How to Use a Morning Time Binder

You can read more about how we do Morning Time in this post.

Another nuts and bolts post here, but this little gem has already been worth its weight in gold, and we are only in week four of the school year. Meet the new Morning Time Binder. Ta-da!

Isn’t it just the loveliest thing ever? Ok, most of the loveliness is in the practicality. Let me give you a tour.

The morning time agenda

This is key. I can’t tell you how many times I will forget to do something altogether without my list. Like I said before, Morning Time goes pretty quickly around here as we jump from topic to topic. This list helps me make sure I haven’t left anything out. As you can see, I have already started penciling in new topics. It will be in flux for about a month or so and then I will nail it down and retype it.

On to the memory work

The meat of the binder is basically the Simply Charlotte Mason memory system in binder form. I chose binder over card file because I wanted to be able to insert complete pages of information, not just single poems or verses of scripture. So I have a tab for daily, even days, odd days, Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and then all the days of the month. I only have the one binder for myself. The kids learn all of the memory work by listening.

Side note: I found tabs that would allow you to use page protectors and still see the tabs. They stick out far beyond the protector. This was important to me because I wanted the sheets of memory work to be protected for a long time, but I also wanted to be able to see the tabs!

New memory work always sits under the daily tab. Once it is mastered, it then moves to review — first on an even or odd day, next once a week, and finally once a month.

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So what do we memorize?

We have been using Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization from IEW since last year. We really like the poems and up until the end of last year, we were using it exactly as written — reciting every poem every day. The poems are a varied selection between short and long, serious and fun. The best part is — it’s all done for me. I do have the CDs. I bought them at the homeschool convention last March. As of right now, we are finding them totally unnecessary, but that’s just us.

Next on our list of memory items is co-op memory work. Every two weeks we get new memory work in various subjects — very similar to Classical Conversations (CC) or Classically Catholic Memory (CCM) — because in fact, the memory work comes from both of those two sources. The memory work is introduced to the kids at the co-op, and then we review it at home.

Finally, I have a few other things to add to the binder. One goal this year is to memorize the books of the Bible. Catechism and scripture are on the list, and I spent a recent evening at the bookstore thumbing through How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. I found this book incredibly inspiring, and I can’t wait to start memorizing for the kids to start memorizing Shakespeare. You better believe the Bard is about to go in the binder, even if we take it really slow and only learn a new piece per term.

Morning Time binder Pam Barnhill Homeschool SolutionsPin
A poetry page. We know both of these, so we are repeating all daily. We are almost done with the poems on the back, so the page will move soon. Notice how beat-up the pages are from last year. Those page protectors are so important.

But isn’t it a lot?

It is! Especially since we were doing the every-poem-every-day method, and we were up to about ten poems. Something had to give.

Now for the scary part: I cut the binding off of my Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization. (Ack! I know!) Now all of the old poems we know are in the binder and are reviewed according to the SCM system instead of the “every poem everyday system” that Pudewa uses. I had to do this, simply because of the volume of memory work we do — it was either that or drop the poems, which I didn’t want to do.

What I did not do was separate the poems from their pages. A page (front and back) is a unit of memory work. So as an example, right now we are memorizing “The Whole Duty of Children” by Robert Lewis Stevenson. This poem is behind our “Daily” tab. That means the other three poems on the front and back of the page with that poem are also repeated daily even though we know them pretty well. The poems will move through the system as a unit.

This does not mean I introduce them as a unit, though. When we put a fresh page in and start learning the first poem on that page, we focus on one stanza at a time until it is pretty familiar. So for a long while, there might be a page in our daily tab, but we are only having to recite a stanza or two from it. All other memory work is also introduced in the daily tab. Right now we are doing four poems and a page of co-op memory work each day. Tomorrow (Tuesday) we will get new co-op memory work. That means the old co-op memory work will move to the even tab. Even days we will be doing two pages of co-op memory work and our page of poems. Odd days the new co-op memory work and the poems only. It’s a bit, but I believe it is worth it. There are few things more beneficial in training the brain than memory work, and I think our schools are far worse off for letting it slide.

Morning Time binder Pam Barnhill Homeschool SolutionsPin
A page of co-op memory work. Since our group is ecumenical, we don’t do religion at co-op, but I do add it at home.

