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We’re starting off a new season of Your Morning Basket with an episode all about planning and preparing for Morning Time. Pam and her good friend Dawn Garrett, who is the coordinator for the Your Morning Basket online community, discuss everything from the first ingredient of a solid Morning Time plan to how to pull ourselves out of those Morning Time slumps.

Whether you are brand new to Morning Time this year or a seasoned vet looking for a little inspiration, 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 19 of the Your Morning Basket podcast. I’m Pam Barnhill, your host, and I am so happy that you are joining me here today. Well, today is a special show in that I’m not really doing an interview. I am having on my good friend, Dawn Garrett, who is the Community Manager for the Your Morning Basket community, and as such, Dawn spends her time answering a lot of questions from homeschooling moms and encouraging them all about Morning Time. And so she’s on here today with me and we’re chatting about how to get your year off to a good start; how to get your Morning Time off to a good start in the new school year. And so we give you what we think are some of our better tips and we talk about some of the places where you might get hung up in starting a new year and a new Morning Time. So, sit back, enjoy the program.

My friend, Dawn Garrett, is a mom of three who has been writing for over 15 years at her blog LadyDusk. And she’s also the author of the free eBook, “I Am, I Can, I Ought, I will. Charlotte Mason’s Motto explained for upper elementary students.” Dawn is also the coordinator for the Your Morning Basket and Plan your Year communities where she provides customer care, encouragement, and helpful answers to any number of homeschooling questions. On her blog Dawn shares book reviews, curriculum choices, Morning Time plans, and so much more. She joins us on the podcast today to discuss planning and preparing for a new year of Morning Time. Dawn, welcome to the show.
D: Hi, Pam.
P: So today, we’re having a conversation. So it’s not so much that you’re the expert and I’m interviewing you (unless you want to be)…
D: No, no. I’m going to learn as much as everybody else today, I think.
P: So, we’re just conversing together and sharing ideas and helping everybody get their Morning Time off to a good start for the New Year.
D: I think that’s a great idea. And you know what? Even for those of us who use an alternative calendar schedule, I love back to school time because it gives me another kick in the pants to get things going the right way, the right direction, so this is going to be a great topic today.
P: So, let’s explain for everybody- you actually school with the calendar year, I forget this, and so you start in January and go through November and then you stop, and then start again in January. So this, for you, is honestly, New Year’s resolution time, right?
D: That would be a good comparison, but you know, the back to school sales are now, and everybody else is talking about all their new stuff, and cleaning out their homeschool rooms, so I just did that, because my kids were all at camp, and so, you could call it new year’s resolutions but I really do love the August back to school time, it really gives me another bolt of energy to finish the year strong, and then October turns into May, for me.
P: Well, let’s start talking a little bit about what people may want to intentionally do to get the year off to a good start, with their Morning Time, and so let’s talk a little bit about planning for a Morning Time. So what are some things that you think are necessary for a good Morning Time plan?
D: I think having some clear goals and vision of what you want your Morning Time to be. So, really thinking about … We’re Christian homeschoolers and so we definitely emphasize Bible and hymns and catechism, and doing almost a worship time at the beginning of our homeschool day. So that’s a key part of what I plan for in my homeschool for Morning Time. But, if you have other things that you think are really important, if poetry is going to be the cornerstone of your Morning Time, figure out what those cornerstones are and then fill in the blanks.
P: Oh, I love that. OK, so I’m going to take that even back further, and talk about the one thing. So, starting with one thing.
D: Oh yeah.
P: So you’ve been doing Morning Time, how many years now?
D: Oh, five or six, or eight. I’m not really sure. We’ve always done something that was like Morning Time. When I had toddlers we did Calendar Time even. So we’ve always done a little bit of something even when I had small, small children, just to give us a little bit of structure to our day.
P: So, we’re kind of the same way. We’re going on our 5th year now of doing Morning Time and so I’m pulling my plan from last year but I think what I really want to say to somebody who has stumbled on this idea maybe at the middle of the school year last year or this summer that they really know that it’s OK to start with very simple, one thing even.
