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    Home Education

    Circle Time, Simplified

    January 10, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    This year is the first time in all of our seven years doing this that I have decided to admit that Circle Time is very hard for me during the second term. It seems like Stuff Happens during Term 2. And it isn’t just kidding season, though that is part of it. We catch colds or we have extra things in the schedule or…I don’t know. But I always end up feeling like we missed a lot.

    Circle Time Simplified

    Now, you all know that I over-plan on purpose, so that I don’t have to make decisions mid-term about what to do next if we finish something. But even though I know I over-plan, I am still likely to have that sense of failure after the second term.

    So this year, I decided to cut back for Term 2. The best thing about this is that whenever I place this sort of limitation, I have to make choices and choices mean that I’m identifying what is most important.

    We are still sticking to our Enrichment Friday for things like composer and artist study. That worked really well for us and we all looked forward to Fridays, so that’s a good sign.

    In other news, all the reading we’ve done this year on weather got my oldest very interested and he asked for and received a barometer for Christmas. He has been more correct than the weather forecast twice since then!

    The Plans

    Circle Time 2014-15 Term 2

    What Did I Cut?

    First, we’re doing far less memory work. We’re doing enough to keep everyone interested, but I’ve noticed that my two younger students are missing a lot of the knowledge my older students have, so I’m focusing on review this time around.

    I cut Spanish. I wish I had a good excuse for this, but at the end of the day, teaching Spanish is not my forte. That is not a good reason to cut things, but since I needed to cut things, it was something obvious to cut. We’ll come back to it.

    Having artist study and composer study on Friday really does make Circle Time shorter and less complicated.

    I also cut back by moving some things out of Circle Time and into other parts of our day.

    I am thinking specifically of grammar. Some of you have been asking about this, and I keep intending to do a separate post, but I think I’ll just explain it here. I really wanted to do grammar at the table during Circle Time with all of my students together a la Cindy Rollins. I may still pull this off when more of my students are of age for grammar. But my first two children are three years apart and after one term, I’ve given it up. It is not working. I feel like I’m not challenging my son while not getting anything into my daughter’s head about grammar at all.

    So we’re going back to KISS grammar because that is what has worked for me in the past. I use the printable workbooks. I’m going to use the Second Grade, Level 1 book with my daughter, and have my son work his way through  Sixth Grade, Level 2. He can basically teach himself using the instruction in the workbook, so I’ll just be there to check his work or explain anything he doesn’t understand. I was never taught formal grammar in school and so his knowledge is about on par with mine at this point.

    One thing that probably doesn’t look like cutting back, because it isn’t immediately obvious, is that my oldest does not have to be present for the daily readings on Tuesday. He will leave right after the memory work. Because he has a logic class on Tuesdays, we often find ourselves rushing, which is something I try to avoid. By letting him go early on that day, I’m hoping to smooth that problem a bit.


    Here are all the books and things I’m using with my Circle Time plans:

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  • Reply Cameron January 14, 2015 at 6:43 pm

    Thanks so much for your posts! They have been very helpful as we try to implement a CM education in our homeschool. With respect to the KISS grammar, do you give each child a handout to do daily or weekly? We follow AO and have Y6, Y4, and Y1 students as well as a kindergartener, 3yo and 19 mo twins. Needless to say, I am a little overwhelmed and grammar keeps falling by the wayside. So, I am curious how often you use the KISS worksheets.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 15, 2015 at 9:21 am

      Right now, I’m only doing it once per week. I think Miss Mason did it twice a week? I don’t know for sure, but that is how I seem to remember it.

      This means, of course, that we don’t come close to getting through a whole book in a year. But that is okay, I think. πŸ™‚

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 15, 2015 at 9:22 am

      And I forgot to say: TWINS! Toddler twins are oh so hard. I can totally understand why you would be overwhelmed!

  • Reply Nelleke from P.E.I. January 12, 2015 at 7:37 pm

    Thanks for posting your plans every time! It really is helpful to see how other people do things and adjust based on the busyness of their lives.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 12, 2015 at 7:49 pm

      You’re welcome! As an Afterthinker, I totally understand. All my best ideas are simply modifications of what I’ve seen others do. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Virginia Lee January 12, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Thanks for sharing about your grammar. I was one of the ones asking (maybe the only, sorry). I had always loved it when Cindy posted about how she did grammar together during MT. When I saw you were trying that I was dying for a detailed explanation of how to make it work. =) My first two are also three years apart in age. So your explanation was pretty much what I was thinking. I was just hoping I hadn’t thought of something. We have Simply Grammar (found at thrift store) and I’ve downloaded KISS. So I guess I’ll look through those thoroughly and decide. I’ve thought and thought about how to combine, but I don’t feel strong enough in grammar to blaze my own path yet. Other subjects, yes. But I was barely taught any grammar and what I was taught did not stick. It’s more something I know intuitively from lots of reading. I am actually excited to learn more about it! I just got Eats, Shoots and Leaves to read form the used bookstore. Hopefully that will be fun and educational. Thanks, Brandy.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 12, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      Ha. So basically you knew I was making a mistake. πŸ˜‰

