YMB #102 Leveling Up Your Morning Time: A Conversation with Jessica Lawton

How do you manage when you have a number of kids spanning a wide age range? You want your older kids to still be part of your Morning Time, but you aren’t sure which activities are appropriate for them? How do you “level up” the activities you do so that little ones AND bigger ones still get something out of Morning Time?

This episode answers all of those questions. Whether you make your own plans, follow a set of ours, or use something else you find online, this podcast is the ultimate resources for how to have a fruitful Morning Time for kids from toddler to teen.

YMB #68 Choosing Books for Your Morning Time: A Conversation with Jessica Lawton


Right. And I think it’s hard to get out of that mindset of this is school time. So this is somehow gotta be some academic-y something or other, but that’s not really the purpose of Morning Time. It’s about fostering a love for all of those true, good, and beautiful things that we have in our world. Not necessarily about facts and, you know, while adds to our knowledge. I don’t think that’s the primary purpose of why we do it.

Yeah. Academic-y, that’s a word you made up, isn’t it.

Sure is. You know, I’m allowed, right? I’m allowed to do that.

This is Your Morning Basket, where we help you bring truth, goodness, and beauty to your homeschool day.

Hi everyone. And welcome to episode 102 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host. And I am so happy that you are joining me here today. We’ll on today’s episode of the podcast. We are answering a question that we get often at your Morning Basket, and that is how do you take a set of Morning Time plans that might on the surface seem like they are for a younger group of kids and level them up to be able to use them with a wide range of ages.