D: I think in the Your Morning Basket group, I usually say something like, “Start small, build slow, start with one thing, 10 minutes at most, and then you can add to it.” I was just reading Cindy Rollins’ new book Mere Motherhood and she talked about how hers started with just practicing their AWANA verses. One thing, start small, and then as her kids got older and as they got more into the habit of Morning Time she said, ‘Oh, could I fit this idea in a Morning Time?’ and eventually she had things like grammar and Latin, all sorts of things built in. But she started very, very small.
P: But, I think your vision idea, your idea for a vision of what – even if you’re thinking into the future and you’re sitting there with a five year old and a three year old or something like this and you know you want to start Morning Time and you’re thinking into the future of what you want it to be, use that vision to help you choose, OK, what is going to be most important to us as a family? And for your family, like for my family, it’s the prayer, it’s the hymn singing, it’s the catechism, that’s so very important to get the day off to a good start. And so you say, “OK, I’ve got these little kids and we’re are brand new to this, my kids are not sure about this whole idea” (and we’ll talk a little more about that later) but we’re just going to start with one simple practice and begin there and then do it even for two weeks and then you can start adding other things in.
D: When my kids were very small I decided that I wanted them to start learning hymns because then they could participate during worship. So we started off with the Doxology and Holy, Holy, Holy, and hymns that were sung regularly in our congregation or that were going to be seasonally appropriate. We were coming up on Palm Sunday so we did All Glory, Laud, and Honor. So we did things that were almost immediately applicable to their lives, that would build, and then today I was going through our hymn list and it’s extensive. We have 60 hymns that we’ve learned as a family together.
P: Oh wow.
D: And, you know, that vision would never have started when I was starting out with the Doxology and Holy, Holy, Holy, but now it’s such a blessing to see what all we’ve been able to do in even this short amount of time. So, having your vision is important. My vision was smaller than what it has become. My vision was to learn hymns to sing in worship so they could participate in worship and now it’s become so much greater.
P: Oh, that’s great. That is something awesome to keep in mind. And 60 hymns?! I am so impressed! You know, something else you said that I wanted to point out is people, a lot of times, will ask me what hymn resource do you use, or what hymns do you start with, and the ones that you sing in church, those are it. And for us, I’ve tried some other hymn resources in the past and honestly, they’re not the ones we sing in church, and so it’s been a matter of ‘I did find some’ I had to go seeking outside the homeschool hymn resources and go to albums on Amazon and things like that and I was able to find some, but I think it’s important to start with the ones that they’re going to hear and can participate it in.
D: There is a great post on your blog by Jessica about doing hymn study in your home. I think that would be great to put in the Show Notes because it gets people really started with some excellent resources and ideas of how to incorporate them into a Morning Time.
P: Yes, you are correct, but once again, those aren’t the hymns that we sing.
D: No, pull out the hymns that you sing, and I have a list of the hymns that we’ve learned on my blog, and Mystie has a list of hymns that they’ve learned on Simply Convivial and AmblesideOnline’s schedule’s hymn that they think are valuable and important, and everybody has to choose the ones that work best in their situation but there are resources out there that can help anyone who is seeking out the hymns that they would like to study in their Morning Time, but we’re getting a little off track.
P: Oh yeah, let’s get back on track. So, tell me about when do you plan for your Morning Time, and then I’ll talk a little bit about when I plan?
D: We do the six-weeks-on-one-week-off schedule, and so our Morning Time is pretty set at this point. I just am plugging in the newest things so a couple of weeks before the end of the term that we’re working on, or during that off week, I go and look at AmblesideOnline to find the things that I need to plug into our Morning Time; the new Shakespeare, the new Plutarch, the new nature study focus, those things that just plug into those slots in our Morning Time and put them in, but ours is pretty set in that it’s structure, so at this point we don’t change that part very much, just the components.
P: OK, so that’s interesting. So, you have a set form that you follow and so you know what you’re studying each term but then you get down to the specifics and you change that for the particular terms.
D: Right. This week we kind of starting a new term, it’s not exactly, but my kids were at camp last week and they have swim lessons this week so we’re doing some lighter things. We were reading Psalm 119 and I decided that we were just going to read through the Psalms, a Psalm a day. So sometimes I might change mid-term but I didn’t take out reading from the Psalms, I just substituted what I decided would work better for us for this time. Does that make sense?
