Our Morning Basket (encouraging meaningful Morning Time and answering the question, “What matters most in your homeschool day?”)

Interested in more about the Morning Basket?  Read my full review of Your Morning Basket from Pam Barnhill right here.

Morning Basket.

Morning Time.

Circle Time.

Family Time.

Morning Meeting.

There are quite a few terms in the homeschool world that all (pretty much) mean the same thing.  Or, at least, are referring to the same concept.

We call our special time together in the morning Morning Time and we refer to what we use in Morning Time as our Morning Basket.  

Make sense?  I don’t know… “Circle Time” just reminds me of public school Kindergarten, so it isn’t my favorite term, but to each, her own.  We can call it anything we want, the idea is this – every single day your family is spending intentional time together reading and learning intentional, meaningful things, and bonding in intentional, meaningful ways.

For some Moms, Morning Time is a very short, 15-minute time with their children.  For others, Morning Time can take up to 2 hours, depending.  We are somewhere in between.

Cindy Rollins  is kind of known as the homeschool ‘founder’ of this Morning Time thing (although I think she really just made it better known among Charlotte Mason and Classical families).  If you click on the links below of her podcasts, you can hear her talk about the 20+ years she did Family Time/Morning Time in her home.  She advocates that this time together can take 2-3 hours of your day or longer, depending on what you consider to be ‘Morning Time’ work.

This is not ‘wasted’ time, this is the BEST time!  Reading, memorizing scripture, looking at art, listening to classical music, reading inspiring stories, talking with and about God…  it’s beautiful!

So, What does Morning Time look like for our family?

For us, Morning Time is an intentional time when we all sit and spend quality time together focusing on what we consider truth and beauty.  
This usually includes prayer, Bible reading and study, reviewing our Scripture Memory work, Poetry reading and Poetry Memorization, Hymn Study and singing, Fables, Folk Tales, Nursery Rhymes, and Shakespeare, as well as Artist and Picture Study, Composer and Music Study, and Character and Habit study with inspirational/devotional read-alouds.

Yep, it’s a full Basket.  *smile*

I’ve seen Morning Time or Family Time done differently by many parents, so you really will have to decide for yourself what it might look like in your home.  
My goal is to have our children look at Family Time as a time of joy and something they want to do!  Something they remember with fondness!  Something that never feels like ‘work’!
In fact, just the other day, my eldest son (who is also sometimes my hardest to please) said something that warmed my heart.  The conversation went like this:
“Mom, I’m done all my work.”
“That’s awesome… oh, no, wait, you’re done your individual work… but we still have Morning Time stuff to do, hun.”
“Oh!  That’s ok!  That’s not work.”

Morning/Family Time comprises of about 50% of our homeschool ‘family work’ but our kids don’t perceive it as work because it is fun, engaging, enjoyable, and special!  

 Homeschool win, right!?

“What Matters Most in your Homeschool Day?”

I’ve been asked this question many times in various ways.  Most homeschool Moms have probably wondered (or stressed) about the question, what really IS the important stuff?  Especially when life gets busy; there’s a new baby, visitors, a foster child, an illness, a time of stress, changes, moves, you name it – if a whole bunch of homeschool stuff had to go – what would you be sure to hold on to?
In other words, if you knew you only had a bit of time left – what would you want to be absolutely sure you got into your children’s hearts and minds?   (This is not often the case, but pondering this question can really help you narrow your priorities).
Establishing an intentional Family Time has really helped me see what truly matters in our homeschool.  Having this daily habit or routine of reading together and focusing on those things that are important for our hearts, minds, and relationships has really grounded our homeschool in so many ways.

It has also allowed me to present a big chunk of our ‘curriculum’ in a way that is not perceived as ‘work’!  This is a beautiful thing because it means the children are enjoying the journey of learning so much that they are embracing it as joyous, not cumbersome.