My plan right now is to memorize the co-op work by week until about week 10. Then after that time, all of the old weekly sheets will be removed from the binder (wherever they may be in the system — daily, weekly, monthly), and I will replace those with by-subject sheets. This means that we will be reciting all ten weeks of science together and all ten weeks of history together. There is no magic formula for when this should occur — it just so happens that I have the memory work already typed up ten weeks to a page. Why switch? Well, one of the goals is for the kids to be able to tell the story of a historical period in about forty sentences. Grouping the memory work by subject will help with that.

So by now your eyes are crossing

And you are wondering how it the world I get my kids to do all of this each day without all-out mutiny. Kids hate this stuff, right? Not really. For the most part, they do love to memorize and are very good at it. They like being very good at something too! Here are a few things that help, though.

1) It’s a together thing.

I do not typically quiz them on the memory work (per se — see below). I used to do that. I would open the page and have them recite (usually alone) and tell them where they were right or wrong. Major fail. Now we open the binder, and I do it with them. My only rule is that your mouth be moving, because you really don’t remember if all you do is listen.

2) We have Funday Mondays.

I got this from another CC mom last year whom I now can’t remember to link to. On Mondays, we play a review game with the co-op portion of our memory work. It takes a little longer, but they think it is fun. Come to think of it, I should probably just add the poems in here too. There are tons of great review games online. Check out Half A Hundred Acre Wood for an awesome list.

3) We use songs.

If there is a song, I play it. I keep iTunes playlists of things we are memorizing on my iPhone. Most of the songs come from CC and CCM Cds. There are a few I have arranged myself or found on Amazon. The kids love the songs.

4) We get silly.

We use these cards made for phonics chants in our memory work practice. The kids pull a card and then we recite poems in pirate speak, volcano voice, or while doing jumping jacks. Oh my gosh, they love these. (I don’t mind as long as we don’t pull jumping jacks for a four-stanza poem.)

And that’s it. I do wish we had this system last year for all of our CC memory work. They have forgotten so much of that. Now we can learn our memory work going forward and retain it through the use of the binder.


I know some of this makes perfect sense to me and comes across clear as mud to you. Please ask if you have a question. It may take a day or two, but I am always happy to answer.

Start your own Morning Time habit

If you would like help getting started with Morning Time, download a sample month of our ready-made Morning Time plans.

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  • I really love this post. I’m wanting to make memory work a focus this school year and this is the perfect set up to do that. {I have the How to Teach Shakespeare book and LOVE it!}

    I do have one question: Do all of your kids do the same memory work or is some of it child specific? I was curious how you keep track of each child’s memory work along with the combined memory work if you do it that way.

    Thanks for the awesome post!

    • Pam says:

      Chelli – We all do it together to the best of each child’s ability. Obviously Thomas is not involved in this, though he sometimes surprises me with what he knows. For the co-op memory work, we will move the page every two weeks whether they have it completely or not. They will remember what they can and I imagine that they will not get 100%. It’s all about the practice and the pegs. As for the poetry, I do wait until both of them have a good grasp on it based on what I hear as we recite. I really don’t test them. I figure that even if they don’t have it exactly before I move it to review that we will likely review it enough for them to finalize it as we go. Make sense? Except for skill subjects we all study the same topics in history, science, memory work, etc.

  • Sarah says:

    I KNEW I’d love this! I’m going to copy it exactly with our memory work! This is perfect!!!

  • What is the resource for your memory work printables?

    • Pam says:

      Some of it is from the Classical Conversations Foundations Guide and some is from Classically Catholic Memory Beta year.

    • Pam says:

      I made the printable myself.

    • Would there be copyright issues if you shared? Pretty please?!

    • Pam says:

      Yes, there would. All of the copywork is verbatim from those two sources. The sheets keep me from having to flip from source to source. Sorry.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Wow! That is fantastic! I’ve been thinking of adding memory work to our days (scripture, historical figure qoutes and Latin) and this would be a perfect system.

    Could you point me in the direction of authors and speakers who talk about the importance of memory work? I haven’t read up on the subject myself and so I’m not understanding the reason why moms are wanting to go beyond the basic scripture memory. I’d like to read more about it so I can figure out if its important for my family.

    • Pam says:

      A few of my favorite sources are Nurturing Competent Communicators by Andrew Pudewa. Yep, it’s the same lecture where he talks about reading aloud. The other half is about poetry memorization. Living Memory by Andrew Campbell (book) is a good resource. Lee Bortins, The Core, is another great resource.

