Review: A Handbook to Morning Time

I have struggled over the years to establish a morning routine in our homeschool that I am happy with.

What I envision – the children and I enjoying time spent together with good books, doesn’t always happen. While we have had periods where we would start our day with a basket of good books, life happens and our routines fizzle out.

Our morning time stack.

I need not just a routine, but a PLAN. And Cindy Rollins’ A Handbook to Morning Time came at just the right time for me.

“Morning Time sets the tone for the day by helping us focus on those things that we ought to love.”

Rollins, with years of homeschool experience behind her, lays out her morning time plan. She details each area that she strives to cover. But, she also acknowledges that sometimes, morning time doesn’t happen, and that’s okay!

Rollins uses morning time not just for reading to her children, but also working on spiritual growth as well as memory work. As I read through this book, I felt truly inspired. While I made sure to have quality reading picked out for us (often choosing titles from Beautiful Feet Teaching Character Through Literature or Five in a Row), I think there was still a lack of direction to our morning time. To be honest, there were subjects I was trying to hit later in the day (like artist or music appreciation) that Rollins covers as part of morning time, and her approach seems more comfortable and natural.

“Morning Time is a liturgy ordering our affections towards those things which are true, good, and beautiful – it is a liturgy of love.”

Since I finished this quick read, I have already worked to implement some changes to our morning routine, and plan to incorporate more of her plans as the year progresses.

The older children have been memorizing various poems from Robert Louis Stevenson – one of our favorite poets!

In the beginning of her book, Rollins lays out the elements of her morning time. These include:

Morning Meeting

Family Worship including prayer and hymns

Composer/Artist discussion

Bible and Theology reading

Bible Memory

Shakespeare/Plutarch rotation

Folk Song

Poetry reading and memory work

Miscellaneous memory work

Grammar

Read Aloud

She then expands a bit on each area. I won’t go into detail on each section, but several stood out to me and are worth mentioning here.

The morning meeting is just what it sounds like, a meeting before the day starts. This is a time to mention any plans for the day, upcoming items of interest, just to make sure everyone is on the same page.


In addition to our longer reads that we are slowly working through, we also have shorter books that are included during our Read Aloud time.

During worship time, there are prayer requests and singing. Rollins discussed singing and learning new hymns. This was something that grabbed my attention immediately. After finishing the book, I printed out the sheet music to one of my favorite hymns, Just As I Am, and we have been singing it joyfully all week. I love the idea of making a family hymn book, with printed copies of those hymns we have learned.

For Composer and Artist studies, Rollins suggests using the schedule provided by Ambleside Online. We have previously studied composers and artists when Kyri was younger, using Harmony Fine Arts. We have not done anything formally in a few years though, and I do like the schedule that Rollins uses. We may adopt the Ambleside Online schedule for composer and artist study in the new year.

We have, over the course of two years, been working on Bible Road Trip, but I think Kyri wants Bible time to be more reading and discussing and less notebooking-type work. So I like the idea of having a routine of reading some scripture, followed by a chapter or segment from some Christian text. Nothing elaborate, just a page or two depending on the depth of the reading.

Bible memory is something we love around here. The children are active in AWANA, and so they are already used to learning and reciting scripture. We could incorporate verses from their AWANA books as morning time memory work, or follow some of the suggested verses that Rollins includes.

We’ve started memorizing scripture together and learning hymns as well.

Rollins’ suggestion of alternating between Shakespeare and Plutarch really intriqued me. Earlier this year I was able to participate in a members’-only author event with Read Aloud Revival, featuring Ken Ludwig, author of How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare, and this event really ignited an interest in reading through works of Shakespeare with my children. But we just haven’t gotten started yet. According to Rollins, it’s as simple as one scene, another scene, an act, and finally the entire play. One step at a time. Why should I even bother with Shakespeare? According to Charlotte Mason, it is “good for the instruction of the conscience and the molding of our judgements.”

While I have read a little Plutarch, I hadn’t really given it much thought as a component of morning time. But Rollins explains, “Plutarch can provide us with a way out of the red state/blue state divide and into the clear air of individual responsibility and the consequences of ideas.” So reading Plutarch can be used for teaching citizenship as well as training a child’s judgement. She suggests reading three lives a year. She does suggest that this be reserved for older children but than younger children could benefit from sitting in while it is being read.

One component that I am really excited to incorporate into our morning time is Memory Work.  Rollins suggests well known speeches and historical documents, among other things. I’ve already got a small list of documents that I’d like to start with, including the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence.

I also recently finished up Mere Motherhood, Rollins’ earlier offering, and it was such a lovely compliment to A Handbook to Morning Time. While Mere Motherhood was published first, I am glad I read Handbook first. Having a firm grasp on Rollins’ morning time routine was really helpful as I was reading through her memoir, where she mentions her morning routines regularly but not in a super detailed fashion.

