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Tired of the daily grind of homeschooling? Join Pam Barnhill and her team as they share how Your Morning Basket Plus Explorations can breathe new life into your homeschool. In this episode, Pam is joined by team members Ali and Laney to discuss how using Explorations as the basis for elementary homeschool subjects can nurture relationships, reduce stress, and encourage a love of learning. 

Hear real-life examples of how topics like baseball, ponds, artwork, and nature have captured children’s imaginations across various ages. Discover how activities in music, poetry, picture study, and more can provide a rich learning experience tailored to each child’s interests and abilities. If you’re looking for an engaging way to teach multiple ages, subject areas, and learn alongside your children, take advantage of this insightful conversation. Let explorations help you rediscover the joy and meaning at the heart of homeschooling.

Pam Barnhill [00:00:04]:

Are you ready for homeschooling to feel joyful again? Do you wanna build closer relationships, remove some of the stress around planning, and enjoy learning with your children? Welcome to your morning basket. I’m Pam Barnhill, a homeschool mom just like you, and I’m going to show you the magic and fulfillment that morning basket or morning time can bring to your homeschool. Grab your coffee or tea, and let’s get started. Hey there. Hey there. Okay. So this week, I’m having to stop these ladies already today because they’re trying to Podcast with me before the podcast even begins. They’re so excited about the topic and everything that they wanna tell you.

Pam Barnhill [00:00:47]:

I’m here with 2 members of the Your Morning Basket team, and I think, Ali, I think you’ve been on the Ten Minutes to a Better zhomeschool podcast before, but this is your first time on your morning basket. So tell us who you are.

Ali Madej [00:01:04]:

So my name is Ali. I am a homeschool mom of 4 kids. Their ages are 10, 8, 6, and 4, And I’ve loved being part of the team. You might have chatted with me a little bit in the DMs on social media, or seen me around the community.

Pam Barnhill [00:01:20]:

Yep. And what else do you do? You’re kind of our social media liaison, and then, what else do you do for the team?

Ali Madej [00:01:29]:

And now I’ve started helping with writing the little explorers and some of the exploration plans, and I’ve absolutely loved that too.

Pam Barnhill [00:01:37]:

Okay. I’m so glad you said that you loved it. And then our next team member here with me today is somebody you are very familiar with Because she’s been on the podcast a number of times, and it is miss Laney Homan. Laney, tell everybody a little bit about yourself.

Laney Homan [00:01:55]:

Good morning. I am Laney Homan. I am the member success manager here at, Your Morning Basket. And I have been homeschooling. This will be my 19th year of homeschooling. I have 8 kids, but I am down to only 4 still homeschooling. So it’s It’s really a surreal season right now as we’re we’re decreasing in number rather than increasing in number.

Pam Barnhill [00:02:19]:

Isn’t that crazy? Like, that It’s such a crazy feeling. You know?

Laney Homan [00:02:23]:

It is. It’s kind of delightful. But There’s, like, this bittersweetness to it. Right? But the things are simplifying as we get fewer students, and that’s kinda nice. Like I said, we’re really able to dive in and stay the kids I have now are really closer in age. So I have an 8 year old, a 10 year old, an 11 year old, and a 13 year old. Yeah. So we have a year off of high school.

Laney Homan [00:02:48]:

I’m not I have taught high school since, like, 2012, I think. And this is the 1st year I haven’t had a high schooler. So

Pam Barnhill [00:02:57]:

And that’s crazy. But you know it’s coming again.

Laney Homan [00:03:00]:

Oh, yeah. Next year. I mean, I have 1 year.

Pam Barnhill [00:03:04]:

I have all year. So

Laney Homan [00:03:07]:

That’s all. No. It’s it’s great. We’re loving it.

Pam Barnhill [00:03:10]:

That’s so That’s so good. Okay. So I have to, like, make a note to myself that we’re gonna have to send Lainie a medal next year when she reaches her 20th year of homeschooling to celebrate what an Accomplishment. That is for sure. Alright. So today, we are talking about oh, I didn’t tell you guys, but we started a new feature On, the podcast, and, we’re calling it, gosh. I can’t remember what we’re calling it now. I recorded with the girls last week, and this could totally be out of order because we don’t necessarily record these in order.

Pam Barnhill [00:03:43]:

We have to record them when they fit in everybody’s schedule, and right now, it’s like 8 AM. Morning time musings. And, I’ve been asking some questions about what’s going on in your morning time. So just really quick, Ali, can you tell me something that has been working really well for you in your morning time this fall?

Ali Madej [00:04:02]:

Yes. Singing hymns has been something that has been working really well or just song in general. We didn’t have any music in our morning time for the longest time, and I would listen to podcast with Pam. And Every time I was so inspired to put music in, and it actually took me to getting together in person at the gather retreat to put music in my morning time. They’re in all the plans. It’s in the explorations. It’s all there for me. We finally added it, and it’s made such a difference in our moods, in our morning time,

Pam Barnhill [00:04:37]:

Especially moms. Especially moms. Oh, I love it. I love it so much. And it’s interesting. You mentioned the gather retreat because that is now Open. So go check that out and see if we have any spots left. I’ll put the link for you in the show notes to that because that Gather retreat last year in January in at the beach, which don’t freak out.

