YMB #50 Using the Liturgical Year as a Guide: A Conversation With Andrea Kirk Assaf

Andrea Kirk Assef homeschools on three continents as her family splits their time between Michigan and Rome as well as spending part of the year visiting her husband’s family in Lebanon. Today she joins Pam on this episode of the podcast to talk about Calendar School, her Morning Time variation that includes elements of the Church year and the seasonal cycles.

Andrea has a unique take on Morning Time planning that is fascinating and inspiring. We hope you enjoy!

Classical Academic Press Writing and Rhetoric Image

Pam:

This is your morning basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day

Hi everyone. And welcome to episode 50 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I am so happy that you are joining me here today. Well, today on the podcast, we have Andrea Assaf and Andrea is a homeschooling mom who splits her time between living in Michigan and living in Rome and even making a few extended visits each year to Lebanon.

Andrea also has a very unique take on morning time. She calls it calendar time and she matches up her morning time with the seasons of the church year. So we’re going to be talking to Andrea today, all about her morning time variation and how she makes that fit with her family. We’ll get on with that podcast right after this word from our sponsor.

Read Full Transcript

This Episode of the your morning basket podcast is brought to you by classical academic press publisher of the award-winning writing and rhetoric series, which trains your students in grades three to nine to write and speak effectively. Assuming that students learn best by reading excellent whole story examples of literature, and by growing their skills through imitation the writing and rhetoric method employs fluent reading, careful listening models for imitation and progressive steps exercises in the writing and rhetoric series are cumulative.
Meaning that later exercises incorporate and build upon the skills acquired in the proceeding ones. It does not skip from form to form leaving the others behind, but rather establishes a solid foundation of mastery by blending the forms. This series truly is a step-by-step apprenticeship in the art of writing and rhetoric. Many of history's greatest writers became great through the use of this effective and uncomplicated method.
And your student can too. Moreover the writing and rhetoric series has been touted by busy homeschool moms, including me as an easy to use are open and go without sacrificing rich content and skill-building. Moms also say their children have moved from dreading their writing assignments to eagerly anticipating them each week while making great progress. The first few chapters of each current writing and rhetoric levels are available for free classicalacademicpress.com.
You can try before you buy, in addition as a, your morning basket podcast listener, you can save 20% off all writing and rhetoric materials classicalacademicpress.com through December, 2018, by using the coupon code Pam20 and now on with the podcast.
Andrea Kirk Affaf is an editor, writer and former Vatican based journalists and voice talent. She and her family lived between Rome, Italy and a farm in Remus, Michigan. She and her husband created Roots in Rome, a company that hosts academic groups and pilgrims in the Eternal City. Now, besides writing her major work is her family school of formation. The Kirkos Caravan, the youngest daughter of Russell and a net Kirk, Andrea continues the Kirk legacy through compiling anthologies of her father's work administering the Russell Kirk reading group and assisting the Russell Kirk center for cultural renewal as a member of their board of advisors. You can find her www.thekirkoscaravan.com and her little book of wisdom series can be found on Amazon. Andrea, welcome to the program.
Thank you so much, Pam. So happy to be here. I've listened to all of these podcasts and they've been such a help in my homeschool that I'm really thrilled to be part of this legacy now.
Well, thank you so much, you know, it's so much fun because you and I have emailed back and forth a couple of times and we even got to meet in person once. So it's always really fun to get to interview somebody for the podcast that I actually know in real life.
Well, let's start talking about calendar class because that is what you call your version of morning time. And I think this is so fascinating that you've really kind of taken the whole morning time thing and, and put your own twist on it and made it into something that really works for your family. So tell us a little bit about what calendar class looks like at your house. Well, I was thrilled to find out about Morning Time through your podcast because we had been doing something similar.
And so I just realized that there were other people in the world that were thinking along the same lines as we were, and that I had friends out there. So that was a real help. I began calendar class actually, before we started homeschooling for as a school of family formation plan. And then we, when we began homeschooling, I added that name onto it and I made it a little bit more academic using a lot of the tips that I picked up in your podcast.
So our calendar class and our homeschool curriculum are actually year round. We follow the liturgical calendar of the Catholic church, as well as the secular or Gregorian calendar. And what that looks like is something like that. So I'll take you through the year in January, we create an annual agenda for our family and we check in with it at the beginning of each month, at the beginning of each season, we have what we call a seasonal feast. I call them the four feasts and we invite other families. And then we have a potluck of seasonal themed food and drinks, and each family puts on something to perform for, for the other families. So it could be poetry. It could be something that they've worked on and their music classes, recitation, and it usually has something to do with the seasons.
And then at the beginning of each month, we have a smaller get together. We invite maybe two or three friends over and we look ahead at the month what the different themes are. And one of the nicest parts about those gatherings is that because we have such a few, so few guests, as opposed to the big four feasts, we ask those friends to share with us their memories of their childhoods and what they recall and associate with that particular month. So that's led to some rich conversations, but then we have of course the daily calendar class. And that's a lot more like morning time. The flow of that is that we begin with a morning offering, which is customized to our calendar class.
