Get the exclusive (almost) Weekly Digest.

    Home Education

    A New Rhythm for Circle Time (A Planning Post)

    August 12, 2015 by Brandy Vencel

    I ‘ll be honest: every time I add a student, I get a nervous feeling in my stomach. The same questions repeat over and over in my brain: Can I really do this? Can I really juggle this many people and all their needs? The truth is that I’ve been juggling this many people for almost seven years. Their needs changing, but the need to juggle doesn’t. As I’ve been mulling over Circle Time, the tension tended to rotate around one central issue: Am I willing to make the hard calls that will need to be made this year?

    2015 Planning Series Post 7 A New Rhythm for Circle Time

    I didn’t set out to plan a Circle Time where my oldest child was only half-present. It just sort of happened. I thought about adding more stuff, just so he could be there. But, in the end, I decided that this was how it needed to be for this particular season. Just as when my little ones were tiny, and they left right after Bible time, or just after singing, now my oldest has other needs, and leaving after memory work or grammar will work best for him.

    He will still, after all, be part of the group for Enrichment Friday. He’ll still be present for our lunchtime and evening read aloud times. Adding something to Circle Time just to keep it more like previous years? Well, I guess that would be resisting reality, because the reality is that things don’t stay the same.

    Homeschooling is just like any other human endeavor. Circumstances change, and we have to be able to adapt.

    This year, I have three students who are still very dependent upon me. Out of the three, it is the third grader who is the most independent (she’s the middle of them, not the oldest). This complicates things a bit, but it’s what I have to work with.

    Anyhow, before I show the planning video (which is super basic), I just wanted to mention that it pays to save and/or print memory work as you go if you are finding it online. If you are like me and you wait to print until you find it all, you will be dismayed when your computer freezes up and you have to start all over again.

    I’m just saying.

    Here is a screenshot of my plans for our first term:

    CT 2015 T1

    When you make your plans, the surfboard is optional. I find it cheery. I usually include seasonal images on my pages. This year, it’s all surfboards, but see the nice autumn colors?

    Here are some of the resources I’m using for Circle Time this term:

    Get the (almost) weekly digest!

    Weekly encouragement, direct to your inbox, (almost) every Saturday.

    Powered by ConvertKit


  • Reply Catie August 16, 2015 at 10:08 am

    I really appreciate your planning videos! I could watch them all day. *sigh*

    I feel like I want to incorperate more things in to Circle Time this year, but I’m not sure how long we’ll have! My youngest will be 2 in September. Enough said. It’s a fun age, BUT…

    Your planning posts are very inspiring and PRACTICAL! πŸ™‚

  • Reply Melissa August 14, 2015 at 5:57 pm

    Hey Brandy,

    I’m intrigued by your use of the Nancy Ganz commentary. I plan to use her Genesis study this fall for the first time. Have you used Genesis: Herein is Love? If so, any tips, tricks, or feedback to offer?

    Also, I’d love to hear more about your use of KISS. I’ve looked at this program numerous times, but get very overwhelmed with the thought of implementation. Where does one start?

    BTW, I have a rising 5th and 6th grader.


    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 15, 2015 at 12:20 pm

      I haven’t used her Genesis, but I ‘ve heard that it needs to be broken up. What I’m aiming for is to cover a chapter of the commentary in 1-2 weeks (since we only do it twice per week, this basically means four days total). The commentary is LONG. Too long! πŸ™‚ There are a number of readings in the front, so I try to make it where we do a reading, followed by some commentary.

      With KISS this year, I’m actually just sending the workbook (WITH ANSWERS ha!) to my Kindle as a PDF, and then we will just work a few sentences on the white board. I haven’t done it this way yet, so take this with a grain of salt. It it fails, I will try to remember to confess. If it is successful, I’ll try to explain in a post what I’m doing. πŸ™‚

      • Reply Melissa August 16, 2015 at 9:11 pm

        Thanks for your clarification on the Ganz commentary. Her Genesis is long! I’m still trying to figure out how to fit it in one year. I’m debating on whether or not to do all the extra readings. I really need to read through a couple of lessons beforehand to see how it all fits together. I want to fit our study into a 36 week, 4 day per week schedule, along with church history (possibly Trial & Triumph or the History Lives Chronicles by the Windrows), as well as a missionary study and catechism. As I’m typing this, it seems like a lot πŸ™

        I look forward to your KISS post πŸ™‚


  • Reply Catherine @ A Spirited Mind August 13, 2015 at 2:24 pm

    I have two questions:
    1) Do you read an entire section/chapter from the commentary each day or a shorter amount? We have her Genesis commentary and I haven’t been sure how to loop it in.

