Following Beth’s lead, the centerpiece of our home schooling day is Morning Time, a practice promoted especially by Cindy Rollins and Pam Barnhill. Beth and I, being geeks, decided to call it Symposium.

Each day, I gather all four kids (more of less) on the sofa for an hour or two that we all share together. A lot of it is over the heads of the younger kids, but the goal is a shared time.

What did we do yesterday?

  • Morning offering. A traditional song offering God our day, followed by a guardian angel prayer and the Lord’s prayer.
  • Saint of the day. So far I’m lazy and just play a little minute-and-a-half audio clip about whoever happens to be featured by Franciscan Media that day. Yesterday it was Saint Angela Merici. I still need to get together a list of feast days so that we read stories about saints who are important to our family. (Today is Thomas Aquinas!)
  • Bible reading. Today I read from The Jesus Storybook Bible, from a chapter that paraphrases part of the Sermon on the Mount.
  • Hymn: Be Thou My Vision.
  • History. I read about four pages from Story of the World, by Susan Wise Bauer. We reviewed some 17th-century settlements of the Spanish, English, and French in the New World, then read about the explorations of Henry Hudson. This is a very useful textbook, but in the future I’ll need to supplement this slot with picture books from the library like Beth did.
  • Calisthenics. We circle up and do jumping jacks, stretches, things like that.
  • Running laps. Indoors. This is a recent addition and maybe my favorite idea ever.
  • Schoolhouse Rock. These are just excellent. Except for the videos about numbers, which I don’t think accomplish much until kids are older. Yesterday we did “Busy Prepositions,” “Rufus Xavier Sarsaparilla,” and “I’m Just a Bill,” three minutes each.
  • Story Time. Yesterday we did a Grimm’s fairy tale from Andrew Lang’s Blue Fairy Book called “The Tale of a Youth Who Set Out to Learn what Fear Was.” Bizarre story, quite dark.
  • Memorization: We’ve spent the month of January learning “Wintertime,” by Robert Louis Stevenson. Yesterday the two big kids and I took turns reciting the whole thing.

Symposium is usually my favorite part of the day, and the kids are always excited to do it. Length and content vary from day to day, but the touchstones are (1) opening ritual and religious instruction, (2) history lesson, (3) physical activity, (4) story, and (5) memorization.

Homeschooling could easily get bogged down in individual lessons and assignments. Those are part of our day as well, but the point of morning time is to create culture, especially centered around the liberal arts. The message is that we are all in this together, and that our family sets aside a part of the day to focus on what is beautiful, not just what is practical.

2 thoughts on “Morning Time

  1. I love this Scott, thank you. I’m working on trying to figure out how to create “culture” in our own home, but i have a hard time finding practical ways to do this. Your outline of how you do your morning helps me a lot. I struggle getting all five kids in one spot as they are 3 months – 6 years old and it seems I can’t keep their focus. Any ideas there?


    1. Hey, Lauren. I usually let my 2-year old come in and out of the circle depending on what we’re doing, as long as he’s quiet. My almost-6-year-old and almost-8-year-old are expected to pay attention throughout, and then my 4-year-old gets to space out on some parts and shoot baskets or play with legos or whatever. When I read fairy-tales, I stop often to summarize the plot for the 4-year-old and ask him simple questions about what is happening, and that seems to keep his attention for stories at least. I have a big beach-ball globe that helps get their attention for history lessons. When we recite poetry, the 4-year-old gets into it as we spend several weeks on the same poem. And then of course there’s the ipad, which always draws them in for Schoolhouse Rock or whatever. But I don’t want to do that except for small parts of the symposium, or else they won’t learn to pay attention to books. From the podcasts I’ve listened to, I think this is all pretty well within the range of normal. For little kids, I’ve heard a podcasting mom suggest that she likes to lock them in a highchair with a popsicle or other snack, and that might buy mom 15 minutes or more with the other kids. You might try the Pam Barnhill Morning Basket podcast, which I think has some episodes about working with little kids.


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