Sunday, August 7, 2016

What's in Our "Morning Basket" This Month?

Sick children, plumbing issues, car issues, and more all collided this past week and threatened to derail our S.K.I.L.L. T.I.M.E. + efforts.  However, the resources that I had collected in our "Together Time Bag" kept us on track.  With them, we were able to continue to roll along, at least a little, toward our 2016-2017 learning goals.

Since many of the resources in our bag are faith-based ones, I thought I'd share about our "Morning Basket" alternative today as a part of our weekly series on Training Happy Hearts in Young Children.

Before I do, for those who may not know much about what a Morning Basket is, let me direct you to Wildflowers and Marbles - one of my favorite Charlotte Mason-inspired blogs and the place where, I believe, I first heard about the idea of Morning Baskets.  (Even if you already know what a Morning Basket is, you may want to pop over to Jennifer's
Wildflowers and Marbles blog anyway.  It is such a delight!  She lives and writes about the organization and beauty I aim for.)

You may also want to click through to our old Chair Pocket and Morning Prayer Pegs posts, which describe part of the inception of our current "Together Time Bag".

Why Our "Morning Basket" Is a "Together Time Bag"

 For us, a literal Morning Basket does not work.  Because we often take our reading to our back deck, our front lawn, or out and about to wherever we are headed to on a given day, a portable bag works best for us.

Likewise, since, some days, we go from beds to minivan in short order, a "MORNING Bag" won't due for us either.  Our read- -together times are just as apt to happen in the afternoon or the evening as they are in the morning.  Thus, we've dubbed our "Morning Basket" alternative a "Together Time Bag" and aim to delight in its contents early in the day, but are just as likely to enjoy them in the late afternoons or evenings.

 Little Steps Towards Big Goals
No matter what time of day we break into out Together Time bag, my children enjoy all the readings in it, and I am comforted knowing that we are making brief regular forays into a variety of areas that I want us to focus on.  This month, as we refocus on our habit of using our Together Time Bag, I have opted to fill it with simple resources that key into
faith, nature studies, poetry, art, and literature with short, simple readings

In the past - and no doubt in the future, our Together Time readings have been meatier and wider in scope, including books about music, Shakespeare, history, science, geography, and other "subjects" along with a host of faith-based ones. I look forward to delving into such resources again, but for now am enjoying the simplicity of well-loved board books and resources with ultra-short sections and chapters.

It Doesn't Have to Take "Forever"

When you look at the list of books we cycle through with our Together Time Bag, you might think, Doesn't that take hours?  The short answer is:  Nope, not at all.  When we stick to just one small section of each of the main resources in our bag, Together Time takes less than a half hour. 

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Truly, we spent under 30 minutes the other day enjoying selections from each of the books in the stack pictured above.  However, there are days when we spend far longer with our Together Time Bag.  For example, just yesterday, I could not help but to smile and continue reading each time my children sang out "just a little more, please, just a little more..." while we cuddled up around a library copy of The Burgess Big Book of Green Meadows Stories.  With that, our Together Time stretched and stretched.  And, that, I think, is the beauty of using a Together Time bag:  On busy days, it helps us to ensure a little of a lot enriches our days, and on days when there is more time, it entices us to spend hours and hours curled up reading with one another.

Faith-Filled and Fruitful

Whether my children and I spend 20-30 minutes with our Together Time Bag or hours and hours, one thing is certain:  the time we make for it is always well spent! 
We pray, learn, chat, and, of course, connect as we read through the resources in our bag.  We fill ourselves with faith, beauty, truth, and, as the name of our bag indicates, together time.  We also build (or rebuild) a super easy habit that keeps us from going completely off-track when zany weeks strike.

A Together Time Bag Example

This past Tuesday is a case in point of how our Together Time Bag keeps us on track.  As the day unfolded, we had no running water in the kitchen due to some plumbing issues, our living room was an explosion of clutter after having cleared the car from a camping weekend that had ended in rain and a child with a fever, and my heart was heavy with news that my mother-n-law was quite ill and, therefore, our family would not be able to make our annual visit to see her and Papa.  Chores beckoned and my mind raced with tasks that needed to be done.  I just did not have it in me to get the children started on their routines and lessons for their day, but I did have it in me to pause, call us all together, and simply read once I spied our Together Time Bag.

What a resetting time that was for me.

As we progressed through our Together Time, I noticed our camera on the table, so decided to snap some photos as we went.  I share them here as inspiration for you to see how simple using a Together Time Bag or Morning Basket can be!


We opened our Together Time Bag readings on Tuesday with Pray Always, a book that we are using for gentle memorization work. 

Jack will be starting his two-year first Holy Communion preparation at our parish this year, I am also beginning focused preparation for it at home.  As a part of that, we are making our way through our slim copy of Pray Always by having each of the children and recite the prayers contained within it individually.  When we get to one that the children or I do not know, we pause and read it daily until we all know it.  Right now, we are working on the Offering to Mary, which I find quite fitting since this month is dedicated to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Pray Always currently sells for only eight cents used.)

After working on our Offering to Mary, we opened up a perennial favorite of ours, a board book we have owned and revisited often since the children were little, Give Me Grace.  I pulled this book back off our shelves and tucked it into our Together Time Bag, because I realized some of the children do not know how to spell the days of the week yet.  The book contains each of the days of the week spelled in large print with bright illustrations over two pages and then a two page spread with a simple prayer. So, I ask the children what day of the week it is, then challenge them to spell the day of the week.  We check their spelling against the spelling in the book, and, then read the prayer and share what special intentions or thoughts come to mind as we read it.

