A Mother’s Morning Basket
If you’ve read here for any amount of time you know that almost 12 years ago, homeschooling my young but growing children, I sought to provide a common point in our day with what I coined, the Morning Basket – a simple collection of worthy books that lived in…a basket…and we read from each…morning. Thus, the Morning Basket came to be. (You can read all about it here.)
When I first considered the Morning Basket, it was to be a common, shared time for reading good and worthy books, encountering beautiful ideas and art, and fostering truth, goodness, and beauty. For 12 years now, the Morning Basket has been a fixture – books change, children have come and gone and graduated, but still, we meet – the children and I – every morning. I still read books and poetry, and we still enjoy beautiful art and music. It’s still the common anchor point in our day that I hoped it would be all those years ago. And it has been a blessing.
So I took a page out of my own book and created my own Morning Basket. A Morning Basket for me. My basket of truth, goodness, and beauty!
A Mother’s Morning Basket
I have a small corner of my bedroom that I’ve claimed, and I enlisted my faithful rocking chair, a small table, and of course, a basket. And each morning, I sit right here with my cup of coffee, and my morning prayers, and my basket of books. We can’t give from an empty well. To grow and flourish, we each need to be refreshed from sources that are life-giving. It has to be a priority, a part of self-care. And if I’ve learned one thing in motherhood, it’s that once a day gets rolling it’s hard to slow the momentum and sit down – not impossible, just much harder. So, I set myself up for success and start in the quiet, early morning.
What Do I Have in My Mother’s Morning Basket?
Just like our homeschool Morning Basket, different books make their way in and out of my basket as I finish one and start another, but in general, I try to keep something from the following genre in my basket:
- The Bible.
- A prayer book – a favorite is Imitation of Christ.
- Something fiction. Always.
- Something inspiring. I’m choosy here. I don’t like flowery language or being told in 862 words how to breathe through my elbow to encounter my emotions and gain access to my true unrepressed self in order to love more fully. Charity is an act of the will and has nothing to do with my elbow or emotions. I live in the trenches, and in my trenches breathing is done between bathtime and potty training and drivers ed and meal prep and all the rich and sometimes humorous and sometimes tender and sometimes brief conversations in between. I like books that inspire because they express the seasons of motherhood in true terms and recognize the great value in this vocation. I find encouragement there. I’ll share a few of my favorites below.
- A spiritual or cultural book.
- Sometimes I enjoy an educational philosophy book.
- And a notebook and pen. Always. Always. Always. Because I can’t read without writing. This is my commonplace notebook.
I don’t read every single one of these books every single morning! Goodness, no! Some mornings, I barely get through a chapter in my Bible before my 4-year-old is climbing in my lap and asking for breakfast. I do try to read two books every morning, and I alternate books each morning. And I do have a simple rule: while there is coffee in my coffee cup, I’m parked in my rocking chair. It’s simple and do-able and keeps me reading and keeps my mind, heart, and imagination nurtured.
Right now I’m reading:
- The Bible
- Mother Love prayer book
- The Catholic Table: Finding Joy where Food and Faith Meet by Emily Stimpson Chapman
- Pilgrim’s Inn by Elizabeth Gouge
- Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
- Out of the Ashes by Anthony Esolen
- This is my notebook
Here are a few books that I’ve read in my Mother’s Morning Basket that I particularly enjoyed:
- The Mother by Cardinal Mindszentzy – long out of print, but worth finding if you can! My dear friend gifted me a copy and it’s one of those books to read and re-read! This is a cornerstone of my Mother’s Morning Basket.
- All For the Love of Mothers by Lisbeth Burger
- A Life That Says Welcome by Karen Ehman
- The Life-giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally Clarkson
- Grace, Not Perfection by Emily Ley
- The Privilege of Being a Woman by Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand
- Memoirs of a Happy Failure by Dr. Alice Von Hildebrand
- Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education by Stratford Caldecott
- Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper
- The Awakening of Miss Prim by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera (read this with The Benedict Option!)