So, I’ve been praying and seeking the Lord on this idea of What Matters Most for quite some time now.  Oh, about 7 years?!  *smile*  And, there are a few things that I’ve realized should never change for us.  
Monumentally important to me are the following:

1. The Atmosphere of our home.  So, basically, is the Holy Spirit present and leading?  Does the way I treat my children consistently reflect Christ’s love?  Do I exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit?  When I do mess up, am I humble and honest in the way I approach my errors?  And then, are the children growing and learning to be more like Jesus in the way they treat me, their Dad, each other, and others?  Then… are we reaching out to the world around us with love?   
2.  Cultivating a relationship with God and each other.  Families are their own little church communities.  I firmly believe this.  So, learning to serve God and each other is foundational.  Not easy… but foundational.
For us, this includes learning more about God through His Word (the Bible) and hiding His Scriptures in our hearts through memorization.  It also includes singing hymns and songs of praise together, celebrating God’s Holidays and Feasts,  talking about God’s truths and how they apply to every day life as well as big questions like, “What is my purpose?” and “Where did I come from?”
This would include also how we are cultivating a relationship with one another.  So, are Wes and I really investing quality time into our children?  The kind that builds life-long, trusting, discipleship-focused relationships?
3. Encouraging our family to Feast on Ideas and to ENJOY the literary feast.  Yes, we want to learn great things and we want to LOVE to learn!  This comprises mostly of enjoying wonderful Living Books together that focus on good, true, and noble things, at also includes nurturing a love of the natural world/God’s creation.  This also means, endeavouring to think deeper, embracing an understanding of History, Geography, and Science (nature) and how God’s nature and truths flow through all of these.  Also -questioning culture, learning about heroes of the Christian faith, and considering inspirational thoughts and ideas.
So, from these ‘Most Important” ideas comes our list of what to include in our Family Time.  It is easy to see that for me, what I deem to ‘matter most’ in our homeschool is not largely focused on what many would view as traditional academics.  
Sometimes, it isn’t about more stuff.  It’s about the right stuff.

If I was to break down our day and put all the most important stuff in a basket, you’d have our Morning Basket.  

Morning Time is typically what we do first because it is (to me) the most important ‘work’.  It is mostly soul work.
Before we worry about Math or Copywork or Writing or any of the stuff traditional school puts as the top priority, we are focusing on Bible, Hymns, Character Study, Poetry, Fine Arts, and wonderful, soul-shaping stories. 
And then we can enjoy the peace and joy that comes with this choice~!
For us, Morning Time is very easy going.

We usually all get a little snack or tea (or hot chocolate!) and sit around the table together.  Then, depending on the day of the week, we will work through a bunch of readings and activities.  We read, we discuss, we pray, we recite, we chat, we read, we sing, we read, we narrate.   We laugh and enjoy each other’s company.   Oh, and, we read.
And that’s it.

Using our Morning Basket for Morning Time

So, our house is overloaded with two things.  Books and Legos.  If I could use two words to describe our home decor it would be, well, Books and Legos.  

And to be honest, for ages, there was no rhyme or reason to how I organized our readings for the day.  They were just stacked behind our book holder, which is actually a recipe book holder and our youngest referred to our reading picks as ‘the book menu’.  (I love this, by the way!~)
So, yea, books are EVERYWHERE.  And though this is lovely in theory, it can play havoc on Family Work Time if you don’t have what you need when you need it.  Because if your kids are anything like mine – all it takes is for me to have to walk away and search for a book and I’ve lost them all in a moment’s time.
So, here is the blissful vision of the Morning Basket area (this is at the start of the day…):

And then, here is the reality at the end of most days:


So, nobody’s perfect but I can say from experience that having a Morning Basket has been wonderful for our Morning Time because all my stuff is RIGHT THERE.  No searching.  I grab the basket, bring it to the table or couch, and we can get started easily and flow through our stuff without interruptions(ish).

So, I’ve established that we:

1. Love Family/Morning Time and use it as a foundational part of our homeschool to ensure we are daily covering ‘what matters most’.
2. Use our Morning Basket as a tool during this time.

