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Simple Saturday: Our Morning Circle

A recent and successful addition to our simple family is our morning circle. With homeschooling, I notice it can be a real challenge to keep some form of structure in our day. In the short term it is easiest for me if I let Brother-Bug lounge and read the morning away in his pajamas. But ultimately that makes life more difficult, because he builds that as his habit and then getting him ready to go on days we do need to leave the house or accomplish something is really difficult.

About a year ago I instituted our “morning routine”. These are the things we must do to get our day going. I try to start it immediately after breakfast every day, but often it kicks off a little later than that. Once it starts, we aren’t supposed to divert into other actions, like reading or iPhoning, or dressing dollies. Theoretically, we go through the routine quickly and get it done. In our morning routine we;
Clear our dishes
Brush our teeth
Get dressed
Tidy the play room – we turn on a CD and pick up for the duration of two songs.
Feed the cat and dog

And then we are free to play, persue our own interests, take a walk, or whatever moves us.

The long term issue I had been having was getting Brother-Bug to transition smoothly into the routine. He would clear his dish and head to the couch and his pile of books. Based on the idea of adding rhythm points and candle glow to a child’s day (from Kim John Payne), I decided to try a morning circle to see what would happen.

I thought about it – the structure of a pre-school or kindergarten circle, what I liked and disliked about circle structure, and how much time and attention I could expect from my little folk. The first day I started it, they were intrigued. The second day they were delighted. The third day it felt pretty normal. Sister-Bug is the biggest proponent of the circle. If she even hears the word “circle” at any point of the day she goes to sit on the living room floor, approximately where we sit each morning.

It grounds us and clears our heads before our day really begins. It’s a good chance to try out ideas for the day. It gives us a natural space from which we can step into our morning routine.

The structure looks like this:

*Light a candle
*Stretch, wiggle, and come to the space. We finish our stretch by wrapping our arms around our chests to give ourselves a “big hug”.
*Hold hands and sing a morning song. 
*Read a short picture book or poem or do a rhyming hand game – I do the same one for a whole week so that both kids can really absorb it. I try to choose books and poems that are relevant to the moment – this week I have a Halloween poem to read. Last week we read “Every Autumn Comes the Bear” by Jim Aronsky, to get into the idea of Autumn.
*Everyone draws an angel card and we talk about what each word means.
*Each person shares something they are looking forward to, and/or something they want to do, and/or something that they think will challenge them through the day. 
*Hold hands again and say a prayer by Tich Naht Hahn.
*Blow out the candle. 

It takes us less than 10 minutes. I keep a small tray with the candle, matches, and the angel cards on a shelf, ready to go, but out of the way.

Brother-Bug has a chance to talk through the day a little bit. This is especially useful on days when I know something is going to be hard for him – like his swim lesson. Sister-Bug is learning sitting and paying attention. I find that it really grounds ME as well, and the couple of mornings we have missed, I have really felt off kilter. Papa-Bug joins us on the weekends, and we draw his angel card for him on workday mornings.

I don’t feel any pressure to make this happen at a certain time each day, but I do insist that we do it before we launch into any major efforts of the day. I think the next level for me is to make no phone calls (and receive no phone calls) before circle. That can really shatter my attention for the morning.

That’s that. It’s great. I’ll close here with the prayer we close with each day.

Breathing in I calm my body.
     (take a deep breath in and release)
Breathing out I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
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