It would be impossible for me to do a series on Homeschool Planning without discussing the anchor of our school days – Gathering. Since we started our Gathering (morning time) tradition almost 3 years ago, it has become our ONE thing – the thing we get done when all other things are left behind.
This simple fact – the immutable practice of our Gathering – is what makes our Gathering a pillar of our homeschool. (Yes, I know I just mixed my metaphors – isn’t it charming?) Thus, this article will discuss what do in our Gathering a little bit, but it will also give you a little insight as to how I plan our Gathering for the year ahead.
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Our Gathering, simply stated, is a collection of resources I want to show my kids. The Gathering brings truth, goodness, and beauty into our days. Although I would do the Gathering (and did, at first) without our Gathering Placemats, the placemats help me in the planning and placement of those things. They help me to be a little more methodical about presenting the feast of learning to my kids.
The way I plan the Gathering Placemats helps my little ones to make connections between subjects, to see how things point to one another. They sort of bridge the gap between the two other pillars of our homeschool – Classical Conversations and Ambleside Online. (Does that count as another metaphor?)
What is the Gathering?
The Gathering is our name for “morning time” or “basket time” or whatever other names parents and teachers have named it. I started hearing about this concept early on in our homeschooling journey. I loved the idea of it! The truth, the goodness, the beauty of it all! Immediately I set about trying to implement it with “morning time plans” from other people.
Our earliest Gatherings were either one of two things:
- a complete flopping-on-the-floor tantrum-fest OR
- hours-long events in which nothing else homeschool-related was accomplished.
Beautiful they were not.
So, I did what I do when I have a problem. I made some observations, some adjustments and I tried again. Then I tried again. And again. You get the point.
Our First Successful Gatherings
First, I knew from my Bible study practice, I needed to create parameters around our Gathering. It needed a time and a place. Each day, the time is limited and the place is the same.
I started with music. I created a Gathering playlist for my kids (limited to about 45 minutes). And put it on in the general time I wanted to have our Gathering.
Soon, my kids were singing the hymns I had shared with them. They were humming Classical music as they built with LEGO or hula-hooped. Soon, they were requesting the Gathering playlist multiple times a day.
Adding a Little More
The addition of anything more than music was the next struggle. I had printed out countless artist prints, planned to watch countless art demonstration videos to add artistic beauty to our Gathering. Very little ever got done with those things. I would start a read-aloud book while the Gathering playlist played to not much of an impact.
My kids were not connecting with the truth, goodness, and beauty I was desperate to show them. Mostly because these were hard to implement.
I kept up my observations of my kids. One day, I noticed my kids had read the same cereal box each morning for at least half a month. The same jokes, the same inane information.
Lightbulb moment! What if I created something with those elements of truth, goodness, and beauty on it and put it in front of my kids?
Ding, ding, DING! I threw together the first Gathering placemats and printed them on my home computer. Of course I laminated them – we are homeschoolers and this was a breakfast time pursuit by this point. My kids LOVED them! I may have danced a little jig as I put the inane cereal box back in the pantry.
Our Gathering was complete! I had the time, the place, and the plan I needed to make our Gathering dream a reality!
Planning our Gathering
Since I am already in the habit of planning our school year in April (read about that here), I take the months of June and July to create all the Gathering Placemats for the school year ahead.
The current Gathering Placemats are available in our shop. This coming school year (2021-2022) will be available in early to mid August 2021.
When I sit down to plan I have the other two homeschool pillars in mind to keep the Gatherings in line – Classical Conversations and Ambleside Online. The memory work on the placemats is inspired by the Cycle (one of three) Classical Conversations will be exploring in the coming year. And the riches – art and music, some Shakespeare – are inspired by Ambleside Online’s riches schedules for the coming year.
I also try to include some Latin and poetry – two of our passions. My kids delight in the silly things I put on the Gathering placemats, too. They look for the “Who Am I?” blocks and the “Simply Silly” blocks first. Only a couple of times have they puzzled over a block and not gotten the answer!
The process of creating the Gathering placemats is a gathering process in itself. I look through so many resources just to get one set done! I love looking through anthologies of poetry and quotations, scrolling through art websites, and contemplating what would fit where.
The request to share a template for my Gathering Placemats – so you can create your own – is made every now and then. I do not have a template available at this time. However, I do recommend extras each month to help “extend” your Gathering a bit more.
I also offer some evergreen Gathering Placemat sets. These are more nature study focused. As I am able to add to them, I do. Currently, there are two available: Oceans and Seas and Birds. I try to get around to these during the summer months.
Gathering or Morning Time in your Home
If you, like me, like the idea of Gathering (or morning time) but have struggled with planning and implementing it, may I make some suggestions?
- Set a time – put parameters around your Gathering. A specific time of day and a set amount of time.
- Pick a place – another parameter to help your Gathering have a prominent place in your home. It can be anywhere in your home you would naturally congregate – around the kitchen table, at the kitchen island, piled on the couch or even mom’s bed.
- Start small – it takes time to work into the practice of Gathering. Pick an absolute favorite engaging thing to share with your kids. Music draws my kids in, so that is where we started.
- Engage, don’t stretch – Hit your kids’ imaginations and brains in all the places they are interested first! Gathering is for delighting in truth, goodness, and beauty. It’s a delicate balance. It shouldn’t be challenging. Save the hard stuff for later in the school day.
- Keep going – no individual Gathering is perfect. Tantrums happen, bathroom breaks happen; life happens. Make adjustments. Try again the next day and the next, It is a habit which becomes a tradition. One day your kids will start to ask for the Gathering – then you know you’ve got them!
- Resist the temptation to make it larger – the success of the Gathering practice depends on it being special – limited. Once you have your kids engaged, keep them wanting more by adhering to the time limit. You can come back to the Gathering tomorrow (God willing) and delight all over again.
One last suggestion for you considering Gathering. I made it effortless for you! Check out our Gathering Placemats and see for yourself how easy it is to create a special Gathering tradition in your home. You can get a free set by signing up for news from my blog (below) or you can get Gathering in our shop.