Time for planning another school year!
And we all know planning is the best part. Eventually we have to get down to business and work the plan, but this is the time of year we get to dream and imagine a school day where no one argues, where everyone starts their letters from the top, and where naps are regular.
Ha. OK, so, then we have to come back to reality and recognize that our plans are only going to work out halfway decently if we take into account what real life is like. Hence, the homeschool audit.
I think Morning Time no longer needs any real introduction or explanation – it’s been catching on like wild fire! It makes me so happy. You can find out more information about Morning Time and how we do it on my Morning Time Resources page.
You can also sign up below to receive the template I use to plan out our Memory Work Binders. Below the sign-up is this year’s version.
The color-coding there is how I keep track of where I am in the process as I put it all together. All the initial plans go in black. As I find and print the poem or passage or hymn, I turn the text purple. If a poem is one already in our collection (i.e. a younger child now has a poem that an older child did years ago – I keep all our old ones), then I color it orange to remind myself I don’t have to print that one. I’ll turn those purple after I locate them.
“Verbatim” there in the catechism section is the nickname our pastor has given the selections from the Heidelberg that our consistory recommends for families to memorize. So, each term we’ll alternate between reviewing the Heidelberg selections we know and the Children’s Catechism.
I am changing up our binder organization this year. Every year for the last 5 years I get all the pages set up for all 6 terms during the summer. This is necessary because there’s no way I’d go find new poems, print them, get them into page protectors and sort through pages during Christmas break or even our February school break. It just wouldn’t happen.
So I spend a week or two in the summer, listening to an audio book and printing pages, inserting sheets into page protectors, and organizing piles so they are grab-and-go during the year. Then it only takes me about 30 minutes to change out the pages between terms (and, honestly, I usually do it on Monday morning of the new term).
Well, last summer it was an extraordinarily tedious amount of pulling pages out of page protectors, making new combinations, and ensuring I had 5 exact replica piles of every weekday for every term. It was a little ridiculous. Near the end, Matt helped me and after about 5 minutes he looked at me and said, “Seriously? This is the best way to do this?” My answer was that it can’t be, there must be a simpler way, because I didn’t ever want to do that again.
So, here is the new simplified version:
- Instead of day-of-the-week tabs, we have “memory type” tabs: there is still daily, but then we have these tabs with past material to review (and because we’ve been doing this for 8 years, we have a lot of review):
- Instead of doing every page behind a certain day-of-the-week tab, then (which was easier for younger kids to keep up with), we’ll be doing one page from each tab, using a flag to keep track of which page we’re on. All the Proverbs and Psalms we’ve learned to date are in everyone’s binder, and those won’t change all year. The hymns, passages, and catechism sections will be divided into two halves, and we’ll switch back-and-forth every term.
- In addition to the daily tab, there will be a “closing” tab with our creed, a closing hymn (the same one every day for a term), and a benediction (only in my binder, because I am the one who recites that – then they all say Amen – and I have 5 I will loop).
- I’m keeping the Psalm 119 sections in my binder and will continue to open our Morning Time by reading a section before we pray. That helps turn our attention and it also helps inform my prayer, which comes immediately after. Those sections are in my binder just in front of the daily tab.
- The index-card-a-day plan last year lasted the first two terms, but the kids do love to color during Morning Time. This year I am getting each one a coloring book that will be Morning-Time only. They can have them as long as they are still paying attention and reciting when called upon. If they start holding up the flow because they’re coloring and not paying attention, then they lose that privilege.
I also created a “procedure chart” after thinking through the best flow. We’ll try it out, anyway, and then adjust based on how things actually play out. However, we’ve been doing this long enough, and this procedure has only minor adjustments from last year’s, so I’m pretty confident it will work. That confidence comes with time and experience and a willingness to experiment and change things up when they don’t work.
Our morning rhythm is breakfast – chores – school. Because the time chores takes varies amongst the 5 children, anyone who finishes before we’re all ready can get started on his clipboard checklist (no playing or goofing off before work is done – including school – this policy is how I’ve eliminated dawdling, at least so far – my current too-bright-for-his-own-good 6-year-old will need a baptism-by-fire in that policy this year).
Sometime between 8-8:45, when the time seems right and I’ve girded up the loins of my mind (i.e. had a second cup of coffee), I turn on an Andrew Peterson song, “Little Boy Heart Alive” and the guitar riffs playing over the house speakers let everyone know, wherever they are, that they have 4 minutes to wrap up and be at the table with their binder and their crayons.
Another change I’m making to our routine this year is that when we all go around the table praying, I will give everyone a prompt or two instead of just letting them drift into a rote prayer. I am putting together something like Brandy’s Prayer Box and for the same reasons she outlines in her post.
We actually only made it through 1/3 of Dawn’s study of Charlotte Mason’s motto last year, and I do love it, so we’ll give it another go this year. (It’s free. Download it. It’s amazing.)
I am estimating that this Morning Time routine will be in the 30 minute range once we get in the swing of it, which is a little shorter than last year (last year it was about 40 minutes), but it’s concentrated goodness and I am working hard this year to make sure all our work can be done in the morning and that we have afternoon time reserved for reading.
When I asked each child in the spring what their favorite part of school was, half of them said Morning Time. That just made me absolutely happy, because I think it’s truly the most important thing we do. It is how we build a Christ-centered home culture and how I pray their hearts will be shaped by Scripture. Because of Morning Time they know many of the songs we sing in church by heart. Because of Morning Time they think knowing poetry is normal and enjoyable. Because of Morning Time we orient our minds and attitudes heavenward first thing in the morning, before the cares and the math tears weigh us down.
Maybe, by next spring, each of my children will call Morning Time their favorite part of the school day. That is my goal.[convertkit form=4879336]