Morning Time Q&A with Mystie Winckler FeaturePin
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Pam and her good friend Mystie Winckler of Simply Convivial wrap up this season of the podcast with an entire episode devoted to answering listener questions. They share inspiration, practical tips, how-to’s, and amusing anecdotes from their combined 12 years of practicing the discipline of Morning Time in their homes.

Whether you’re a seasoned Morning Time veteran or a newbie wondering how to get started, there is something in this episode for you. Enjoy!

Pam: This is Your Morning Basket where we help you bring Truth, Goodness, and Beauty to your homeschool day. Hi everyone, and welcome to episode 9 of the podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I’m so happy you’re joining me here today. We are going to be answering your questions today on the Your Morning Basket podcast. Now this was really a fun experiment. I had been planning on having my good friend, Mystie Winckler, do this show with me for a number of months. We’re kind of co-hosting the show because she is a really great resource when it comes to Morning Time. She’s been doing Morning Time since her oldest was five. She’s been doing it for eight years now, so fabulous resource over at her blog, – lots of Morning Time information but then we started playing around with the Blab platform. Now if you aren’t familiar with Blab it’s one of these new video streaming platforms that are out there, kind of like Periscope. It’s is where you can find it online and Blab allows you to have multiple people in a conversation and it records the conversation for you. So we thought, hey! Let’s try doing the Q&A show live and so that’s exactly what we did. We actually sent it out to the email list (if you’re on the email list you got that email) and invited people to come in and I would say we had 40-50 people join us that Saturday morning to watch the show live on Blab and they were able to type in and ask their questions to us and then we answered their questions on air and then every other Morning Time question that I had received we answered that on air as well. I received those via email, so that’s what we’re packaging up and delivering to you today.

Now, I have done a little bit of editing to take out some of the awkward moments at the beginning and you might notice a slight difference in some of the normal sound quality that we have. We always try to deliver you a really top quality show and for whatever reason Blab was not working on my computer and so I ended up using my phone which was fine except for there’s no microphone on my phone other than the one that’s built in to the phone; I couldn’t plug in my fancy microphone. So you’ll notice a small difference but I don’t think it’s anything that’s going to distract you at all from the content that we’re providing. So, we’re going to get on with the show and let you listen in on the conversation that we had that day, and I hope you enjoy it, I hope you enjoy the live show. Let me know. Give me some feedback if you go to you’ll be able to give me your feedback there and let me know if you like the live show, if it’s something you think we should do again, so maybe you could come next time and take part and be part of the live audience. Sit back, enjoy the show, and let us know how you like it.
Mystie Winckler is a homeschooling mom of five and she lives in Washington State with her husband, Matt. She’s been doing Morning Time for about seven years now, right?
Mystie: Eight. This is our 8th year.
Pam: With her crew, and then I’ve been doing Morning Time for about four with mine, so between us we have 12 years of Morning Time experience.
Mystie: That sounds pretty good!
Pam: We are hoping to answer some of the questions that you guys have been having. So we do have some questions that have been sent in in advance and also we are going to take questions from the live audience here on Blab. So, don’t forget you guys, here on Blab, if you have a question then just please hit /q and then type in your question and Mystie will be able to read that and we’ll work it into the show as we go along. So Mystie, are you read for our first question?
Mystie: I am.
Pam: Great. OK, well, we had a mom send in a question, this was Karen, and she wanted to know how she could do Morning Time, this relaxed approach of Morning Time and still be able to meet high school requirements for credits. She’s worried if she spends time on Morning Time each day that she won’t be able to meet the hourly requirements that her state has her do for high school credit. So how can we help her out?
Mystie: That one’s tricky because neither of us have had to do that one yet. My oldest is in 7th grade so we’re almost there; it’s time where I really should probably start thinking about that but I haven’t had to do it yet, keep track of the hours. I was doing a little bit of research when I saw that question and I think the AmblesideOnline page actually has a really good section on high school credits and hours, so how to count hours and to find out what your state even means by credit hours because it’s called credit hours but under a lot of the systems an hour isn’t even an hour. A credit hour is 40 minutes. It’s just a system that has it’s own, the schools aren’t tracking absolute hours worth of learning happening, so there are different ways to count that and so AmblesideOnline had a really good section addressing how to think about it and how to do that, while still doing the kind of homeschool that we want to be doing.
Pam: This kind of deep reading, narration based, homeschooling. And so I think you have a very good point and also the HSLDA website has some information too, just in general about credit hours, and one of the things they state is that finishing a text will often, it doesn’t matter how long it takes you to do it, but if you finish the text then you can award a credit hour for finishing a text. So let’s say you’re reading with your child or your children, and this is the other thing I want to stress, is a lot of times, if you have kids that are of an age (let’s say a high schooler and maybe down to an 11 year old and you have two or three kids in there) you can take the reading for one child and read that during Morning Time and that will cover what that child needs for part of his requirement, a high school child but the other kids, it’s not like you have to read something different for them. They can join in for what you’re doing and this is the other thing I was going to pull up, when Angela Boord was on the show, the podcast, episode 5, she was talking about how she realized that her high school students had never had logic so she wanted to give them logic and she did that through Morning Time. And so the whole family just joined in to the logic studies through Morning Time. Now they used the Fallacy Detective if Angela award a credit just for doing the Fallacy Detective; did she do the Fallacy Detective over the course of the year and at the end of the year say “OK, that’s a half credit in Logic 1” or something. I don’t know that she did that, but I think it was an interesting concept to say that I want my high schooler to have Shakespeare, we’re going to do one Shakespeare play per term, three over the course of a year, and then at the end of the year I’m going to be able to award English Lit. credit to my high schooler because they’ve done some written narrations and things, watched the plays outside of Morning Time, but everybody in the family is going to get to join in to that. So I think what I’m saying is use Morning Time to meet some of those high school requirements and let the other kids follow along, it’s not going to hurt them.
