Thursday, August 27, 2015

Morning Time and Group Studies - Fall 2015

So now we come down to the REAL nitty gritty: curriculum choices we've made for this year.  You can see where each of these segments fit in to our daily routine here and some of the rationale behind our choices in the Reflections on Relationship series (index here).

Our Morning Time is fairly pared back this year from previous years.  We have moved poetry and memory work to each child's individual time with Mom as we found that this works best for our family dynamics. We've also dropped French almost entirely for now.  French studies have never gone smoothly for us, I think at least in part because it's been a little bit of an emotionally-charged, feeling-the-pressure sort of situation since we "have to learn it because we live in French-speaking Africa" rather than a delight or particular interest of anyone involved.  So while we are away from Africa, we're taking a break from French too.  We'll re-evaluate that plan when we have a better idea of our future plans.  So far, this simplified Morning Time is going really well.  I had planned this to take up to 45 minutes, 15 minutes on each topic, but very often we finish in less than that (which helps especially on those mornings that we start a bit late).  Michelle and James are expected to listen and participate fully (by narrating), Elizabeth is required to sit with us and listen but not to narrate unless she wants to.

Devotional: Reading from Starr Meade's Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds (based on the Heidelberg Catechism), Prayer, and singing a Psalm (a fairly new practice for us - we are using the Book of Psalms for Worship as a resource) 

Read-Aloud: We read aloud from one of the following each day, rotating through them on a loop:

Parables from Nature (Gatty) - currently finishing up the chapters scheduled in Year 3, then we'll cycle back through Years 1 and 2 again for the sake of the younger children.  I don't think it will do Michelle any harm to hear them again since they are quite rich and deep.  Her experience of them at age 10 will be quite different than it was at age 7.

One Small Square: Pond (Silver) - with By Pond and River (Buckley) as a follow up when we finish this.  We are doing a pond study as our nature study focus this semester.

The Avion my Uncle Flew (Fisher) - This is our nod to French for this year.  It is a code-switching story that I have heard recommended repeatedly.

Hans Christian Andersen's Fairy Tales - from the Year 2 free reads.  I always like to include a fairy tale selection in our group read-alouds.

Ordinarily I would include Tales from Shakespeare (Lamb) in this rotation too, but they are doing Shakespeare at their co-op this year, so I left it out.

Activity: Again, we rotate through one of these each day on a looping schedule:
Outside of our Morning Time, we also do certain activities like Nature Study and Handicrafts as a group, usually in the afternoons.  A nature outing and time for journaling is scheduled in for Friday afternoon.  Handicraft projects tend to be tackled a little more loosely - I will perhaps introduce new handicrafts on a free afternoon or weekend, and then we'll just work at them here and there as we have time available.   We have the Artistic Pursuits Elementary 4-5 curriculum on hand for drawing instruction too, and did do (and enjoy) a few lessons over the summer, but they are also doing a drawing class at our co-op this year....So we'll see how much we use that.  It's available for anyone who would like to use it, but it won't be required since they are getting other drawing instruction elsewhere.

Our evening family time is also done as a group and is our primary Bible instruction time (we don't follow the Ambleside Bible suggestions as we've always preferred to do this as a group).   We sing a hymn, read, narrate, and discuss a short passage from the Bible (currently going through the Old Testament using Marty Machowski's Long Story Short) and pray.  We follow this up with a family literature read aloud, usually pulled from the Ambleside Online Free Reading suggestions.

What does your Morning Time Look like?  What other studies do you pursue as a group?


  1. Right now our morning time includes some of these each day:
    A chapter of our current literature read aloud. Peter Pan right now.
    A hymn we are learning.
    Picture Study - Edmund Dulac this semester, specifically his illustrations of Hans Christian Anderson's Fairy Tales.
    Reading from one of HCA's fairy tales.
    The Story of the Orchestra book/CD - this semester we're enjoying this book and most of the time there is a cd track to listen to as well. It goes through musical periods, composers, and then the instrument families of the orchestra.

    We have yet to add in to morning time:
    scripture memory

  2. I'm intrigued by your addition of Psalm singing, as this is something I have been considering as well for our family. How is that going? How do you like the resource you linked to?

    I also love the idea of adding in HCA fairy tales. Will promptly be adding that in.