So what I mean by customized is we talk about what's happening that particular day. So we'll mention the Saint of the day. We might even mention what the weather's like that day. And, and we express gratitude for the gift of life on that day. And then we offer it up to God. And then we talk about what is called the four cycles of life.
These are my themes. What's a little different about our calendar class, as opposed to most morning times that are described using academic subjects is that instead of academic subjects, I have chosen themes. So the themes are the four cycles of life and they are liturgical, sanctoral, human and natural. And we read about those different cycles in each day.
So for example, the liturgical season might be the mass readings, or right now we're in Christmas tide, we could read something about that. The sanctoral cycle is the Saint of the day or a special Saint of the month. If we want to take more time on one particular Saint that month in the human cycle, we will celebrate milestones in the lives of our family and friends.
So if it's somebody's birthday, we'll call them up or we'll make them a card. We also study the history of the day and that leads to all kinds of rabbit trails. So I have to really pre-select what history of the day we're going to study. And then for the natural cycle, we might do a quick nature study, just looking outside, or we might use a resource and learn about what's happening that season. I also really like old farmer's Almanac. They send out a daily newsletter and there's all kinds of fun, seasonal information, scientific folklore, recipes, et cetera. So those are the four cycles.
And then we might on to different lessons of the day, like bedtime math or an art app, something like that. We do copy memory work. We do some recitation and I'll add in something for the preschooler.
I usually do that at the beginning to, to keep her happy and then give her some coloring pages for the rest of our calendar class. And then we end with the sign of peace. And if I haven't completely lost their attention by then they go off and they do their independent studies.
Okay. So I have so many questions now. This is great stuff. Okay. First of all, you are a planner, aren't you? You really like to plan? Yeah. I have probably thousands of pages in my Google docs of plans. Yes.
Okay. I always know a fellow planner when I come across one and you are definitely one and I love it. Okay. So at your monthly meeting, I want to go back to that for a minute because it sounds like you're not just having people over who are the same ages as your children. These are kind of cross-generational meetings. It sounds like, and you're actually kind of socializing your kids with people of different ages at these meetings.
Yeah, that's, that's how I was raised. My parents always had lots of people over, thousands over the years. And, and so I was comfortable with adults from a young age and I just kind of assumed that my children would be raised that way too. And in fact, we lived close to my parents' house and we still have people coming to my parents' house. So I invite them over and their fellows usually at the Kirk center where my mom works and they're from their twenties on up to their forties or we invite neighbors over. So our, our good friend and neighbor is in his mid eighties, he's frequently a guest.
And then at all of the seasonal fees, we have families over. So they're from babies all the way on up to grandparents.
I love that. And I love that. You're purposeful about connecting your kids with people of all different ages and letting them tell their stories. I mean, you know, something I haven't really thought much about doing, but it makes so much sense and just what they could learn from that would be lovely. I really think you've probably seen the fruit of that.
Yes, definitely. Well, I think if you talk to anyone, they'll mention the person that they were most influenced by in their education, more than a particular subject, it's usually that personal relationship that makes the difference. So I wanted my kids to have that, but actually where this idea came from was from the human cycle out of the four cycles.
So I want to my kids to, to know about the human life experience in its different stages. And so what I did was connected each season of nature with a season in a human life. So this is kind of funny, I guess you'll probably appreciate this Pam more than, than others I've spoken to because you do a lot of educational research yourself.
But when I starting off homeschooling, there was some research coming out of the University of Texas about executive function. And I read about how the brain solidifies around the age of 25, that part, the prefrontal cortex. And so I thought, Oh, this is really interesting that, and the prefrontal cortex is responsible for discernment and judgment. I thought I'm not gonna let my kids make any major decisions before the age of 25 because the prefrontal cortex is not sealed.
And so I really thought about this and how that first stage of life up to age 25 could be called the apprentice stage to where we're learning from our elders all the time and also through observation and experience and failings. And, and so I called it, it's the springtime of life as the apprentice stage. Well, what's next?
After you have gained judgment and you have gone through the apprentice stage, then you become more of a missionary. So I associated that stage with the summer. That's when we use what we have learned in the apprentice stage to go out and to find a vocation, to do, to have adventures, to live your life. And when we have our most health too, and then after that, there's the autumn of our lives.
I thought what would be automobile life and the human experience? How about the teacher? Because by then the person has not only gained from the apprentice years, skills and knowledge, but has had different experiences and has tried out those things in real life and is able to then teach skills and things to the next generation.
Well, then the winter stage was pretty easy to assign. I call that the Sage stage because then you not only have the experience and the skills, but you have the wisdom. You can look back at your life and make analogies and pass on. Not just knowledge but wisdom to the previous generation. So that's the philosophy behind it.
