Several years ago, during a season of homeschool burnout, a dear friend of mine introduced me to the concept of a Morning Basket.  

Previously, I had resisted anything to do with Charlotte Mason. I could not envision myself as the sort of mother who spent much of her homeschool day reading aloud to her children. Often, I felt so spent after teaching Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic to multiple ages, that adding a pile of literature on top of what I could barely handle seemed like an insurmountable goal.

Nevertheless, whatever I was doing was clearly not working. My heart was not in homeschooling; dry, boring textbooks sucked all the enjoyment out of learning and my mornings consisted of circling the table, moving from textbook to textbook, trying to keep track of who was learning what, which question they were on, and who needed help next. 

The opportunity God had given me to learn alongside our children was feeling less and less like the privilege and joy I knew it ought to be.  Out of sheer desperation, and intrigued by my friend’s Morning Basket, I ordered The Charlotte Mason Companion by Karen Andreola.


The Turning Point

By God’s grace, this book became a turning point in our homeschool. Andreola’s succinct explanation of Miss Mason’s educational philosophy, the introduction to narration as a test for assimilated knowledge, and her rekindling of my love for Creation and science through nature study were immense gifts in themselves, but most transformational, was her deep dive into the beauty and richness of Morning Baskets and living books. 

She conveyed these ideas with such warmth and passion, that I began implementing them right away in the middle of our school year.  Years later, our Morning Basket of living books continues to be the most well-loved, highly anticipated part of our homeschool day, for teacher and students alike. 

You see, a Morning Basket is not really about mornings, or baskets, but having a set time of day to read living books to your children. This simple act in itself – mothers taking the time to read good books to their kids – has transformed the atmosphere of many a home, ours included. My husband, who was working from home at the time, remarked about how peaceful our mornings had become, and how much better our children seemed to be retaining the information they were taught.


A Morning Basket is not really about mornings, or baskets, but having a set time of day to read living books to your children.

Much of the stress from juggling multiple grades disappeared as our whole family became engaged with the same ideas and stories at the same time. Meaningful discussions abounded in an environment where everyone had something to contribute. Oral narration by each child throughout the reading of our book stack helped me gauge how well they were listening, and what information has been assimilated. 

There are no wrong answers to open-ended questions about the book being read. Testing and textbooks look for identical answers as a mere acquisition of facts; living books seek to develop the whole person by capturing the imagination and conveying ideas. One child may pick up on something entirely different than their sibling from the same story. The importance a child gives to a particular piece of information says a lot about the state of their heart and mind, and their individual, God-given gifts and interests.  

Great literature has replaced many textbooks in our home, and I am thrilled to see our kids loving subjects that once drained me. The power in a basket of living books read faithfully, narrated routinely, and replenished often cannot be underestimated. 

Practically Speaking

Typically, we have our Morning Basket Time after our more difficult, hands-on subjects are out of the way (Math, Language Arts, Handwriting, etc.). Rewarding learning with learning increases the love of it! 

The girls usually curl up on the couch with a fluffy blanket from off their beds. Sometimes they draw pictures laying on the floor in front of the fireplace. (Drawing can also be an excellent form of narration!) One of our boys likes to sit right next to me in case there are any pictures in the story. Often, I will light a candle to add to the ambience. 

We start with Scripture memorization (this year, we are attempting to memorize the book of James), followed by a review of our weekly Catechism question, and Psalm of the month. Then I read a chapter from a living book on Church History, World or American History, Science, and Geography (not necessarily every book, every day; it depends on how long the chapters and discussion take). Once a week, we do a Picture Study. I try to select books from each topic that cover the same era. This aids in “the science of relations;” any connections the children make helps solidify the information in their brains. 

When one book is finished, we start another on the same subject. A new painting is introduced each month for Picture Study. New passages of Scripture, poems, and songs for memorization begin when the previous ones have been assimilated. 

Instead of writing out what we plan to learn for the day, I write down what got done.  There’s less pressure that way, and sometimes we end up going on a rabbit trail, learning additional things that weren’t scheduled.