While I feel like I’m fumbling through this year a bit, trying to re-evaluate and re-define our schooling expectations so that they align with our homeschool vision statement, one area that I feel like we have achieved that perfect and beautiful ideal is during our daily “Morning Time” block.
The idea of Morning Time grew out of a liturgy that I began with our kiddos before we ever officially began homeschooling: Morning Prayer Table. During this time, the kids and I would gather at our prayer table for morning prayer, petitions, and hymns. The kids would choose either a verse from scripture to highlight on a prayer card or a religious art picture to place on our prayer table. It was a simple routine that set our days in the right direction and cultivated a habit that has grown with each passing year. Our morning Prayer Table has evolved since those early days and is no longer only about gathering for prayer, but also about beginning our day steeped in truth, goodness, and beauty.
Beautiful poetry and music, art study, engaging read alouds, nature study and memory work, along with a prayer liturgy now make up what we affectionately refer to as “Morning Time.”
Our Prayer Liturgy varies a bit depending upon the liturgical season that we are in. Currently, we are in the season of Ordinary Time and our prayer liturgy is as follows:
We still begin our Morning Time at our prayer table as we did in our early days. We begin our prayer liturgy by reading about the saint of the day, and from there, we move to praying the daily Mass antiphon, as well as the gospel reading and reciting a prayer in Latin that we are all working to memorize. Just as in the Holy Mass, we pray with our bodies, and so we take opportunities to stand, kneel, sit, and bow (depending on the Liturgical season). In ordinary time, we keep it simple by standing and sitting. Once seated, we spend time discussing the daily readings, not only focusing on what the gospel means in a literal sense, but also what Christ is inviting us to write on our hearts so that we can be changed and transformed in Him. These discussions are so very fruitful, as the connections and deep insights from the children reflect the growth of Christ in them. Truly, this is my favorite part of the day. We also recite a Psalm and scripture reading that we are working to memorize. We conclude our prayer liturgy with petitions for the day.
Prayer Liturgy resources:
As our prayer table and morning time has grown over the years, I have found a few resources that have aided us:
Memory Work Binder (more below)
Hymns CD if you are not gifted in the singing department (ahem…). A friend of mine recorded a number of songs that I use with the children in our religious education program and this has served as an excellent resource in our homeschool, too. Prior to that we used the Adoremus Hymnal CD, but goodness, that was difficult to sing along with.
The Liturgy of the Hours provides the framework after which I (very loosely) model our prayer liturgy.
Saint books: Some of our favorites include Once Upon a Time Saints, More Once Upon a Time Saints, Fifty-Seven Saints, The Way of the Saints, and Voices of the Saints. We have loads of chapter book series on the saints as well, but the abovementioned versions provide a short background about the saint of the day. This keeps it simple and short enough that it can be folded into our morning liturgy.
More on Morning Time:
From there we continue on with the rest of our Morning Time, usually moving to the couch or our kitchen table. I’ll be posting more about these components in future weeks, but suffice it to say, we spend about an hour each morning delighting in good literature, music and/or art appreciation, or nature study. We rotate these topics throughout the week and with each liturgical season, the materials that we use to dive into these topics vary. During this season of Ordinary time, our schedule looks like this most weeks:
More on Memory Work Binders:
Prior to last year, I was not convinced that memory work was necessary (I know, I know), but posts by fellow homeschoolers whom I respect like Pam, Brandy, and Mystie, as well as talks by trusted classical educators (i.e. here) convinced me that I should at least consider implementing it in our school day. Further, I wanted to take what our children were learning in the Catechesis of the Good Shepherd religious education program at our parish and bring that scripture and prayer into our homes in a deeper way so that the texts could continue to be written on their hearts and prayed throughout the week. In the end, we gave it a go and I am now an enthusiastic supporter of the value of memory work. (For more on memory work, I suggest Pam’s series).
