Friday

Homeschool Mom Confessions Guest Post

I’m so excited to be posting today over at The Mommy Mess!!! I’m participating in Adrienne’s Homeschool Mom Confessions series which is so good and helps all of us realize that homeschooling is has it’s difficult spots for all of us.

As a former teacher and with a degree in education I tend to receive similar comments from people who find out I homeschool, “Oh, well, homeschooling is easy for you then.”

But here’s my confession:

Cute teacher with chalk in front of blackboard, close-up of young professor wit copyspace

Don’t get me wrong. I highly esteem teachers. They have one of the most difficult jobs on the planet and my teaching experience has definitely made me comfortable with a classroom of children. When you start trying to compare a classroom and homeschool,though, it is like comparing apples and oranges.

To finish reading the rest of my confession just click on the picture above.

Confession is good for the soul in the tree house,

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Wednesday

Pearson Homeschool Interactive Science Curriculum Review

I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review. I am being compensated for my time to use and review the product. All opinions expressed in this post are my own. See full legal disclosure here.

Every homeschool parent has their kryptonite. That one subject you either don’t feel qualified to teach or you don’t enjoy teaching. Science fits under both categories for me. Needless to say I jumped on this opportunity to review Pearson Homeschool Interactive Science curriculum like a duck on a June bug!

Pearson Homeschool Science

The Facts

Grade: First (up to fifth grade is available)

Format: Consumable workbook/textbook hybrid with an online Teacher’s Manual

Length: 326 pages containing 9 chapters and an average of 5 lessons per chapter.

Topics Covered: Science, Engineering, and Technology, Life Science, Earth Science, and Physical Science

Religious Perspective: Secular

 

My Favorite Things

The Colorful Pages: I’ve seen my fair share of workbooks, but this one is visually stunning. Sophia loved the pictures and just looking through it for fun. It really makes the science come alive.

The Writing Spaces: I loved the three line writing spaces. It was perfect for Sophia who is still working on getting her letter formation correct.

Pearson Interactive Science

The Variety of Topics: I know that most homeschoolers tend to stick in one branch of science for the entire year, but I really enjoyed the variety of topics covered in the book. It helped keep science fresh and interesting instead of feeling bogged down.

The Vocabulary Cards: I really liked that these were in the workbook ready to be cut out. It really helped with Sophia’s retention of the science topics being discussed. They even have suggested games in the book that you can play with the vocabulary cards.

Pearson Interactive Science Vocabulary Cards

What I Tweaked

By nature I’m never content with programs the way they are written, so of course I had to add in some things to make Pearson Interactive Science the way I wanted it to be. Basically that meant adding in books and videos on the topics we were learning about. I really tried to do one lesson a week and spend the rest of the week using books and videos to dive deeper in to the subject. This worked really well for us and added some depth to the program.

 

What Didn’t Work Well

The Online Teacher’s Manual: This was not the fault of Pearson Homeschool, but more my lack of modern technology. I only have a desktop computer which is located in the kitchen so it was a hassle to look up the proper instructions in the kitchen and go back to the dining room to teach. I finally just had Sophia sit next to me at my computer desk as we went through the lesson together. If I’d had a tablet or laptop, this would not have been an issue since the teacher’s manual was very easy to navigate.

Some of the Experiments: Most of the time the experiments were simple and easy to complete, but some of them assumed that you had a classroom of science equipment that I simply don’t have or some odd things I needed to collect. It was no problem to either substitute something or skip the experiment/demonstration. I will say that there are quite a few experiments in each chapter so it is definitely a plus for kids who enjoy hand-on science.

 

Final Assessment and a Discount

Overall I was quite impressed with Pearson Homeschool Interactive First Grade Science Curriculum. The material is presented on the correct level for the grade intended, bright colorful workbook, lots of hands-on activities, and good discussion prompts for the teacher to use with the student. I feel that this product is great for homeschool parents like me who have a difficult time knowing what to teach about science and actually getting it done! This program makes it super easy without leaving you overwhelmed. Check out the other grades in the Interactive Science curriculum: Kindergarten, Second Grade, Third Grade, Fourth Grade, and Fifth Grade.

Through September, Pearson Homeschool is offering a special discount of 25% off using the code BLG25 on all of their homeschool products including: enVision Math, myWorld Social Studies, MCP Plaid Phonics, and Interactive Science.