But, I thought I should share with you what is IN our Morning Basket these days!

This might give you some ideas for your own family as you either think about starting this habit in your family or continue to nurture it.  The book lists (apart from scripture) may change, but the heart of idea stays the same.

Our Morning Basket is for a 10, almost 9, and 7 year old, for reference!

So, here goes…

What’s in our Morning Basket right now?

  • The Bible – we are using The NIV Adventure Bible, and the Chronological Life Application Study Bible 
  • Our yearly devotional book – this year we are using NIrV Adventure Bible Book of Devotions for Early Readers
  • Morning Time Binder – this is a little folder that I put together and stays in our Morning Basket.  This includes our Prayer and Poetry Memory work (right now this includes The Lord’s Prayer and several short poems from Christina Rossetti), Hymns and songs we are working on (right now we’ve got This is My Father’s World, Take My Life and Let it Be, Amazing Grace, Rock of Ages, The Wondrous Cross, and various bible songs), Blessings (like the Aaronic Blessing from Numbers), and the 10 Commandments and Apostle’s Creed which we will be working on for memory work.  I also have some rhyming prayers I would love to memorize with the kids. (This part of our Morning Basket takes no more than 5-10 minutes because we rotate every day between the various components.)  

  • A Child’s Book of Prayers illustrated by Michael Hague
  • Hymns for a Kid’s Heart Volume 1 by Bobbie Wolgemuth and Joni Eareckson Tada
  • The Children’s Treasury of Virtues by William J. Bennet
  • The Book of Virtues by William J. Bennet
  • Trial and Triumph by Richard Hannula (Christian Heroes study -1 chapter per week)
  • Come Look With Me- World of Play by Gladys S. Blizzard (Picture Study)
  • Claude Monet: Sunshine and Waterlilies along with various Claude Monet color prints (Picture Study)
  • Beethoven Lives Upstairs by Barbara Nichol (composer study), last term it was Tchaikovsky Visits America.  
  • Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare by E. Nesbit (we cover 1 play per month)
  • A Child’s Book of Poems compiled by Gyo Fujikawa (we read a poem every day, at least!)
  • The Voice of the Martyrs annual report (this might sound funny, but we use it as a prayer guide for the nations along with the map we received).
  • First Hundred Words in French (by Usborne… we use this maybe once a week if we feel inspired).

Sometimes, we do our History and Novel Read-alouds during Morning Time.  There is honestly too much variation to list all the books here, what I can do is give you some ideas of the books we are currently reading and have recently read:
  • Can’t you Make Them Behave, King George? by Jean Fritz
  • The Courage of Sarah Noble by Alice Dalgliesh
  • Stories of the Nations and Stories of America from Simply Charlotte Mason
  • various Nature Study picture books
  • Boys and Girls of Colonial Days by C. Sherwin Bailey
  • Indian Captive by Lois Lenski
  • King of the Wind by M. Henry
  • Ben and Me by Robert Lawson

Other books we’ve recently had in our Morning Basket:

  • The Jesus Story Book Bible
  • The Case for a Creator for Kids
  • A Child’s Garden of Verses
  • All Year Long (poetry book from Christian Light Publications)
  • Hero Tales Volume 1-4 by Dave and Neta Jackson
  • Bard of Avon by Diane Stanley (Shakespeare)

And before you get super overwhelmed – we don’t read from every title every day!  Our days go on a rotation.   One day we will read from Trial and Triumph, the next we will read some Shakespeare, the next it will be Composer Study… so it works out quite nicely.

Some Links I Found:

Morning Time Podcasts
Cindy Rollins blog
CiRCE Institute – the long haul 
GROUNDED, the physics of Morning Time
Teaching from Rest
100 Things for Kids to Memorize

Links to some of my other Morning Time Posts:

A Full Review of Your Morning Basket by Pam Barnhill

Morning Time Plans for Term 1 of 2016/2017

I pray this post is helpful and/or inspiring to you in some small way!

