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Are you wishing you could find an easy way to get into the swing of this whole homeschooling thing? Having a morning basket to start the day off with has been a total game changer for me since starting to formally homeschool Lu for pre-k this month. Here’s why YOU need one!
I will admit that since becoming a SAHM, slow mornings have kind of become the thing around here– not like we have anywhere we *have* to go! But when I started to homeschool, that needed to change. Homeschooling doesn’t take up an incredible amount of our day since we are only at pre-k, but we couldn’t just mosey into the day like we used to.
I wanted to start our days in a more productive way, but I wasn’t about to create a strict schedule with a “get to work right away” mentality. I’m just not a strict schedule person, and honestly I love that we can have slow mornings playing and snuggling. The reason I love starting homeschool with a morning basket so much is that it allows us to do both: our days do start out productive, but with all the flexibility and enjoyment of a slow-go morning.
What is a Morning Basket and Why Use it for Homeschool?
A morning basket is essentially just items or activities you set aside to work on together as a family each morning. Sound like a fancy way to say “starting schoolwork for the day”? Haha, I thought so too– but the actual activities you choose are usually a lot more low-key.
Rather than jumping right into the bigger lessons or more involved activities, morning baskets allow for an easy transition. They’re also awesome when you have kids in different grades/levels! Before everyone goes off to do their individual work, this time can be used to learn together as a family and bond.
Music, read alouds, and art are some great ways to start the day. Many choose to also use this time for morning devotions, quick reviews of past lessons, journaling, and more! Morning baskets can be as involved and structured (or not) as you want.
By the way, you don’t have to actually use a basket! It is a convenient way to keep the items together, but that’s the only purpose. You can use a bag, a particular shelf on the bookshelf, however you want to organize it! That’s the beauty of homeschool– the flexibility and “do-it-our-way” approach to everything.
Keep it as unstructured as you want; you don’t even have to do it in the morning! Maybe your family is great at getting the day started right away, but need some easing back into it after a midday break/nap time. You can use this general concept and apply it however works best for your family.
Start the day focused on CONNECTION
This is probably my favorite part, and the main reason we will always start our days with a morning basket for homeschool. When we are doing schoolwork, we are focused on schoolwork. But when you start the day with a morning basket, you can focus on CONNECTING with your kids above all else.
That is truly the goal of having a homeschool morning basket; connection. At least, it is for our family! The fact that it isn’t anything directly needed for our curriculum means there’s absolutely no pressure. When there’s no pressure, you can simply enjoy the time together and see where it leads you.
Some days my kiddos just want me to read to them for a bit. Other days they want to draw with different mediums. Pretty much everyday they want to do one of our fun energy busters, ha. But no matter what we’re doing, it’s relaxed, engaging, and the perfect way to start our day.
Connecting with our kids of the utmost importance in general, but I do have another reason it’s a priority for the start of our days. When kids feel connected to their parents, they are more cooperative! This simple step can change the dynamic of your whole day, just by giving your kids this time to play and feel like their interests are being considered. Just by being CONNECTED to you!
Starting Your Morning Basket for Homeschool
So now, I mean, you’re totally convinced that this is a great way to start the day, right? If you aren’t sure yet– just give it a try! Even if you just pick out one book that everyone in the family can enjoy listening to. You may be surprised at not only how enjoyable it is, but how easy it is to come up with ideas for it!
There are a few different ways you can plan out your mornings. The first way is to have weekly baskets either with different themes, or just updated with new items each week. Maybe take a weekly trip to the library to return the previous week’s books and get new ones for the following week!
You can also create a routine where you work through different subjects on each day. For example, M-W-F is music and art, and T-Th is poetry and journaling. This can be a good way to make sure certain areas are covered and that there’s a good variety!
Then for those who aren’t looking to add to their homeschool prep load too much, you can do what we do. We have a morning basket with different basic activities in it and we just do whatever we happen to feel like doing that morning. When I think of it, I may switch out some items, but there’s no rhyme or reason to it.
I personally like having it super laid back and flexible because I just want to start our day calmly while I drink my coffee lol! But I also really enjoy using it as a time for my daughter to choose what she is interested in learning. Rather than having set plans for our morning basket time, this gives our kids the opportunity to make some choices for the day and decide what to work on or learn about!
What to include in your morning basket
Chapter books, poetry, picture books, books are a main part to a homeschool morning basket. Read alouds are a great activity for this time, but we also include a picture book for my 2-year-old. Otherwise, take this opportunity to read one chapter of a family friendly book, or expose your kiddos to some classic poetry!
Of course this one isn’t for everyone. But faith is a priority in our house, so we use this time to read a short section of a kid’s Bible. We don’t do a devotional because we have one for bedtime, but it’s an ideal time for devotionals as well! I think it’s always a great idea to start the day focused on God.
To go along with devotions, this is a great time to work on a memory verse for the week. You can also use this to remember different lines of poetry or inspirational quotes you want your kids to retain. Check out the printable below to see what we use!
Ok so an entire encyclopedia set won’t fit in your basket, but here’s another secret. Not everything needs to be IN your basket (or pile, or bag)! We use our dictionary for a Word of the Day. But using an encyclopedia for even more information is a great way to teach kids to find what they’re looking for without using the internet! *Mind blown*
Use watercolor, crayons, markers, pastels, cut up paper and glue it down– whatever your kids feel like using! This is another “get it out of your system” type thing. You can use this as part of a read aloud to draw something related to the story, but I prefer to let them do whatever they want. The way I see it, is they’re being told what to do and how to do it all day with school. But don’t get me wrong, that’s super important too!
