So ingrained in my pysche is the need to tackle and “tick off” difficult daily tasks first, before treating myself to the pleasures of the more joyful activities on my list, that it only seemed natural to home educate in this same manner. This meant beginning our days with the hardest subject: either maths or writing. I was so keen to use what I considered to be their optimal learning time for the difficult topics, that without realising it, we started to lose our home ed passion. On the surface, we were achieving a lot, but something was missing. It was starting to become a struggle to get them going in the morning and it all just felt a bit too formulaic and well, like school…
And then I read this article and this one, about opening the day with what you love. I hopped from one article to the next and realised that many experienced homeschoolers were advocating starting the day with joy, beauty and pleasure, in the form of prayers, singing, great literature & poetry, art & music appreciation, languages and really anything else that you love doing. This time is known under various guises – Morning Time, Circle Time, Morning Basket, Coffee & Books – and is an opportunity for the family to come together and connect in a positive way.
Initially, despite the weight of supportive evidence for such an approach, I was skeptical. I was worried that by the time they’d reach the harder parts of the day, they’d be too tired. But, one of the advantages of home education is that you can mix things up and try new techniques, and if they don’t work, you simply revert back to your status quo. So, I spent some time planning what a Morning Basket would look like for us, and we put it to the test.
I can honestly say that it has transformed our home education experience in the most positive way. We love this time together, sharing beautiful books, playing games, memorising favourite poems and singing hymns with gusto! We tend to be energised rather than tired afterwards, ready to tackle anything. They’d happily do Morning Basket every day if they could, even at the weekends and in holiday time.
Interestingly, on days where I’ve dropped the Morning Basket, in order to give us an earlier finish time, the days just don’t seem to flow. They seem off kilter and we’re all a little agitated. Odd as it may seem, the Morning Basket soothes us, and sets us up for the day with a positive frame of mind, allowing us to manage any stresses more effectively, and focus on opportunities.
The contents of our Morning Basket tend to change on a weekly basis, although some aspects remain consistent over a longer period. I thought I’d use this space to share what we cover each week and in the process hopefully provide some inspiration. So here’s what we covered this week:
1. The Fundamentals (10 mins daily)
These are the parts of the Morning Basket that remain the same throughout the week, including prayers, gratitude and singing. Firstly, we each chose a prayer to recite together, from A Child’s Prayers in Verse or the Catholic Book of Prayers for Children. Then, a turn is taken to talk about what we’re feeling grateful for in our lives. This is a new addition that I included after reading Raising Happiness by Christine Carter, and realising the importance of practising gratitude for improving our overall happiness. It’s having a very positive effect so far. Put perfectly by William James (1842-1910):
The greatest revolution of our generation is the discovery that human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.
Finally, we conclude this section with a hymn, and our selection this week is This Little Light of Mine, a hymn loved by us all. We tend to really belt this one out and finish feeling very invigorated! We only change the hymns every 3 or 4 weeks, enjoying, practising and memorising them without conscious effort.
2. Memorisation (10 mins daily)
Our Morning Basket always includes an element of memorisation, be it the chemical elements, poetry or Shakespeare. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the children LOVE this part. They genuinely squeak with excitement when I pull out the How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare book and delight in playing with the cleverly constructed Shakespearean lines or reciting a piece to a family member. They even invented Shakespeare swimming, which involves performing a passage with feeling and then jumping into the pool as a grand finale!
Memorisation has been scientifically proven to improve working memory, which in turn allows us to think and solve problems more effectively and creatively. It provides exercise for the brain and trains it to develop learning and memory schemas that facilitate future learning.
But even more than that, it fills up their souls with rich, beautiful language, and offers the chance to play with words and practice performing in a safe environment. My daughter is desperate to be an actress and this is hands down her favourite part of homeschool.
In this week’s chapter from the book, they learned about the concept of Carpe Diem, ‘Seize the day’, and memorised part of a love song that Feste, the wise fool in Twelfth Night, sings.
What is love? ‘Tis not hereafter.
Present mirth hath present laughter.
What’s to come is still unsure.
In delay there lies no plenty.,
Then come kiss me sweet and twenty.
Youth’s a stuff will not endure.
The author, Ken Ludwig, explains the meaning of each of the words & lines in the passage, making it accessible to children. He also describes how Shakespeare uses both a contraction (youth’s) and an omission (that) to retain the proper number of rythmical beats (in this example four) in the last line. ‘Youth is a stuff that will not endure’ would not scan properly. And finally, he demonstrates how Shakespeare turns adjectives into nouns. In this case sweet and twenty, normally adjectives, are changed into nouns identifying a young, beautiful woman. They even learned the technical term for this, metonymy. Ken’s book has been a wonderful addition to our homeschool.
3. Language (10mins daily)
We’re studying Spanish as a family and so from Mon-Weds each week, we spend 10mins a day on either 52 weeks of Spanish, our Michel Thomas CDs or just learning new vocabulary. This week we reviewed the vocabulary we’d memorised over the last few weeks about rooms and objects found in the house, practising the pronunciation and the spellings.
On Thursdays, we pull out a new Latin or Greek root card from this fantastic set, learn the meaning and memorise a couple of English language derivatives. We also do a quick review of previous cards.
On Fridays, we pick another vocabulary word from Phenomenal, The Small Book of Big Words, a book which the children think is hilarious. Each word has a meaning, synonyms, antonyms and two very funny examples of how it might be used. To give you an idea, the example used for ‘Aberration’ is: ‘In a moment of aberration, Grandpa got up from the table and set fire to a fart!’ Toilet humour is always a hit in our house!
4. Rotating section (30mins Mon-Thurs)
The main chunk of our Morning Basket varies each week, and can include areas such as:
- making art and art appreciation
- music appreciation (we use SQUILT, which is brilliant)
- history, science and geography picture books supporting the topic we’re covering
- maths puzzles
- nature study
We’re about to start a mini project on Thailand and coral reefs (one of Bean7’s latest obsessions), so this week they spent some time drawing a detailed map of South East Asia using the excellent Draw Asia:Volume II by Kristin J. Draeger.
To finish off our Morning Basket time, we’ve taken to going for a 15min walk around our woods, tracking the progress of spring (our first daffodil bloomed this week) and having a quick go on the zip wire! After this, they’re refreshed and raring to go!
It’s been a fun week and according to the children, the Shakespeare and map drawing elements were their definite highlights.
What’s in your Morning Basket this week?