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Celeste Cruz is a homeschooling mother of eight who started to implement Morning Time in her home with a stack of picture books at the breakfast table back when her oldest two children were just 5 years old. Now with several years of Morning Time under her belt, Celeste is practiced in art of juggling fussy babies, noisy toddlers, and preschoolers with fluctuating attention spans. She joins us on this episode of the podcast to discuss what Morning Time looks like when all the children in the family are preschool age and younger.

Celeste shares some great tips for how to create a Morning Time routine packed with thoughtful, high-quality elements while remaining flexible and accommodating of the littlest learners. She encourages us to find natural lulls in our daily routine during which we can nourish both our children and ourselves with beautiful poems, stories, and music. Celeste’s wisdom is inspiring but at the same time highly practical, making this an interview not to be missed. 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 15 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I’m so happy that you’re joining me here today. Well, one of the questions that we get asked a lot here at Your Morning Basket is about toddlers. What to do with – You’re trying to do Morning Time with all of those toddlers running about. Now, most of the time we get asked that question when mom has a few older kids and she’s trying to get Morning Time done with those older kids and the toddlers might be causing a bit of a toddler-ish ruckus. Well, sometimes though we get that question when the toddlers are the only group of people in the room.
What do you for Morning Time when all of your children are ages five and under and we have a podcast episode devoted just to that today: for those moms who are wanting to start Morning Time when they have very young children and that’s it in the mix. So we have a wonderful guest today, her name is Celeste Cruz, and she has been doing Morning Time with her kids for about five years now, and she started out when her oldest two were just five years old. Today she’s looking back for us and telling us all about what Morning Time was like when it was just those little guys. It’s a great episode, I think you’re really going to enjoy it, so let’s get started.

Celeste Cruz is a homeschooling mother of eight young children. She identifies most strongly with the Charlotte Mason style of homeschooling and is a moderator for the AmblesideOnline forums. At her blog Joyous Lessons Celeste writes about Charlotte Mason education, books, nature study, faith, family life, and more. Celeste has been implementing the practice of Morning Time in her home since her oldest two children were preschoolers, and she joins us today on the podcast to share about Morning Time with lots of little ones. Celeste, welcome to the program.
Celeste: Hi, thanks Pam.
Pam: Well, when did you first start doing Morning Time?
Celeste: We have always had a routine of reading to the kids during and after breakfast. I remember when my oldest two were toddlers, I used to put them each in their high chairs and roll them on either side of me with their breakfast, and I’d get my cup of coffee and a stack of picture books and we would just kind of read for half an hour, and they would just eat refills of cheerios and that kind of thing, so that was a really long standing tradition through several babies in our home. When they hit preschool age I wanted to do something more, but I didn’t really want to go to the school-ish route. I was wanting to keep to Charlotte Mason’s vision for early education where you’re having a lot of time outdoors, a lot of free play, but I wanted to add some of the riches in there, so around the time that they were in preschool I first heard about the idea of a Morning Basket. It was actually from Jennifer Mackintosh who I know you’ve had as a guest, we were on the same homeschool forum and she was chatting about how she had developed a morning basket and they were doing that, and I thought, ‘OK, this sounds like the perfect solution for us,’ wanting to transition from just the stack of picture books to something a little more varied, still living and literary. And so from that time until now we have had some kind of Morning Basket going.
Pam: And how old would you say your oldest was at that point?
Celeste: At that time (my oldest two are the same age) they were about, I’d say they were five, and so I would have had a two year old, and a one year old, and a newborn along.
Pam: With the two five year olds?
Celeste: That’s right, when they were more like preschool/kindergarten age.
Pam: And you knew all about Charlotte Mason even at that point?
Celeste: Yeah. We had decided to homeschool even before we had kids. Neither of us was homeschooled but we came across the idea early on, totally seemed like the perfect fit for us, and right away I started looking into different methods. And she (Charlotte Mason) seemed like the perfect fit. So, all the way from before my kids were born we were already, I was already researching and reading and committed to that. So when they came along it was just a kind of natural progression from the toddler years to preschool years and into kindergarten.
