A few years ago, somewhere in the early fog of my homeschooling journey, I heard about morning time. The ideas one could incorporate into a morning routine intrigued me. Showing my kids art, sharing Bible stories and hymns with them, snuggling together to read a treasured book. The vision of a peaceful start to our homeschool day sounded perfect! It all sounded so wonderful!
Bringing my visions to reality proved much harder than I had imagined. We could consistently get to Bible stories, and maybe some songs. But then I lost them to the wiggles, the “I’m still hungry!” mantras, and sometimes tears. Oh, and it took forever to get through the little we had done!! After months and months of trying (and failing) to figure out the how-to; I was desperate to figure out how to make this thing work.
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I started studying my kids. Studying my kids is usually the way I figure out the solutions to our everyday problems. I started to notice the times when a Gathering would work for us – at breakfast, around the kitchen island. So, I took to trying to read to them there, while they ate quietly. This proved only part of the solution. We could get through one aspect of the morning Gathering I envisioned. But there were still so many riches I wanted to share with my kids!
Gathering: a Short History
Then I had an idea! I started creating a playlist for each month with the hymns, Scripture songs, and Classical composers from Ambleside Online‘s line-up. This was a BIG hit. It was the breakthrough that made our Gathering start to be something my kids looked forward to. I would try to read a little something during the Classical composer portion of the playlist. Things were looking up.
And then one day, I noticed my kids ob-session with the backs of the cereal boxes they had. They would quite literally read the same inane information every single day for as long as we had a particular box of cereal.
The lightning bolt struck as I gazed at the back of the cereal box.
I could get my kids to read the things I wanted to show them. The art I had longed to show them but never got around to could be the anchor of this piece of paper I could put in front of them while they ate.
That was the solution! I spent months coming up with a layout and adding art, poetry, hymns, etc. to placemats I never even printed out to show my kids. It took quite a while to settle on something I thought my kids would get excited about.
Finally, I created my first set of Gathering Placemats for my kids and shared them with them in May of 2019. Looking back on them now, they look like child’s play. The kernel of the idea was there, but as I created more and more, I learned so much about the layout, the process of creating them. I am almost embarrassed at the first set. No matter – my kids loved them!
I paired the first set of Gathering Placemats with the already established playlist and suddenly, my kids and I were doing morning time! The vision I had for over a year, and had failed to bring to fruition was finally in front of me! My kids started noticing art and artists similar to the ones on the placemats. They were telling silly jokes and singing simple songs. My kids were singing hymns while playing throughout the day! My son even read some of his first words from the Gathering Placemats!
These were culture-changing in our family! Now they hold a treasured place in our hearts and in our home. My kids scour the latest sets for their personal favorite features of the placemats. They read them to one another. They ask questions. There are conversations around our kitchen island that center on goodness, truth, and beauty!
Fast-forward to this Summer
I started creating the Gathering 2020-2021 Placemats earlier this summer. The pages start out blank. Only a few things serve as placeholders when I curate a set – the hymn and the artist (and some art selections). The rest of the boxes included in each month’s set are carefully pieced together to create the final results.
I spent hours searching for beauty, hours considering what truth I wanted to show my kids, hours curating goodness from the vast landscape of riches which lays before us. Then, it was time for my own personal celebration of the beauty of these placemats as I carefully edited them .
Flashes of giddiness, moments of serious awe greeted me as I surveyed the Gathering Placemats for 2020-2021. I simply marveled at the beauty of the artworks, delighted in each little box – one tiny gem. The poems and songs quickly became like old friends. I found myself saying, “Oh, I love this one!”
I cannot wait to show them to my kids! They are just so special!
An Invitation to Gathering 2020-2021
Even as I created these beauties for my kids this summer, I was considering you and your family. I was thinking about how this year has been such a distinctly different year for so many families. Routines have completely shifted, schools have relocated to homes (by choice or not). Our year has been chaotic.
I want to invite you to start the tradition of Gathering in your home this school year. I invite you to begin to share riches – goodness, truth, and beauty – with your kids. When you begin Gathering, you will find conversations grow into treasured moments with your family. Singing hymns together, reading poetry, sharing silly jokes, challenging one another to solve a riddle – these are moments the Gathering Placemats offer.
When things “return to normal,” you will carry with you a new treasured tradition. You will have created the routine of talking together, learning together, and connecting with one another each day.
What’s in the Gathering Placemats for 2020-2021?
Carefully curated for you, the Gathering Placemats always include most of the following:
- Bible verses
- memory work
- nursery rhymes
- vocabulary building with Latin Roots
- geography drills
- and MORE!!
This year’s featured artists are: Titian, Leonardo da Vinci, Boris Kustodiev, and Rembrandt van Rijn. The hymns, artists, and composers follow the Ambleside Online schedule.
I made it so simple to get started with the tradition of Gathering. All you do is purchase the downloadable sets of Gathering Placemats, print them out (and laminate!), and share them with your kids. Add the Gathering playlists from Spotify each month to expand the Gathering even more.
When you purchase the Gathering Placemats, you will get 4 placemats per month. The front of the placemats is the same for each set and features a hymn of the month, a poem, and a Bible verse of the month. The back of each individual placemat has a large art piece from the artist of the month as well as little boxes filled with goodness, truth, and beauty.
You will also get access to the Gathering playlists I create each month on Spotify. I also send out some Gathering Extras along the way, to stretch your Gathering more, if you like.
It is my deepest desire that these simple Gathering Placemats would be a blessing to you and your family. I pray for each of the families who have these placemats in their homes, that God would richly bless them as the gather together and connect.
For more information about Gathering together as a family for a morning time tradition, please read this FAQ.