“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius
Our Morning Basket
When I was thinking about how I wanted to structure our first year of homeschooling, I knew I wanted to keep it pretty loose. Ultimately, our days need to have plenty of room for spontaneity and pursuing authentic interests. However, I also wanted to focus on creating cozy rituals that we all enjoy that can grow with us all the way through our homeschooling years.
Our children (age 4 years, 9 months) have always been early risers no matter how late they go to bed- if they sleep past 6:30 in the mornings, we wonder if they are sick! Since this is something that I don’t foresee changing in the near future (although a girl can dream), I decided that creating a special ritual that we could all look forward to every morning would help set a positive tone for whatever the rest of the day may bring. So in other words, it’s just as much for me as it is my children. I first saw a homeschool morning basket here, and I really loved the general idea but simplified it to fit with our homeschool style. To start, I splurged a bit on a brand-new basket (I always thrift for our baskets) that was the perfect size and had handles on each side for easy carrying by big and little hands. And then came the fun part- filling our basket with lovely things.
What’s In Our Morning Basket
The contents of our morning basket vary from week to week, but we maintain a consistent set of elements. First and foremost are our books. I always have a special chapter book that stays in the morning basket that we read from each day. I try to make that book especially for morning time, but I must admit that we don’t follow that rule most days. My children love books and it’s very hard for me to say no when they are begging for another chapter of an exciting novel no matter what time of day it is! Right now, we are just finishing up James and the Giant Peach.
I also keep some sort of collection or anthology in the basket that we read from each day- we just devoured James Herriot’s Treasury for Children which I cannot recommend any more highly! I might also add a new picture book or nonfiction book related to an interest to the basket. Reading aloud is a primary focus of our learning culture right now, so I’m happy to read for an hour if the children want me to continue. I am always on the lookout for books online, at thrift stores, or at our local recycled book store for titles to put away for our family reading.
In addition to our books, I keep a folder in the basket that contains little books that the twins have created themselves, which is something they do quite often during their free time. Typically they will illustrate the story and then dictate the text for me to write down, occasionally adding their own approximated writing if they choose to. They LOVE when we read their stories as part of our morning basket- I think it communicates respect for their work and you can see them beaming with pride when one of their stories is read!
Once our reading is done, we typically do some type of hands-on activity related to language and/or literacy. Above you can see the choices that I included this week- an Ikea Kvac memory game which we use for storytelling prompts (this is their favorite right now) and some magnetic chips and wands left over from my speech therapy days that they love to use for phonemic awareness games such as word or syllable segmenting. My daughter especially loves segmenting sounds and words- I see her doing it in the bathtub, at the grocery store, on the playground…it’s so fun to watch. I have to add that these activities are never forced on my children- if they aren’t interested I don’t stress. That being said, the children choose to do an activity most mornings of the week.
Lastly, I can’t forget the extra goodies that make our basket really special. I found a “Choose Happiness” aromatherapy candle that we make a big deal of lighting every morning when we get our basket out. And of course, a snuggly blanket so we can curl up together while we dive into our lovely pile of books.
How We Use Our Basket
We use our morning basket most days, including weekends, unless we have a super early appointment or field trip that we have to be out the door for (very rare). It’s become a much-loved part of our morning routine, no matter what day it is! Our basket sits on a special little table under a window in our family room right next to the back door. Most days we carry the basket outside onto the patio and cozy up on our sectional to read. Sometimes we’ll take it to one of our nature hangouts in the neighborhood- the woods or the beach (we live in a lake community). And once a week or so we take it to a coffee shop or to the town square and sit under the giant pecan trees on the courthouse lawn. Depending on how long we read, we usually spend about 30-45 minutes on our basket.
Most of the time we do our basket after everyone has dressed themselves and eaten breakfast. Sometimes we’re feeling lively and have our entire morning basket done by 8:00. Other days we have a leisurely breakfast and don’t get around to the basket until later in the morning, and then we may not do anything other than the reading. That’s the beauty of homeschooling- we can adjust it daily based on what’s happening in our life. In the photo above, we were tired from a big field trip the day before, so we made a nest of sleeping bags in the fort of our play structure and spent an hour just reading. My son laid on my lap while my daughter quietly decorated the entire fort with washi tape while she listened!
As for planning, I don’t have an elaborate system for our basket. I refresh/replace the items as needed to keep our reading material fresh and our activities interesting. Once in awhile I’ll hide a special token or object in the basket related to something we might be doing that day, or just because. The morning basket is a very versatile idea- I’ve seen people add all sorts of things to it such as music, memory work, journaling/narration, nature study, or movement activities. Things I’m considering adding this year include journals for the twins to draw in while I read if they choose to and/or a deck of yoga cards for us to work through together. I also plan on incorporating Waldorf-inspired storytelling bags some weeks- I always loved using those in the classroom and my children are fascinated by them.
I know that to some people this basket may seem rather structured for child-led learning. But here’s the thing- my kids love it! They love the anticipation of seeing what kinds of things I’ve put in the basket each day. They love looking forward to the next chapter in their current book. The activities I include in the baskets are motivating to them and they rarely choose not to do them, probably because they’ve never been forced. But I think what they love most is the promise of my undivided attention as we cuddle in our little nest, savoring this simple ritual we have created together. And I have to admit, that’s what I love the most, too.