Our Morning Meeting: The Anchor To Our Homeschool Day (part 2)

Have you read part one?  Head over there now.  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.


Our Morning Meeting takes longer to describe than it actually takes to execute!!  Part one breaks down the subjects that we do every day.  In general, our daily subjects take about an hour and a half or s  to get through, but that obviously varies depending on how many diapers I need to change, who spilled what on their books, and how many chapters of our read aloud they con me into reading!  However, that’s the great part: flexibility. If your read aloud book is at the most suspenseful chapter, you may want to continue and read on to the end and nix poetry.

You’re allowed!  You homeschool– the sky’s the limit and the curriculum serves you, not the other way around.

That being said, assuming that we’re plugging along on a “normal” school day, we cover the subjects that I mentioned in part one (Bible, memory work, hymn study, poetry, nature journals, grammar and our read aloud) at the beginning of our Morning Meeting, every day.  Somewhere near the end of that list, we take a short break – usually right before our read aloud so we can grab snacks while I read.

Once we’ve gotten through our daily list, then we move on to our looped subjects, history, geography, Shakespeare, art and music.

Here’s how that works…


Loop One| History + Geography

I “loop” these subjects, meaning that we do one subject one day, and the following day we switch and loop to the next subject.  This means that I don’t schedule history on Monday, Wednesday, Friday – it means that we do the next thing.  For example, every other Wednesday, we have a homeschool co-op, and every Thursday, we are out of the house doing art lessons and running errands, so those days, we rarely get in a morning meeting.  So, if we covered history on Wednesday, we skip Thursday for art lessons, and then Friday, we do geography. This has been SO helpful in not forgetting where we are or going a week without doing a particular subject if it’s been a busy time.  I short, we just do the next thing.


I have gone round and round on what history curriculum I like best.  In fact, I should devote an entire post to that (I think I will….) because there are so many options and things I like/dislike about each one I’ve used.  I adore history and so do my kids, so I like to keep us together if possible.  Unfortunately, that’s becoming more and more difficult, so we’re trying a few things to span the ages and learning gaps.  Right now we are studying modern history so we are using Story of the World (I love their accompanying maps in the workbook and I use their outlines for my oldest, so she can get used to following a lecture and taking notes.  I don’t do the projects in the workbook, as they’re too time consuming for us).  However, I’ve also flipped back and forth and used Mystery of History (although their modern world book is over the heads of my youngest) and Beautiful Feet Books.  See…I’m very undecided! One of my kids is advanced in her reading and comprehension, and one is dyslexic and so weighty lessons that are full of content are hard for her to focus on at this point, making it difficult to find something that fits.  So….we roll with it and do the best we can.  As long as we’re moving forward, I’m not worried.

Upon recommendation, I also recently grabbed A Little History of the World and it’s been SO enjoyable!  It’s written in a conversational tone and covers a lot of material.

My oldest also supplements her history reading with historical literature.  I use the reading lists from Beautiful Feet Books as double duty – extra history and literature studies.  I choose books for her roughly based on the time period we’re studying and each day she reads 2-3 chapters in the books and then does a written narration.


We keep this nice and simple.  There are some wonderful resources out there and I’ve used and enjoyed the packs from Simply Charlotte Mason as well as the literature based pack from Beautiful Feet.  Both were wonderful but a little more time consuming than I wanted right now.  We may go back to them eventually, but for this season, short and sweet is where it’s at.

Right now, we’re coloring and labeling the maps that come with the Story of the World lessons, and we’re also doing map drills – I give them printed blank sheets of a map and they fill in what they know.  Then, they are given the answer key and they correct it themselves and fill in anything they forgot.  That’s it when it comes to map work – it takes less than 5 minutes.  After their drills, we read through Elementary Geography by Charlotte Mason, we discuss it and the kids narrate back portions of it in turn.

Loop Two| Shakespeare, Art + Music


I know his name can strike fear into the heart of many a homeschooler, but I adore Shakespeare, and after reading Ken Ludwig’s amazing book, How To Teach Your Children Shakespeare, you’ll grow to love it, find the value in it, and it truly won’t be scary anymore!  Slow and steady is the key here, and there are so many great resources to supplement with.