Mystie: And two, the running time doesn’t have to be an hour long or more.
Pam: No.
Mystie: If you just want to start building it and you have a high schooler who maybe wants to get on with his work and feels like this is taking away from his day, just say, “Let’s start off the day with a cup of coffee and praying together.”
Pam: So shortening Morning Time and then also, Cindy Rollins has said for years that she did Morning Time, her Morning Time was really long but those high schoolers only stayed for a small portion of it, and then she let them go because they were so busy and had so many other things to do. And so, she front loaded that Morning Time with what she wanted the high schoolers to participate in and then she released them to go on and get on with their day and do what they needed to do.
Another episode that’s really good, talking about high schoolers in Morning Time, of course, episode 1 but also Jennifer Mackintosh in episode 6 had some really good tips about working your high schoolers into Morning Time as well. I hope that was helpful, Karen. Maybe some of that will help you but we’ll definitely link to that AmblesideOnline link in the Show Notes so you can go check that out. Mystie, thank you for finding that information.
OK, so do we have a question from the live audience we could take?
Mystie: Yes, we have one from Diana. She says do you involve your children in the planning, mine are 9, 7 year old twins, 3, and 18 months. So, how about you, Pam, do your kids have any input into Morning Time?
Pam: No, not really. If they came to me and said (my kids, I’m pretty lucky, they’re pretty compliant. They moan and grumble about doing school all the time) but if I say, “Hey guys, we’re going to memorize this poem” they memorize that poem, and they’re pretty happy to do it – as happy as they are to do anything else. I know that some people let kids choose what poem they want to memorize. I think Sarah Mackenzie’s done that before where she’s let each child choose their poems. Mystie, you’ve done that – go ahead and tell us about it.
Mystie: So, especially when my oldest son (he was about 10) he had a lot more pushback on doing Morning Time (ho hum hum) bad attitude, and so one of the things I did was give him the choice of what poems, well, I let him pick three out of the six we do in the year. So there’s still ones that I want him to learn but I let him pick half of his poems for the year. And then, of course, that meant that the 8 year old also got to. All the younger ones I pick theirs but once you hit about 8 or 9 you get to start picking your own. And this last I let my oldest pick four out of the six. Next year I might let him pick all of them, because the other good thing about letting them pick their own poetry, one, they have more buy in so it’s their choice and I noticed when the terms came around, where it was the poem that I picked, they did it but when it was the poem they picked they were a lot more excited about it, they felt that ownership of it. So then I let him pick more this year and so when they’re picking their own that means they’re browsing all the poetry books and trying to …
Pam: Oh, that’s true.
Mystie: … find ones that they like, so it’s tricky. They’re in there flipping through all the poetry books, and I’m like, “Did you know I have this other poetry book? Have you ever seen this one?”
Pam: So they think they’re gaining all this control from mom, and you’re like “Ha! [**inaudible**]
Mystie: Score!
Pam: … poetry books, I love it. I love it! Diana asked specifically about planning Morning Time, and so I think your idea is great for that, and then I also think as children get older, then it’s important to let them take leadership roles in Morning Time. Let them be the one who leads the prayer, let them be the one who lights the candle, let them be the one who leads the memory work or something of that nature and handles pushing the buttons on the iPhone so all the recordings play. I do think that’s important as well. A little bit of planning is good especially when it helps to do the buy in. Let’s take another question from our list of questions that were sent in. So we have a mom who has some little children and I think this is a question we get a lot and she said I would like nothing more to have my children sit around me while I read from many great books but my kids are mostly all so little still. I have an 8 year old, 7 year old who are more than capable of joining in Morning Time. My 5 year old, however, is not there yet. And then I have three more kids 3 years and under, so I have been very discouraged several times this year with lots of tears all front when trying to gather my crew in the morning. So she goes on to say that she does Circle Time based on the Waldorf method with movement verses, and reciting a few poems, but it’s the reading aloud that’s really getting to her, so she says “The guests you’ve had on your podcast so far talked about what they did with their kids when they were little but it seems a little vague and not as nitty-gritty practical.” So, can we give (and I don’t have her name here) her some nitty gritty practical advice?
Mystie: So, I started Morning Time when my oldest was 5. Right now, he’s 12, and my youngest just turned 3. So, so far, we’ve always had a baby or a toddler in our Morning Times. It’s been a different one and they’ve moved on and up but it’s always a trick, and it seems every six months or so something that was working no longer works. With little kids the dynamic shifts so quickly that you have to really be paying attention and be willing to change things up.
Pam: So I want to point out for this poor lady, and I know how she feels, I can remember. I don’t think I had homeschooled for six whole months while my youngest kid (what is it about the youngest kid?) he was between the ages of 15-21 months and my oldest was five at the time and I said, ‘You know what? I give up, we’re just going to unschool for six months because this is too frustrating.’ So we took the summer and a couple of extra months off around the summer but you do not read in Morning Time or you did not in the past?
