Friday, July 11, 2014

From Type A to Scholé: Morning Meeting Makeover

Disclaimer: I have been extremely hesitant to write the next two posts in this series because I will be sharing exactly what scholé looks like in our home. I hesitate because I do NOT want anyone to try to copy our homeschool. What makes leisure work in our home will probably be completely different in yours. I chose to share, though, because reading other blogs that describe teaching from rest help me determine what works for me. Hopefully the next two posts in this series will inspire you to create leisure and rest in a way that works for your family. I write this in the hope that if you try to implement a Morning Meeting time and it fails, be willing to tweak it until it works for you.  

Book concept Landscape of lake in mist with sun glow at sunrise

The first area of our homeschool I wanted to attack with my new philosophy was our Morning Meeting time. There was only one problem: we didn’t have a Morning Meeting time. At one point we had done a Circle Time, but I’d slowly dropped it as Chipette got older. However, one of the things I kept seeing repeatedly in  scholé homeschools was their use of a Morning Meeting time. Cindy Rollins and her Morning Time posts were my biggest inspiration, especially her 31 Days to Morning Time series. Her series really helped me solidify what I wanted Morning Meeting to be and how to gradually implement it {31 days is NOT a drastic change!}. As I read through Cindy’s writings, I needed to answer a few questions for myself about creating a Morning Meeting time.

What was my purpose?

Basically it boiled down to wanting to start the day off right. I wanted truth, beauty, goodness, and wisdom to be the first things we feasted on every day. Morning Meeting would hopefully provide a way for me and the girls to center our minds, to discuss, and to focus our day. As a Charlotte Mason inspired homeschooler it also provided me a way to cover those “little” subjects that seem so often to be pushed aside, such as art and music appreciation, Shakespeare, poetry, etc. So my purpose for Morning Meeting was to bring truth, beauty, goodness, and wisdom to our day through Charlotte Mason inspired topics.

What would I like to cover?

At this point I took up pen and paper to write down items I wanted to include during Morning Meeting. I thought of Charlotte Mason, Cindy’s blog, and our family culture. Eventually I had quite a long list without any idea how to make it all work or if it would work! On my list I had Bible reading, hymn singing, Shakespeare, art and music appreciation, mythology, memory work, classic literature, Plutarch, content subject reading, character study, and poetry. Okay, that list would take us all day to complete, not to mention I wasn’t even sure what I wanted to do with each of those areas. In other words, I had a purpose, I had a list, and I had NO idea how to make it work!

What will work logistically?

It’s all well and good to have wonderful intentions, but if you can’t complete the plan, then it’s worthless. I decided to jump in with both feet and figure it out as I go along since I’ve learned that what looks good on paper with my crew explodes into a fiery ball of good intentions once I try to use it. I wasn’t sure 1) how my kids would respond to each subject and 2) how long it would take.

1) How my kids would respond.  Surprisingly, my girls enjoyed all of the subjects on my list. Chipette doesn’t like memory work (and never will!), but Magpie surprised me the most by really getting into Shakespeare and Plutarch. Because of their enjoyment none of the subjects were dropped, but that brought other problems…

2) How long it would take. While they enjoyed the content, the length of Morning Meeting was entirely too long for them (and me!). We were hitting two hours or going over consistently, so I began to play with rotating subjects by day, week, and term. As I began to whittle down the amount of content, the girls really began to enjoy Morning Meeting. After about a month of tweaking I finalized our Morning Meeting routine. In all our new schedule takes about one to one and a half hours depending upon how much discussion takes place.

How do I deal with challenges?

While I don’t think that having a Morning Meeting is a necessity to homeschool or even to a scholé-based homeschool, I do recognize that there are probably quite a few people that would like to try a morning time with their family, but they have concerns. I wanted to address some common problems that come up when trying to begin a consistent Morning Meeting.

I have babies, toddlers, and/or early elementary kids (Pre-K-2) and there is NO way that I could do this! 

I currently  have a couple of children that fit into these parameters, so I totally understand the problem with trying to get everyone to sit and listen when there are babies, toddlers and short attention spans around. If your oldest child is 8 or younger, then your morning time should NOT be for a long period of time. I would say about 30 minutes at the most. When I did Circle Time with my girls, they were in second grade and preschool, but I had a toddler running around as well. He enjoyed all of the singing and board work as much as they did. It was a very active time with a lot of moving around and a small part of sitting and listening. Option number two, if you have children that are old enough (upper elementary and up), is to let your older children do most of the reading while you tend to babies and toddlers. Option number three is to make your morning time an all day experience by breaking it up into 20 minute bits all day long (morning, afternoon, and evening) so that there is never a super long time period of stillness. Sometime I make use of this option if we’re late getting our day started and I need to squeeze Morning Meeting in using a more flexible schedule. And of course, there will be days that you will not be able to do a morning time because life happens. That’s okay too. Personally I shoot for doing Morning Meeting 3 out of the 5 school days; that’s good enough for me. Magpie is an odd first grader in that she will sit and listen for long periods of time as long as she has something else to do (see the next point), but Monkey is a super active 4-year old boy so he plays in his room for most of Morning Meeting.

