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    Defining a Bare Minimum

    May 1, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    I am not one to sit around thinking about minimums. I want our education to be full and flourishing every single day. But what happens when a day has a mishap?

    Let’s say, hypothetically, that you have new baby ducklings. And let’s say, hypothetically, that they grow by leaps and bounds every day. And so maybe those ducks learned to jump out of their box on Tuesday and when your son went to change their water, he discovered that your cute little duckies were now big baby duckies that could wreck a garage in a little under half an hour.

    This is all hypothetical, of course.

    All of this is important life experience. There is nothing like explaining a life cycle to a child while actually observing it, and birds grow so quickly that not a boring day goes by.

    But the question arises as to where and how school fits when life happens. Generally, I am a planner and I try to plan for life to happen before and after school hours. Or, I plan days off (just like institutional schools do) for life to happen.

    But sometimes duckies learn to jump on their own schedule, and then what do I do?

    Well, naturally, I spend two days obsessing over minimums.

    A normal Circle Time week looks like this for us:

    Week 28





    Unless a day is super crazy, I consider Circle Time mandatory. This is a pattern of our lives that I don’t want to compromise because I think it holds everything else together. But it doesn’t have to be big and fancy in order to have this effect. My goal was to discover the bare bones of Circle Time and call it Circle Time for Bad Days. I am thinking it would look something like this:

    • Proverb of the Day
    • Quickly review manner and verse
    • Quickly review Awana verses
    • Read a poem
    • Sing a song

    I think those are our essentials for Term Three.

    As far as Ambleside Time goes, it is our habit these days to do as much or as little as we have time for. We are ahead in general, so having a short day where we only cover a single short reading (like a fable by Aesop) wouldn’t throw a wrench in the term.

    Math is portable when necessary, but I don’t actually consider math an essential at this age. We do it because it is legally required of us, but if I had my way we would leave math untouched until closer to age ten. For now, I try to stick to really concrete “math” like measuring, counting money, playing with patterns and shapes, and so on. Like the the Bluedorns say, starting math early succeeds in little other than causing children to hate school.


    Do you have a minimum day set in your mind? What does it look like?

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  • Reply Brandy May 3, 2009 at 11:07 pm


    That was my minimum a year ago! I like your emphasis on Scripture memory. This has always been a weakness for me, so having the kids in Awana with regular assigned verses has disciplined me to make sure they are always memorizing something. And, of course, I am memorizing everyone’s verses, which keeps me working towards some goals also.

    It seems like whatever is at the end of the day is what gets dropped in a time crunch. Your comment helped me put that together. Maybe I will have to have a rule of thumb that the last task is always an expendable one, just in case…

  • Reply Mystie May 2, 2009 at 4:26 am

    Right now, the minimum is stopping to do *something* school in the morning, because the most important thing to me this year is establishing the habit. Since the most important school thing we do in my mind is Scripture memory, that’s the part I usually do or where I stop if things fall apart.

    However, yesterday, for instance, we had to be out of the house at 9:30. We had worked all week on their new passages and I was pleased with their progress. However, math (at the end of our schedule) got skimped. So yesterday we did 20 minutes of math and called it good.

    It would be good to think through that while making next year’s plans, though.

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