Mystie: I do not.
Pam: So go ahead and I think we need to give her permission, and tell me how you get reading done? I know you’re not a big read aloud fan anyway but you do read some…
Mystie: I do.
Pam: Let’s tell this lady how you do it because I think it might be helpful.
Mystie: I feel like I have too many age groups to do much reading aloud altogether in the morning because I lose somebody. What I want to read for the older kids is too much for the younger/toddler/baby, they’ll go off or just start crying, we just can’t stay together with everybody on board for that long, to do significant read alouds. So our Morning Time is the ritual and recitation part and the reading I keep separate. So we get together in the morning, we pray, we sing, we do Scripture memory and catechism and other kind of memory work and then the big kids go off and they start their independent work. We have a little break and the little ones get up and I’m moving the laundry and getting water or something- there’s a little transition time and then I bring the middle kids (7, 5 year old) and we sit on the couch and we do our reading on the couch. And I think they pay better attention to the reading when they feel it’s for them and they’re right there close to me and we’re looking at books that have pictures. If I was reading a book at the table that had pictures and they’re sitting away at the table that would not go over very well. So we sit together on the couch and that’s our reading time while the big kids are doing their thing. And then twice a week in the afternoons during naptime, actually my younger kids go to my friend’s house and her bigger kids come to my house, and so she reads those kids picture books at her house and I read the history, science read alouds with the big kids separate without the little kids running around. And that works great!
Pam: And so you could do that during naptime if you didn’t have a friend to trade with? Mystie’s very fortunate that she has a friend who lives on the same street as her with some of the same goals and so they trade off in this fashion; and Mystie gets to do what she loves with the older kids and this lady takes the younger kids. But you could do it during naptime when your little ones were napping.
Mystie: And in the past, before she lived on the same street and we did this, I would put the younger kids (the baby might be napping but I might have a toddler that wasn’t) and so I would put them in their room with an audio book, that sort of thing, or a special toy, in their room, doors closed and something of their own to listen to whether that’s music or an audio book or something, to help the not-nappers still have a quiet time.
Pam: Right, so they’re doing quiet time while you’re doing this reading with the older kids? You call that ‘elementary lessons’ in the afternoon but you’ve admitted to me that honestly, it’s really just Morning Time.
Mystie: It’s another Morning Time.
Pam: So, I think splitting Morning Time, that’s a really good idea. Using naptime, that’s something that is a practical solution for those kinds of things, and if you can’t make that work, give yourself permission to only do what you can do. If the little section of Morning Time that’s working for you is the section where you’re reciting the poems and you’re singing the little songs, she told us that one section was working, then give yourself permission to just do that section and call it ‘good!’ and don’t beat yourself up about the parts that you can’t get done. Because in all likelihood, when Dad comes home at night or something like that, you’re reading aloud to the kids at that point, or when the little ones go to bed, you’re reading aloud to the bigger kids, or …
Mystie: Or you have an audio book in the car.
Pam: I was just about to say that! Strap ‘em all in the car and put on an audio book.
Mystie: Another thing is the toddler is there but sometimes the toddler’s playing with a toy on the ground and sometimes the toddler is throwing a fit on the ground and the toddler’s up and down and in people’s business and on my lap and moving around and just, kind of, being. We’re doing our thing and they’re with us but they don’t have to be sitting perfectly still or being perfectly behaved, they’re just there. There’ve been a lot of times where the toddler starts fussing because they’re toddlers, and I’ll just go stick that toddler up in their bed for the last 10 or 15 minutes. Well, if you’re crying you can’t be a part of this and you can last for 15 minutes in your room, and that helps them learn that they can’t manipulate what’s going on and that’s another reason why I have everyone has their own binder because I can leave the room with the toddler who’s misbehaving and not have everyone just sitting there doing nothing or squabbling or leaving the room descending in utter chaos.
Pam: I think those are some good tips and so hopefully that will be helpful. Let’s take another question from the live audience.
Mystie: Can you give a good explanation of what Morning Time is? I keep hearing bits and pieces and trying to put it together.
Pam: No, I can’t do that. OK, yes, I can actually. I wrote a book about that!
Mystie: You worked really hard to be able to say what Morning Time is.
Pam: That’s exactly right. Morning time is a time set apart in your homeschool day where the entire family comes together and learns together minus the toddler who needs to be separated, but the entire family comes together and learns together and typically, not always, there are four basic parts to Morning Time and one of them encompasses the other three. There’s ritual which is some kind of prayer that you have in your life or some kind of liturgical activity- this might be singing a hymn, lighting a candle, doing daily prayers, reading Scripture, so that’s typically the ritual aspect of Morning Time. Morning Time will also usually have a reading aspect where you’re sharing something with your family through reading good books. These can be small snippets of good books. You might be reading Shakespeare, you might be reading Thorton Burgess, you might be reading poetry, those are some things you might share in your reading. And then the third element there is recitation where you’re doing a little memory work. Maybe you’re memorizing a poem, you’re memorizing Scripture, some of us use that time to memorize multiplication facts or geography locations and then all of this is wrapped up in relationship. You’re building this family culture with all of your children together through the activities that you’re doing, and so often our homeschool day is fragmented into my 5th graders over here doing this and my 7th grader’s locked in his room working on pre-algebra and my toddler is climbing the shelves and throwing things off onto the floor and my preschooler’s just learning to form their letters but this is the time in the day when you can all come together and contemplate truth, goodness, and beauty as a family in one spot. And it’s also a great time and a great place to take all those little things that you want to do in your homeschool that often get pushed out of the schedule, like composer study or picture study or specific things that you want to read. For us it’s a place where we put our faith reading together and we just read a little bit from a book of faith with each other and talk about that and have great discussions and so there’s not a lot that’s wrong to put in Morning Time, there’s an awful lot that’s right to put in Morning Time and it’s a great way to fit that stuff in – anywhere from about 15 to an hour and 15 minutes in your day. Alright, Mystie, what do you want to add to that?
