St. Michael's
A Resource for Orthodox Elementary Education
Santa Rosa, CA

The Morning Opening

There are many proverbs about the importance of a good beginning.  Here are a few examples.

Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

The beginning is the most important part of the work. (Plato)

The beginning is half of the whole. (Aristotle)

Well begun is half done (also Aristotle, perhaps simply a different translation)

As the twig is bent, so grows the tree.  (slight variation of Alexander Pope)

It would be easy find many other similar quotes, but unnecesary because we have all experienced the truth of these proverbs.

We found that a good dose of joy in the morning was a wonderful foundation for the rest of the day. Since the school was not institutional, but similar to a rather large family, or a home-schooling co-operative, we started  the day altogether.  How this first class became known as "The Opening", is somewhat of a mystery.  One of the students probably came up with the name.

The Opening was when we said our morning prayers, learned Psalms, learned poetry, learned and sang songs, and had some movement activties.  It was always a joyful time, a time to ease into the school day, a time to learn many things in a disciplined, yet social and informal atmosphere.  The students thought that it was  "fun", (which it was), but the teachers knew the serious considerations behind its design.

Our general pattern was to start with morning prayers, which included O Heavenly King, the Lord’s Prayer, Rejoice, O Virgin Theotokos, and the troparion of the dayNext, we would practice the Psalm we were learning, sing some songs, and read and recite a few poems. Finally we would pick one of our movement activities.

When our movement activities were finished, we would recite the Prayer Before Instruction from the Orthodox Prayer Book. If you would to print a copy, here is the link.

If you are interested in this idea, we have some resources. For details on how the students learned the Psalms, go to the section of the website called, Learning the Psalms.

We also learned poetry, using the same procedure as we did in learning the Psalms. Except in seventh or eighth grade, learning poetry was not a matter of analysis of the form or symbolism of the poem. It was simply an exposure to the wonderful beauty of words. We wanted the heart to have a chance to appreciate the beauty before we gave the mind some work to do.

We are working on a poetry section of the website, similar to the learning the Psalms section, which will offer many poems, in large format, for memory and recitation.

As for the movement activties, we have available as a PDF file, the instructions for what we did, as well as the rationale of why we did the activites.  You may download the PDF file here.