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Morning Time (MT), Morning Basket, whatever you want to call it, is not something that I really thought all that much about when I was planning my son’s Kindergarten year in 2016. I had heard it mentioned on The Mason Jar and seen sites like Pam Barnhill, but I didn’t really think I needed it since I didn’t have multiple kids I was schooling. And, to be perfectly honest, it also just sounded like another “thing” I needed to plan and schedule in our routine. I was already feeling pretty overwhelmed with trying to bring everything else together so I certainly didn’t want to add anything more unless it was absolutely necessary.
But as with many things in my life, what I thought wasn’t all that great an idea at first actually started to grow on me and I decided to look at it a little more to see how it might fit into our own homeschool routine. I think what helped a lot was how Cindy Rollins described it on her website and during The Mason Jar Podcast….that MT is really whatever you need it to be. There’s no set schedule or topics that have to be covered. It’s just a time to make sure all the little things that might fall through the cracks, like composer study or picture study or hymns, etc., have a place to live in the schedule as well as other things you might want to include that aren’t part of whatever curriculum you’re using. While I was fairly certain I wouldn’t let those things fall through the cracks, I liked the idea of starting our days the same way with a specific set of readings/prayers/songs/etc. that I wanted to be important in our family.
You can read about how our Kindergarten MT looked here. Recently, I posted a picture on Instagram of our most recent MT routine and I had several people ask if I could share the file with them, so I thought I might revisit the topic and talk about our First Grade year MT and, of course, share the file. 🙂 So this post will be about how we did it this past year during my son’s first year of Ambleside Online, though it will probably look pretty similar with Year 2 which we’re starting at the end of August. One of the best parts about MT is that it can be ever-evolving and changing to whatever I need or want it to be, so it very well could look different for next year!
What to Include
Cindy Rollins wrote a whole series of posts (and wrote a book!) with a LOT of ideas for things to schedule during MT as well as how to do it. There is also an excellent recording of a MT Immersion talk she gave at a conference last year that helps to give an idea of what it looked like in her family. These are the resources I’ve used to think about what types of things I might want to add to our own MT.
She mentioned in some place or another that her family’s MT (with up to 9 kids being homeschooled) was about 2 hours. I’ve heard this for some other people with older kids as well. For us, last year it was about 45 minutes and I think at this point with the kids at the age that they are I probably wouldn’t want to make it any longer than that so I haven’t added some of the longer things she and others have suggested, eg. reading a book together (with no narration), memorizing things like the Constitution, etc. These might be added in as the kids get older, but I think right now I’ve been wanting to keep it simple.
So my basic list was prayer, hymn, folksong, composer study, and picture study, but what else? One of the first things I noticed in her series of posts was that she offered up a lot of poetry for memorization. We did cover poetry outside of MT, but I loved the idea of including more during MT to fulfill our recitation “requirement.” I also had to memorize poems when I was in school, many of which have stuck with me, and I’ve always been appreciative that I learned those (despite how much of a drag I thought they were at the time ☺️) For us, four stanzas at four lines each is just about right, though I may stretch that a bit this year.
We started learning Spanish last year and when I was scheduling everything, I also wasn’t sure where to put that. I knew we would be going over phrases and also learning songs, but each would be very, very short so I decided they were prime candidates for MT. Also, during B’s Kindergarten year, I did a nursery rhyme per day and I wanted to keep going with that for C’s sake as she takes part in MT with us, so that was on the list as well.
I also wanted us to memorize prayers. I did not grow up in a church that believed in pre-written prayers (aside from the Lord’s Prayer), so I’ve really only started digging in to them in recent years and many are so, so beautiful. During B’s Kindergarten year, we started with the very basics and memorized the Lord’s Prayer, which we now recite every day at the end of MT. But I also wanted to learn others. St. Francis’s prayer was the one we focused on last year, and this year I haven’t quite decided yet what we’ll do, but our church recites one together after communion each Sunday and I think that might be a good one with which to start. In the immersion talk I linked to above, Cindy mentioned and recited The Confession of Sin from the Penitential Order: Rite II that we use in our church before communion. The BCP has a lot of other very beautiful options as well.
There were two more small things that she mentioned that she included also: a doxology at the beginning and a benediction at the end of MT, both of which we also do in our church, so I included those as well.
Once I had the list of things I wanted to include, scheduling was fairly straightforward. Of course we start with a prayer which is usually brief, then the doxology, and then this last year we recited St. Francis’s Prayer. This started at the beginning of the year with me just reading it from my MT sheet every day and then eventually the kids joined in. I was going to move on to a new one during Term 2, but honestly, this one was just so good that I really wanted it to be part of our regular time so I kept using it through the end of the year.