Mystie: I would say that it also doesn’t have to have all those pieces all at once. You can build slowly and not have it be this – you hear the ideal of what it could be and it’s easy to build it up in our minds so then we aren’t happy with what’s actually happening in our homes and we should be doing what works for our home and not trying to reach this ideal where we do everything every day and our kids never misbehave and always sit there and can narrate everything perfectly with their hands in their lap, not touching anyone else at the table.
Pam: Not saying mean and aggravating things to their brother or sister during Morning Time.
Mystie: “He made a mean face at me, Mom.”
Pam: “He’s looking at me.” It’s not an idyllic thing at all. But there is beauty in the brokenness of Morning Time. Just the fact that you’re doing Morning Time.
Mystie: Yes! So Dawn’s masking tape, I saw the her picture on her Morning Time table and I immediately knew what these were. So she has the round table and there’s a masking tape line dividing it into quarters and that’s each person’s space, no one else can touch the other person’s space and the space that the tape takes up, they were fighting over who’s the tape was, and so all the tape space is moms!
Pam: That’s funny. So this is our friend Dawn and she’s LadyDusk all across the blogosphere. Help me with her blog address, is it
Mystie: Yes.
Pam: We may need to post Dawn about the taped off table coming up.
Mystie: I can send you the link it is on her blog.
Pam: OK great, send me the link and I’ll put it in the Show Notes so that everyone can see what real Morning Time looks like. And I just want to go back to what Mystie was saying. Yes, I was telling you what Morning Time was but in order to get to that point the surefire, the number one way to sabotage your Morning Time is to try to birth a full blown Morning Time from the very beginning, because it’s hard. I’m not going to say that there’s nobody out there who can do it but there are people that can do it, but most of us really, really, really, really need to just start with one thing and then build on that. So do that one thing for a week and then add another thing and I talk about this in the book and also have an e-course that’s part of the program where I send you an email once a week for six weeks and I just very slowly build you up to adding more and more things to this Morning Time habit that you’re creating. So start small.
Mystie: Yes, baby steps.
Pam: OK, give me another question.
Mystie: Antonia wants to know how you interest younger kids and older kids at the same time or do you separate Morning Time into parts? I have a child age 2, kindergartener, 5th grader, and 7th grader. So that’s almost like me, except I have 2nd grader in there too. But those are the ages of my kids also.
Pam: You want to talk to that for a few minutes?
Mystie: That is why I separated out the reading, most of the reading from everything else, so I see our morning Morning Time as us coming together and starting the day off on the right foot together. There’s something about singing together, praying together and singing together, that really helps our attitudes and our family unity all getting on the same team in the morning. We can all do that together. None of that is age specific.
Pam: Right.
Mystie: And we do our poetry, the poetry memorization at that time, and even the three year old has her own poem that she does half the time when she feels like participating. But then they’re hearing other language, they’re hearing good language, and things that I wouldn’t necessarily read to the toddler, but it’s short. And we also do a few things like Latin chants or some things like that that are audio that I just turn on from the iPod. And so it’s short and it’s fast moving, we’re not sitting and reading one thing for a long time. No one’s attention span is being pulled on too much and the toddler can get up and move around and color, she’s just there really.
Pam: Right.
Mystie: And then that’s why we separate out the reading time so that the kindergarten/young elementary kids get their still close to mom couch time picture book reading that the older kids that the older kids would be annoyed by and they have their time to go do their work and then we have time to read the books to them with a little longer attention span while the others do their thing.
Pam: And I think that’s a good way to handle it. The other thing that Jen Mackintosh talked about in episode 6 was that she shoots for the middle of her group and she has one who just graduated all the way down to a toddler. And I think she has five children. She was talking about how she shoots for the middle and she really goes for those living books, but having said that, she’s shooting for this upper elementary range and so she said her 15 year old son is sitting through some of the Little House books again. She was talking about how with Little House being a living book then she is able to then have deeper conversations with him and ask him more probing questions. When you’re doing Little House on the Prairie all of these questions can come up about native peoples and was it right … so the questions just get deeper and deeper even though she’s kind of shooting for the middle with what she’s reading because they’re living books. She and I also talked about what do you do when you have this 13-14 year old boy who’s not wanting to do this with the little kids and she said a lot of times this is a place where dad can step in and have this conversation about being there to set a good example and leading the little kids and things of that nature. I think you have to find what works for your family. I think that’s the most important thing.