That's awesome. And so you have people from those various stages come in in those monthly meetings and those seasonal meetings and interact with your kids.
Yeah. And one thing that I've always wanted to do, we've done it in a spotty way is honor. One of the people in those particular stages at their feast. So for example, when we have the spring feast, we will crown the apprentices and we'll do something special for them. There'll be the guests of honor, or when we have the winter feast, anyone over the age of 75 gets to wear the crown and, and he, or she will take center stage and impart his or her words of wisdom to us.
Oh, that's interesting. I love how you are constantly building ritual for your family. So you, you really set a big store on ritual and what it can do for formation of a person.
Yeah. Well, I was just starting to listen to, to Mystie's podcast about that, about repetition. And it really struck a chord with me because I think it takes us so long to really learn the important things in life. Like reading a good book over and over, and each time you read it, you learn something new. Like the Chronicles of Narnia.
I listened to them again when my kids were little and I recognize so much more than I ever picked up as a child. So I think it's important to go back continually like the rings in a tree, as we grow older, we can see more, we can add more to our lives. And so I put in these rituals is just ways to do it in an easy way, by incorporating them into our lives as a natural, natural thing that we always do.
Yeah. Yeah. I love that. Okay. So you made mention at the end, when you were telling us about your calendar time, you said if I haven't lost their attention, so does calendar time, does it tend to happen all at once at your house or is it spread throughout the day It's spread throughout the day?
The thing is mommy likes calendar class more than the kids do. So I could do this every day for hours because I'm so interested in all of it. And so I have to be careful not to talk beyond their interest level and energy. So I try to keep it really short. Usually our calendar class is about no more than 40 minutes.
And then we move on to the more academic stuff. Our calendar classes. So it spread throughout the year as I explained, but also we have different points throughout the day. One of the things that inspired me was the medieval practice of the book of hours, which are personalized customized books, prayer books, to mark the hours of the day.
And so what I decided to do, because I have such a hard time getting the kids all gathered together because they have their own interests. They could probably educate themselves without me, but I wanted to be involved too. So what I do is I bring them together for mealtimes and I peg everything to those mealtimes. So first we have a prayer associated with that particular hour.
So for the morning, it'd be the morning offering and then breakfast and calendar class at noon, we will pray the Angelus and then have lunch. And the read aloud. At three o'clock we will have our snack time. So we pray the Divine Mercy Prayer, and then we have tea time arts appreciation. That just means we have a snack and maybe I'll put it in the drink and a tea cup, and we'll do something from our basket of arts appreciation material.
And then at six o'clock, we have the gratitude grace where we around the table and we talk about something we're grateful for that day. And then we say our prayer. And then in the evening we finish off the day with family hearth ritual.
Okay. And so your family hearth ritual, we're going to kind of skip ahead to that. That's kind of your evening morning time, right?
Yeah. It is a lot like how your other people describe their morning time. We begin with a call and response, and I actually got that from one of the interviews on your podcast. We say, Let us remember, and the kids say that we are in the presence of God. So I took that directly from someone that you interviewed. I think it was Courtney Garrison and that's very effective in setting a tone. And they'd like it, I tried it out for a while and I thought, well, I don't know how this, because I've tried out a lot of different things and I'm constantly tweaking things. And I thought, I don't know if all those, like the call and response, but it's, they've been very, they've been very calmed by it and, and they like it. So we've kept that. And then we do our family intentions and a family prayer that I created. And then we do family formation readings. So that could be anything. Sometimes it'll be fun fiction or other times there'll be something particularly for families, some advice or families about struggles that we might be having.
And then we finish with a lullaby. It's important for me that we memorize lullabies because they're so calming and they've got two little kids in the house and it would be nice if the older kids could sing these lullabies to the younger kids. And then one day become parents. They can sing these same lullabies. So I've added that to our memory work.
And then we finished with a hymn that we've always sung since they were little. We don't always do all of that when tempers are short or when time is short, sometimes we will just sing to him or just to do the prayer.
Okay. So you're definitely willing to cut it short when you need to, to, you know, just kind of save the ebb and flow of the day.
Yeah. Because I've planned so much, as you can see, I try to put so much into our year that my new motto has become something is better than nothing because it's better to have even just a short prayer or a hymn to close out the day. Then, then just to throw my hands up in the air and say, well, everybody's fighting anyway, or we don't have any time. I'm not going to do this. Even just taking, you know, 30 seconds and closing out the day with a hymn, re-establishes that routine and ritual and creates a little bit of peace.
Yeah. And you know, that's great for just regular morning time, too, as you, as you're getting started with your day, I have found that if for whatever reason, we need to cut our morning time short, that it's better to do a, you know, a small portion of it for us as the prayer portion, you know, light the candle, say our prayers, blow out the candle and then move on than it is to just skip it altogether.
Yeah. Consistency adds up.
Definitely. Yeah, I think so, too. Okay. Well, you spend part of your time in the United States and Michigan, and you spend part of your time in Italy, in Rome actually. So does your Morning Time, does your calendar class look different depending on whether you're living in the United States or in Italy?