Finding simple solutions to science stress in the tree house,

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Our Homeschool Curriculum, Plans, and Schedules for 2015

{This post contains affiliate links of items that I have personally used and enjoyed. Thank you for supporting this blog by purchasing through my links. See full disclosure policy here.}

We “officially” start a new school year in January since we school by the calendar year, but with everyone sharing what they are using for the upcoming school year, I wanted to unveil my plans for, hopefully, what will be a year of restful teaching and leisurely learning.

Our Homeschool Curriculum 2015

I am organizing our school time into four blocks this year, Morning Meeting, The 4 R’s, Lit for Lunch, and Table Time. {Why, yes, I do like alliteration. Why do you ask?}

MORNING MEETING (90 minutes)

I recently wrote two posts about our Morning Meeting time of the day. In the first one I explained what it is and why I do it with my kids. In the second one, I shared the resources I’m using for Morning Meeting this year. I won’t go into any more detail in this post, but be sure to check out the other posts to read about this revolutionary time of day for our family.

THE FOUR R’S (2 hours)

The Four R’s for our family are religion, reading, writing, and arithmetic. Since my youngest is now four years old, he doesn’t need a constant baby sitter anymore which is how I had previously scheduled our school day. I’ve got things planned where I am working with both the girls at the same time and rotating between them. I tried to have the schedule set up so that the more one-on-one instruction with one girl is happening while the other one is doing something independent. We’ve followed this schedule a few times already this summer and it’s worked pretty well so far. I’m really looking forward to being able to teach this way since it will make this time much more efficient.

The main inspiration for this schedule was my desire for restful teaching that I’ve been blogging so much about. The time amounts next to each subject will be enforced. I set the timer, we work on that subject until the timer goes off, and move on to the next subject even if you didn’t “finish” the lesson. The results so far have been more teaching from rest for me and better learning for the kids. I would rather have intense, focused attention on math for 30 minutes, then trying to finish the lesson, but it takes an hour because their brain checked out 20 minutes before. Remember: this is a journey not a sprint! I would rather my children really learn well than rush them through to reach the end that the book said we should.

Monday

Monday Schedule

Tuesday and Thursday

Tuesday-Thursday Schedule

Wednesday and Friday

Wednesday-Friday Schedule

Update: I totally scrapped everything that is marked out. New and updated plans are here. That’s what I get for trying to plan our new school year 6 months early!

Curriculum Choices for The Four R’s:

Grace (5th Grade)

Bible: Bible Study Guide for All Ages ~ Advanced (Read my review of this awesome Bible program here.)

Math: Math in Focus (3B and 4A) or Christian Light Education Math (parts of Grade 4 and Grade 5). We hit a snag with Math in Focus this year. I still adore Math in Focus, but it’s becoming a poor fit for Grace. It seems that since we have reached upper elementary math, she is having more difficulty with the mastery aspect of Math in Focus so I’m toying with using something more spiral. I have the first Light Unit of CLE math and the teacher’s guide in hand. Quite a bit of the grade 4 material would be review for her so I’m pretty sure we could accelerate quite quickly through it. I still haven’t decided what to do, but when we finish Math in Focus 3B, we’ll try out CLE, and I’ll let Grace make the decision. We also use Life of Fred on Monday for fun. (Read my review of Math in Focus here.)

Math Fact Practice: Reflex Math!!! It is still working great. (Read my review of Reflex Math here.)

Literature: K12 5th Grade Literature and a Narnia book club that I’m leading for homeschool kids in our area. I’m super excited about the Narnia Book Club! We’ll be reading and discussing The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe , Prince Caspian: The Return to Narnia , and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader this year. If everyone likes it, then next year we will do The Magician's Nephew , The Silver Chair , and The Last Battle . On weeks we do the book club, she will not do K12 Literature that day.

Grammar: Grammar Town, Paragraph Town, and Practice Town by Michael Clay Thompson Language Arts. This grammar program totally resonates with my creative, artsy girl! Plus the grammar is rock solid.

Writing: You all know of my love for Classical Academic Press’ Writing and Rhetoric series, but some of the folks who are farther ahead in the series have said that the outlining and paragraph construction parts of the program are weak, so for next year we are using a new writing program written by a homeschool mom whose writing posts on The Well-Trained Mind forums have been an inspiration for many. It’s called Treasured Conversations and looks to be the perfect program for teaching outlining and paragraph writing. It should fill the gap nicely before we move on to Narrative II and Chreia and Proverb of Writing and Rhetoric. (Read my review of Writing and Rhetoric here.)