      I keep thinking this might work with my younger set when they are old enough — they were all three born in 3.5 years. That seems more doable. But yes…it’s not been working. πŸ™‚

      I completely understand about most of your grammar being intuitive. It is the same with me. I keep meaning to read the copy of Eats, Shoots and Leaves that is sitting on my shelf! Maybe this year… πŸ™‚

      • Reply Virginia Lee January 12, 2015 at 3:25 pm

        Mistake, ha! I kept thinking, “Virginia Lee, this is supposed to work why can’t you wrap your mind around it?” So I’m quite happy you are the trailblazer and I can just sit back and learn from your wisdom.

        I think our kiddos are spaced very similarly (my last three were all born within 4 years and my first two have 3 years between them). But mine are just younger. So I have time to “watch” you do each AO year first. =)

        • Reply Brandy Vencel January 12, 2015 at 7:17 pm

          You can learn from my mistakes.

          That is why I read Jeanne’s blog, but I don’t think SHE makes mistakes. πŸ˜‰

          • Virginia Lee January 12, 2015 at 7:31 pm
  • Reply Julie January 11, 2015 at 1:15 pm

    I would love to know more about your memory work. Do you do it all at once? one item right after the other? everyday, or different things on different days, etc? We don’t do as much as you have scheduled and we seem to have trouble getting it all done. Also, how many verses per hymn and how well do your kids know the hymn by the end of the month/term? (We follow AO’s monthly rotation but it looks as if you don’t change hymns monthly?)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 12, 2015 at 9:22 am

      Here is a post that gives a link to my talk on our memory work, plus a post I wrote on our memory binder. I think that best explains it.

      With that said — YES. I do fewer songs than AO prescribes. When I first started AO, there was only one folk song per term. Even though I’m glad they added more, I’ve never been able to change our pace so much, so two songs is all we do. With the hymns, I did them out of order for years, choosing songs that were sung in our church so that my children would better be able to participate in corporate worship. So I’m all over the board with hymns as it is. But again, I’ve never been able to complete three songs in a term, so I have reconciled myself to only two of them.

      Our memory work, in case my other information doesn’t include this {because I don’t remember if it does!} is just one thing after another at a fairly quick pace. I set my binder up to alternate types of things — basically songs and other material are mixed up. The variety seems to help. Also, we are only learning one song at a time, and only two poems. So, in this instance, I have two songs and one poem in my “on deck” section of my binder. Once they memorize a poem {which will take about six weeks}, I will move it to review and start a new one.

      • Reply Julie January 12, 2015 at 6:22 pm

        Thank you much! I’ll check out the links but even your comment here helps. I have been hesitant to just check off one piece of memory work after the other but it eats up time if I try to divide it up throughout the day.

  • Reply Melissa January 11, 2015 at 6:38 am

    Thanks for posting this…I love looking at other plans πŸ™‚ So if I’m understanding correctly, these are the things you do together with all the kids? …and then each child has individual work as well? I don’t see history as a together subject? Does each child do their own history?

    Also, regarding the poems, do you simply read them or are these poems you’re memorizing?


    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 12, 2015 at 9:15 am

      Yes — this is what we do together. But even then, sometimes it isn’t *all* together. For example, Minn of the Mississippi is actually just for the two girls. The boys are dismissed to do their chores at that point.

      I have each child in their own year of Ambleside Online {which my youngest hasn’t started yet because he’s only in kindergarten}, so they each have their own history. Technically, they should have their own geography, but I did combine the girls for that {that’s what Minn is}.

      I tried to explain how I planned this year, including what I combined and what I didn’t and how I decided, in this post here. Maybe that will help explain the method to my madness? πŸ˜‰

      Oh! And the poems. I see there are two places where poetry is mentioned, plus I left out a resource that might have explained it. So, during our memory work time, we read the poems we are memorizing. Just once each day. During the time slot that says “poetry” we are just reading from the Oxford Book of Children’s Verse for about 10 minutes. So there is poetry we read, and poetry we memorize, and they are separate things, but neither takes much time.

  • Reply Kati January 10, 2015 at 11:35 am

    I would really like to see your plan/schedule for your Enrichment Fridays if it is not too big of a hassle.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 10, 2015 at 4:49 pm

      I put this on my list for a future post! I’ve been hesitant to post anything about it because I feel like it’s been a bit different every single week, but now I think we have a pattern down. πŸ™‚

      • Reply Kati January 10, 2015 at 9:58 pm


        • Reply Brandy Vencel January 12, 2015 at 9:07 am


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