When I first sat down to plan out my son’s kindergarten year, I had no idea what Morning Time was. I think I had seen it mentioned on a few sites, but knowing that it wasn’t “required” as part of our chosen curriculum (AmblesideOnline or AO), as well as the fact that the thought of implementing yet another homeschooling “thing” into our schedule with rules and requirements was daunting at best, I decided to skip it.
Little did I know that those mothers who homeschooled multiple children for several years were on to something (imagine that!). When I actually started scheduling all of this stuff and wondering where certain things would fit, Morning Time kept popping up its little head in the back of my mind, humbly reminding me that perhaps it could be of assistance. How could I get all of these “riches” in when there wasn’t something really tangible to do? Should I skip the folk song? Or the hymn? And what about recitation? Picture study was a little more tangible as there was something to sit and look at, but the others? Not so much.
Around the same time, I also started listening to the Mason Jar podcast, co-hosted by Cindy Rollins who used Morning Time heavily when homeschooling her own nine children. She kept mentioning Morning Time and how she used it in her family and I decided to give it another look to see how we could work it into our schedule.
I think when I finally understood that there aren’t necessarily hard and fast rules for Morning Time, I figured there was no risk in at least trying to make my own version. I ended up loving it and have used it ever since.
What is morning time?
Morning Time works so perfectly for any size family. If you have one student, it can be a good time to make sure some of the shorter things you’d like to cover, like picture study, composer study, hymns and folk songs, etc., don’t fall through the cracks. For larger families with multiple children, it’s also a good time to include several subjects, texts, poems, etc. that you want to cover with all of your students at the same time. I also like the idea of it being more fluid and flexible than the rest of the schedule, meaning that what’s being covered, read, sung, or memorized can change from month to month. You can even includes things like extra readings or memorization that are important to your family but not necessarily part of your curriculum spine.
Basically, Morning Time is whatever you want it to be.
I have also found that it’s an excellent way for us to transition from breakfast/chore time to our school time. Especially for children of the kindergarten age who sometimes struggle with transitioning from one activity to another, this is our way to say, okay, we’re changing gears and gathering in our school room to start our lesson time. Let’s take it slow and start with some simple but calming things like praying, singing, and reading poetry. I have also observed that often when we skip Morning Time for whatever reason, our lesson time is a little less peaceful, even as my students have gotten older.
When my son started school, I began with an extremely basic Morning Time routine as I still wanted to keep things very short for his kindergarten year. As I’ve mentioned before that his entire kindergarten lesson time from beginning to end was about 45 minutes, with about half of that being Morning Time. As both of my kids get older and can sit for longer periods of time, I do plan to add other things so it will get longer. I’ve seen some homeschoolers adding chapter books (not narrated), memorizations like the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence, and sentence diagramming for grammar during this time. It’ll be interesting to see how it evolves, but as I laid it out below, this was perfect for his kindergarten year.So here is how our very simple Morning Time routine looked….
We always start our school time with prayer even when we skip Morning Time. This is a way to emphasize that the Holy Spirit is the supreme educator (which takes some pressure off mom)!
This is the standard doxology, sung:
Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heavenly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen.
Bible Reading (daily)
We read one story per day. For kindergarten, I have used The Jesus Storybook Bible, The Children of God Storybook Bible, and The Children’s Story Bible during this time, usually reading one story per day. I think The Jesus Storybook Bible is perfect for pre-school-aged children and The Children’s Story Bible is perfect for kindergarten. When I went through the latter with my daughter during her kindergarten year, we read three stories from the New Testament the first three days of the week and then a story from the Old Testament on the last day.
I originally thought I might skip the folksongs, which are part of the AO schedule, because I wasn’t sure why to include them. However, thinking back on my own elementary school days, I actually do fondly remember the cheesy Stephen Foster songs we’d sing in music class (with the boys screaming “REFRAIN” when the chorus came around) and even all these years later, I can still conjure up at least most of the words to Old Dan Tucker. It’s part of folk history, American and otherwise, and it’s also kind of fun. 🙂
This can be very loose and doesn’t necessarily have to follow a specific curriculum, though they can be helpful if you’re not sure what to include. The AO folksong rotation is a good place to find suggestions. I know many AO families like to use the free version of the songs on YouTube or elsewhere, but at usually only around a dollar per song on Amazon (or free on Freegal!), I like to buy them so I can put them on the kids’ little music players during the term and they can listen whenever they want. We also already have a lot of Elizabeth Mitchell’s music, which are mostly folk songs, and I found these to be perfect for the kindergarten year. For my son, we did the following:
- September: Shoo Fly
- October: Loch Lomond
- November: This Land is Your Land
- December: Frosty the Snowman
- January: The Fish of the Sea (this one is no longer available on Amazon)
- February: There’s a Hole in the Bottom of the Sea (this one is no longer available on Amazon)
- March: With My Swag All on My Shoulder
- April: The Rhyme of the Chivalrous Shark
- May: You Are My Flower
I usually alternate this with our hymn so we sing each twice per week.