Like all other areas of our Morning Time, memory work has grown from scripture and hymns to now including prayers (mainly in Latin), Psalms, complete scripture passages, poetry, and subject specific content in history, science, geography and religion. What I quickly found this year was that by adding in all of these areas to our memory work, I needed a solid system in place that would keep the new memory work categorized and organized. Further, our review section needed an overhaul so that it was more manageable on a daily basis. And most importantly, I wanted to make sure that we were moving at a pace that provided enough opportunity to rest in the content before declaring it “memorized” and having that selection taken out of our daily recitation. Over Christmas break, I re-worked our binder system and ended up with a method that is working great for us.
Our Memory Work Method:
Each child has a memory work binder with the following tabs:
Prayer * Psalms * Scripture * Poetry * Misc.
Monday * Tuesday * Wednesday * Thursday * Friday
Each morning during our prayer liturgy, we pray one of two prayers. Right now we are rotating back and forth between the Hail Mary in Latin and the Act of Hope. We will learn and pray these two prayers together until Lent.
Right now, we are focusing on just one Psalm (134) because Lent will begin in just a few weeks, and I wanted to make sure that we had time to pray this one and let it penetrate our souls deeply before we added another. Our Psalm, as noted above, is prayed during our prayer liturgy.
Again, I kept these selections shorter due to a short liturgical season in Ordinary Time, when we will then switch to Lenten related scripture. For now, we are memorizing the Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33) which is extremely short (this is more for James, 5, who is just learning about this parable in our catechesis program). We are rotating back and forth between that and the Parable of the Insistent Friend (Luke 11: 5-8). Again, this is recited as a group during our prayer liturgy.
Once our prayer liturgy has ended and the candle has been snuffed, we proceed on with our morning time and finish up the last of our memory work. Each child currently has two poems (of his/her choice) in the poetry section of their binders. We take turns reciting aloud our chosen poem for each other every day. In this way, the kids are actually learning a handful of poems because I have found that they memorize their siblings’ poems from simply listening to them. For poetry, we do not rotate between two poems, but work to memorize one at a time. Once a child has memorized the poem in its entirety, I have them continue to recite it daily for another week or longer, because again, it’s not about racing through and checking off the work as “memorized,” but about letting the language wash over them and fill their minds with images of beauty and joy. I want them to sit with it for some time before we move on to a new selection. For some of my kiddos, this means that they will memorize one poem for each liturgical season. For others, it means two or three. Either way, we rest in those poems for a complete liturgical cycle.
This section includes child and subject specific content that is worthy of being memorized and reflected upon during our memory work time. For example, Jonah is preparing for his First Holy Communion and First Reconciliation this year, so his miscellaneous section has items like the 10 Commandments and the Beatitudes. Annie is diving deep into early American History and is learning the Gettysburg Address and the order of our United States presidents. Some of these selections are long, and if they are not memorized by Lent when I will rotate out our scripture, they will simply stay in that tab until they are ready to be moved to the review section.
Daily Review Tabs:
After each liturgical season, I pull out the memorized material and place it an accordion file by category. This file holds all of the completed selections of memorized pieces. The newest from each category go into the back of each section of the accordion file and I then pull out 2-3 old pieces from each category that have slowly moved to the front of each section. I then place those selections in our daily review. In this way, we are rotating in and re-visiting previously memorized pieces throughout the years. We probably will not get through reviewing everything in each category in the course of a single year, as we only review 2-3 selections each day. I am OK with that. Again, the goal isn’t about checking it off and calling it done. The goal is about being steeped in the goodness and beauty that the selections have to offer.
Memory Work Index:
I have had a lot of parents ask me to formulate a list of scripture that reflects what children are learning in the CGS program during each liturgical season. I’m working on that and hope to have that up soon.
Finding a system that works for you and your kiddos’ memory work is key. I spent hours researching and discussing different options with fellow like-minded mommas. Ours has continued to grow and change right along with us and I am sure that it will continue to do so as we continue to keep memory work as a key component of our Morning Time.
How about you? Feel free to share links in the comments to your memory work systems, your morning time plans and resources. I’d love to hear what you have going on in your homeschools.