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    Circle Time Review and Plans, Plus: Changes I’ve Made

    January 9, 2016 by Brandy Vencel

    [dropcap]I[/dropcap]t’s about time I got this together. We’re back at school on Monday, after all. I don’t typically publish posts on the weekends, but I do typically publish Circle Time plans when they’re finished, regardless of the timing.

    As I look back on our first term, I would say that our Circle Time habits were weak, which is unfortunate because usually the first term is our best. I like to start off strong! But we weren’t as consistent as usual, and it shows. I didn’t choose as much new memory work for this term because we didn’t make it through what I’d planned for the first. It took almost the whole term for us to find our rhythm. If you recall, this is my first year with all four students doing lessons {I don’t really count kindergarten}, and there were a lot of moving parts and I found myself often cutting bits and pieces off of Circle Time in order to fit everything in.

    The funny thing is that once we reached some semblance of homeostasis, the time allotted for everything was fine. It was the period where we were trying to figure everything out that was stressful and things took “too long.” Once we came to a point where decisions didn’t need to be made — where more of the day could run on autopilot — we were able to fit in a full-length Circle Time with all of its parts.

    One thing I’m realizing more and more is that there is nothing like having literate children. When they can read their assignments on their own, this frees up so much time! My youngest child isn’t nearly literate enough to read his own school books, but just the fact that he’s headed that direction is exciting to me. I have been reading so much aloud for so many years, and while it’s been enjoyable, for the most part, the more students I added, the harder that was to pull off.

    Anyhow, enough of my rambling. Here are my plans for this coming term:

    Circle Time 2015_16 Term 2 Plans

    Changes I’ve Made

    I spent first term focused a lot on my oldest. He’s a teen now, and I wanted to make sure we were doing right by him. When I was prepping for second term, I decided I needed to think some more about my younger children, now that activities for my oldest {tennis classes, online classes, youth group, etc.} are established. While I’d love to put them all in sports, that costs money we don’t have. Thankfully, a huge answer to prayer has come along. For a long time, I’d resisted going to a weekly park day that some friends were having — mainly because I find midweek activities hard to push through — it’s like my brain hits the weekend at that point {even if it’s Tuesday!}, and it’s hard for me to refocus. I’ve decided I need to man up {women can do that, right??} because the hour or so of PE would do them good, as would the time with friends. We’ve gone twice, and it has been such a blessing in so many ways.

    All I need to do now is gather the self-discipline to pull myself together on Friday mornings. I’ve decided I’m going to challenge the children to do as much as they can on Thursdays before we leave so that Fridays can still be a lighter day, but I’ll need to do definite teaching. Where does this put Friday jollification? I’m not sure. I’m going to try to keep it to Friday, but I might have to start putting some things back into the weekdays. We’ll see how it goes.

    If there is one thing about homeschooling — and parenting in general — it’s that it’s a constant state of flux. The children are always growing and changing, and so the schedule has to do that, too. Honestly, I think it’s more traumatic for Mom than anyone else. 😉




    Are you posting Circle Time plans? Feel free to share a link to them in the comments. 🙂


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  • Reply Cassandra January 16, 2016 at 9:59 pm

    Love this, thanks for sharing! I just posted about our Circle Time over at The Unplugged Family. 🙂 I linked below.

  • Reply Rebekah January 16, 2016 at 12:35 pm

    So I’m trying to start more CM style learning at home. I am a little overwhelmed though. I love circle/morning/basket time…we’ve been implementing a pared down version for now. What else do you all do though? What does the rest of your schooling consist of? Individual reading and math? I want to make sure I’m doing what I need to do, but with several ages and littles and a dyslexic son who says everything is “hard”, I’m trying to find how much school is good for us while still being enough. ?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 16, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      How old are your children, Rebekah?

      • Reply Rebekah January 17, 2016 at 9:32 am

        Hey my kids are 11 (boy with dyslexia), almost 8, 4.5, and 2.

        I’ll check out that blog post. Thanks!

    • Reply Melissa January 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

      Brandy is a great resource Rebekah! I don’t want to get in her way, but I just wanted to mention that I use the CM method with dyslexic kiddos and I find, with slight modifications, it works very well. I recently wrote a post regarding some of those modifications if you’re interested.

      Again, it all depends on your children’s ages.

      • Reply Brandy Vencel January 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm

        I forgot about that post, Melissa!

        Rebekah, AmblesideOnline has a free help forum with a subforum specifically for parents of children with learning disabilities, and that might be a place for more ongoing support. If you mention dyslexia in your application to join, they usually will send you a message offering you membership to that private area without you even having to initiate. 🙂

        Using the AO curriculum isn’t required for membership there — it is a place for people using the curriculum AND for people wanting to study more of Charlotte Mason’s philosophy and practices. 🙂

  • Reply Julie Z January 11, 2016 at 8:13 am

    Do you have a link to the KISS answer sheet? I finally figured out how to use the system for my youngest ones, but can’t seem to figure out where the answer key is for all the levels? Any idea?
    Many thanks!

  • Reply Anna January 11, 2016 at 5:40 am

    Here’s ours 🙂

  • Reply Tami January 11, 2016 at 4:45 am

    It is sometimes hard fitting all that our heart’s desire! I have 5 kids age range 16-6. This year we began several “new” things (new to us anyway): Charlotte Mason based learning, “Sabbath Cycle” (6 wks on, 1 off – though over this winter it is more like 10 weeks off – we have been blessed with trip to Disney, leaving Thurs! ).