Pam: And so right about the time they were five, you saw Jen talking about this online and then her blog, the wonderful Wildflowers and Marbles she’s written extensively there about Morning Time and we’ll link to her Morning Time posts again. She calls it her Morning Basket. And so, what did it look like when you first started doing it? You were moving from the stack of picture books and really wanting to bring more truth, goodness, and beauty into the whole package. So what did that look like?
Celeste: So I grabbed a basket of just how she talked about, I didn’t want to schedule it out too much, so I really put the forethought into just what I was putting in the basket, and then I would just, kind of, let my grabbing it day by day let it be a little more varied. So, I put in my main emphases were to get some poetry and Mother Goose in there. So I grabbed my favorite poetry books, I grabbed a couple of versions of Mother Goose, and we would do also our religion reading during that time, so of course my littles were very little, so I grabbed some favorite books for religion reading, put those in there. We would play a hymn so I had that set up on my computer to play, and we would do a little bit of foreign language, just with the calendar. You know, hello, introductions, that kind of thing, so I had some cards in there, in my Morning Basket. So it was really light. I had some simple little nature study books and that kind of thing and I thought, ‘well they’re all in here then we’ll just see how it plays out day-by-day,’ and brought it with me to the breakfast table.
Pam: So you were still starting at breakfast?
Celeste: Yeah. So what we decided to do was, we begin our mornings with morning prayers before breakfast, so we would come to our little home [**inaudible** 6:28] our little altar. We would do some morning prayers together and then we would head over to the breakfast table, set the table, sit down, and so it would kind of flow naturally from prayers to breakfast and the reason I wanted to do it during breakfast is because I don’t like to have my little ones have to sit down for too long. So I figured, OK, they’re already sitting and eating and that seems like a good time to throw something in there. So we always have done our Morning Basket during breakfast. And then as long as they’ll kind of linger at the table then we’ll continue on, but otherwise I call it quits once everyone starts to get rowdy. So we’d bring our Morning Basket to the table and then while they’re eating (I usually eat my breakfast earlier) while they were eating I would usually just read a few things from each category, just pick whatever I wanted that day, a few poems, a few Mother Goose, maybe a little bit of our religion book. I just used to use post-its and pick up where we left off the next day. So I didn’t schedule it out at all, I just left it, because sometimes it was lasting 10 minutes and then sometimes it was lasting 20-25 minutes, it really just depends. The little ones I would have a little basket of toys on the side I could hold them off a little bit otherwise I was having them head outside, so it was just during breakfast itself plus maybe an extra few minutes after.
Pam: So this is some really great information for moms with young kids. I love the fact that you included that you ate earlier, so great practical information, I was going to ask you about that. And then, you did not force this any longer than what they were willing to sit.
Celeste: Yeah, yeah.
Pam: You let them eat, and let that naturally be a part of what you were doing, and kind of a natural attention holder for them. And then you would push it just a little bit farther but once they started losing interest, climbing down, getting loud, that was just it, you let it naturally be done for the day.
Celeste: Yeah. You would think that having this many kids I would be immune to noise, but I’m not, not at all. So as soon it starts to get a little bit too loud, then I pack it up, I would pack it up for the day and that would be that. And I think that that’s, they did naturally lengthen their attention a little, but I wasn’t really concerned about developing that at all, I mean, it was just as it falls out day by day, and my real main goal in those early years is to get them outside, get them lots of free time, lots of play together, imaginative play and that kind of thing. I didn’t want to take up too much time with the sitting still, reading portion of things. So, I wanted to take advantage of those natural breaks for meals and breakfast was the perfect spot to throw in something a little more literary.
Pam: Right. And you know, I’ve gone back and forth with Brandy and maybe even Mystie as well talking about Charlotte Mason’s habit of attention, and is Morning Time a good place to work on that, especially if you’re letting them do something else while you’re reading? And so that was not your intention at all at that point?
Celeste: I think that’s just something that naturally develops for, I mean, the habit of attention will naturally develop over the course of a year or two years of doing this, just little bits at a time. I think stopping when their attention goes is really important for developing the habit of attention because you don’t want them to get in the habit of giving half attention all the time. Now, I’m not talking about toddlers, of course, but you know when you’re aiming at your oldest kids in that period when you have all little ones, allowing them to go on to what they need to do, what their work is as little kids, which is play, allowing them to do that at the time that their attention naturally wanes.
