Monday, March 21, 2016

Feeding the Body and the Soul: Breakfast Reading on the Range

The topic of a Circle Time or Morning Basket keeps showing up in the Mater Amabilis facebook group. I think some people make this concept seem more complicated than it needs to be. Basically, whatever you call it, this is the time when all of your homeschooling children are gathered together.

At our house, it's called "Breakfast" and it usually takes about thirty minutes.

Generally, I wake up hungry and my children don't. (Second Son is the worst; he prefers not to eat until ten or eleven in the morning. Then, of course, he wants to eat all day for the rest of the day.) So I eat breakfast while they wander the house and gaze out windows. Then, when they're ready to eat, or when a grown-up demands they come to the table (whichever comes first), we start our school day. Whatever fancy or elaborate Circle Time or Morning Baskets may be possible, I like a simple structure:
  • Prayer
  • Scripture
  • Virtues
  • Something Good or True or Beautiful
There you go. The contents of any particular bullet point will vary depending on the ages of your children. Here's what we do now (with a 6th grader, 3rd grader, 1st grader, and pre-kindergartener).
  • We say a morning offering. We all have it memorized now, but I still have it printed on pretty paper and laminated. (This prayer is absolutely perfect if you only have little ones. I'm always considering switching us all to Morning Prayer, but haven't.)
  • I read a psalm. I have Kansas Dad's Book of Psalms illustrated by Valenti Angelo, a book I love dearly. Early on, I'd only read a few lines, but now the children can be mostly quiet for most of an entire psalm. We also read from My Big Book of Catholic Bible Stories in the past, when we weren't studying Old Testament or New Testament history.
  • We have this set of virtue cards. Each day I read the virtue, the prayer, and the saint (if it's a new one). There's also a Scripture reference. We've had some good discussions around these cards and I like how the virtues are linked to actions the elementary children can understand. In the past, we've also used PACE. Lots of different resources could fill this niche like The Children's Book of Virtues, The Children's Book of Heroes, or the Catholic Treasure Box books. It's likely there's something sitting on your shelves right now that would fit, something you probably always wanted to use but weren't quire sure where to fit it in.
Then I read. I start with our "cultural studies." Each day we focus on one of the following:
  • Fairy Tales or Saint Stories - Currently we're reading The Book of Saints and Heroes by Andrew and Lenora Lang. The stories are pretty long, so I spread them over two days.
  • Poetry - We read a bit of poetry, just for listening pleasure. Currently, it's The Cuckoo's Haiku: and Other Birding Poems. I generally spread a book of poetry over a few days, too. You can see some of our other poetry selections using the poetry tag.
  • Picture Study - We study an artist over the course of many weeks. We do actual picture study with four to six works I've printed, interspersed with picture books or stories about the artist.
  • Shakespeare - We're reading through How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare and memorizing as we go. Occasionally, we'll read something else about the play we're studying.
  • Math - We don't do this now, but I want to add something like this for next year so send me all your suggestions.
If the children are still eating when I finish our cultural studies loop selection for the day, I might read Second Daughter's history reading. Everybody studies the same historical time period, but First Son and First Daughter read their work independently. If I read aloud to all of them, it's something interesting and applicable to everyone. Then I ask Second Daughter to narrate followed by the others. It gives us a bit of common ground and demonstrates narration for Second Daughter (some better than others, but that's life).

If people are still eating (it happens; they're slow eaters), then I dive into the read-alouds. We generally have three going at any given time and I'll alternate depending on what we read the day before, my mood, which book is at a more exciting point, or which book is due back to the library the soonest.
If I read a bit from each of the novels after history and all the earlier selections, we spend an hour together over the breakfast table. Sometimes, if we're rushing off to an appointment or something, we may not even get to our cultural studies. The prayer, virtue card, and psalm generally take five to ten minutes.

The italic print: Links to Amazon are affiliate links. As an affiliate with Amazon, I receive a small commission if you follow one of my links, add something to your cart, and complete the purchase (in that order). I like to use the little I earn on the blog to purchase birthday and Christmas gifts (so they'll really be from me because the kids say I don’t have any money).

The links to the virtue cards and to Lang's book are not affiliate links. 


  1. Nice, I have found that simple is better for us too when it comes to our morning time spent together. I love the Morning Offering! and all my kids have now learned it due to the daily repetition. I also add the "prayer" from the end of Morning Prayer, as it flows so nicely each day with the liturgical season. Slowly I would like to add more aspects of Morning Prayer, and hope that praying it together would be a goal maybe when our kids are high school age, building up to the whole thing all the while. We'll see. I have started using a Catechism Q&A (the St. Joseph's one that is based on the Baltimore) at breakfast some days and the kids all get a kick out of that. We always read either a Scripture passage or a saint story (depending on the day) and then our current read-aloud. I am always amazed what we can accomplish.

    I like the idea of adding a picture study. That is something I have always loved the idea of but never been able to successfully implement with any sort of regularity.

    1. I think a picture study would fit in perfectly for you. I'm amazed how much you're able to get done, too. We read a lot at breakfast, but we're not running out the door to get anywhere, though. Usually.


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