Morning Basket – Ageless, Inspiring…and Still Standing

As we wrap up our year, I’m looking back at a few plans and books to review and chat about.  Without a doubt, our Morning Basket time continues to serve our growing family.  What began around 8 years ago as a common point in the day with shared reading time, has evolved and grown into something that is full, and extraordinarily rich.  At the time, I didn’t see how essential this time would become, but I see it now.


In revisiting my earlier thoughts on the Morning Basket, I came across how I originally began to envision our common time:

I began to brainstorm a basket of inspiration that could be ageless in its offerings, that spanned abilities, that spoke to beauty and loveliness, and gave the day an inspiring start. My idea was to gather a collection of offerings that all the children would want to be a part of…a collection that could almost stand on its own for the day’s work if needed.

I know I’ve landed on something good (not good because I get credit for coming up with it, but good in the sense that all good must come from God) if, after 8 years, that is still my motivation and vision.  And it is.  Our Morning Basket is still ageless, inspiring, and a collection that can stand on its own if that’s what is needed for the day.

And, I’m not alone either – if you’d like even more perspective, you’ll want to listen to Cindy Rollins talking about her Morning Time.  At the time I came up with our Morning Basket, I didn’t know about Cindy’s Morning Time, but I find it affirming that individually we’ve both come up with something so parallel.  It speaks to the universal good of this common time spent together, I think.

So, for background, here are my past posts on our Morning Basket time:

The Morning Basket

Refreshing the Morning Basket

With each new year and each new season, our Morning Basket time has evolved.  Some seasons have been pretty sparse in Morning Basket offerings, and I’ll be honest, in looking back I can see those times as bereft of the richness I want as part of our educational offerings.  I can see overall consistency in our Morning Basket time over the years, but there are definite times that I was less focused.  I’d re-evaluate, and get up and refresh A-gain with the needed self-discipline to roll with a full and rich Morning Basket.  That’s meant as an encouragement – if you’ve tried this before and you’re coming around again to the idea – it still works – brainstorm again and roll with it again!  If you’re enjoying this kind of common time together already (whatever you might call it), then I encourage you to keep living it, make it a priority: it yields great fruit over the years!

Here are some of the benefits that I probably didn’t recognize at first, but over the years, I’ve come to value:

  • Older sibling example to younger siblings.  Since the Morning Basket is the place I keep my virtue/character read alouds, I like that my bigger kids are also modeling good habits during this time.  My little kids do pay attention to this – no lesson planning required!
  • Group narrations – can I just tell you how much I love group narrations!!  All narrations have value, but again, that modeling that goes on in a group narration has yielded enormous fruit.  And a group narration with a variety of ages – enormously valuable! It teaches:
    • narration – the skill of it
    • attention – to the person narrating
    • that someone else’s perspective may be different and valuable
    • prompts rich discussion within the family
    • young children must learn patience in waiting their turn to contribute
    • older children must extend their respect to their younger siblings as the littles narrate
  • The HIGHLY efficient use of time!  In a CM education, all the children may be reading Shakespeare, studying an artist, composer, reading and learning poetry and other memory work, working on a hymn…and more!  Combine all of that into one fantastic time (call it whatever you want), and you have common time spent within the family.  Win-win!


Aside from my perspective, I thought I’d share what has been a fantastic term of Morning Basket work for us, just because I gather so many ideas in seeing how others live out an idea.  This isn’t meant to encourage emulation (I’m definitely NOT a super-hero!  I’m just a mom that brainstorms, lives, falls, gets up and does it all again)…or depression (don’t allow examples shared by other moms to be an occasion of sin: no comparing, fretting, or feeling inadequate!  Use it as a tool for motivation)!!  So…with the disclaimer out of the way…

Click here to download our Morning Basket – Term 3 – 2014

Morning Basket

Picture Study

We’ve really, really enjoyed using the Simply Charlotte Mason’s Picture Study Portfolios this year!  What a fabulous collection that makes approaching a particular artist so streamlined and attractive!  This term we studied Monet, a particular favorite artist of mine.

