Last week I shared with you my 10 step guide to planning a year of home education. And it was long. So long that I couldn’t fit in steps 8, 9 and 10! Many of you have told me you found it really useful so I’m glad I didn’t try to cut it back any further. Now, as promised, I am sharing #9 with you-Planning Circle Time. You can find #8 here and #10 here 😉
I’ve you’ve had even a cursory look at homeschooling blogs, particularly those in the Steiner/Waldorf vein, you have more than likely come across the term ‘circle time’. Everyone’s heard it, but not everyone is sure what it is. Basically, circle time is a coming together to experience song, verse and movement as a group. In the younger years this is usually tied into experiencing the seasons and festivals of the year, moving towards learning games as children move into the primary grades. It can be a wonderful way to ‘warm up’ in preparation for the Main Lesson.
In a school setting circle time serves the purpose of bringing the children and teacher together as a group. It’s a social occasion. For obvious reasons, this isn’t the case when the school is your home and the teacher is you. Circle time can feel really awkward. Even if it started off as an enjoyable activity when your children were younger, it can start to feel rather forced and unnatural as children get older.
If forming a circle just doesn’t feel right, you can look for other ways to build ritual, music and movement into your day. Or you can try presenting the same elements in a new way. Perhaps your older child can be given the responsibility of teaching the songs to a younger child. My son loves lists. When circle time begins to feel forced we take a break then I reintroduce the elements in the form of a checklist of activities for him to finish before the start of Main Lesson. Look for ways to make it work for you without feeling like you need to make it look the way it would in a school or kindergarten.
Circle time is characterised by the use of verse, song and movement. It’s a way to bring speech and drama activities into your day, a place for rote learning (particularly of maths facts and times tables) and daily practice of an instrument-even if the instrument is just your voice. It’s a chance to learn with our whole bodies. We can practice both fine and gross motor skills here.
Circle time is also an opportunity to bring ritual and reverence into the every day through the use of opening and closing verses, and the lighting and extinguishing of a candle. We can help our children make sense of the passing of time by including seasonal verses, songs and fingerplays, or by taking a moment in our circle time to look at a daily calendar together, paying attention to the day of the week, the month of the year, etc.
As homeschoolers we can pick and choose the elements that work for us. Personally I like to include a song to call the children to circle time, an opening verse to accompany the lighting of a candle, a seasonal verse, a traditional game (one suitable for two people such as a clapping game, a song with actions, fingerplays or string games), poetry memorisation, singing folksongs, maths memory work with movements, recorder practice (a new element for us this year) and then a closing verse to accompany blowing out the candle.
One more element I would like to mention is the concept of balancing your circle time with in and out moments, with balancing large and small movements and using all parts of the body. This is a great opportunity to help our children come into balance before the harder work of the Main Lesson.
We don’t have a set time for starting lessons in the morning. It depends on errands, chores, etc. The children work and play until I am ready to start then I ring a little bell (just kidding. I yell for them to come inside, but wouldn’t a bell be fun!) and start singing our first verse. I repeat the verse until both children have joined me (either in the lounge room or outside for circle time) and we sing it together one last time with actions. Truthfully, the toddler enjoys this part more than my third grader.
Round and round we will go Not too fast and not too slow When we all are in our place Standing tall, face to face Holding hands, smiling too Say, “Hello, how are you?
Once we are all together I light our candle and we say our opening verse together. This is an in breath in our day so the ritual is quiet and reverent. The candle is the drawcard 😉
Between Earth and Sky Here stand I Strength in my limbs Warmth in my heart
We then say our seasonal verse. This is our summer verse and will be used every day until the Autumn Equinox when we will begin to use our autumn verse.
Come out, come out this sunny day The fields are sweet with new mown hay The birds are singing loud and clear For summer time once more is here So bring your rakes and come and play And toss and tumble in the hay The sweet wild roses softly blow All pink and white the roses grow The nodding daisies in the grass Lift up their heads to hear you pass Upon this happy, sunny day When you come out to make the hay.
After all this quiet it’s definitely time for some noise and movement. One big out breath is needed here!
For term one we will learn a new hand-clapping game each week. I am excited to teach the kids some of the traditional clapping games I played as a child, plus there are some that are new to me too. Starting week 2 we will learn Miss Mary Mack, Concentration 64, Slide, Double Double, Sevens, Say Say Oh Playmate, A Sailor Went to Sea Sea Sea, Down by the Banks of the Hanky Panky and finally in week 10, it will be up to Nikolai to choose a favourite each day. This is one part of circle time my boy is very excited about. He is already talking about teaching the new clapping games to his cousins.
At the start of a new term this is all quite a lot to learn so for the first two weeks there will be no poetry memorisation. After our first poetry picnic though, Nikolai will choose a favourite poem from our readings to copy out. The poem will then go up on the wall and he will practice reciting it in each morning circle until he has it memorised. He can then choose a new poem to work on. Believe it or not, this is a much-loved activity. Poetry recitation is a natural in breath for us. (Parent tip: keep all of your verses printed out on a pretty cheat sheet. You can also write them onto your blackboard if you have one. It’s a lot for us to remember at the start too)
Breathing out again and it’s time for maths games. This term is a big revision term for us before starting the new hands-on work of grade three in term 2. Each week we will be reviewing a different times table. The easier tables we will do several in one week, the harder ones will get a week or two to themselves. The tables are chanted rhythmically while we bounce balls, toss bean bags, bang rhythm sticks or use our own bodies for percussion. Using movement helps our memories and makes rote learning fun.
We will then finish up with 5 minutes of recorder practice followed by our closing verse by Rudolph Steiner.
May wisdom shine through me May love glow within me May strength penetrate me That in me may arise A helper of human kind A servant of sacred things Selfless and true
At least that’s the plan. Sometimes life gets in the way and it doesn’t all happen every day. And that’s ok too.
Do you use a morning circle in your home?