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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education

    Circle Time Planning When Everybody’s a Teenager

    July 31, 2021 by Brandy Vencel

    This past week, I drew up yet another new set of Circle Time plans. It never gets old, really. I can’t help but enjoy the fresh possibilities that come with a new plan. Of course, there are fewer possibilities when you only get three days a week, but beggars can’t be choosers and all that. I make do with what I have rather than planning-as-pretending (in which I overschedule).

    Here’s what first term of this year is going to look like:

    I’ll walk you through the different parts because I love to talk about resources and who knows? maybe someone out there needs some inspiration still.

    But first: let’s have a moment of silence in honor of the fact that it has finally happened. I remember calculating back when my youngest was born that someday all my children would be teenagers at the same time. That time is now. The one thing I didn’t consider back then is that I’d only have three of them still living at home. I have four teenagers, but only three of them have to put up with me on a daily basis.

    Moving on.


    This is where I tell people stuff that is going to happen. My children used to be frustrated with lack of communication. Setting aside time to explain doctor appointments and activities and such has been so helpful.


    We are still using The Wonderful Works of God by Herman Bavinck. We made it through about a third of it during the school year and then we took the summer off and did Calvin’s Little Book on the Christian Life (which is about a perfect fit for summer if you just read a little section at a time).

    Naturally, I think it’ll take us three years to finish it. It’ll be worth it; it’s been so great.

    It was a little young for my youngest when we started it. I wouldn’t recommend it for 12-year-olds in general. But last year was our first year without my oldest at home and we did a lot of things as a group just because that seemed comforting to my children as they adjusted.


    This is what it sounds like. On Mondays, we’ll sing our monthly hymn. On Wednesdays, our folk song. Nothing fancy. If I don’t know the song well, or I’m having trouble sight reading the score, I accompany us on the piano. Otherwise we just sing acapella.

    Artist/Composer Study

    We’re doing the Antoine Watteau study from A Humble Place. I love Rebecca’s artist study resources!

    For composer study, we’re doing the Liszt study from Simply Charlotte Mason. The SCM composer study resources are fabulous!

    Easy Grammar

    I needed a grammar resource with which it was easy to be consistent. A friend recommended Easy Grammar to me last term and lo and behold! It really was easy. Easy to teach and easy to be consistent. So we’re continuing.

    Doing all 12 years of Easy Grammar would be overkill, but doing a few of them would be helpful. They’re sold inexpensively on Rainbow Resource. Just buy the level that seems right for your kids.

    I have everyone doing the same level. I teach the concept, they do the page, and then we go through the answers out loud. This means there isn’t work left for me to check later.

    Grammar of Poetry

    I saved this for a long time. While I loved it the first time I did it with my oldest, I decided I didn’t actually want to teach it four times. So I waited until the others could all do it at once. There are about 30 lessons, so we’ll be doing one per week. We have a 36-week school year, so it should work out right.

    You can read the review I wrote after doing it with my oldest here.

    Church History

    We’re starting 2000 Years of Christ’s Power (Volume 1) by Nick Needham this year. I’ve had a number of people recommend it to me, and I needed a stronger church history stream. We’ll just keep reading it until (a) everyone graduates or (b) we finish. It might just be me and the dog at the end. We’ll see.

    I’m helping write curriculum for a local private school and I have this secret dream of coming up with an upper school curriculum where Needham’s four-volume set is the spine and then various readings from the Church Fathers and other great thinkers of the church are coordinated with it. Wouldn’t that be dreamy?


    We ended up finishing Weston’s Price’s Nutrition and Physical Degeneration over the summer, so we’re starting on Breath by James Nestor.

    I don’t know a better way to help kids care about eating healthfully and forming good habits of the body than to just read aloud well-written, interesting books on health and nutrition. And then you keep reading, because sometimes those books contradict each other and that’s important, too. Breath, for example, talks about Dr. Price’s work, but has some interesting thoughts on his findings that contradict — or maybe just add to the conversation.

    That’s a wrap!

    What are your favorite resources you’re using for your group studies this coming term?

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  • Reply Anne Johnson September 11, 2021 at 2:44 am

    how do I become a member so I can read the blogs?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel September 14, 2021 at 10:55 am

      My tech guy fixed that — it was inadvertently caused by an update and not on purpose! Try reloading or clearing cache if you are still seeing it that way. Sorry about that! ♥

  • Reply Hope September 7, 2021 at 2:45 pm

    I love all your posts. This may be a long shot of a question, but do you happen to have a book list of your read alouds, similar to what you post at the bottom of your blog? I’ve searched your blog under the tag “book list” and I was able to find a few from the past few years. Do you happen to have any prior? I get so many ideas from you!

