If you’ve been homeschooling for any length of time, you’ve probably heard Morning Time mentioned. If you’re anything like me, you might even be doing some kind of Morning Time without realising it. We started calling it Morning Time about November last year, when we added a hymn to our regular morning Bible and prayer time. Earlier this year, I received an e-copy of Pam Barnhill’s new book Better Together: strengthen your family, simplify your homeschool, and savor the subjects that matter most for review purposes, and let me tell you – it has opened my eyes to just how wonderful Morning Time can be.
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Morning Time is basically a period of time in your homeschool day, set aside for learning together as a family, covering the subjects that would otherwise get pushed aside. At the moment it takes us about an hour. We start all together on the couch, but Rafe gets up after about ten minutes to play with one of his busy boxes. On Tuesdays I teach a midday drama class, so our Morning Time is shorter so that we can get through our other school work before we need to leave the house. On Fridays and during our break weeks when we don’t do school, we have a short Morning Time to pray, read the Bible, sing a hymn, and snuggle together on the couch with our current readaloud. Right now we’re reading S.D. Smith’s The Green Ember. (I am so tempted to read ahead!)
If you aren’t entirely sure what the whole Morning Time deal is, then Pam Barnhill’s new book Better Together is for you. Pam Barnhill is a former teacher and now homeschool momma of three. She writes about Morning Time and homeschool encouragement. She also hosts the podcasts, The Homeschool Solutions Show, Your Morning Basket and Homeschool Snapshots. (I’ve listened to her so often lately that I had her voice in my head as I read.)
What I love about Morning Time
“The efficiency of Morning Time allows us to introduce the entire family to many more ideas than we could ever experience working independently.” – Pam Barnhill
Better Together explains why Morning Time is so vital. It gives our children the opportunity to gather together and learn in community, to share the same stories, poems and ideas. It is in Morning Time that we can introduce our children to the beautiful ideas found in music, art and great thoughts. We’ve slowly added recitation, composer study, picture study, folk song and languages to our Morning Time as we’ve gone along.
I am really enjoying the folk songs, even though I initally questioned why we should include them – it’s probably because my children enjoy them so much that I’ve come to do the same. Even Rafe has learned some of the lyrics and it’s so sweet hearing him try to sing “Funiculi, funicula”. I’m also enjoying drawing. I always thought I was never artistic – I was always the writer, not the artist in the family, and so it was never something I ever pursued. But I bought a copy of “Drawing From The Right Side of the Brain” after listening to a podcast – I think it was recommended on A Delectable Education – and I’m finding myself stretched, but in a good way. And, of course, I love Shakespeare – what kind of drama teacher would I be if I didn’t?
My absolute favourite part of Morning Time, however, is praying together. We use the ACTS (Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Supplication) model for our morning prayer time, and it is so precious for me to be able to pray daily with my children, to hear their hearts as they praise God, confess their sins, name what they are thankful for, and pray for others.
“Education is a life. That life is sustained on ideas. Ideas are of spiritual origin, and God has made us so that we get them chiefly to convey them to one another, whether by word of mouth, written page, Scripture word, musical symphony; but we must sustain a child’s inner life with ideas as we sustain his body with food.” – Charlotte Mason
Ritual, Reading, Recitation & Relationship
Better Together explains how ritual adds meaning to Morning Time, and how certain practices point our hearts toward God. We never used to have anything that signalled Morning Time was about to start – other than me calling “It’s time to start now!” But after I read Better Together and saw how some moms start their Morning Time, I found that I wanted to try something like it and see if it made a difference. Now we begin with “God is good (all the time)/All the time (God is good)”. I forgot one morning, and you can be sure the girls pointed it out straight away!
We always do prayer first, then our Bible reading, and then sing our hymn. We’ve also recently begun reciting the Doxology to close off our Morning Time. I’ve seen my children grow in how they pray and what they pray for. Even Rafe knows when it’s prayer time – he sits on the couch and says, “God. Lord.” I hear the girls singing hymns all the time now, even when they’re busy with copywork, or just colouring a picture, and it makes my heart sing that they have taken the truths of those hymns and committed them to memory.
Better Together also talks about the value of reading aloud together from living books, and how shared reading shapes the family culture. Now that Angie is a more fluent reader, she often reads to her siblings. Emmy can’t read, but she makes up stories about the pictures. Rafe has started coming to find me or my husband, book in hand, saying, “Let’s read a bit.”
The book also mentions how recitation is a valuable method of education. In our first six week block of school, Angie learned the poem “Someone” by Walter de la Mare, Oberon’s “I know a bank where the wild thyme blows” speech from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the hymn “Amazing Grace”. Emmy learned the poem “At the Seaside” by Robert Louis Stevenson and the first verse of “Amazing Grace.” In our next block, they’ll both learn a poem, Psalm 1, and Angie will also learn Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18.
Better Together also has a list of 100 things for children to memorise. Did I print it out and slip it into my homeschool planner? Maybe. (And by maybe, I mean, of course I did. Thank you, Pam!)
The other thing the book emphasises is the importance of relationship in Morning Time. I love that we get to start the day together, first in prayer and God’s Word, and then in sharing all of these beautiful things. I am so grateful that we get to do this, that I can learn and grow right along with my children.
“The work of Morning Time is to behold Christ through the wonders of His world—story, art, music, nature. When viewed in this way, these subjects are not merely “add-ons” to the more important things of our day, but are instead the heart of the education we want to give our children.” – Pam Barnhill
In addition to all the wonderful ideas for making the most of Morning Time, there are also snapshots of how other moms do Morning Time in their homeschools.