A lot of my friends have really loved the idea of The Morning Basket that we’ve been doing this school year.  I would like to take credit for this amazing thing, but it’s definitely not a unique idea.  There are so many variations of The Morning Basket with so many awesome ideas all you really have to do is look.  Of course, what good would this blog post be if I told you to go look elsewhere?  So, let’s talk about how awesome MY morning basket is.  🙂

Before I give up all of my secrets, I have to confess… my Morning Basket is actually more of a…. Noon Basket.  Despite all of my attempts to be a decent upstanding homeschool family, we are still living the Homeschool Vampire Life.  Even on the rare days that we manage to get up at a reasonable hour of the morning, we still aren’t really functioning and moving until noon.  It works out though because usually I can do the reading and discussion while the kids eat.  Ok.  So it’s not so great for the discussion part, but honestly the discussions always turn into butts and farts, name-calling and taunting, and just out-and-out chaos anyway.

Nitty-gritty out of the way… let’s talk about the fun stuff.

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I like to start our Morning Basket adventure out with an Artist Study.  I looked at a few different options for our artist study.  Charlotte Mason has a really amazing Artist Study collection, but it looks pretty in depth and I thought I would start us out a little slower.  I picked up a copy of Child’s Introduction to Art:  The World’s Greatest Paintings and Sculptures by Heather Alexander.  This book has worked out pretty well for us.  Each artist gets a two-page spread.  The first page is about the life and work of the artist including information about any special techniques or tools used.  The second page is an in depth look at one famous piece of work by the artist.  I usually go through these pages a couple of times during the week and then I also break out the Dr. Google Art History PhD and we peruse images of other artwork by the artist.  I also like to find an image or two of a piece in a museum or where ever to give the kids perspective of the size or scope of the artwork.  They were surprised that the Mona Lisa was so small.  The Princess was pretty excited when we went to the NC Museum of Art and she found a painting by Botticelli.  I was pretty excited that she recognized the name of one of the artists we studied.

Once we finish up with artists, we do a Composer Study.  I bought the book Meet the Great Composers by Maurice Hinson and June C. Montgomery from Amazon, but something happened and my order was cancelled so I have been using Story of the Orchestra:  Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! by Robert Levine.  I still intend to get the Meet the Great Composers book, but it turns out that the Story of the Orchestra was a good start to our composer study.  Much like the book we are using for our artist study, this book allows us to skim the surface of the composer rather than dig in too deeply.  Plus the composers are separated into musical movements with a description of the movement and how it differs from the previous.  I also really like that the book talks about the orchestra (it is the Story of the Orchestra) and various instruments within the orchestra.  I am really hoping to get to some orchestral concerts some time this school year.  The book came with a CD and we get a sample of a piece from the composer we are studying.  It is just a sample, so for the remainder of the week I look up our composer of the week on YouTube and usually find a channel playing an hour of various music by the composer.  We do review the information on the composer throughout the week, but mostly, I just get the YouTube music playing in the background while we work on other stuff.

One of our favorite parts of the morning basket has been Shakespeare.  I was afraid that the kids would get bored with the stories, but this one of the few parts that they actually listen to without much interruption.  I have been using Twenty Shakespeare Children’s Stories:  The Complete 20 Books Boxed Collection which has been pretty great.  Each week we can read one story.  Sometimes I only read a couple pages a day and sometimes I can read the whole book in one day.  I think I should probably do more with this outside of our morning basket time, but for now I think the kids are at least getting familiar with the stories, and we have years more of educating so we can add more depth as we go along and The Littles catch up a little more with The Princess.

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We have really enjoyed the poetry and all 3 kiddos have memorized part or all of several poems each.  Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy is absolutely the best book for our poetry study.  Not only does she do a fabulous job of organizing the poetry for different situations, but she gives a perfect introduction as to why learning poetry is so important.  I have enjoyed her selections so far and the kids are finding poems they can relate to.  I can see us using this book year after year so the kids are completely immersed in these poems, but I think eventually I would like for them to learn some more “traditional” poets like Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost.  Most of the poems we’ve read so far I would consider to be much more modern day poets- certainly ones that appeal to children- and that’s perfect for beginning our journey and stirring interest.

We finish our Morning Basket time with a Folk Song.  I have had a harder time with this part because I’m mostly just flying by the seat of my pants on this.  I really need to explore some CD options and/or folk music books because some weeks it’s just like, “What should we do?  Oh.  We’ll just sing [insert song here]” with no real thought into the song, how it might relate to our week or what the song is really about.  I did manage to do some Halloween songs for the week of Halloween, but other than that we’ve done whatever comes to my mind at that moment.  I do like the idea of this being a part of our Morning Basket time though because there are so many songs I learned as a kid at daycare, in school, and in church that these kids are missing.  I don’t want them to grow up and not at least recognize “She’ll be coming ’round the mountain” or something.  Plus, a lot of these silly folk songs are songs that I find myself singing on days when I just feel like singing something.  They make me smile thinking about games we played at day care with “The Farmer in the Dell” and how everyone wanted to be a certain “thing” the farmer took into the dell with him.  A few songs are songs I sing to the kids for fun like “Aba Daba Honeymoon” or at bedtime like “You are My Sunshine” or just because like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad.”  So yeah, I kinda think this is more important than I’ve made it and I need to do a better job.

That’s really all for our Morning Basket.  My original intention was to include reading some of our Sonlight books each week as well as mapping, but those had to be dropped.  What we’re doing now is already pushing the attention span of The Littles and The Princess is getting a lot of mapping work with her history lessons each week so, I’m not stressing too much about dropping these.

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One thing that is really great about the Morning Basket is that it gets the kids ready to do school.  It’s just like circle time in preschool or Kindergarten- gathers the kids together and says, “School is starting now!”  I love that we’re doing things that are kinda outside the box with the Morning Basket rather than just focusing on the same old things.  When I started the homeschooling journey, it was a goal of mine to give the kids more cultural things, not just the reading, writing, and math that is drilled in your regular school system.  I want them to be well-rounded people that have known and experienced life through art, music, poetry.  I want them to be able to sit down and have deeper discussions about the meaning of it all.

Don’t think that the Morning Basket is just a homeschool thing.  All parents can do this.  Use breakfast or dinner time to engage with your children and give them just a little something more.  When my kids are at their best, our Morning Basket takes at absolute most 30 minutes start to finish.  When they are their usual crazy selves we can spend an hour at it.  But 30 minutes of that time is just me trying to herd the feral cats to a somewhat listening position.  See?  Easy Peasy.  So get you a basket together and make those little monsters into cultural gurus.