Yes. Well, I'm looking right now at the resource I'm going to use for a 2018. I'm really excited to have discovered it in a bookstore. We're going to be in Rome and from January until June. And since that's a big chunk of time, I decided to buy an Italian resource for my calendar class. And it is an agenda book and annual agenda by a celebrity chef in Italy who also happens to be a nun. So it's really perfect for my four cycles because it has the gospel of the day and a commentary.
The Saint of the day. It has a recipe for the, of the seasonal recipe for our natural cycle. And then it has the history of the day for a human cycle. So it really covers everything that I wanted to plus there's a section for journaling, so I can write down any additional information that I might want to share with the kids. So we're using an Italian resource when we're in Italy and we have to read that every day and we're not fluent.
So that means that's a lot of practice for us. And then of course we do for our place studies when we're in Rome, we study Roman history and Italian history because so much of a world history is influenced by Rome. So it's kind of a, it's an all-in-one for us. And when we're in Lebanon, I'm actually in Lebanon right now, we study Lebanese history and doing some intensive Arabic.
So yeah, we add more of our place to our calendar class, wherever we are.
Oh, I love that. How it's actually influenced by place. Okay. So this, well, I was going to say this Italian book, can we get it in the United States? But it wouldn't do most of us any good because it's an Italian. So even if we could get it,
Yeah. Unless you're studying Italian in your homeschool, then it would be a really fun way to integrate it into real life because you get to try out the recipes and it's just kind of fun, but I'm sure that there are things in the United States like that. But this one is a particularly Italian because Catholicism is, is practically the state, religion and Italy. So it's very mainstream, this particular book.
Oh, wow. That it does sound like a fascinating resource. Well, let's talk a little bit about foreign language, do you, because you guys you're trilingual, even though you, you know, you're practicing your fluency in Italian, but do you, do you incorporate those, the foreign language into your calendar class?
Yeah. The most fun way I think. And the best from my family formation perspective to incorporate foreign language into our calendar class is through memory work. So it could be seasonal like in the spring, I often have them learn the prayer of St. Francis in both Italian and in English. And we will recite that around the feast, awaiting the feast of St. Francis.
I was going to say, that's an October. Oh, am I missing something? Cause we usually talk about St. Francis in the fall.
There must have been a reason. I had them learned that. I don't know why, but I associate it with spring for some reason. So yeah. So at any rate, we, we choose different things that we want to memorize for different seasons or occasions.
And, and then I will try to translate it into the three languages. So Christmas carols are a perfect example of that. We can choose a couple of carols that are, that have been translated into all languages. And we can learn just those carols, but in the three languages. And we can alternate when we sing them like Monday and Arabic, Tuesday and Italian, Wednesday in English, something like that. I don't choose a lot of things for them to memorize because we're memorizing them in the three languages, the same thing.
Oh, that is fascinating. That's really, really cool. And we should point out if, if people didn't pick up from your last name, your husband is from Lebanon.
And so that's where the Arabic comes in and the visits to Lebanon. His family is actually there. Yup. And we're studying some intensive Arabic right now. It's easier to do it here because we have the resources and it's all around us. It's in the atmosphere. Whereas it doesn't feel as natural to study Arabic or Italian when we're back in Michigan.
So I've learned to adapt to that situation too, that I can't push my kids too hard to study those other languages when we're not in the right atmosphere.
Yeah. Yeah. It seems like it would probably be a lot easier when you're immersed in it. You know, if you will.
They can see immediately when they'll be using it. So it, it, you know, it gives them some motivation.
Talk a little bit about living seasonally. I mean, you really do this, you do this not only with the liturgical year of the church, but you also do this with the natural seasons, the four seasons of the year. What do you think is gained by living with an intentional awareness of these seasonal cycles?
Well, this is a big question for me, Pam, because this is what I've built. Our whole family formation plan around. I think I've explained it in detail. What I mean by the four cycles of life and living seasonally, our website, but there is an essay by Jeff mirus of Catholicculture.org that I'd love to link in the show notes because he explains succinctly, the connection between the natural cycles of life, the seasons and the human life. But the short answer is that the more we understand the seasonal cycles, the more we understand ourselves and our world and being ignorant of them or choosing to ignore them just means we'll have a harder time to find our compass in life. So the four cycles of life is pretty much what I have chosen as the compass for our family.
Now we went all out when we bought a farm and we're learning about homesteading from Amish neighbors. And we live in a place Michigan, or at least some of the year in which the four seasons are really extreme. So it's very apparent those kinds of lessons of life, of how we go through different stages in life and what the natural seasons can teach us and how they mirror our liturgical calendar.
Especially as, as Catholics, it's really apparent there, but in Rome and in Lebanon, it's, it's a lot milder. And so I'm having a hard time adapting my seasonal studies to these climates, but there must be a way because the liturgical calendar is very rich here too. And in fact, it was even created in Rome around the agrarian traditions. So I'm still working on that aspect.
Right. And you know, one of the things I love about the liturgical cycle, and I know a lot of our listeners are going to be familiar with this and then some are, are going to be not as familiar with it, but it's, it's definitely worth looking into because you're following the life of Christ throughout the year.
