Tuesday, July 30, 2013

TOS Review: Circle Time from Preschoolers and Peace






A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…I was a kindergarten teacher. I also spent a good number of years teaching preschool. As a teacher, circle time was my favorite time of day. I loved the little songs, chants and stories my students and I shared together. Circle time helped get  the whole day off to a great start. I still have a bucket of doo-dahs (story props, calendar activities, etc.) somewhere that I used every day. But the story of my doo-dahs is a whole other thing.

 
I was excited to be able to review Circle Time: Plan theBest Part of Your Homeschool Day from  Preschoolers and Peace. The author, Kendra Fletcher,  is a mom of 8 and used to juggling busy mornings (and days and nights). 

I was curious to see how Kendra implemented Circle Time into her family’s day and how her ideas could translate into our homeschool (with one excellent and inquisitive 11-year-old boy as it's only member). 




Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day is a 33-page ebook packed with simple and easy ideas for implementing Circle Time into a homeschoolers day.

These are some of the Chapters.

~Planning a Circle Time That Works for You
~Strategies for a Peaceful Time Together
~How to Get Your Kids on Board
~Questions From Moms Like You
~Words of Wisdom From Other Moms Who Do Circle Time
~Resources, Activities, and Ideas 



 The back of the book contains a few printables. These are designed to help you create and customize your own Circle Time. The book is an affordable 4.99.

So maybe you are reading in this blog and have no earthly idea what I’m talking about. Circle Time. It generally takes place at the very start of the day. The students are gathered together in an informal way. Activities during circle time vary. I used to teach learning songs, tell stories, use weather charts, write stories as a group and more. Generally, the term Circle Time is used for Early Childhood Classrooms. Morning Meeting is also another term used and extends on into Primary and Intermediate Classrooms.

I always felt like Circle Time/Morning Meeting was an effective tool for the classroom. 

In Circle Time: Plan the Best Part of Your Homeschool Day, Kendra gives wonderful tips on how to use Circle Time with every age. Sbe has a large family and a good portion of her book is dedicated to helping parents with bigs and littles manage their time Circle Time together. I really was inspired and thought about recruiting kids around the neighborhood to use as temporary Circle Time students. 

Circle Time is meant to be used with students of all ages. And it is meant to be tailored made to meet your family’s needs. Kendra talks about creating a plan. What? A plan! Maybe this is where I have been lacking all these years!

One of my favorite parts of the book was how to develop a Wish List for Circle Time. It really helped me see that this was doable for us!

So How Did We Use It? 


When I started homeschooling Josiah he was in 1st grade. One of my first act as a Homeschool Teacher was to implement Circle Time.  I have to say it was a bit strange. I was used to a whole roomful of youngin’s belting out A ram sam sam, a ram sam sam Guli guli guli guli guli ram sam sam (a Moroccan folk song for those of you who need to be in the “know”) or my favorite Five Little Speckled Frogs (sitting on a speckled log). Now I just had one little boy. And he wasn’t singing. 

We plugged on. We read poetry and worked on math facts. 

Slowly our Circle time went the way of the Floppy Disk. Every once in a while I would try and implement it again. But it was all whilly nilly. I had so much I wanted to do! Where should I start? How did other homeschool peeps use it effectively? Did they use it effectively?


A misnomer is that Circle Time is just for little bitty kids. And that it is for families with lots of kids. Circle Time activities can change and adapt to your students (or student in my case). Kendra uses Circle Time for a variety of purposes. I was really inspired. Here is what we did. 

First of all, I looked at my wish list. It was a bit overwhelming. I wanted to do it all of it (down girl!). Shakespeare. Latin Roots.Poetry memorization. Art Studies.I decided that for the time being we would concentrate on a few things. I checked out Kendra’s circle time resource page. Some of the resources were of physical books and ones I couldn’t get my hands on right away. I had some lovely books already in possession (found at the Thrift Store and what not). 

Here is what I decided to start with:

Word of the Day (Josiah has quite the vocabulary…he loves to look up new words)
Read Aloud (we read aloud every day, but I wanted to use this time for works that just needed to be read...mostly classical literature.)
Geography (not emphasized enough lately)
Art (I am going to choose an artist and we are going to do a proper art study)
Poetry (This will be above and beyond any we might read. This will be for memorization))
Scripture (Most important!)
Math Facts (any facts he might need to review)

Another thing I decided to do what change the name of the whole thing. When there are only two of you, “Circle Time” seems a bit strange.  Even on our best day we can't get ourselves into a circle. So I went with Morning Meeting. It’s not original, but Josiah thinks it’s quite appropriate. 

I then made A Binder. You know it's pretty serious when I make A Binder. A Binder makes it all official. I take A Binder pretty seriously. And I like to make them cute.


I printed off several things to stick in the binder. Memory Work, lists of books to read, poetry, art pages Josiah can work on during Read Alouds. This way I am always prepared.  Kendra has some wonderful ideas for organization. I think this was the most helpful to me.


I then created The Board. Josiah needs to see the plan. I used a piece of foam core board and some odds and ends of scrapbooking doo-dahs I had around the house. I made it so that I can change out anything I need to. I also "numbered" all of our activities. This helps my dyslexic boy stay on track. The Math Facts section is actually pockets I can stick flash cards in.


I lamented  both the map and the art work. I can use both again. I also lamented the labels. You can see my tape. I fully plan on getting those Velcro circles. Eventually. My mom suggested that Josiah study Winslow Homer. Josiah is studying American History at the moment and one of his Morning Meeting activities is labeling a blank map of the United States through the week.


I think the key for me was making sure I planned. I printed off enough material (words of the day, etc.) to last for a while. I also have a list of things that I want Josiah to memorize eventually. We will add to the board as needed. This is where having The Binder comes in handy.


I took advantage of resources I found online. There isn't any reason to reinvent the wheel. I found several lovely scripture posters all ready to go.


 I also made sure to have materials available. You can see my Kindle on top. What a wonderful resource for my Morning Meeting!I have also been reading out of William Bennet's A Child's Book of Virtues. Eventually, we will read a little Shakespeare. Oh the possibilities!


So here is the whole set up. I found the little chalkboard at Hobby Lobby (just in case you needed to know)


I love this new/old element we've added to our homeschool day! I encourage you to give Circle Time a try. I think you will find that it will bring so much to your day.

Just another note. I think you will enjoy Kendra's blog Preschoolers and Peace. I love this post on Kids and Laundry.   Josiah has become quite the Laundry Guy. We live in an apartment building and share a common laundry room in the basement. Right now he can pretend he is in the belly of a spaceship saving the universe (with quarters, of course).

 You can read what other members of the TOS Crew had to say about their adventures in Circle Time. Enjoy!



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