Starting the day on the right foot

IMG_6950Convocation is, very simply, everyone showing up at the table to start the day together. It’s the sort of thing I would still do even if we sent the kids away to school, but since we homeschool, it’s also the beginning of the school day. This has evolved over the years, as I (characteristically) started out trying to cram too much in or be more free form, but ultimately I have found that in school and life the more I can make something a system and routine, the more likely it is to get done. And the more I can hone in on what is actually important, the more likely we are to continue.

This year, convocation only includes a few things, all spiritual, for a number of reasons.

1) It makes sure those things don’t fall off the table.

In years when I’ve put Bible, scripture memory, singing, and catechism at bedtime or during other reading time, I’ve been tempted to let it slide. We get tired, we have math to do, my voice is giving out… For the past couple of years, we’ve done spiritual things first, and it makes a good habit.

2) It keeps things simple and short.

My clipboard is set up to show me what I have to do for the school day from start to finish. Convocation is at the top and only has a handful of items. If people are dragging or we have places to be, that’s ok. Convocation doesn’t stretch on forever. Other important things like poetry and art and whatnot fit into other parts of our day. And because I know convocation only takes 20 minutes or so, I’m not inwardly panicked that we won’t get to everything else.

I will say that the only thing on my list before convocation is inspection, to remind me to check up that everyone actually handled personal hygiene, did their morning jobs, made beds, etc. Inspection is pretty fast, and maybe someday it will dawn on these people that tooth brushing is a daily requirement and then I will not have to ask. I’m not holding my breath. 🙂 At any rate, in case it’s of interest, here is our convocation list this fall:

Prayer – Sometimes one of the kids prays, sometimes all of them pray popcorn-style, sometimes it’s just me. We pray for teachable hearts and good focus, thank God for the day and opportunity to learn, and pray for missionaries or people we know who are sick or in trouble as those things come up.

Song – We sing a hymn or song a cappella. I have each of our songs printed out and on my clipboard. A sticky note pokes out the side to mark the song for that day, and we just rotate through. The edge of the sticky note that hangs out says, “Lift up your hearts” to remind me to say that. In the past, some of us have had a hard time remembering that we sing to worship, not to be noisy or annoy our siblings or practice our beat-boxing, so this reminds us to put aside any grumpiness or fuss to tune our hearts. After I say “Lift up your hearts” the kids respond, “We lift them up to the Lord” and then I start singing and they join in. Our song rotation includes:

  • How Firm a Foundation
  • All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
  • Come, Thou Almighty King
  • May the Mind of Christ My Savior
  • To God Be the Glory
  • Be Thou My Vision
  • Lead On, O King Eternal
  • Praise Ye the Lord, The Almighty
  • Holy Holy Holy
  • Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise
  • Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee
  • All Creatures of Our God and King
  • Psalm 1
  • Rejoice, the Lord is King

Review Passage – We review one Bible passage per day. I read along with the kids reciting, and I don’t require perfection or put them on the spot. I figure there is value to repeating Scripture over and over again and in the long run this puts more of it in their hearts. Our passages currently include:

  • 1 Peter 5: 1-11
  • Romans 8: 1-17
  • 1 Corinthians 13
  • Psalm 19
  • John 1: 1-18
  • Philippians 2
  • 1 Chronicles 16: 8-36
  • Psalm 16

Bible Chapter – On alternating days, I read a chapter from either the Old Testament, New Testament, or Proverbs. We’re reading through 1 Chronicles and Luke currently, and for Proverbs we just do the chapter that corresponds to the day of the month. Often, I will ask one or more of the kids to narrate (tell back) what happened in the chapter, unless someone has a question or observation.

Catechism Review – Each day, we review five of the questions and answers we’ve already covered. I keep a bookmark in Training Hearts, Teaching Minds to remind me of where we are, and when we get to the end of what we’ve learned, we start over with question one.

Catechism Biblestudy – Using the book linked above, we review the week’s new question and answer, and read the short Biblestudy for that day. In the book, Starr Meade helpfully has six short devotions written around the Scripture proofs for that question. So it gives us a chance to see where the Bible talks about that answer (ie, Why do we believe this? Because it’s in the Bible, not because someone else said so) and understand the idea from different angles. We often spin off into a short discussion here, too.

And that’s it. It looks like a lot in a blog post, but it’s only four check boxes on the list, and it’s done within half an hour. Then I send Hannah off to do independent work, Sarah to computer lessons, and Jack collects his things for teaching time, as I mentioned in my school day overview post. I sometimes use the transition to put Margaret down for a nap or switch a load of laundry, but usually we just proceed pretty smoothly to the next thing on the list.

How do you start your school day?

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