I began homeschooling after experiencing public school, my decision to homeschool was in part motivated by fear of my children experiencing the same thing. I remember after we decided to start, peeking in on a homeschool family that was looking so idyllic and I wish my first day had looked like that. It was a train wreck, there was yelling (me and the kids), crying in the bathroom (me), but we pushed through!
One consistent piece of wisdom from seasoned homeschool moms was, “Read to your kids....a lot”. So I did. right from the beginning. I believed them and held on to their advice.
I had a traditional beginning, clinging to my teacher appointed checklist and the Classical Conversations framework that I found soon after, but I felt that something was missing. (More about CC here)
I later discovered Waldorf and found the beauty I was craving, through the emphasis on quality materials, handcrafts, recipes, and a beautiful home life. (Read this for more insight on Waldorf in the early years)
When I finally started diving into Charlotte Mason philosophy, I found a framework that encompassed all of the best of the methods I’d been exploring, not as absolutes, but as tools for laying the feast. (This book gives a great overview of Charlotte Mason philosophy)
One of the parts of Charlotte Mason homeschooling that appealed the most to me was morning time, otherwise known as morning basket, circle time, and even morning collective. It is a gathering time of family worship, learning, and talking that creates a culture in our home.
It began as just a read-aloud time, but after a year I realized that we were missing Bible (and most spiritual training) so we added that in as well and it expanded from there.
Here is an example of our current rhythm.
We begin with a hymn
“A great hymn embodies the purest concentrated thoughts of some lofty saint who may have long ago gone from the earth and left little or nothing behind him except that hymn. To read or sing a true hymn is to join in the act of worship with a great and gifted soul in his moments of intimate devotion. It is to hear a lover of Christ explaining to his Saviour why he loves Him; it is to listen in without embarrassment on the softest whisperings of undying love between the bride and the heavenly Bridegroom.” – AW Tozer
We spend about a month per hymn and find them through Happy Hymnody or similar resources (The Kind Kingdom includes a monthly hymn). We memorize one stanza a week and then review it as we go. Starting with hymns is a nice transition into the school day and often helps with crummy moods. It’s hard to hold onto frustration after singing “Be Thou My Vision” or “Battle Hymn of the Republic” .
We ask for prayer requests and talk about needs around us using a variety of resources to stay aware of needs.
The Joshua Project, and Pray for the World by Open Doors USA are resources we use that also include geography lessons, and we broaden the prayers of our children, as we pray for brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. We also let the children pray for what moves their hearts.
Read the Word
I ask my children about their personal Bible reading time and then read small sections of scripture. We also read a Proverb of the day and then I ask for thoughts or what stood out to them. Charlotte Mason encourages us to simply read the Word and let them wrestle with it, not to do much teaching and so I try to keep it at just reading and asking.
24 Family Ways by Clay and Sally Clarkson is our current read and I love the conversations that stem from it.
We learn larger sections of scripture that I choose through my own reading, and sometimes we work on poems or other writings. Recitation nights once per month encourage kids to work hard on memory work. If you can find a couple of families to do this with it creates such a sweet time. (Download free Bible memory cards to correspond with our resources here)
To catechize a child is to “to teach orally or instruct by word of mouth” reciting “Doctrinal Standards of many churches in the world”. It’s a way of passing on our faith to our children.
We study one artist per 12-week term, and I begin with reading the artist bio. Then I show the print for (2-3 min), study it, hide it, and have the children tell me what they remember about it. The next time we do artist study, I have them study the photo and then rough sketch it from memory. You could also print an extra copy of the art, and make it into a puzzle for them to recreate. (Each 30 week Peaceful Press Elementary Guide includes art prints to correspond with the reading).
We do one handcraft per term and do focused teaching until they are confident. My preschool or elementary students usually work on the handcraft while I am reading aloud. We do knitting, weaving, paper airplanes and origami, and a weekly cooking lesson.
We read from our history texts twice each week, and my children narrate back what they have heard. Know and Tell by Karen Glass is a great narration resource for parents.
We read twice weekly from science-related books, such as those by Holling C. Holling, Christian Liberty Nature Readers, or suggested reading from Exploring Nature With Children.
At this point, I might send older children to work independently and then read from fairy tales, historical fiction, fables, and poetry to my younger children. We might also read from a geography text, look at our Pin It Maps, or listen to classical music and talk about the composer.
All of this is done in about 1 1/2 hours, and we stick to a four-day morning time plan. I use Fridays as a catch up for anything unfinished and review old memory work on Friday. I keep a list of past scriptures, songs, and poems so that we can continue to review them.
I keep all of my morning time books in a crate and I take a look at my big plan on Sunday and pull every book I will need for the week. I place bookmarks where appropriate, and label them according to the day I will read, or the subject.
There are seasons when morning time looks different, maybe you will have morning time in the afternoon during babies nap time, or look at morning time as a training time with toddlers. You can even do a special summer morning time to catch up on subjects you couldn’t fit into the school year.
Brainstorm a list of subjects you would like to study with your children, and write them down for future morning time studies, i.e foreign language, logic, grammar, apologetics, holiday themes, etc.
As you build your morning time, pray and ask the Lord what he wants you to be reading to your children? Children learn best from passionate teachers, and what is on one mama’s must-read list, might not be on yours. Consider what lights you up, and what you are interested in studying with your children as you form a plan. Build slowly. Start with just a few things, but keep a list of things you’d like to add. Don’t be afraid to remove things that aren’t working. There’s always something to take its spot.
Have Fun! Laugh with your kids, keep them on their toes. Literature based homeschooling is a lovely way to develop connection and strong learners.
And when you are in a season of struggling with babies, or toddler or teens and asking, “Where’s the fruit?” Remember this, God Himself sowed seeds that laid dormant for a time. We need to trust that the seeds we are sowing will spring to life when he sends living water. I’m trusting Him that HE will do something with all of that work.
Now no shrub had yet appeared on the earth and no plant had yet sprung up, for the Lord God had not sent rain on the earth, and there was no one to work the ground, but streams came up from the earth and watered the whole surface of the ground.
- Gen 2:5
Stephanie Frediani is the mother of four children, an avid gardener, expert baker, and student of missional living.