On Tuesday, the prayer reminded us of guardian angels and we paused to pray especially for Nana's guardian angel to be near her during her time of extreme sickness.

Give Me Grace sells used for just a penny right now.)

Next up, we briefly worked on the Confiteor as memory work by having each child recite as much of the prayer as they could and then reading the prayer as a whole together.  We also read several chapters from Jesus and I, a book I purchased especially to help jack with his First Holy Communion preparations and to ensure that we had not missed anything in Luke's and Nina's prior preparation. 

I cannot recall where I heard about
Jesus and I, but I am so glad I did!  It is truly just what I needed this year - simple and complete!

The book is organized into ultra-brief lessons that lend themselves to direct, oral teaching and discussion.  Each lesson title contains a phrase of a prayer, and the corresponding lesson ties into that phrase through a narrative composed of short, simple sentences followed by comprehension questions and First Holy Communion Catechism questions.  During Together Time, we simply read the narratives and, then, chat about the questions.  Much of it is review, even for Jack, but, occasionally, the children glean new thought nuggets and information from it, such as the idea that the first sin was not committed by Adam and Eve, but by Lucifer.  (The first sin on earth was committed by Adam and Eve.)

Jesus and I sells for just a penny used on Amazon!)

From there, we went on to revisiting a board book the children used to enjoy when they were little, Baby Einstein: Windows to Color, which we are using to review the spellings of basic color words as well as to enjoy simple picture study.

I rediscovered
Windows to Color when cleaning a pile of clutter in our basement and decided it would be perfect for this month.  It contains reproductions of a variety of paintings from artists we have previously studied and also focuses on color.  I had recently noticed that not all of my children can spell the names of basic colors, so, the book seemed perfect.  On our first day revisiting it, I simply read it, and the children commented on their connection with the art in it.  Since then, we have been orally spelling color words with it, then finger spelling them in the air, and also doing picture study with the reproductions contained in the book.

On Tuesday, the children had no trouble spelling red and enjoyed studying the O'Keefe painting, noticing the different shades of color used within it and recalling other O'Keefe works we have previously explored.

Windows to Color also sells used for just a penny.)

We then pulled out our copy of the Play Along Bible: Imagining God's Story Through Motion and Play

Honestly, this darling little Bible is too "young" for my children, since it is written in such simple prose and since my children already know all the stories contained within it, however, when I was tidying one day and went to put it away in another room, one of the children saw it and asked to read it.  At that moment, I realized it is a perfect book for Luke to read to us since he loves reading to himself, but does not relish reading aloud and since he thinks the instructions written in red in the
Play Along Bible are fun.  The simple prose and the ability to lead us all in motion and play entices him to read the passages to us sometimes instead of having me always be the one reading during our read-together times.  In fact, on Tuesday, I read some and then he did.  Success!

Luke then went from reading to us to reciting for us as all of us took turns reciting poems from Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization by IEW

We reviewed
the Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization package from the Institute for Excellence in Writing a while ago and have just begun reusing it for the new year.  We so enjoy the selection in it!  The children laugh and smile as they recite them, and I love that the selections move from an early learning level to an advanced (high school) one.  I also relish the fact that we have an audio CD collection which contains the same poems and speeches used in the Student Book.  That means our Together Time recitations can be easily supplemented with occasional reinforcement when we are out and about in our minivan, which, in turn, makes developing a mutual collection of memorized work so easy for my children and me!

(Even as I write this post, two of my children are proudly reciting poems from
Linguistic Development through Poetry Memorization.  Yep, it's not just for Together Time!)

After that, we read a poem and a story about Wupsy in our Catholic Children's Treasure Box, Book 2.  Luke often likes the poems in our 20 book collection of Treasure Box books and Jack is particularly partial to the Wupsy/Sunny stories.  Nina simply adores the entire vintage collection and so do I.  So, since we are reading our way through our Treasure Box books from Book One to Book 20 again, in order. 

(The Treasure Box books can be found used and online as a collection as well as sold separately for as little as a penny used.)

After that, we read a bit from our Christian Liberty Nature Reader, Book One

Our copy of the
Christian Liberty Nature Reader is another book that I rediscovered while cleaning some clutter.  No sooner did I find it, than did Luke start reading it to himself.  Then, Nina - and, to my surprise, Jack - wanted to read it to me, too.  So, I put it in a 1:1 lesson bag, and we pulled it out periodically during the spring during Jack's and Nina's 1:1 lessons times with me.  Over time, though, both Jack and Nina found the book too difficult to keep using for reading lessons, so, since they still wanted to discover all the information in it, we moved our Christian Liberty Nature Reader from a 1:1 lesson bag to our Together Time Bag.

The text in the
Christian Liberty Nature Readeris quite simple but it is also interesting.  We have all discovered a new thing or two about the creatures God has made and we've enjoyed reading about familiar things, too.  Sometime, we read just one short segment of the book, and at other times, we read several.  Tuesday, we read three.

And, with that, our Together Time drew to a close after only about a half hour on Tuesday.  Short, simple, yet rich in faith, exploration, chats, and connection. I am grateful that our Together Time Bag helped keep us on track this past week and look forward to toting it along with us daily for weeks and months to come.  

If you have suggestions for resources to toss into our Together Time Bag in future months, do share them, please.  Likewise, if you'd like to know anything more about the resources we are currently using or ones I have "on deck" for future months, just ask!

I pray you have a week filled with beauty, truth, connection, and not getting derailed.


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