Remember, don’t forget to check out my full review of Pam Barnhill’s Your Morning Basket right here!

Your Morning Basket Ad

I’ve pinned tons of ideas, articles, and many of the books and resources we use in our Morning Basket on my Morning Basket/Morning Time board on Pinterest…

Follow Cassandra’s board Morning Basket / Family Circle Time on Pinterest.


  • Ivy Mae

    What do you think of SCM's Stories of America? I'm considering using it for a spine for my 6yo.
    Thanks for detailing your morning basket! While we have morning time faithfully every day, it is much simpler since we have a toddler who likes to start shrieking at random times during breakfast… πŸ™‚

    • Cassandra

      I quite like it, although, I'm not sure it is geared to a child of 6. The readings are somewhat lengthly and use quite extensive vocabulary. It is written as a family read-aloud, so it is written (I think) more towards middle readers. My kids like it, though my 7-year-old does drift off on some stories. It is written beautifully with living book style though… so it really is up to you. I think they give a sample of it on the website?

  • ilive4design

    YOU are such a blessing!!! I can only praise and give thanks to our Lord and Savior for your generosity in sharing all you do!!! YOU have become my number ONE blogger which if you saw the HUNDREDS I follow, you would see the grandness of you being on top!!! Thank you and God bless!!!!

    • Cassandra

      Thank you. (hug) This is very encouraging to me, especially since I was writing this yesterday while struggling with being super sick! I'm so blessed to be able to share with other Moms what the Lord has done and continues to do in our family. All glory to Him. I'll try to keep posting only what I hope to be inspiring/helpful posts, which was and is my goal! πŸ™‚ blessings.

  • Megan Russell

    I love this post! I have been inspired to make our Morning Time much more meaningful and last longer. Currently, all we do is Bible reading and prayer, and sometimes a read aloud. Thank you for these amazing ideas.

  • Casie

    I read this last week and have been chewing on it for a while. Then set aside today to do some planning and complete revamping of our school day routine. I read it again. I have been doing something like this on many mornings, but have not been consistent lately… we would do "Table Time" at breakfast and do memory verses, Aesop's fables, read a couple pages from a science book (right now an aquarium guide), a nature almanac, and sometimes other read alouds or a picture study. I enjoyed this time, but realized I have been setting it aside to get other things done that feel more important. Things that feel more like they count for real school. Box checky curriculum type things. This has helped refocus me and helped me to question what really is most important. My kids usually love Table Time….So simple but your words have clarified things for me. I am going to experiment with expanding it to include many more things! I have read much of your blog for years now and I find it so encouraging and beautifully written. Thank you for sharing with us.

    • Cassandra

      Oh, that is so nice of you to share. πŸ™‚ We had been doing 'family time' for a LONG time too – since the start, really. But I've found an intentional, "Ok kids, come around the table for Morning Time" and lighting the candle and being very specific about this time has been a very rich experience. I can relate to you about the check-mark type things… but you know what I've realized? It isn't that stuff they remember… not usually. It's the stories, the singing, the poems, the classical music, the artists, the hot chocolate and a good story… it is not only educational and rich – it is very memorable and relational… πŸ™‚ I think you'll like my review of My Morning Basket which is coming on Monday. πŸ™‚ Thank you for sharing with me!

  • Richard Cho

    Hello, I have just discovered your blog, and I am so thankful for what I have read so far. I really appreciated reading about the reasoning and thinking and motivations behind why you have Morning Time, not simply what you cover each day. Often, I agree with what some blogger is saying, but not always able to think out my reasoning of *why* I agree and how it will look like in our family. Most important for me right now is asking for more Spirit-led help in the atmosphere of our home (you mentioned in a CM blog post about Ambleside and booklists).
    Thank you so much!