P: Yes, it does. It does. Well, I sit down in the summer and so I have not done it yet for this year, and school starts August 1st, so I kind of need to get myself in gear. So this is my focus over the next couple of weeks to shore up my school plans (we’re recording this toward the middle of July so I have a couple of weeks left), and I will base a lot of my plan on what we did last year, though I tell you, it’s going to be more simple this year than it was last year. I got pretty ambitious last year. I think I was working on the book last summer and it all sounded so good I wanted to do all the things and I think I’m going to back off and simplify a little bit, so I will actually set up my entire plan for the rest of the school year in the summer, and I’ll know what I’m doing from time to time.
D: OK.
P: It will be all planned out.
D: I like the variety of being able to change it up, which is why I like the six-weeks-on-one-week-off where I get to change things up and I like the spontaneity of it so we finished memorizing, we were studying Romans 8, we memorized that pretty well, it still fits into our review time of our Bible passages, but until this morning I hadn’t really even decided what our new Bible passage was going to be. We decided on the Good Samaritan, that parable in Luke, but my kids helped me decide. But I like the spontaneity of deciding, “OK, we did this for a while, and now we’re going to do this passage, because it’s something we’ve been thinking of, something that was recently preached, something that just builds encouragement.” In this time of our life, of what’s going on in our church and in our family and in our friendship, what do we need to focus on? I still have the structure but it gives me a little bit of a chance to be spontaneous which I’m not particularly good at most of the time. So that helps to balance that for me.
P: Oh yeah. Well, see?! I’m the person that I feel like if I don’t have it all planned out at the beginning of the year then I’m going to reach a point where I don’t have something to go in that slot and I’m not going to get it in there and so that slot will get pushed aside and get forgotten for the rest of the year.
D: And it’s good to know yourself and your style and what works best for your personality and it’s wonderful that when you know those things that Morning Time can be fit for any personality or any family structural type, it works well for us to pick up a Bible passage as we go and it works well for you to know what those Bible passages are going to be ahead of time.
P: I think so. And now something that I haven’t done is I really haven’t pulled my kids into the choosing. Now, they haven’t asked and we’ve never butted heads over it, it’s never been an issue. And maybe that’s why; they’re really kind of easy going, quite honestly, sometimes too easy going. So that’s something I haven’t done and that’s an interesting idea- to let them take some ownership and maybe choose some of the things that we do. I do kind of like that.
D: I claim final say, so we’d battered around some ideas. Some people had suggested James because our Associate Pastor is preaching through the book of James. We were talking about, do we want to try a whole book, because we’ve been doing some whole chapters. So we talked about James, or part of First John, or another Psalm, or Isaiah 53. And I was looking back at the formidable attainments for a 6 year old from Charlotte Mason and she suggested that 6 year olds knowing two parables well would be a good idea, and we’d never done any of the parables, so I thought as all the ideas had been stewing around that that was the one that was going to work for us for this time and place, so that’s what we’re going to do.
P: I want to point out, as you’re talking about the formidable attainments for a 6 year old list, that all of your kids are well over 6 years old.
D: They are. 9, 10, and 11.
P: I’m not pointing that out to say, “Oh Dawn’s a failure, she didn’t get this done before they were 6,” I’m pointing it out to show how worthy it is to keep working on that list even past that age.
D: It is a very worthy list and there’s a formidable attainments for a child of 10 also, that we haven’t really looked at very much. It’s a formidable list for me and I’m 43.
P: Right.
D: Knowing several, I think it’s two parables well. I think it’s time to look at some of those parables a little more closely so that’s why we chose that.
P: We can link to that list in the Show Notes. I believe it’s on the AmblesideOnline site, right?
D: It is, yes.
P: Alright, we’ve talked a little bit about planning in that Dawn plans for each term. She has her structure set up but she plugs in new things every term and she chooses as she goes along because she likes the spontaneity, whereas Pam wants everything planned out at the beginning of the year and so there aren’t a lot of surprises but there’s variety. We move from one thing to the next. So, how do you store your plans and stay organized for getting started with your Morning Time?
