For the past few weeks we've been beginning our school days with morning time. It has totally transformed our days. The kids look forward to it every day and this past Saturday Isaac even asked why we didn't do morning time after breakfast. (He knows how to make his mommy's heart happy!). If you are not familiar with morning time, you can read about it on Alicia's blog. It's just a simple way to incorporate subjects that all of the kids can enjoy together and start the day off in the same place, doing the same thing.
As soon as breakfast is done, we all take our dished to the sink and then gather back around the table. Sometimes the kids are even finishing up their breakfast.
Our typical morning time is structured like this:
Young Child's Morning Prayer from the New England Primer
Memory work (Last week we reviewed the days of the week. Next week we'll start on the months. You could do anything in this spot.)
Hymn Study and/or children's praise song
The way Alicia does it is to have the first few things as something that is done every single day and then the remaining subjects are on a loop. So they'll make it through, say, geography and history and stop for the day. Then pick up with hymn study the next day and so on. Because my kiddos are still quite young (the oldest is 5), our lessons are very short and we are able to get through almost the entire loop every single morning. We don't always do all the things but we try to incorporate as much as we can. Our typical morning meeting lasts a little over an hour. Sometimes less, sometimes more depending on how interested Isaac may be in a topic.
So where does Awana come in? Well, the first week that we started this new schedule I noticed immediately, since we start with scripture memorization (we always use the verse my oldest has to memorize for Awanahere) that there is basically an entire lesson plan built into each Bear Hug (the week's lesson for the verse the child is to memorize).
For example, this week his verse is "Our help is in the name of the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." The lesson that goes along with that verse (because they've been going chronologically through the bible) is about the Israelites as slaves in Egypt and when God sent Moses to Pharaoh.
As we read through the Bear Hug I began to notice how much is packed into each lesson. And all of it fit into the subjects I had planned for morning time. For example:
Scripture Memorization: This is the obvious one. Each week contains a verse of scripture that the child is expected to memorize. Although my 3 year old is not in Awana yet, he still learns the verse with us every week.
Geography: here we discussed where the Israelites were living (in Egypt), how they got there and where they were heading (Israel) once they were set free. We looked at the globe and an atlas and colored a map of the Middle East and discussed where the Nile River was located along with the Red Sea. (This was not all done in one day. It took several days to discuss it all).
History: Along with discussing the biblical history of Joseph, his brothers, the 12 tribes, the Israelites, Moses, etc. this also gave us the opportunity to discuss ancient Egypt and learn about pharaohs and their office and position. We didn't go into extensive detail here because Isaac is still young (we'll definitely learn more in the years to come) but it was a really good introduction. I even picked up a book at the library about pharaohs and we have a couple on Egypt that the kids have been flipping though. Eli, my 3 year old, has been pretending to be Pharaoh for 3 days now and even made himself a throne.
Hymn Study or Children's Praise Song: 2 weeks ago our verse was "Great is Thy faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:23) so I'm sure you can guess what hymn we chose to sing and learn about that week. This week I taught the kids "Pharaoh, Pharaoh" and they absolutely loved it. They listened to it a number of times while I made lunch today and were dancing and singing along.
Short Story: Each lesson has included in it a short story about Cubbie Bear that continues on each week. Isaac gets so impatient and wants me to read on but he just has to wait and see. Because it's such a short story, we do end up reading other stories throughout the week but this is a good way to get them engaged in the initial learning of the verse for the week.
A few extras: There is always an extra credit type activity suggestion in each lesson and it's just an easy way to add more into what they're learning. It's always something really simple and fun that I enjoy doing with my kids. Also, many nights, Isaac will bring home the coloring page that he was working on at Awana unfinished. This is something for him to work on during our lessons. He never just sits and looks at me as I teach. I always want him to be doing something related to what we're learning about. That is why we always have maps and books and the globe out during our lessons so that he's interacting with what is being taught. You could easily add copy work in here too, which we do off and on (I need to be more consistent with it in this part of our schooling). Simply write the verse down and have the child copy it.
You may be wondering how many days this will take? Awana is on Wednesday so we begin a new lesson on Thursday morning. We take Friday off from school (our outing day) and then resume on Monday. One lesson I pull from Awana will last us all 4 days of school reaching until the next Wednesday. If it doesn't, that's completely fine! But like I said, I'm still working with really young ones and so our lessons are nice and short.
Now, since my child is in Cubbies, I can't say for sure that this would translate for the older kids, but my guess is that it probably could. All it takes it a little creativity on your part and a tiny bit of planning (seriously, it's all right there so there is not a whole lot of planning required other than maybe preprinting a map or checking out a book from the library!).
This has made our mornings so enjoyable and it's really engaged Isaac in memorizing his scripture each week. Last year it was like pulling teeth trying to get him to learn them. Now he really enjoys it. In fact a few weeks ago, after I tucked all the kids into bed, I overheard him reciting one of his scripture verses (Psalm 4:8) over his little brother who is afraid of the dark. There is fruit from this and it's so wonderful to get to see it!
Oh and in case you're wondering what the littles do while we go through our morning time, after a short story I read just for them, they sit at our feet with some toys and books (or they run crazy through the house and destroy things. Just being real ;)