Before I learned about this book, I met one of the authors, Genevieve Price, through a referral from Restoration Matters. I was looking to talk with someone who is actually doing restorative practices with preschoolers. I was so inspired listening to her stories about how she adapts the concepts of restorative practices and how she does circles with preschoolers. I was delighted when she shared about her book, Encircled: Bringing Family Virtue Circles Home, co-authored with Ann Polan.
This book is connected to the virtues Lynne Lang developed called Values-Based Restorative Discipline (VBRDTM) to promote a positive school climate and parish communities while expressing Catholic values and beliefs. I love that this book is a tool to incorporate virtue education and discussion amongst families and is based on Colossians 3:12-15. Paul calls us to “clothe ourselves” in heartfelt compassion, forbearance, forgiveness, gentleness, humility, kindness, love, patience, thankfulness, and unity (p. 5). If you’re parenting and your belief system resonates with these virtues, this book is for you.
Many public and private schools are using restorative circles to build relationships within the classroom and school. This book helps bring families closer to one another and to God by using circles at home.
To give you an overview of circles, every circle includes these components: an opening prayer, a one-word check-in, the circle topic, discussion or an activity, a one-word check-out, and a closing prayer. I was disappointed that the opening and closing prayer is the same for every circle. You may want to involve your children in saying their own prayers. Typically, a circle can take 15 to 30 minutes.
How to Do Circles
After some introductory pages, the authors explain how to get started with circle guidelines, information about virtues, the Colossians virtues, and a one-page materials list for the circles. Most families will find that these materials are easily accessed within the home.
Pages 14 to 120 contain the meat of the book – the step-by-step circles that families can do together. Since the format is the same for all circles, parents and caregivers and their children and teens will quickly learn circle basics.
The Talking Piece
Part of every circle is to use a talking piece. This is a common item that can be passed from person to person. The purpose of the talking piece is to allow only the person holding the talking piece to speak. I can tell you that my experiences with educators using a talking piece is challenging. It may be even more challenging for children, but I’ve seen students quickly adapt to talking one person at a time.
The reason I brought up the talking piece is because creating a family talking piece out of popsicle sticks is one of my favorite circles activities. Another favorite is creating virtue rocks for each of the Colossian’s virtues. This book can be done in the order it is written or families can skip around and do the circles that best fit what the family is currently experiencing.
As parents, you can now experience the positive impact that students experience at school with your children and teens at home. I’d love to hear your stories about using virtue circles in your school or home.
About the Authors
Ann Polan, MA, MCC, is a certified school counselor in St. Louis, Missouri. For over 10 years she’s been working with elementary and middle school students in Catholic education.
Genevieve Price, BS, ECE, currently teaches Pre-K. She has six years of experience in the Archdiocese of St. Louis. She has experience facilitating circles and restorative practices with Pre-K to 8th grade.
About the Book
Encircled: Bringing Family Virtue Circles Home, by Ann Polan and Genevieve Price, Imagine That Enterprises, LC, 2019, 128 pages. This book is available from https://www.restorationmatters.org/product-page/encircled-bringing-parent-virtue-circles-home Email at email@example.com