Pam Barnhill [00:04:58]:

We’re in Florida. It it it really was lovely down there. It was absolutely lovely. Yeah. So much fun. So come join us. Alright, Lainie. What’s working for you?

Laney Homan [00:05:11]:

I you know, I’m gonna say our read alouds. Like, we just I don’t know. That’s my that’s my love. And so I feel like Read alouds are always one of those things that I connect with my kids on and, we they We’re reading a super fun book right now and they just are loving the silliness of it. And, that really it’s the last thing we do in our morning time every day. And so they they come to the table. And we also do music in our morning time. That’s how I get everybody to the table is with Yeah.

Laney Homan [00:05:46]:

The music. And we have a lengthy playlist because we’re slow moving people here. But, yeah. Each of the kids gets to choose a song so everybody has something they love and, yeah. So music gets the attitude Set and everybody comes to the table and then we, we end with a read aloud and that is That’s something that they’re always, excited about. So read alouds are always the thing that I love in my homeschool. That’s Probably the thing that has lasted the years.

Pam Barnhill [00:06:19]:

I love it. Okay. So I have already shared something, so now I have to come up with something else again. I’m gonna say the halo app, is one of our things. And so, this is a Catholic prayer app, because our family is Catholic, and I there’s so many different little devotionals and prayers and scripture readings and Even multiple versions of, like, the daily scripture readings and stuff like that, and and they’re varying links and then different People who are reading them so, like, my family watches The Chosen, and Jonathan Rumi is, like, he plays Jesus on The Chosen, and he’s just Awesome. And he like, there’s somewhere he reads, and the kids love that. And then there’s somewhere like Mark Wahlberg reads and, You know, just all of these different you get such a variety of voices, and then there are our favorite long time Readers on there, so like, which is the female voice. And so we can just pick we have a variety of things to choose from, and so we pick these little like, we’ll do, like, a 30 day devotional or something, and they’re 3 minutes long.

Pam Barnhill [00:07:32]:

They’re absolutely perfect. Some kind of great little insight, and, It just kind of changes things up quite a bit. So, yeah. So the Hello app, we we like

Laney Homan [00:07:44]:

Oh, I know Something that was cool because I’ve heard everybody talk about it, but we had never done it. We started it last week, actually, and the kids were like, let’s do this every day, was The World from A to Z. Mhmm.

Laney Homan [00:07:57]:

The Carl Azuz

Pam Barnhill [00:07:59]:

That was my thing last time.

Laney Homan [00:08:00]:

Yeah. So yeah. They last Last week, I finally opened that and started it. And then they it generated great discussions. Like, they were yeah. They loved it. And, there was the episode had kind of a he said this this story isn’t for the squeamish and I have a very squeamish daughter. So she was a little like, I’m not sure that I’m, like, on board with this.

Laney Homan [00:08:25]:

But it then it quickly moved into other things that she got interested in. So but, yeah, they were all I was like, okay. Is this like a daily thing or a once a week thing? And they were like like, most of them were like, daily. Let’s do it daily. So Now I have to remember.

Pam Barnhill [00:08:38]:

Man, we saw that episode, and it really wasn’t for the squeamish.

Laney Homan [00:08:44]:

Yeah. He gave a warning, and her her brothers were all like, don’t listen, Molly.

Ali Madej [00:08:51]:

My kids are finally my kids are finally old enough. I remember everyone raving about him and not being able to watch yet, and then he left. And now Carl’s back, and We’re so excited. We’re doing it. We’re listening at

Pam Barnhill [00:09:03]:

lunch. Oh, I love it. Love it. Okay. Well, let’s move into our topic of conversation for today, and this is one of those episodes that I would call, like, a shameless promo for what we do in your morning basket plus. Because there very well could be a mom out there. This is what’s on my heart for doing this particular episode. There very well could be a mom out there Who is really struggling, juggling all the balls in her homeschool, like, all the spinning plates, and she’s, like, frantically running from late trying to keep them spinning with multiple kids and thinking, how can I do this and not be a failure? And I think this episode does that.

Pam Barnhill [00:09:45]:

This episode possibly gives a tool that could help with that, and that’s why I want I want to do it. And so the idea is we have these things in your morning basket plus. They’re lesson plans, and they’re called explorations is what they’re called. And the idea is that you are exploring a topic in-depth in your morning time Each and every month. And some people have said, like, oh, they’re unit studies. And I don’t think they’re unit studies at all because You don’t learn everything there is to know about a topic necessarily, and unit studies typically don’t focus on what we call the truth, goodness, beauty of a topic. So these plans include music. They include art.

Pam Barnhill [00:10:32]:

You know, even when we did I remember one of our very One of our earliest sets was George Washington Carver. Somebody wrote us an email, and they were kind of upset. They were like, this is not a unit study, and Like, no. They’re not. We tell you they’re not. You know? This is like this is about his favorite hymns and his favorite poems and stuff like that. We’re like, yes. But I think they’re just a great, beautiful way to explore a lot of things about a topic.