You can also keep up with Cindy Rollins in her podcast, The Mason Jar, at the Circe Network.

Cindy Rollins books are available through Circe Institute.

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Proverbs 1 and the Pursuit of Knowledge

On the card table that is serving as my desk while we are between houses, I have a stack of books that I am reading, along with my journal, my bible and bible study binder. In the corner is a small bookshelf with books that are in queue to be read in the near future. Amazon and Abe books are kept busy with my constant orders. Sometimes I feel myself getting stressed because there is so much I want to read and study and just not enough hours in the day!

Today is the start of the book of Proverbs for Good Morning Girls. I’m really excited – I love reading Proverbs and have since I was young. In my SOAP for this morning, I focused on verses 5-7.

The wise person seeks wisdom and knowledge, and seeks out learned counselors. It’s the wise person who knows that there is always more to learn and seek after, and searches out knowledge. A wise person also seeks wise counsel, and is receptive to their teaching. The fool is the one who is content with what they know and does not seek out knowledge, and is not willing to be taught.

This morning I prayed for a seeking heart, with a desire to continue seeking out new learning opportunities and a heart open to mentorship by wise counselors.

This is one of the reasons I am drawn to Leadership Education – the idea of being a mentor, as well as being mentored. While I think I am capable of mentoring, and have a lot of knowledge to offer, I am also in need of mentorship. I think that is what makes great leaders, willingness to mentor and a willingness and desire to be mentored. When we understand that there is more to learn and others have things to teach us, we are on a path to greater wisdom.

Mentors aren’t always flesh and blood people; often they are characters in books that teach us about human nature or character traits or life situations we are experiencing. This is why I am seeking out good books on a variety of subjects. In this current season I am reading a lot about mothers and motherhood – the characters in books like Mother and Mother Carey’s Chickens are mentoring me in how to be a better mother to my own children.

Every morning I smile to myself as I watch my eight-year-old daughter grab her stack of books from under her pillow and next to the bed, and head downstairs for breakfast. This girl gets it. She has a passion for learning and reading and she counts books as her closest companions. She also loves the L-rd and has a passion for studying scripture. She will be pursuing wisdom for a long time!

Writing in Books

I am currently reading Turn the Page: Read Right to Lead Right. This is a quick read, and contains some excellent suggestions on getting more out of your reading experience.

One of the thing leadership education promotes is writing in your books. This helps to move you from passive reading to active reading, because by taking notes, commenting in the margins, even making simple notes like “Wow!” or “!” you are interacting with the book. There are wonderful suggestions for what you could be writing in the books you read:

  • significant passages underlined or highlighted
  • references to other relevant books
  • arguments against the author’s point
  • paraphrases
  • an outline of the book (in the back of the book)
  • new vocabulary

I admit struggling with the idea of writing in my books. Throughout college and graduate school, I would highlight but was very specific in the color and type of highlighters that I would use, and then I was only marking up textbooks. Taking this particular suggestion to heart is pushing me out of my comfort zone a little but I do see the value in marking up books as you read them. For valued books in your personal library that will be revisited time and again, you will be able to see the impact the author had on you during previous reads.

For some self encouragement in enacting this, I set up a pencil box with RSVP pens in a multitude of colors, sharpened pencils, a full set of highlighters, and various sizes of post-it notes. Now when I sit down for my personal reading time, I pull out my books and my pencil box, prepared to actively read and annotate.

For books that aren’t mine (borrowed from friends or library) I take notes on post-its. I can then either transcribe my notes into Evernote or snap pictures of the post-it notes directly into Evernote.

For reading ebooks, annotations can be made in a separate journal (I have composition notebooks for reading journals) but the Kindle app does allow for notes and highlights to be added to the book. This is really simple. In the text, you simply tap and hold down your finger on the part of the text you wish to highlight or annotate. A small menu box appears with various highlighter colors to select. You can drag the corner of the highlighter box on the text to include however much text you wish to highlight. You also have the option to copy the text which can be pasted elsewhere. You can also directly record notes, which then can be accessed either by directly tapping on the icon that remains in the text or by pulling up “My Notebook” at the top of the screen (this page includes notes and bookmarks). I also discovered something new today – you can log into your Amazon kindle site. From here you can see all of your notes and highlights in your Kindle books. It is easy enough to use Evernote Web Clipper to clip a snapshot of the notes and highlights page. Disclaimer: As far as I can tell, PDFs you are reading in your Kindle app will not show up on the Kindle amazon site, so any notes you record in those documents will not show up.

I can already notice a difference in the depth of my reading now that I am making an effort to annotate what I am reading. This is definitely one technique I recommend to enhance your reading!