Family Learning Time

I’ve been promising some concrete strategies to help you navigate temporary homeschooling while the world is shut down for the Coronavirus Pandemic. Today I’m going to share the most powerful tool in my arsenal. Most veteran homeschoolers call it Morning Time. The essence of Morning Time is gathering the whole family for group learning. 

First I’m going to tell you why to do it. Then I’m going to show you how to do it. Then I’m going to give you a free printable to help you get started doing it. (And for my veteran homeschooling friends, I think you’ll like this one too.)

WHY MORNING TIME IS SUCH A GOOD IDEA, ESPECIALLY RIGHT NOW

Morning Time has several key features that make it a wonderful tool for our current situation.

First, Morning Time provides structure and routine. We all know how important routine is, especially when the world is upside down. By bringing all of your kiddos together at the same time every day, typically right after breakfast, you provide a sense of stability and predictability in an unstable and unpredictable time.

Second, Morning Time brings Truth, Beauty, and Goodness to the start of your day. The whole point of Morning Time is to bring your family together for connection, learning, and fun. It’s a time for reading stories, playing games, exploring geography, enjoying poetry, drawing, studying history – really anything at all that you want to enjoy and explore together. 

Third, there really no “right way” to do Morning Time. If you want to really explore how homeschoolers do this, the Morning Time expert is Pam Barnhill. She even has free pre-written plans you can download and follow. They’re great. But I’m going to give you a tool at the end of this post that will let you put together something for your family in no time at all. And without spending a single dime. After all, this is temporary and you just need something to roll with now. 

Finally, Morning Time brings you together as a family. Well, maybe not the primary working parent, but all of the kids and the parent doing the schooling. This means teens and toddlers all learning together. Yes, it can be absolute chaos at times, but it can also be so beautiful.

3 STEPS TO DOING MORNING TIME WITH AS LITTLE PREP AND PLANNING AS POSSIBLE

Figure out how long you think you want to spend on Morning Time. 

This is the easiest step. There are no rules. Fifteen minutes is probably a minimum, and two hours would probably be an outside maximum. Unless you get embroiled in a wicked game of Monopoly, then Morning Time might last all day..

Go “shopping” in your home.

Next, take an inventory of your home. This is where the free printable comes in. It will walk you through an inventory of books, games, toys, etc. You’re going to jot down any “science in a box” or papercraft kits or any other sort of activity-in-a-box or learning-toy-with-a-million-pieces that the grandparents gave you for Christmas that you keep thinking you’ll do “some day.” Friends, this is some day. If you’re not going to do it now, you’re never going to do it. So consider offering it up on Nextdoor for some other poor quarantined family. 

Once you’ve taken stock of the physical items in your house, go through your emails or Google “free educational resources for Coronavirus” and jot down the 3-5 online opportunities or resources that look the most appealing to you and your family. There are loads of them. Don’t fall down the rabbit hole. You don’t want to spend more time planning than doing.

Plan your Morning Time 

With this list of tools and resources, you’re ready to plan a week of Morning Time activities.

Here’s a formula you can use to get you started with some ideas and resources you can use. You don’t need to do all of these things. In fact, the planning sheet gives you room for 4 per day. The order of activities is a suggestion to switch up the kind of work bodies and minds are doing. Remember, there are no rules, these are merely ideas and suggestions. You can’t do this wrong. 

The printable will give you a planning sheet to use. 

  • Start with prayer or reflection or hymn or song that jives with your family routine. In normal times, my family uses Your Morning Offering. These days we’re using Fr. Sam Morehead’s CoronaCast Streaming Mass. This can be the whole of your Morning Time if you like.
  • Do a craft. Don’t overthink this. It can be as simple as coloring a picture. Look at your list of supplies and craft kits and such. Lots of homeschoolers like to do nature drawings – just bring in something from outside and sketch it, or go on a field trip to your back yard and draw something that inspires you.  For some really simple and fun open-ended “invitations to create” go here and here.
  • Read a story. A picture book or 3. A chapter or two from a novel. Look at the list you made and your pile of books and plan something for each day. If you have any kids still working on the craft, let them continue. Don’t make your kids sit still while you read. Let them craft, or knit, or roll around on the floor or play with Lego. They’ll listen longer, and you’ll stay saner. You can also take advantage of Audible.com’s free content for kids and let someone else read the story while you craft with the kids. But you have to stay present. That’s my one rule.
  • Play a Game. Again, don’t overthink this. You can color a picture or play Go Fish. In fact, the simpler the better. We often play games for memorizing math facts or another simple card-based game like Uno or something. If you want to play Settlers of Catan or Monopoly or some other involved game, that may be the last thing you do for Morning Time that day. 
  • Read some non-fiction. Look at your list. This is a great time to finally read those DK books, or a picture book biography, or something like The Storybook of Science which is a great classic you can get for $.99 on Kindle. Stop and talk about it. Let them interrupt with questions. Look up answers to questions. Watch a Youtube video about it. Wonder about things out loud together. No rules. Just exploring something interesting together.
  • Do one of those activity-in-a-box things or take advantage of an online learning opportunity. Make it something you do together. We have really been enjoying Mo Willems Lunchtime Doodles (you can watch them live or recorded). We have also enjoyed things like Brain Scoop (science) and ViHart (math). 

That’s it! You now have a plan for spending a lovely chunk of time with your children each morning. You’ll enjoy routine, connection, learning, and fun! 

Here are your free printables!

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