Morning Time Gathering Homeschool

Our Morning Gathering: Memory, Laughter, and Relationship      

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One simple addition has brought more memory work (and family memories), laughter, and close relationships to our home. A 30-45 minute gathering each day revolutionizes our perspective. It provides the framework for my ultimate goal in education: raising people who believe what is true, honor what is noble, stand uncompromisingly for what is just, keep their desires pure, love things that are lovely, and relish those things that are praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). Our morning gathering lends great joy to this crazy family life.

{Don’t miss my Year of Memory Work: 52 weeks of free videos and printables!}

When reality overwhelms priorities

In the first years of parenting, I had great goal lists. I wanted to incorporate things of beauty and intrigue into our daily life, memorizing poetry, Bible verses and creeds, famous speeches, Shakespeare, and key facts of history/math/etc.  These were the things I claimed were my priorities.

The goal list looked great, but I never figured out how to make it fit into an actual day. By the time we finished math and grammar and our other “essentials,” I was exhausted; the laundry piles were screaming, the kids were done with anything that didn’t come on a screen, and something needed to be thawed for dinner. Those interestingly beautiful things gathered dust on my to-do list and led to increasing despair that my vision for a lovely education was being trounced by reality.

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Morning Time Inspiration

One summer, I was inspired by the work of moms like Sarah Mackenzie (author of  one of my favorite homeschool books, Teaching from Rest), Mystie Winckler, Pam Barnhill, Cindy Rollins, Kendra Fletcher, and others to incorporate something variously called Morningtime or Circle Time or Morning Basket or even Whatchamacallit.

Morning Time is for all families, not just homeschoolers

Is morningtime only for homeschool families?  Certainly not!  It might turn out to be an “eveningtime,” but you can usually find 10 to 30 (or more or less) minutes to include some “morning basket” elements in your family’s day.  Especially if your children are in different schools and classrooms most of the week, including this group time for reveling in truth, goodness, and beauty can be an important part of developing your family’s culture and shared vocabulary.

That’s the why… but, who, what, when, and how?

During morning time in our home, we have incorporated many things that otherwise seem to get left out. Generally it falls in our schedule immediately after breakfast and chores, but I know other families have found that lunchtime or even afternoon works best for them. Even the younger children participate, as morning time becomes another piece of our family culture. The toddler participates in the prayer time consistently and adorably (“Me Repeat!”); the rest of the time he pretty much busies himself with distracting us.

Morning Time IRL
Here is a photo from 4 years ago, one of our early versions of morning time!

The first year, I eased in with an abbreviated routine, valuing consistency over aiming too high and possibly failing. Each year, we add in or alter a few more areas of interest and lots of fun new things to memorize. For much of this memory work, we use a variation on the box system that helpfully incorporates both daily review for new memory work and cyclical review based on day of the week and/or day of the month. My favorite part of this looping review is that we can never get behind; we just do the work assigned for Thursday even if we neglected to do the work on Wednesday!

Our current morningtime schedule

This is what morning time currently looks like for our family:

Prayer
Responsive reading in Latin and English
Vos Story Bible
Bible memory (new and review)
Catechism (3 questions/week)
Poetry loop (Shakespeare, Milton, S, M, S)
Poetry review
History loop (Explorer fan deck, Veritas cards)
10 min read aloud loop {Grimms Fairy Tales, The Glorious Adventure, Poems (various), Make Your Bed}
I am, I ought, I can, I will (recitation of a Charlotte Mason motto)
Prayer
Responsive prayer in Latin and English

[7th grade son now dismissed, although he is welcome to remain with us for further reading.]

Mom reads aloud to girls for 45 minutes: Monday- History, Wednesday- Science, Thursday- History, Friday- Science

Nitty-gritty details

After opening our time in prayer, we recite a historic Christian prayer responsively.  Some days we use the Latin, some days we use the English translation.  I then read aloud from our Vos Story Bible. Next we focus on any new Bible memory passage, review previously-memorized verses based on the day of the month, and practice questions and answers summarizing Christian doctrine from our Catechism.

Then comes a favorite portion of our morningtime: memorizing poetry and other famous passages! Rather than spending lots of time on any one item, we read them enthusiastically in unison one after the other. It is amazing how even after just a few weeks the kids gain so much confidence and recall from mere daily recitations. For shorter passages, we can recite several in a row.  With longer passages we may just read one a day.  Since we continually loop through the same memory work elements week after week, nothing gets left out over time.

Our poetry loop this fall included lots of original sources from the Middle Ages (for a complete list go here).  This spring we are focusing on several passages from Hamlet as well as the opening stanzas of Paradise Lost.  To aid us in our understanding of Shakespeare we have utilized How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare and Tales from Shakespeare.  Using our memory box system we also review previously memorized poems and creeds.

Our reading loop has been such a delight this year.  Our newest addition, Make Your Bed, especially has us enthralled!  Do you know what a S.E.A.L. means when he talks about The Circus or being a Sugar Cookie?

At the end of our family gathering, we go around the room from youngest to oldest for individual prayers. It is an especially favorite time of mine to hear lisping voices pray for often obtuse but always earnest matters. In conclusion, I lead us in another responsive prayer, sometimes in Latin and sometimes in English.