Mystie: And it’s a tricky thing that age, we’re just getting into there ourselves, and it’s really difficult to discern if it’s a really a problem or if they feel like they’re at an age where they should be pulling back from everyone else but they really don’t want to but they’re kind of bluffing a disinterest and if you just keep pulling them in, that’s really what they need is to still be drawn into the family and not just because they’re pushing back doesn’t mean that they don’t want to be a part of it.
Pam: Right. They may just be testing those limits. And I think that’s a place where giving them some leadership roles in the Morning Time “Today’s going to be your day to lead the prayer,” those kinds of things is probably big. So, separating out is an answer and also shooting for the middle but taking the discussion deeper with the older kids, I think is an answer, and I think Angela Boord shoots a little high and lets the little ones come along. She’s doing Julius Caesar and got 2, 5, 7, 9 year olds joining in with Julius Caesar and everybody who can read is taking a part. She’s doing logic and she said what surprised her most was her 9 year old twins love the logic most of all. Shooting for the middle, shooting a little high. Oh, I just want to say real quick, the other day my 5 year old left the room in Morning Time, actually, he left the house. He went outside in the backyard and my other two kids were like, “Hey mom, do we need to go get Thomas we’re doing Morning Time?” “No, not today, just let him go.” He’s outside, he’s playing quietly. He’s obviously more interested in something that’s going on out there than what’s going on in here right now. It’s not all the time, just let him go. He’s 6 now, he’s not 5 anymore. So sometimes you just do that.
Mystie: So then there’s also Cindy Rollins and Brandy Vencel also does this set up where I think Brandy started off first altogether, then you aim more toward the upper end and let the toddlers go play, and then she said that recently switched that off where they do altogether and frontload the together stuff and she now lets her oldest go and is aiming it more toward her younger kids. So there’s also this graduated, letting people leave the table at different times.
Pam: You said it earlier Morning Time is going to change and ebb and flow and what’s working now might not work six months from now or a year from now, and you just switch it up and find out what works again. The most important part is to have that little bit of ritual time together each day, a little bit of recitation, and depending on how much you want to do, and having that discussion, that shared family culture. OK, let’s take another question from my list. I have a mom who wants to know: what does Morning Time look like when all of the children are still little: toddler, preschool, K, first grade, and resources? (Oh, I meant to bring resources upstairs and I totally forgot!)
Mystie: I didn’t grab anything either.
Pam: What does it look like when the kids are all really little? She doesn’t have a wide range of ages. Do you have any suggestions for her before I talk?
Mystie: The way we started, we started when my oldest was five, the second was three, and I had a baby. So Morning Time took about 10 or 15 minutes…
Pam: OK, so short.
Mystie: … It was short. I prayed, we sang Holy Holy Holy, we had five or seven catechism questions we were learning, and we recited Psalm 1, and we would read a little bit from a poetry book; just a nursery rhyme type book. And that was all.
Pam: I think nursery rhymes are huge, and they’re kind of undervalued sometimes, just being these cute little sayings but they’re actually a pretty important part of literacy development for little kids.
Mystie: And actually, right now my 12 year old — we’re doing Grammar of Poetry, so he’s learning about how poetry works and I’m using a video curriculum, and the teacher is using those nursery rhymes that he expects kids to be familiar with but they’re learning all the technicalities of poetry using nursery rhymes, so it’s not even just for little kids.
Pam: Exactly. So focusing on those nursery rhymes, especially the ones with finger plays and things like that, keeping it short, reading picture books – Five in a Row has a great list of picture books that you could read, singing a lot, moving a lot, and expecting it to be just a little bit chaotic. And they can memorize. I think that’s something important that you said, you sang Holy Holy Holy. One of our songs last year was This Little Light of Mine. Either kind of song works great, and then doing a little bit of Scripture and a little bit of poetry memorization with them. And then if you have a catechism and you’re going to memorize catechism doing a few catechism memorization. And they can do it.
Mystie: Oh yeah.
Pam: Kids that age learn that stuff quickly.
Mystie: The one that we did was recent “Who made you?” and the answer is “God.” It’s really basic.
Pam: Very simple questions. I think Morning Time with that age would be a lot of fun. OK, do we have another question in the list?
Mystie: Yes, we do. One lady wants to know is it too late to start now? I have a 16 year old, a 12 year old, and a 9 year old. Can they embrace this now after so many years of not having this routine?
Pam: Yes! I think you’re going to have to get buy in. I think with those ages the tricky thing is you’re going to have to get them to buy in to this, and so I think this is one of the places where I really encourage mom to set herself up during Morning Time as a fellow learner with the students, so not so much as “this is me, I’m in charge. I’m teaching this to you, I’m making you do this” but instead, “this is a journey that I’m inviting you to come along with me and we are all going to learn together” because the kinds of things that you do in Morning Time; the books you read, the things you memorize, the Scripture, the prayer, is all just as much for mom’s benefit as it is for the kids, especially with that age group. I wouldn’t be afraid to have meaty discussions, maybe do some apologetics with that age group, something where they’re going to dig in to that and really want to talk about those things, allowing them to take charge and lead some of the parts of the Morning Time, I think would be a big thing for that age group. Allowing them to choose what the family’s going to memorize, and mom. Memorize can be some of the things they choose as well as just saying ‘this is what we’re going to do.’ Logic – a fun logic like the Fallacy Detective where they can really dig into some meaty discussion is probably a good thing for that age group to include to get them to buy in to Morning Time.