Spelling: Apples and Pears Spelling Book C. This program is perfect for Grace. Her spelling is improving every day and transfers nicely into her writing. (Read my review of Apples and Pears here.)

Spanish: Getting Started with Spanish and Practice Makes Perfect Basic Spanish . We haven't been as dedicated to learning a foreign language as I would have liked, but I am determined this year to at least achieve a basic conversational level with Grace.

Sophia (2nd Grade)

Bible: Bible Study Guide for All Ages ~ Intermediate

Math: Math in Focus 2A and 2B, MEP Year 2, Miquon, and Life of Fred. Sophia LOVES math and it comes very naturally to her. Although it looks like we use a TON of programs, we only do Miquon and Life of Fred on Monday and have no problem fitting in one Math in Focus lesson and one MEP lesson into her math time Tuesday-Friday.

Math Fact Practice: Reflex Math. She’s been begging me forever to get her a subscription too!

Phonics: Logic of English Foundations C and Explode the Code. This combination has been wonderful for Sophia! She is a great reader and will finish up phonics this year!We’ll begin spelling with Apples and Pears when she finishes Logic of English this year.

Handwriting: New American Cursive 1 from Memoria Press and Draw Write Now Books 1-8. We’ll be rotating these out during the week doing cursive twice a week and Draw Write Now copywork and drawing twice a week.

Grammar: English Lessons Through Literature Level 2. I love this gentle grammar introduction for the younger grades. It’s Charlotte Mason at its best!

Spanish: Salsa Spanish with free lesson plans (go to the bottom of the webpage and click on the + sign underneath Salsa Materials) and homemade worksheets. Repeat to myself, “I will be better about foreign language this year. I will be better about foreign language this year.”

LIT FOR LUNCH (30 minutes)

This is one of our favorite times of the day. While the kids are eating I read books from my read aloud lists that I compiled from The Read-Aloud Handbook {a MUST read for all parents!}. I choose a picture book and once chapter of a chapter book from Sophia’s list to read and one chapter from a chapter book on Grace’s list. These books aren’t tied to history or anything we are studying. They are just great books that we enjoy reading together! My 2nd Grade Read Aloud List and my 4th Grade Read Aloud List (finishing this one this year) to be read during Lit for Lunch.

TABLE TIME (2 hours)

This block in our day was born out of my desire to make the content subjects less stressful for me to teach. It provided a way for me to not stress about covering history, science, and geography, while letting my kids really LEARN about a subject. {You can read more about this idea here.} Not only have I changed my approach to scheduling these subjects, but I’m going to experiment this year and change the entire way that I teach these subjects. I also fully reserve the right to decide at any point that this idea is crazy and go back to the normal way of doing things!

During the course of our school year I am planning on focusing on history for three weeks at a time, science for three weeks, geography for three weeks, and then doing interest led learning for two weeks at a time. The rotation for the year would look like this: geography, science, history, interest led, history. I would repeat this sequence three times over the course of the school year, which gives me a grand total of 6 units of history, 3 units of geography, 3 of science, and 3 interest led. Here is what I’m planning doing for each of the units (and where things become experimental, at least in the history area). I’ll be expounding on exactly what we are using for each unit as we get to it over the coming year. I have a tentative plan, but I’m not definite.

History:

Instead of progressing chronologically through history I decided to divide history into 5 time periods and one miscellaneous category. During the year we will study one topic out of each time period for a grand total of 6 units of history. I decided to do history this way for two reasons: 1) We read a history overview book and memorize a history timeline every year so my kids have a pretty good grasp of the flow of history and 2) I wanted to study American history and current events before a couple of years had passed. My hesitation to doing this {and why I might scrap this idea a few units in and go back to chronological history} is that history builds on itself. Events in the past effect decisions and events in the future. Anyway, I’m giving it a go the way I have it planned.

Unit 1 (Ancient World): Ancient People of Mesopotamia ~ Hebrews, Sumerians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians. I’m planning to build my study around the Hebrew people and their interaction with the people of Mesopotamia.