Older children and relationships

Earlier in the fall, I had basically ordered my oldest son away at this point in morningtime to do his own work.  This was a huge shift in our family, since we had always all done our history and science read alouds together in the past. My intention was to not provoke him by providing him the opportunity to get his own work done efficiently.  After all, he and I have already read the titles I’m reading aloud again this year.

But through the fall it seemed that this shift was not helping our family relationships and family culture.  Now, I always try to ensure that he knows he is most welcome to stay and join us.  He is also free to leave and pursue his own work.  Often leaving is what he chooses to do, but sometimes he stays behind, or pops in to hear a little of what we’re reading.  Either way, I think it has felt more peaceful after I made this adjustment.  After all, a huge part of why I do morningtime is for the relationships within our family to grow!

History and Science Read Aloud Loop

This read aloud time is where I share our history core with my elementary age daughters and also read aloud their science text.  Honestly, with an energetic and quite clingy toddler around, this is not the peaceful read aloud time you may be picturing.  Sometimes I find myself reading more and more loudly just to make myself heard over the chaos!  To be completely frank, sometimes one or another of us ends up in tears (he bit me, she’s touching me, etc).  But, as in most things, I find that imperfectly done is better than perfect but undone!

Grab your FREE textbook-free history planning pages here.

Is morning time right for your family?

While it most certainly will look different for every family, the basic concept will assist you in developing a family tradition based on the true and lovely and praiseworthy. If we are, as Philippians admonishes us, to “think on these things,” morningtime (no matter what we call it, or when we do it) can help us incorporate that which lines up with our individual family’s values and interests. Our current history studies mean we have been learning Old English and Renaissance poetry, but perhaps your family wants to memorize the periodic table of elements, enjoy some art study, or relish a particular composer this year.

Do not try to make your morningtime look just like anyone else’s. Start small and simple and just do it every day. When the habit is formed, try adding in something that will bring delight to your own heart. By sharing something that fills you, the parent, with joy, you are giving your children a vision for a future filled with new delightful things to learn even when their school years are over.

Bringing our priorities into our current realities

Morningtime is as simple or as complex as you want it to be, but its greatest gift is the perspective it lends. Because as often as we tell our children that education is more than checking off the boxes and plowing through the books, too often that ends up being all we actually accomplish.  They are left with a philosophy of learning based much more on what we do than on what we say. By using morningtime to fill their minds and imaginations with things that delight and inspire, we fan the flames of a lifelong love of learning.

Other Morning Time Resources

Morning Time Gathering Homeschool

Have you done a version of morning time in your family?  What is your favorite part?  If you haven’t, what obstacles keep you from pursuing it today?  Participate in the Year of Memory Work for fun weekly poetry recitations.  And don’t forget to sign up for my email list for subscriber exclusives!


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29 thoughts on “Our Morning Gathering: Memory, Laughter, and Relationship      ”

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  2. Amy, We have had our version of this over the last 25 years, and I’d like to share with you one of the most impactful. On the morning of September 11, 2001, the children (ages 1-12 1/2) were gathered and reading the “next Psalm” for that day’s gathering in our Midwestern home. My husband was at the nearby Air Force Base preparing to fly a training mission. A few verses into our reading, our phone rang, and seeing it was my mother-in-law in NC, I paused our time and had the children remain occupied at the table while I answered.
    “Have you seen the news?” I had not. “Turn on your tv.” I went to the other room and did so. As my dear mother-in-law explained to me what had happened so far, the two of us witnessed on our television as the second hijacked airplane flew into the 2nd World Trade Center building… and we both wept. Neither of us understood, as the news commentators tried to give a name to what was happening. We quietly finished our call, and I prayed and composed myself to return to our kitchen table. Everyone seemed to put aside their busy work and turn their attention to me (curious, I am sure). I picked up the Bible and skimmed to decide whether to start over or pick up where we left off. Deciding to start over, we heard these words from Psalm 27 (NIV at the time):
    1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—
    whom shall I fear?
    The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
    of whom shall I be afraid?

    2 When the wicked advance against me
    to devour me,
    it is my enemies and my foes
    who will stumble and fall.
    3 Though an army besiege me,
    my heart will not fear;
    though war break out against me,
    even then I will be confident.

    God is so good!!! We paused there and prayed for our President and leadership as they would be called upon to deal with this “attack”, using the Lord’s own Word to pray for the President’s girding up and wisdom, as well as our own. We continued reading that chapter, and the Lord gave me a way to explain to our older children a bit of what was going on and God’s assurances. How precious that God would demonstrate His arms wrapped about us at our little kitchen table in the midst of war breaking out!! Not every day was (nor will be) such a dramatic gathering time, but our Lord cares for us in the wars, the battles, and the simple garden of life. May you witness such provision and grace as you seek to draw your family together, toward Him and toward one another.
    Sincerely,
    Mrs. Mary Cutler

    1. Wow. Thank you so much for sharing this testimony of how God worked through His Word in the midst of such difficult circumstances as you gathered around your table. Those words of Truth which we study, meditate on, and memorize are a source of hope and encouragement. “When I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. Your rod and Your staff comfort me.” It is my prayer that the words we have hidden in our heart would keep us from sin, and would also give us hope when days are dark. Thank you, thank you for sharing this story!

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