Pam: Right, that’s a great tip.
Well, let’s talk a little bit. You’ve mentioned religious reading a couple of times, and so I want to touch on what that might mean for the five year old and younger crowd. You’re not talking theology tomes or anything?
Celeste: Not at all, not at all. We would do a little Bible reading and at that time I liked using The Father Lovasik Picture Bible, do a little bit of reading out of that, he has it naturally broken up into stories so it’s useful, you can kind of do one story in a sitting and it’s not too long, and we would also, I love the books from Neumann Press, they’re little Catholic books, it’s now published by TAN, but I, during the years, have collected a bunch of those, and they are so perfect for the little ones.
Pam: Are those the little ones that have the story of Saint Teresa?
Celeste: Let’s see, they have Manners in God’s House, and Their Hearts are His Garden. They have lots of little nice hardback reprints of old Catholic books that are just really neat to share with the little ones. And they also, the Catholic Treasure Box books…
Pam: That’s the ones I was talking about.
Celeste: Yeah, they have the stories of Saint Teresa. Those are sweet too. I think I would pull, I had those all in my basket, so I would just pull from whatever, and once we needed a refresh I’d pull a couple of others from the shelf, so I was just scouting the used Catholic books market and grabbing stuff as I found it to stuff my Basket with.
Pam: And for our Protestant friends the equivalent would be A Child’s Storybook Picture Bible or I’m trying to think what else would be an equivalent resource, maybe, I don’t know if there are any missionary books or anything out there that are kind of picture books
Celeste: Yeah, I don’t know if I would gear to that age range, I’m not sure.
Pam: You know what? I could probably ask Mystie and get some great resources for that age group. So, but very much not theology books of any kind, but just picture books on their level, those kinds of things?
Celeste: Yeah, I think there’s a difference between the kiddie books you’ll sometimes find in religious reading which are very like bells and whistles, kind of fluffy, then there’s …
Pam: Cartoonish.
Celeste: Yeah, a little bit more cartoonish, exactly, and the Neumann Press ones tend to be a little less like that. They’re definitely at the kids level but I wouldn’t call them dumbed down, so they’re kind of a nice balance between something for an older kid and a little kiddie book.
Pam: And I think the kind of difference that we’re trying to indicate here is the difference between the picture books that somebody, like a Five in a Row, would recommend as opposed to the cartoon character picture books that you would just find.
Celeste: The twaddle-y type stuff verses the classics.
Pam: Exactly. Well, what were some of your favorite read alouds during that stage? We’ve talked a little bit about the religious resources but what were some other things that you read to the kids?
Celeste: My two favorite books to read to the kindergarten and younger crowd are the Beatrix Potter, all of her collection of Beatrix Potter, and then Winnie the Pooh. Those two are my ideal little kid books, and I think they can be broken up. The longest chapters, we would never read a whole one in one sitting, it was always just a little bit at a time, so those are definitely great. Also E. B. White books those are great for kindergarten. We read a fun one My Naughty Little Sister is by Shirley Hughes, that’s a little cute one, My Father’s Dragon, the trilogy that’s a nice one. Yeah, those are ones we pulled in kindergarten in the kind of literature slot.
Pam: You didn’t feel the need to get all the way through a chapter? You would cut it.
Celeste: No, not at all, and in fact, I think it’s better to break it up because you do lose interest after a certain amount of time for everyone. You’re going to have, my oldest two had amazing attention spans and could kind of sit and soak it in, but my next two weren’t like that. So it’s definitely personality based, but I think it’s good to watch your kids, see how they’re responding, and whether they’re listening anymore, and then stop when they’re not, so it really depends on the kid.
Pam: Right. Well now, did you ever try anything in your Morning Time during this stage that didn’t work at all?
