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Taking charge of our children’s education can be both empowering and daunting. Many of us turned down this road looking for options in education but found ourselves wading through cluttered websites, confusing curriculum spreadsheets, and state standards that require a degree in Bureaucracy to decipher.
While there are many paths to research and consider, most of us need a way to simply begin. And we need to start with small, doable steps.
Enter, the morning basket!
The morning basket was the first truly concrete idea I came across in the homeschooling world. I encountered it in the middle of a two-month depression buried underneath a pile of curriculum spreadsheets. With public school fading out as an option, I was trying to make peace with the fact that homeschool was going to be a horrible, depressing reality that I was just going to have to learn to live with.
But wait…a basket of books? By contrast to everything else I had been given, it was so simple. As in, I could start right away. Not only that, but it actually got me excited! (Because who doesn’t love fairy tales and cozy picture books about motherly wood mice brewing acorn tea? If not, well…don’t tell me!)
The morning basket saved our homeschool. I wish I had started it long before we had even started thinking about home education at all!
This is why I recommend that all new homeschoolers (or those of you in the early research stages) begin by simply by filling a basket with books to read together.
Beyond just reading together, this time becomes the nucleus of the school day. It is used to cover subjects that the whole family can engage in together: Bible reading, poetry, scripture memory. It can also cover subjects like science, geography, history, and literature.
Does this sound too good to be true? It’s not. It is actually school.
Here is why I recommend you start with a morning basket:
No matter what homeschool philosophy you choose, you will very likely be reading aloud to your children for some portion of your homeschool. This especially applies to those of you with pre and early readers. Not to mention, a lot of us signed up for this homeschooling thing with the idea that we wanted to give our children education beyond just dry academics. A morning basket ensures that Bible reading, scripture memory, poetry, and just-for-fun reading stay at the forefront of our days.
It Grows with You
Your basket will grow and change with you through the weeks and months. For kindergarten we did nothing but a morning basket and outdoor play. We read Bible stories, children’s poems and picture books from the library. When it was time for first grade we added more living books for literature, science and history. At times we have even added activities like phonics flash cards and practical memory work like addresses and phone numbers. In our fourth year of homeschool our morning basket is growing with us as we study medieval times and European history.
This year our morning basket is actually not in the mornings at all!
I’m sorry to psych you out. We have a baby so we try do it whenever the baby is napping because he makes a lot of sounds and likes to play with toy helicopters that sing.
Sometimes it is ideal: I sit on the recliner with my coffee while the girls color or do play dough at the coffee table. Other times nothing goes right and I just have to read standing up jiggling Fussy Pants in the carrier. On mornings when I feel pressed for time, I read to them at our kitchen island while they eat breakfast. On nice days we spread a sheet out on the lawn and do our reading in the back yard with a tray of snacks.
It Meets the Needs of Multiple Ages
Experienced homeschool mothers will tell you that when you are teaching a range of ages, you should read books appropriate to the oldest children in the group. Having a four-year-old tagging along with us, I can see exactly why they say to do this!
Many times I have put books in our basket that were either too long or too dry for my girls. Some of them even came highly recommended from other moms, but they just didn’t work for us. (We hated the Burgess Bird Book so I’m still not sure how we even dare to call ourselves homeschoolers.) The great thing about a morning basket? If a book isn’t working, all you have to do is take it out of the basket. Sometimes we just abandon something all together, while other times we may try to replace it with a more readable book on the same subject.
Resources for Your Basket
Of course, this is not the only thing you will do for school. Obviously, reading aloud it won’t cover skill-building subjects or hands-on learning.
However, while there are other school subjects and methods of learning that you will want to explore, books have been the tried-and-true foundation of education for centuries. If you’re not convinced that reading aloud together on the couch can be school, then here is some reading that I recommend:
The Read Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
For the Children’s Sake by Susan Schaeffer Macaulay
I hope today that you read this post and felt the burdens lift from your shoulders and a little bit of child-like wonder and joy bubble up inside! If you are feeling overwhelmed and stressed about how to start homeschooling, the morning basket may just be that next right thing.
If you like this idea and want to know what to put in your basket, I have included a step-by-step list with links to our favorite books below!
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Fill Your Basket
Now that I have just sold you on a morning basket, what should you put it in?
1.) Pick a children’s Bible and devotional book.
2.) Pick out a children’s poetry treasury.
3.) Storybook treasuries such as fairytales are great staple for the morning basket. Every child should be familiar with classic fairy tales, folk tales and nursery rhymes.
4.) Seasonal picture books are a lovely additional to the morning basket for the young ones. (The older ones are going to want to listen though.) We get these from the library. Fresh weekly additions to the morning basket add that little element of magic.
5.) Are you in the elementary years and considering a curriculum? Add those books or reading selections to your basket. Picture books are by far my favorite way to teach almost any subject because of the interest and variety they provide. You wouldn’t believe how many of the “gaps” in my traditional public school education have been filled in by reading well-written picture books to my kids. (There are many curriculums that use picture books, such as Sonlight or The Peaceful Press.)
6.) Pick a just-for-fun book. Classic family chapter books are perfect for the morning basket. (We read ours in the evening or on audio though!)
Ready for what’s next? Read one chapter or selection a day! That’s it. You just did most of your school.