Sunday, September 19, 2010

Homeschooling Tips Finale

(Did you notice I changed my background color from Pepto Bismal  to mocha dots? Both go with the donut theme :) , but I like to change things up around here so you don't get bored during the long wait between posts.)

Last time, I promised to tell you about Table Time. And I made some pretty hefty claims about what it would produce. Family unity....enrichment learning....higher IQ's.....better end to that pesky climate change dilemma.

Well, how about I stick to the first two claims and define Table Time for you? It's very complex and elaborate, but I think you can handle it if you read slowly and deliberately.

Table time..... is a time .....directly after a meal- usually breakfast and lunch- where we sit.... at a table....all together... and learn.

Take a sec to let that soak in if you need to. Maybe read it again, underlining any of the words you need to look up.

OK, I know. It sounds too simplistic to actually work, but the beauty behind Table Time is that you're already all in one place and everyone is happy (aka full), and ready to learn.

Here's the Why:

As our children get older, they are learning at different levels, reading different materials, doing subjects that take longer periods of time - and it's harder to find shared enthusiasm. It's also harder to squeeze in time during the regular school day for picture study (art appreciation), poetry, Shakespeare, geography, character-building literature (like Lamplighter books), hymn singing, composer study, Scripture recitation, and hygiene (my boy's personal favorite to discuss at the table.)

We've done a different combination of those over the years, but normally we start our time together, during breakfast, by sharing what we've read in our quiet times. This is not a lengthy sharing time; they usually just read one verse that stood out to them and sometimes I ask them why. 

Occasionally, they'll have a question that tempts me to want to preach/lecture/exhort/chide - but I try to keep that to a minimum...which they greatly appreciate. However, I love to share with them something the Lord brought to my attention during my own quiet time - and without Table Time, I doubt I would remember to do this. The Scripture tells us a student is not above his master, which is an admonishment to teachers not to expect more from their students than they're willing to give themselves. I want them to know the Word is my lifeline.

By this time everyone has finished eating (or the food is gone), but we stay at the table - not even stopping to clear - and I usually do a character lesson. We've used Doorposts material as well as Character Sketches and Character First booklets. We end the morning time by praying and singing a hymn. We sing the same hymn every day for a month, every verse :) and easily memorize 12 hymns a year. The first time we sing it, I usually have one of the older children read aloud some background information about the hymn and the writer. Some of the stories behind the lyrics are amazing. 

(I should add here that the children I currently have at home are not good singers, but I don't let that stop us. My first four, now grown and singing hymns elsewhere, were very good vocalists and they spoiled me.)

A good source for choosing hymns to learn is your Pastor. I gave ours a list of possibilities and he chose the ones he knew we would be singing regularly at church, along with the Doxology and the choruses we sing after the offering and the end of services. I love watching a child's face light up when a familiar hymn is sung in church. A good hymn for all ages is "This is My Father's World."

One of our favorite morning Table Time reads was Everyday Graces, which combined etiquette lessons with snippets of classic children's literature. We also read The Goops 
a few years back - and the poems we memorized in that book are still (unfortunately) with us. 

Lunch is pretty much the same scenario (without the cereal), but I usually eat before them so I can talk without food in my mouth. While morning Table Time is usually the same thing every day, the lunch subjects change according to the day.
Last year we did Art appreciation and Shakespeare on Mon/Wed and Geography/Health on Tues/Thurs.   Fridays are always read-aloud time. Usually a historical novel (Henty?) or a longer classic.  I used to wait to read until after lunch when we would all retire to the living room, they would color or draw, and I would occasionally fall asleep mid-sentence. I still let them color on Fridays while I read. It keeps their hands off each other, and it gives the older kids a chance to color without feeling silly :)  I get great, educational coloring books from Dover.

For picture study/art appreciation I simply pass around a work of art (from a book, a postcard, a calendar,...) for the children to look at for a minute or so each, then we talk about how the picture makes us feel, what colors stood out to us, and whether we liked it. Many times, after the picture has gone around the table, I ask them to describe it. This helps them work on their attention to detail. As with the hymns, we try to study the works of one artist for a month. If you can study artists that correspond with the historical period you're studying - great. If not, no biggie. Table time is not something to stress over. It should not take lots of planning.
There is no right or wrong way to do it.

For geography, we've used blank maps or library books, or a globe and a cd of songs. The point is just to have everyone working on the same thing (unity, remember?) and to use small increments of time to consistently cover a subject. One year, we did Anne VosKamp's Geography of the World and we absolutely loved it! If you choose something structured like that, don't give in to the temptation to keep the kids at the table for hours. Just take your time and enjoy it! It may take you two years to get through it but that's better than never getting around to it, right?

Well, I hope this little mini-series of homeschooling tips has been helpful. It's been a nice refresher for me. If you're in the Tallahassee area, come hear more of this life-changing information at the September TEACH meeting where I'll be the featured (meaning..only) speaker.  

I always hate to make promises, but I got some great pictures of my newest granddaughter while she and her mom and brother were visiting me recently, that I'm itching to show (off.) We are now calling our home the Haven from Bats. I'll explain later (maybe even this week....although probably not.) .Hey, maybe I can add Blogging to our Table Time. They could all sit around (silently) and watch me type.



Bobbie-Jo said...

I think you must have some experience with special needs kids?!

I've tried to do morning "Circle Time" (from Preschoolers and Peace) which I think is a fantastic idea, but we just could NOT make it work for my developmentally delayed boys. Something about Table Time rings true to me.

I'd love to implement it after lunch (we already do after breakfast devotions) for some of our read alouds and other group lessons.

So far, I've loved all of your "from the trenches" advice. It really takes someone who knows what it's like to have special needs kids to give tips that don't just sound nice but actually work.

Dayna said...

I'm so glad that you continued your series. I'm always encouraged. Today is our first break from organizing our new home -- I mean our first day of school. Have a fantastic week!

Krista said...

Thanks, Debbie! I enjoyed reading about Table Time! This school year for me is much more "hoemschooling" than last year, and I am really thanking God how well it is going so far.
I like all your ideas about Table Time and I think that it sounds like a great way to include those things that I have found are hard to squeeze into the rest of the day. Thanks again!
Lord willing, I plan to attend the TEACH meeting....I look forward to hearing you! :)

Laura said...

I did not remember that you did this at lunch. Seems like a good way to incorporate curriculum breaks in the schedule so you can cover other subjects and develop that unity! A month into our school year we definitely need to make some adjustments. Thanks for the tips.

Kristy@life-simplicitas said...

Great idea...a round-table discussion with a captive audience!

Nadene said...

I wish our table time could be like yours, but I have an older teenager who hates my "mom-the-teacher" mode at the table/ in the car and on journeys!

I have to keep it really, really informal. I'm thrilled when we do high tea and poetry with some classical music and art appreciation, but for the rest, we do it in school time.

Jamie said...

I love this. We have table time as well. We do the hymn study too. I love reading about the history behind things. Thanks for the great advice.

Jamie said...

You are so funny! I love the way you write. Would you be willing to share your adoption story with me and possibly share your daily schedule? Did you adopt through the foster care system? We are almost foster to adopt certified and I would love to hear your story. Thanks so much!