You know, you start with his birth at Christmas and you know, these periods of ordinary time are his ministry from when he was, you know, in his early thirties, up until the time of his crucifixion. And then you have his crucifixion and his resurrection at Easter. And so you're always talking about, and you're always coming back to it. I think that's the wonderful thing is, is you always come back to these different parts of the life of Christ and following these. And so it really does keep you in touch with him, you know, as you're cycling through the various readings and holidays and things like that. So that's one of the things I appreciate about it.
Right. I agree. I don't think that you can learn it all in one year. It's one of those things that we need to do over and over again and see it through new eyes. Each time we experience the same holidays. So we follow the life of Christ. And of course in the early days of the church, there were a lot of comparisons between the son of God. And then these sun, which the Roman pagan agrarian calendar was based around.
So you find those parallels all the time. Like the winter solstice happens at the time of Christmas and the summer solstice happens at the time of the feast and the nativity of Saint John, the Baptist. And so when we have the summer feast, we always read what St. John said, I must decrease so that he may increase. And that's an exact parallel with the summer solstice that from that date on every day, the light decreases until it arrives at the winter solstice, when then from the birth of Christ every day, the light increases. And then there's a continual cycle that happens over and over again. Right. So even the seasons can point us back to Christ as, as we go throughout the year. Yeah. I remember you interviewed Leila Lawler and she remarked that they in the liturgical calendar is a perfect teaching tool.
And I would add to that, I think also nature can be an excellent teaching tool when you know how to make the analogies
Yeah. Make the connection between the two. Yeah. And the other great thing about the liturgical year is it's, there's such a great, you know, rise and fall of kind of, of fasting and a feasting there. And I think so often in our society, we're always on the feast. You know, we're always not even just wise indulging and treats and things like that, but everything is so easy for us comparative to, you know, how it's been generations past. And so sometimes if we allow ourselves to go into that, that preparing, waiting fasting mode, we just came out of advent, not too long ago.
And then Lent is just around the corner and we're not always feasting, it just makes that feasting time so much sweeter. And I think it's, you know, we get the sunshine in the summer and we get to go out and enjoy ourselves and have a good time. And we appreciate that all that much more because of the cold of winter. But I think we enjoy the feasting so much more because of the fasting in between too.
That's such an important, I mean, I only really learned this as an adult by following the liturgical calendar with my own children about these penitential seasons. And that advent is actually a time for fasting and not for feasting, but it's such an important thing to teach our children. And the most natural way to teach them is just by slowly living it year by year, rather than just giving them a lecture and hoping that they'll understand.
Yeah. What do you think we lose when we don't pay attention to the seasonal or liturgical cycle?
Well, I think probably you just lose a richness of life and we probably lose some understanding depth of understanding of, of what life is all about. So it just diminishes our experience of life and makes the road toward wisdom a little rockier, I suppose. I just find that embracing the seasons has enriched our lives so much through the fasting as well as the feasting, because you appreciate the highs when you're willing to accept the lows.
Now, you know I live in Alabama and so we don't have seasons that are as distinct as Michigan. So since you have experience with this, with the temperate climates of Italy and Lebanon, what can people like me do to kind of recognize some of these seasons, especially the natural seasons. I mean, obviously we can follow the liturgical seasons no matter what the weather is outside, but do you have any tips for the natural seasons?
Well, I've, I've become more aware of what's happening in the natural world now that I know that there's such a connection between the liturgical calendar, like during the gospel readings in the summer, I noticed some of the languages about like the, the harvest and then at other times there about storms and those readings were chosen because that's, what's happening usually in the climates that have the four seasons. So what is it like to hear those things outside of that climate? I'm not sure. I'm not sure I have an answer.
I'm still looking at that, but I do know that in the United States in very developed, highly industrialized developed societies, it's becoming harder and harder to relate to the language of the Bible about the, the rural life of shepherding. So in a sense, being over here in the middle East right now, they can still relate to that because even though in a place like Beirut here, it's highly industrialized, just up the mountain are farmers living the way that, the way that they did in Christ in Christ day. So in, in Georgia, I don't know for a while and figure it out. But I do know that literature really helps. Like I've never experienced going across the United States in a covered wagon, but when we read the Little House on the Prairie series, I felt like I was there. So I felt like in a sense I had experienced it.
Yeah. That's a really good point. And I wonder too, you know, as we were talking, something that came to me is keeping that Charlotte Mason book of firsts, you know, where every year, you know, for five years, you're recording, like when you saw the first hummingbird and when there was the first frost and things like that. So you can be maybe more in touch with your own, the cycles where you are, it may not be where kind of the standard, you know, I'm thinking about leaves turning, you know, everybody talks about, Oh, the leaves turn in October. Oh, well our leaves actually turn about the first week of December. But just by being aware of that and knowing when it happens every year, I think would probably, I may have to think about, you know, pulling that practice in and doing it, that might be helpful. What do you think?
