Friday, September 4, 2009

Starting Our Day

In this post I talked a little about the importance that I place on the beginning and end of our school day. Here I talked about our Tea Time, which is the end of our school day, and one of our favorite times together. But the most important part of our day is the beginning. It seems that if we can start off on the right foot, the whole day goes well. That being said, there are days that it just doesn't work as planned and we make the most of it. The description below is of a morning that works as it should.

We call the start to our day our Morning Meeting. Unlike the rest of our school day, the Morning Meeting takes place upstairs, in the sunroom and the dining room. Often, while the kids are eating breakfast and getting their morning chores done, I'm gathering necessary items for this morning meeting. As always, the more organized I can be, the better it goes.

We start off with just a mention of the day's feast day, if there is one. Then we say our morning prayers together, which will often include a prayer to the saint who's feast we are celebrating. Then we look to our calendars. For this year, I will have two calendars posted. This one,

which I have used for several years now, and our new Liturgical Year Calendar. I decided not to get a Liturgical Year Calendar last year and I really regretted it. So here it is, waiting for the first day of the new Church Year. It is simply attached to the wall with "sticky tac" for the picture. I'm working on a more attractive way to display it, especially since it's in our dining room. I'll post an updated picture when I get this all figured out.

For our regular monthly calendar, we just review the month, day and year and add the new number for the date. This is mostly for Builder who is in Kindergarten this year. The other kids don't mind since it only takes a minute. We sometimes sing songs to help with remembering the days of the week and months of the year. This site has some really neat ideas for using the calendar to help with math concepts. I am going to use the "School Day Count" idea at that site to help Builder grasp the concept of place value. Other than that, most of our "calendar time" as it is sometimes called, is based on the Liturgical Year Calendar.

When we look at the Liturgical Year Calendar, we will talk about the day, the liturgical season, the colors of the vestments worn, the feast days etc. This mom, who has a beautiful blog, uses tiny images of the saints and attaches them to her Liturgical Calendar. There are so many neat ideas out there. I wish I had the time to use them all! Along with our calendar, we will also make sure our home altar is decorated for the feast day, or at least the Church Season. Here it is, ready for tomorrow, the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In the past, we have always read a story or some information that goes along with the saint's feast day. This year, I'm going to do things a little differently, in the hopes of things running a bit more smoothly.

Instead of celebrating the feast days as they come, we will celebrate a feast day for the week on Mondays. We will decorate our home altar, and I will read a story about the saint whose feast day we are celebrating and the kids will usually color a picture or do a simple craft. I have several resources for these pictures, but one of my favorite is this blog, where the author provides coloring pictures for each saint that is studied in her homeschool (scroll down at that site to see the list of coloring pictures available). Since we use the suggestions from Catholic Mosaic, I also have the corresponding coloring book, Fenestrae Fidei, which we will use this year. Doing it this way, we will sometimes have to choose which saint to study, as there will be several feast days in one week. I think that it will still work better though, as we will have more time to concentrate on the one we are studying.

So, why only Mondays for feast days? Because that leaves time for the other important things I wanted to get to this year. Besides the Catechism and Scripture the children will be studying, I also like to include a very practical, "Living Faith" study. There are three areas in this Living Faith category that I want to focus on this year. First, there are the Liturgical Year Celebrations, which I spoke of above. But there are two other areas that I really wanted to focus on and, while they are touched on in the children's Catechism lessons, I wanted to give them more emphasis. These areas are virtues and the Mass.

We will study the virtues on Tuesdays. I am planning to use Amy Wellborn's Book of Heroes as a spine for this study. I like the way she breaks the chapters in her book down by the spiritual and moral virtues. For each, she explains the virtue, tying it into the life of Jesus. Then, she includes several stories of saints that used that virtue. I'm hoping to use other resources we have, like William Bennett's The Book of Virtues, to round out our study. The kids will d0 a notebook page for each virtue, then add a bit of copywork, a colored picture, or sometimes just a holy card of some of the saints that lived that particular virtue.

For our study of the Mass, which will happen on Wednesdays, I will be using a very simple little book, The Mass Book for Children as a spine. It is much too simple for Social Butterfly, but I plan to use it more of a launching off point and plan to round it out with other materials. I love Erin's Unit Study on the Mass and wish I would have found it sooner. I'm not sure I can get something so elaborate together by ... tomorrow! ... but I'm going to read through it carefully and glean some ideas. I especially like that she uses Maria Montessori's book, The Mass. It is one that I will certainly incorporate into this study. Like the days when we study a Liturgical Feast or a virtue, the kids will make some sort of notebook entry after we do our study on the Mass. I'm learning to keep these simple so we actually do them, and they don't take all day! Wednesday is also the day I am hoping to get to the Mass at noon with the kids, so this should all work together quite nicely.

I don't have a Living Faith plan for Thursdays. I am thinking it will be good to have a catch up day for when life hits us differently than we had planned and the schedule is forgotten. We seem to have one of those days frequently! This could also be the day that we do an art project, but that's another post.

We'll finish this time of day with individual Religion lessons because I think they will naturally flow together. Social Butterfly will be focusing on the Catechism this year, and well as some Bible History. Jetter, will be doing the same, but at a different level. Builder will be mostly learning the Bible stories. Beany will just be making messes of course! I'm looking forward to this special time of day starting up again. Our Morning Meeting and Afternoon Tea Time are the times we all miss most when summer vacation is here.

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