As a family, we began our school day as a group. It didn’t always begin at the same time, and sometimes we were still in our jammies, but we began our studies together in the front room. I called it group time. It became the signal that it was time to focus and take care of the academics for that day (both the children and the mom needed a reminder sometimes). I miss having group time sometimes. The opportunity to be together to share and discuss things which mattered developed into one of my favorite times of day as my family grew. This time can be especially effective for auditory learners, or social children. What did we do when we were together?
Devotional study– scriptures, prayer, and pledging the flag were the beginning of group time.
Poetry-I would take a book off the shelf and randomly choose a poem or two to read aloud. The goal was exposure, not serious study. We did a poetry unit together when they were teens that did require some analysis, but this was simply to hear the beauty of the language and learn to become a bit more comfortable with poetry in general. We read classic, religious, and non-sense poetry.
History reading– I would read a chapter or two from the current volume of history we were studying (often from a book by Genevieve Foster, or Albert Marrin). Discussion would follow. Writing and further study took place on an individual basis.
Character or ethics study– We would discuss manners, courtesy, positive character traits, hero study, and ethics (as they grew older). It became a time to answer questions, share experiences, role play, and explore correct ways to handle the challenge of dealing with people around us.
Drill– time for the 3×5 cards! Greek and Latin roots, facts about the US Presidents, geography facts, times tables, anything you would find on a flashcard can be drilled as a group. Often the younger children memorize more easily than the older ones, so it can become fun for everyone to get involved!
Memorization work– quotes, scriptures, poetry, parts of significant documents can be fun to memorize as a group. We would work on memorizing things such as Walt Whitman’s O Captain, My Captain when we studied the end of the Civil War, scriptures they needed to memorize for church, or just a wonderful quote we found. Having uplifting, inspired words in their minds and hearts provided them with a well from which to draw good things when they found they needed it!
Literature reading– We would generally all read the same literature book at one time. I would then assign writing or other work that was appropriate for the age of each child.
Hands-on activities– If it was going to create a mess or was a particularly interesting activity, everyone wanted to be involved so we added it into our time together. That often gave me time to clear things away before lunchtime, and everyone went to their individual studies with a smile.
Whatever Mom wants to throw into the mix– I would often find something I wanted to share or introduce to the whole gang, so I would simply add it to the days’ group time agenda. Upcoming scheduling changes, discussion about learning styles or personality types, music and art study, and a rare video were some of the things we added as needed. (I also found that any academics we could accomplish as a family made their lists seem shorter, and was like magic for everyone’s mood.)
When my children were young, group time took 10-20 minutes. It grew as they did. We had some epic times when they were all teenagers; sometimes we went for hours. The opportunity it provided us to share and understand each other and the world around them was a favorite for everyone! We are not all the same, but we learned to work together, talk to one another, and appreciate our differences.
Sometimes I really miss group time…