- Village School and the entire Fairacre series by Miss Read and all the books/series by Miss Read – utterly charming!
- The Woman Who Was Chesterton by Nancy Carpentier Brown – I enjoyed this book so much, and feel like I know and appreciate GK Chesterton so much more for having encountered Frances!
- Tremendous Trifles by G.K. Chesterton – I used this collection of essays several years ago with my first high schooler – we read and enjoyed one essay each week, and then she re-wrote it in her words. That brings back happy memories. But it’s in my Mother’s Morning Basket because…Chesterton’s levity is the perfect antidote to all the significant stuff that comes at a mom at 124 bazillion miles an hour every day – make this decision, clean this thing/person, grade this, plan this. Because it’s good for us to stretch and consider…a piece of chalk…in ways that only Chesterton can elucidate.
Books I’d like to read in a future Mother’s Morning Basket:
- John Senior and the Restoration of Realism by Father Francis Bethel – I cannot wait to get my hands on this book and get it in my basket!
- The Power of Silence: Against the Dictatorship of Noise by Cardinal Robert Sarah
- The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher
- Nothing Superfluous by Father James Jackson – I had the privilege of hearing Fr. Jackson speak and then started connecting dots between classical education, Fr. Jackson, Dr. John Senior, the Integrated Humanities Program, and my imagination has been illuminated ever since.
Consider a small, quiet corner, a comfy chair and a small basket of books…for you. Then we mothers can be like the “tree planted by the water, that extends its roots by a stream and will not fear when the heat comes.” (Jeremiah 17:8)
Do you have a Mother’s Morning Basket? What’s in it?
I love the idea of a mother’s morning basket! You and I are reading/have read so many of the same books. I’m currently reading Out of the Ashes and really enjoying it. Esolen is such an amazing writer. Every subject matter he takes on seems to sparkle after he touches it. Reading his books is, perhaps, a glimpse of what it is like to have him as a teacher. This made me giggle: “I don’t like flowery language or being told in 862 words how to breathe through my elbow to encounter my emotions and gain access to my true unrepressed self in order to love more fully.” Great post!
I just started reading The Benedict Option. It’s interesting.
Thanks for sharing this! You introduced me to Alice von Hildebrand and Charlotte Yonge at a conference last summer, so I’m absolutely sticking around for your book recommendations! Love your other ideas here, as well. (I’m currently reading a Goudge, too – The Bird in the Tree.) Thanks again!
I don’t have a Mother’s Basket! I have a basket, and I have plenty of books next to my bed and by my couch and at my desk….but not a Mother’s Basket. I like the idea. I LOVED The Awakening of Miss Prim. I read it last year and plan to re-read it this year. 🙂 I have also had Beauty in the Word on my to-read list for awhile now.
I’m currently reading Pilgirim’s Inn. 🙂 I have a mini Gouge collection bought off of eBay for a pittance and I have not regretted it. I read and re-read John Senior’s books on Christian Culture and they shaped my vision greatly. I am itching to get my hands on the Esolen book. I enjoyed 10 Ways to Ruin A Child’s Imagination a few years back.
I have to say like a previous poster your “flowery language” quote is spot on!
Oh, I love this idea. My “mother time” book pile is a sad, messy stack in my bathroom. Practical (it is quiet in there). But, so uninspiring. Thank you for sharing. Your blog is always a such a treat to read!
Can you please tell me the dimensions of the basket in the photo? I live this idea and would like to get a basket just like yours!
I linked to the basket I use a couple of times in the post so you can see exactly which basket I have. Peterboro (the maker of the basket) lists the dimensions as 14″L x 9¼”W x 4½”H (Front); 9¼”H(Back). Hope that helps!
Oh, thanks. I didn’t see the link (at the time I was looking at this on the itty-bitty phone screen). I’ll take a look at the basket online. It seems really nice.
