Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Experimenting with "Circle Time" in Our Homeschool

We are in a homeschooling rut, no doubt about it. My oldest daughter is 5 and my youngest will be 4 in November, so really, they aren't even old enough for "real school" just yet. But my girls seem to thrive on that little bit of "schooling" we do every day and we haven't done anything regular in a few weeks. The reason for this? We pretty much finished up the curriculum I used this last year. I have family coming to visit Japan for the first time in a few days and will have visitors for roughly another 4 weeks. I really hate to start a whole new year of school right before our schedules get changed by visitors and sightseeing... and... don't most kids have a summer break?

So anyway... I've been trying to focus more on creating a daily rhythm. I've done this before and I think rhythms are bound to change. There is always some tweaking that can be done. I prefer to create "rhythms" rather than "schedules."  Our rhythm is a general order to our day, written down, and posted on the wall near our calendar so that they girls have a visual of what comes next. Unlike a schedule, it isn't tied to set times. That way, we don't worry about finishing/starting something "on time." For me, that just creates more stress.

As part of our updated daily rhythm, I wanted to try incorporating a "circle time." So far, circle time has been a big hit. The girls look forward to it and I feel like it starts our day off on the right foot.

 Here's what our circle time looks like:

Circle Time begins after our "morning routine." We've gotten dressed, done a few chores (making beds, putting dirty clothes in the hamper, brushing teeth, etc.) and had our breakfast.

To begin, we light a candle and then have a "mindful minute." Our mindful minute introduces the practice of meditation. I do not meditate regularly, but I'd like to develop the practice and I also think my children could benefit from meditation. For our mindful minute, we sit with legs crossed, with or without our eyes closed, and try to be as still and quiet as we can for one minute. Eventually, I'd like to sit longer, but with a 5 year old and 3 year old, a minute is about as long as we can manage. The only suggestion I give the girls is to try and feel their breath coming in and out, or to try and feel their heart beating. In the future, I'd also like to get a bell or Tibetan singing bowl to signal the beginning of our minute.

Next comes our "Sun Salutations."A few months ago, the girls were taking a "Mommy & Me" yoga class and we were introduced to a fabulous song (and album, really) by Kira Willey. We play "Dance for the Sun" and myself and the girls do a few sun salutations to get our bodies moving.

Now it's the girls' turns to each pick a song or fingerplay to do together. Usually, they pick the same song each day ("Monkeys Jumping on the Bed," for example, or "The Wheels on the Bus") but if it's what they love, I don't mind. It's amazing to me to watch the joy they get out of singing the same simple songs every day.

We settle back down in a little circle and I try to have a book picked out that might plant some seeds about having good character, good behavior, or just living well. Lately, I've been reading a short section from this book.

Then, we end our circle time by stating our intentions for the day. For my children, this usually translates to an answer to the question: "How will you try to have a good day today?" For me, it provides an opportunity to show my children that their mother is human and imperfect. I want them to know that I struggle with things just like they do. Many days, my answer is always the same: "I want to practice being calm today - even if I might feel angry or sad at times." To my amazement, my oldest daughter has reminded me a couple of times to remember that I wanted to be calm. And the reminders come at exactly the right time.

On days where we skip our circle time, there is definitely a noticeable difference in our morning, and sometimes, the entire day. With young children in the house, I often feel like I'm behind - like I'm rushing from one thing to the next. Having even 10 minutes to sit together and intentionally think about the day ahead does wonders for me, and my children seem to enjoy it as well.

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