I am not a morning person. My kids are not morning people. Unfortunately, my husband IS a morning person. This became very apparent when we all went on a week-long homeschool field trip. My husband would wake early, run to the gym, and return to the hotel very chipper — and talkative (ugg!).
You see, the girls and I don’t talk in the mornings. We understand that we each need time to “blossom” when we wake. This means no talking for at least two hours. I recently heard the middle schooler tell her friends that if they wanted her to do something at 8 in the morning, they would need to wake her at 6.
For years I’ve tried to start our mornings with a morning time, morning meeting or morning basket. But, invariably, it would be stressful, unpleasant, and result in a morning basket that didn’t get rolling until early afternoon. Then a friend introduced me to a revolutionary morning time idea that would start our day with peace, family time, and focus.
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After reading about Chelli’s Morning Meeting Makeover, I started taking her principles and applying them to our homeschool but, with the caveat that we would need some “blossom time” built-in. I started by thinking of what was the purpose I had for the morning meeting.I wanted it to be a time of family togetherness and focus. It needed to be a way to bring us all together to start our day.
My next step was to decide what I wanted to accomplish during our morning meeting. This would be a time when I had everyone’s attention, so I wanted to make it meaningful for all of us. After my initial brainstorming, I came up with six steps to create a morning meeting time that would start our day on the right foot.
Step 1: Clear Your Mind and Get Your Focus
The first step is critical in our homeschool because, as I said, we all need time to “blossom” – get prepared for a new day. So, at 7 o’clock each morning I get up and start my day. I announce to the house at large that it’s time to start waking up and I begin the countdown.
“Two hours till Morning Meetup.”
My brain starts firing with all the reminders I have set for the day. If I don’t take care of some of those before we start our school day, then they will distract me all day. I know this about myself, so to compensate I take care of those “must do items” first. Make a pot of tea. Grab breakfast. Check my email. Take care of blogging. Pay any bills. This gets all those pesky things that make me anxious out of my way.
“One hour till Morning Meetup.”
At this point, my anxiety level has calmed, and I’m ready to clear my mind and get my focus. This is an important step. If my mind isn’t focused, there is no way my kids’ minds will be. So, I take some time for me. Read a devotional. Spend time in prayer. Get dressed and ready for the day (though, honestly, that might not be more than taking a shower and putting on yoga pants). Take the dog for a walk (The dog and I have a routine. She does her thing, and I enjoy the fresh air and a few moments of nature.) Finding your Zen is a personal thing, so your focus time might look different.
“Fifteen minutes till Morning Meetup. Time to get your breakfast.”
Some of you may still be preparing breakfast for your kids. Mine are old enough to fend for themselves. And, since none of us like the same type of breakfast it works for us. I’m generally a protein bar and tea kind-of-gal. The youngest prefers cereal. The tween likes to make eggs. It’s all good as long as we’re fed.
“Time for Morning Meetup.”
If they aren’t already downstairs, then this prompts them to head down. I don’t keep to a nine am sharp schedule, but I also don’t allow more dawdling. Most of the time this two-hour window has given everyone enough time to get their focus for the day.
Step 2: Have a Plan
The second step is to have an idea of what you want to accomplish during your morning meeting. I knew I wanted time for us to come together for a quick morning prayer time, a time to review our schedules for the week and day, and I needed a catch-all for those subjects that I wanted to add into our curriculum but didn’t fit anywhere else.
I used the Morning Time Agenda from the Plan Your Year kit to create a general idea of what I wanted our morning to look like. I just added my topics into the fillable PDF, printed it, and slipped it into the front of my morning binder.
Step 3: Keep a Morning Binder or Basket or Both
Ok. So I have both. I love my morning meeting binder, but I can’t fit all our read aloud books in there. So, I also have our morning basket.
What do I have in our morning binder?
Our Daily Plan
The Plan Your Year kit has over 40 forms, but I always keep coming back to my favorites. I used the Daily Plan to give me a general plan to follow each morning. I don’t want to do the same things every day, so this helps me keep a little variety.
100 Days Countdown
My kids LOVE counting down the days until the “100th Day of School.” I’m not sure if it’s the party we have or the fact that we’re over half-way through school that makes it so exciting, but they never miss making elaborate numbers in each of the boxes on this free printable.
This is a quick and easy prayer journal I found that is exactly what I need in my binder. The girls have their own prayer journals that they’ve used for years.
I keep a record of our Memory Work and how many times it has been reviewed on my Memory Work Record. I also keep a printout of all our memory work passages behind the record, so I easily have it available.
Auditory and Digital Spans
This year I’m adding in a couple of quick short-term memory tests called digit spans. I’m hoping this will help the girls (and possibly mom) with our memory recall. I create my own cards, but you can buy cards from Little Giant Steps. They also have free visual and auditory tests.
Our fine arts often gets kicked to the side when things come up. I hate that because we really enjoy it. So, this year I’m making a concerted effort to add it to our morning meetup every Friday. This may be as simple as adding a book or CD into the mix or as elaborate as planning an entire unit study on a particular artist or composer. Lately, we have been using Chalk Pastel’s art tutorials in our fine arts block.
Family Read Aloud
This is where my morning basket comes into play. I can’t put all the books I want to read into the binder, so I toss them into our basket. Then I list them on my Read Aloud Log, so I don’t forget which ones I wanted to do and in what order.
Step 4: Use Block or Loop Scheduling
I started using block scheduling and sometimes loop scheduling when I realized I didn’t like switching gears every day or week. Now we concentrate on a particular fine arts study for each term. This works well for us, and I’m not constantly flipping through our morning basket looking for a different book.
Step 5: Keep it to a set time
Pick a time. An hour, a half an hour, an hour and a half and stick to it. Set a timer, if you must. This is important for two reasons. First, you won’t get carried away and take up so much of your day that you’re running behind. Second, your kids have a general idea of how long morning meetup will usually last. They know that it won’t cause them to be working on grammar into the evening.
Step 6: Take a Brain Break
Don’t expect your kids to sit quietly as you read for 30 minutes to an hour. Maybe you have children who will, but in general, you are asking for distractions if that’s your plan. Give them something to do with their hands while they are listening. Often mine will draw or color while I’m reading. I like to get the Dover coloring books that coincide with the historical era we are reading. Another option is to let them free-draw. My kids love to get out a dry-erase board and draw pictures of what I might be reading. Other things that have worked well in our house are legos, kinetic sand, and slime.
If you’ve managed to keep your children mostly occupied for the last hour, then it’s time for a break. Take a snack break or a “Get Moving Break” for a little physical exertion. Don’t expect them to go straight to working on their individual work directly after spending an hour in focused learning. Give them some time to switch gears.
Since we started Morning Meetup, our mornings have run much more smoothly. There’s still the occasional day when the tween needs a little extra time to become a decent human being, but for the most part, it has been a low-stress way to add focus to our day.
Part of The Ultimate Guide to Low-Stress Homeschool Planning and Scheduling. Find more posts on Daily Homeschooling, Long-Term Planning and more.