Morning Time Symposium.

That is the name we chose for the time of day when we all gather to

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Taken from The Liberal Arts Tradition by Clark & Jain 

encounter many of the ideals you see in this picture–all within a one-and-a-half to two hour setting. If studying this image lights a fire in your soul, then you can understand why we love our Morning Symposium so much. Now, don’t get delusions of grandeur here, and don’t imagine that this gathering is perfectly pleasant every time we sit down together. Also, don’t imagine a grand and intricate series of lesson plans. No, our symposium time is really rather simple. As we set out to do this, my goal was that we would encounter each portion of this tree at least once per a six week term. Some of these elements we discover every time we meet, while others are visited on a rotation (a.k.a. a loop schedule).

When we began our homeschooling journey last fall, we had a different name for our morning time, and I hadn’t really taken the time to ponder just what a powerful impact this gathering could have on our souls…and brains….and spirits. Then, beginning in January of 2016, I discovered Cindy Rollins, Sarah MacKenzie, Pam Barnhill, Christopher Perrin, and Andrew Kern. I devoured books, listened to dozens of podcasts, watched seminars, and was enthralled with the idea that education can embody all of the qualities in this image.

Have we obtained it all? By no means. It is a journey. A mindset. It is a filter through which our studies pour. In fact, I don’t believe we will fully attain the fruit of this philosophy until we see our Creator face to face. But, we can “taste and see that the Lord is good” while we walk on this earth. And, He permeates every part of that beautiful tree image. All of those qualities have their origins in Him.

Shared Learning

During this time of day, our learning is a shared experience. There really isn’t much independent work that happens during symposium. Instead, we ask and answer questions together, complete projects together, and so on.

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We sing songs of the faith, study about our Covenantal God,  and pray.

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We memorize a history timeline, practice our skip counting with songs and ditties, memorize and recite poetry…

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…chant our Latin verb conjugations, sing about the eight parts of speech, trace and label maps, and act out our history statement memory work. Yes, we act it out! Right now, Rosebud is working with the statement about the Norman Conquest:

“After the church split into Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox, William the Conqueror defeated King Harold of England in 1066 and started feudalism.” (Classical Conversations, Cycle 2 Memory Work: History Statement for Week 2)

She wouldn’t let me post the video of her re-enactment.  So, you’ll just have to use your own imagination!

 

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William of Normandy (seated) negotiates with Harold Godwinson in 1064. Bayeux Tapestry c. 1090

 

But, through all of this, my favorite aspect of our morning time is the dialectic and socratic discussion that all of these activities bring to the forefront.  Believe me, we do not lack for conversation. I love watching Sunshine’s eyes widen before she makes an observation and I thrill at the meaningful (and sometimes challenging) questions Rosebud poses. This is why we decided upon the title “symposium.” We believe it describes our morning time perfectly. Symposium originates in the Greek, and can be defined as the following:

  • a meeting or conference for the discussion of some subject, especially a meeting at which several speakers talk on or discuss a topic before an audience.
  • a collection of opinions expressed or articles contributed by several persons on a given subject or topic.
  • an account of a discussion meeting or of the conversation at it.
  • (in ancient Greece and Rome) a convivial meeting, usually following dinner, for drinking and intellectual conversation.
  • a philosophical dialogue (4th century b.c.) by Plato, dealing with ideal love and the vision of absolute beauty.

Okay, so we don’t eat dinner, drink and then converse; but we do have a snack and milk before our symposium time! Does that count?

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In Greek and Roman times, the symposium was also characterized as a “convivial meeting.” Convivial?  School? Really? Yes! I would definitely describe our memory work time as “convivial.”  Cheerful smiles and giggles abound as we sing our way through history. It can also get loud. Very loud. In fact, I sometimes have to reign in the jovial atmosphere a bit–especially when singing is involved.  We are a singing family, after all.

Memory work isn’t the only subject that brings out our playful side…

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We didn’t have an extra pair of safety goggles for one of our science experiments, so Rosebud wanted to use scuba gear instead. 🙂

 

Absolute Beauty

During this special time of day, it is my desire that the girls experience (on a regular basis) the masters: masters of music, art, and writing. We listen to classical music from the time period we are studying in history. We also explore the different art forms and artists of that era. We read the great books and talk about their plot, characters, setting, and conflicts. We relate them to our own lives.

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But again, this doesn’t require long, drawn out lesson plans. (In a future post, I will lay out clearly the simple planning I do before each term).

By the simple act of laying out this feast before my children, they naturally know what to do with the truth and beauty that has been set before them. I really don’t have to do much. I am the guide, the facilitator, the nurturer.

Here is where an iPad and learning go hand in hand. Yes, we use an iPad during morning time. Do I hear a collective gasp?!

This way, we can listen to Gregorian chant on You Tube while painting our own illuminated letters.

We can scour the entire opus of a great master.

 

And yes, we can practice our memory work!

 

The Purpose

To sum it up, our morning time is all about being exposed to truth, goodness, beauty, piety, grace, wisdom, virtue, mathematics, music, and art. Why? Because if my children fall in love with this at a young age, they will love it for their entire lives. If they see me gasping with delight as we study an illuminated manuscript–they will gasp with delight too and want to see more.

 

We are just normal, everyday people encountering extraordinary ideas and truths.

But before you go on thinking these times are perfect with well-behaved children, and beautifully cut out crafts–think again! We are just normal, everyday people encountering extraordinary ideas and truths. I like to think of it as a beautiful mess. A somewhat organized–mostly chaotic–beautiful mess.

 

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And, we love it…

 

In the pursuit of truth, goodness, and absolute beauty,

Kristin

 

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P. S. This month on Instagram, the families of the  “Your Morning Basket Moms” Facebook group are flooding the gram-o-sphere with pictures of their Morning Time activities. Simply search #yourmorningbasket to see their posts and glean ideas. I know that is what I will be doing!  🙂

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2 Comments on “A Peek Into the Most Cherished Time of Our School Day

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