Convocation: What it is and why we do it

IMG_5011Convocation just means the time when we convene to start school.  You can see where it fits into my weekly checklist above.  Unlike lots of other families, it doesn’t work for us to do all of our read-alouds, poetry, memory work, singing, artist and composer study, etc etc all at one time.  There is just too much of it.  I’ve found that it works better for us (for my voice and for the quality of our discussion) to break things up throughout the day. So rather than having one catch-all spot, we have Convocation, Table Time, The Reading, and Bedtime Reading/Worship–at the beginning, middle, and end of our days, respectively. This week, I’ll try to give you a brief look at what Convocation includes for us and why, and how it only takes 15 minutes (usually).

First, we pray for our day.  This is brief, maybe 1-2 minutes, asking God to bless our day, give us teachable hearts and good attitudes, make us diligent, and to show us His truth and beauty as we study. If we have any particular concerns going on, we can pray about those too.

Why start with prayer? Prayer reminds us of why we are doing this hard work of education, and helps put our focus on the larger picture of God’s work and how exciting it is that we get to learn about it in all aspects of our day. But most of all, it reminds us (particularly me) that we aren’t in this alone and that we need God’s help and grace.

The next piece rotates by day and can be very quick or take around 5 minutes:

  • Monday – say the Lord’s Prayer (actually we tack this on to the end of our prayer that day)
  • Tuesday – recite the Apostle’s Creed
  • Wednesday – each kid is given a Bible verse to look up (to get faster at finding passages in the Bible and to get practice reading Scripture out loud well)
  • Thursday – recite the books of the Bible
  • Friday – Catechism review

Why do we memorize this stuff? The Lord’s Prayer, Apostle’s Creed, books of the Bible, and catechism are part of historical church practice–we learn them because we are part of the church and God’s work around the world and across the centuries, not just our own little community and place in time. In addition to being time-tested statements of belief, these are beautifully written pieces that use strong vocabulary and excellent structure–all good reasons to have them in our minds!

Then we review our catechism question and answer and do a brief Biblestudy from Starr Meade’s Training Hearts, Teaching Minds.  The book has a short study for each day of the week related to the Scripture proofs for each question and answer from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.  We just switched back to that book after I realized the kids were too old to keep going through the Children’s Catechism and needed something more.  This takes maybe 5-7 minutes or so.

Why tie Biblestudy to catechism? We don’t always, but I like how this study ties what we believe to why we believe it.  It’s a great springboard for discussions.  And I do allow discussion if it comes up–we aren’t tied to a minute-by-minute schedule and I think it’s important to dig deeply and wrestle with ideas. After all, the purpose of education is not just to check boxes!

After that we recite our review passage of Scripture.  We memorize by chapter for the most part, so I just stack in five things from our memory work and put them on my clipboard for the week. This takes maybe 2-3 minutes.

Why do we memorize scripture by passage? I’ve read a lot about the value of memorizing longer passages instead of (or in addition to) single verses, especially for giving us a sense of how verses fit into the whole flow of scripture. Then there’s literary merit, which is not the primary concern but certainly is a factor!  Again, if we purpose to give our children a taste for truth and beauty, we have to make beautiful language part of their experience.

Finally, we sing a Psalm or hymn.  We have 10 per week–five for morning and five for before bed. This takes a couple of minutes.

Why do we learn hymns and Psalms? Our church sings a mix of traditional music and modern worship songs, and frankly I think the hymns are–for the most part–of more enduring value musically and lyrically.  I don’t have anything against worship tunes in general, but I think there is value to learning more complex pieces so we do more of that at home. And obviously Psalms are scripture and singing is a great way to memorize.

So that’s Convocation.  On paper it sounds like a lot, but in actual practice it does take an average of 15-20 minutes, give or take a discussion or breakfast disaster or two.

I hope that helps–let me know if you have any other questions. I gather ideas from all over the place, so very few of these things are my originals.  I just regroup things into ways it will work for my family, so please don’t feel like I’m saying this is how anyone else should do things!


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7 thoughts on “Convocation: What it is and why we do it

  1. Convocation is one of those things I’d really love to incorporate but can’t figure out how to actually DO. Thank you for posting the actual pieces of what you do, it’s really helpful to see something concrete. I’ve never used a catechism, but like the idea of actually learning the tenants of what we believe and why in an organized fashion.

    1. It took me a lot of tweaking to figure out how to make it work in our day, and I think we only just got into a good groove with it this year. As for catechism, I think it’s good to plan to go over it with discussion and looking up the passages that go with it. The book we’re using covers the Westminster Shorter Catechism but in modernized English. I’d actually prefer the old version, but I like the little devotionals that go with it. Common ones are the Westminster Shorter, Westminster Longer, and Heidelberg. Look for one “with scripture proofs” so you can see which passages the theologians were using. Starr Meade has a devotional based on the Heidelberg too – Comforting Hearts, Teaching Minds.

      1. These catechisms are specifically Presbyterian, if Google is correct, yes? I really like the idea of the devotional that ties to the catechism and will have to look and see if there’s something similar for Luther’s Small Catechism. I really appreciate seeing how you work in some of these specifics–I see a lot about generic Bible learning (maybe from non-liturgical traditions that don’t have catechisms?), but less about more specific doctrinal learning. Thanks for the ideas!

        1. Lots of Presbyterian churches use the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but it was actually drafted by a group of English and Scottish theologians for the Church of England (Anglican, Episcopal) in the 1600s, which I think may predate Presbyterian denominations. I’m not positive about the Heidelberg Catechism, but I think it was more generally protestant as it came out of Germany (where more Protestants were specifically Lutheran). You might have to dig around more to get the history of both if that might be an issue for your family. I think both catechisms were designed to clarify the theology of the Reformation, so I don’t think you could say they are denominational per se. But the best thing would probably be to review them yourself to see how the theology stacks up! Both are available for free in various places online. I hope that helps!

          1. Great, thank you! I did do a quick google search, but it can be hard to find answers if you don’t know specifically what you’re looking for. I’ll look at them and look at the Starr Meade books, too. Riding that ecumenical/denominational line can be tricky sometimes when looking at homeschooling resources!

          2. Yes it can! I find that a lot just in general literature too. For my kids (and this could be an age thing), I find that I still skip some things that I don’t think are correct or appropriate, but more often I’m just stopping and using it as a chance to talk through what we DO believe. Sometimes that’s just a mention in passing, but other times it leads to really great discussion.

  2. This is so helpful.
    I worked two days a week and I feel we loose momentum. We are trying out the public school this year with my older, it works for now. Looking forward to what God has plan for our family.

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