I was tooling around the internet as I have a habit of doing sometimes and came across a post asking about Morning Baskets.  Hmmm…   I was immediately intrigued with the idea.  So off on a research tangent I went.  There are a lot of posts about morning baskets.  A LOT.  Apparently, I’m not the only one intrigued.  I read through a lot of the posts to get a feel for what exactly is a morning basket and what people put in them.

Morning baskets are very Charlotte Mason-y so a lot of homeschoolers who use the morning basket include Bible verses, morning prayers, and religious reflections.  Of course, that’s not our thing.  While I may dabble here and there with indifference toward religious curriculum, I don’t promote religious studies in our day-to-day schoolwork.  But I do like the idea of including certain tenets as part of our daily routine.  And I like the general concept of the morning basket as a time to come together and study as a group where everyone is kind of on the same level.  Plus, I really like that a morning basket can include a wide variety of educational topics so that if that is all we get done in a day I feel like we accomplished school.

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Now, as you may already know, we are not “morning” people.  We live what I refer to as the Homeschool Rockstar life.  Obviously, a MORNING basket was going to be a misnomer for us, so we just call it our DAILY basket.  I know it’s silly, but when we first started I was always referring to our morning basket, but the name just didn’t feel right since we were starting it at noon… or later.  Eventually, I just started calling it the daily basket and that feels more natural.

I think there are two big questions- What IS a Daily Basket?  and What is IN a Daily Basket?

What IS a Daily Basket

A daily basket is a basket of things that you do each school day.  It’s a time to bring all of the kids together to do school work as a family.  Typically, this is the first thing you do each day as a way to kind of commune together and set the expectation that school is starting.  I think it’s similar to Circle Time that preschools and schools do.

Does it have to be a basket?  No.  But it does help to have something that keeps your daily basket things together, separate from everything else.  The things in your daily basket are not your every day, individual curriculum things.

How much time should I spend my daily basket?  I believe that a daily basket should be worked through in no more than an hour.  If you have little ones, they can usually keep attention for up to an hour and the bigger ones have more school work to do and need to get to it.  I like to spend no more than 10-15 minutes on each item in my daily basket.  I admit, sometimes we do get hung up on one thing or another, but I try to keep it short and sweet.

What if I have a huge age range?  When you have kids with a large age range, it can be difficult to find time to all work together.  Older kids tend to go off and work independently while the little ones need more attention and instruction.  I find that the daily basket can put everyone on a very close playing field because it’s studying topics that are more universal.  Sure, the older ones will get more from it than the younger ones, but everyone will walk away having learned something.  And from my experience, it’s really nice to have everyone together to learn for even a small amount of time.

What is IN a Daily Basket

This can vary tremendously and is only limited by your lack of creativity.  Generally speaking, I think this is the time to get in a lot of those extra subjects that make your kids more culturally aware.  Use daily basket time to fill your kids with the appreciation for things they may not get just doing the 3 R’s.  Here are some things I like to include:

  • Artist Study
  • Musician/Music Genre Study
  • Poetry
  • Folk Songs
  • Philosophical/Inspirational Sayings
  • Geography
  • Foreign Language
  • Shakespeare

Anything I include in my daily basket is usually pretty portable so we can do it at home or in the car.  I also look for things that are quick and easy to do in a short amount of time.  The Daily Basket is a time to spark some interest so you can later go into greater depth with any given topic.  For example, when we do Shakespeare during our Daily Basket time we are just covering the basic story line.  We are not reading the plays in their original format and discussing in great detail the language or literary tactics.  The Princess loved the Shakespeare we’ve done in the past with our Daily Basket and has since done some literary studies for her language arts work.

The last couple of years I chose to do everything on a weekly rotation.  We would do 1 artist, 1 musican, 1 poem, 1 folk song, 1 geographical concept, and 1 Shakespeare story per week.  Then we switch it up the next week.  This worked for us perfectly well, but this year I decided to spend a little more time on each thing.

This year we are doing 1 artist and 1 musician per month with a different music genre per quarter.  We are doing 1 poet and as many poems from that poet as we can for the first half of the year and will do another poet for the second half.  I pulled the geography concepts from Ambleside Online and just kind of go over 1-3 related concepts per week.  And we try to get 1 Shakespeare play done per quarter.

As for foreign language and folk songs, this year I don’t really have a set plan for them yet.  I was trying to work out foreign language classes with a wonderful friend, but we can’t seem to mesh our schedules.  I’ve looked at several online schools, but so far they are all cost-prohibitive.  I need to break down and just buy a folk songs CD, there are several I’ve been looking at, but I only seem to think about it when I’m not able to spend time making the purchase (like driving down the road or when I’m going to sleep).

I am trying to do 10-15 Philosophical/Inspirational Sayings on a daily basis, but rotating through them so the kids hear them again and again, but not in a monotonous kind of way.  I have no specific plan for which saying we do which day, but kind of fly by the seat of my pants on that one.

Paterson Academy Recommendations for Your Daily Basket

So, there are so many resources out there, but I’m going to recommend a few of my favorites from the last 3 years of doing a daily basket that I hope you’ll try.  Definitely let me know what you think if you do.  And I’d love to have some suggestions for new things to try out.