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So maybe you have just some middle schoolers and high schoolers, or maybe you have some high schoolers, middle schoolers, and some elementary kids. And you're wondering, how can I take a set of Morning Time plans, whether that be something we've created here at your Morning Basket or something that you find online, and kind of be able to include your older kids in this.
So joining me on the podcast today, I have the author of our Morning Time plans, Jessica Lawton, also a mom of kids from 14 all the way down to age five. And yes, they do Morning Time together. And she's joining me today and we're chatting about exactly how it is that you do that. How do you make the Morning Time kind of viable and interesting for all of your kids from age 5 to 14 or 2 to 20, or whatever the case may be.
So I think you're really going to enjoy this episode of the podcast and you're going to find it really practical. Now, speaking of Morning Time plans, if you have never tried out a set of our Morning Time plans, we actually have a free set and you can give them a try. If you go to Pam barnhill.com/month, you can download what we call our months of Morning Time plans.
And so this is a month-long sample set of plans that are set up exactly like our other sets, all of the sets in our store. So you could see just what it's like. And so we've chosen all the poetry for you, the music, the art, everything that you need. We've made all of the hard choices and paired them up with the picture books that Jessica and I are going to chat about today and just made it as easy on you as possible.
So go find those at Pambarnhill.com/month and now on with the podcast.
Hey there. And welcome today. I am joined by my good friend, Jessica Lawton, who also happens to be the author of the Morning Basket plans here at Your Morning Basket Plus. So she knows a thing or two about writing, Morning Time plans and coming up with different activities for different ages. And you have five kids yourself, right? Tell us their ages.
Sure. Great a quiz right off the bat! 14, 13, 11, 9, and five.
Okay. Large spread, large spread there. And do you guys do Morning Time all together as a family?
We sure do.
I was going to say that is the right answer that you do, but you really do. And goodness. I mean, how many years have you been doing Morning Time now. Before, I think it was the thing you and I had a conversation about it when we, that way back in the day, when we first started our co-op and we wanted to get our memorization in and we were talking about how to do that and when to do that, and actually mine did not start out as a morning, Morning Time. It started out as the little babies are sleeping for nap and we were going to have time together time. So it ended up being after lunch.
Okay. Okay. So that was probably gosh, about five or six years ago now?
I guess that was a very long answer for saying, I think closer to like eight.
Oh, wow.
My oldest is 14. And we started when she was maybe six.
Okay. Yeah. So nine. Yeah. A nice long time ago. So maybe I need to start. Cause I think I was doing it a little bit before you were probably. Yeah. Yeah.
So maybe, maybe I've been doing it for about nine years now, so, oh goodness. All right. Well, so one time, Morning Time, little kids, older kids, and now a mix of kids. Let's think about this idea of, we have a bunch of kids together in the room. We've got this mix of ages, maybe from five to 14, maybe a little bit wider spread. Maybe you're more like mine where the kids are about four years apart from the oldest to youngest. But what, what are the activities that we can do in Morning Time, first of all, where we don't even need to worry about the idea of leveling up. Are there some things that we can do in our Morning Time where it just is what it is?
Well, I mean, that is the beauty of Morning Time where it just naturally lends itself to that anyway. So for the 3.0 Morning Time series, we actually added jokes and riddles. So that would be the easiest one to go with. Everybody likes jokes and riddles, but that really isn't quite the truth, goodness and beauty, I know most people are looking for, I love the jokes and riddles, but yeah. So jokes and riddles, okay. There was one thing.
What else? Well, we have the music and the picture study and the poetry and any of that is good for any age because what you're doing is you're exposing right to breed appreciation. And so any of that is good for even moms to hear the different music, to maybe read some poetry by a poet they've never even heard of before. Things like that. I think it's important to remember that even at the most, at their most basic level, these subjects are good for everyone.
Yeah. Yeah. I would completely agree. And you know what? I tell people a lot of times when they ask me when they look at like one of our seasonal sets, some Morning Time plans and, and guys, we're going to be talking about our sets and Morning Time plans. But honestly, this goes for any, you know, anything you happen to find online, right? Any kind of music appreciation or any kind of art appreciation or anything like that, that you find out there. And there's some fabulous, some fabulous resources, that kind of stuff is really ageless.
And for mom, even if you've seen the piece of art before, even if you've listened to the piece of music before, even if the poetry is something that you've read before, you know, this is not a one and done kind of thing, we re-look relisten reread those kinds of things and we get something out of it. Even the next time that we revisit something.
So I like to say that these activities, these subjects that we do in Morning Time, for lack of a better word, really are good all the way up to mom.
Right. And I think it's hard to get out of that mindset of this is school time. So this is, this is somehow got to be some academic something or other, but that's not really the purpose of Morning Time.
It's about fostering a love for all of those true, good, and beautiful things that we have in our world. Not necessarily about facts and, you know, while adds to our knowledge, I don't think that's the primary purpose of why we do it.
Yeah. Academic-y, that's a word you made up, isn't it sure is.
You know, I'm allowed. Right. I'm allowed to do that.
Yeah. Well, and I, I think one of the places where people get caught when they think, oh, this kind of stuff is for little kids, is that so often we include, I know we do. And then I've seen it in other places online too, that the kind of the supplemental materials that we include in a Morning Time are picture books. So do you want to speak to that just a little bit?
Sure. Yet, you know, I love picture books because they are, they're just wonderful, concise, beautiful presentation of information, whether it be fiction or nonfiction, but I get it. Older kids are not going to be drawn to that. So skip them. Yep. Easy enough.
Yeah. So easy enough to skip home. If you're looking and you're saying, oh, my kid's never going to go for this picture book. Then you still listen to the music. You still read the poetry. You still look at the artwork, you still do the nature study. But the part that you don't do is the picture book supplemental that goes along with it. Having said that if you have a kid who's older who will sit and listen to a picture book, they might be amazed at what they would actually learn. And they might be amazed at how much they would enjoy it too. I mean, I wholeheartedly agree with that too, because when I was going to the library, getting picture book after picture book to sift through for this year's explorations, I put them all on a special shelf down in the living room. So they didn't get mixed up. And where would I find my teenagers most of the time? Sitting on the floor in front of that shelf, the picture books, enjoying themselves, reading every single one I brought home
