I received a timely request from a reader the other day. She asked a sensible question, which ran as follows:
With the new school year approaching, I would love your input on beginner homeschooling with a preschooler. How did you structure your day when you first started, and what did you focus on during those first years as a homeschool mom? What should I do for Morning Time? What is Morning Time? Do you have any other tips to keep me sane and joyful?
I’ll give my best to answer this question by breaking it down into sections.
What did you focus on during your first years of homeschooling?
I started homeschooling when my eldest was about 5 years old. I also had twin 3-year-olds, and a baby. Now this sounds busy, and it was, but it was worth it.
Our “homeschooling” day consisted of reading a lot of books. When I was tired, I played audio books. We also went on daily walks and met other moms at the park.
While we did do “seat work,” it wasn’t much…a math workbook, a phonics book, and a book where The Eldest could trace letters. I can’t remember much else.
I do remember stressing out because I thought she was supposed to be a whiz at math facts–adding and subtracting single digits with the snap of a finger. I bought flash cards and wrung my hands because she wasn’t very quick. If I could do it again, I’d cut that part out. Of course math facts are important, but not to the point of tears.
The focus of those first years was just to enjoy reading and being outdoors and learning to help around the house.
What we didn’t do was technology. In other words, very little screen time was ever allowed.
How did you structure your day when you first started homeschooling?
Since the beginning of our marriage, my husband and I have always begun the day with prayer. This has evolved over the years, as to what and how we prayed, but we’ve always done it. For how can one be a decent wife, mother, and teacher without Jesus? Not possible.
So, prayer first. Then, I just followed the natural rhythm of the day. After breakfast and clean-up, I liked to do “school” right off the bat for the simple reason that we could be done for the day.
Then I remember daily walks around the neighborhood. Then lunch. Then naps. And oh! Blessed Day if the younger children fell asleep at the same time, and I could nap too.
Afternoons were always a bit difficult, however, if there wasn’t anything to do. At times, I felt lonely. I suspected I called my mom a lot, just to chat with an adult.
What else did we do?
I took all the children everywhere, just to get out of the house…Target, the grocery store, more neighborhood walks, a friend’s house…I learned how to cook, experimenting with different recipes and ingredients. I eventually learned a little bit about gardening.
We read more books.
What is Morning Time?
Cindy Rollins coined the term “Morning Time,” I believe. It’s just a time when Mom and all the children gather together for prayer and school for a short while. It varies from household to household.
We’ve always started Morning Time with a short prayer, followed by whatever song I want to learn. Right now, it’s Ave Maris Stella, a traditional Vespers hymn. When the children were all little, I seem to remember learning other favorite hymns and also the different parts of the Traditional Latin Mass, like Credo III or something.
After prayer, the children recite whatever poem they are memorizing. Today it’s Shakespeare’s Sonnet 27 for the older children and “O Wind” by Robert Louis Stevenson for the younger ones. Years ago, when I started, we did a lot of Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes.
In the beginning of my homeschool career, that was likely all for Morning Time. Now, however, we’ve added our Latin vocabulary and any other school songs we may be working on for grammar, writing and rhetoric, or geography.
What should I do for Morning Time?
You should do whatever you’d like all the children to learn together. I would of course recommend poetry. And then, think about what you would like to learn. That’s how I choose most of our material, especially the poetry, songs, and Bible verses that we’ve memorized over the years.
I’ve found that if I’m interested in the material, the children will be too, and if I’m not, they’re not.
Ultimately, you can do whatever suits your fancy! And, feel free to return to family favorites. I’ve written about this before. There are certain poems that we always recite at particular times of the year every year.
Other tips for maintaining sanity and joy?
Yes, read A Mother’s Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. She lays everything out beautifully, getting First Things first.
In particular, I like her recommendation of getting out of the house by yourself from time to time. I generally spend a few hours away every Saturday. It’s restorative for me.
There are other things that help with sanity and joy too. I am thinking of a weekly Adoration hour, just for you. Then also, be sure to go to confession at least once a month. We all need it.
Lastly, if you aren’t already, pray a rosary together as a family, daily. If that seems overwhelming, just start somewhere, maybe a decade or two. The point is to start now and work towards the whole as soon as you can.
Does this help? Let me know if I need to be more specific in any area. Also, if anyone else has anything to add, be sure to comment below. I tend to forget things.
P.S. If you’d like another book recommendation…read Michael O’Brien’s Landscape with Dragons. Not only does he lay out great guidelines for what makes a book good, but there’s also a book list in the back that I found helpful for children.