This was another part of the AO schedule that I thought about skipping, but again, it came down to memories for me. The church I attended when I was young sang more traditional hymns and I loved being able to offer these to my kids as well as the church we attend now doesn’t do this. I also download this through Amazon or Freegal and put it on the kids’ music players as well. Here’s what we did during my son’s kindergarten year:
- September: Lord I Believe Thy Power I Own (I couldn’t find a buyable version of this and wasn’t comfortable enough with trying to find one on my own, so I just played a YouTube version and called it good)
- October: Take My Life and Let It Be (this introduced me to Mary Barrett who I love now)
- November: Be Still My Soul (Libera is amazing)
- December: Silent Night
- January: Be Thou My Vision (this one rekindled my love of Michael Card)
- February: My Hope is Built
- March: Praise to the Lord, The Almighty
- April: Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven
- May: Come Thou Fount
Again, we alternate folksongs and hymns, so we sing each twice per week.
We read one nursery rhyme per day from The Real Mother Goose. My daughter especially liked this part each day.
Picture Study (once/week – alternated with composer study/poem recitation review/foreign language song)
Picture study, which is the practice of allowing students to develop a relationship with a piece of art, is perfect for children and students of any age. It’s so simple that it really does work well for even your youngest students and my daughter participated in my son’s picture study sessions even before she was in kindergarten. We look at six works from one artist over the course of a 12-week term with two weeks per piece (I offer picture study aids and prints for this purpose, or you can also use the AO artist study rotation).
I have it laid out in detail here, but to summarize, in the first week let your students look at a piece of art for a few minutes quietly on their own, then remove if from their view and have them tell back to you what they remember about the piece. If this isn’t a practice you’ve been doing in your house prior to kindergarten, you may need to model this for them a few times and that’s okay. Also, it’s not meant to be a quiz, so you don’t need to make sure they’re remembering every part of the painting! This is really just their way of telling you what parts stood out to them and what they noticed in particular, which will allow them to embed that piece in their memory. Then you can flip it back over and talk about it together.
In the second week, look at the piece together again and have them tell you anything they remember about it from your previous discussion. You can also ask open-ended questions like, “how do you think it feels in this scene (eg. hot, cold, wet, dry, etc.)?” or “what do you think you would hear if you were in this scene?” or “what do you think they’re talking about or that person is looking at/thinking about?” These are just questions to really get them to think more about the piece in a personal way. Also, it’s okay if they say they don’t like it! Regardless of how they feel about it, they’re still developing a relationship with that piece.
I usually alternate this with other parts of Morning Time, like composer study, poem review, or reviewing a foreign language song, so we only do it once per week.
Composer Study (once/week – alternated with composer study/poem recitation review/foreign language song)
My favorite way to do composer study at this age is to watch a live recording of a performance and then talk about what we heard. I usually ask the kids what they stood out to them in the music, what instruments they remember hearing, and how the music “felt” (meaning, was it happy? sad? upbeat? dramatic? etc.). You can check the AO composer rotation to see who the composer is for a given term and then find a playback of a live recording of any of their pieces (it doesn’t necessarily have to follow the listed pieces) on YouTube.
I usually only have us watch it for about five minutes and if it’s a particularly long recording (which they usually are), we’ll break it up over several weeks. I also add these to my kids’ music players.
Foreign Language Song (once/week – alternated with composer study/poem recitation review/foreign language song)
If you’d like to add some foreign language exposure to your Morning Time, a simple way to do this is to listen to songs in your chosen language. We focused on one song per month, listening to the recording and singing along if we could. You can find many foreign language folk songs on YouTube or, if you’re interested in Spanish, we have really enjoyed Diez Deditos and De Colores. This is another song I add to the kids’ music players.
Walter Scott said, “Teach your children poetry; it opens the mind, lends grace to wisdom and makes the heroic virtues hereditary.” And so we read a poem every day, focusing on one poet per week, from Favorite Poems Old and New. This is just a simple reading with no commentary (natural discussion is fine) or narration requirements.
We also have one poem that we work on for recitation each month. On average, depending on the length of the poem, it took us about four to six weeks to memorize one. These are the ones we did for my son’s kindergarten year:
- September: The Mist and All
- October: A Bed in the Leaves
- November: The First First Thanksgiving of All
- December: Long, Long Ago
- January: Months
- February/March: All Things Bright and Beautiful
- April: The Grass
- May: For a Child (this has become my mantra for homeschooling)
I have a special notebook where I write down all of the poems we’ve learned for recitation along with the date that each child recited it. We usually read a poem we’ve already learned from this once per week (see how we rotate this above with picture study/composer study/foreign language song) during morning time. Obviously you’ll have a lot of repetition with this when you first start in kindergarten, but it’s fun to read back on ones we’ve learned in previous years.
Lord’s Prayer (daily)
We end our Morning Time with the Lord’s Prayer. If your kids don’t have this memorized, you reciting it with them every day is a great way to learn it!
This is a standard benediction with you saying, “The Lord be with you, (insert child’s name here),” and them responding with, “And also with you.”
Of course, there are other things I could easily put in here that we do during our day outside of Morning time…copywork (covered in detail here and another good time to listen to your composer), Bible verse memorization (we do this before breakfast), literature reading, etc. But I liked to keep it simple since our kindergarten time was already very short. I know Morning Time will change as we get further into this homeschooling thing and I’m excited to think about what else we might be able to add in the future!