In fact, I think that you just hit upon the answer, which is that it's the principle and more than the practice. So you can take these principles of observation, et cetera, but it doesn't mean it has to happen at exactly the same time.
Yeah. And just being aware. Yeah. I like that. I'll have to adopt that principle in Rome because I noticed the leaves falling more and more, and it's the end of December.
Whereas in Michigan, everything is dead and covered under five feet of snow. So, but I'm still recognizing that in the winter stage, there's decline happening all around me. It's just much more subtle.
Yeah, it is. I think subtlety that's, that's the big thing. Well, I know that you are a special friend of Sheila Carroll who we've had on the podcast before talking about storytelling. So talk to me a little bit about your relationship with storytelling. Why is it an important art for you?
Well, I've been interested in stories since I was a kid and in storytelling and in theater. So when I met Sheila Carroll and found out that she was a storyteller, and then when she introduced me to Charlotte Mason, I just kept saying to her, every time we met, but this is everything that I've thought this is a calendar class. Isn't exactly it. And, and how did I not know about Charlotte Mason? And she said, when something is true, you will keep seeing it everywhere. You'll, you'll start making the connections. You'll, it'll pop up over and over again. So I've found that when I read Beauty in the Word or The School of the family by Chantal Howard, I keep saying, Oh, but I thought that too. So it's not original to me. If something is true, you'll see it everywhere.
So, Sheila really lit a fire under me about stories. And so I've been inspired by her to make that a part of our curriculum. And why is mainly because stories are the oldest form of learning and entertainment. And I think for all ages, they're probably the most entertaining way to learn most storytellers, just sit and speak. And that is a dramatic and direct way to pass on a story. And that's what we probably do every day with our children. But what I wanted to do with the kids was make it a storytelling theater. So the main part was the story.
There is the story, but by adding theater arts, they have, they have the opportunity to learn all of those theater skills, which are so interdisciplinary. So of example, at some of the feasts, we have them do some recitations like Shakespeare recitation, something that they've memorized that's short, but how much more fun when they can design their own costume for the recitation, or do some research about the, the music that would have been played at that time or work with another child and, and do a dialogue. So I just like to take storytelling and make it just a little bit theatrical, not put on a whole production, but give them the opportunity to spice it up and make it more fun.
Oh, that sounds like a fun addition to calendar class. So yeah. Well, we'll do that on a daily basis though. So I don't want to raise expectations, but we at least do it at the four feasts and that's a way for us to entertain our guests too.
Okay. And so leading up to that, you choose what you're going to do and spend a little time practicing.
Yes. Well, what we're doing starting this summer is I've what has grown out of calendar class is a small cottage school called Four Seasoned Family. And the families that come to the fore fees, they're going to be coming now weekly to our farm and we're going to be doing storytelling theater workshops. So that will be things like role-playing, pantomiming, lessons in oration.
My mom was actually a high school theater teacher. So I'm going to rope her in, we'll be studying the history of the play. We'll be talking, we'll be discussing it. Like what kind of truths can we learn in this Shakespearian play? We'll be doing set design, creating costumes. I may have said that already. Cause I'm really into costumes. My daughter will do face painting, things like that. So we're going to work together with these other families in this little cottage school. And then at the, at the feast, we will put on a small production.
Oh, that sounds like so much fun. Yeah. Well, real quick, because I know that you have had periods of time where your kids were homeschooled and then also when they were in school and then you've also had periods where some are in school and some were at home, but you've managed to keep your calendar class going through all of that, haven't you?
Yeah, because it just became part of what our family does. So I wasn't always able to do the morning time calendar class. I tried to do that before they went off to school in the morning, but it didn't always work. So what I usually ended up doing was I put the things that I wanted to teach them in calendar class, into family hearth ritual and family hearth. Ritual became very long. So they would sit and color and it could go on for an hour or more, but it was the winding down bedtime routine anyway. So it worked for that season in our lives. But now I like to break it up. Since they're home with me all day, we break it up into several parts throughout the day.
I love it. And sometimes we do have families who listen, who have some kids in school, or you have all of their kids in school. And so just giving them that idea that, Hey, this, this could be done in the evening is something you could do. I want to encourage them to do that. So well, Andrea, thank you so much for joining me here today to talk about calendar class and how you've really kind of made this wonderful seasonal morning time, your own. I really appreciate,
Thank you so much, Pam. And thanks for being an inspiration as always. And there you have it. Now, if you would like links to any of the books or resources that Andrea and I talked about today, including links to Andrea's own resources on calendar time, you can find them in the show notes for this episode of the podcast. Those are pambarnhill.com/YMB50. Also on the show notes is a little tutorial to help you, if you would like to leave a rating or review of the podcast on iTunes. We thank you so much for doing that because the ratings and reviews you leave, help us get word out about the podcast to new listeners. I'll be back again in a couple of weeks with another great morning time interview until then keep seeking truth, goodness and beauty in your homeschool day.