    2) If you have time (or a link to another post if you’ve already written about this) could you give a bit of detail on how you approach Latin in general? We have don’t various things–Song School when the oldest two were K and 1st, then Prima Latina to Latina Christiana after that, one failed attempt to do Latin for Children all together, and this year I have Latin looped in our Table Time (which looks a lot like what you’re doing here with Circle Time) but it keeps falling off the edge. I can’t put my finger on what is not working. I have a 4th grader, 3rd grader, and 1st grader participating and we were trying LFC again because the Memoria books got too dry last year. Also we have a 2 year old underfoot and a new baby due this fall. So I’m looking for something that we can stick to and reach goals with that doesn’t add in too much time…I was kind of hoping to prepare the 4th grader to do Latin online in the next couple of years. What do your older kid(s) do for Latin? Do you think SSL is enough to prepare them to take something like Henle eventually?

    I’m sorry to ramble, but you’re the first person I’ve seen doing Latin with kids grouped together in a while and I’m so interested in your thoughts on this!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

      I really am using SS Latin as a gentle introduction. Here is the Latin path I’ve used with my oldest, which I think I’m using with my younger children as well:

      SS Latin β†’ Visual Latin β†’ Visual Latin + Henle β†’ online Lingua Latina class

      I explain my Latin planning here, which you might find helpful?

      • Reply Brandy Vencel August 15, 2015 at 12:23 pm

        ps. This is the first time I’ve done Latin in a group in a long time, but years ago I did it when I was “homeschooling” a child not my own along with my oldest, and I combined them for SS Latin and it worked really well. πŸ™‚

  • Reply elizabeth August 12, 2015 at 9:08 am

    Love this, love how efficient you are with excel!
    i need an excel class! Ü

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 12, 2015 at 9:14 am

      I used to do all of this on Word and throw things at my screen because I didn’t know how to format things on there. Then, a friend casually asked me why I wasn’t doing it on Excel. OH MY WORD! Why hadn’t I thought of that before? Changed my life. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Rebekah August 12, 2015 at 8:30 am

    For the memory work, do you use kjv? Esv? Do you have a preference?
    Thanks for this post… It was very timely, as we just started our morning time today! Mine are 4,3, (both boys), 2, and 8 weeks. Do you have suggestions/tips fir such a young age?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 12, 2015 at 8:46 am

      I usually use the KJV, but there have been times where I used something else. I think the KJV has the richest language, but some passages are more commonly known in a more recent translation — like the I Corinthians 13 “love chapter” — in the KJV it says “charity” instead of “love” so we memorized it in something else. NASB, maybe? ESV? I can’t remember for sure.

      At such little ages, it really depends on how structured you want to be. My first thought was, “Yes! Take a nap!” on the suggestions. πŸ™‚ But I actually think four is a great age to start a morning Bible time with maybe one simply hymn to sing after, if you haven’t already. Catherine Vos’ story Bible is perfect, I think. We’ve also used The Big Picture Story Bible and The Jesus Storybook Bible.

      • Reply Rebekah August 12, 2015 at 9:26 am

        Thanks! Yes, we have Catherine Vos Bible and also the Children’s Bible Reader ( which I would use even if we weren’t Orthodox. It is so good for little ones because the language is simple and beautiful and NOT chatty ).
        We definitely need structure to our day. Without structure there is a lot of fighting and getting in to things. But, I also want to give them time for the inactivity Charlotte Mason talks about. Yet this seems to also end in fights among the three older kids.vdid you experience this when yours were younger?
        I’m glad to know you use kjv. That was my gut impulse, but just wanted some confirmation! πŸ™‚

        • Reply Brandy Vencel August 12, 2015 at 9:52 am

          I love children’s Bibles that do not talk down to children! β™₯

          So…your house sounds like my house. πŸ™‚ We do not do well without structure. At those ages, I mapped out a simple Average Day Chart to provide structure on the days we were at home. I started with just a chart divided into 15 minute increments. I penciled in all the non-negotiables: meals, snacks, naps for whomever needed them, etc. That showed me what I actually had to work with until my husband came home and saved me. πŸ˜‰