That’s followed by hymn/folksong time (these along with picture/composer study are set by our co-op, but we used the AO schedules last year). At the beginning of the year, I had us singing both songs during this time but since we were taking six weeks to cover the songs instead of four as we had the previous year (our co-op only schedules two songs per term in each subject rather than three as AO does), I decided to alternate with hymns on Mondays and Wednesday and folksongs on Tuesdays and Thursdays (we don’t have MT on Fridays those are either co-op or nature hike days). I read the lyrics from our MT sheet (I include both on the same page) once and then I play the song through Plex on our TV and we sing it together so that by the end of the six weeks, we all have it memorized. This worked really well and also shortened our MT.
This is followed by picture/composer study. For his Kindergarten year and the beginning of Year 1, we only did picture study during this time which consisted of us sitting together on the couch and discussing whatever piece we were looking at that week. Because we introduce the new pieces in our co-op meetings every other Friday, by the time we were looking at them during MT, B had already had a chance to narrate that particular piece. So this time was really just used for questions and more discussion. As we moved further into the year and I spent more time at co-op seeing how composer study was done there, I decided I wanted it to be part of our MT time as well so I alternated that as well with picture study on Mondays and Wednesdays and composer study on Tuesdays and Thursdays. I tried a few different things…. playing just the tracks from whatever song was assigned that week through Plex on our TV, reading a biography, and then also finding videos of live performances on YouTube of the assigned music which we would watch together through our Roku on the TV. By far, the live performances were the most popular with both kids so I’m planning to do that alone this year. I think it fosters a better relationship with the music anyway and they get a chance to see instruments in action.
That is followed by a little poetry time. We learn a new poem each month, and I often try to make these appropriate to the season. In planning for Year 2, I’ve also chosen a few from 101 Famous Poems as per Cindy’s recommendation as well. Every day I read the poem and eventually the kids join in with me (amazingly quickly at times) and then on the last school day of the month, I have B stand up in front of us and recite the poem without me reading along. Our co-op also hosts a family night twice a year, one of which is used for the kids to showcase what they’ve been learning and many of them recite poems. I really hope B decides that he wants to join in on that this year!
After we read that one, we review one that we’ve memorized in the past. I’ve got a little notebook where I’ve written them all down and we just go through that chronologically, reading just one poem every day. It’s been good to keep them fresh in our minds.
That’s followed by a nursery rhyme from The Real Mother Goose and then we move on to Spanish. This evolved in many ways throughout the year as well. Originally we started with the phrases/words from Speaking Spanish with Ms. Mason and François which we would only work on for about five minutes per day (I still really need to read the Teacher’s Guide for this…I think I might be doing it wrong) and then we’d sing a song from Diez Deditos with a new one every two weeks.
About halfway through the year, I asked B how he would change MT and one of the things he suggested was to sing the songs first, so I flipped that around and then added a review time each Monday. So we sing a song we’ve already memorized each Monday (just going chronologically through the book) and then sing our new song Tuesday through Thursday (I rip them from the CD [which was cheaper used than the MP3 album] and also play these through Plex on our TV), sticking with each song for an entire month instead of just two weeks. This ended up working out much better in terms of really learning the songs and we’ll continue to do this next year. For the Spanish words/phrases, I also added a review for that on Mondays and then we go over new stuff Tuesday through Thursday until B can recite it perfectly and without help.
After that is the Lord’s Prayer and then a Benediction (I say “The Lord be with you, B,” and he says, “and also with you”) and then we’re done with MT.
Again, all told this usually lasts around 45 minutes. Very, very occasionally, there were days when we’d skip it if we had something going on that day or people weren’t feeling well but we still had school or something else was going on, but I did it every day if I could.
A few things I’ve been thinking about adding are grammar lessons or doing a free read during that time (which is difficult when the kids are 3.5 years apart), but for now we’re sticking with this.
What has really helped with all of this is having it all on one sheet of paper. So before the start of each month, I load up my MT sheet in Google Docs and insert all of the words/lyrics/etc. that I will need for us that month. This way I have a sort of checklist for each thing we do as well as all of the words to things I may not have memorized yet right in front of me. Of course there are a few exceptions to having the words writte down… Our opening prayer is just a regular prayer so no need for anything pre-written there and the doxology we already have memorized. I write out all of the words for the prayer we’re currently learning as well as all the verses of the hymn and folksong. I don’t write anything down for picture study or composer study, though the main reason for that was because I didn’t have a list ahead of time for composer and I knew the picture studies by heart as I taught them in co-op, so there was no need. It’s probably a good idea to include those, though, just as a reminder. I wrote out all of the words for the poem we were currently memorizing, but the review poems are all in the notebook in the picture above which I keep in my school cart. I don’t write out the words for our Spanish song because they’re all in the Diez Deditos book, so I just pull that out when the time comes. And our Spanish words/phrases are all in the Speaking Spanish book, so that lives in the cart as well. The Lord’s Prayer and benediction are also from memory.
If you’re interested in the layout that I use, you can use the button below to view and download our May 2018 Morning Time routine! Let me know if you have any questions!