Right now we are reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream (a great one to start with- it’s funny, there are fairies, over-the-top arguments, a man with the name “Bottom” and a queen who falls in love with a donkey.  Crowd pleaser, I tell ya) using Birch’s retold version Shakespeare’s Stories: Comedies.  Each time we read, I go through 1-2 pages of the story and stop after every few paragraphs to make sure that they all understand what’s happening and to give them a chance to narrate.  We also keep a diagram of characters on our chalk board so that we can remember who’s who in the story (the kids also copy the character list into their notebooks).

I’ve also used or heard great things about:

Shakespeare’s Stories For Young Readers by Nesbit

Shakepeare. Classic for Kids. by Lamb

Great Scenes from Shakespeare’s Plays (Coloring Book)



Our “art” is basically an artist and picture study, and the kids take art lessons outside of the home each week.  At home, we cover famous artists, their lives and works and my main goal is appreciation and recognition.  It’s a slow process really, but that’s ok.  We take our time and don’t rush through the artist or their works.  We just finished with the picture study portfolio of Turner from Simply Charlotte Mason and I can’t recommend those enough!  They are pricey if you rush through them, but I don’t plan on covering more than 2-3 in a school year.  In general, we spend at least 2-3 weeks on one work of art.  We get to our art studies once, sometimes twice a week, depending on where we are in the loop, so it’s not overwhelming and it’s spread out just enough that it’s not redundant.  I’ll be sharing my printable Art study sheet soon and a more detailed look at how we study art, so make sure to check back!

I also use and love:

This entire series from Laurence Anholt– they’re a whimsical and narrative look at various artists and the illustrations are beautiful

This series from Mike Venezia – he pulls out the comedic and quirky facets of the artists’ (and musicians) lives and it’s part text book, part comic strip, and quite endearing

Lives of the Artists (Masterpieces, Messes and What the Neighbors Thought) – a wonderful collection of artists’ stories that could actually be used as a spine for art

The Who Was….series – is another great one with memorable illustrations and interesting Artists’ biographies

Famous Painting Cards – vibrant cards of famous works that make it easy to use for picture study or playing games

The Come Look With Me Series – these are a favorite in our home and I’ve used them with all of my kids.  Each page has a painting and the opposite page has questions to ask them about what they see, what they suppose the painting is about, etc.  It’s a wonderful gently introduction into art appreciation.

FREE Artist Study Aids from A Humble Place – these are very well done and bonus, they’re free.  This is truly all you’d need!

I’ve also had wonderful luck with large coffee-table type books of famous artists.  We have been known to rip out a page (gasp!) and hang it on our wall for frequent reference.  I once scored a 2′ tall book of Georgia O’Keefe’s works at a garage sale for 50 cents and it’s one of our favorites.



At this point, our kids are not enrolled in music lessons (which I hope to remedy soon) but we do study music appreciation in our loop and, like art appreciation, it’s a gentle, low stress study that’s not hard to incorporate.  In general, each time we have music, we read about the composer’s life and then listen to his works.  It really is that easy.  Simply choose a few of the composer’s most well known works, or pieces that you think your children would enjoy, and just listen.  I play a song as an introduction each time we start a new artist, but after that, we simply play it throughout the day, during lunch, in the afternoons during chore time and in the van.  Again, just like art, at this age, my goal is appreciation and recognition.

In the past we’ve also spent time going through the orchestra and it’s always good to review – we usually start our school year with those lessons, and then move to more “appreciation”.

Here’s what we’ve used and enjoyed:

The Story of the Orchestra– this is my go-to book.  There are lessons on each instrument, major composers, and general listening techniques and it includes a CD for listening to particular tracts during each lesson.

Meet The Orchestra – a fun look at each individual instrument

Meet The Great Composers (book + CD)

Aside from those, wikipedia and youtube are easy ways to find all of the information and music you might want.

Ambleside Online also has wonderful composer resources as well.

Goodness, I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface!!

In some upcoming posts, I’ll be talking about the curriculum we’re using this year for their independent work and how we schedule our days to fit it all in.  I always love seeing how other homeschooling mamas work their magic, so hopefully this has given you some ideas!