And then flipping through.
Yeah. Yeah. I think I, and I don't know, you know, cause it's always tricky. I have not pulled out a picture book recently for my older kids. I probably should just to see what their reaction would be to that like, you know, are they going to turn up their nose? Are they going to kind of scoff at them or something? But I kind of get the feeling that if I just opened one and started to read it and it was a really good engaging picture book that my kids might just sit there and listen,
but I get it. I totally get it. So if we're not going to use picture books, if we're going to kind of skip the picture books, is there anything else we can do to provide some similar content to those older kids?
Of course, I mean, there's podcasts. So in some of our newer plans, we have level-up activities and I give ideas for podcasts. Like there's a history podcast called History Chicks. And these ladies talk about women in history. Then there's always myths the Myths and Legends podcast, if you're, if you're really into the myths, but you find some of the stories and picture books kind of not as complete or as exciting because they've, you know, myths are very violent. So that can be more engaging for an older child where the stories are more complete and I will have to say more violent, but that's an actual podcast that my kids like. So those are some resources. Biographies. You can always look up the person on YouTube or oftentimes a poet or an artist or a composer. We'll have a society totally dedicated to them. You can find their website and look up their biography and, you know, knowing who the person was, helps us to understand their work better.
So take it from a, not again academic-y standpoint, but learn about them for the purpose of understanding their work and then looking for the inspiration behind their works through the events in their lives is also a good thing to do with the biography resource. YouTube is a great resource.
Yeah. We like to use YouTube a lot if there's, and you know, this is something we use quite a bit in the explorations. I know that if we were looking for something about, say a Robert Frost or a Matisse or somebody like that, that going, you know, of course, we were going to have our great picture book resource, but going to something like YouTube and, and we have some good sources over there. Can you name a couple of YouTube channels that you like that we used?
Sure. I'd love to, for example, the Royal Academy of Arts has some great videos where they take you around their museum, their art museum, and show you a certain painting. And they sit in almost have a mini-lecture for people about the painting and when the artists painted it and what time of their career and some of the meanings behind it, why it's so important, why it's sitting in the Royal Academy to begin with. So it's a great resource for picture study.
Yeah. You know, museums are often a really great resource for educational materials for older kids. And so you can actually go to museum websites or some of those society pages that you were talking about earlier for poets and for composers and things like that.
And a lot of times there will be lesson plans there. And so I'm not saying that you need to use the entire lesson plan, but usually those lesson plans have some resources embedded. And a lot of times, because we know that they're made for teachers who teach in schools, where they do age segregate, everyone they're kind of labeled with, like, this is a great resource for middle school, or this is a great resource for high school. And so some of those museum websites or society websites are great places to go.
What about if you're combining your kids for something like a history, which is such a great efficient use of your time, how do we supplement what we're doing? You know, let's say we have a, you know, a bunch of kids who are similar in age who are kind of the upper elementary, maybe all the way down to the five-year-old or whatever. And we're doing a great history and Morning Time. We're using a lot of picture books and things like that. And then maybe we have a couple of outliers who are seventh, eighth grade, how do we supplement that history, so that that older child kind of gets what they need, but still can do most of their history with the family to make things easier on mom.
So for the history Morning Time plans, I think that a great way to involve the older children is just to get them talking to have discussions with them. And this is a hard thing for a mom to begin to do, but I'll tell you, instead of focusing on asking questions, I usually make a passing remark about my observations. So for example, huh? I never thought about the ship in Boston Harbor in quite that way before, what do you think? And then they usually make a passing remark about my observation and are ready to go right on with their own. So the best way to help them share their observations, I think is just to show them an example. Sometimes they're intimidated by questions. And so it's easier if you are making the effort, then they're seeing an example to follow. So learning how to have great discussions with your kids about what you're looking at hearing or seeing is a great way to bring in those older kids.
Yeah. I love that. I love that idea of modeling for them, what it's like, you know, to make an observation. And sometimes it could just be, we go off on really great kind of tangents, you know, based on something that we read and somebody brings up a comment and we started having, we start having this really great discussion about it and kind of go off into a bunch of different directions and the conversation just becomes so good.
Another thing that I've done for history, as you know, trying to kind of level up a history program for an older kid is pair it with a history based writing program. And so one of our favorites in the past has been the IEW history, theme-based writing programs. And so you're kind of studying history together as a family in Morning Time, but maybe that seventh-grader is doing that historical theme-based writing program.
And that is adding just enough to their history. You know, it's a writing program, but it's adding enough to their history to really supplement it. And then another thing is to have them sometimes read another spine book and a spine is just simply a book that, you know, if you're studying the middle ages, a spine would be a book that gives you an overview of the entire middle ages.
Or if you're studying American history, a spine would give you an overview of that section of American history that you were studying, or even some historical fiction that's written at a slightly higher level as well.
I agree. I agree. Adding, adding more books for them to read on their own is always a great idea, especially if they're interested in the topic.
Yeah, very much so. So what are some other simple ways that a mom can make any Morning Time topic kind of fit better for an older child?
