Morning time: what it is, whether or not it’s only for homeschoolers, and how we structure ours

Over two years ago, when my oldest was in first grade at a local public school, and I began exploring the idea of homeschooling, the term “morning time” kept coming up in various places where I researched. Some homeschoolers term this “morning basket” or “circle time,” but the principle of the concept remains the same, regardless of how the elements differ from family to family.

What is morning time?

So, what is it? Pam Barnhill calls Cindy Rollins the “mother of morning time,” and defines it this way: “Morning Time is the simple and worthwhile practice of setting aside time to pursue truth, beauty, and goodness together. Morning Time is flexible and can be adjusted to suit different seasons of family life. Morning Time invites the active participation of everyone involved, as children and parent learn and wonder together.” Barnhill is known in the homeschooling world for her excellent resources in having a morning basket time. She puts the concept together in a very clear and helpful way, with simple ideas for how to get started. Her podcast was so helpful for me as I tiptoed into understanding it more. She goes on to say, “A Morning Basket is a time in the day when everyone in the family can come together and learn together about specific subjects. All ages can homeschool together doing activities like reading aloud, studying the arts, or even efficiently combining students for subjects like history and science.” I will link a blog post by Pam below, which I highly recommend you read if you’re curious to understand the concept of morning time better!

The more I began considering the idea of morning time, the more I loved the principle behind it, and the more I wanted to set aside time intentionally for our family to gather to celebrate truth, goodness and beauty. I knew this was a change that needed to happen in our family culture, and I decided to start immediately, trusting that the principle was what mattered, not necessarily the timing or elements, or whether or not my kids were still in public school. Want to know how it looked with this immediate, imperfect and unconventional start?

  • we read the Bible everyday
  • I chose a few books we already had, and read a little from each one each day – My Little Book of Prayers and Big Thoughts for Little People
  • We started reading a chapter a night from The Wingfeather Saga
  • we did a Bedtime Math riddle
  • we did this at night before bedtime (yes, not even in the morning)
  • we were still public schooling (yes, this can be done by any family in any season!)

See how simple that is? It cost us nothing except time. And what else would I rather spend my time doing, except learning to pursue and celebrate truth, goodness and beauty with my family? As a friend of mine wrote so beautifully in this post, we need to understand that one of the best ways to raise our children is not necessarily to keep them away from everything bad in the world, but instead to help the cultivate a taste for the good, the true, the beautiful – that way when they see the counterfeit options the world offers, they recognize it and don’t want it. They’ve tasted what glorifies God already. That’s what morning time is for our family.

Now, two years later, I’ve followed several different sets of morning time plans – some I pieced together on my own, like right when quarantine hit and we got to test our new homeschooling life. I added in a hymn of the month, and we started doing a 5 minute audio composer study from Classics for Kids, and reading a sonnet by Shakespeare. I utilized free morning time plans from Pam Barnhill, A Gentle Feast, and other random places, and we eventually added in daily free copywork pages.

I share these early beginnings with you to encourage you to start – yes, even today! Open up your Bible and just start reading – start with Psalms or Proverbs on one of the gospels – even Genesis! Sing a song together. Choose some picture books you already have. Do this over breakfast, dinner or some other treat (even if it’s crackers and cheese, or apple slices). Don’t overthink it; just remember the principle – a time to gather the whole family together to celebrate truth, goodness and beauty.

How we do morning time currently

Since officially switching to homeschooling, we chose a Charlotte Mason inspired curriculum that includes a set of beautiful morning time plans. I simply take the elements in our guide and schedule it into our week, making changes here and there. A Gentle Feast encourages families to see the schedule as a framework, and we can arrange them how we see fit for our unique families, seasons, and circumstances.

You can see a brief overview of how we do morning time in this blog post. One question that arises when discussing morning time is how to review all of the memory or recitation work that one covers over the course of a child’s education. Since we change poems, hymns, scripture passages, folk songs, etc. every 4-12 weeks, how do we go back and review those previously memorized elements? That’s what I show you in this video.

Ultimately, let’s remember this lovely quote from Cindy Rollins, which frequently guides my motivation behind what we are doing.

“Morning time is a way to collect little grains of sand. It should not be a way to complicate life but rather simplify it…you are never going to have a lot of time, but you do have a little time here and a little time there, and those little times all add up to a life.” – Cindy Rollins, Mere Motherhood

Keep investing in those little grains of sand, friends. They add up to more than we’ll potentially ever realize. But we can trust the Father to be faithful to use these moments of truth, goodness and beauty in both our hearts and the hearts of those we gather with around our tables and hearths.

***

Resources

Our curriculum, A Gentle Feast, has morning time plans available.

Brighter Day Press also has great morning time plans we enjoy using for holidays, as well as daily ones that close friends of ours enjoy and love.

What is a morning basket? by Pam Barnhill

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