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Our Morning Meeting: The Anchor To Our Homeschool Day – Part 1

For those of you that homeschool you KNOW how crucial a routine or schedule can be.  I firmly believe that Life and Death (read: total anarchy vs. productive management of unruly natives) hinge on the power of a well honed homeschool routine.

We’ve been practicing what we call “Morning Meeting” for the last 4-5 years, and before that, I only had one school aged child, so it looked a little different – bot more on that in a minute.

Our Morning Meeting is the anchor of our day.

Fussy toddlers, lost math books, endless interruptions, doctors appointments – you know what I’m talking about – all of these can totally batter our homeschool schedule, but the Morning Meeting holds us in place and if it’s the only thing we get done in a day, I still consider it a full and productive school day.

Each morning, after everyone is (mostly) dressed, teeth are (hopefully) brushed and chores are (usually) done, we start our Morning Meeting, with all 4 at the dining room table.  Right now my kids are ages 11.5 (6th grade), 9 (3rd grade), almost 6 (Kindergarten), and 2 (small ball of energetic destruction).

Everyone is required to start at the table, because we’re building the expectations, even with the 2 year old, that this is how school starts.  He usually lasts through Bible and Poetry, and after that, it’s anyone’s guess!  Playdough, watercolors, blocks, magnets, and coloring are our best friends at this stage, and a lot of those items only come out for school time, so he starts to get used to a  routine, even in his “school work”.

The Kindergartener stays through Bible and Poetry at the bare minimum, but he usually wanders back in for history and our read aloud as well.  All other subjects (that I’ll explain below) the girls (6th and 3rd grade) stay through, and we take breaks sporadically and have a snack thrown in as well.  I’m flexible at this point because he’s not yet 6, so as long as he’s quiet and doesn’t interrupt, he’s allowed to get up after a little bit.

So rather than try to explain, I’ll walk you through our morning and then show you what books we’re using right now…

We usually try to start no later than 9 with everyone at the table together.  The kids have binders that they bring to our Morning Meeting that have tabbed sections for each subject that we cover, in case there are notes, drawings or copywork that we want to record.

Every day, we go through Bible, our memory work, hymn study, poetry, our nature journals, grammar and our read aloud book.



We have been using Dangerous Devotions for our Bible stories, and it seems to do the best at holding everyone’s attention. It’s written in a conversational way and I really like that there are discussion questions, things for the kids to think about, scripture to reference and questions at the end of each story.  We’ve used both the Old and New Testament books throughout the years and have really enjoyed it.

We’ve also rotated through some of these as well and LOVED them:

Heroes of the Faith missionary books

Little Pilgrims Progress

Hinds Feet On High Places: Illustrated and Arranged for Children (this is one of my girls’ favorites!)

Kingdom Tales (this has been our all-time favorite and we re-read it often – it never gets old and is one of the most beautiful allegories I’ve ever read)


Memory Work

We work on memorizing scripture as well as poetry, so this flows into our poetry time.  I’ve been using the free memory cards as well as the memory method described on Simply Charlotte Mason and have loved it.  It’s easy to implement and we don’t stick to a strict schedule, we just keep going forward.  Some times we hang on a verse for a few weeks, sometimes we have it down in a few days.  We go at our own pace and review often and spend no more than 5 minutes, just reciting and reviewing.

We are also working on memorizing great speeches and passages and the occasional Shakespeare.  I don’t have a set schedule for which ones and when, but I try to tie things into what we’re studying in history or science.  For example, during our recent Civil War studies, we took time to memorize parts of the Gettysburg address, and once we reach WWII, we’ll be looking over some of Winston Churchill’s speeches.

Hymn Study

This is one subject that I admittedly didn’t do for a long time.  We sing mostly contemporary songs at our church but I’ve always loved (most) hymns.  Admittedly not all hymns are worth studying…I can only take so much “Little Brown Church In The Vale”.  However, there are so many rich hymns that really can be viewed like heartfelt prayers and classic poetry.  When doing our hymn study, we focus on both the song and the writer.  Each time we do our hymns study, I read a bit about the writer and then we listen to the hymn via youtube (and I’ve heard spotify is great for this too).  We also tie this loosely into our history studies, so right now we are studying the early 1900’s and talking about some of the great hymn writers of the modern century.  This only takes us 5-8 minutes but is a wonderful tie in with music, history and Bible.