    Recently I have done some 4am internet musings regarding circle time/poetry/Shakespeare/et and I would LOVE to implement picture study, composer and just more relaxed read aloud. With my oldest now in 11th, my thoughts have been nostalgic. Reflecting on those beginning teaching times learning colors and reading loads of Thomas the Tank Engine, which he admittedly still adores! In fact he wants to take my 6 yo to see Thomas! Lol 🙂 I digress! Recently, I discovered your blog and it has been a blessing to read! (Mystie as well!!). For whatever reason the Holy Spirit just brought this peace over me and reminded me that He is in control and will have my children learn whatever it is His desire is for them. My white fisted knuckles and twisted stomach pangs from anxiety can be releaved – HE has this all. So I surrender all! ….HEY! That will be our first hymn! Boy… God is GOOD? Many blessings! Looking forward to your posts and seeing how God will be working ?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 11, 2016 at 2:41 pm

      I love this, Tami — and it’s so true! It really is hard to fit in all of our dreams and hopes! Have SO MUCH fun doing Disney. ♥

  • Reply Nelleke Plouffe January 10, 2016 at 8:17 pm

    Thank you for posting your circle plans every time! It really is very helpful. Mine are here:

  • Reply Jen January 10, 2016 at 4:48 pm

    “All I need to do now is gather the self-discipline to pull myself together on Friday mornings.” I feel like this most Fridays, too! I liked your idea about doing special things on Fridays so decided to try it, but it is hard! I almost prefer the routine of the other days. I’m thinking about trying the “specials” on a different day – maybe Wednesday to break up the week? And then back to routine for Friday – just because I think I need the ease of relying on a routine by the end of the week!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 11, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      That makes sense. Really, I think moving things around until they work best for you is a great idea. 🙂

  • Reply Melissa January 10, 2016 at 1:08 pm

    Thanks for sharing Brandy! Your copy of Pilgrim’s Progress is beautiful!

    How do you like the Ganz commentary? We started the Genesis commentary and really got bogged down. I felt it was too much of the same so I dropped it. I’m curious to hear what you think of the Leviticus study.

    Along the same line, how to you use the Smyth commentary? Do you just read it and let it be? Do you expect narration? Do you read the bible verses and commentary?

    Here’s a draft of our first term circle time…

    For second term, I’ve switched out the composer for an artist, dropped bible commentary, dropped health, finished missionary study, and our son graduated from the dyslexia center so we no longer have tutoring.

    Is KISS grammar the only grammar you utilize/incorporate for all ages? Or, does your older son do a separate grammar program?


    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 11, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Yes, okay, so Ganz is bogging us down, too. Not so much that I’m dropping it, but I’m not reading every word, either. I have heard that about Genesis more than once, though. I’m planning to write a post on commentary use sometime soon…

      I bet it is relief to get all that time back from tutoring, regardless of how helpful it was. Your life feels like your own again, I bet! ♥

      Right now, KISS is the only grammar I’m using, and my oldest isn’t really participating. I feel like he gets enough in his Latin classes…for now. 🙂

      • Reply Melissa January 12, 2016 at 9:42 am

        I look forward to your commentary post!….and maybe another on KISS 😉

        Yes, yes, yes, I’m thrilled to have some of my time back….so much so, that I’m almost in lazy mode. I didn’t realize how fried I was from all the running until it stopped and now I just don’t feel like doing anything!..ha! Although, I do tend to get this way in winter….almost oppositional…yikes! I’m sure it’s just a season and I hope to get over myself soon 😉 …BTW, the tutoring was a God send and I am very grateful for the opportunity!

        …you know what you said about Latin/grammar is interesting, I saw a little of that when our dd used Michael Clay Thompson’s LA program last year. I think the Latin piece gave the grammar a huge boost!

  • Reply January 10, 2016 at 12:22 pm

    Ok. You inspired me to post about our new Circle Time routine for this term. It is definitely making a difference in the whole tone of our days! I think there is much wisdom in realizing things like this are always in a state of flux. I like the challenge of figuring out what will work each term, each year, each season. Thanks for the inspiration today!

  • Reply Circle Time | My Peace in the Puzzle January 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    […] was inspired today by Brandy and her post at Afterthoughts to record the details of our Circle Time/Group Time/Morning Basket…whatever […]

  • Reply Rochelle January 9, 2016 at 1:11 pm

    Love it!! We just made new plans, but they are sorta of “embedded” in my schedule. I’m SO grateful I’ve put this as more of a focus to our Advent school (your Advent school plans were a huge help, BTW), and this helped us get out of our crazy-busy-fall slump. — My sweeties are 7/5/3/16 mos. 🙂

    Our plans are as follows ::

    — Short Meeting
    — Prayer: Lord’s Prayer in unison, we take turns praying, then we close with Unto You in unison
    — Creed: Apostles’
    — Hymn: Gloria Patria//Doxology alternate
    — Psalm: Ps 1
    — Catechism: (restarting after a couple year break, so new kids are speaking) Children’s Shorter Catechism 1-10
    — New Hymn: Be Thou My Vision (circling back since, new kids are speaking 🙂
    — Bible: learning The Books of the Bible song, read from NT (DH reads OT at dinner)
    — Poetry: memorizing Mary Had a Little Lamb (4 verses; DD3), The Purple Cow (DS5), Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening (me & DD7, though she might need a different one — it’s long)
    — Folk Song: My Grandfather’s Clock, Down by the Salley Garden
    — Read Poetry: loop through Mother Goose, Sing-a-Song of Popcorn, and Eugene Field

    We’re one week in and besides perhaps changing my eldest’s poem, I think we’re off to a good start. Bonus: my 3 year old has Mary stuck in her head and my son thinks the Purple Cow is Very Funny.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 11, 2016 at 2:46 pm

      Rochelle, thank you for sharing your plans! These look wonderful! ♥

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