, Stevenson; Stopping By the Woods; Marching Song, Stevenson; Four Things, Van Dyke; Summer Sun, Stevenson; The Boy We Want.
  • Ilse & Knox’s poem (one per term): Happy Thought, Stevenson; Purple Cow; Whole Duty of Children; Now We Are Six, Milne; Once I Saw a Little Bird; Wise Old Owl.
  • My poem (one per term): A Litany, Donne; An Apology, Bradstreet; All the World’s a Stage, Shakespeare; Blow, Blow Thou Winter Wind, Shakespeare; Death Be Not Proud, Donne; As Spring the Winter Doth Succeed, Bradstreet.

Hans & Jaeger helped pick their poems this year. I have a poem, too, because all this memorizing and poetry is good not only for the children. And, I love Donne.

Odd/Even:

This section will be in my binder only, and we will do it by my reading a line and the children chorusing it back.

  • Creed (Apostle’s or Nicene or Lord’s Day 1); this we will actually all recite this together
  • A Proverb (I picked a handful I thought we could all use)
  • Short review Psalm or passage (ones I want the little ones not to miss)
  • Heidelberg Catechism (1-2 Q&A)
  • Children’s Catechism (10-15 Q&A per day)

This material would have been all Circle Time was (plus singing) when the older boys were beginning. Because it’s review for them (and familiar by repetition to the youngers), we’ll have a momentum to get through it that we didn’t have in the early years, and it doesn’t take as much time as it used to.

Day of the Week:

circle time organization

Each day of the week will have a different set of review, which will change each term.

  • Review hymn
  • Review Psalm
  • Review passage
  • Review hymn
  • Other review (motto or poem or catechism or another passage)
  • Review hymn

5. Calculadder Drill (3 minutes)

I think a 2-minute Calculadder drill would fit most conveniently at this point, but we’ll have to see how it actually plays out.

6. Playlist (5-8 minutes)

After Circle Time is over, I turn on a playlist with memory songs like Geography Songs, books of the Bible, Shurley grammar chants, Latin chants, history timeline songs etc. I have a different playlist for each day of the week, and the content rotates each term, too. At this point it’s all review. That plays while the kids get up, put away their binder, and move and get their wiggles out after being at the table at attention for so long. While it plays, I move laundry and straighten things up and line up what’s next.

It’s more memory material, but it feels like a break.


Previous Circle Time Posts

3 Responses

  1. Sasha
    |

    Wow you are a homeschool mom after my own heart. It seems as though all I desire to have my homeschool to look like you seem to do. Kind of like a mentor paving the way for great ideas and encouragement. Thank you! I just finished re-reading Educating the WholeHearted Child for some reminding of what I want for my kids. I was reminded that it is all about reaching the heart of our children . Which means some self evaluations on my own spiritual walk. I need to “clean house” per say of my own heart to prepare to be a model. I can’t expect them to do anything if I don’t first do it myself. Anyways keep up the updates because they are so inspirational!!!

  2. Amber
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    Thanks for your comment, Mystie – and glad to read that these binders are working so well for you and your kids! I’m looking forward to implementing them myself. I have been doing one binder that I held, but I think this will be better.

  3. Faith
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    Thanks for this post. We started last term using a memory work binder but I hadn’t figured out how review would work out for us. This post has given me an idea of how to make it work for my family.