There are good school days and there are bad ones. Homeschooling is a bit like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates — sometimes it is difficult to predict on any given morning which kind of day you are going to get.
If I have to choose a common element in all of our good homeschool mornings (besides everyone getting enough sleep) it would be that those good days invariably start with the practice we call Morning Time.
Morning Time, Circle Time, Morning Basket, Morning Meeting — these terms are often used interchangeably. These are all used by homeschoolers to name what I describe as Morning Time, yet these terms are also sometimes used to describe more progressive or utilitarian practices which are not the same at all.
So let’s take a look at the origin and characteristics of Morning Time and try to develop a concise picture of what it is.
Morning Time is the brainchild of Cindy Rollins. For over 25 years her family has started each day gathered around mom reading, singing, discussing and living what has become their Morning Time.
Cindy has a blog archive at Morning Time Moms which provides information into her Morning Time as well as an audio lecture on the practice available from the Circe Institute.
Once Cindy began writing and speaking about the practice, it became popular among Classical and Charlotte Mason homeschoolers as they recognized the value in spending time each day reading aloud from living books and learning in community.
Most recently, Morning Time has gained more widespread popularity in the homeschooling community with its inclusion in Sarah Mackenzie’s book as a key strategy for Teaching from Rest.
Quite simply, Morning Time contains subjects that the family can do together that emphasize truth, goodness, and beauty in their homeschool. Morning Time is a liturgy — one part of Charlotte Mason’s “atmosphere” of education.
These small practices done daily over time are not only a means to an education (and a good one at that), but a means to shaping virtue in ourselves and in our children.
While Morning Time will look slightly different in every family, there are some characteristics that are common across every Morning Time. Let’s talk a look at these common characteristics — the 3Rs, if you will, of Morning Time:
One of the main characteristics of Morning Time is the inclusion of ritual. Ritual elevates mundane, ordinary activities into something that has meaning beyond the sum total of those activities. Why does this matter? After all, aren’t we just teaching history and science?
We are also teaching persons. We are striving to create in our children life-long seekers of knowledge by building habits and virtue. In doing so education needs to be more than a means to an end, but instead an act practiced with importance.
Morning Time allows you to start your day placing an almost reverent importance on the act of acquiring knowledge.
If your house is anything like mine there isn’t much reverence —potty humor and couch Olympics are likely to break out at any time. This is the very reason why adding ritual to Morning Time is important. How can this be done?
Actually it is surprisingly easy. The consistent daily habit of Morning Time itself is just one way. Simply by getting up and doing it day in and day out you are emphasizing the importance of education.
Some families will begin each Morning Time with prayer, singing, or the reading of a Psalm. Each morning session could also begin by lighting a candle or the recitation of a favorite family poem.
Cindy ends her Morning Time with the Doxology and a blessing — “The Lord be with you,” to which her children respond “And also with you.” This simple benediction is a ritual as well.
The heart of Morning Time is the things you choose to read aloud to your children. These may differ from family to family but will characteristically include the best stories from children’s and classic literature.
While all family members may have their own reading at other times of day, reading during Morning Time is done in community which leads to the opportunity for shared discussion.
Choose selections that will appeal to the age-range of your children. If you have mostly younger children then quality picture books, a story Bible written in beautiful language, fairy tales and Lamb’s or Nesbit’s Shakespeare are wonderful choices.
Older elementary children and teens should experience Scripture from your preferred translation and Shakespeare from the original. Don’t worry. They can and do understand it.
If you have a wide age range then read books aimed towards the older children first while everyone is fresh and attention is high. Little ones can play (hopefully — this takes some training depending on their ages) with toys while you read.
Later in Morning Time the older children can be dismissed to complete independent work and you can take the little ones aside to enjoy stories that will appeal more to their attention span.
The beauty of this family reading program is that with practice, the entire family, from oldest to youngest, will grow in appreciation of beautiful stories and language.
It never ceases to amaze my husband that all three of my children yell, “Ooo Shakespeare!” as if they are greeting a long-lost friend whenever his name is mentioned.
The final common characteristic of Morning Time is the inclusion of recitation or memorization. Because our character is shaped by the words we hide within our heart, recitation is a valuable method of education in the homeschool.
As with every other Morning Time practice, families will approach this differently. Scripture, poetry, prayers (in English and Latin), and Shakespeare are all worthy additions to a Morning Time recitation list. Some families will choose to memorize more, others may limit themselves to Scripture or poetry.
Some families will add practical tidbits such as a history timeline and math facts to this list. For ideas about what to memorize, this list of 100 Things for Kids to Memorize will get you started.
While memorization can be as simple as shared reciting while reading, you can also add additional techniques to your Morning Time practices to aid in memory work. My kids like to use songs, funny voices, and even review games to spice up our recitation practice.
While these 3Rs are the basics of Morning Time, the possibility for adding subjects to your Morning Time is limitless. The main requirement is that these are subjects your children will be doing as a group — either as an entire family or as select group of the siblings (i.e. younger kids or older kids).
Some subjects you might add include: hymn study, nature study, reading for history or science, artist or picture study, composer study, music appreciation, English grammar or sentence diagramming and simple handicrafts.
Right now in our Morning Time we are including line practice for a play we are participating in, the exploration of multiplication through hands-on activities, and narration training using Aesop’s Fables, as I want my kids to learn to narrate for their other studies next year. These things work for us.