D: Well, we started when the kids were really young and we started with me doing everything out of a notebook, just me having a notebook with all of the things so they would listen and repeat or I was the only one who had the words before me, because they couldn’t read so they didn’t really need them at that time, and I have made notebooks for them and actually, I’m in the process of re-making notebooks for everybody, like Mystie does (and explains it at Simply Convivial) but my kids never really use them. So we have notebooks and they’re accessible and usable but they got into the habit of doing it just from hearing what I was saying or just from call and repeat, and so they don’t really look at those things very often, which I find, kind of, fascinating, but a notebook is definitely the best thing. When I first started out I tried the index cards in the box. Do you know what happens to index cards in a box?
P: They get spilled out all over the floor.
D: And your organization is gone!
P: Yes, I agree. I keep a notebook and oddly, my kids are like yours. I don’t do notebooks for them, they do it all call and repeat or through playlists. We use a lot of playlists, and I have even been known to record things myself into a playlist so that the playlist can just guide me.
D: That’s a great idea.
P: And so, it’s just one of those reduce-the-decision-fatigue kind of thing. We just work our way down the playlist and it might be my voice that comes on and recites the poem or sings a little song or something like that and then we do keep everything in a notebook. I keep everything in a notebook as well to help keep me organized.
D: So, how do you play your playlist? How does that work during your Circle Time, or your Morning Time?
P: Well, I’ve always used iTunes on my computer and I’ve made my playlist in there and then put them onto my phone and then I have a little wireless speaker that I use. Now this year, so you know me, I’m like a tech-crazy, I’m a techie…
D: Yes.
P: …. so I got one of the Amazon Alexa’s.
D: Oh.
P: And so now, I told my husband he’s the one who actually owns the Prime account where you can put all the music. And I told him, “If you start seeing over the next few weeks these weird playlists pop up on your Prime, it’s because I’m loading them up.” So, my plan is to load up his Amazon Prime account with all of the playlists and then I should just be able to push the little button. We got a Tap, too. Push the little button and say, “Play alpha year week three playlist” and it will just play down the entire thing for me.
D: OK, I’m sorry. You got a Tap?
P: Oh, it’s called a Tap. It’s an Amazon Tap. OK, so this is bad. My husband kept stealing the Alexa and taking it upstairs where he was painting and so the Tap went on sale for Prime Day for half price and so I bought the little portable Tap too so I would be able to take that one to my scholè group with me and play the playlist there as well.
D: Oh, sounds really snazzy.
P: We’re very high tech with our Morning Time.
D: I guess. I have an old Samsung Galaxy mp3 player that has Bluetooth and I use Bluetooth speakers as long as they’re charged for hymns, sometimes for poems, because we use IEW’s poetry linguistic development through poetry memorization (I always struggle with that name). So sometimes I’ll make the kids listen to Andrew Pudewa say the poem instead of me say it.
P: Bluetooth speaker even with, you said your Samsung Galaxy was older, even with an older device, being able to have that Bluetooth speaker and play, you can even take it in your car and play your Morning Time on the go, I’ve done that before.
D: That’s a really good idea. I’ve given the notebook to the oldest child and said, “OK, you’re in charge today while we’re driving down the road,” that works too.
P: So, what about if somebody just doesn’t like to plan and they’re less structured. Do you think they can have a successful start in Morning Time?
D: Yes.
P: I know that’s not you or I really, so let’s help this person come up with a few ideas.
D: I think if you, for someone like me, I would say, gather everybody at a table or on the couch and read something from the Bible and pray and sing a hymn and be done with it and go on.
P: I’m thinking use the basket. Grab your basket or your box or your carton or your laundry basket, or whatever it is, but sometimes I do really feel like it’s important to put everything together. And you can do it on a shelf.
D: Yes. I just redid my homeschool room, I think I mentioned. And I built three bookshelves and two of them are just for my school things, so I have one shelf for Morning Time and a shelf for our AO books, but I put my basket on the shelf but I’m contemplating taking the basket out because it’s tall as the shelf so it’s not as convenient as it used to be, but yes, having everything all in one place and you just pick it up and do the next thing. I think that’s a great idea.