  • Reply Valerie August 8, 2021 at 2:49 pm

    I love reading your posts so i can see what the years ahead might look like!
    We are about to start year 7 with my oldest 2, and easy grammar is on our schedule. So is what you are doing a higher level of easy grammar or the same? Did you not do this or do something else for grammar in year 7?
    It does look very easy to implement! I’m tempted to use it with my year 4 also, but I’ve heard it gets very hard in the middle somewhere and then easier again. I’m wondering what you did and if I should wait a little while to do it with all my kids together. My year 4 is my youngest.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 9, 2021 at 4:46 pm

      In Year 7 with my oldest I had him doing KISS Grammar on his own because no one else was ready for grammar. I was never really able to combine him with the others except for basic things like singing and Bible. It sort of depends on where your kids are at with grammar whether or not you can combine them easily. After that, it’s all in picking the right level. Honestly, it’s so easy to teach that I can see how it’d be possible to have them all do grammar at the table before they leave group time even if you had to teach two separate levels — it’s just so simple!

      I think there is a placement test out there somewhere.

      • Reply Valerie Henderson August 10, 2021 at 1:42 pm


  • Reply Heather August 8, 2021 at 1:14 pm

    Your explanation of “announcements” is so funny. We sometimes have the same issue as all the logistics tend to live in my head and/or the planner on the kitchen counter. I will be adding this to our morning time as well as the number of things that are going to happen seem to have increased exponentially since two of my children became teens. Thank you for being willing to share what you do!!

  • Reply Rebecca Tighe August 6, 2021 at 6:21 am

    I currently have 4 teens and a pre-teen, plus younger ones. Circle Time planning is driving me crazy. The last couple years I’ve tried to split them and do one for the younger group and one for the older group, but it lacks consistency as the day moves forward. I’ve finally decided to dismiss the high school group after the family meeting and Scripture time. I *really* appreciate your comment, “…planning-as-pretending (in which I overschedule)… .” That’s where I am now. Trying to fit in too much as I realize how fast time goes and how little time we actually have together. Maybe it’s because my oldest is a senior this year and my mama’s heart is trying to reminisce, while my head is trying to plan the year? What a bad combination! LOL!

  • Reply Jennifer August 3, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    Brandy, thank you so much for all your encouraging and helpful posts. I’ve had to take a break (permanently?) from most social media, so I am super glad to get your emails. You put so much thought into them and you are a great resource for me and my 7 kiddos. My oldest is my very first teenager, we are planning to get up early and have cocoa/coffee and do a couple things together before we all do Morning Time.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 3, 2021 at 8:08 pm

      Getting up early and having a yummy hot drink together sounds divine! What a great idea! ♥

  • Reply Mandy August 3, 2021 at 10:22 am

    Thank you for sharing! This is my first year of morning time without the oldest (he will be working) and we are down to two days a week with the other two, and piloting my first year of morning time with just one on Fridays. It feels lonely!

    I was actually taking Easy Grammar Plus in and out of my cart for the last two days- this inspired me to order it!

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 3, 2021 at 11:14 am

      I keep wondering what it will be like when it’s just me and my youngest. We’ll probably go out and do it at a coffee shop … just because we can!

  • Reply Kris August 3, 2021 at 9:05 am

    I have two teenagers at home (13 & 17), and have never read aloud church history before. I would love to add it to our day. Would the Nick Needham book you mentioned above be good for starting?

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 3, 2021 at 11:18 am

      This is a great option, but it’s definitely heavier on the theology/flow of ideas. Another option, since you haven’t done it before, is to try some of the books by Richard Hannula. They’re written “for kids” but I have loved them as an adult and you can get through many stories of church fathers and famous believers in a shorter amount of time with his books.

  • Reply Patricia Benitez August 3, 2021 at 8:57 am

    I have 2 teenagers left at home this year. I always get excited with your recommendations. I think I’ll look into your church history book and make some last minute changes to my plans. I did Grammar of Poetry before with my other kids too and had forgotten about it! It comes of me not wanting to set foot in my garage.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel August 3, 2021 at 11:13 am

      Hahah! One reason why I remembered it is because we ended up having to get new carpet and I had to pack and unpack the whole library. It made me remember a lot of things I’d forgotten!

  • Reply Joanna August 2, 2021 at 5:49 am

    In 2031, Lord willing, I will have 5 teenagers living at home. I hope we are still doing Morning Time then. The announcement slot is genius.

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