It’s Thursday morning and I should be beginning our school day. But I have a prenatal appointment later and my only pair of maternity jeans are in the wash. I’m waiting for them to come out so I can take a shower. Then we’ll do some of our school day. Then we’ll drive 1.5 hours through a mountain pass to get to my midwifery center, then back up and home in time for a little more school and dinner. These are always long days. And I hate driving the pass unless I’m in a good frame of mind – that frame of mind never happens in the last few months of pregnancy – so all of us go and it ends up *kind of* fun for the kids :).
Since I’m waiting I thought I’d tell you about our Morning Meeting time because it is by and large my favorite part of homeschooling (and, other than the occasional meltdown, I LOVE homeschooling, so that’s saying a lot).
For years I called it Circle Time. But, since my oldest is now in third grade, it’s been morphing into something much less like preschool and much more like awesome sauce.
Here’s a link for a basic Circle Time.
It’s just gotten bigger and served more purpose over the years, and I was struggling to find a good name for it – I was rebelling against it being called Circle Time mostly because we never resembled a circle! Silly, but it bothered me.
A few months ago, when I began planning for this 2016-2017 school year I came across this podcast and she laid out all the reasons I LOVE this time of our day
If you only take one thing away from this post, listen to this podcast!
Perhaps one day I’ll chat here about the ideas behind and reasons to love Morning Meeting, but for now, that podcast nails it well for me.
So What Is Morning Meeting?
At our house it lasts about 1 hour where we hang out in a group and cover a ton of things in under 5 minute increments. We (mostly) follow a Charlotte Mason homeschool theory. One of the basic principles of that theory is to spread a feast of ideas before your students and they will take from it what they will. I see our Morning Meeting as a large way we put feet to that principle in our house.
The Lay Out
One thing to know before you begin: I read a lot of picture books during Morning Meeting. I read a few pages and we talk for a few minutes about it. I ask the kids what they think or more pointed questions, often my older two will interrupt my reading to share observations, questions or thoughts. The picture books are catalysts for conversation and they are meeting the need for visual learning. What I know about learning is there are four types (visual, auditory, reading/writing and kinesthetic) I try to hit all four of those throughout our day, everyday. Morning Meeting is where I hit the visual learning the heaviest both through videos, science books full of photos and picture books. As I go on through this series of blog posts I’ll show you how I hit the other three learning types.
To begin, everyone sits down on the floor of our school room (it’s a bedroom with a closet full of supplies, a book shelf, a love seat, one writing desk, one computer desk and preschool toys on a shelf for the littles).
Attendance: I call their names and check a box that we started school today.
Pledges: We stand and say the Pledge to the Christian flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to the American Flag
Calendar: We have a large school pocket calendar with a section for weather. We talk about the day of the week, the number of the day in the month, the month, year, season and weather. Here’s a link to the calendar we have (warning: it’s quite large).
Holidays: We also point out any holidays, Christian feast days or field trips on the calendar. Then we might watch a 1-3 minute you tube video about one of these. For some of the bigger holidays we watch a you-tube video every day in a week (like for independence day we watched a lot of little School House Rock videos).
Season: I read about half of a picture book that somehow has to do with the seasons. This has less to do with teaching them the seasons and more to do with simply appreciating how cyclical God created life to be. It’s something that is not overly obvious in Southern California. It might be more for me than for them, but they seem to enjoy the beautiful award winning picture books as much as I do 🙂
Worship Song: My husband has lead worship for kids in our church on and off for years, he loves it and he does the same for our evening family bible time. He chooses a song and I find a youtube video of someone doing hand motions to the song. We stand together and learn the hand motions and the words during Morning Meeting and then the kids have the best time doing the motions and singing along during family worship. I LOVE how this has worked out for us 🙂
Memory Verse: We try to memorize one verse a week, sometimes a little longer for longer verses. I just have the kids repeat after me reading the verse twice each morning and after a few days I ask if anyone wants to try it themselves with hints or without hints. I hand out raisins as ‘prizes’.
Geography: We follow the curriculum guide for Ambleside Online Year 2. Geography is a picture book, so I read the weekly assigned reading to them at this time.
Map: We have a blow up globe. We throw it around and kind of ‘popcorn’ drills, where I say ‘find _____ popcorn Jack’ and throw it to him. It’s fun 🙂
Timeline: Another Charlotte Mason principle is to chart every story and history you hear on a timeline for the younger kids, and a book of centuries for the older kids. We haven’t done this much, but I’m looking to add it in the next few weeks. My plan is to talk about where the read aloud stories for the day are on the timeline and maybe have my third and second grader draw a picture on their own timeline to represent each story during their Individual School time.
Health: I had a picture health book called Monster health, and we loved the first half, but since we don’t think the food pyramid is all that healthy we didn’t get through the whole thing. I’m still looking for fun health picture books to launch us into discussions.
Music Appreciation: One thing Ambleside Online curriculum has laid out is a composer of classical music to ‘study’ each term. Studying the composer is very gentle and simply means listening to a symphony or song for a while until you are familiar with it. We listen to the musical piece assigned while we are getting ready for our day and eating breakfast. At Morning Meeting I simply tell them what and who we listened to until I can start asking them that. This is a thirty second addition to our Morning Meeting 🙂
Artist Appreciation: Another Ambleside Online curriculum assignment is to familiarize ourselves with a classic painter each term. There are assigned paintings by the artist chosen to show the breadth and depth of their work. We look at one of these for a few minutes and I ask the kids to tell me what colors they see, what themes, look at it for 30 seconds and tell me something about it – just one of these each day.
Letter of the Week:
Long ago I bought this preschool curriculum that covers everything you can think of for preschool but under the theme of ‘letter of the week'(I highly recommend it, right now it’s less than 50 cents a letter). Below is what we are still using from that curriculum years later:
Word Cards: We do sight words for the little ones, I ask my older ones to define words (like ‘party’, ‘pie’ and ‘piccolo’), and then I ask the olders to spell the words out loud. It’s a quick gentle way of doing vocabulary.
Games: There is a section in there about games going with the theme letter and we chose a few of those a week and do them in the evenings or weekends.
Letter Themed Books: I have the whole series of AlphaTales books and I read the book once or twice during the week. (If you want to try these books, I’d suggest buying a few at a time, they are only a few dollars for each one)
LapBook Themed Picture Book: Each term we do a lapbook and the activities that go with it. This is decidedly not Charlotte Mason in theory. I’ll write about Lapbooks soon as this is easily my kid’s favorite school activity (and greatly supports the kinesthetic learning). To support what we are learning with our Lapbooking I read them about half of a picture book or we look at a few pages from a DK Eyewitness book that is on the same subject as the lapbook. Right now we are doing a Rainforest theme and the kids are loving it.
Poetry: Ambleside Online also has one poem assigned for read aloud each day. They are short, I read the poem of the day at this time and we might talk about it for a minute, we might not.
Visuals Book: This is mostly DK Eyewitness books and science books. It’s real pictures of real stuff that have to do with something we are reading or studying somewhere else in our day. My main objective with this one is to cover history. Right now our history is in Medieval Times and we have been looking about about four pages a day of DK Eyewitness Castle. Most of these I can get used for $4 including shipping. The kids really learn a lot from them at their ages. And it helps them understand the stories I’m reading to them better, so win-win!
Silly Song: We do one silly camp song with lots of movement to end our Morning Meeting time. Right now we are doing Boom Chicka Boom by The Learning Station (skip to the 30 second mark to watch the actual song).
Then we usually break for snack time. 🙂