Celeste: Well, when I was first looking at Morning Basket I thought, after I got my basket together, that I would plan certain days of the week would be certain readings. And I found that didn’t work for me at all, with all the babies also. If I had only had the five year olds maybe I could held to that sort of a plan but most of us that have five year olds don’t just have five year olds. There’s usually one or two or more younger, you’ve got the five year old and you’ve got the three year old and maybe you’ve got the baby or whatever, so I like to keep it a little bit more flexible, so, flexibility definitely. Requiring that they sit still, trying to stretch it a little farther, I would do that once in a while, I would just find that we weren’t enjoying as much and since that was kind of the goal it seemed counterproductive to require that, especially with the toddlers, I sort of got in a habit if the big kids (the five year olds) wanted to keep listening I would have the toddler head on down and start getting ready to go outside so they’d be pulling out their boots and getting in their jackets and this and that, just to extend it a little bit not require they sit in their seat so that was definitely going in with the expectation of not forcing them to sit there, because I’ve done that a few times and doesn’t really help.
Pam: OK, so letting those little ones get up and move around and start, kind of, transitioning to the next activity?
Celeste: Yes.
Pam: Yes, so as long as they’re close enough you can keep an eye on them.
Celeste: Actually, I set it up that they would go outside right afterward to counter it because that was something that my little ones could start getting ready to do, which was great too, because they learned how to get ready to go outside by themselves, they were super motivated and the big kids were still listening with me, so they would get their jacket on, get their boots, get their toys ready by the door and everything, and that extended it an extra five minutes.
Pam: And we should stress for everybody this was probably not like a super hushed quiet time.
Celeste: No. No, my house is never really like that, so I can’t remember the last time it was super quiet here, so definitely not expecting quiet. It is nice when they have full mouths and I do have good eaters, and it might be because of Morning Time actually, now that I think about it, that they’re so good of eaters because they sit there and just, kind of, shoveling spoons in while they’re listening, and so they get in the habit of eating well. Yeah, but no, not really that quiet at all.
Pam: Now, when I’ve spoken before with, I spoke with Brandy about reading aloud during Morning Time and one of the things we talked about was breaking up some of the readings with other things in between. So, did you do that at all?
Celeste: During the breakfast time I don’t break it up because they’re eating and I have the captive audience. But we used to do a thing called (and we still do this) memory work and movement. That’s what I’d call it, memory work and movement. And actually, when they were kindergarteners I only called it that to myself, because I wasn’t really requiring memory work from the kindergarteners, but this is when I would read our poetry, we used to do a poem a month. So in addition to a bunch of other poems I’d have the same poem that I’d read a couple of times a week for a month, and then it would just happen that by the end they would just know because kids are kind of sponges, so during that time they would act it out, depending on, I’d usually choose rhythmic poems, so they could dance around, jump around, whatever. And we still do that, and that started way back from memory work and movement from when they were five and kindergarten. I would have one of them get up and do our calendar work. I had a little calendar board, and we would do it in Italian so whoever was the designated person for the day got to go up and move all the cards and that actually keeps the toddlers busy too because they like watching big brother, big sister presenting it to the family. So, yeah, anytime that you can incorporate it, and I think that’s particularly important if you’re not doing it during eating. During eating they’re captive but if you’re doing it after breakfast, incorporating some of those movements wherever you can is definitely a bonus.
Pam: Right. And then you’d mentioned hymns, correct?
Celeste: Yeah. We were going to a small chapel at the time that had their own photocopied hymnal that they made just for the chapel of their favorite hymns that they would sing very often, and I asked one time if I could grab one and make a copy at home, and they said sure, so we worked off that starting when they were in preschool, and so for years I would play a hymn every morning and they would learn them just from singing along, and we would do the same thing, I used to do also (not just hymns) folk songs, and like patriotic songs, songs from American culture, I guess. Things like the Sound of Music, culture songs that we would know today. I would play them not on a particular schedule but just whenever I noticed we had learned them and they were enjoying them we would move on to a new one to learn.
Pam: Great. That sounds like a lot of fun and something that really small kids could enjoy.
Celeste: Yeah, and my favorite thing to include in the Morning Basket is poetry, because it’s so perfect. They’re shorter than your average chapter and there’s so much variety, especially because it feeds the mom too. And I think the hymns and the folk songs have the tendency to do that too. I wouldn’t play, sort of, children’s albums but I would just choose particular settings that I preferred, so I could enjoy listening to that and I would get some poetry in and get a read aloud in and so it wasn’t just for the kids, but it was also for me.
Pam: And I think kids are just drawn to poetry. People tend to have these ideas in their head about poetry being a little stuffy or a little high brow or something like that, but kids just love the language and the rhythm of it so much.
