Have you noticed how hard it can be to get discussions done? The kids have events and run out of the house. They’re finishing up math and need just a few more minutes. Sometimes it seems like there’s never a perfect time. Instead of struggling to adjust your daily schedule, try holding dinner time discussions with your entire family!
Tapestry of Grace sponsored this post. In the interest of disclosure, I purchased all 4 year plans of Tapestry of Grace, and I’m in my 6th year of using Tapestry of Grace to teach my own children history. All opinions are my own honest opinions. For more information please read my disclosure policy.
7 Tips for Holding Discussions at the Dinner Table
Make Dinner Special
When you’re holding discussions at the dinner table, start by making dinner special. Pull out your good silverware and plates. Light candles. Give everyone a glass of nonalcoholic sparkling cider to drink.
You can even have a centerpiece of flowers. Even better is to have one of your children make a centerpiece which aligns with what you’re studying this week.
Have the kids quietly sit down at the table and ignore your 5yo squirming excitedly in his seat. Kids love it when meals are turned into special occasions.
Before you sit down to discuss the topics with the family, do a bit of research. Read the Tapestry of Grace’s Teacher’s Notes and discussion pages. Glance through your children’s reading assignments. Google for the basic facts.
The discussion will be much livelier if you’ve also studied the same topics as your children have.
Create a List of Questions and Concepts
Arrive at the dinner table with a list of questions and concepts you’d like to discuss. You can pull the questions out of sources such as textbooks, chapter headings, or Google searches.
I prefer to use Tapestry of Grace’s dialectic and rhetoric discussions. There are many thoughtful questions provided. Any of these can for the basis of a lively dinner time discussion.
Index cards are perfect for listing the questions and concepts you’d like to bring up. They’re small and can easily fit on the table unlike a hefty binder or textbook.
Start by Asking Questions
The best way to begin is to simply ask questions. For instance begin by asking the children if they know what the Magna Carta is. Next ask if anyone knows why the Magna Carta was signed. Why were the nobles so unhappy with the king?
Give the kids time to think and respond.
Sometimes it takes a while for thoughts to peculate through their heads. Provide prompts to get the kids moving again if necessary.
There’s no need to stick to one subject every single night nor to attempt to cover everything under the sun. Rotate the subjects you discuss throughout the week. Chat about art and music on Monday, geography on Tuesday, history on Wednesday, Science on Thursday, and Literature on Friday.
There’s no magical or perfect approach.
The best method is to simply start and use a schedule which works for your family.
Enjoy a Meandering Discussion
Don’t try to control the discussions. When you’re having a dinner time discussion, the conversation is going to wander from discussing the Magna Carta and the middle ages to pondering it’s influence on the Constitution of America. From there you may end up discussing the Bill of Rights.
You want discussions to wander.
After all you’re facilitating Socratic learning not teaching to a test. You want the discussions to wander. This means the children are making connections, thinking critically about the topic, and analyzing the information.
Simply start the conversation and let it flow. Once conversation lags, bring up the next point.
You Don’t Need to Know the Answers
Don’t worry if you don’t know the answer. You can always look up the answers.
Begin by looking the answers up in an encyclopedia if you can. My parents kept one near the dinner table. I don’t know how many evenings we used the encyclopedia to answer a question.
Googling or asking Alexia are two other great options.
As you research, talk your children through the steps you’re taking to find the answers. What keywords are you using? How are you phrasing the questions?
Researching on the fly gives you a marvelous opportunity to model research to your children.
Let the Youngest Join In
The youngest children in a large family can be drowned out during a lively family discussion. Don’t worry if your 3yo is completely on topic. Give them a chance to join in and give their opinions.
Your elementary kids will be studying the same history topic as their older brothers and sisters and may have a fascinating tidbit to add to the discussion. After all they’re reading different material than their high school siblings
Family discussions at the dinner table are a wonderful time to discuss, enjoy, and share studies learned during the day.
Tapestry of Grace
The Pop Quiz is perfect for dinner time discussions. It gives dads a brief summary of what the family has been studying and some age appropriate questions to ask.
In addition the Tapestry of Grace plans have all the help you need to hold family discussions at the dinner table. There are Teacher’s Notes to give you the background you need. Discussion questions to get the conversation started. These questions are at both a middle school and high school level.
Just check out these samples of week plans to see the benefits for yourself!
Learn more about Tapestry of Grace and the benefits it can offer your family!