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We have been doing a version of Morning Time since we began homeschooling, though I didn’t know it was called anything! 🙂
We begin our HS-ing day by preparing breakfast, sitting at the table, and I read a poem, a bible story and a devotional, and then a chapter (or two or three!) from our read-aloud. Since we report everything, this actually helps me not only get into the mindset of the day, but also I take care of 2, sometimes 3 ‘subjects’ during this time, and fairly quickly, before doing individual work.
Pam, I’m loving your podcast! I also really appreciate that it’s between 25-30 minutes long. I listen to a lot of podcasts, and I think that is the perfect amount of time to fully enjoy and engage with the information. I usually listen while doing a chore or meal prep, and I really liked the one yesterday about Unit Studies…looking forward to the others!
Yep — sounds like Morning Time to me!! And thank you for the kind words on the podcast. Heather was so much fun to talk to.
Do you have any ideas on doing this with an 11 year old only child?
Emily — When we first started MT I struck out on the wrong foot with the memory work by asking them to tell it to me. It was almost like I was constantly quizzing them. They clammed up pretty quickly. Since then I started being an active PARTICIPANT in MT myself. I do (read) the memory work with them instead of asking them to perform it for me. When the reading is on audio (Story of the World right now) I listen with them — not leave the room to attend something else. With your 11 YO you could also have him/her do some of the reading out loud. Let him/her read the Bible passage for the day or write the sentence to diagram on the whiteboard. Make it something you do together that you are both learning from. There is still learning in community even if there is only the two of you. HTH.
Pam, This is a fabulous explanation of Morning Time! We do this, too. I’ve got to get better about the memory work. You inspire me to tackle it again.
I have a question about recitation. Do you keep building upon and recite all memory work learned every week? Or do you learn one thing this week, then drop it and learn something else next week? We have been doing the latter in our first year of HS-ing. But I’m starting to hear things about reciting all your memory work for the whole year…
We have tried to do it both ways.. getting the kids to learn memory verses from the bible in an unstructured way – learning then dropping indefinately.. seems to not stick quite so long in their memories.. then last year we did Classical Conversations and my 9 year old did the full memory master and got every item of memory work down .. and even some of that has been forgotten, but I think if we go back and try to pick it up again, it will be there and just needs a little digging out. So, some kind of revision I think helps along the way… there is a memory box system that is explained somewhere out there, that I have been wanting to try.
I have a post here on our memory work binder and how we use it to build in review for our memory work. They will forget if things are not reviewed regularly. https://pambarnhill.com/2013-2014-curriculum-and-plans-morning/
IEW teaches an alternate method in their Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization book. It is based on the Suzuki method and worth a look as well.
Hey Pam! Love this. Enjoyed your scope today on your Morning Time basket.
We call our morning time “Morning Meeting”: hugs and kisses, did we finish our morning routine?, read a scripture or text, prayer, memorize scripture of the week, math flash cards, and then this year I’m adding our first daily lesson as all of us working together to do a page in their Gift of Logic workbook. But I’m excited that I hit those “Rs” you mentioned. We do light a candle each day but usually at various times, but I LOVE how you mentioned in your scope that you do so in a “ritualistic” way to commence. Definitely using that idea! And definitely passing this post on.
Happy Homeschooling! See you around…
I have one school-aged child who wakes up very early in the morning and a second older child who works best after sleeping in. So they get started with school at different times in the day. I’d like the early riser to get the benefit of participating in our morning basket early in the day, however, that would mean the second child would not be involved and I don’t want to do two separate morning baskets. Any suggestions?
I have a son who also wakes up very early. He can get started on his individual work or read and then once everyone is up and eaten breakfast then we do our morning time routine.
I know quite a few folks who do tea time as well with similar topics. It’s mid afternoon meeting time. Perhaps you could try that, or a mid-morning time.
We have fallen out of the habit of a morning time routine and this was the PERFECT reminder of how much better a HS day can go!
I love all of the new ideas and inspiration I received from this post too.
I look forward to checking out your podcast!
Incredible! Thank you so much! I have not started homeschooling but this has given me some great ideas to implement in my homeschooling. You now have a loyal follower of your blog. Blessings!
Well welcome. So glad to have you here Adriana. Have you seen the Morning Time podcast? https://pambarnhill.com/your-morning-basket-podcast
We only started homeschooling 2 years ago. I currently have a 6th and 8th (boy) grader. Last year we started the day with scripture memory practice. But, we got away from it this year as I no longer had a child memorizing AWANA verses and it felt like we needed time for more “substantive” work/subjects. I LOVE the idea of a Morning Basket/Time. But, I am struggling with how to implement it into our day with one middle and one high schooler next year. I would love to hear suggestions from those who do this with high schoolers.
When the kiddos eat breakfast at their desks in the morning I read our devotional books. It just sets the mood for the day!
What is the best way to approach the Morning Time with only one child who is 9 years old?
Pam and our friend Tina talked about this on episode 47 of the Your Morning Basket Podcast. You can hear that here.
Thank you for replying so quickly. ?
Pam, I am new to the idea of morning baskets and I’m trying to wrap my head around how this is supposed to work. We have open and go curricula for our core subjects (mom’s ADHD brain requires that kind of structure) yet I love the idea of adding in the poetry memorization and art/composer history. I downloaded one of your lesson plans, but it seems like morning time is an entire school day in itself. Can you tell me how this works?
Hi Joy! Morning Time can be what you need it to be. For many families, like mine, we pull many of our Morning Time activities out of our curriculum and put them together so we can study the true, good, and beautiful as a group.
Some families have an open and go curriculum and just want to add a couple of things – poetry memorization and art/music study. That’s great! Just do that.
Morning Time is about pulling everyone to the table and learning together (mom, too!) Where you draw your content from is less important than studying it in community.
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