Celeste: Yeah. No, poetry I especially like collections that include the classics that happen to be beloved by children also, because those are the ones that I enjoy reading and they develop that ear for it so easily, and I think they don’t think of it as high brow at all, if they’ve been listening to it ever since preschool…
Pam: Right.
Celeste: … they think it’s just a natural part of your day. And it’s just so pleasurable and delightful.
Pam: Do you have any favorite poems or collections?
Celeste: Well, let’s see. The ones I used to have in my Morning Basket, I used to have Favorite Poems Old and New by Helen Ferris, The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems, which has gorgeous illustrations, and then I used to have The Golden Treasury of Poetry, and that one’s a really lovely one too, it has some illustrations but lots and lots of great classic poems by famous poets that also children can appreciate.
Pam: Great. Well, when you have a lot of young children, you’re going through a lot of different seasons of life fairly quickly, probably just about the time you got something figured out and set, it would change again. So, how did you go about adapting to that through pregnancies and new babies being born and people getting older?
Celeste: The Morning Basket was one of the things that we didn’t change that much in our day. Even when I had a new baby and I was sitting on the sofa the kids would bring the Morning Basket to me and I could do it straight from the sofa, as opposed to if we were doing more traditional schooling at those ages it would have been slightly harder to keep up, in terms of correcting workbooks and teaching the math lesson, and that kind of thing. The Basket was just nice because it could be done from wherever and it only takes a few minutes a day but I felt like we were getting in some beauty into our day. So the thing that would really change is just how long we spent on it based on which kids were in the house, which little ones were at the table, and how many toddlers there were, and how many babies there were, and who needed to be fed and who needed to changed, and that kind of thing. So it was less what I would put in there and more how long we would spend on it in a given day.
Pam: OK. Well, what do you think was your biggest challenge with doing Morning Time with four / five kids five and under?
Celeste: Definitely by biggest challenge is that I would love to spend more time on it once I get going. I enjoy reading aloud and I appreciate the selections, and they’ll always be a couple of kids who are still in it, they’re like, “Yeah, keep going!” and then there’s also a couple of kids that are breaking down. And so I always feel I have to play to the lowest denominator in that sense, but I just remind myself that we’re getting in that little bit in a day, and it is refreshing to us and this season of life is so short. The time you only have kids five and under, that’s just a few years of your parenting, from toddlerhood to when they’re five is three years and just reminding myself that it was going to be very short lived. And sure enough it is, even now with them slightly older we’ve already changed gears and are able to a little more complicated Morning Basket and that kind of thing. So yeah, that’s the challenge- just dealing with those tantrums and what-not, but that’s the challenge with everything when you have toddlers, not just Morning Basket.
Pam: Morning Basket is not an exclusive place for tantrums when you have toddlers.
Celeste: It’s going to happen whether you’re reading aloud or not, usually, so …
Pam: You might as well read aloud.
Celeste: … might as well throw some poetry in there.
Pam: That’s right. Well, let’s talk about how Morning Time how you saw it bearing fruit even when your kids were very young. What were some things that you saw as a result of your Morning Time in your children?
Celeste: Definitely children that have a taste for those riches, a taste for language, a taste for beautiful music, a taste for rhyme. I think those first born affinities, Charlotte Mason calls them, they happen really early and once they’re there you can draw on those over the whole course of their life. So, definitely I would notice that they would, the kids would make so many connections with the readings that we would have, and take those. For example, we’d read about the bee-loud glade (Yeats) and then outside that afternoon they’d be playing under the hibiscus tree and come in and say, “hey, it’s the bee-loud glade” and you’re like, OK, you know, mom win! But it’s really for them, it’s those connections start forming through those riches that are in the Morning Basket so I would see those fruits within weeks, within months and they just keep getting deeper and deeper as the kids get older. So you’re not only forming that taste for the future but you’re also enjoying the finer things today, the little kids. It’s not just how’s this going to affect them later on, and how’s it going to help them? It’s what they’re enjoying even right now. I felt like I was adding to their experience of beauty in the world. And when can you feel like that when you’re a mom with a bunch of little kids and, you know, it’s not like you’re taking a lot of time and reading and doing lots of study and stuff, no, you’re in the thick of it and feeling like you’re bringing beauty into the world and sharing that with your kids is really a great experience so the fruit for them is developing a taste for those things and the fruit for me would be appreciating them myself and feeling like I was accomplishing something beautiful every day. And we hope that’s what’s happening in homeschooling all the time, I mean, the Morning Basket is a great place to feel like you’re getting that done.