Artist Study:  My favorite book for artist study is Child’s Introduction to Art: The World’s Greatest Paintings and Sculptures.  This book is amazing for a brief summary of an artist’s life as well as one piece of artwork that the book has discussion points on.  Even after years of art school, I still struggle to discuss artwork in a compelling way.  This book also comes with coloring sheets of famous artwork so you can let the kids color their own masterpiece while you read and discuss.  I usually supplement the rest of the week by googling the artist and looking at other pieces that artist did.

Musician/Music Genre Study:  Story of the Orchestra : Listen While You Learn About the Instruments, the Music and the Composers Who Wrote the Music! is a book that I recommend over and over again.  Similar to the book above for artists, Story of the Orchestra provides a brief summary of a composer’s life.  The book comes with a CD with samples of each composer’s work.  The last quarter of the book is dedicated to different instruments within an orchestra.  The kids and I really enjoyed this book, and by the end I was really surprised when the kids recognized some of the composers and instruments when we attended the educational days at the North Carolina Symphony.

Last year, we had finished classical composers and the kids really wanted to learn about the history of Rock N Roll.  I picked up a copy of  What Is Rock and Roll? (What Was?) at the library.  The “What is” and “Who Was” books are really fantastic for studying history and historical figures.  We worked our way through the What is Rock and Roll book one chapter at a time and I not only played music for the kids, but we also looked on YouTube for live performances.  Performers like Jimi Hendrix need to be witnessed.

Poetry:  For the last few years we have worked our way through Poems to Learn by Heart by Caroline Kennedy.  I really love this book because there are so many poems by so many different poets that all speak to things the kids can relate to.  Some of the poems are really short and easy to memorize.  I love that the book is broken into sections like “Family” and “Self” so that we could spend time working on a certain section if we need more encouragement in that area.  There are all kinds of poets from Langston Hughes to Robert Frost to Emily Dickinson to Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky and many, many others.  My kids found that they had favorite poems and from someone who is not adept at studying or teaching poetry, I found the poems to be very easy to talk about.

Folk Songs

Philosophical/Inspirational Sayings:  If you’re religious then this is the perfect opportunity to get some Bible versus or whatever, but if you’re not or if you just want something else, then I have the perfect list for you.  Ecurious wrote a list of 20 Quotes From Children’s Book Every Adult Should Know and it is one of the most profoundly inspirational list I have found to date.  Like, seriously, I want to print this list and put it up in our house somewhere.  These should be daily mantras for kids.

But hey, credit where credit is due.  Bright Drops has a lot of great lists of inspirational quotes from some pretty famous people like Albert Einstein and Natalie Portman so I mean, you could always check out their 25 Inspirational Quotes All Kids Should Hear and let those quotes be a part of your rotation.  I like to use quotes as copy work too.  We don’t do much copy work, but if the kids are going to copy random things, I want them to feel inspired by it.

Geography:  As I said above, I cycle through the geography concepts found in each level on Ambleside Online.  Since I don’t want our Daily Basket time to take too long and we get plenty of geography through our history studies and just general questions about where things are, I don’t stress too much about this part.  I really just want to make sure the kids have a basis for the overall concepts.

Foreign Language:  In the past when we’ve done this, I used flash cards and 52 Weeks of Family French: Bite Sized Weekly Lessons.  Understand that this time is not the time to learn a language.  This is just a time to practice the language that you’re learning.  I liked the 52 weeks of family french book because each week we could put into practice the use of a few every day french phrases.  The book also gives a very brief culture lesson to help the kids learn about France and the french speaking areas of the world.

Shakespeare:  There are some great Shakespeare for kids books out there.  The kids really enjoyed Twenty Shakespeare Children’s Stories.  These 20 stories cover all of the major Shakespearean plays like Hamlet, Macbeth, Midsummer Night’s Dream, etc.Sometimes I would copy the drawings and let the kids color the pictures while I read.  Another book that we have enjoyed is Shakespeare’s Stories for Young Readers by E. Nesbit which has a few different stories and is told differently than the 20.  I usually mixed it up and would read one story from the 20 and then a different story from Nesbit’s book.  Eventually, we read both versions of all of the stories, but with Shakespeare I believe that you should have many different takes on the stories.

One surprising source for studying Shakespeare are movies.  I was completely shocked when I was researching movies that are based on Shakespearean plays.  There are the obvious ones like Gnomeo and Juliet, but did you know that 10 Things I Hate About You was based on The Taming of the Shrew?  Ok.  We’re not showing our kids 10 Things I Hate About You unless your kids are teenagers.  But what about The Lion King?  When I read that it was based on Hamlet it made perfect sense, but I had never put the two together until then.  Point is, check out movies based on Shakespeare because after a month long study of a play, a movie day is a great way to reinforce what they’ve learned.

What is Paterson Academy doing this year

I guess it would be unfair of me to leave  you with all of this and not give you the basic layout of our plan for this coming year.  I know sometimes it can be challenging to come up with your own ideas of what to study when there are so many things out there to study.  Most of my recommendations above are things we’ve used the last few years that we’ve been doing our Daily Basket, but as I said earlier I decided to change things up this year.  I’ll give you my basic plan and you can try it out if you want.