History is my jam. I was a church history major in college. My favorite all-time teachers, the ones who impacted me the most, taught me history. Impressed upon my heart and mind, I can still see Mrs. Berry (10th grade World History) standing at the front of class, speaking like Demosthenes. I can still remember my 8th grade American History teacher’s impressive display of Civil War artifacts.
As I tend toward history and literature or language learning, it was easy in our early years to attempt to make the Classical Conversations history sentences come alive to my student(s) by simple activities. In those early days, we did very little extra. but most of the time the extra would be history. We wrote better than Charlemagne; held spontaneous coronation ceremonies; “nailed” pretend 95 Theses to the wall; visited a building with a Magna Carta mural; went on a presidental tour around town; and on and on.
Then, as we began to practice a bit more of a Charlotte Mason approach to our education, we practiced the arts of noticing, attending, and storytelling as we read living history books about the characters who dotted our Classical Conversations Timeline and history sentences. Often, we stopped to sing snippets of the Timeline song or a history sentence related to what we had just read.
All that I considered simple, not because it was easy (because it was) but because it was natural. It was borne out of my natural love of history. I suspect other parents would just as easily and naturally add to the sciences or math.
I started creating these simple Gathering placemats for our morning time. We call it Gathering simply because my invitation to begin our family’s special time is, “Gather ’round!”
Our Gathering was super simple in the beginning. It included Bible time, singing, and poetry. And honestly, that is all we had time for.
I knew there were so many more riches I wanted to share with my precious little learners.
BUT we never seemed to get around to the beautiful art I wanted to show my kids. Rarely, we got to create our own art together. We never had time to just have simple conversations about little things. And we didn’t spend time delighting in the little bits of our day…until we sat around the kitchen island at meal times and snack times.
You know those things you do in your daily routine that make you feel like you are pretty smart? They are usually the solutions you happened upon after banging your head against a wall (problem) for a while. Or maybe they are the things that you thought of the moment you laid eyes on an object (cue lights and music) – and you instantly saw a solution.
Maybe it is pride…well, yes it is pride, but I glory in those solutions. I just love when I find something that makes me feel like a genius. When something makes life just one tiny measure easier. (How does one measure ease anyway?)
Our homeschool is dotted with solutions such as these. They are little genius-level hacks that make me delight in the doing of our daily tasks. And honestly, until I mentioned them to other moms, I thought they were so mundane that everyone was doing them. Turns out they aren’t that common.
Here’s a funny story about the geography memory work for Clasical Conversations. I will tell you the moral of the story ahead of the story: simple doesn’t mean nothing.
Our first year of CC we didn’t do much. I had a 5 year old, a 4 year old, a 1 year old (and found out about baby #4 in January). Oh, and there was a hike – literally. Every week, when we went to Community Day, we drove an hour, got everyone piled out of the car and hiked downhill to the classroom. I didn’t really have much energy for more than just listening to the memory work. So, most of the time, that is what we did. We listened in the car every week, for an hour. And we would add a bit here and there.
Incorporating the practice of Gathering in our days has been one of the most natural processes we have undertaken. In large measure, the ease with which we have done this is due to the addition of our Gathering placemats. As they are always out on the counter for breakfast, ready to be devoured along with the cereal and cinnamon toast of our mornings; they constitute a simple feast.
They drive conversations in the early part of our day. Much to my delight, they are also lovingly shown off to pretty much anyone who comes by our house. And they have become precious to me.
As I have developed a set for each month of the upcoming school year, I have had private celebrations. There is a moment of glory when just the right piece of art lines up perfectly to just the right quote from Shakespeare. A blessed sigh of relief is exhaled when there are just 4 boxes left. Followed by an internal dance party when a full month’s set is complete.
As I transitioned into teaching my kids at home, I was the new student trying to get the lay of the land. The landscape was vast, dotted with an immense amount of information. Feeling overwhelmed with the task of teaching my kids was not a possibility, it was a reality. It seemed a mountain range lay before me. I had to choose one to climb. Even when I settled on a specific mountain (curriculum) to climb (Classical Conversations), I found a valley lay beneath it, filled almost to brimming with books to match every detail of the curriculum.
I saw match-ups for science for each week, nine to ten books a week…and crafts, and worksheets. Then I saw match-ups for history, 4-5 chapter books a week, and crafts, and worksheets. It seemed I could reserve two-thirds of the library and still only be “covering” two subjects with my kids.
Isn’t this whole Classical Conversations supposed to be done with a stick and some sand?