There are several books that I’ve found to be wonderful resources:

Hymns For A Kids Heart Series is fantastic and has a great format.  Each chapter studies a different hymn writer, then Joni Ericson Tada writed a small devotional type section, and then the hymn sheet music is featured and there’s an accompanying CD

Then Sings My Soul series – these books are similar in that the song is featured and then a page or two about the writer’s life.

When in doubt, just grab a favorite hymnal or scour an antique or thrift store for one and use wikipedia to look up information on their lives.  Ambleside Online also has wonderful resources for hymn study.



I know this is an easy one to skip over, but don’t!!  It only takes a few minutes to read through a poem, but read it, and then re-read it. And then read it again.  Hang on a poem until it is easily recognized and the meter and rhythm become second nature.  We memorize some, but we read a lot.  Simply exposing your children to poetry builds rhythmic patterns in their brains, much like music, and as a bonus, it makes memorizing much easier, even with unfamiliar or little used words.  Each time we read a poem, the kids copy it down in their notebooks and we reference it for memorization.  It’s nothing elaborate and we don’t spend more than 5-7 minutes on it.

Here are some books we’ve loved and are using that should definitely make their way into your home library:

Now We Are Six by A.A. Milne

Where The Sidewalk Ends By Shel Silverstein and any books by him!  (My 5 year old BEGS to choose the poem that we read from here; they’re funny and the sketches are fantastic)

Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson – I just discovered this series and have fallen in love!  The illustrations are gorgeous and the first 5-6 pages is the story of the poet’s life.  We just started Emily Dickinson and I have many of the other books in this series on my wish list!

The Classic Hundred Poems – a wonderful anthology of some of the most famous poets with a selection of their work.


Nature Journals

In a perfect world, we’d do regular nature walks and spend hours outside each day.  However, reality is, for the time being we live in the city, and we don’t do nature walks often enough (and truth be told, during busy seasons or our miserable Indiana winters, there are many weeks that we don’t get to it all).  However, I’ve found a compromise for the time being that at least satisfies some of our nature study and builds those skills of observation in an easy to do format.

During our morning meeting (often during our Read Aloud time) the kids all work on their nature journals, which simply means that they look through our mass of science books and choose something to reproduce in their journals, complete with text descriptions and diagrams.  I’m not picky, but they do need to do it neatly, have some text and at minimum a description and title, choose something new everyday, spend more than 5 minutes on it, and add color to it.  We don’t have a chance to experience many exotic animals or places here in the midwest, so this bridges the gap, allows them to interact with science in an artistic way, and builds their observation skills.

I also have them draw what we call our “window picture”.  It’s easy to do and is actually very effective.  Every week or so, instead of drawing from a science book, we simply use our window as a picture frame of sorts, and they draw what they see out the window.  That way, they’re observing one 2′ x 3′ rectangle, what animals meander in and out of the frame (usually squirrels and birds) and how it changes with the seasons and weather.

Some books we love:

Nature Anatomy – this is a favorite and has wonderful illustrations.  Yes, that means that they are reproducing from a reproduction, but especially for younger artists, this is a great tool and it makes drawing a little easier.

Any Audubon Field guide

Sibley Backyard Birding Flashcards – these are gorgeous!

The Nature Connection – a new favorite, especially for our “window picture” drawing and the times that we can get outside.

Other books that we are using I’ve found at garage sales and thrift stores.  Just find a book with beautiful illustrations, hand your kids some paper and a pencil and let them have at it!  It’s simple to implement and is also a good way to keep hands busy while you read other subjects.



Oh that dreaded subject that you feel like you should do but are all too happy to nix if things get busy.  Given the grade levels that we are at, all of my children do the majority of their language arts work through copywork and dictation, per the Charlotte Mason method.  It’s incredibly effective and sufficient at this point.  Now, that being said, it doesn’t always teach them the “rules” or terms of English grammar, but it’s amazing at training their ears and minds to recognize complete sentences, rich vocabulary, and the flow of the language.  I could go on and on about the benefits, but all of their dictation and copywork is part of their independent work.  For our Morning Meeting, we are using some memorable books that take us less than 5-10 minutes to go through each day.  It’s just enough that they are getting practice with the parts of speech, diagramming sentences, and the general rules of language use that they’ll need in highschool.  We go thorough the lesson, diagram a sentence and then move on.  Relatively quick and painless, but a reliable way to make sure that they’re doing some grammar each day.

