Morning Time is the part of our homeschool day that we do together as a family. At our house, we divide it into two parts, both anchored to food: breakfast time and tea time. I started this when my oldest was four or five, and doing two shorter stretches made more sense than one longer one. It still makes sense.
Our Morning Time has expanded over the years. In the beginning, it was very simple. We read the Bible, sang one verse of a hymn, and prayed after breakfast. The boys called this "Read-an-Sing-an-Pray." We read poetry at 10:00 Tea Time. The end.
When SA turned six and we officially started school, we added some Bible memory work to "Read-an-Sing-an-Pray," and he started narrating the Bible story we read. We also started Art Appreciation and Composer Study, substituting it for the poetry at Tea Time on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
In SA's year 2, we added a read-aloud as well at breakfast, beginning with Pilgrim's Progress. In his year 3, we started rotating through a few read-alouds, and began using a "memory binder" to habitually review some of our former memory work (a very necessary addition!).
Now SA is 9 and in Year 4. JJ is 7, MM is 5, and AJ is 2. This is the year Ambleside Online adds Plutarch and Shakespeare. I plan to add it to the end of the breakfast, after our prayer so the younger children can go and play, but are welcome to stay if they like. Here's my plan for the breakfast portion of Morning Time this term:
BREAKFAST READING AND NARRATION LOOP (Cycle through, one per day.) (15 min.)
- Church History/Biography: The Little Woman OR Trial and Triumph
- Elementary Geography
- Tales: Blue Fairy Book OR Canadian Wonder Tales
Memory Work/Recitation (10 min.)
- Hymn/Psalm: "We're Marching to Zion," Psalm 32:1-6, Psalm 86:1-7
- Bible: Philippians 2:1-11
- Review: 1 Psalm or Hymn and 1 Bible passage per day. (Occasionally skipped if time is tight.)
- Catechism: Continue with The Catechism for Young Children
BIBLE READING AND NARRATION LOOP (One per day) (15 min.)
- New Testament: Mark
- Old Testament: Joshua/Judges
Prayer (ACTS, Prayer List) (10 min.)
SHAKESPEARE/PLUTARCH LOOP (One act/lesson per day) (20 min.)
- Shakespeare: “MacBeth”
- Plutarch: “Romulus”
Breakfast Reading and Narration
For the breakfast reading, I begin reading once I'm done eating. Nine times out of ten, the boys are still eating, and they enjoy being read to while they finish. Then they usually take turns narrating, including the five-year-old. Though I never ask, he insists on being included. (And narration flows out of him much more readily than out of the older two. Ah, extraversion...)
For Trial and Triumph, I'm following the readings for Ambleside Online Year 4 (three chapters per term). The Little Woman is Gladys Aylward's autobiography (as told to Christine Hunter) . We finished Pilgrim's Progress last year and I decided to do a missionary biography before starting PP again. This one was on my shelf. Gladys Aylward is special to me because it's a story my father told to us when we were children.
I'm going through Charlotte Mason's Elementary Geography because somehow I've neglected this subject for the last three years. It had something to do with not having the physical book. Now I have it, and we'll just read it a chapter at a time until it's done.
I'm reading tales, even though they are not on the AO schedule for Years 2 and 4 (our current years). We loved them so much last year, and we were not finished the books, so I decided to continue. I really want this morning read-aloud to continue to be a delightful experience for my preschoolers as well as the rest, and this is for them.
In memory work, we normally start a new hymn and Bible passage every 6 weeks (rather than every month as in Ambleside Online). This just works better for me as we usually have a break and I have a moment to plan then. We don't do all of the AO hymns, as I want to include psalms as well. The psalms I've chosen are ones we are learning as a church. (Our church is transitioning to Sing Psalms from the old Scottish metrical psalter, so singing the same psalm repeatedly for a month until we know it well.)
In the past, we've always read our Bible memory passage together in unison each day until we know it. Lately I've noticed that they don't always pay complete attention, and trail off. Also, I've been thinking about recitation and its purposes. For this reason, while we will continue to learn one Bible passage together as a family (this has value, too), I will have the boys take turns reading the passage aloud on alternate days with a view to them being able to recite it at the end of the term. They do read well as a matter of course, projecting their voices with confidence and expression. (I think this is just because of example, as my husband is a preacher and reads well himself.)
In catechism...sigh...I have to admit we have never made it through the entire thing in the last four years, despite the fact that it's a very simple one! I just keep working away at it.
Bible Reading and Narration
In Bible reading and narration, we just read a short Bible passage and the children narrate. As usual, I'm following the Ambleside Online schedule for my oldest child. Lately I've been reading Paterson-Smyth's commentaries on the Old Testament passages we do, and using that to set the scene beforehand, or to spark a bit of discussion afterwards. It's all very simple, though. Because the Bible is the one book that has been constant throughout the last three years of homeschooling, this is where I've really seen how effective simple reading and oral narration is.
Shakespeare and Plutarch
And finally, the two new additions! Shakespeare and Plutarch are intimidating to me, but I will just jump in and do it. I myself have not read either Shakespeare or Plutarch before, so I will be learning as I go. I chose Plutarch's Romulus because I am using Mrs. Beesly's Stories from the History of Rome to introduce the stories, and "The Building of Rome" is the first chapter in that book. I plan to read Beesly first, and then follow Anne White's study guide at our own pace. We will read a little every other day until we are done. I have no ambition to finish a "life" in a term...we'll just keep going next term if we're not done yet, and then start a new one.
I am still wondering if I made a good choice with "MacBeth" as our first ever Shakespeare play. I am not following the AO rotation this year because I wanted to begin with stories my children seemed to like from Lamb's Tales from Shakespeare last year and build on that. For our comedy, I will go with "The Taming of the Shrew," and for our tragedy, "MacBeth." After that, I will do a history, though we are not familiar with those stories yet. The reason I jumped into the tragedy before the comedy was because I found a resource on Audible that seemed really helpful. We will listen to the Shakespeare Appreciated introduction together. I will pre-listen to the version of the play with commentary for my own benefit. Then we will go through the play together, act by act, listening to the version without commentary and reading along. As with Plutarch, I will not worry about finishing a play in a term...we'll just keep going until we're done.
I feel like I need to add a disclaimer here. These are my plans. If my plans don't work well, they will be adjusted. My plans may not work for you. If you're new to Morning Time, I strongly advise that you start simple and build over the course of years. It is better to make a strong foundation of habit than to try to do too much at once, burn out and never do it again. For me, I am just adding one time slot (Shakespeare and Plutarch on alternate days) to last year's successful morning time plans.
I hope to be back tomorrow with Morning Time Plans, Part 2.