    • Elizabeth says:

      Thank You Pam! I can’t wait to look into these resources.

    • Christie says:

      Me, too. I actually used to love memorizing poetry as a child, and even when I taught school we sometimes memorized poems with my students, but for some reason, I’m having a hard time as a homeschooling mom thinking about them memorizing all these various things (one reason we haven’t opted for CC). I love what you’ve done, though, and now I’m contemplating doing a binder instead of the index card box that I haven’t made yet anyway. Hmm. Decisions, decisions. Thanks for sharing your ideas.

  • Lindsay says:

    This is fabulous. I thank you so much. I am a CC mom, and I just ordered IEW’s poetry (because we fell out of poetry when we switched from Sonlight to CC). This is wonderful to see how you’ve organized your work.

  • Jodi says:

    Hello! What a brilliant idea! Could you tell me the name of the tabs you found, or put up an Amazon link? Thanks! 🙂

  • Pam says:

    Thanks Jodi. Here is a similar kind

    Basically you are looking for anything that says WIDE on it. I think mine ended up being Office Depot brand.

  • Karla in MN says:

    OK…I am trying to figure out the exact materials I need to set this up…eep! Can you do a list? with amazon links? Pretty please? This is SO what I need!

  • Hannah says:

    So impressed with your organization, Pam! That binder looks so cheerful and inspiring. We use IEW for poetry memorization as well, and of course the CC Memory Work. Since our move, we haven’t been quite as habitual about a dedicated time to review memory work, though. I need to get back in the habit, because those rails run more smoothly when they’re habits! Like you, though, I have always relied on our morning time around the breakfast time to set the tone of our day. We’re not the most efficient morning-starters, but a lot happens before we even get up from the table!

  • Dede says:

    This is one of the songs we use. 🙂

  • Azcordelia says:

    Hi Pam! I just wanted to let you know I really love reading your blog and I just started a blog of my own. One of my very first posts is a review about using your Morning Time Routine, and the Morning Time Binder. I linked to you in my post and I’ll mention you on Twitter. I wanted you to know you’ve been an inspiration! I look forward to reading more of your wonderful posts!

  • Tonya says:

    Your blog has been such a blessing to me & our homeschool. It was like the clouds parted when I discovered loop scheduling. We have struggled so much and it is an answer to a prayer! Now that we have Tea Time in place, we are anxious to implement Memory Work. We love the idea of memorizing varied items, as seen in the picture of the sheet from your co-op. Is this something you can share? 🙂 Thank you for all you do!

  • I love your blog. So much good, practical, usable information. Thank you so much!

    We’re using How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare this year and we are absolutely loving it! I very highly recommend it.

    One thing I didn’t anticipate is that my 4-year-old is totally into doing it with us. We’ve only been doing it for a week, but I now am the proud mama to a 4-year-old boy who can recite: “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows, quite over canopied with luscious woodbine, with sweet musk roses and with eglantine.”

    It’s just about the cutest thing ever.

  • Hi Pam,
    Can you address morning time with an only child who you do most school work with anyway? It seems like it would just be part of “school” time and not really set apart. Does that makes sense?

    • Amie says:

      I am not Pam, but may I offer suggestions? Could you create some little “rituals” to help set the time apart? Maybe light a certain candle and pour hot tea into special cups…turn it into a morning (or afternoon) tea time. Call it “morning meeting” or “morning recitations” and add a more formal flair. Play some classical music in the background (a composer of the month?). Or maybe you could have your meetings on a back porch (weather permitting) or someplace different than where the majority of your other schoolwork is done? Or perhaps it’s as simple as finding something to include that you know your student enjoys…listening to you read something of a certain genre…some kind of handwork project done only at this time–like knitting/weaving, origami, or coloring in a “morning time” coloring book while listening to you read (this could be something educational that fits in with a current area of study)…make an entry in a family gratitude journal or seasonal “day book” after morning prayers? I hope you don’t mind my helping you brainstorm a bit. 🙂

      • Hi Amie! I don’t mind at all! Thank you for offering these different ideas for how one might be able to set this time apart from regular school work. A lot of great ideas!

      • Christie says:

        What sweet ideas!

    • Pam Barnhill says:


      Amie’s ideas are great. Yes, ritual is a big, important piece of any Morning Time. I also like to stress that Morning Time is a time for mom to come alongside the child as a fellow learner. The things we learn in Morning Time are appropriate to learn if you are 3, 13, or 30. So being sure to emphasize learning with your child. If he or she is old enough allow them to take ownership of leading some of the activities — reading aloud, leading recitation, prayer or the hymn.