Key Ideas about Using the Liturgical Year as Guide

Andrea Assaf does a Morning Time like ritual in her homeschool that she calls Calendar Class. It is a combination of 4 annual Seasonal Feast celebrations, monthly meetings and a daily calendar time.

Her daily Calendar time is similar to Morning Time but with a unique focus on the four cycles of life. During this time the family will begin with a prayer like the morning offering, a quick look at the weather, the saint of day, and a discussion on the four cycles of life.

The four cycles of life include:

  • Liturgical: a focus on the Liturgical calendar.
  • Sanctoral: a discussion on the saint of the day
  • Human: a celebration of personal milestones in the family or a look at historical events of the day.
  • Natural: this is focused on nature study or the natural seasons of the year.

Calendar class is an opportunity for people across generations to interact with one another. Andrea invites families of all ages to participate in the Seasonal and monthly celebrations. Andrea also incorporates an evening morning basket like ritual that she calls “Family Hearth Ritual.” This includes prayer, read alouds and a period of winding down before bedtime. This is also a great idea for families who have some or all of their kids in school during the day but still want to have a connection point as a family.

Find what you want to hear:

  • [3:09] meet Andrea Assaf and learn about her Calendar Class version of Morning Time
  • [9:40] monthly meetings and connecting the generations
  • [15:50] calendar class details
  • [18:00] family hearth ritual
  • [21:00] adjusting these practices when living elsewhere
  • [23:40] teaching languages in Morning Time
  • [26:06] living through the seasons
  • [32:37] the importance of living through the seasons
  • [37:00] storytelling and the four feasts
  • [40:55] when your kids are in school

Leave a rating or review

Doing so helps me get the word out about the podcast. iTunes bases their search results on positive ratings, so it really is a blessing — and it’s easy!

  1. Click on this link to go to the podcast main page.
  2. Click on Listen on Apple Podcasts under the podcast name.
  3. Once your iTunes has launched and you are on the podcast page, click on Ratings and Review under the podcast name. There you can leave either or both! 

Thanks for your reviews

  • Life Affirming
    by Logandinco66 from United States

    This podcast is amazing and has helped me so much as recovering perfectionist homeschooling mama! Pam gives so much great insight into so many aspects of life and focusing on homeschooling.

  • Life giving!
    by lapatita5 from United States

    This podcast has been so great. It’s so practical and encouraging without being overly preachy or narrow. It gives ideas in a take-what-fits kind of way. I have used many of the recommended resources and ideas mentioned and been inspired by many others. Even the episodes that I found less relevant to me specifically, often had tidbits that I could use. Pam’s podcasts, books, and resources have been a godsend to me in my beginning years of homeschooling, helping me discover my own way to teach my kids in a way that prioritizes what is most important to us.

  • You've made my school year!
    by Lizzie O' from United States

    Pam, My children are almost 11 and 13 and I never sent this review in! I found it sitting here. This is testimony that I am still so blessed by this podcast years later. So here it is: I wrote you an email when I first felt it placed on my heart to homeschool my now 6

  • Love the show!
    by Startup Travis from United States

    Love your content and the guests you have visiting the show! I am a huge believer in using the morning hours well. Thank you for your direction and products!

  • Enjoy the podcast & some thoughts…
    by rufocused from United States

    I enjoy listening to tips on starting and using morning time as I am just starting it this year. We have kind of done it in the past, but when you only have one child you tend to just call it bible, story time, etc… but now that my second one is old enough to join we’re going to have more of a true morning time. I did notice Pam mentioned CNN ten in one episode. CNN can be pretty liberal biased in the main news, I’m not sure if they curb that in the “CNN ten”, but thought I would mention the Daily Wire, which is from a conservative viewpoint (and often covers indoctrination in public schools) and could be fun to compare and contrast with CNN. Our family also recently discovered Daily Citizen from Focus on the Family which has a very Christian perspective, which has been refreshing as news can be so depressing sometimes! Just thought I’d throw that out there… but really do appreciate the perspectives and insights of these women who have been doing this for awhile!

  • Very helpful and pleasant to listen to.
    by Heather homeschooler from United States

    I have listened to many episodes of this podcast and have highly recommended it to others. It has been a wonderful source of inspiration and encouragement. Pam has a great voice and presence and I love that she does not interrupt or talk over her guests. Thank you for your hard work!

  • Always insightful!!
    by method_money from Canada

    Pam always has great great guests who bring great insights and encouragement! I so appreciate her down to earth style and ability to ask great questions! Keep up the great work!!

  • A wildly encouraging and equipping podcast for homeschool families.
    by Eryn Lynum from United States

    As a homeshool mama of four (Ages 2-9), Pam's podcast has been an increidble encouragement to me. Not only that, but I have discovered so many helpful resources for focusing on what is lovely and true during our homeschool days. I love that it is not overwhelming in nature, but instead a gentle help for moving forward one day at a time in our homeschooling adventure.