Pam Barnhill [00:11:00]:

And then if you want to kind of make them into a little bit more, the book list is extensive. And so we wanted to talk today about How you could use these explorations really as the heart of an elementary homeschool curriculum. And so, Lainie, I’m gonna let you talk to that because this idea kinda came from

Laney Homan [00:11:19]:

you. Yeah. So several years ago, We wanted something, to be a little different in our homeschool, and I had bought a new curriculum. I bought a curriculum that we were super excited about. It contained, Science and history, art and geography, and it was all laid out and I spent, like, a good portion of my time that summer Planning out everything and getting it all ready to go. And then I was like, but I’m gonna do these explorations just as like a little intro to our morning time, because I think that’ll be, like, really fun and it’ll just be kind of in in addition to, like doing this other curriculum that we had, but when we started the school year, like, the explorations just became the thing. And We stopped using the other curriculum very shortly after the school year started because I was seeing my kids Really, maybe for the first time where I was recognizing it, making connections on their own. And I think it became something that was coming directly from the explorations because so many other curriculums I had used were really Spoon feeding things in a chronological order or, like, they were tying events and people and places all to The same like, they were making those connections for the kids.

Laney Homan [00:12:49]:

But my kids would just really get intrigued with this topic that was introduced and we would just kinda dive into it. So we did try to do really extensive use of The book lists and then, you know, doing the activities, what I loved about it was it was focused on That truth, goodness, and beauty that I was really had this picture of using in our homeschool. But When combined with the book list and we were actually really finding that we were studying history, we were studying science, we were studying Current you like, you know, famous people and events and, like, all of these different subject areas, We were learning about different places, and it was just something that they got intrigued enough by that we just didn’t have time for the other curriculum. They just spent so much time dwelling there. And so I like, They were so excited about it. And then the monthly topic was something that really excited them because it was like, Well, we’ve done this. Okay. So what’s the next topic? It wasn’t just this really long drawn out, okay, we’re still just moving through The timeline of history or thing which can be very exciting, but it would just it was enough of a change for my kids.

Laney Homan [00:14:15]:

We spent at least a full year Only doing the explorations. I just set the other curriculum to the side and we just had the best time with explorations. And when I say that they started making connections, it was it was actually the George Washington Carver. The this was several years ago. So Those kids I was talking about just a minute ago, they were they were a little bit younger. The George Washington Carver explorations was the first time my kids were ever introduced to the topic of slavery. They were really young and George Washington Carver was a slave, when he was young. He was born into slavery.

Laney Homan [00:14:53]:

And, in reading some of the picture book biographies, it led them to be asking some questions and they were really intrigued by this The whole concept in a way that was not either they were, like, shocked by it, I guess, and but we learned so much about this And then it was probably 6 months later, we did an exploration about cowboys Which they were absolutely loving. But again, in that exploration, we read about a rodeo cowboy. And he had been an ex slave and they they were like, oh, this is like George Washington Carver. Like, they started making those connections on their own. They were picking up these concepts and it I was noticing that it was just happening all over the place. It’s like we one thing would be introduced in an exploration and then a completely different topic, completely different thing. And then they were making those connections and they were making it not only with concepts, but they were making it with, like, events in history and time and time periods in history, and they were really getting a sense of how interconnected ideas are And how that everything is not just an isolated thing. Like and I think that helps them understand how, the things that are happening in the world now are related to the things that happened in the past or Because they’re they’re drawing these conclusions on their own and these are pretty young kids that we’re talking about.

Laney Homan [00:16:35]:

They’re so much more capable of doing that. And I was so intrigued by The different things that they were connecting that sometimes I wouldn’t even think about that we just kept doing it. Like and sometimes the exploration topics would have an overlap in, like, maybe the same book would come up in another exploration because There was an overlap there and we would read it again and then they would be like, oh, I remember this from when we did it before. And so it There’s that constant kind of reviewing of ideas because every time they make a connection, then they kinda like like, They rehash. You know, somebody’s saying, oh, remember when? And then they go through exactly what we were doing then. And then sometimes that’ll take them on a little journey of of talking about what had what they had learned about before. So it’s helping them To make connections between people and events and all kinds of historical and scientific ideas, but then it’s also like a Great way to review because every time they make those connections, they’re going back to the things that they had learned previously. They’re not just pushing that to the side as something that They once encountered and are no longer encountering those ideas.

Pam Barnhill [00:17:53]:

I love it.

Laney Homan [00:17:54]:

I love it. And they just Flourished with it. So we just kept going, and we just stayed there for a really long

Pam Barnhill [00:18:01]:

time. So we’ve hinted at this a little bit. Actually, Laney’s hinted at a number of different topics, when she was telling us about this. Ali, what are some of the different topics that, we’ve Done in explorations. And I’m gonna be honest here. Explorations came along after my kids got older, and, so we don’t Do a set of explorations each month. Now we I am subscribed to the text service that we have in your morning basket plus. And so I do we send out a daily, text with an explorations activity in it each and every day, which is Fabulous for people like me who just want to dabble in the explorations and so the text comes across and I could say, oh, that looks like something my teenagers would enjoy That you know? And and we’ve done things like, sing some of the songs or at least listen to some of the songs and, like, look at the, usually, like, some of the artwork will catch our eye or something like like Japanese tea garden or some of the photos, like, the really close-up photos of the bugs and stuff like that.