Unit 2 (Overlooked History): Ancient China ~ Study Chinese history up to Genghis Khan. I wanted to include this category because my knowledge {and I believe most Americans knowledge} of the Eastern Hemisphere is weak.

Unit 3 (Middle Ages-Age of Exploration): Middle Ages Part 1 ~ Culture and Society of the Middle Ages. I’m planning to use lots of great literature during this study and explore how people lived.

Unit 4 (Colonial Times in the United States-1850’s): Colonial Times (1607-1733) ~ Study of the colonization of North America, specifically the 13 Colonies of the United States. Also bring in world events that happened during this time period as well.

Unit 5 (Civil War in the United States-End of 19th Century): Civil War ~ Prelude, slavery, major battles, and events of the Civil War.

Unit 6 (1900-Today): Pre-World War I ~ Study events around the world during the last decade of the 1800’s and first decade of the 1900’s. I’m still trying to figure out how to work Downton Abbey into this era!

Science:

I am also choosing a science from each of the three branches of science to study over our three science units for the year.

Unit 1(Physical Science): Chemistry ~ Matter, Atoms, and Elements

Unit 2 (Earth Science): Oceanography ~ Areas of the ocean, currents, the ocean floor, and tide pools.

Unit 3 (Life Science): Human Anatomy ~ Basic systems of the human body and what they do.

Geography:

I had to do a little research about the subtopics in this subject. I decided to touch on all three of the aspects of geography in each unit.

Unit 1 (Cultural, Physical, and Spatial): Cultural study of Turkey, Israel, and Jordan, physical geography of Middle East/Asia, and map workbook for spatial skills.

Unit 2 (Cultural, Physical, and Spatial): Cultural study of Egypt, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia, physical geography of Middle East/Asia, and map workbook for spatial skills.

Unit 3 (Cultural, Physical, and Spatial): Cultural study of Iran, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, physical geography of Middle East/Asia, and map workbook for spatial skills.

And that’s our plans for the upcoming year (2015)!!!!

So stay tuned for resources I’ll be using for each of the above units and how things are progressing with my crazy history idea!

Update: I totally scrapped everything that is marked out. New and updated plans are here. That’s what I get for trying to plan our new school year 6 months early!

nbts-blog-hop-2014

Wishing my fellow educators, from all types of schooling, a wonderful school year from the tree house,

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From Type A to Scholé: Creating Table Time

After starting our new and improved Morning Meeting time, I now needed to address one of the main sources of stress for me in our homeschool. During my introspective time of the scholé journey, I quickly realized that the content subjects {history, science, geography, etc.} and the way that they are typically scheduled were causing me a lot of tension. I had followed a typical pattern of studying history three days a week and science two days a week, and I had even attempted to study both history and science every day of the week. The problem for me with these schedules is that if life intervened or something happened where we couldn’t get to science on one of our two days that it was scheduled, then I immediately felt behind and trying to play catch up. And I’ll be honest, “getting behind” usually happened in our first week of school! So now I kept trying to find a spot where I could stick that missed science lesson. As I considered how I could change this cycle into something more restful and less anxiety ridden, I pinpointed my major problem: certain days of the week for certain subjects. Obviously I didn’t want to give up on teaching content subjects {I majored in history in college for Pete’s sake!}, but the current system was broken. And then I remembered about block scheduling. Basically block scheduling is where you focus on one subject for a specific amount of time. If you were in public school you probably had some block scheduling at some point in your school career. I remember one year where I took economics the first semester and government the second semester.

Alarm clock and books on wooden table.

My first step was to decide exactly which subjects I wanted to focus on as our content subjects. Obviously I would include history and science, but since this was kind of a trial run I decided I’d pick a couple of more things that I’d always wanted to fit in, but never felt I could.

My final list of content subjects was:

history

science

geography

interest led learning

For my mini-experiment with block scheduling I decided to try focusing on each of these areas for one week after lunch every school day during what I called Table Time. For our history week we studied Ancient Egypt, for science week we studied the Amazon rainforest and the animals that live there, for geography week we learned about Brazil, and for interest led week, Grace studied mermaid legends from around the world and Sophia compared original fairy tales with Disney movie versions.