P: So, if you don’t like to sit down and plan, if you don’t like to make the little charts, I know Dawn and I both have charts, what you can do is just pick up your basket and walk around your school room and pretend you’re going on a picnic, you’re going to spread this feast of beautiful things in front of your children and put all of those things in your basket and then every day, just bring your basket out and pull something out of the basket. It doesn’t even matter what.
D: Or even what order. If you’re one of those spontaneous people you know that you would like to have these books but you don’t care what order you do them in, sometimes my kids like to do Morning Time backwards, so we start with the end and finish with the Bible, and it just changes it up. But if you don’t care about the order, toss the stuff in and grab it out randomly and do the thing, put it in a pile next to you and re-fill the basket for tomorrow.
P: Or refill the basket every … well … when you feel it’s got stale and old, by the time you’ve gone through a lot of it and throw in an art book, one of the great S born artist or art books, or even a big coffee table art book. At the night you could go to your library and do this and then you’d only have it as long as what your library would allow you to have it but then you would go back again and get a bunch of new things and bring those back. So I don’t think that Truth, Goodness, and Beauty has to be ordered lockstep. You could just throw it all in there and pull it out and be spontaneous with it.
D: Absolutely, I agree. And throw in a puzzle every once in a while or I’ve put in math dice, they’re 20-sided die, or throw in two dice, and the kids have to tell me what their product is. But you could do it for sums or you could work on figuring out a way to do division with them, I suppose, but we’re working on our multiplication tables still, so it doesn’t have to be just books either.
P: Oh yeah, that’s a great point, which kind of segues us into the next thing I wanted to talk about which is Morning Time with different ages. So, I cannot tell you how many times I’ll get emails from moms and they’re like, “I’m so distraught, this Morning Time isn’t working in my house, we’re trying to do The Lord’s Prayer, memorize the Nicene Creed and we’re singing all 12 verses of … I don’t know, does A Mighty Fortress have 12 verses? .. and then I’m reading Shakespeare to them and on, and on, and on, and then we get to the end and we find out their oldest is only 6.
D: Oh yeah, it’s so hard with your oldest. I did, kind of, the same thing. Not to the same extent but it’s so hard with your oldest because so many of us a really academically minded and we see how smart these kids are and we say, “they can do this” and we’re so academically minded we’re all excited about the “we can do this” and we have so much – slow down – again, start small, build slow.
P: And do things …
D: … that are age appropriate.
P: Yeah, yeah. So like, nursery rhymes. I know that Cindy Rollins is a big fan of nursery rhymes and you’ve got further in the book than I have, does she give us some insight there about nursery rhymes and the importance of nursery rhymes?
D: She does talk about it. She talks about … this is genius … she talked about how her kids would act them out, so Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, Jack jump over the candlestick. I’m not even sure she’d have them, but they acted it out – how fun!
P: And that’s perfect in a Morning Time with a 5 or a 6 year old.
D: I’ve got a big thick book of nursery rhymes. There are so many nursery rhymes I’d never heard and my mom taught kindergarten and first grade and did emphasize nursery rhymes and I remember reading nursery rhymes as a kid, there are so many nursery rhymes you could spend years just doing those. Nursery rhymes are perfect. Is it Andrew Pudewa that talks about … he was asking an Italian speaker what his favorite English poem was? And it was a nursery rhyme because they don’t have them in their language. I love that story, I don’t remember who it was, but I think it was Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. That was their favorite nursery rhyme because they just don’t have that in their culture to feed their children. Well, we have them, let’s feed our children with them.
P: So, nursery rhymes, age appropriate. And then, finger plays and little songs, very much so, and so I think there’s a do your verse of, a hymn that they are hearing regularly in church, but then also spend a little time on some of the little children’s songs because they are almost a lost art too.
D: So, Wee Sing collections are so good.
P: Yes!
D: They have them for everything but we had the Wee Sing Bible and my kids memorized the books of the Bible because Wee Sing Bible had it and they listened to it over and over again, and the Wee Sing America it has the national…
P: Yankee Doodle.