I love the Peterboro Baskets! Mine have been in daily use over 10 years now!! Consider them an investment – but so worth it!!
Oops, that previous message should have read: I LOVE this idea…
I enjoyed this post! I do have a basket, but it’s been more of an evening basket. My morning reading (before my kids wake up) is from the In Conversation with God series by Fr. Francis Fernandez. I read the daily Mass readings with my kids later in the morning, unless we go to Mass.
Your idea of doing this kind of reading in the morning intrigues me. I do have a physical need to read before going to sleep – I simply am unable to fall asleep without reading at least a page or two – but lately I am just too tired to read much more than that at night. Right now I have in my basket: Silas Marner by George Eliot; In the Beginning by Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger; Walking with God by Tim Gray; and Towards a Philosophy of Education by Charlotte Mason. Oh, and I am also reading a book of realistic philosophy by Fr. Marie Dominique Philippe – this is something I try to read during the day in small bits.
Thank you for this post, Jen. It has given me some ideas!
God bless you,
Oh my goodness! This is exactly what I need to do! There is NO SPACE in my life, it is just all give at the moment and it is SO hard. Getting up earlier does not fill me with joy because sleep is such a precious resource right now, but I am almost willing to do it! Thank you for your generous wisdom.
Can you tell us more about your notebook/commonplace book? I’ve never heard of a commonplace book before.
A commonplace book has been used historically by many people (as in…for centuries) – it was simply a small notebook wherein one could tuck noteworthy ideas or quotes that one came across during reading. Francis Bacon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Mark Twain – all used commonplace notebooks while they read. No rules – just include anything you find inspiring or noteworthy! My commonplace notebook is just that – a simple notebook (I like dot grid notebooks, but use whatever you prefer!) that I keep with my reading basket. I especially like to note favorite Bible verses, but also thoughts that resonate deeply with me. A favorite thought I wrote in my commonplace notebook years ago came from Stratford Caldecott’s book, Beauty In the Word. He encourages us to persevere toward Truth, saying that, “the ideas are somehow in us, or we could not recognize them.” I’ve come back to that thought again and again! So…all of that to encourage you to grab ANY little notebook and a pen/pencil and keep it near your reading basket! You might find that the idea that lights a spark today, may grow and nurture your imagination far more than you could have imagined when you first scratched it down on paper!! 🙂
Thanks! I really like this idea. I’ve been mulling for several days on what I would put into my Mother’s Morning basket. I have a basket by my chair, but it’s currently filled with stuff I rarely look at. The end of the school year has come, and it’s time to focus on re-directing my own habits for a few months – before the school year begins again and I become absorbed in the habits and lessons of my children.
Beautiful! And, as always, I love your set-up! 🙂 I have more of a “morning drawer”……which holds oh so many books and actually needs to be thinned out. And then different “stations” throughout the house for where I usually take my midday breaks for my next readings. 🙂
I want my children to feast on living books! What are some and how do I find my own and what exactly is a “living book” as you say? This isn’t related to this particular post, but I have to go get ready for night night and I want to know! I am about to embark (through God’s grace and power A L O N E) on homeschooling my children for real (not like when my oldest was four and I made things up as I went along). I am very romanced by the concept of putting the ideas and understanding and love of learning into your children with the foundation of reading good books to them! I am new to this idea, however, so please help explain to me how to grasp and find living books!!! -Gigi (P.S. I like your site!)
Thanks for your kind words!!! A living book is simply a worthy book. It’s usually written by an author with a passion for the subject. If you look at a site like Ambleside Online (https://www.amblesideonline.org/) you’ll see excellent examples of living books across all ages and grades! It should give you a good push in the right direction for homeschooling, too!!
I am ferociously dedicated to my children’s morning basket (which is how I found your blog!). Why have I not been doing it for myself?! So thankful to have come across this post! Blessings.
Thank you so much for your kind words, Dana! I’m so glad to have you along!