Pam Barnhill [00:19:09]:

So we don’t my kids were kind of beyond this stage by the time explorations came along. So, Ali, tell me about some of the topics that are

Ali Madej [00:19:20]:

there. Right. So our favorite, the one that pulled us in because my 3 oldest are boys, There was a month of baseball, and I was asking my kids, okay. What did you what do you love best about explorations? And they still All say baseball, and even for me. So they just wanted to go outside and play baseball, which was fun. Inspired us even to bring in, Like spelling words, just throwing the baseball back and forth and bringing the skill subjects. But when we did baseball, we took that whole month to, learn about the history of baseball, memorize Casey at the bat. There’s just so much richness like Lainie was saying when You take 1 topic and then you pull on these common threads of memory work and poetry and art appreciation, and fun projects doing together and using their creativity.

Ali Madej [00:20:08]:

So baseball is the one that pulled us in, and We’ve had explorations on ponds, the zoo. When I was thinking back about what I wanted to say about Last year, I don’t remember a single math lesson that sticks out or a single skill lesson that sticks out. But I completely remember, when we listened to the video from the explorations on Henri Rousseau and Then painted, pictures or drew pictures of tigers. And then later that year, when we went to a museum, my youngest kid’s recognizing, you know, his artwork, and I remember this clearly. And my kids too. You know? They don’t remember a specific subject, They definitely remember when we were outside playing baseball and reading about the history of baseball. And with the pond explorations, they were encouraged To have a pet turtle for a month. We had a pet turtle outside.

Ali Madej [00:21:02]:

And so I think the all the topics That they’re they’re so unique. They cross a broad spin. We try to hit everything. Coming up, we have fairy tales right now, Trains, mountains, Australia, trying to do a broad range. I think the thing that sticks out to me the most is it’s gonna be the things you remember with your kids. So something that you’re gonna look back and make memories with for these explorations.

Pam Barnhill [00:21:28]:

I love that. And I just wanna say that we did not encourage you to have a pet turtle. Your kids were encouraged by the pawn unit to have a pet turtle. No. Like, nowhere in the explorations did it say, you should really get a pet turtle.

Ali Madej [00:21:45]:

No. It didn’t. It didn’t. They had so much fun learning about ponds, and then, I think there’s a a property back behind our house, and dad found a turtle. And Then I was making the connections like, oh, this goes perfect with books or reading.

Pam Barnhill [00:22:00]:

Yeah. We’re all about making your life easier. Trust me. And, like, getting the turtle that would not necessarily be it.

Laney Homan [00:22:06]:

Okay. So True. I will I will second that. They are not all the hands on busy, like, No. They’re they’re just so full of beautiful things. I think you know, one of the things that jumped out to me is the things that That Allie was talking about in several of the ones that we’ve mentioned and the topics we’ve mentioned, I am a little like Pam. I’ve I’ve heard her talk about the fact She really likes, nature study to take place indoors. And I have never like, I love the concept of nature study, but I’m not usually one that’s really out there, like, Getting out into nature to do I will for certain things, but it’s not ever been something that has made its way into our homeschool is, Like a consistent practice, but I love the way that the explorations introduce nature study to us through it’s just one of the topics that’s covered in every single and so, like, even the George Washington Carver ones that we were talking about, he was a naturalist.

Laney Homan [00:23:08]:

And so there was a lot of nature study type Stuff in there as we were I remember learning about the peanut plant, and we were looking at some of his illustrations for the peanut plant and seeing, You know, how how great they were and we were studying them not only as nature study, but also as artwork in that particular exploration. And I think that there’s just been so many things. So I would say for our family in particular, the picture studies and the nature Study are things that were being that’s something that is now a consistent habit in our home because of The exploration’s introducing them in a very gentle way that doesn’t seem overwhelming. Because I can get on board with watching a YouTube video about, a particular, you know, nature study topic and we can make a nature study Paige. But like Allie said, it does pique curiosity to take that outside of your home. But I’m not the mom who’s gonna take it outside of my home first and then bring it into my home. But we, a 100%, Well, you know, give the kids the freedom to take the ideas that they’re exploring inside of the explorations and then, like, You know, work that out in their lives what whatever that means sometimes. So I remember I don’t remember if it was the cowboys exploration or, recently we did pioneer so I know and it would’ve gone with that.