          So then I made a list of elements I thought would be good in our days. Bible time, for us, worked best if I started it at the tail end of breakfast, for example. Other things on my list were outside time, taking a walk, chore training and helping, reading aloud, Quiet Time {where they learned to play alone quietly if they weren’t napping} etc. I had the benefit of a fenced-in yard {I know some people don’t, which is why I’m mentioning it}, so at ages 3 and 4, my children were able to play outside in the backyard on their own for a while, which allowed me to get some things done as well.

          Goodness! This is getting long. Sorry. Anyhow, I think you could build a chart like that using your own list of priorities, and it would give structure, but not be a slave-driver for you. πŸ™‚

          • Rebekah August 12, 2015 at 10:25 am

            We do have a fenced back yard! And I made an average summer day chart which was helpful when we followed it… Which was not often, unfortunately. I need to change it for the school year.
            Adding a morning walk is a great idea! I’m in southern NC, so it would have to be a really early walk before it gets too hot, but we can do that.
            Yes, I count the minutes until my husband comes home to save me!!
            Thanks for all your help and quick responses!

  • Reply Lisa V in BC August 12, 2015 at 8:02 am

    I just bought Nancy Ganz’s Genesis commentary for my kindle. It looks wonderful!! I’m thinking we’ll use it for our after supper Bible Readings as we are just finishing up Catherine Vos’ story Bible and need something new. Does your son also use a commentary for his AO Bible Readings? If yes, what does he read?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 12, 2015 at 8:33 am

      Ooh! Genesis! I haven’t used that yet. I look forward to hearing how that goes for you!

      At this point, the only commentary reading we are doing is what is there during Circle Time. I did recently see a commentary on Job that I thought would be appropriate, so I might have him do that sometime. I keep meaning to ask him if he would want to…

  • Reply dawn August 12, 2015 at 5:31 am

    Thanks, Brandy. I think we usually read a little bit of every book for that week every day. Maybe I’ll switch to doing longer passages of one or two books instead.

  • Reply Heather August 12, 2015 at 3:54 am

    You mentioned reading/narrating is about 1 hr, so how long is the memory time before that? Do you just narrate orally as a group following each writing? This whole concept of narrating everything is new to us but I’m loving it! πŸ™‚ How often do your children write out their narrations?

    • Reply dawn August 12, 2015 at 5:35 am

      Hi Heather, my dear friend! Fancy meeting you here LOL

      I throw a die (I have a 15 sided die, and each child has their numbers (M-1,4,7,10,13; N-2,5,8,11,14; and R-3,6,9,12,15) Whoever’s number comes up narrates. Sometimes I start with the youngest and allow the next youngest then the oldest to add to it. M & N have one written narration a week right now; M is going to have two per week soon πŸ™‚ I might let her type one, but I need to turn the auto spell/ auto grammar off …

      • Reply Lisa V in BC August 12, 2015 at 8:08 am

        May I ask why you would need to turn off the auto-spell and auto-grammar? I think it’s great that our kids can have correct spelling/grammar feedback immediately as it reduces the chances that they’ll have incorrect spelling/grammar ingrained in their brain…

        • Reply dawn August 12, 2015 at 2:11 pm

          I want to be able to see where they need help in their spelling/grammar and not be reliant on technology. I want them to look up or ask for help, instead, so I can instruct. Just like when writing longhand.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 12, 2015 at 8:38 am

      Hi Heather! πŸ™‚

      During Circle Time, all the narration is oral, and we do exactly what Dawn does — we use dice to determine who is going to narrate.

      To my great relief, all of Circle Time is 90 minutes this year, so it should all fit in okay. I was thinking I had planned less than that when I did the video!

      In regard to written narrations, I don’t begin those until fourth grade, so only two of my children do those. E-Age-13 does one per day. A-Age-10 did one per week last year, so we’re upping it to two per week. She is somewhat dysgraphic and writing is very hard for her, so at this point, I don’t time it so much as I increase the length. last year, I just required two sentences. A term or two later, I increased it to three. This year, we’ll start with four, and I’ll increase as quickly as I can, but within her ability, if that makes sense.

    Leave a Reply