I use “morning basket” loosely. It’s not in a basket and often it doesn’t happen in the morning. For us, it’s a collection of stuff that we do as a group. That’s all.
With six kids under six, getting diapers changed and breakfast served is more important than any school because everyone will be too crabby to listen if they don’t eat first. Sometimes we get to our morning basket at breakfast and sometimes it’s as late as 1:30pm when the littles go upstairs for a nap. It all depends on how the morning goes.
Less is more with a morning basket for littles
Our morning basket is very minimal. Let’s face it, five year olds, three year olds, and one year olds don’t need much (if any) school. My kids happen to enjoy doing “school” and it gives me a sense of purpose in my day.
Morning basket time for us includes character, read alouds for subjects that we don’t study in depth yet like science or social studies, calendar time, and religion-related stuff.
Character: Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue
For our character study, we use Little Lads and Ladies of Virtue (LLLV) from The Character Corner. I looked at several options and considered just reading from The Children’s Book of Virtues, but nothing seemed simple enough and yet cohesive and complete for my purposes. The Children’s book of virtues is better as a supplement, I think. I also have to be careful which stories I read to my kids because they might imitate the characters’ behavior, good or bad.
LLLV requires little to no preparation–great for a busy mom of lots of littles. It contains 24 character traits with five days of study for each. Each of the traits includes a definition, a bible verse, “I will” statements, and an activity. So far, the activities are simple, easy to understand for preschool and kindergarten kids, and easy to set up.
We try to complete one character trait per week. I choose the order based on what I think the kids need to practice most. So far we’ve used “obedience” and “self control.” Even my big boy, who resists formal learning most of the time, asks to do LLLV.
Science, Social Studies, etc.: hodge podge
I loosely designed science units using the National Geographic (NG) First Big Book series, Dr. Seuss Learning Library, and the Magic School Bus. This year we’re starting with weather, so we have the NG First Big Book of Weather in our morning basket. I’ll read 4-8 pages a few times a week to introduce them to weather concepts and terminology. The other books we read more sporadically since my kids insist on reading Dr. Seuss or Magic School Bus in it’s entirety. That’s way too long for our morning basket and relies heavily on the kids being in the right mindset to sit and listen for an extended period.
For social studies, I’ll read a couple of pages from the NG First Big Book of the World or First Big Book of Who once or twice a week. We might also do some map work from Evan-Moor Beginning Geography. Often this is only for the bigs because it requires a bit of reading, but sometimes it is simple enough for the middles to join in.
Calendar time is simple. I made a file folder with one side that has spots for the date, day, and season. The other side holds all the items not in use. We talk about yesterday, today, and tomorrow since they are still fuzzy concepts for all of my kids. I don’t bother with a formal lesson using a monthly calendar because they ask enough questions about my big wet-erase family calendar in the kitchen.
Feast days and the liturgical year
Religion is part of our morning basket at least weekly. An important point: I have no history with any church, so I know very little about the liturgical year and the bible.
In May 2019, we joined the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. We’re not Greek, but its the most easily accessible Byzantine Catholic church in our area and eastern Catholicism seemed like the best fit for our family. However, I feel obligated to try to do something with religion at home because our church is too small to have regular Sunday school.
My search for a guiding light
When I contemplated teaching my kids about Byzantine Catholicism, I searched and searched for some guidance. I didn’t find much.
Compared to the Roman-rite Catholicism or non-denominational protestantism, there is very little in terms of homeschool curriculum for religious studies. God with Us Publications has a curriculum, but at this point I don’t feel that I am well versed enough in church stuff and the bible to teach my kids from their materials. Orthodoxy has the Children’s Garden of the Theotokos, but that’s similar enough to the materials from God with Us that I don’t feel knowledgeable enough to present it credibly.
I considered just doing a protestant bible study, but that seemed like a bunch of information without context. I’d still be the awkward mom with a bunch of awkward kids in church, unsure of when or how to cross myself or what day of the year it was. I wanted to get a feel for the rhythm and habits of the church before we embark on bible study. Not to mention, I have no idea where to start with bible study since every part of it has the same relative importance to me at this point.
Answer to my prayers for help guiding my kids (and myself)
I am so thankful I found Byzikids Magazine! It is simple, timely, and brief–perfect for my munchkin horde. Each monthly digital issue includes a calendar with a daily note from the Gregorian Calendar (the one we use) and the Julian Calendar (or “old calendar” that some churches use). The calendar also shows if it is a fasting day, holy day, or has an online activity for the day.
Perhaps best of all, the website has a lesson plan for each week! The lesson plan lists activities and articles to read in the magazine, all with page numbers. For more activities, the lesson plan links to prior issues for the same month. Some of the material, like crosswords, are still too complex for my five year olds, but this is the most approachable religion curriculum for a Byzantine neophyte mom like me.
We might not get to it every day since it’s a harder subject for me to prep even with Byzikids to help, but I think I learn as much as the kids do when I can pull it together.
What I don’t put in my morning basket
We do more than our morning basket as a group. As I mentioned above, the Dr. Seuss and Magic School Bus read alouds are too long and irregularly spaced for a morning basket. It’s the same with any other read alouds for which we read an entire book. Preschoolers and kindergartners are not known for long attention spans, so I fit longer books in whenever I can.
Our morning basket also does not include individual or small group subjects like reading or math. I might do reading and math with all the kids in the same room, but instead of talking to the whole group at once I bounce from person to person, trying to keep them all engaged with their work.
I don’t include memorization, art/music, or poetry at this point, though I might add those at some point this year. At my kids’ ages, a lot can change in a year.