My kids would not sit for an hour listening to books!

Guess what? Mine won’t either! One of the things I quickly discovered was that I needed something for them to do while I was reading. While some parts of our Morning Meeting require a more interactive approach, quite a bit of it is listening and discussing. I decided to make a Busy Hands Basket filled with puzzles, tangrams, coloring books, felt boards, etc. for the girls to use only during Morning Meeting. It instantly turned our time into a much more enjoyable experience. Again if you have young children, though, see above.

My kids would HATE most of the stuff that you do during Morning Meeting. Plutarch, Shakespeare, and poetry? Get real!

When I started our morning time I firmly expected to drop Plutarch. I thought there was no way that either of my girls would want to listen to it, but they totally surprised me. They really enjoy it. However, if they hadn’t, I would have dropped it from the schedule and tried again next year. I knew that Chipette would like Shakespeare since we’ve been studying his plays for a while, so if Magpie had been resistant I would have moved Shakespeare to the end of the schedule and let her leave before Chipette and I continued. In fact, Cindy recommends doing this if you have a large age span with your children; focus during the first half of morning time on the younger children, then let them leave and continue morning time with the older children. I’m sure I’ll have to adopt this approach next year as we start folding Monkey into our Morning Meeting.  Sometimes he sits with us, but he knows that he has to do quiet activities or I’ll make him leave. Another thing to remember is this is YOUR morning time. If you don’t want to study those things, then don’t! Create a morning time that is reflective of your family’s interests and educational goals.

If you are interested in starting a Morning Meeting time, then start small with only a few subjects. Slowly add one or two more. I kept a timer on my phone while we did Morning Meeting for those first couple of weeks to see exactly how long it was taking us (that’s how I knew that it was running too long!), so I slowly played with things until I got it like I wanted it. I still set a timer for a hour and a half so that our time still doesn’t get away from us. Once the timer goes off, I might wrap something up if we aren’t finished, but I stop where we are at on our list. Remember this is supposed to be leisurely not a stress-inducing exercise. Also, if it’s important to you, then don’t stop. My kids complained and complained about Morning Meeting for the first few weeks, but I basically told them that Morning Meeting was here to stay. Now they love it, and if I miss a day they are quick to remind me, “But we haven’t done Morning Meeting yet!” Just what I wanted, children who are eager for truth, beauty, goodness, and wisdom.

Check out the rest of my From Type A to Scholé series: Exorcising School, Seek and You Will NOT Find,  and Starting with the Woman in the Mirror.

From Type A To Schole Series

Up next in the series, how I deal with content subjects without stressing out. It’s all in the scheduling and the approach, folks!

The winds of change are blowing strong in the tree house,

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Morning Meeting Resources for 2014

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I wanted to share exactly what we’re using for our Morning Meeting time this school year with a fourth grader and a first grader. I decided to introduce a Morning Meeting this year {find out why I made this decision in this post} that would focus our minds for the school day. As you can see below our Morning Meeting is divided into five headings: truth, wisdom, beauty and goodness, focus, and inspiration. These categories reference the new scholé approach of our homeschool.

Morning Meeting Resources for 2014

Items marked with an asterisk are what we do on Monday. Since it is our shortened school day, we also have a shortened Morning Meeting on that day. Here’s what we’re using this year and how we’re using it:

Morning Meeting Schedule

Truth:

Hymn*: Hymns for a Kid's Heart, Vol. 1

I use the free sheet music that you can print off here, but you can also purchase a book version that will give the history of the hymn and the accompanying CD will have children singing the hymns. We learn one or two verses each week of each song until we know the entire thing.

Prayer*: One of us will pray for the upcoming school day, people on our prayer list, or anything else that they would like.

Bible Reading*: Passage for the day from Bible Study Guide for All Ages or Wisdom and the Millers: Proverbs for Children

On Monday we read Wisdom and the Millers: Proverbs for Children and the corresponding verses from Proverbs. Tuesday through Friday we read whatever chapter our Bible lesson from Bible Study Guide for All Ages will cover later that day. I do it this way because we do a lesson from Bible Study Guide only Tuesday through Friday, so on Monday I wanted something else to read that was Bible-based, but a bit different. The Millers book fit the bill perfectly; my kids LOVE this book!

Bible Memory Work*: I’m not really using a source for this right now other than the fact that Heart of Dakota’s Preparing guide had students memorizing passages from the book of Psalms so we just continued with that even though Chipette is no longer using the guide. I plan on being more intentional about what we’re memorizing next year. I’m seriously considering using one of the Simply Charlotte Mason verse packs.

Wisdom:

Timeline: This is leftover from our brief foray into Classical Conversations a few years ago so I’m using the old timeline chant. We take it a LOT more slowly than CC did since we have more weeks to learn it.

Skip Counting: Another hold over from Classical Conversations. We use their skip counting songs to memorize skip counting by 2’s through 12’s. I also use these skip counting charts for a visual while we sing the song.