  • Linda says:

    It seems confusing with odd days and then your Monday,Thursday, Friday. I started using a loop schedule for Morning Work which includes Cursive writing practice, a 4-h project ad typing. Using the binder I can file their sheets for morning in the binder to do. I just need to figure out what is being done on which day in order to put it in the binder. The loop schedule changes each day. I would like to include memory work in there to before they start their actual lessons for the day.

    • Pam Barnhill says:


      A day is both odd or even AND has a day of the week name. The odd/even refers to the date. So on a given day you will review DAILY, ODD or EVEN depending on the day, and the day of the week set.

      I have eliminated the Odd/Even from my new binder. It was too much for us to do on any given day.

  • Katrina says:

    Hi Pam,

    Thanks for this. I already use the SCM system for memory work on flashcards. Moving to a notebook is brilliant!

    How did you make your morning time schedule page? It is so pretty.

    Thanks again.

  • Herbwifemama says:

    So, I have a question for any mom who uses a Morning Time Binder: I started out just memorizing scripture, and now we are memorizing poetry and foreign language songs. So, do you do all scripture together, and then the poems, etc. Or do you do all the things in the tab even if it means you’re doing scripture, a poem, a song, back to scripture, etc?

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      We do everything under a tab together — it all falls under “memory work” or “recitation.”

  • Kathleen says:

    Pam, This is so impressive. It’s so far from anything we are doing now but something I truly aspire to creating with my family. Any chance you’d ever consider videotaping snippets of a typical Morning Time session to wrap my head around how this actually plays out? 🙂

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      Kathleen — I have thought about it, but wondered if anyone would be interested enough to watch. 😛 And then there are my video ability limitations. Let me think on how I can best do it.

  • I have no idea how I stumbled onto your blog – it was probably one of those rabbit hole things. Regardless, I recently purchased your Big Morning Basket book/package and it has been transformational! I haven’t even gotten through the book yet but started implementing my idea of morning time. It has blessed me greatly, inspired me, invigorating my teaching, and has revitalized the relationship portion of homeschooling. I think I was becoming the teacher that I didn’t want my kids to encounter in school.

    Thank you so much! I’m just eating up all your posts and I can’t comment on all of them and I have no idea how to find more time to get everything from your site… but I just wanted to say a big, heartfelt… thank you!

    Blessings to you and yours.

    • Pam Barnhill says:


      That is awesome to hear! Thank you so much for your kinds words and letting me know.


  • Patty says:

    Hi Pam,

    So glad I found you! I’m on Brandy’s mailing list and then went to Scholee Sisters where I found you. I have been pretty eclectic myself and have been a CC naysayer for a while. We have now ended up in a classical co-op because my 12 yo was longing for something more academic in a group setting. I was planning to have my 6 & 8 yo just hang out with me, but they are in classes of their own age groups as well. As we approach the end of the year, I am starting to come around; I’m trying to see how I can make this fit into our days, to our benefit. It is actually Catholic Schoolhouse, I’d never heard of the Catholic one you mentioned. I am a cradle Catholic, but this is the first exposure my kids are having to Catholicism…we’ve been in a protestant circle of bible verse memorization. Do you have any suggestions for Catholic instruction for the kids?

    • Pam Barnhill says:

      I like to use books like King of the Golden City or St. Patrick’s Summer for Catholic instruction.

  • Mary says:

    A lot of these ideas work for groups of students (at a co-op or with siblings) Do you have any suggestions for learning memory work with an only child?

  • Mica dun says:

    How about teens? I have two highschoolers. I know it’s late but we just heard of morning baskets and I love the idea. But memory work for them? And, what about an 8 yo with autism. Realllly struggles with memory

  • Carol Curley says:

    Thanks, Pam! This article is precisely what I needed to transition from my scripture memory index card box to a binder. I find it difficult to “remember” to work on non-scripture memory items, (hymns, poems, geography songs, etc.) simply because I couldn’t figure out how to add them to my tiny box.

    Simple, yet genius solution!

    Also, I love the idea of reading along together. I have felt my “repeat-after-me” or “who can tell me…?” approach was allowing one student to shine, while driving the other one down in confidence.

    From now on, we simply recite together. Wonderful.

    You’re a jewel!

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