Laney Homan [00:24:44]:

But one day I looked out my kitchen window and my kids had built a stick for And had like they were having full on pretend out there and they were living the pioneer life. Like, I it might have been from the cowboys. They had like A stick fort built and they were pretending to camp and they had a wagon and they they were, like, just totally immersed In this subject that I had nothing to do with, like, the, you know, the whole pet turtle thing. It’s like it it does spark an interest in whatever it is and I think that one of the things that I have loved about that is that, seeing my kids really just kind of engage in that. But the beautiful thing is is that because the topic changes every single month, they’re like they can live there And then they don’t really get bored with it because then all of a sudden, there’s a new topic. And then they’re like, oh. And then, you know, they get involved in that, and they get to really kinda live there and study and explore that

Pam Barnhill [00:25:49]:

idea. There is a new topic, but The way we approach the topic stays the same, and you guys have both alluded to this. Like, Lainie, you’re saying, we’re so much more confident doing, you know, picture study or now we actually get nature study done. And I I do think it’s important that these things come around in every single set of plans. So in every set of plans, there is going to be Music appreciation. There is going to be, some poetry, some memorization, some picture study. We always put jokes in them and things like that. Okay.

Pam Barnhill [00:26:26]:

I have to ask you, Ali, since you were talking about baseball earlier. Was there nature study in baseball, or did she use science in

Ali Madej [00:26:34]:

Oh, yes. So I think it was science. I think she pulled in. There was actually a great book of, like, the physics and some math about baseball and baseball diamonds, and my boys like that. I think that is but I would have them look at that. Maybe it was mascots something. There’s some it could be some nature study then.

Pam Barnhill [00:26:52]:

Yes. Sometimes sometimes it is, you know, we’re like, okay. And I know one of the things we’ve got coming up next, this coming school year is currency, which I thought was a fascinating Topic 4, I haven’t looked at that set of explorations yet to see what you guys came up with. But, that would have been Jessica Lawton who had written that set of explorations. But it always works, and that’s the thing that is kind of fascinating to me. And it always works, Honestly, without having to stretch too much. And so I love the fact that these these certain methods of Studying something like the picture study or the music appreciation come back time and time again, you know, across all of these different topics. And it’s it’s stuff that kids

Laney Homan [00:27:41]:

love. It is. Well and I think what’s interesting you you started by, you know, pointing out. These are not unit studies. And I think one of the things that distinguishes them from unit studies is the fact that we’re not making those connections for the kids, but that there is this Content that naturally occurs about these topics. It is not some, like, Contrived lesson plan based upon a topic. Yeah. So you’re not trying to come up with activities of like, Okay.

Laney Homan [00:28:15]:

Baseball is my theme, so how can I incorporate baseball into every lesson that I’m doing? Right. Let me give you a writing assignment that’s centered around baseball. Let me it’s you’re not trying to force the topic onto things. We start with topics when we’re writing and then we go out and we look for all of these good, beautiful, and true resources that are already existing about these topics and that’s what makes them work so well. But it does every set of explorations Generally, it contains the same subject material that you would find in any of the your morning basket plans. Right. They’re just not laid out by subject. We give you a list of things to do, and it’s gonna be all mixed up in there.

Laney Homan [00:29:02]:

You’re gonna have your poetry. You’re gonna have your nature study. You’re gonna have picture study, you’re gonna have music appreciation. Usually, there’s some kinda art project to do with your kids that is hands on. In any end, all of it is optional, but it comes together in a much more natural way than trying to Create assignments that mesh with a particular topic. You’re just exploring it in a way That is it’s almost like I believe it’s Susan Wise Bauer that encourage you encourages you to, like, When your kids are young and you’re wanting them to explore the world around them, to give them different like, give them like a jewelry loop So, like, a magnifying glass or a microscope to give them things to help change the perspective of how they view something. Is there exploring their world? And the explorations kind of serve that purpose. They give us A different way to look at something, to explore it from a different angle.

Laney Homan [00:30:09]:

So You might not all of a sudden think like George Washington Carver. Oh, there’s poetry or there’s, like but there is. And when we start to look at things through a different lens in order to view it, We see something completely different than if we had just, like, studied something as an isolated topic In a particular subject matter, so like insects, for example. You mentioned earlier looking at those zoomed in insects, those photographs of insects. This was, one of the activities in the insects exploration was exploring the photography of, a man. I don’t even remember his name, but, That he had photographed with a microscope these insects so that you could see them on a incredible magnified scale, And they were gorgeous.

Pam Barnhill [00:31:06]:

They were. They were.

Laney Homan [00:31:08]:

And they were they were phenomenal. And I that’s also one of My big memories from that, my kids looked at it and poured over it and but I would not have thought insects and art. Like, that’s not a connection that I would have made, but that connection somebody else had made. And so all I did was Show my kids these things and they just had a beautiful experience looking at, observing, and learning about something That otherwise would have really just been like, okay. We’re covering this in your science curriculum. And we might have learned that, You know, insects have 6 legs and 3 body segments, but they wouldn’t have really, understood insects in the world the same way that they do now that they’ve studied it from a different perspective.