History Reading*: The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child: Volumes 1-3 (in volume 2 and 3 only the topics that are not about American history) and The American Story: 100 True Tales from American History

Last year I wrote about how I felt our history study was lacking and my new approach to change it. While some of my thoughts and directions have changed one thing hasn’t: reading through a world history and American history spine every year. For the first 27 weeks, we read one chapter of Story of the World every school day and the last 9 weeks we read two chapters from The American Story each day. This reading doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with our history studies, but to keep a running narrative in their head of events.

Beauty and Goodness:

Art or Music Appreciation: Lesson plans for Year One from A Mind in the Light blog 

These lesson plans are fun, simple, and easy to do. Technically they are written for a first grader, but Chipette gets just as much out of them as Magpie.

Poetry Reading and Memory Work: Poetry for Young People: William Blake, Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson, Where the Sidewalk Ends: Poems and Drawings, and Poetry for the Grammar Stage 

I love the Poetry for Young People series. The notes that go with the poems help you understand why the author wrote it, the meaning behind it, and footnotes help you explain vocabulary. We read out of the Poetry for Young People books twice a week and the other two days we read our funny poetry book Where the Sidewalk Ends. My kids adore Shel Silverstein! This is the third of his poetry books we’ve read. I use Poetry for the Grammar Stage for memorization ideas along with different poetry lists I find online. We don’t necessarily memorize the poems we are reading, although I will have Chipette memorize some Emily Dickinson. Also, each girl has her own poem to commit to memory. They do not memorize the same piece.

Art/ Music Reading (Monday)*: Various books that tie into our art/music appreciation study or that are suggested to read in the lesson plans above. We especially love Mike Venezia’s two series: Getting to Know the World's Greatest Composers and Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists.

Shakespeare/Character or Plutarch/Nature for six weeks, then switch (Tuesday-Friday): For six weeks at a time we read from Shakespeare twice a week and a character training book twice a week, and then the next six weeks we read from Plutarch twice a week and a nature book twice a week. We do three of these twelve week rotations each year. I’ll discuss what we’re using for each subject below.

Shakespeare: I’m loosely following Ambleside Online’s Shakespeare schedule so this year we’re studying Twelfth Night, Macbeth, and As You Like It. For Twelfth Night and William Shakespeare's Macbeth we read through Bruce Coville’s picture books, and for As You Like It, I read from Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare . When we are in a six week rotation of studying Shakespeare, I also use How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare to work on memorizing passages from the play instead of doing poetry memorization during that time. The girls are getting ready to act out a scene from Twelfth Night very soon. I also try to watch a kid friendly version of the play at some point as well.

Character: We’ve been reading through The Children's Book of Virtues this year. I grabbed this mainly because I already owned it, but the kids have really been enjoying it. The discussions that some of the stories have started have been wonderful!

Plutarch: Again Ambleside Online to the rescue! I’ve been using their Plutarch schedule and their study guides by Anne White to help me read through and discuss Plutarch with the kids. Believe it or not, they love reading Plutarch. The only thing that makes things a little bit difficult is that I use Our Young Folks' Plutarch (Yesterday's Classics) so the page numbers don’t line up exactly with the study guide, but it’s been easy enough to adapt.

Nature: Another off my personal shelves choice, but these books are wonderful. We are reading through Christian Liberty Nature Reader Book 3 . Great books that give a glimpse at nature through a very story-like manner. I love the comprehension question at the end of each chapter. It makes narration a breeze! 

Focus:

Rotates weekly between content subjects: Part of my new approach to homeschooling has been to teach the content subjects a little differently. We rotate out what we study every week: week one is history, week two is geography, week three is science, and week four is interest led learning. Since we’ve already done one of these rotations I can tell you what we used for each week.

History Week: We were studying ancient Egypt so we read Pyramid by David Macaulay for two days and Pharaoh's Boat by David Weitzman for two days.

Geography Week: I still own my set of Childcraft Encyclopedias from when I was a girl, so I pulled Places to Know: Childcraft #10: The How and Why Library from the collection, and we read through it during geography week. It makes a great spine and the blurbs about famous places are short. I try to read one section over the course of the week which usually means two or three short entries every day. This book single-handedly inspired my love of travel and geography when I was a child!

Science Week: This is probably the easiest week of all since the spine for our science program is a living book anyway. We read the appropriate section of our Sassafras Science book each day. I usually try to cover two chapters in one week.

Interest Led Week: For interest led week Chipette wanted to learn about mermaids and Magpie couldn’t decide so I helped her choose fairy tales as her study. For this week I followed Chipette’s lead, and we read four stories from Mermaid Tales from Around the World. Of course, we had to read the other stories in the collection too since they liked it so much, but we did that at bedtime or Lit for Lunch. 

Inspiration:

Tales/myths*: Tales of Ancient Egypt , D'Aulaires' Book of Greek Myths, and D'Aulaires' Book of Norse Myths

I love mythology and have happily passed on that love to Chipette, so this year was the year of myths and we’ve loved it.

Don’t let this huge list and all of these resources overwhelm you! I rotate things out and plan so that we get through most of these resources in a year. Having a rich and full Morning Meeting has allowed me to be more relaxed about our afternoon work on the content subjects. Morning Meeting has become a requested thing in our house, so I’m glad we started it back this year.

Meeting in the morning is the best way to start the day in the tree house,

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