Well, I would say diving deeper, like you said, not being afraid to allow those conversations to take their course and not saying, okay, let's get back to this. We have something else to do, but instead just diving deep into that conversation and where it takes you is always good for older kids. But for, you know, being more specific with some of the subject areas, you can memorize something they're interested in instead of using what your program says to really well, this doesn't interest, you let's pick something that'll fire you up and help you to want to sit down and memorize this. Or for art projects, if they're really a simplistic drawing or picture, try adding a different medium or more color, more detailed, it's just a simple drawing you can get some YouTube videos on shading or watercolor techniques. That'll bring some life to your artwork.
So I liked that. I liked that idea of, you know, if everyone is drawing tree fog, then you know, and you have kind of a simpler drawing of a, of a tree frog. That's hard to say, then you could pull in a tutorial for the older child that gives a little more detail on doing this drawing, or maybe even going so far. If you're doing this for nature study, as labeling, adding some labeling to what you're doing or adding some more information around the outside, every, all of the younger siblings are kind of drawing the simple pre frog and then the older child comes along and, you know, labels it or add some additional information around the outside. And then I absolutely love your idea of giving them some choices over the things that they want to memorize.
Especially if some of the poems are some of the pieces for memorization are shorter or are more childlike, more appealing to younger kids by giving them the freedom and flexibility to switch that up a little bit and make some choices about what they want to do. And I think that's a wonderful way to kind of level up the the Morning Time for the older kids. So what else?
Well, I mean, you compare and contrast different art and music. So instead of just putting one poem or one piece of artwork or one piece of music in front of them do two or more from either the same composer or somebody else, a contemporary of that composer or two different pieces of artwork from two different periods in an artist's life, you know, anything that would compare and contrast, you're observing more and you're thinking about each piece more. So really think of level up as fine-tuning, all of that appreciation you've built up through the exposure that you're giving your children through Morning Time.
Yeah. I love that idea. That's a fabulous idea to, you know, whereas the little kids,
you're just, you're not expecting them so much to make that comparison and contrast between two different works from a certain composer or from a different artist, or works from one composer to another, you know, or even even more fun. I think the look like comparing one style of painting or music to another style of painting or music and by adding kind of those little extra kind of thinking things,and then always, always when you have teenagers asking for their opinions about things.
Oh yeah. They're always willing to give you your opinion, their opinion. You might not like it, but I'm willing to give it
Yeah, that, that, that's a fabulous idea. Yeah. I love that. Anything else?
Well, I mean, nature study is a harder one, but you could always study the technical drawing behind nature study. You could learn about the proportions of how to draw that coming from the field to inside again, anything that is going to increase their observation of what you're doing is going to be great for leveling up any subjects that you want to tackle in the Morning Time.
Oh, I love that. Yeah. So it's really just kind of taking what we've been doing and, you know, in, in school circles and educational chat, they call this differentiated learning, right? And so you're just taking one level of learning and you're, you're adding an extra layer on to it. And so we can still all study the same things, but we're adding an extra layer on to some of the activities for the older kids and it challenges them a little more, you know, it gets them thinking in different ways. And, and when they see that it's different from what their siblings are doing, I think there's an appreciation there that they're, you know, kinda not doing the quote-unquote baby thing.
Right, right. We're not all sitting around in the carpet with their legs crossed, doing circle time where, you know, this is a sophisticated study of our culture. I liked that Morning Time, the sophisticated study of our culture though, I do often say that our Morning Time is not all pinkies up and tea time.
For sure, not.
I love it. I love it. Well, so many good ideas here for moms who are wondering, what do I do when I have the five-year-old and the 15 year old and how do I take something that, you know, and we always include all the picture books, because number one, the picture books are absolutely fabulous, right? We want to include those. They are so wonderful. And we want to give moms a help in figuring out which picture books are the good ones, which ones are the worthy ones that you, you want to spend your time and energy on. But just because those are in there, that doesn't mean that there aren't ways to kind of stretch our older kids as well.
Well, Jessica, thank you for joining me here today.
You're welcome. It was a pleasure.
And there you have it. Now, if you would like links to any of the books and resources that Jessica and I chatted about today, you can find them on the show notes for this episode, that set Pam barnhill.com/YMB102. Also on the show notes for that episode is a little set of instructions for how to leave a rating or review for the podcast on iTunes. Or you can also do it in whatever podcast app you listened to any rating or review that you leave for us always helps us to get word out about the podcast to new listeners.
I believe these podcast apps use the ratings and reviews. It's like, Hey, these are the ones that we want to suggest to new people. So we always appreciate it. When you take the time to do that. Now I will be back again and a couple of weeks with another great Morning Basket interview. And until then keep on seeking truth, goodness and beauty in your homeschool day.

Key Ideas about Leveling Up Morning Time

Morning Time is about fostering a love of things that are true, good and beautiful. It is not necessary to focus on academics, or fact based subjects. Instead, we should be using that time to develop our children’s taste for good things by exposing them to as much beauty as possible.

When kids get older, sometimes they don’t appreciate being read to from picture books, so finding supplemental material is important. In order to level-up your morning Time for older students you can search out themed podcasts, YouTube videos and society pages online for the person you are studying. They often have great suggestions for older students.

Another great way to get older kids engaged in material is to invite them into conversation about the topic. Using open ended questions or sharing your own observation and inviting theirs is a great way to open the door for discussion.

Find what you want to hear:

  • [3:05] meet Jessica Lawton
  • [5:05] activities that don’t need to be “leveled up”
  • [8:22] picture books and older kids and what to do instead
  • [14:10] supplementing when the older kids need a little more

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