Composer Study

This term we studied George Friederic Handel and I read a little each week from Getting to Know the World’s Greatest Composers: George Handel.  I haven’t used any books from the Getting to Know… series before, and we liked it.  It’s a little cartoony for my personal preference, but it was engaging and  a good biography for children. (We really enjoy the Opal Wheeler series a lot if you’re studying a composer from her series!).  I use iTunes to assemble particular pieces from a composer when we study the composer.  I typically read ahead in whatever book I’m using for the composer’s biography, and choose specific pieces mentioned and then as we read about the piece, we spend the next week or two listening to it and getting to know it.  Sometimes I can’t find a piece, even in iTunes, and youtube works great as a help for this.  We read about Handel’s Biblical Oratorio, Israel in Egypt, and were intrigued {open door}.  So, I found an excellent performance to watch and we really enjoyed trying to find the plagues as part of the oratorio.

Formal Art Study

This is something that is just plain hard to fit in our day.  I have a few kids to work with, and that means that my involvement in anything is limited.  I finally figured out {I’m slow…I know!} that putting art instruction in the Morning Basket meant that we completed it more, and time spent was more efficient because we were all together.  I’m definitely continuing with this approach!  I’m a long time fan of Artistic Pursuits series for this.  I typically break this out of the morning time and I’ve really hit my stride in approaching it this way.  I like to save this for after lunch, and I have had SO much success with actually getting it done if I let the kids enjoy their afternoon out-of-doors time while I set up our space {without them in it!}: setting out the supplies for the lesson for each child.  No scrambling and looking for a #6 paintbrush during the lesson.  Another duh! moment {see the theme here –> she’s slow but eventually gets it!}: preparing the lesson means a smoother lesson for the children and allows me time to really enjoy it!

Nature Walk Time

I’ll be honest, if I don’t peg this somewhere during the week, then the week slips past and we don’t do a focused Nature Walk.  And then weeks tend to add up.  I don’t like that.  That’s not to say we don’t spend plenty of time out of doors, but there really is so much wonderful value in a focused Nature Walk.  So, I brainstormed some questions that pertain to the season/term, and I keep this simple: we walk in our own gardens, yard and wooded treeline.  {I LOVE taking special walks on wildflower trails and mountain hikes, but some seasons necessitate closer to home walks – so if you don’t walk because you’re intimidated by the thought of getting out and going to nature, bring nature to your windows and walk in your own gardens!}

Story of the World

We don’t use this resource every year or every term, but this year because of our study of Ancient History, we’ve been enjoying the audio version of Volume I, and the Morning Basket is a great place for it to live – everyone can enjoy it.  I don’t do anything over-complicated with this.  We listen, they narrate.  Simple.

Faith and Religion

We start with our morning prayers here and then each morning we check the Liturgical Calendar {Note: we follow the 1962 calendar since we attend the Extraordinary Form of the Mass} and read about the saint of the day.  We primarily use Saints for Young People For Every Day of the Year, by the Daughters of St. Paul (2 volume set), copyright 1963, for our reading.  My little kids love the Liturgical Calendar coloring book which we subscribe to.  {I print the month’s coloring pages at the beginning of the month and then bind them with my Proclick}  I may also read from a Baltimore Catechism lesson here, or another liturgical year picture book.

Read Aloud Time

Covering History, Natural History, Virtue/Character

I try to read aloud from something from Natural History.  This term we’ve been hopping around based on seasonal interest.  I might choose a picture book, or we sometimes read an article from the month’s Nature Friend magazine.

Since Charlotte Mason always integrated reading about national history {obviously, her choices were English history since she was in England} alongside her period-specific history choices, I’ve discovered that the Morning Basket is an excellent place to read aloud our national history book!  This term we read The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy.  It’s an excellent book, but it wasn’t a good fit for our Morning Basket with the ages I have now.  It was too much for my youngest.  But now we’re reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s A Wonder Book {admitting the obvious: this is not national history} and everyone is thoroughly enjoying it!