D: And all the fun songs. Doesn’t it even have John Henry on it? Even some of the legends of American history are on there. And it has some quotes, like JFK’s ask not what your country, my daughter’s always reciting that. I’m like, “Where’d you learn that?” “Wee Sing America.” Those are such a great resource for young children, I’ve always recommend the Wee Sing series.
P: We’ve been big fans of those in the past, too. And then the Maestro Classics CDs, I just interviewed Bonnie from Maestro Classics for a future episode of this podcast and those are wonderful. I don’t know if you’re familiar, but they have The Tortoise and the Hare and Casey at the Bat and Juanita, the Spanish Lobster and Peter and the Wolf and they’re just wonderful ways to introduce kids to classical music through these, kind of, musical stories. And so those would be really appropriate for a younger kid Morning Time, because it’s classical music but the stories are intertwined within the CDs.
D: We never have used those. I think those started to come out when my kids were getting a little big for them. I’ve seen them at conventions but I’ve never used those.
P: They’re wonderful.
D: That’s great.
P: So, let’s talk a little bit, so age appropriateness and then, of course, I cannot remember the number, but Your Morning Basket with Celeste Cruz (the whole one on the young kids).
D: I wish I had heard that podcast when I had had young kids, I might not have messed up so many things. I love that episode. Celeste is just so wise about how she’d let kids go when they were done listening or sitting still, when they couldn’t sit still any more, we stop. Or, that child stops and they know they can quietly get their crocs on and go out back and play while I finish working with the older children. And that takes training and effort and you have to really work on those things, yes, but what a blessing for them that she did work on those and it worked so well for her. That is episode 15.
P: You looked it up too! I was just about to say that. Episode 15. OK, so let’s talk a little bit of the other end of the spectrum, because another question I get is what do I do with my older kids? And I want to talk about what to do with teenagers? And I do have a post on this called Morning Time with All Ages where I do give some ideas of what to do when you have teenagers in your Morning Time and I talk about things like doing Logic with them and current events and talking about what happened in the presidential debates last night, could you point out any fallacies? Doing things that are going to allow them to do some of that deeper questioning, apologetics. So instead of doing Bible study with an older kid, which you certainly can, but that’s a great time to start transitioning into apologetics because it gets their thinking going.
D: Or really good theology.
P: And we’ll link to that post for you, I believe it’s called Morning Time for All Ages but we’ll put it in the Show Notes, but let’s talk about what do you do if you, the mom, are really excited about starting Morning Time this year with your kids and maybe you have a 6 or a 7 year old, maybe a little girl, who’s going to go along with it just fine but then you have a 9 or 10 or 11 year old boy and you’re getting the eye roll, the “Oh mom!” so how do you reach a child or children who haven’t been raised with this so they’re not on board with it and you’re really excited but you’re facing a little bit of opposition?
D: Well, I don’t think you only face opposition when it’s new. I still struggle some days with having opposition. Mostly, I just say “Just sit down and let’s do it, and the sooner we’re done, we’re done.” So, I’m not really patient with that. I get opposition and I’m like, “We have to do it.” I think in Cindy’s book, again, she said with narrations if you always hold the line and say, “We have to do it” it just becomes an expectation, and so they know they have to do it. I think the same thing can be said with Morning Time. You have to do it, just do it and get it done. But you can choose things that are particularly engaging for that older child, like if you’re doing poetry memorization, you could choose something like Charge of the Light Brigade which oh! that draws in the boys so quickly.
P: Henry IV, Band of Brothers. Is it Henry IV or Henry V, do you know which speech I’m talking about?
D: I do, I only ever watched the one on YouTube because I don’t know my Shakespeare very well. We are just delving into that now.
P: One of the things we do almost at the beginning, we start with prayer but almost at the beginning, after the prayer, is MadLibs, and that’s one of the things my kids just love. They think it’s hilarious, they laugh over it, and they get reinforced again and again “I need a noun!” “No, that’s not a noun; a noun is a person, place or thing.” Or “I need an adjective,” “You know, it’s a describing word.” And so it has a use because you’re learning the parts of speech but it also has a use because it is something that is just vastly appealing to children and they do it.