Pam Barnhill [00:31:59]:

Well, you know, we talk about, Sometimes as the team brainstorms, like, what are the topics gonna be for the explorations, these, Conversations can get quite heated at times as we’re as we’re talking about it. And we talk about, My line is always, there has to be romance to the subject. Like, you can’t because I know after we did baseball, everyone’s like, Oh, baseball was such a hit. We need to do, like you know, I’m gonna pick on soccer and the

Laney Homan [00:32:31]:

world’s gonna

Pam Barnhill [00:32:31]:

hate me, but we need to do soccer. And I’m like, There’s just no romance to soccer, but it it always, like, surprises me. Actually, Colleen Ryan, one of our, long time members in your morning basket plus said when the sharks came out, she’s like, oh, Truth, goodness, and beauty about sharks, and Pam’s over here saying, hold my diet coke, you know, with that Hold my alcoholic beverage line. But we do. We do come up with those kinds of, You know, we work hard at that, and then we don’t work hard at it because I think sometimes if the topic doesn’t lend itself To truth, goodness, and beauty, there have been some topics we’ve abandoned.

Laney Homan [00:33:18]:

Yeah. Absolutely. So I think that but, you know, speaking of soccer, I just finished riding Brazil. You’ll find soccer. Okay. I think if you’re a Brazilian, you might say there’s a lot of Romance

Pam Barnhill [00:33:30]:

on soccer. I understand that’s my purely American take on on soccer. And the fact that we did try to like it and just couldn’t get into it. But yeah. Okay. So before everybody hates me about soccer, let’s move on to this, The thought about when we say that the explorations can be your elementary curriculum, let’s get practical for a few minutes. So First of all, we’re not saying that it’s going to replace your math or your handwriting or your composition or anything like that. That’s not what the were designed for.

Pam Barnhill [00:34:07]:

And I talk about the difference, and we’ll link in the show notes for you a, An episode of the 10 Minutes to a Better Homeschool podcast that I’ve done about the difference between skill subjects and content area subject. So you are still gonna have to do skill subjects with the young kids in your home. Actually, with all Kids in your home, they do skill subjects until they leave your home. So, you know, they’re still gonna have to learn to read, and they’re still gonna need to do their Math and things like that, but what do you guys think the explorations can replace?

Ali Madej [00:34:44]:

I think they they can replace, for elementary, they can be your science, they can be history, Art, everything art, and extras there too with music appreciation. I really think if you if you take a look at it, it can be everything other than Everything other than the skill subjects. Because my 1st grader, for example, you know, he only has a attention span for math and phonics of, like, Maybe 15 to 20 minutes each. And you can think at the end of the day, he’s in 1st grade, and that’s only adding up to 45 minutes of our day. Where’s the rest? And it’s all here. It’s at the end of the day when you lay down and did I do enough. I always have the feeling when we do full explorations and a full morning time that There’s been enough because of all that richness there. And then, you know, that that voice in your head that can be saying, Oh, are you doing enough? Is this enough? It’s always these times when you see the youngest ones, like name a pet Leonardo da Vinci or point something out, in the house that they noticed from, artwork on the wall, that then you’re feeling like, oh, they’re getting so much So much goodness, and it’s and it’s from these.

Ali Madej [00:36:02]:

So I really think there could be an argument that these explorations could be your entire Content subject curriculum for for the elementary

Pam Barnhill [00:36:11]:

years. Yeah. Yeah.

Laney Homan [00:36:13]:

Yeah. I think it’s so true because Sometimes it’s my is is a young mom with only young kids, I think that it would somebody would have been hard pressed to get through my brain that this would have been enough. But it’s 3 years of seeing the results of this approach. And I’ve used other approaches before. So, like, I have that comparison and this works so incredibly well. And so here’s an example. So my 8th grader, this year, he’s actually he’s my only kid, in our homeschool this year that’s actually using an out a curriculum that’s outside of your morning basket resources, and we are using a science curriculum for him, as I wanted to kind of prepare him for high school science. And interestingly, I was like, we haven’t done any formal science.

Laney Homan [00:37:09]:

So, like, I don’t really know where to begin. So as I was researching science curriculum And I started looking, and I was like, oh, but we’ve covered that topic, and we’ve covered that topic. Like, we had covered All of the basis of elementary science in just using the explorations and The the resources and the books and things like that. And I was really it it was like as I was researching for what we were gonna do for his outside science curriculum that I began to recognize as a whole, like, oh, that he has had this stuff. But my initial reaction when I sat down to research was, he’s had no science, like, formal science. So what are we going to Like, where are we going to start as I prepare him and then all my research did was give me a lens to show me that he’s been really well prepared for it. And by doing the thing that we’re talking about and that is just having this really rich morning time It includes all of these different topics and subjects that they’re hitting across, you know, the different, Like, span of time, it’s just wasn’t laid out for him in a in a way that was like, this is a science curriculum. But the content was in there and they were able to, you know and he’s having no trouble at all, you know, Entering into a more formal curriculum style thing that he is now working from because He’s got such a great background of the information that has been laid before him through different activities and and books and other things, and most of that came from the exploration.