Mystie: That really revolutionized our Morning Time when I made the shift more towards being a participant in Morning Time myself, because when I first started I had the 5 year old, 3 year old, and baby and it was really me leading “C’mon everyone, this is what we’re going to do” and I’m giving everyone ‘this is what we’re going to do next and this is what we’re going to do next, and I was really bossy.”
Pam: Look at you, Mystie.
Mystie: “C’mon, next thing, let’s go!” And when we started adding more things as they started getting older and I realized this is stuff I should be doing for myself- memorizing Scripture, memorizing poetry, this is good for me. I’m not above this.
Pam: Right.
Mystie: I can be right in there with them and we can be altogether and just that perspective shift for me strengthened that relational bit of Morning Time when I was no longer standing up and pulling everyone along and trying to keep everyone on track but I was one of them. I pray and they pray. They all have a poem to memorize and I have a poem to memorize too. We’re all doing it together. And making that shift really changed the spirit of our Morning Time.
Pam: I say every bit of memory work with my kids. We all say it together, I don’t single people out and quiz them unless they want me to. I’m not trying to do an evaluation to see ‘do you have this memorized?’ We just do it every day, and they will. They will get it because we’re doing it every day. I’m just saying it right along with them. I think mom being a participant is big for that age group as well. So, it’s not too late! Give it a try, start small, one little thing at a time, pick up a book and say, “I thought this would be fun, let’s read this together” and a lot of times I tell people start with prayer. Your family may already be doing morning prayer or something like that but if you’re trying to hook teens you might start with apologetics or start with logic and really get them excited about doing that portion of it first, and then say, “hey, I would like to, before we read our logic book this morning (after you’ve done it for a couple of weeks) say, The Lord’s Prayer together and then do that and then lead into your logic book, and just build a little bit like that.
Mystie: Or even pulling them in by saying, “Let’s have coffee together,” coffee, or hot chocolate, or some kind of morning treat or something.
Pam: Oh yes.
Mystie: To pull everyone together or around something.
Pam: I mean to say that earlier when we were talking about food. I think it was Elizabeth Fos who was talking about how she got her bigger boys to buy in to having liturgical tea parties each week because she would make them snacks. So she would bake something and so of course they would come to the table with these snacks, and then all of a sudden, they’re expecting it, “Mom, we have got to have our tea party today.” Morning Time should be a piece of cake if you can get teenage boys to do tea parties.
Mystie: That’s right.
Pam: Good food, popcorn is one of our absolute favorite Morning Time.
Mystie: That’s a good one. It wouldn’t get everyone everything so messy. I’m afraid of giving my children beverages at the table with a whole bunch of papers and stuff.
Pam: I understand. My children eat all day long! They’re always bringing stuff to the table. Let me see, this is a really good question. This listener said she has a 6, 4, and 2 year old and Morning Time is a priority for them and she lets them make noise and wiggle a lot because they’re all boys and they play legos and duplos while they do memory work or listen to music or read, and she said they catch a lot but they tune her out, so she feels like she’s going against the Charlotte Mason principle of teaching the habit of focused attention, and that’s something that’s important to her. She wants to know if letting them play quietly-ish during Morning Time is at odds with the idea of focused attention and good listening skills. Do you want me to take that one?
Mystie: I don’t think that it is.
Pam: You don’t think that it is! Ok, tell me what you think.
Mystie: I think there is time for focused attention but that doesn’t have to be every reading time.
Pam: Right. And I actually had this conversation with Brandy Vencel way back when I was working on the book because this is always my number one answer for people when they say, “I can’t get my kids to sit still during Morning Time.” I’m like, “They don’t have to!” They don’t have to sit still if you’re expecting them to sit there with their hands folded in their laps the entire time you are going to fail because they’re children. So I was talking to Brandy about this very thing, is by encouraging people to let their kids move during Morning Time, is it like going against the whole focused attention thing? And her answer was it is and it isn’t. It is because they’re not doing focused attention if they’re playing or moving but what she acknowledged was that they’re not going to be able to do that for an entire Morning Time. And Charlotte Mason would have never expected children to sit for even 30 minutes or 40 minutes or 50 minutes at that age with that kind of attention. So what we came up with, I’m trying to remember if this is in the book or not, was have a time (if you’re wanting to work on the habit of focused attention during Morning Time have a time, preferably at the beginning, where they are required to not do anything else. And we do this in our home, this is prayer time. So, in prayer time they’re supposed to be sitting at the table, they’re not supposed to be eating, they’re not supposed to be playing with something, they’re supposed to be focused and attentive on the prayer that we’re doing at that moment. And I will tell you, it’s not always perfect. A lot of times they start projects before we start praying and I have to remind them to stop, a lot of times they’re just wiggly in general and so that’s the time for us, and it takes about 5-10 minutes to go through our little morning prayer book, and then after that they’re free to do what they want, but that’s the time they’re supposed to be focused and attentive. So I think having a combo like that, where if this is an important habit she wants to build in her children, have a small period of time right at the beginning where they do that and then allow them to go and do other things.
Mystie: And if there’s one reading in particular that she wants them to really focus on then pick that one and let them know ahead of time and then have them narrate afterwards but make sure that reading’s really short and you aren’t just reading on and on beyond what they can have focused attention.