    I divide our Morning Time into Studies in Truth, Studies in Goodness and Studies in Beauty. We do one-two things from each category daily. Truth involves bible readings, catechism learning, verse memorization and devotional reading. Beauty involves poetry (daily), Nature Study (review of bird calls, learning about specific trees), Shakespeare, Picture Study, and Music Study. Goodness thus far incorporates Geography concepts, health topics and citizenship. We also include mental math and foreign language into MT as well. Ours takes place over breakfast so that Mama feels something is getting accomplished while the boys linger and take their time.:)

    1. I LOVE your Goodness, Truth, Beauty categories Dawn. Tucking that away for the next time we need to reorganize what we do around here.

      We are really loving the Psalm singing (or the "Psalm-Songs' as my kids call them. I bought that resource on Jeanne's recommendation (she goes to a Psalm-singing church). I like that it came with CDs so we have been able to figure out the tunes very easily - I CAN sight read or could pick the melody out on the piano if I had one, but we don't and listening to the CD is easier than my painstakingly slow sight-reading. :) We learned several last spring - just picked one of the CDs and started singing through it, staying with each new one several weeks before moving on, as we do with hymns. We kind of dropped it with the craziness of our transition back to the States, so are easing back into in now that we are getting back into a school routine by reviewing the ones we know to start - one each week - when we've worked back through all those, we'll start picking new ones again. Straight memory work has sometimes been stressful for my kiddos (although way better now that I've separated them), so I love that this is giving them more Scripture in a beautiful and lower-pressure way.

    2. Thanks so much for the review, Jen. I am adding this to my wish list. I have been thinking about it for nearly a year and seeing your positive review - endorsed by Jeanne - is enough to put me over the edge. When life settles down a bit I'm in!!

    3. Dawn, I, too, love your categories. we haven't started school yet (next week) but I think I will present our Morning Time readings and activities under those categories. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Have been enjoying this series Jen! Our Morning Time is called Circle Time ;) very creative, right? We do it in the afternoon actually, after finishing our morning work. I love how Dawn has divided it! Our CT routine goes like this: we pray, we sing the hymn we are learning, we read the scriptures, we work on our memory verse and review one we already learned, we do calendar time, we do poetry time and learn a new poem (I read from both year 4 and 1), we work on Spanish, we sing our folk song, we then read for a while (a also follow a loop schedule of 1. Biographies 2. science (with experiments) 3 free read. After that we do drawing and then we do one or two of the riches (nature journal, science topic for the term, composer study, picture study, geography, handicrafts). Uff! It does sound like a lot but it goes pretty quickly and it's fun to do it as a family :)

  4. I like how you have yours laid out, with the loop schedules. Our morning routine is pretty much a mix of group lessons and housekeeping :-)

    Over breakfast we read the Bible, do our memory verse, sing our hymn and pray...then do our clean-up and morning chores.

    We come back together to say our CM motto (and discuss points of I am, I can, I ought, I will where applicable to the morning attitudes that may have presented themselves ;-)) We also go over our calendar in English/Spanish and sing the folksong or do map drill, math drill, then two days a week tackle one zone of the house to be cleaned! After that, our individual readings begin with some intermissions here and there for other group work.

    I don't know. At this point, there seems to be a good ebb and flow rhythm to the schedule with the individual lessons and group work all intermingled. It seems to keep minds energized and alert, and as I am scheduling lessons based on time this term now, it doesn't seem to really matter if we get group work done all at once or not.

  5. Oh yay...look at all these comments. I love getting a little peek into all of your homes and seeing how it works for you these days. Thank you for stopping by, all of you lovely ladies.

  6. I have all teens (well, I will in 4 months) so our MT looks a bit different and it lasts about 2 hours. Every year MT looks different which is why I love it so much, it reflects the nature of my kids and myself. We start out with Bible reading, reading 50 Women All Christians Should Know, scripture memorization, poetry memorization. New this year is inserting some sort of gymnastics into our MT courtesy of The Traditional Liberal Arts. This might look like jumping on the trampoline, running around the yard, yoga, pilates, etc.

    We, then, come back together for our readings. Faerie Queene is every day and the rest are on a loop schedule: What is Justice? English Literature for Boys and Girls, How to Read A Book, and a Francis Bacon essay when applicable. We have a break with a card game (we are a game family) and then come back together for our family read aloud.

    Depending on the time, I then try to do some grammar--diagramming a sentence as a family and writing--we are using Lost Tools of Writing for my oldest but I like to do the 'should' questions and thinking part of the program as a family. We wrap it all up by singing the doxology.

    I was planning on doing picture study, composer study, the afternoons but I don't think that is going to work so I might just make Fridays a special MT for those extras.