Basically Table Time turned into exactly what I wanted. We were able to really dig into a topic without me stressing if we missed a content subject because we were busy or unable to finish the day. It also turned into a shared learning experience that I never thought my girls would be able to do together. For about 20-30 minutes I would read from a spine or overview book on the topic. Then I would pull out a bin of books I had collected from the library, project supplies and ideas from the internet, and documentaries or movies about our topic. I have four of these bins, one for each week, and collect items to put in them for that subject. 

Science Table Time  Resources  Over the course of the week, we go through what I have collected in the bin. After I read to the girls together, we split up. Grace chooses a book to go off and read while I read a book of Sophia’s choice to her. We do this independent reading for about 30 minutes, then each girl has to report to me something they read about. After this we would generally begin to do more hands-on type of things, play a game, watch a movie, work on our notebook pages, experiments, crafts, etc. I only had this hands-on time planned for an hour, but often the girls would go over. We followed this basic rhythm for each subject for one month.

What I LOVE about Table Time:

The single subject focus every day {No more anxiety about missing a day and the ability to really dig deeply into the subject.}

Learning together {I NEVER thought this would happen!}

Finally being able to dabble in interest-led learning {It was such a great experience}

One part of Table Time that I’m reworking for our upcoming school year is the length of time spent on each subject. One week just wasn’t enough so I’m going to try doing three week blocks of time on history, science, and geography and a two week block for interest led learning. So basically our content subjects will look like this, geography (3 weeks), science (3 weeks), history (3 weeks), interest led learning (2 weeks), history (3 weeks), and then start back over with geography again and repeat this cycle three times in a school year. {The reason I’m repeating history twice in this cycle will be explained in a later post since it really has nothing to do with scholé  learning, but more how I wanted to set up our history studies this year.}

So what was the point of all this? Well, I’m trying to show you what scholé learning and teaching from rest looks like in my home. I recognized that the traditional scheduling of content subjects was stressful for me. It made me tense and cranky. It caused these words, “Hurry up so we have time to finish ___________,” come out of my mouth way too often. When you begin to look within yourself for sources of stress in your homeschool, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box for a solution.

Play around with ideas.

Experiment.

Blaze new trails.

You can do this.

You can have an abundant homeschool that encourages leisure and contemplation for the teacher and the students.

From Type A To Schole Series

I’ll be wrapping up my From Type A to Scholé series next week by talking about what the results of pursing leisure and rest in our homeschool by focusing on truth, goodness, and beauty. In the meantime be sure and catch up on any of the series that you might have missed: Exorcising School, Seek and You Will NOT FindStarting with the Woman in the Mirror, and Morning Meeting Makeover.

One less stressful thing off my plate in the tree house,

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Friday

Back to Home School Fun

This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure policy here.
Most homeschoolers are getting ready to begin a new school year in the coming weeks.  I’m so excited about this that I had to share it with all of you. 

Our family doesn’t “technically” start a new school year until January and school year round, but I love to do something special on the first day that all of our public school friends go back. We sleep late, eat a special breakfast, take pictures for our new grades {I promote the kids when the schools go back so they know how to answer, “What grade are you in?”}, buy new school supplies, and go somewhere fun for the day. This year I wanted to do something a little different. I’ve secretly been purchasing school supplies for the kids over the past few weeks, and I’m letting the kids do a Homeschool Supplies Scavenger Hunt to find all of their new stuff!!! I know they are going to love it and I’m having  hard time containing myself for the next three weeks. I wanted to share it so that any of you who were looking for something a little different and fun to start the homeschool year could jump right in and let me know how your family liked it. Yes, I’m asking you to be my guinea pigs!
Homeschool Supplies Scavenger Hunt



Here are the answers to the clues and where the items should be hidden:
Clue #1: Glue in the laundry room (I’m putting mine in the dryer.)
Clue #2: Pencils on a window sill
Clue #3: Stapler in a closet
Clue #4: Crayons on the stove
Clue #5: Ruler at the front door
Clue #6: Binder on the table
Clue #7: Colored pencils on the bed
Clue #8: Notebooks in the bathtub
Clue #9: Personal size marker boards under a chair
Clue #10: Unashamed attempt for me to get hugs and kisses from the kids, but I’ll also have their homeschool books in some new backpacks for them.

I’m already thinking of fun locations that we could take our scavenger hunt next year: the library, the zoo, a park, etc.

Wishing all of a you a blessed and magical school year from the tree house,

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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

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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