Pam: Right. And it’s hard when you have a lot of really little kids, because a lot of parts of your day is smeared food and …
Celeste: Exactly.
Pam: … potty training and it just doesn’t seem beautiful at all.
Celeste: That’s right. That’s why these kinds of little moments and spaces in your day can make such a difference in terms of how burned out you get. And I think it would also be the case if I was feeling that. Say I had that 20 minute slot and instead I filled it with, “Oh, well, we should really start school, doing kindergarten, I’m going to get some workbooks and we’re going to do a math lesson, and this and that” I’m not saying that reading skills and math aren’t important but when you’re not going to have that the same results as you would, that feeling of beauty from those kinds of things. So I was glad we were able to wait on those a little bit and start off with a gentle introduction to the liberal arts instead. To me it was a highlight and for them it has borne a lot of fruit over the years.
Pam: Well, let’s dig deeper into that for just a little bit. So you’re basically saying that when you had those two five year olds Morning Basket and outside time that was pretty much it. You didn’t start the skill building with things like phonics or mathematics until they were six?
Celeste: Yes. At age six we did history and science and we started bringing in a more structured workload but the years before that, Charlotte Mason says something about letting the child lay fallow for the first six years, meaning making their own connections and spending a lot of time just making physical connections with the natural world and with each other and learning things on their own sort of soaking up that. And I think, I will say, my two oldest were already reading at that time, just on their own, but we didn’t do any reading instruction. My next one wasn’t, she’s just started reading now and she’s seven, and we didn’t do any reading instruction before six. So we would do some math games when they wanted it, during naptime, or instead we would do art. Definitely no particular school-ish structure, the emphases where Morning Basket, time outside, and free play. And I don’t regret that at all because I feel like that just set the tone for our whole homeschool journey. Those years are so little. The kids, they’re so little, they seem, especially when it’s your oldest, they seem like they’re so much older, and so it’s like, ‘oh, they should be starting school’ but they’re really so little still and just watching them develop on their own over those early years is really a delight.
Pam: And so you provided this great environment for them.
Celeste: That’s what you hope, you know?
Pam: Yeah. And looking back now you just said no regrets?
Celeste: No, no regrets.
Pam: You’re very happy with how you did it.
Celeste: Yeah, and I’m doing that still with my current kindergartener and it’s just that the ones after them are easier because you already have a Morning Basket in place and so they’re just sitting in and enjoying all those riches that you already have going with your older kids so it’s really just the first ones that are the trail blazers and that you’re figuring out what you want your homeschool to look like, the younger ones are a little easier.
Pam: Right. Well, let’s talk a little bit about if there’s a mom out there and she has only young children, let’s say all under the age of six and she wants to implement Morning Time and maybe she’s a little hesitant or maybe even feeling a little frustrated and discouraged. What are some trouble shooting questions she could ask herself to figure out which direction to go in?
Celeste: I would say, first, what are my expectations? So, I would say are my expectations too high but I’m not sure that’s really the right method, the right term, I guess, the way to word it, because when we’re thinking about our expectations for Morning Basket, the Charlotte Mason philosophy I’d be thinking, ‘OK, what my expectation is, is I’m going to lay a feast and my kids are going to take what they want from it and what they need from it through the inspiration of the Holy Ghost and that doesn’t sound, I mean, lower my expectation that seems really high expectations but the great thing is it’s the kind of expectation you can find peace in because it doesn’t rely on how much you’re getting done and how many pages you get through and that kind of thing, so I would say do I need to adjust my expectations? Am I being realistic about the stage of life I’m in, and what we can do? If your kids are finishing breakfast in three minutes and running out the door then maybe morning isn’t the best time to do it. Is there another place or another time that you can do a Morning Basket and that they’ll be more receptive? What are the natural lulls in your day where you could fit in something like that? And then, am I choosing things for a Morning Basket that are worth my kids’ time? I think that’s a big one, because, like I said, a lot of things are marketed for kids and it’s the natural thing to, sort of, pick up when you have your oldest ones and they’re thinking about starting school, and I was never actually sure whether they were worth my kids’ time and I’d rather pick things that I know are power-packed with ideas and right language, because if you are giving them the lesser stuff they don’t usually respond as well. So, are the things that I’m including worth their time? Am I keeping it short? How am I going to define success about this? Is it going to be success is that we get through my whole thing that I had planned, or is it, ‘my kids made this or that connection from last month when I read this or that thing,’ the thing that they pull out are amazing some times. So I would say you have to be willing to be super flexible with the little ones and follow their lead in some ways and then also introduce the things that you know are best for them, but at times they’re going to be receptive to that.