    • Cassandra

      Thanks for your comment, Lisa. I'm so glad this post was helpful to you in seeing some of the 'why's of Morning Time! Blessings as you seek direction and a peaceful atmosphere in your home! xo

    • Cassandra

      Hi Melanie! Both. I actually use the Treasury as well as the Book of Virtues and search stories/poems based on traits we are working on, yes… but we often just pick and choose too. They are all valuable!

  • jenna

    Great post! I already have a couple of your book suggestions in my Amazon cart. Also, we keep God's feasts, too! That will be the next post I read. πŸ™‚

  • Mama Bird

    Great entry,"Because if your kids are anything like mine – all it takes is for me to have to walk away and search for a book and I've lost them all in a moment's time." There really is no truer statement!!! I cannot wait to try the morning basket idea with my kiddos. I love the nature reader I have never seen it before.

    • Cassandra

      Thanks. Yes, I write from a place of experience!!! haha… mine leave the table in a second if I don't keep it going… even more so when they were younger! So happy you are trying Morning Basket with your kiddos, they will love it. πŸ™‚

  • Amanda (The Good Enough Life)

    I just stumbled upon your blog for the first time today and I have to say I am in love! I've read through at least a dozen posts already and I feel like this is exactly what I've been looking for. I have four children (3 boys ages 5, 4, and 2 and a 3 month old girl) and we are just starting our homeschool journey. I've always loved the idea of a morning basket with all of these different topics. Do you have any recommendations for books for younger children? I am truly at a loss for where to start, especially since all of my children are still young. Thank you so much for your blog, I really look forward to reading more and bringing this richness to my own homeschool.

    • Cassandra

      Hi Amanda, Thank you!!! I'm so glad you did stumble here then!!! πŸ™‚ You are a busy Mama, WOW. πŸ™‚ I wouldn't know where to start with book recommendations, there are hundreds I would say… A few things that really inspired me when mine were your kids' ages… Five in a Row and Before Five in a Row are definitely worth checking out. Not that you have to do the programs (though, you could!!!) but their booklists for each guide are INCREDIBLE. I reviewed it here -http://unplugyourfamily.blogspot.ca/2013/08/a-detailed-review-of-five-in-row.html. Also, have you checked out the Living Book List post? That one has some great suggestions for early reading too. πŸ™‚ You are looking for great quality children's picture books at your stage of the game and there are so many to choose from. HEre is a link to the book list -http://unplugyourfamily.blogspot.ca/2015/11/great-big-list-of-living-books-links.html

      I hope this is helpful… Blessings.

  • Unknown

    Hi Cassandra, I stumbled upon your blog yesterday and I have to tell you that it is already doing WONDERS for my soul ? I did want to ask if you have any thoughts on where to start with kindergarten? We felt led to homeschool our only daughter but all of the CM blogs I have come across encourage outside time vs actual lesson plans. My daughter will be 6 in 2 months and very much eager to learn but I'm struggling with knowing where to start.

    Thanks Ellie

    • Cassandra

      Hello! πŸ™‚ I'm so glad this blog is an encouragement to you!! Well, I always say, start with prayer!! πŸ™‚ God will lead you in the educating of your little one. Then, lots and lots of great books. Read, read, read. For mine when they were that age, we LOVED Five in a Row and it is my go-to recommendation for early elementary. I have a review of it here:http://unplugyourfamily.blogspot.com/2013/08/a-detailed-review-of-five-in-row.html

      Also, at that age you can focus on simple copywork (use poems, scripture, short pieces from fave books, etc… you don't need to buy anything to do copywork), very basic mathmatics, and reading lots and lots together. You could honestly do nothing but read scriptures, great living stories, and inspiring tales together and have a FANTASTIC year of learning together. That age is the magical age where, as long as you are providing loads of living books, you can't lose. πŸ˜‰ We also loved All About Reading for reading instruction, if you are interested in introducing that… however, our kids were older when they did it. πŸ˜‰ http://unplugyourfamily.blogspot.ca/2015/10/all-about-reading-level-1-full.html
      Not sure if this is much help…

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