Right now we’re using:

Grammar Land – an older book but a silly story that teaches the parts of speech and their application using a fictional story about the Judge and subjects of “Grammar Land” and “Schoolroom-shire”.  It makes it memorable and easy to remember the rules of grammar.  There are also worksheets and drills available online if you do a google search.

Grammar Island by Michael Clay Thompson.  Check out the publisher that carries all of his books and you’ll be able to see samples and choose which subject (he has several to choose from!) and level is right for your family.  These are wonderful resources and easy to work through – especially for sentence diagramming practice.  These books hold their value but I’ve found good deals on Amazon, Better World Books and Ebay.


Read Aloud books

I can’t go on enough about the value of reading out loud together.  If attitudes are less than desirable, the schedule is hectic, or mom is sick, this is always the default.  Stories have a way of bringing us together and calming everyone and if you do nothing else for a “morning meeting”, then do this – make a cup of tea or hot cocoa for everyone, maybe a snack if time allows, and cuddle up for a chapter, or two or three.

One winter, we’d been snowed in for what seemed like days with no where pressing to go.  We had terrible cabin fever and no one (mom included) felt like sticking to a regular schedule.  We called a “homeschool snow day” and the kids played outside for awhile in the morning, and when they came inside, we spread a blanket on the floor in front of our fire place, had cocoa and our lunch picnic style, and then read, literally for hours, from a Little House series book that we were in the middle of.  The kids wandered in and out with small quiet toys, art and craft projects, or they just snuggled up and listened.  My voice was exhausted at the end when we finally wrapped things up, but it was one of the most pleasant and rewarding “school days” that we’ve ever had and the kids beg to do it again anytime there’s a heavy snowfall.

We are currently reading The first book in the Green Ember Series and it’s fantastic!! For the sake of brevity in this post, there are too many good books to list, but for reference, I love finding books lists and recommendations via Ambleside Online, The Read Aloud Revival, and Beautiful Feet Books, to name a few.


This list is getting really long, so I’m breaking it into two parts!  In the next post, I’ll cover the subjects that we rotate through and what resources we’re currently using.

Part 2 of our Morning Meeting series is coming soon, so check back!

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A Huge Announcement (and pleas for help!)

So I’m going to keep this short and sweet, but I wanted to pass on the awesome news! (sorry mom, I’m not pregnant)

We’re moving!

oooh….deep breaths now, as we prepare to move our family of 6 (+ 1 oafy Boxer) out to the country.  We’re going to be living on the first 2 floors and helping my in-laws (who live in the basement) with basic cooking and cleaning, as some health concerns have left them exhausted yet willing to welcome 4 noisy kids into their barnhouse.  Yep, a barnhouse! It sets up on a mound and was constructed to look like an old Indiana barn, complete with stone silo.  Pictures will be coming soon as we prepare for this crazy adventure and we move our brood out to acres of open space.

Hence my 2-fold plea for help…

First, moving tips.  We’ve been in this house for 8 years and have since added two kids and the oafy Boxer.  The thought of living amongst piles and boxes all while homeschooling and cooking and laundry….oh, laundry.  Rapid heart palpitations, I tell ya.  How do you do this without losing your mind and living off of caffeine?

And second….for the first time, we’ll have a dedicated homeschool room and I need ideas!  It’s a decent sized room, but I need to decide in the next week or so what all I want to have in it and what furniture it still needs, as we’re having an auction and I need to choose what I’m keeping and what’s going – from both my house and my inlaws. So, for those that have a dedicated room, what do you love? Hate? Wish that you had? Don’t use? etc. I have 4 kids, 3 of which are school age, one of which is a monkey.

My pinterest boards are coming along quite nicely, but message me, leave me a comment here – whatever works –  and tell me what you would do if you could design your school room from scratch!

Better yet, if you have pictures on instagram that you’d think I’d like, tag me (@kelsirea) – I’d love to see what you use, how you have your room set up, your ideas – throw it at me!



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