Pam: Right. Those are some great tips. And I love the making sure that the things are worthy of your children’s time because those are the things that are generally going to hold their attention and I’m struck by the idea of the old saying ‘stop while you’re ahead.’ If you stop while you’re ahead and you leave them wanting just a little bit more…
Celeste: That’s right.
Pam: … they’re going to remember that experience as a very positive thing because it ended on a happy note, and so when it’s time to do it again that’s the memory they have, ‘oh, this is that great positive thing and I’m so anxious to start because …’
Celeste: And they can’t wait to hear the next part, and you know while they’re waiting for that next part it’s like percolating in the back of their head, it comes out in their play, they’re waiting to see like, “Well, I think this is going to happen,” “no, I think this is going to happen.” They’re thinking, now, they don’t realize it, they’re kind of mentally processing those ideas while they’re waiting to see what happens next, so I definitely think that stopping while you’re ahead is a good way of putting it.
Pam: Any other words of wisdom for moms of all young children and their Morning Time?
Celeste: I would just say be flexible with how you’re planning, make the most of the time that you have, don’t put too much pressure on you or on the kids to get a certain amount done. I think we can think of that Morning Basket time as just setting generous feast and what do you think are the most generous things you can have at the feast? What are the things that you particularly want to share with your kids and include those things only, just keep it really simple. And also, just use that Morning Basket to feed your own self, to get some Mother Culture in there.
Pam: And I think another important thing to think about, too, for moms who are embarking on this journey with young children is you have years ahead of you to do everything, and so Shakespeare does not have to be done with a six year old …
Celeste: That’s right.
Pam: … It’s probably better not done with a six year old.
Celeste: Yeah, yeah. There’s so much time. And the good way of coming at it would be if you think of it as you’re the one praying and you’re bringing your kids along for that, and you’re the one reading poems and you’re bringing your kids along for that, and you’re the one listening to the hymns and you’re bringing kids along for that. I think that they see you enjoying it, you’re getting something out of it, you’re developing your own tastes because a lot of us come to homeschooling feeling like we’re, kind of, adrift – I didn’t do any of this when I was growing up and my education was lacking – and so you’re kind of developing your own tastes at the same time and your kids are sitting in on that and having their own experience of it.
Pam: That’s a great way to look at it. I like that. Well, Celeste, how has your Morning Time changed since way back then? Because we’re talking about a period of time now that was about, what, four years ago for you?
Celeste: That’s right. My oldest kids are nine now. It’s changed quite a bit in the sense that, I would say we still hit, usually the same topic areas. I do aim mostly for my older kids but I try to include the things in Morning Basket now that they’re not going to be narrating so they’re kind of extra readings that we do and that I think the whole family can benefit from. So now we’ll have things like a little bit of geography reading in there, a little nature study reading, you know, some of the content areas that I wasn’t necessarily doing with my kindergarteners. I have now brought into that and so my little ones now are listening in and following along with us but yeah, it’s a little different from when we did just the little ones. We do more memory work (not the little ones, but they sit in and listen to the older kids doing that), we do different poetry, I do one from all of our AmblesideOnline years, so they’re listening to that. I do less Mother Goose, I do Mother Goose at a different time of day when only the little ones are there, so we’ve shifted some things. But we still do our religion there, we still do our read aloud there, and our poetry, and our memory work, so it’s all still part of our Morning Basket, it just looks a little different as the kids get older.