  • Best podcast for homeschooling/variety of topics
    by Bethetal from United States

    I love this podcast for so many reasons. (1) Pam is friendly, funny, humble and kind (2) She covers a multitude of topics (one at a time)- I have learned about nature notebooks, classical music study, narration, living books, Shakespeare and so much more. Whenever I have a question about a new (to me)HS term or practice, I come here to listen to Pam interview someone about it. Her interviewees have all been all-in on their respective areas of interest/expertise and I love the way she interviews/asks questions to really let the guests shine as they speak. I have changed the structure of my homeschool, found books for my kids and me, purchased materials, and found inspiration due to this podcast and I can’t recommend it enough! This podcast has shaped my homeschool in so many positive ways, most of which I probably can’t even articulate yet, as the changes have been done inside of me. Thanks, Pam!

  • Great!!!
    by Eloblah from United States

    I love the variety of things that are talked about on this show for homeschooling - things that I would never even think about including or doing - with easy ways to do them. Very much recommend this podcast

  • New home schooling mom
    by A prit from United States

    I am listening to the past episodes and loving it. This podcast has helped me develop my own homeschool. So many ideas!! I love morning time so much, we do a nightly family time so my husband and public school attending son. We do all the things instead of watching tv, playing ps4, and YouTube. My kids hang around me every evening asking if we are doing family time. I can tell they love it but don’t want to admit it.

  • Morning Time Magic!
    by DrewSteadman from United States

    I am so excited Pam is back to her morning time focus for 2020. Our homeschool has been shaped by the rich ideas and practical wisdom shared here.

  • Yay! Morning time is back!
    by Homeschooler in Germany from United States

    I was so happy and excited to learn that Pam is shifting her focus back to Morning Time for 2020! I’ve missed the morning time exclusive podcast and can’t wait to hear her back in my earbuds.

  • So excited for 2020!
    by JCrutchf from United States

    I absolutely LOVE this podcast and was so disappointed when I realized you were not actively producing it! I’m NOW relieved to know there is a whole year of episodes ahead! I’m beginning my homeschool journey with 4 little ones very close in age and my style falls somewhere in the Classical and Charlotte Mason. I found your podcast by chance via Instagram recommendation as I was doing research on “morning menus.” Your content is beautifully philosophical but at a level most parents will be able to grasp and appreciate. Filled with truth, beauty, and goodness! Your episodes fill me up and leave me feeling inspired personally and in regards to my children’s education. Everything is so good! Please don’t stop producing ever again! I’ll be grateful forever!

  • So glad Your Morning is back!!!
    by alissajohn2020 from United States

    So glad to have the morning basket podcast back! Thank you for bringing it back!!

  • So good I ran out of gas.
    by JoanieHummel from United States

    This podcast is awesome! It was recommended to me a few years ago by a very wise and experienced homeschool mom but I didn’t start listening until I saw it come up a few more times on Facebook, recommended in various groups (in particular, episode number 41). I wish I had picked it up years ago! So much great information, I’m learning so much! Be careful though, I was so interested listening to this podcast that I didn’t notice how low my gas tank was getting! I ran out of gas and as I write this review I’m stranded on the side of the road waiting for a friend to come rescue me! Happy listening!

  • Knowledge Goldmine
    by A.J. Edwards from United States

    I’ve just been eating up every episode of this brilliant podcast over the past few months. The guests are stellar and Pam’s interview style is wonderful. She gets each guest to the meat and potatoes of their topic but it’s anything but a plain meal. This is a feast for the homeschool mom’s mind. I know I’ll be revisiting many of my favorite episodes again and again. Feeling so inspired by each guest!

  • Myths and fairytale truths for homeschoolers
    by Allierhn from United States

    Mind blown! I’m listening to the myth podcast and it’s absolutely perfect. It is answering so many questions I’ve struggled with my whole life. It helps me to view our curriculum and informs my teaching so much more.

  • Super Helpful!
    by Jennlee C from United States

    I can’t speak highly enough about this podcast. It has been a huge inspiration and a practical help to my homeschool! Thank you so much Pam Barnhill and everyone else who contributes to this. It has been an amazing blessing to me and my children… And possibly generations to come!

  • Practical Inspiration
    by Mamato3activeboys from Australia

    Not only am I inspired by each episode of this podcast but I have actually put so many of the ideas into practice in our own morning time. Such a huge help as I seek to inspire my non-stop boys to truth, goodness and beauty. We are now memorising poetry as they jump on the trampoline and they love Shakespeare. That's a parenting win in my book!

  • So many great ideas!
    by Parent 98765 from Malaysia

    Thank you, Pam! I’m now bursting with inspiration and can’t wait to start our 2019 school year with a strong morning time routine.

  • Joy
    by Ancon76 from United States

    My heart is enriched and I can’t wait to learn more.

  • Just what I was looking for!
    by Joey5176 from United States

    I was looking for morning basket ideas—simple ones. These podcasts are giving me a picture of a good morning basket.

  • Wow!! What amazing nuggets of knowledge