Laney Homan [00:38:57]:

So this child, my 13 year old, he’s the one of All of my kids who probably has had most of his elementary school with nothing more than The explorations or additional plans from the Your Morning Basket, subscription and the resources available inside To a running

Pam Barnhill [00:39:18]:

basket. So let me ask you guys this question, because so somebody may be listening and they may go they they be Thinking, okay. You’re convincing me. You’re convincing me that doing things this way would be easier on me and that my kids would get this great education from it. But I have you know, Lainie, you’re talking about your 13 year old. So last year, he was 12, and then you probably had another one who was, like, 7. You know? And there’s still a bit of a difference between a 7 year old and a 12 year old. And I think one of the mindsets that a lot of moms come to this with is, How can I give my 1st grader and my 7th grader the same work and it be appropriate? You know, how can I really do this together as a family? So and, Ali, I know you’ve got, like, a preschooler, an 11 year old.

Pam Barnhill [00:40:08]:

What do you say to that?

Ali Madej [00:40:11]:

I say totally for these for these subjects, you totally can because it’s a topic where each of their little minds is taking it in right at level. So if if you’re, if you’re looking at a piece, piece of artwork together and you’re doing picture study, you know, what your preschooler sees and what your 5th grader sees is unique to them, but they’re both getting something very significant from it. One of my favorite parts is having them together for this. I think not only what they’re learning, but their relationships they’re developing with each other is so amazing to see. So my preschooler will pick a topic from the little explorers, like, when we were doing the zoo to build a zoo. And you’d think the other kids would wanna just scatter, But they wanna help that youngest one. And one of the best ways that you can tell your kids are learning is when they can teach somebody else. So I think it’s so cool to see my 5th grader then teach her how to build the zoo and what the different animals would eat or what you would do to care for them in his own way is is learning and showing what he has learned by being able to teach her.

Ali Madej [00:41:17]:

So I like to see the span, and the relationships between all my kids when we do a topic and what each one is taking from it or even teaching or guiding the younger ones.

Laney Homan [00:41:28]:

Yeah. Well and I think something else that I’ve seen in our home was it gives them a sense of connection between each other as well because they have something that they can discuss Together, they have something that they can interact with together as opposed to having big kids that do one thing, having little kids do another thing, And there’s no commonality there. What I have found is that those little kids can then have Conversations with their older siblings about things. And like Ali said, it’s at a different level. They’re taking it in on their own way, but it’s not uncommon for my youngest to give insight into something that the rest of us might have missed. Because, Again, they’re looking at it through different eyes at a different stage of their life and it’s really a beautiful thing to see. And I certainly you know, in regards to, like we get the question a lot, like, are explorations enough And, you know, are these appropriate for my high schoolers? Those kinds of things. And Pam has kinda mentioned this.

Laney Homan [00:42:31]:

She doesn’t really dive in deep with the aspirations, but there’s still things in there that they do, with their kids that are in high school. But I tell people all the time, I enjoy the explorations. Oh, yeah. Every single month, I find stuff that I’m learning, pictures I’ve never looked at, Poetry I’ve never heard. Like, I’m engaged in these explorations. So who am I to think that if it’s not like, If there’s not new stuff for

Pam Barnhill [00:43:01]:

me Mhmm.

Laney Homan [00:43:03]:

As, you know, an older mom, then why would I think that my teenagers Or my older elementary kids can’t gain something of richness and beauty from them. So I think that’s one of the things that always is a testimony to me. Like, it it for whether something is appropriate for my older kids. Because we often get an idea of what it needs to be, and we think, oh, well, this isn’t enough or this is too babyish. But What we’ve what I find is is that, like, if I’m enjoying this and find beauty in that, then it’s surely they can too. Like, it’s there. It’s not something that I’m again, it it has to do with the fact that we’re finding things and we’re pulling them in around a particular subject, but those things already exist. This.

Laney Homan [00:43:53]:

Things aren’t being created falsely to fit around a particular subject. And so it is not an age graded thing. You know? Beautiful artwork is not meant for a 16 year old or a 3 year old or A 45 year old, beautiful artwork is meant for everyone. And so the types of materials and And activities that we’re bringing in are designed that way. Now that’s not to say that you’re not gonna find some activities that your Older children might roll their eyes at, but a younger child might really really enjoy. But overall though, the content inside is something that is Really rich for all ages, and that’s one of the reasons.

Pam Barnhill [00:44:40]:

We do have the level ups too. You know, we haven’t even mentioned that. That a lot of times we’ll have an an activity that, you know, is kind of a general activity, and then we level it up in some way, Which kinda leads me to my next question. You know, the level up will have something about doing some research or something like that for the older kids. You know, One of the things that I think might come up for some parents is this idea and and this is such a, I’m gonna call it a false public school mindset. This idea that we have to be our kids have to be producing something to show that they’ve learned. You know? And so I know I know from using the explorations that I think one of the things people get hung up on is the fact that There’s not a lot of production. You don’t get done with a set of explorations, and you don’t have this whole packet of worksheets or this necessarily this composition or something that you’ve written.