I tell my daughter all the time that there is a time for creativity and doing things how you want, but there IS also a time where you have to follow instructions. Both are important! But it probably comes as no surprise that the creative part matters a lot to me. So I make sure to start our day off that way. She can go crazy with her drawing and then I find the transition into doing things “my way” for some of the school activities is a lot easier.
These are a laid back way to review some of your past lessons. If you have actual flashcards for what you’re learning (we have some for letters and numbers), then great. But you can also just write a few vocab words or questions on some index cards to have ones that reflect your most recent lessons!
Especially for littler ones, I like to give them something to do for read alouds. I’ve noticed that if they have to just sit still, then they’re focus on sitting still instead of listening. It’s actually amazing what a difference having busy hands can makes! One of our activities-of-choice for this is to use play dough. Older kids love to build with it and you can have them create something related to the story being read!
Popsicle Stick Game
I can’t lie, this is probably the kids’ favorite part of our morning basket! I just wrote down some fun “energy buster” type activities on a handful of popsicle sticks and mix them all up. The kids can pick out one stick and whatever is written on it is their fun activity for the morning.
We have ideas like dance party, hide and seek, hula hooping, crab walks, and more on them! I also seriously have a popsicle stick that says “Chores… muahahaha”) because I am mean and crazy haha, but I choose a quick chore and then let them pick another one. Gotta sneak in those responsibility skills when you can, man!
This is another fun and laid back activity to just focus on connecting and enjoying each other, but many kids’ card games actually have a lot of potential for learning. The card set we have has Crazy 8’s, Memory, Go Fishing, Old Maid, Slapjack, and Matching card games. There’s a lot of opportunity for working on counting/number recognition, attention skills, and learning the names of different things like the planets or bugs!
Prayer List and Daily Intentions
This is part of the printable with the Memory Verse included below! We make a list of people/situations that we want to pray for to help form the habit of daily prayer. I also love starting the day by asking Lu what is one way she can try to be kind, considerate, thoughtful,or helpful that day. It’s been nice to consider the start of the day rather than reflecting on what we’ve already done because then it sets the tone that she has a goal to be positive in some way that day!
These are such a fun way to get your kids firing on all cylinders! Brain teasers are educational in nature, but since they’re so fun your kids will simply enjoy trying to figure them out. There are tons of books you can find to suit any age or skill level!
For your older kids that can write, this is a wonderful way to set the tone for an appreciative day. They can use this time to write something they are thankful for, hopeful for, a goal, or some way they worked towards that goal, and more. Reflecting on the good things in life help us to keep perspective, and I think that’s more important than ever with our kiddos!
Many people like to include a little geography lesson in their morning basket time. Using a globe or a colorful map, your kids may be fascinated by seeing how many places there are in the world. Make a list together of places they want to visit in the future!
Learn about past Artists
Find books that show the work of different famous artists. It’s a great way to expose kids to different styles and ways to express themselves! Maybe even plan to learn about a new artist one day, and follow-up the next day with a craft that is centered around that artist’s style.
Instruments (real or homemade)
Resist the urge to turn this into practice time if you have a child that legitimately plays an instrument. This is another great time to let kids have some control and play the instruments however they want. (As long as they are being respectful to the instrument!) Homemade instruments like toilet paper roll shakers are super fun for this time as well!
We made our own nature journal to take on walks with us, but they can be an enjoyable add-on to your morning basket as well! During the warmer months you can take this time outside altogether and use the nature journal however you want. Or stay in and either save items to look at, or let them draw what they see out the window. An interesting idea might be to spot a tree they can see through the window and note the changes in it over the course of the year.
Seasonal or Holiday Books
Yes, books are a big part of morning baskets, so there is yet another suggestion on this list! Whenever there’s a change of season or holiday coming up, get books that line up with them. Seasonal and holiday themes are an amazing way to teach kids. They have the visual aid of seeing the weather change or decorations go up as well!
Here starts some ideas that aren’t physically in the basket. We have our calendar hanging on the wall, but we update it during this time. It’s an easy activity to have as part of a routine, and helps your kids learn the days and months. I’m not sure why, but my kids get soooo excited to update our calendar each day, and will not let it go if we’ve forgotten to do it every once in awhile haha.
This time instead of playing their own music, let your kids enjoy listening to a variety of music styles. This is a great time to expose them to types of music that may not otherwise get listened to! We especially like to use this time for either Christian music or introducing different notable classical musicians/composers, such as Beethoven. We like to play music during the freestyle drawing time!
National Anthem/Pledge of Allegiance
One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is you can continue traditions that are important to you as a parent. Having pride and love for our country is extremely important to our family. So we choose to start the day with the National Anthem and Pledge of Allegiance!
Something else to consider is if you want to teach your kids about where your ancestors came from, you can include a flag from those countries and do a lesson on something about that part of the world!
Kids’ Choice of Lesson!
This one is potentially not as laid back, but will get your kids excited and involved for the day. I like to ask my daughter at the beginning of the week if there is any one thing she’d like to learn about that is unrelated to our studies. Whatever she picks, I will look up some information and either find or make up some simple worksheets/activities on it. When I say anything, I mean anything– video games, cereal, how stuffed animals are made– anything!
It’s a fun way to keep them excited about learning. Not only are they learning the important stuff we teach throughout the school day, but we consider what THEY are interested in as well! Plus you may find out some interesting facts about random stuff yourself. (Did you know that Cap’n Crunch’s full name is Horatio Magellan Crunch?)
I hope this has provided you with some ideas and inspiration for starting your own morning basket for homeschool. It has been a huge help in starting our days off on the right foot! They can be as simple or as involved as you want, so even if you want to put in NO more effort than homeschool is already requiring, grab some books off the shelf and see where it goes!