Structuring our Homeschool Circle Time
Today I’m going to share how we complete some of our transitions both at home and on the road when traveling. Before I started homeschooling, I wondered how I was going to incorporate circle time into our learning environment. I knew that most preschools and classes use circle time to sing songs and complete group activities, but wasn’t sure if I needed it or how to incorporate it into our homeschooling routine.
The more classes I took, and honestly the longer I homeschool, the better I understand the purpose of circle time. I’ve come to view circle time in our daily routine as a way to have a very definitive shift in focus and location. This has helped my daughter to understand that we are shifting gears into a schooling mindset.
While I fully embrace play based learning, I’ve come to some realities through trial and error. Namely, that if I simply set out an activity in the midst of the morning she doesn’t always transition well from whatever toy or activity she was working on. She isn’t being graded, but I am creating learning opportunities that I believe she’ll thrive with. She was missing out simply because I didn’t understand how to help her transition to those activities.
Not to mention, she totally LOVES Circle Time and the different activities when she is completing them. Often one of her pals comes to circle time too, here it’s here blue bear from Black Bear Diner.
Personalizing the Experience
Personally, my approach to homeschooling is a guided play based curriculum. The main reason that I LOVE Mother Goose Time, our preschool curriculum. While I steer away from worksheets at this age, I do believe that having structure in my planning helps me create a dynamic learning environment for her.
Creating a theme that I stick to helps create opportunities that I present to her and then she gets to choose if she wants to pursue those. Let me give you an example.
I didn’t embrace circle time at first. Initially I thought it was challenging to incorporate for a single child. However, we have since embraced circle time as I’ve watched her thrive in our group classes. I’ve come to recognize that circle time is a coordinated and yet fun way to signal a transition to focus on something different.
With the teacher’s guide and the circle time CD provided by Mother Goose Time, I have created a central area with a rug and a pillow where we sit together to complete Circle Time. I’ve found that she is very focused on the music and all I have to do when we’re ready to start schooling is turn the CD on and she comes running.
She is currently obsessed with toddler yoga, so we start with a deep breath and Namaste.
The tune is catchy and fun and she claps along before jumping up to check on the weather. Admittedly the weather is a lot more fun now that there is fall weather rather than the hot days of summer.
She loves finding the goose I’ve hidden around the house, exploring the weather and moving the calendar on the wall. We sing a song about days of the week and try to match it up. The color of the month and the shape get revisited. While there is a routine and flow to our Circle Time, I also allow for antsy behavior and we move on a little quicker some days.
I am fortunate that we have an entire area in my office we can designate to our circle time area. However, we have in the past created our circle time board on a portable tri-fold board and had circle time at the breakfast table. That’s the beauty of homeschooling correct? Find what works best for you.
One of the consistent things we do during Circle Time is look at our schedule for the day. I’ve found that talking about some of the things we’re going to be doing, she starts to anticipate them. This makes transitioning easier for her since she seems to be totally my kid and doesn’t adjust on the fly as well.
Personally, I’m the type of person who doesn’t deal with change well. I love lists and routines and embrace new experiences more when I can anticipate them. Realizing that she is much like me in that aspect, I wasn’t being fair by not encouraging that. She is after all, the kid who brings me paper and asks for a list of her duties. Which generally are give hugs and kisses and be kind, but still.
After Circle Time, we move into free play. I make sure I set up the STEAM station before we start as that is generally her favorite. Then we transition to a different activity a bit later. Admittedly she often is so focused on the STEAM station that she will usually come play for a bit and then head back to the steam station. Which is great. I don’t want to structure her too much.
For example, we were working on creating some get well cards as part of our Care Themed Day. September we’ve been moving through our Friends and Feelings Theme. Earlier in the month we explored making friends and feelings. This week’s thematic topic is all about caring.
Generally she is super excited about anything arts and crafts related. Add in a band-aid and I thought oh this is right up her ally. However, she made it through the googly eyes and wanted nothing more to do with it.
The teddy bear that needed to get patched up though, he was her sole focus for the day. Honestly I didn’t think she’d be as excited about it as she was, but she kept saying he needs more band-aids, I need to check his temperature. She has a Dr kit and we play all the time so I honestly didn’t plan much time for this activity. However she was very focused on it so we simply stuck with it for the remainder of the time I had allotted for the Creative Area.
Transition with Outside Time
When I’m working on presenting a different activity, such as this great game board, I will utilize a break by heading outside. Before we go outside I tell her that we’re going to go out and play and ask her to check what we’re going to be working on when we come back inside. One of our gifts from Mother Goose Time last year were these great schedule markers (?). I simply put magnetic strips on the back and we use them to keep track of our daily school schedule.
We talk a little about what we might be doing before we head outside. Heading back in 15 minutes later she’s usually pumped to do the new activity because she’s had some time to anticipate it. I always leave the STEAM station set up and there are admittedly times that she heads straight back to it. Generally however she wants to at least interact with the new activity some. Sometimes she ends up sticking with the next activity, or she heads back to something else.
We talk about our plans for the week and I put them on our weekly calendar. She gets to see if we’re going to the zoo or museum, if we have play dates, etc. I personally work better knowing what to anticipate and I’ve found that she thrives when she understands the expectations for her.
Since I have done a broad overview of the school year plan, I simply continue to work off of that, refining my month and week plans. When possible, I incorporate food and recipes that support our curriculum as well as field trips and extra activities. As such, I am SO excited for next month’s harvest theme as I love everything fall food related! If you haven’t yet, make sure you check out our 30 days of fall blog party for fall homeschooling inspiration.
How do you transition your preschool time at home? Any pointers to share that might make our homeschooling experience smoother?
Disclosure – We were so excited to be chosen as an official Mother Goose Time Blog Ambassador effective September 2018. As a blog ambassador I receive the curriculum in exchange for my honest feedback and experiences using the materials. All thoughts and opinions are my own. I hope that you are encouraged and inspired to try new things with the little ones in your life.