Friday, July 26, 2013

Circle Time (A Schoolhouse Crew Review)

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Trying to find a way to tie our homeschool together has frustrated me. I see images of an entire family of students sitting together, working simultaneously. In our house, lesson days look more like I'm trying to instruct a herd of cats. Obviously, teaching everyone at the same time isn't going to work for everything -- if nothing else, by 10th grade, Luke already knows how to read and is a bit beyond the Curious George books that the little boys are reading.  However, I still wanted to find a way to do "together time," especially since I had plans for working on several things with the "regular school" kids over the summer (Faith Formation and summer reading/math packets).  I was given the opportunity to review  Circle Time by Kendra Fletcher from Preschoolers and Peace, so  I downloaded the PDF ebook ($4.99) and eagerly started reading.

 Suggestions that the book makes for Circle Time activities include:

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 -Prayer and/or Bible study
-Memory work
-Music (singing or listening)
- an "of the day" - art work, poem, comic strip

I think if you have a standardized school time household, this is possible.  If everyone starts their work at a certain time, then it's natural to sit, do your group activity, and then everyone go to their at-level work.  However, in our house, we stagger things depending on who is awake and alert. Jude is an early riser, so we often get started around 8:30 or 9:00.  Luke prefers to sleep in a little longer and start closer to 11. Trying to adjust to put them both on the same schedule was impossible.   It left us with either a grumpy teenager or an unfocused first grader.

My children also are really at extremes in age.  Luke and Jude are almost exactly nine years apart (they share a birthday, and their birth times are less than 90 minutes apart!). That's a HUGE gap.  Damien is only three years younger than Jude, but developmentally, that's huge as well.  Combine this gap with learning disabilities, and we are at such extremes that trying to get Jude to memorize a Bible verse is impossible (I'll be honest, I'd rather he memorize his address or phone number,  and those have been a work-in-progress for 18 months), while a Jude-and-Damien appropriate book leaves Luke bored.  Often, he will read to them (in fact, Luke often puts Damien to bed because Damien likes Luke to read to him), but they prefer one-on-one reading, not sharing him. Even our subject choices are varied - Jude's math course is right now focusing on adding and subtracting, Damien is still working on colors and shapes, and Luke isn't even taking a math class this semester at all!  (He's opting to work on a semester schedule and will start Geometry in January.)  I think a range of ages would even be better - because the little ones would be observing as the older ones worked.  When you have two extremes, it just leaves one overwhelmed or the other bored.

This also didn't work for us as a hybrid family.  While everyone is learning all year, Matthew and Celia only have reading, math, and Faith Formation studies to work on.  It's definitely a different mindset - while the homeschoolers are working on all their subjects, they're on a different "schedule." They know that they are going to take time off during the regular year and/or be on a different timetable, while Matthew and Celia are trying to cram in as much vegetating as possible.  They were very resistant to anything more than they "had" to do.  

I wanted this to be our "silver bullet."   I think the concept is fantastic.  Starting your school day as a family is a wonderful plan, and certainly makes learning common ideas easier to coordinate.  I didn't expect getting everyone on the same plan to be easy, but I didn't think it would be quite so near to impossible.  I had hoped I would read the book, get some tie-together ideas, and implement them.   Trying it has made me realize that the "everyone working in harmony on the same thing" just isn't our family.  I think we are hamstrung by having such a big gap in ages and activities, so the program just didn't work for us.

There were a lot of Crew Members trying out the Circle Time program.  Be sure to read about how they implemented the program in their homeschool.


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