This year I wanted to add in some more fun stuff and have more of a routine in place for our school. So I put together some “morning binders”. Other families might use a “homeschool morning basket” but since I focus on individual, independent work rather than group work, we do morning binders.
A morning basket or binder is simply a set of activities that you do every day to start your day. It can be individual, like we do, or you can do it as a family. You would plan those activities ahead of time, and gather supplies, keeping them all in one place so that when you’re ready to start, you don’t have to go searching.
Unless of course your kids get there first…
Why do a morning basket?
A morning basket or binder is a way to start your “school” day, by adding in fun, low-prep activities to get the brain working. On those days when nobody wants to start thinking and everyone is feeling sluggish, a morning binder can get the blood flowing better.
If you are doing morning basket time together as a family, it’s also a great way to include extra family time. You can foster sibling relationships, prioritize affection and team work, and create opportunities for family bonding. And you can give your kids those group work times, developing those skills as well.
And if you’re doing morning basket time individually, this is an easy, low-prep way to get kids started without you having to have finished your morning coffee. Then they aren’t waiting on you to start school.
There’s no one right way. Homeschooling is like that — customizable and flexible.
What you need to get started
Whether you choose a basket, a box, or a binder will determine what you need to start. You need something to hold the materials you’re prepping for your morning start.
For us, we’re using 2″ binders with D rings. That way I can put in a month at a time, and it isn’t overwhelming for the kids.
If you’re doing a basket, you might want a basket with high sides and a flatter bottom, to hold books, craft supplies, or a folder with paper work. Or you might try one of those plastic milk-crate type storage boxes.
What we include in our morning binders
Every day, my children do 7-9 pages in their morning binders. The first three pages are super quick. We count the days in the month, marking down the next day, add another tally mark to the “How many days in school” sheet, and one of a “Bucket list”, “letters to write” or goals for the month.
The next three pages are more detailed daily pages. The first page is all about the date, and my children practice writing the date in several versions. The next page is about the weather, and they chart the weather and figure out the temperature — and what they should be wearing. (And sometimes there’s a quick change of clothes!) Then the last page is about the time and putting the date into money.
The next few pages are fun puzzles. Sometimes there’s only one page, if it’s going to take a while, like a word search or a detailed coloring page. And sometimes there are three pages, such as a maze, drawing, quick math facts or proofreading a paragraph.
Other options for a morning basket
You can use a homeschool morning basket or binder for whatever you like! For me, a morning binder is a fun way to start our day, while reinforcing some life skills (like dates, weather and money), and to get extra practice for core skills like math and reading.
Other parents like to use a morning basket to help teach family values, such as including a religious devotion or teaching. Or maybe they’ll work through etiquette or mental health skills. Sometimes there might be a physical component to the morning routine — a workout or meditation.
Some homeschool families use a morning basket to help include neglected school areas, such as arts and crafts, music or exposure to classic literature. They might work on handiwork such as knitting, or maybe sing together. Or maybe they will do a read-aloud while the kids draw or color.
Or maybe history and geography is an area of focus for you. Your morning basket could include listening to a history podcast, finding locations on a map, and practicing geographic location names. You could do a timeline journal or wall display as well. And maybe you’ll do a brief biography or historical milestone daily.
If science and technology is more of a priority, morning baskets work well. Use your morning basket time to do a science experiment or nature journal. Or maybe this is where you’ll get your kids to work on a specific educational program on a tablet or computer. You could also use a puzzle book here — try cryptograms, logic problems, or sudoku.
And if core subjects are all you’re looking to do, morning baskets are ideal. You can do quick math fact drills to get extra practice in counting, addition facts or the times tables. Try a spelling test — or better yet, a spelling bee with your kids. Add in a quick writing prompt for fiction or non-fiction writing skills, and later in the week, they can proofread, rewrite and finally present their writing to the family.
How long does this take?
For us, we spend anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour on morning binders. It really depends on what they have to do and how well they can focus. Some days, there’s only a few pages, but it takes an hour to complete them because they get distracted and silly. And other days, there are a whole bunch, but they race through them easily because they are eager to learn.
How long you spend with a morning basket will depend on your goals for that time and what activities you want to include. And it will depend on how well your children pay attention — and how often you have to pause to address issues. We all know how bad days can make everything drag on. Morning baskets are no different. They just make it easier to spot!
As a general guideline, you’ll want to budget in at least 30 minutes every day for your homeschool morning basket. If you include a longer read-aloud or a podcast, or a physical activity, you might want to put that up to an hour.
What will your basket look like?
Independent work is the best way for us to homeschool. My children do many things together, but for school, I much prefer having them do things on their own. And having easy, low-prep independent work, contained in an easy-to-grab binder, just makes my life easy.
Your morning basket can look however you like. Maybe you’re craving more time together, so gathering together for family devotions or a storybook is a perfect way to start your day. Or maybe you want to instill healthy habits in your kids, so starting off with physical activity is the best fit for you.
It doesn’t matter what morning basket time looks like, really, as long as it fits you. The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility. You can make your homeschool fit your lifestyle and priorities. And morning basket time is just one tool in many to help you do that.