Pam: Is it still at breakfast?
Celeste: It is still at breakfast. We still do morning prayers and then set the table and head into breakfast and the kids know right away that mommy’s going to start reading. And that is something we do in the summer time too. Morning Basket is year round. I don’t do it on the weekends usually because I have other things going on but it’s summer time and it’s really fun scheduling our summer Morning Basket because I pull things that we don’t necessarily need to complete during the school week, like, “Oh this book looks really interesting” but I don’t want to overload my older kids so I’ll throw it into the summer Morning Basket and I do pull in Mother Goose during summer, some of the things for the little ones I’ll do during summer. So yeah, it’s just a year round thing, and has been going on all along.
Pam: Ah, that’s great. Well, Celeste, thank you so much for coming on and telling us about Morning Time with little guys.
Celeste: Thank you.
Pam: Tell everybody where they can find you online.
Celeste: I blog at
Pam: Alright. Well, we really do appreciate it.
Celeste: Thank you, Pam.
Pam: And there you have it. Well for today’s Basket Bonus what we have for you is a printable sheet with two different things on it. First of all, we’ve pulled some of Celeste’s best tips for doing a Morning Time with just young children and we’ve put them on this printable for you to print out, keep in your Morning Time Binder and remind you of those helpful, troubleshooting things to keep in mind as you’re beginning to work through a Morning Time with just young kids. The second thing we’ve put on that sheet for you is a printable book list of some favorite books for reading with young children. Now these are those beautiful rich books that have quality stories in them that are going to appeal to your children over and over again. So if you sometimes wonder, ‘hey, where can I find those really great selections that they’ve been talking about?’ we’ve made this list just for you. Now, to get the Basket Bonus for this episode or any of the other resources that Celeste and I talked about today, you can head on over to the Show Notes for this episode that is at There you can get the Basket Bonus, you can find links to the books online that we talked about, and you can also get a link to Celeste’s blog and the other things that we chatted about today. And, thank you very much for joining us here today on the Your Morning Basket podcast, I hope that you found this episode a blessing to you. And we’ll be back again in a couple of weeks with another great podcast episode all about Morning Time. Until then, keep seeing Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your homeschool day.

Links and Resources from Today’s Show

New Catholic Picture BibleNew Catholic Picture BibleNew Catholic Picture BibleCatholic Children's Treasure Box Set 1-20PinCatholic Children’s Treasure Box Set 1-20Catholic Children's Treasure Box Set 1-20Beatrix Potter: The Complete TalesPinBeatrix Potter: The Complete TalesBeatrix Potter: The Complete TalesThe Complete Tales of Winnie-the-PoohPinThe Complete Tales of Winnie-the-PoohThe Complete Tales of Winnie-the-PoohMy Naughty Little SisterPinMy Naughty Little SisterMy Naughty Little SisterMy Father's DragonPinMy Father’s DragonMy Father's DragonFavorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and GirlsPinFavorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and GirlsFavorite Poems Old and New: Selected For Boys and GirlsThe Barefoot Book of Classic PoemsPinThe Barefoot Book of Classic PoemsThe Barefoot Book of Classic PoemsThe Golden Treasury of PoetryPinThe Golden Treasury of PoetryThe Golden Treasury of Poetry


Key Ideas about Morning Time with Littles

  • Morning Time with exclusively young children is often loud, messy, and short. It is an exercise in flexibility and a balancing act between following children’s leads and introducing them to what we know is good for them as we see that they’re ready.
  • It’s okay not to have a fixed or elaborate Morning Time schedule, especially with very young children. It is often better to just pick up the basket, start reading, and see how it goes, ending when (or just before) their attention starts to wane.
  • Beautiful poems, stories, songs, and liturgical practices that nourish mom can feed little ones’ souls too. We can use Morning Time to create a little pocket of beauty in our day for ourselves as well as our children, and our children will learn from our example.

Find What you Want to Hear

  • 3:32 meet Abby Stone
  • 5:16 how school changes at Christmas time in Abby’s home
  • 12:09 the importance of traditions during the holidays
  • 14:04 Abby’s family traditions
  • 20:22 educational Christmas traditions
  • 30:17 Christmas school with an infant