Thursday, September 12, 2013

Morning Tea-Time Plans: Fall 2013

One thing that has sort of eased its way into our schedule over the past few months, and that I think is now here to stay, is Circle Time.   I first heard of the concept from Kendra at Preschoolers and Peace back when my oldest was just a preschooler.   More recently I have been inspired by Brandy and Cindy and their take on Circle Time. 
For us, ‘Circle Time’ has taken the form of a Morning Tea-Time, breaking up the rest of our school time into two blocks.  I make a little pot of some lovely, fruity flavor of herbal tea (I add a little cold water to the cups of my littles to cool it off faster and a bit of honey as well) or sometimes hot chocolate, we break out a packet of ordinary store-bought cookies (if tea-time depended on me baking we’d never have it), the kids make themselves cozy spots on the couch and chairs with their pillows and blankets if they want, and we spend some time reading together.  My primary student is 7.5 year old Michelle, but this is the time of the morning when I strive to include my two preschoolers as well (James age 5 and Elizabeth age 3-1/2).   While they certainly don’t ‘connect’ with the material we are covering to the same degree that Michelle does, they do connect with more than you might think.  They also think it is special to be included in ‘tea time’, and at the same time they are being trained in attention (or at least non-disruption!) and slowly eased into the expectations that will be placed on them as they join the ranks of ‘official students’ in our homeschool over the next couple of years.
One of last week's tea trays: 3 hot chocolates for kids, 1 Fruits Rouges flavour herbal tea for mom, and a couple of packets of Parle-G biscuits.  (Parle-G biscuits are ubiquitous here and taste a bit like graham crackers.)

Anyhow, this is what is on our Tea-Time schedule for this fall term:
Daily Nature Notes: We quickly make notes in our family nature notebook about anything interesting we may have noticed recently – new flowers or birds, weather, or whatever.  This gives us a month-by-month record, as well as giving us a place to record things we may want to look up or study more in depth later on.  (I’m hoping to do another post soon on how our nature study time has been working this year.)
Poetry:  We read a poem or two from our current poetry book (right now A Child’s Own Book of Verse, Volume 2) and recite our current memory poem (as well as reciting an review memory poem or two.)
Current Events: We subscribe to God’s World News magazine (specifically Early Edition for first and second graders).  Each day we read an article, find places on the map, and possibly talk about it a little bit if it sparks a connection or particular interest.
French: Right now we are using a very simple Bible story book: Ma première Bible en images.  We read the short story, talk about new vocabulary, sometimes act it out or find the objects mentioned in the picture.   Each story ends with a simple question, which I will ask and see if they can answer.  (They aren’t anywhere near ready to narrate something in French yet, although that would be the goal!)   This is one area I’d like to expand a bit on (songs, conversation), but that part of my planning didn’t come together in time for this term so it’s a goal for next.
Once a Week Items: In addition to the above items that we do daily, we also do one of the following each day:
            Natural History or Geography Read-Aloud: currently Find the Constellations by HA Rey.  The intention for this slot is that it will be an opportunity to add in those “extra” books and topics that I want to cover somehow, but aren’t included in the AO schedules.
            Pilgrim’s Progress: Inspired by Brandy’s rotation schedule, since this is a staple AO Years 2 and 3.   We are currently reading an illustrated, abridged version  (Dangerous Journey) which I added to AO Year 1 for Michelle since we’d already read Aesop’s Fables.   All three kids have been enjoying it, though, so I decided to keep it in our group time.  When we’re done with this, we will proceed through Little Pilgrim’s Progress and then on through the real thing just as Brandy described.
            Artist Study: See AO’s Artist Study info here.   We are currently a little bit behind the ‘official’ rotation, and are studying Georges Seurat this term.
            Composer Study: We listen to our current composer, Bach, during lunch and chore time, but during this slot we might take the time to go a little deeper – reading a biography, talking about the background of a certain piece, listening to a Classics for Kids radio program.  (Read more about Composer Study here.  We aren’t really making an effort to follow AO’s Composer Study rotation, however – I’m choosing my own based on the resources I already have available to me. Once upon a time, I WAS a music major…)
            Shakespeare:  Shakespeare retellings are another staple of AO Years 1-3.   All three of my children have enjoyed the couple of selections we have read so far, so I decided to keep this in our group reading time also.   We are currently working through Nesbit’s Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare, breaking each story up over 2-3 weeks.   (I could say more, but perhaps that’s another post in the making?)
We don’t do our Bible related things (Scripture memory, Bible reading, catechism, hymns) during this time, since we do those at the breakfast table.  Altogether, this tea-time takes us 30-40 minutes and is one of the things that I love most about homeschooling.    I would miss this cuddle-up-and-sharing time if my kids were gone at school all day!  (And when was the last time that you visited a school that included morning tea-time as part of the classroom line up?)
Anyone else do Circle Time?  I’d love to see how you do it too!

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