Do you ever get tired of just checking off boxes every day? Do you wish you had time for the “good stuff” like art, poetry, and classical music? Do you feel like everyone (you and your kids!) is getting bored with the same old, same old day after day? Enter morning time to the rescue!
Since our family began incorporating “morning time” into our daily school routine, the dynamic of our days has changed so much. Even when everything else goes haywire, morning time is the one thing that we make sure to do – no matter what. I once was talking with another homeschool mom who said something to the effect of, “As long as we’re getting the “meat and potatoes” done, like math, grammar, and history, I’m satisfied. Everything else is just gravy.” This made good sense to me at the time and to some degree it is true. You can give your children a “meat and potatoes” education and they will probably turn out just fine. Yet, how enjoyable are meat and potatoes without the gravy? Is the same diet of meat and potatoes day after day going to really develop a craving and curiosity for knowledge in your children? Can you as their teacher really be satisfied with it? Our minds are hungry for a feast of ideas. If you feel like your homeschool is lacking in this area, read on as I answer some basic questions about “morning time”!
What exactly is “morning time”?
The concept behind morning time is based in the educational philosophy of Charlotte Mason. One of her main principles of education is providing students with a broad feast of ideas to nourish the mind. TMhis is the primary goal of morning time. You might have also heard it referred to as “morning basket” or “circle time”. Most of us who practice morning time first heard about it from homeschooling veteran Cindy Rollins, author of Mere Motherhood: Morning Times, Nursery Rhymes, and My Journey Toward Sanctification. She often describes morning time as the place where you put all the “I wishes.” “I wish we memorized Bible verses. I wish we studied great artists. I wish we read aloud together. I wish we sang hymns. I wish, I wish, I wish…” Well, morning time is for turning all those “I wishes” into “we wills.” It is a time when you and your children can sit down together and mine the riches of the best things in life!
What should we do during morning time?
Each family is unique and I am sure that no two morning times look exactly the same! I will share some good basic things to include in your morning time to help you get started though. Here is a simple list of morning time “subjects” to try as you’re starting out:
- Study a famous painting
- Memorize a Psalm or other scripture passage
- Memorize a short poem
- Listen to a piece of great classical music
- Sing a hymn
- Learn a folksong
- Nature study or nature drawing
- Read aloud from a good book that everyone enjoys
Now, if you’re looking at this list and starting to panic, don’t worry! It is really much easier to plan than you might think. I’ll tell you why in the next section…
How do I plan and fit all that into one hour?
Yes, our morning times last about one hour. You might be wondering how I plan all that stuff every day, and how we fit that many “subjects” into such a short time. The key to remember here is that morning time is meant to be done over the long haul, and each element is kept short. You’re not doing a full hour-long lesson on a famous painter, learning all about their background, studying 5 of their major works, and making a painting of your own to imitate their style. You’re just looking at one piece of art for a couple minutes, noting what you see, and putting it away. It is quick and simple. There is no planning needed except purchasing or printing out some art prints. The same goes for memory work and classical music. I plan our morning times about once every 3-4 months and just make small tweaks and adjustments as we go along. If you’re really crunched for time, you don’t even need to do everything on your morning time “list” every day. You could put some things on a rotation. In addition, you’ll be sticking with the same artwork, scripture passage, or poem until you know it thoroughly. It took us several months to learn all of Psalm 2, but that’s ok! Your children’s education is a marathon, not a sprint. Morning time does wonders to help you and your kids slow down and savor the “good things” without burning out.
But our homeschool day is already so full, where do I find another hour?
I’ll be honest, this part might be really hard for some folks, not because they are too busy for morning time, but because it is really hard to let go of things in your school day that aren’t absolutely necessary. In reality, if you’re going to add something to your day, something else has to be taken out. Yet, here’s the beauty of it: think about all the things you’re covering in morning time…Bible, art, music, science (if you include nature study), literature…and maybe even more. My younger children do reading lessons, math, and morning time, and that’s about it. I just make sure to include their history and literature selections in our read-aloud portion of morning time, again in short lessons. So if you have, for example, a first grader who is doing long, involved science projects, lots of workbook pages, or time consuming cut-and-paste activities, ask yourself if the time spent is really worth it. The truth is (and this is something I have had to come to terms with over the years!) that your child will remember very little of the specific things they learned when they were six (how much do you remember from when you were that little?)! However, they will remember that your family sat down together every morning and talked about the best and beautiful things in life.
What are the benefits of morning time?
Well, there are so many, I could go on and on, but let me highlight just a few:
- You will finally feel a sense of satisfaction at the end of your homeschool days, confident that you have covered the things that really matter. Not that it is all about mom feeling fulfilled, but it is really hard to push through day after day wondering if what you’re doing means something. I know. I’ve been there.
- The subjects covered in morning time are interesting and appealing to all ages. You don’t have to plan multiple lessons for each child. We have five boys, ages 14, 12, 9, 6, and 2. Morning time “works” for all of them–even the two year old participates sometimes!
- Over time your family will develop a common literary “vocabulary”. Since you’re all studying the same things together, memorizing the same poems, listening to the same music, your family will have a rich heritage; a common body of knowledge. I can’t wait to one day hear my adult children talk about stories or poems they learned together from their childhood. (Yes, I’m getting misty-eyed as I write this!) They can then share these same beautiful treasures with their own children.
- It will force you to evaluate your homeschool days in light of what’s really important. As I discussed above, you probably won’t have time for morning time without cutting something else out. What really surprised me about doing morning time was how much it made me realize that some of the other things we were doing really just weren’t worth the time. Priorities will be different for every family: some will choose to cut out some worksheets, others might choose to drop a science project or craft, another might find they have more time than they think just by being intentional with how they schedule their days.
So, here’s my challenge to you: give morning time a try for one month. It might be tough at first. Your kids might not know what to think. They might give you blank stares when you ask them to tell you what they saw in a piece of art. They might grumble about having to sit next to their sibling for a whole hour. Give it some time and see what happens! Here are some additional resources to help you get started:
Your Morning Basket podcast with Pam Barnhill
Mere Motherhood by Cindy Rollins
Artist study rotation at Ambleside Online
Read-Aloud Revival booklist with Sarah Mackenzie
Squilt Music Appreciation (stands for Super Quiet UnInterrupted Listening Time!)
I hope that you and your family will find morning time to be as much of a blessing as it has been to us! Morning time has truly “refreshed our homeschool” in more ways than I can even count. Give it a try, and discover how to take your homeschool days from “meat and potatoes” to an abundant feast of ideas!
Do you have a morning time for your homeschool? If so, what does it look like in your home?
About the author:
My name is Jill Courser, and I blog regularly at Full and Generous Life. I’m married to Dan, my high school sweetheart, and together I think we make a pretty awesome team. We have five adventuresome boys, ages 14, 12, 9, 6, and 2. We homeschool using a combination of Charlotte Mason and classical approaches, and are learning together to cultivate a home that is restful, nurturing, productive, and loving. You can connect with me by subscribing to the blog. My favorite place to hang out online lately is Instagram, and you can also find me on Facebook, Pinterest, andTwitter.