D: We do MadLibs, and we do a grammar week, (we do a loop), we do a grammar week and then a writing week and then we do MadLibs at the end of the grammar week during Morning Time so that’s not an everyday thing at my house but they do like it when we get there.
P: So, I think trying to find something that delights your reluctant child and putting that into the plan and using it, that’s one thing. And then I totally agree with what you said, that towing the line, sticking to your guns, and any other bad … what’s the word I’m looking for? … cliché, “just do it!”
D: I think you told me that this spring, ‘just do it.’
P: Oh, I did! because you were having a hard time. So let’s talk about that. So we’re starting the year off and maybe it’s not going so well. Maybe, even sometimes, I want to put this out there, moms have a hard time being the one to get motivated to do Morning Time.
D: Yes, when you slump it gets hard to start back up, I think. You get in the habit of ‘Oh, I’m sitting here on my couch reading my book, I’ve done my thing all morning” … just go do your math, we’ll do Morning Time tomorrow. I want to read my book, you go do your thing and I’ll check it when you’re done.’ And, I was asking in the Morning Basket group and Pam comes in and says, “Dawn, put on your boots and put on your big girl panties and just do it!” Once I just did it and got it back into the habit then it becomes wonderful again, but sometimes you just need somebody to remind you that when you’re slumping the best thing to do is just work it at making that habit stick again.
P: And that’s for yourself, if you’re slumping, but it’s also for your kids if they’re resistant. The more consistent you are at doing it and just doing it the less resistance you’re going to get from them, and that’s with any kind of school.
D: And I think a lot of homeschool moms never want to ask Dad for back up, because they don’t want Dad to always be the ‘bad guy,’ they don’t always want him to have to be the bully or the disciplinarian. I know I feel that way a lot. But when I tell my husband we’re having a hard time with attitudes about [this] and he gets involved, attitudes shape up pretty quickly and they realize that mom really does need to be listened to even when Dad’s not here and he’s going to hear about and if I just do it there won’t be a fuss.
P: Right.
D: So sometimes it’s OK to rely on Dad to say, “Hey, this is important, you have to do it, get over yourself.” And just be that second voice saying the same thing.
P: And I think it’s important to remember , too, that if you’ve started your homeschool day for years with let’s say math, handwriting , or whatever the case may be, and your child may not even particularly like to start that way, but it’s a habit that’s ingrained in them because they’ve done it for three or four years, it’s going to take time to work through, for them to come around, because we’re human and so often, we just say “Oh, that’s different and the only reason I don’t like it is because it’s different, it’s something I’ve never done before.”
D: And so sometimes that family dinnertime conversation is “I have this new idea, I think it’s going to really help our family to work together a little better, to spend this time studying some of the same things, it will give us a common vocabulary, a common culture to start our day, these are the reasons why I want to do this Morning Basket thing, I want to try it out for this first six week term, I need you to buy in to it.” A 9 year old wants to be in charge, he wants to be the authority figure, you get that buy in from him, everybody else is going to fall in line, right? So, sometimes that dinnertime conversation of ‘these are the reasons why we’re going to do this’ and not just Monday morning, “OK we’re going to start with Morning Time now,” those things also help.
P: Getting their buy in at another time at a less charged time, and talking through it and getting their buy in. And, of course, start with a song.
D: Start with a song. And, forewarning. Mystie plays a song that’s four minutes long, a four minute warning, “OK, you can stop doing your things now and come to the table,” and some people do Morning Time not in the morning, they do it after lunch time, so maybe they still get to do their copywork and math. You don’t have to do this just in the morning, you can add it to the end of your day. You could split up the middle of your day. Think about if you’re saying you’ve got established routines, where’s the best place to fit it into your established routines to make it more palatable, because you want it to be enjoyable and fun.
P: I agree. Alright, so we’re down to, kind of, the brass tacks here. I told you I was bringing in more clichés. OK, so one tip, if you could only give people one tip for getting their Morning Time off to a good start in the new school year, whether they’re brand new to it or they’re coming back, what would you recommend?