Pam Barnhill [00:45:33]:

And, Lainie, I know that you’ve used the explorations with older kids. So how do you get around that Fear or

Laney Homan [00:45:41]:

worry. Right. Well and I I think that’s definitely just a mindset shift that I had somewhere along the way. I think it’s the conversations that I have with my kids that clue me into the fact That they’re actually engaging with this material and I’m comfortable with the level of how they’re interacting with it and what they’re remembering. And so that that’s one thing. And we talked about that earlier when I was talking about hearing how my kids were making connections and then they’re bringing up stuff they studied 6 months ago And that is or a year ago. And that, to me, is evidence of the fact that it is see it’s soaking into them. They’re remembering things.

Laney Homan [00:46:26]:

When I actually used some of the explorations and some of the, plans for membership with my 16 year old last when she was in high school and, she would just take topics that we had studied And then go and learn more about them. She would you know, we I would just give her an assignment or she was really self driven, so sometimes she would just, Like, pick a topic and then go and do something on our own. But with other kids, sometimes I will I would pick something that I thought, okay, this maybe sparked a little bit interest or at least leaves the door open for quite a bit more research and diving into. So I will give that child an assignment that is more research based or something like that, where then they can go and then I’ll ask them to present that information to me in some way. So sometimes it’s come back to morning time and teach the other kids what you’ve learned. And like Allie said, when they’ve learned it and interacted with it and can teach it to other people, that’s a great way to measure, what they are learning. But then sometimes it would be, you know, write me a paper on this, or can you make a slideshow presentation, or, like, Some way that I have some kind of idea that you have interacted with the material and can Then, like, give it back to me in a way that I can tell that you have knowledge and understanding of the material that you have read. And I have found that that is so much more effective than Giving you an objective test that you’re just gonna, like, you know, fill in the blank or do multiple choice or even doing short answer questions sometimes.

Laney Homan [00:48:21]:

It lets me know where the material is hitting a level of understanding with those kids, Because I’m not giving them a specific

Pam Barnhill [00:48:31]:

thing Right.

Laney Homan [00:48:32]:

To report back on. I’m giving them maybe a topic and then telling them, like, whatever is kind of where is this resonating with you? You’ve you’ve taken this information in. How are you processing it and communicating that? And that works on I mean, that really truly does overlap into the skill subjects when I’m interacting with my teens that way because that’s all about communication. That’s how we process information and that’s applicable to everything that we ever have as Input. How are you taking input from social media? How are you taking input from your email inbox or from, Like, any source of input that we have in this world today, how are you processing that? And then, you know, handling that information and putting it back out or communicating it to others in ways that is needed, that’s a skill we need across the board. So by using the explorations and the other your morning basket plans And then giving my high schoolers assignments that require them to think and then communicate what they have processed about that is giving them skills far beyond just introduction to truth, goodness, and beauty. And it seems to have worked really well for My kids that had school high school in that model, like I said yeah.

Ali Madej [00:49:54]:

For the elementary kids for the elementary kids too, just what a weight off their shoulders that they don’t need all of that. Like, we don’t, at the end of the year, have all these worksheets and papers, and I don’t think that my kids miss that. I think that it’s, gives them a chance to just enjoy and to not maybe suck some of the fun out of things when they can just Sit at the table and their only responsibility is to sketch a picture of what we’re reading about or looking about or talking about. I think that they absolutely love that.

Pam Barnhill [00:50:25]:

Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s good. And it and it’s way more effective than, you know, than you would’ve maybe first 1st thought. Well, ladies, thank you so much for joining me today to talk about the explorations and just, Hopefully, be an encouragement to moms out there who are like, you know, I’ve got this 5th grader, and he’s doing ancient history, and I’ve got this 3rd grader who’s doing American and I’ve got this 1st grader and, oh my gosh, he’s not doing anything because I never have time to pull it all together. How can we make this better for our family? And I really, really do think explorations is the way to do that. So thanks for being an encouragement today. Thanks so much for listening to your morning basket.

Pam Barnhill [00:51:08]:

If you are ready to spend less time planning and more time engaged in learning with your children? Join your morning basket plus, a monthly membership with everything you need to start a morning time practice in your homeschool? To join, head on over to, and I’ll see you there.

Links and Resources from Today’s Show

Key Ideas about Homeschool Curriculum

  • Morning Basket Explorations can be the core of an elementary homeschool curriculum, covering subjects like science, history, art, and more.
  • Explorations nurture relationships between siblings as they learn together on topics tailored to their individual levels.
  • High-interest topics like baseball, ponds, fairy tales, trains, and more encourage kids to dive deep into subjects over a month.
  • Consistent activities in each plan, like music, poetry, and picture study, provide a well-rounded experience.
  • Focus is on learning and making connections rather than output of worksheets or compositions.

Find What you Want to Hear

  • [0:47] Meet Ali and Laney
  • [3:10] What’s working in your Morning Time?
  • [9:03] What are Explorations?
  • [12:30] Making connections with Explorations
  • [19:20] Favorite Explorations
  • [33:30] What are Explorations for?
  • [44:40] Is production necessary for learning?
  • [38:21] Unrealistic ideas about Morning Time

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