Okay, so it’s been established that having a Morning Gathering time will help you make the most of your valuable homeschool time. But, just what constitutes a successful Morning Gathering? Well, that largely depends on your family’s needs and goals at this time. Look at these questions to help you think about & determine your homeschool needs:
1. What areas are being “skimped” on in your homeschool?
Let’s face it. The day goes by in the blink of an eye. If your day is anything like mine (used to be), you realize as you are cleaning up the dinner dishes that art or music (insert any often overlooked subject matter here) was skipped over.
Diapers need changed, laundry needs to be addressed (hello, you pile of clothes! how unfortunate to see you there! moving on…), meals & snacks need to be distributed before crankiness sets in (and that’s for the kids too!)…the regular business of family life creeps into your homeschool world. As a result, you may find yourself scrambling more times than not just to cover the basics (3 Rs + science & history).
There is nothing wrong with having periods of your family life (new baby, illness, pre-holidays) where “extra” areas of homeschool are skipped over. But, those areas still need addressed & should not be overlooked for too long. How can we easily incorporate these overlooked areas back into our homeschool day? We can accomplish that by adding Morning Gathering!
One big thing that the boys & I had overlooked when we first started homeschooling was saying the Pledge of Allegiance every day! Coach & I think it is very important to help our boys learn patriotic values. Simply adding an American flag (and I also got several smaller flags for boys to hold on their own-they love it!) to our Morning Gathering area gives us the visual reminder to start each homeschool day the patriotic way.
Next step is the most important for our homeschool-prayer! It centers & calms, helping us to remember God in all things. We use this time to learn & practice new prayers. Also, each boy has had the opportunity to lead prayer time-a practice that I didn’t grow up with but want my boys to experience.
To determine what other content areas needed to be included in Morning Gathering, I looked at what was missing, what we needed, & our interests at the time. As a Catholic convert, I find myself constantly thirsting for more information about our Church. I felt that one area that would benefit the boys & myself was learning more about Catholic Saints.
I set a schedule that coordinated my preschooler’s weekly letter of the alphabet (I’ve used both Catholic Icing’s Catholic ABC’s and Twenty-Six Letters to Heaven with great success) with a saint whose name had the same first letter. We used several different books about saints (stay tuned for Day 6 where I review some excellent resources!), coloring pages, journaling, and you tube videos.
At that time (and up to present), Professor was obsessed with U.S. Presidents and wanted to shared this love with his brothers. I coordinated it with my toddler’s learning numbers and my preschooler’s learning ordinal numbers. For example, we learned about the concept first, number 1, and George Washington together. Again, we used books, coloring pages, you tube videos, songs, and even presentations by Skipper and Professor (great way to practice oral reports!).
Others areas we have studied during Morning Gathering include U.S. States, telling time, math facts, composers, artists, and manners.
Right now, we are focusing on current events, grammar (prepositions to be specific), patterns, saints (we will probably always do this area-just so many wonderful saints to learn about & try to emulate!), and countries of the world. I will be looking at all of these areas in the future & ways to include in our (& hopefully your!) Morning Gathering.
2. What goals do you have for your homeschool?
Goals can often relate to ages & stages of your children, as well as your own growth. Do you have a preschooler who is learning numbers, letters? First grader starting subtraction? Fourth grader mastering state facts? How can you coordinate your Morning Gathering time to best meet the needs of all your kids?
When we first started homeschooling (after my two oldest had been in the public school system for a few years), I found my #1 goal was to help the brigade understand that it was okay (even encouraged!) for them to help each other. I focused on cooperation and mentoring during our Morning Gathering time. I (pleasantly!) discovered that this team work would carry over into the rest of the day-with school work, play, and chores!
As I said, I am a Catholic convert. Homeschooling the brigade has helped ME learn & grow in my faith. I have had to delve further into the teachings of the Catholic Church (and other subjects!) to gain a better understanding myself so I can even attempt to put into basic terms even my preschooler can understand.
Goals for Morning Gathering can be designed to help the kids & mom (or dad)!!
3. How much time do you want to devote each day to Morning Gathering?
Consider your overall schedule. Think about your kids and what they are capable of-my 12 year old (usually!) can sit longer than my 4 year old. Do you want to vary the amount of time each day? Maybe Monday mornings are more flexible but Wednesday’s schedule is packed? (Although not ideal to change up too much-establishing a routine is important-so if you decide to change it up, try be consistent at least in content areas.)
If you are anything like me, you tend to overplan & think you can accomplish much more than is possible in a set time. I have found keeping it as simple as possible, as well as allowing time for questions or comments (these are limited in my homeschool to 2 per boy-or we’d never accomplish anything!) So, I estimate about 25 minutes per Morning Gathering-and I’m usually pleasantly surprised to end prior to that amount of time.
4. How much prep do you want to do?
Again, ages & stages. Where is your family right now? How much time do you (realistically) have to plan Morning Gathering time? Do you want to create your own materials/resources, tap in to others’ brilliant work, purchase pre-made items?
When we had X man last March, I had zero planning time. Luckily, I had put most of it together prior to his birth. I had already established a routine with his older brothers-and was able to finish out the year with Morning Gathering. Once your Morning Gathering time is established, I think you will find how smoothly it will go-and how you will need less & less prep work.
Another factor to consider: how far out do you want to plan? Ideally, I would plan out our whole year. My boys, however, start to loose interest in a content area or two; I find changing out content areas about every 3 months helps. Too much of a routine in our homeschool can lead to laziness-and just going through the motions.
I think being flexible & open to change is the best for the brigade. Is that how your homeschool runs? Or do you & your kids do better with sticking to one method & pushing through? Either way-do what works!
5. What materials do you want (or have) to use?
How do you want your Morning Gathering time to look? By that I mean, do you (& your kids) need visuals? Do some kids needs to hear music & sing songs to help them retain the information? Maybe some need to touch & feel to grasp the concepts?
The types of learners that your kids (& you) are will effect what types of materials you will want in your Morning Gathering time. Check out this awesome infographic from OnlineCollege.com
Another informative article by Tracy Ostwald-Kowald entitled “Understanding Your Student’s Learning Style: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences (on Connection Academy blog) looks closer at Howard Gardener’s theory of 8 learning styles and should prove useful in determining how you & your kids learn. Learning style theory is a pretty big topic (ooh! don’t be surprised to see a post soon!). I find it fascinating how different individuals learn…and its application to homeschool education has endless potential.
For the brigade, Skipper is verbal/linguistic (just like Mommy!). He does best when he can take notes while listening to someone read aloud. Professor is intrapersonal; he is my boy who enjoys working on his own and having checklists. Smiley thrives with interpersonal activities; he was struggling doing math worksheets independently until we started to make a game of it-now he has his addition & subtraction facts mastered! Bear is my auditory/musical boy; he can listen to a song once about anything & repeat it back verbatim-and with comprehension! X man…a bit young to determine-will update as he develops:)
So, as you can see, our Morning Gathering incorporates different approaches and materials to accommodate all learners. There are countless ways to set up your Morning Gathering time. Let’s look more at materials & supplies to select for your homeschool’s Morning Gathering on Day 3.
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