I’ve also been reading a little at a time from Simply Charlotte Mason’s Laying Down the Rails: A Habit Training Companion {we’re still in Book 1…working through slowly}.  This resource (as are all of SCM’s resources) is integrated with CM’s writings, and I like the format.  Each week I read the Parent Prep section which gives me a good sense of where we’re going with the habit we’re working on.  Then, once a week, I read a lesson {sometimes two if the lesson is short}.  Sometimes there may be poetry or other quotes which make excellent copy work or additions to our memory work.  Since we move slowly, we really spend some time adding ideas about a particular habit to our everyday way of life.  We may cover 1 – 3 habits each term {3 is a stretch}.

Memory Work

True confession: I’m still working on a memory work system.  I like the system that SCM describes in their Scripture Memory System because it involves a system of review and repetition, but I haven’t yet committed the time to take it, translate it, and make it a part of how we work.  Maybe a summer project for me?  In any case, I do value making time for memory work.  Inspired by Celeste, I use Evernote to gather mp3 files of audio versions of hymns and folksongs so that I just pull Evernote up when we’re learning something new.


We usually read some Shakespeare as part of the Morning Basket, but we took a break this term.  Now, you Shakespeare purists, don’t throw tomatoes at me, but we just love Shakespeare: The Animated Tales for setting up some context.  {Do preview these – though they are animated, they cover content from Shakespeare faithfully – mature content and all!}  We have so much fun drawing out a character map for a play.  This one is from A Midsummer Nights Dream – it’s so easy to get tangled up in the many love interests!  Merciful heavens!


…and we like Lamb and Nesbit for young children’s reading of Shakespeare. I really recommend Marchette Chute’s Stories From Shakespeare for background before reading a play!  It’s essential for mom/teacher, and often works well when read aloud.

And…in case you’re interested, I’ve compiled a document that details Shakespeare’s works.  It contains notes about historical context of a play, movies that might be based on a play, general content themes and {my own} thoughts on age appropriateness.  I’ll add it here in case it’s a help: Shakespeare 37 Plays–Reference.  {I built this in Pages for mac, so if you have Pages and want the original document so you can add/edit it – just email me and I’ll send it to you!}

Extra Stuff…you know…the stuff you notice your kids don’t know

For example, I recently realized that my 9 year old can’t yet recite the months of the year.  {ugh}  So, I make a note of it here and we work on it in our Morning Basket.  Same with learning the branches of government, name of the President, Congressmen, Senators, important phone numbers, blah, blah, blah.  There’s always something…some little gap I’m noticing.  The Morning Basket gives it a place to land.

I also sometimes throw a little map work in here – nothing complicated here {you know my theme…be simple or…begone! :)} I give the child a simple labeled outline map of an area we’re studying for 5 minutes {set a timer}.  They study it.  Then I give them the same map, unlabeled.  They label as much as they can remember.  Lather, rinse, repeat this enough and a child can learn an amazing amount of basic map work over the years.

In wrapping this up, I’ll add that we spend on average 1 hour to 1.5 hours each day on Morning Basket work.  It’s meaty, so the time investment is there.  BUT…let’s say you’ve got a full day outside the home: errands, a lesson, Mass, stop by the grocery store, then home for dinner and marathon laundry…AND…there is some hope for a day of school lessons, too???  My solution has been to make our Morning Basket time the priority.  And to keep Morning Basket really flexible, I add everything I can to Evernote {free app that I HIGHLY recommend} and my iPad {see if you can find some of your books from your Morning Basket to store on your iPad, many are available free in the public domain and this allows you to read from the book…or your ereader!  It’s a great help in flexibility!} so that Morning Basket is also TOTALLY PORTABLE!  It’s enough.  I don’t make this the rule, but it’s an excellent exception to the rule for a full day and it keeps us rolling forward.


If you’re considering your year(s) past, wrapping up…and if you’re like me and beginning to consider the year upcoming, do consider something that might function as a common time, a Morning Basket.  It doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact it should be simple!  It is efficient in its function in your day which makes it a wise investment of your time.  Living book and Memory work choices can be appropriate for all ages in your home!  And this time may become for you as it has for us: an anchor that nurtures family, inspires ideas, and collects it all in a simple basket.