Circle Time (review)
A few years ago, on any given day, you’d typically find all of us – me mom, plus all four kids – together; while the kids might be working on separate projects or classes, we were likely still in the same room during school time. These days, however, seeking quiet and concentration, the kids wander to the far corners of the house – and sometimes, the far corners of the yard! For my oldest, he’s got so many activities, he’s in, school is frequently done on-the-go.
Yes, we’re homeschooling – and so by the very nature of it, we’re together far more than most public school families ever think of being – but it’s still significantly less than we used to be. What can a parent with older kids do to help bring the family back together? Kendra Fletcher of Preschoolers and Peace has an answer: Circle Time!
What is Circle Time?
Part instructional time, part family meeting, part just being together, Circle Time isn’t just for those with young kids. Instead, it’s a time to touch base with everyone, and if you’ve planned it out ahead of time, it’s a fantastic way to slip in some of those “quick and easy” things – you know, the ones we mean to do, especially since they take so little time – but we never quite manage to fit in?
Circle Time is going to look different for every family, depending on the season your family is in. It’s important to adjust what you *want* to do so that it fits with both what your particular family *can* do – and what it enjoys doing. If the kids dread together time, that’s not a good thing – so be certain to adapt as you go along.
Circle Time includes a couple of helpful printables for getting started, plus, Ms. Fletcher has many resource suggestions on her website. At first, you’ll want to make a list of the subjects each child needs to do individually, and then you’ll be ready to consider what might be workable as a family.
I wish I’d read Circle Time years ago; it would have been incredible useful when my kids were younger, but it still has value in my life today, for just this reason: It guides me in deliberately, intentionally planning all those ‘short moments’ that I’ve been wanting to incorporate, but have never quite figured out how to.
How Circle Time looks for our family
There are some subjects that it’s just not practical for our family to do as a group; each has their own math, their own language arts, etc. But there *are* small pieces that would incorporate well; along with things that we’re not doing at all that I just *wish* we were.
Since we’re in the middle of summer right now, I’ve only been able to practice on my younger two… and do a lot of planning for the coming school year. One of my biggest challenges right now is that I’m not at home every school day, so if at all possible, I need Circle Time to fit one of two possibilities: it needs to be super-flexible time-wise, not tied to a particular part of the day, or it needs to be planned and easy to use, so that my kids could conduct Circle Time on their own, if need be. As the kids range in age from 11-17, that’s not all that big a stretch.
Another “oh I should have realized that” moment came as I was reading Circle Time – it doesn’t need to be the same every day. But you DO need to have a plan, or it’s not going to happen. Those short moments? If you plan a years’ worth all at once, it’s easily to plug them in when needed. Wait until the last minute when you need them, and chances are, you’re just going to skip it.
What we’ll be implementing during the school year for Circle Time
First off, chances are, it won’t end up getting called Circle Time. No offense intended, but I just can’t fathom that sticking with a bunch of teens and a pre-teen. Rather than enforce the name and invite ridicule, or at least a sense of I’m-too-old-for-this silliness, I’m going to go with the tact of “this is what we’re doing, and I’m accepting suggestions for what to call it”.
The Week’s Calendar – Getting everyone together at once would be a great way to clarify what’s on tap for the coming week. This might actually work better as part of a Sunday evening gathering, for us, with just a short catch-up style moment daily. Sort of a combo of outside activities, school assignments, and anything else schedule-wise that might need addressed, we don’t already do this, and it’s becoming more and more clear that we NEED to!
Brainteasers/Thinking Skills/Minute Mysteries – Excellent time to phase these in. Usually we do these as someone is cooking dinner, but it’s been hit and miss as of late, and planned into the daily meeting would be a good time. Planned ahead of time, a different type each day would keep things fresh and stretch out the fun.
Journaling/Memory Books – I’ve been working on some ideas in this regard, but had been at a bit of a loss as to when to fit it in – once a week would be ideal for this.
Memorization – I *really* wish I’d been more organized about memorization when the kids were younger, but the older they get, the more I find that I’d really like them to simply memorize. Make one part purely for fun – limericks, Shel Silverstein poetry, you name it. All these years later, I still know most of Silverstein’s “Smart’… and I’d like the kids to have some of those stashed away in their head.
Vocabulary – They’re old enough now that I’d really like to incorporate SAT level and more unusual words. There’s some great websites with listings. A list in the Circle Time binder or card file would keep things organized and ready to use.
Spanish Words – The same goes for Spanish; while we all know the basics like numbers and colors, there are always more words that we could incorporate into our vocabulary. In fact, I just realized – this would be the PERFECT time to have them work on personal visual dictionaries for Spanish!
Art & Music – I’ve tried and tried over the years to incorporate things like Classics for Kids (classical music) and some art history… plan it now, it’s ready to go for all-year!
This Day/Week in History & Offbeat Holidays – Always something that the kids enjoy hearing, but if we do, it’s random and spur of the moment. I’ve always wanted to make it a habit, not an afterthought.
What We Researched – There are tons of things that kids could be researching and even notebooking, everything from interesting animals and plants to construction vehicles and cool cars. Rather than assign each one to each kid, they’d cover far more in the long run if each child had one research assignment a week and then shares what they learned!
Circle Time in the future
This will be an ongoing project and process in our family, as we learn a new way of doing things. I expect to continually add and adjust things as we go along.
Join me, in consciously bringing your family back together this year? Have any suggestions I’ve missed that would appeal – or be useful – to older students? I’d love to hear your ideas.
Purchase Circle Time from Kendra Fletcher’s website, Preschoolers and Peace. It’s priced at $4.99 for the PDF ebook – and you’ll find it invaluable in planning – and increasing – your family’s “together” time!