Pam: Excellent.
Mystie: But they need to know ahead of time that they’re going to be responsible for it and then they need to be responsible for it but then that doesn’t mean that every reading has to be like that. There’s still a place for just, I call it, just letting language wash over them. Just letting the words, they’re hearing good language patterns even if they aren’t catching everything, that’s still important for their language development and attention span even if they’re playing with something; it’s still helping them even if it’s not focused attention.
Pam: Right. Good advice.
OK, that is all of my questions over here. You got some more of there?
Mystie: Dawn asks if Morning Time has to be done in the morning?
Pam: Well.
Mystie: I’m the morning person, she doesn’t want me to answer.
Pam: OK, I’m not. And no. The answer is no, you can do Morning Time at any time of day. Another question that a lot of people with teens or with kids who like to sleep late, and I want to know where you sign up for these kids who sleep late because I got one out of three, and I’m feeling totally gypped here — my boys were up before six this morning, poking at my eyelids, “Mom, I’m hungry!” I’m really feeling gypped – but no, it doesn’t have to be done in the morning. Now, I do think it sets a tone for the day, and I do find that sometimes when we don’t start the day by doing it, like if someone was dragging their feet so I get someone else started on math, and then it just seems to spiral where everybody’s busy doing their own stuff and there’s not a good stopping point, it takes us a while to get to it, those are the days when it’s easiest for me to push it aside and not get back to it, but you might be a lot more disciplined than I am.
Mystie: I wish. Five people is a lot of people to pull to the table all at the same time.
Pam: It is, so I think it does not have to be done in the morning but like exercise, it’s probably most consistent when it’s done in the morning unless, let’s talk about pegging. If you peg it to another part of your day, so if you’re not going to do it in the morning, maybe you have a timer go off and that indicates to you or you set an alarm on your phone and that indicates to you OK, it’s 15 minutes until Morning Time, or 5 minutes until Morning Time. I would not have the timer go off and say, “OK everybody, stop what you’re doing right now, we’re going to start” you have to give them that transition time. Mystie, tell us about your song.
Mystie: Oh yeah! So, I got this idea from Pam’s book and the idea that you need some kind of transition and call to Morning Time because getting everyone together and at the table at the same time was the most difficult part of Morning Time for us, and someone would start something and I’d have to stop them and someone would be playing and just getting everyone all on the same page all at the same place is really hard. So now, I start a particular song, it’s an Andrew Peterson song called Little Boy Heart Alive and it’s about four minutes. Just so you know, guitar, drums, the whole bit. It’s a fun song. And it’s four minutes long and so when that starts people know they have to wrap up what they’re doing, get their binder, and sit at the table, so they have this space, this time to do that, and it’s not me yelling, calling around the whole house, trying to figure out where everyone is. I just turn on this song and so my tone also has a chance to settle down and we can all come together, at peace with each other. We aren’t all like, “Urgh, I didn’t want … Can I finish this?” We aren’t just all negotiating altogether, it’s just like, OK, this chord plays loudly and everyone says, “Oh, oh, it’s Morning Time” and it’s this fun, perky kind of song. So that helps set the tone. So that has been huge for us this year.
Pam: Right. And this is something we do at our co-op but I do at home but I think I’m going to try that. Can we link to the song in the Show Notes? Yes, I’ll get Mystie to send me the song and I have one that we play at co-op that we love and I don’t even know who it’s by; so, yes, starting with a song. And I love that you’re not yelling and it allows you to prepare your attitude as well. So, everybody comes with probably a much better attitude than they would have had without the song, and because it’s four minutes it gives them time for that transition, and so that is what I meant by don’t have the alarm go off at 11 and say, “OK, everybody stop what you’re doing.” Have the alarm give you a 10 minute warning, so you as mom, set the alarm, it gives you a 10 minute warning and so you know three or four minutes into that 10 minute warning you need to start your song and that lets everybody know that it’s time to come to the table and get started.
Mystie: Having that procedure, that habit, helps me actually make Morning Time happen, too, because when I have to find everyone and call everyone and try to get everyone together that’s really easy to push off. I don’t want to, I don’t want to. But turning a song on on my iPod is pretty easy.
Pam: Right.
Mystie: I say, “OK, I’m going to get my coffee and I’m going to turn on a song.” It’s a song that means something to everybody but turning on a song is a whole lot easier than me getting everyone together. So that makes it happen.
Pam: And then pegging. I think I mentioned this and then we got off on the song. So pegging is choosing something that normally happens in your day anyway and then pegging the activity that you want to do to that other activity. So, for some of you it might be lunch. If you don’t want to do Morning Time in the morning then you peg Morning Time to lunch and you say, OK, after everyone is finished with their lunch then we’re going to do Morning Time. As soon as lunch is over we’re going to gather wherever it is, I would play a song, and sit and do our Morning Time. So you could certainly do that.
Mystie: Or even start with the reading while people are eating and their mouths are full.
Pam: Brandy Vencel, it’s not her Morning Time, but Brandy Vencel reads aloud to her kids during lunch and she eats early while she’s prepping, while she’s in there preparing their lunch she kind of fixes her plate and eats while she’s preparing everybody else’s lunch and that way when they sit down to eat she’s done and she can read to them. So you could even do that. You could start by reading to them while they’re still eating and then when they’re done and have pushed their plates away then you could do the recitation part of Morning Time, because recitation doesn’t work when your mouth is full.
