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Discovering the joy of morning time

What morning time looks like for our homeschooling family

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, this post probably isn’t a surprise to you; I’ve been a bit obsessed with this whole morning time thing for the past few weeks! But from the first time we sat down to intentionally do this, I’ve known it was exactly what our homeschool had been missing, and I just can’t help but share my excitement.

The idea of a morning time routine is not new. It’s fairly common in preschool circles (where it’s often called circle time), and it’s something we’ve tried in various forms at different times during this homeschool journey as well. But no matter how hard I tried, it hasn’t ever really stuck for us. I always felt like it was forced and like I was frenetically jumping from one topic to another, and I have a horrible habit of overstuffing any new routine so that it feels overwhelming and stressful.

But more than that, I don’t think I ever really had a vision for why we were doing morning time, other than it sounded like a good thing to do.

It’s a pretty ridiculous time for me to be implementing such a drastic change to our homeschool routine: Sean is in the process of starting an interior paint and trim business and often gone for 10-12 hours a day, we’re about to welcome a new baby, and I have an almost-full-time job that I love. If anything, I’m feeling stretched and stressed already by our schedule, so why would I set aside two hours each day on top of everything else on our plate?

What morning time looks like for our homeschooling family

Quite honestly, it’s because I caught the vision of why for myself. This may not be why everybody does morning time, but for me, there are two main motivations: one (and most importantly) when things get rough if all we get done is morning time and math, we can consider the school day a success.

The other reason—which I didn’t fully “get” until we’d actually started doing it—is that it allows us to recapture our reasons for homeschooling in the first place:

  • we start our day together, so we’re building relationships (and there is a noticeable difference in how well the girls get along on the days we having morning time, enough so that we’ve done it for the past two Saturdays as well!)
  • we focus on great books, poems, composers, and artists, so we can recapture the wonder in our homeschool that just ticking through our academics doesn’t always afford
  • we’re learning in a one-room schoolhouse type environment, so our littles are hearing things that they may not fully understand yet but beginning to learn the grammar of those topics and the bigs are getting to lead conversations

On a practical note, the girls also do a much better job at paying attention during memory work when I’m sitting right with them and keeping them on track (this is a no-brainer because of course they do better, but it’s been a nice side effect even though it wasn’t my original goal).

What morning time looks like for our homeschooling family

So, what does morning time look like for us?

First, please know that I am not an expert on this topic. We are only a few weeks into this experiment, and I’m still figuring out what it will look like for us. I’m also avoiding reading too much about morning time now that I have the basics under my belt because I really want this to be our family’s routine and not an attempt to recreate someone else’s.

(As a side note, morning time for many people is as short as 20-30 minutes. We set aside two hours for ours each morning because it includes our read-alouds and my girls are all fairly close in age, so I can do a lot of my teaching during that time as well.)

When I first caught the vision for being intentional about trying this for our routine (from both Sarah Mackenzie and Heidi Scovel), I knew that I needed to be careful not to overdo it in my enthusiasm if I really wanted it to stick.

That means I did read through Cindy Rollin’s Morning Time Moms blog for ideas on what morning time looks like in her home, but I did not buy Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket package (even though it looks wonderful), because I didn’t want to give myself a whole list of “shoulds” that I wouldn’t be able to keep up with.

It also means we started out really slow with just a poem and a read-aloud and have slowly been adding more to the routine as we go. I made myself a quick little grid of the areas I want to cover each day, and I actually fill it in each morning rather than planning it out ahead of time (as with our spiral notebooks, planning it on a daily basis allows me to be more realistic rather than setting lofty, and unattainable, goals).

This week we’ve worked up to doing something for each category or topic. While there are still things I’d love to add in theory, we’re already pushing two hours a morning, and we simply don’t have more time than that in between meals and chores and other school work and a toddler and (soon!) new baby to care for.

For us, morning time is a time to:

  • review our day and talk about what’s on each of the girls’ checklists
  • start with Bible time and prayer
  • learn new hymns, poems and other short passages
  • do CC memory work together
  • discover the joy and wonder of art and music
  • cover our language arts lessons in a group setting
  • read aloud—poetry, picture books and chapter books—together

My goal is to set aside one day every 4-5 days to play a game together in place of some of the other topics—and yesterday we took a walk to collect leaves and enjoy the beautiful fall day—but I haven’t quite figured out what playing board games is going to look like with a busy two-year-old in our midst!

What morning time looks like for our homeschooling family

Last week, when I felt like we had settled into a good routine and this was going to stick (often times, my new ideas don’t stick, but I honestly knew this one would from the first day we did it because it just had such a big impact and the girls love it so much!), Sean got me a “morning time basket” of my own from Home Goods ($12!), and I pulled together a morning time binder, which holds our daily grid, master lists for our morning time, chores, other checklists, individual poems and passages I’d like us to memorize in the future, resources for language arts and math, and more!

It will be interesting to see how this routine changes with Lucas’ birth—in some ways, it feels like the perfect way to get us through those early newborn weeks and in others it feels like it’s about to get a whole lot harder while trying to juggle a toddler and a newborn. But overall I love that it offers us flexibility in what exactly we do each day while still creating a predictable routine for our mornings!

Does your family practice morning time? What is your vision for this time?