Pam once asked me what word I would use if I could only use one to describe Circle Time. My answer was “grounding” — and in true Pam fashion, she interrogated me about this word choice. 😉 I tried my best to think of another word, but in the end, I concluded that Circle Time really does keep me grounded. Today, I’m going to tell you why.
Are you familiar with the concept of grounding? I mean in the sense of electricity or physics?
In working with electricity, there is always the risk of electric shock, right? Grounding is a way to prevent that — a wire is used to remove any leaky current and carry it harmlessly away (rather than through the person that comes into contact with the current). When you look at electric plugs, the ones that have three prongs are the grounded ones — the third prong is the grounding prong, and it is there for your protection.
In physics, grounding refers to the removal of electrons. Objects can have an excess charge to them — negative or positive, it makes no difference. Either way, the object is, in a sense, unstable — and to ground it means to bring its charge back into balance. Have you ever had static electricity build up on your body, and then you accidentally shocked someone? Whoever you shocked grounded you — you built up a negative charge and the shock happened when your excess electrons were transferred to that other person. The ground is the thing that is able to bring the object back into balance — it’s a sort of wellspring of electrons, and it can either receive or give electrons, depending upon what is necessary in order to bring the object back to a neutral charge.
Personally, even though the two descriptions are related (electricity being a branch of physics and all), I think grounding in the more general sense a la physics is a better of the two options — it’s exactly the type of metaphor that gets across why I love Circle Time so much.
Circle Time IS the Ground
That’s how it works in my home, at least.
We come to the table each morning, and we bring our charge with us.
Sometimes, one or more of us is negatively charged. Stuff has built up, and we’re carrying that stress with us. Circle Time is big enough to absorb all of that. The routine of prayer and recitation slowly collects those excess electrons, so to speak, and by the time we’ve gotten to the more academic and reading aloud portion, we’ve been brought back to a more peaceful state in our souls. More than once, I’ve felt myself repenting as we go along — I end up apologizing to my children midway. I’ve seen this in them, too.
Other times, one of us (often my exuberant youngest child) brings a positive charge to the table. Some of you might ask how this could possibly be a bad thing, but too much is too much, no matter how good. He needs to be brought back down to earth and put into a mood where he can listen and learn — he can be so cute when he is filled up with so much excitement, but the truth is he really can’t listen when he’s like that. Again, I think it’s the routine that has this effect — as he quiets himself for prayer, he begins to take in all the good things that are there for him.
Circle Time, just as it can take the burden from the negatively charged child, can also feed the positively charge child what he needs to help him mature and grow. In other words, it really is a ground — it can give or take as each person needs.
We Started with a Negative Charge
Our first “real” year of homeschooling was a little crazy. My oldest was six, and we were doing AmblesideOnline Year One. We started in early July because we had some busy times ahead of us. First, we moved. Then, I had a baby. After this, we tried to pick it back up and carry on with lessons. I was totally overwhelmed — trying to learn to homeschool, with a three-year-old, a one-year-old, and a newborn on my hands. I was having trouble recovering physically from my pregnancy, C-section (with accompanying hemorrhage), and severe anemia. Somehow, though, it all got done, squished in between naptimes, diaper changes, and feedings.
But I felt totally drained as we headed into May.
And then my husband got sick.
It’s a long, long story, but the short version is that he ended up on life-support, and his family even flew out to say goodbye. Thankfully, the Lord had other plans.
That summer, while I was running from home to hospital and back again — three, four trips each day — it was hard to know what to do exactly with these little children whose lives had been thrown into such chaos. In putting them to bed at night, we sang the hymns we’d learned during the school year (from the AmblesideOnline hymn rotation). It was then that I realized that we can’t wait until there are hard times to give our children the resources they need to get through it. No, it is during the normal, peaceful days that we learn the verses and the Scripture passages and the poems.
They have to already be there in order to be there when we need them.
Finally Getting Grounded
By mid-July, my husband was home from the hospital and recovering, and life was almost harder. He couldn’t do anything for himself, and his medication made him seem more like a fifth child than another adult in the house. Because he had suffered multiple grand mal seizures, he was also not allowed to drive — I had to taxi him everywhere, or find him a ride. We had a lot of help, but it was still so hard. How in the world am I supposed to plan school on top of all of this? I wondered.
I had been faithfully reading the blog of Cindy Rollins almost since its very beginning. That summer, when she mentioned Morning Time, I finally paid attention. I didn’t think of it as grounding then, but I recognized that the kinds of things she was encouraging readers to do during Morning Time were the exact kinds of things we had needed during our time of crisis. I needed our second year of homeschooling to be a year of recovery; I was completely empty. Morning Time contained all of the good things we needed to start filling ourselves back up.
I will be forever in debt to Cindy. (This is only one of a number of ways that she changed my life for the better.) And it was with great delight that I read this in her introduction to Pam’s Morning Time guide, Your Morning Basket:
Twenty-seven years ago Timothy (my oldest) and I repeated his Awana verse, sang a Bible song, read nursery rhymes, and read aloud all morning long just because it was so much fun. Then we got up the next day and did it again. We never did stop.
Cindy might not have invented Morning Time, but I do think she was the spark for many of us — and now so many families have a daily Morning Time (I call it Circle Time) because she told us how great it was.
Pam says that Morning Time has four basic components: ritual, reading, recitation, and relationship — and oh how I agree! Especially since she explains that really it’s this trinity of ritual, reading, and recitation that rests inside of relationship — because the whole thing is about relationship — with each other, as well as with God, and also the content covered in our time together.
It’s a beautiful, powerful thing, and the longer we do it, the more I am convinced that this is true.
If you’re feeling like your homeschool is way too charged, I highly recommend Circle Time as a way to ground your day.
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