Mystie: No.
Pam: Ask me how I know. “You’ve got to stop eating so we can do our memory work.” Alright, another question?
Mystie: How long is your Morning Time right now?
Pam: About an hour. It may not even be an hour, 45 minutes to an hour. It was longer and then I was stressing so then I started looping it. And I have a post about that I can link to in the Show Notes. And now that I’m looping it, it’s probably closer to 45 minutes.
Mystie: Mine’s about 45 minutes and I block off an hour for it.
Pam: Very smart. Give yourself margin, always plan more time than what you plan material for that time slot. So, any more questions?
Mystie: That’s it.
Pam: So, Mystie, tell everybody where they can find you and you have a fabulous Morning Time index on your site, so tell us about that while we’re waiting to see if any other questions come up.
Mystie: I blog about classical homeschooling and practical homemaking at and recently I met someone and they said, “Oh, is that how you say it?” Simply Convivial at I have all our Morning Time lists, all the things we’ve memorized, all the hymns that we’ve learned, in the eight years that we’ve been doing Morning Time I have listed everything that we’ve done in those Morning Times. And I also have a video of last year’s Morning Time, a real, complete Morning Time. It’s about 36 minutes, so if anyone wants to see a real life one. I will say, though, that my kids knew they were being recorded and were better than usual.
Pam: I can’t imagine. I think my kids would be worse than usual.
Mystie: Well, the first time we tried they were. And then I had them watch it and they decided they didn’t want strangers on the internet to see it.
Pam: Oh, very interesting. Very interesting! I just thank you so much for joining me here today and I thank all of you for joining us here live.
Mystie: This was fun.
Pam: This was a lot of fun. I think we’re going to have to do this again and asking your questions and I was not able to keep up with the comments but I did see a couple of times that you were helping each other out and that was wonderful, talking to each other.
Mystie: Yes, some great comments.
Pam: I hope you enjoyed it as much as we did, so thanks so very much. If you have any more questions, if you think of something later and you’re like, “Oh, I wished I’d asked that” please shoot me an email at and I will be happy to answer your question or we’ll put it on the next Q&A show. Alright, thanks so much, Mystie.
Mystie: Thanks everyone. Thanks Pam.
Pam: Alright, bye bye.
And there you have it, now that’s not only episode 9 of the podcast in the books but it’s also season 1 of the Your Morning Basket in the books. We’re going to be taking a winter hiatus over the Christmas holidays but never fear we’ll be back in January. This just gives myself and my podcast manager, Mary, a little bit of extra time over the holidays to spend it with our families, so we’ll be back in January with more great guests. I’m so excited about some of the people we have lined up for season 2. We have Sonya Schaffer, Julie Bogart, and Sarah Mackenzie will all be coming at you very early in season 2 and we’re really excited about those guests. Now, if you’re sad and looking for something to listen to over the holidays, maybe while you’re taking a break from your own homeschooling, back episodes of Your Morning Basket can be found at or on iTunes and Stitcher and if you’ve exhausted all of those episodes you might try my other podcast, which is the Homeschool Snapshots podcast and on that podcast I interview homeschooling moms from across the country. We’ve had some really great interviews. We’ve interviewed Tsh Oxenreider, Carol Joy Seid, Janice Campbell, and most recently, Dr. Susan Wise Bauer. So these are really fun interviews with homeschooling moms, giving you a little peek into their homeschools, so I encourage you to check that out at In the meantime, you guys have a fabulous holiday and I’ll catch you again in January, and until that time, keep seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your homeschool day.

Links and Resources from Today’s Show

Better TogetherPinBetter TogetherThe Fallacy DetectivePinThe Fallacy DetectiveThe Little HousePinThe Little HouseLittle House on the PrairiePinLittle House on the Prairie


Key Ideas about Morning Time

  • Morning Time is relational. It is a place in the day set aside for building a shared family culture. Mom is a learner too and joins in the practice of Morning Time alongside her children.
  • Morning Time is flexible. No two families need have identical Morning Time routines. Morning Time can accommodate very young children, teens, and mixed age groups. It can vary depending on each family’s needs and goals and can even take place at different times during the day.
  • Morning Time is full of rich content. It is a time for turning our attention toward living books, beautiful language, and meaningful ritual. Morning Time can be used to cover the subjects that are important to you but you rarely find time for, to fill gaps in your children’s knowledge, and if necessary even to work on course requirements for older kids.
  • Morning Time is not perfect. Babies may cry, kids may fidget and interrupt, and teens may even balk. Yet the beauty of Morning Time is in the daily practice of it together.

Find What you Want to Hear

  • 4:07 Morning Time and fulfilling high school credit requirements
  • 9:20 involving kids in planning Morning Time
  • 13:08 how to manage reading aloud with very young children in the mix
  • 20:01 Morning Time basics
  • 25:00 starting small and slowly building a Morning Time routine
  • 25:50 accommodating a wide range of ages
  • 32:18 Morning Time with only very little kids
  • 34:50 starting a Morning Time practice with older kids
  • 40:12 the habit of attention vs. letting kids play or work with their hands during read aloud
  • 44:10 Morning Time not in the morning
  • 49:16 pegging Morning Time to another daily activity
  • 50:41 how long is Morning Time

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