D: Set an alarm on your phone for 10 minutes before and for the time that’s starting. So I have on my phone, I have an alarm set for (our Morning Time starts at 9:00) 8:50 and an alarm set for 9:00, and my kids hear the alarm, the phone is the authority in this case, not mommy. So the kids hear the phone, I say, “We have 10 minutes till Morning Time, finish up what you’re doing,” (we have an open floor plan, they can all hear me and I don’t have to really yell too badly) and then they hear the phone again when they’re all at the table at 9:00. Again, the phone is the one that sets the day, not me. And that works for “We need to go inside in 10 minutes. You can ride bikes for 10 more minutes.” I set the timer on the phone because, I don’t know about you, but I have a terrible sense of how long 10 minutes is, so setting your timer is my best trick for getting it going consistently every day, “OK, I know I have 10 minutes to finish this page in my book.”
P: Or in my case, I have 10 minutes to go finish my shower and finish my breakfast and get to the table because I’ve done something else. For my one tip, if I can only give one, I’m going back to starting small. And, starting small for people who are brand new to this; starting with one thing and slowly and gradually building on. Because I think that is the number one key to being successful with this. But then also for people, like myself or like you, and you’re obviously not starting your school year now, you would be doing that in January, but when you’re starting off a brand new year, coming off an extended break, and for us, we haven’t schooled since the 3rd week of May, then even easing back into it small is so important. So you can do that either by starting on a Wednesday, or starting earlier in the week, your first week and only doing Morning Time, or if you’re going to do Morning Time and two or three other subjects, doing an abbreviated Morning Time to begin with, so you’re not just exhausting yourself and knocking everybody out the very first week with just this exhaustive week of all of school but Morning Time as well.
D: Another way to ease back into Morning Time at the beginning of the year is, I don’t schedule necessarily new things, so I don’t schedule a new hymn for January, we do about a hymn a month, I don’t schedule a new hymn for January, we only review hymns in January. We only do review Bible passages in January. I don’t necessarily schedule a lot of new memory work, I try and just ease back in with things that are very familiar, and then in February we kind of hit it harder, but January we ease.
P: I love, love, love that idea! So, I’m going to translate this now for the people who don’t school with the calendar year. So, basically you would take August or August and September (for your first three or four weeks) and you would only review old things that you learned. So you would sing hymns from last year, you would do memory work from last year, review poems, things of that nature, and that would be what got you started for the first four weeks, and then you would pick up and start learning the new stuff.
D: Exactly.
P: I love that so much!
D: Exactly, yes.
P: Well, hopefully we have given everybody some really good tips to help them get off to a new school year and a new start. And Dawn, thank you so much for being here with me to chat about this stuff.
D: Well, thank you, Pam, it’s a lot of fun. I always like talking with you.
P: And there you have it. So, for today’s Basket Bonus, we have for you a printable checklist of some of our best tips from today’s episode, so you can just work down this list and check your plan against it, and make sure, hopefully, avoid some of these rough spots that may come up by looking at the list that we have there for you. You can find that, along with all of the resources and links that Dawn and I chatted about today at the Show Notes for this episode, and that is at All of the books are there, the links, and the printable checklists. We will be back in another couple of weeks with another great Your Morning Basket interview. Until then, keep seeking Truth, Goodness, and Beauty in your homeschool day.

Links and Resources from Today’s Show

JAM Classic Bluetooth Wireless Speaker (Blueberry) HX-P230BLPinJAM Classic Bluetooth Wireless Speaker (Blueberry) HX-P230BLThinkFun Math Dice Jr.PinThinkFun Math Dice Jr.Amazon EchoPinAmazon EchoAmazon Tap - Alexa-Enabled Portable Bluetooth SpeakerPinAmazon Tap – Alexa-Enabled Portable Bluetooth SpeakerWee Sing Bible SongsPinWee Sing Bible SongsWee Sing AmericaPinWee Sing AmericaMaestro Classics 12 CD CollectionPinMaestro Classics 12 CD CollectionBest of Mad LibsPinBest of Mad Libs


Key Ideas about Starting off the Year

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