Morning Time: A Family Discipleship Strategy
Difficult, but Necessary
It isn’t easy to share our faith! It often feels easier to pray or have quiet time when kids are not around – it’s quieter, it’s more peaceful and there are infinitely less interruptions. It can also be hard to find the time in busy schedules and hard days to sit down and study together or have the meaningful conversations we keep intending to have with our children. As young parents, we often think we’ll save that for “when they are older” and then we fall into poor habits and it doesn’t happen like we thought it would or it no longer feels natural or like a fabric of our relationship with them.
As a homeschooling mom just starting out, I have spent several years researching homeschool: trying to figure out my educational philosophy, my (and my children’s) learning/teaching styles, what is effective and how I can make learning fun, foster wonder and curiosity, and keep it from becoming drudgery. As a family who values the Bible and our walk with the Lord, I’ve also sought ways to incorporate our faith into our learning. Deuteronomy 6 tells us to incorporate our faith all throughout our day (and for our family homeschool has offered a great forum for that). In the midst of my research, I stumbled on a podcast called “Your Morning Basket” with Pam Barnhill. The concept of “Morning Time” is a simple one but through her encouragements, we have started incorporating it into our days and have reaped the benefits of it in just a short time. This isn’t a concept that needs to be “for homeschooling families!” but rather a simple concept that can be used for any family wishing to make sure they are sharing their faith, passing on the Truth to their children and beholding beauty in their day.
The concept of "Morning Time" can happen at any time of the day but is essentially a specific time of day set aside to place the concepts of Truth, Goodness and Beauty before your children (and yourself). Although "morning time" can take many different variations, most include an aspect of Bible reading along with catechism, prayer, and song (worship). Pam Barnhill recommends pulling several great resources together and just picking up where you left off at a set time each day. Over time, these small seeds will grow; these little amounts of time will add up!
For our family, we have chosen to tie "morning time" to breakfast time. We eat every morning and so it is an easy way to remember to do "morning time." We set several resources on a shelf next to our table, making it easy to pick them up and open where we left off. We don’t do much planning, aside from putting out quality resources we want to use with our children. There is no set reading schedule – we simply read more on days we have more time and kids are cooperating and we read less on days we are more hurried or have distracted children. That said, although we may go longer on days our children are more engaged, we do require that they sit quietly and respectfully listen each day (even when they don’t want to!). This is an expectation that sometimes takes work and practice but even our newly 2 year old has caught on and has learned to (most of the time) sit quietly and still for the few minutes we are reading after breakfast.
A Simple Habit
This is simple! In reality it takes between 5 and 15 minutes at a consistent time each day. The biggest component is really setting aside a few resources and picking a time of day to anchor it to (before bed, before nap time, when Dad first gets home from work, during an after school snack could all be good anchor times…whatever works well for your family and happens consistently most days). If you pick an activity you already naturally do regularly (eating for example!), it automatically reminds you. If you have already set out your resources close by, it takes very little effort to pick them up, go through them wherever you left off and continue on with your day. As you begin this habit, your kids will soon be reminding you themselves (as they will start to love it and look forward to this time with you!).
Creating and carving out this simple habit each day has helped our family to be consistent, to “get to” the things we value and want to get to, and to make sure at least once a day we are setting before ourselves and our children (together!) the things that matter most.
Philippians 4:8 tells us “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
For our family, “Morning Time” has helped to consistently and daily carve out time to focus on that which is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. This should be something happening all throughout our days (and hopefully is!) but this practice has been one way to intentionally seek these things out as a family and open the conversations purposefully (and daily!).
Some resource ideas:
We read from the Bible each time, picking different books to read through. We just pick the book and then read a few verses or a chapter at a time, picking up where we left off the day before. After reading, Dad likes to ask each person an age appropriate question about the passage…this has become a favorite time for everyone! You could simply read and move on or you could ask each person what stuck out to them the most or ask specific questions….the most important thing is to open The Word and source of Truth.
Work through a catechism, working on the questions until everyone can answer appropriately or studying the “why” behind each question.
Pick a song or hymn to sing through as a family until everyone has learned it by heart (little kids are much more capable than we sometimes think! They are able and capable of singing and learning much more than simply “Jesus loves me”). Choosing songs your church regularly sings is a great way to focus young children’s attention at Church. If they know the song, their eyes light up and they are instantly engaged in the service at a new level!
Find a book of beautiful poetry or worthwhile short stories and read one (or more!) each day….again, wherever you left off the day before. William J. Bennette has some excellent compilations of inspiring, beautiful and often biblical or moral stories for various ages.
A chapter book, reading a few pages each day.
The possibilities are endless! Start small and build as your family begins to enjoy it more or as ages and attention spans grow. Be consistent and faithful with one or two things each day and as you grow, add more to your docket (or change resources out, as you finish them, replacing with new ones).
Pick a time (anchor it to something you are already doing)
Pick one or more resources
Set it out as a visible reminder, already gathered together so it’s easy to pick up
Make it fun! But be firm and consistent especially in the beginning….although this will be a fun and cherished time, it can take some training in the beginning especially if children are young or not used to sitting quietly.
More than anything, enjoy this precious time together. As the tradition grows, it will no doubt become a cherished time in your life and the life of your children. Lord willing, it will not merely be beautiful memories made but also a rich heritage and training ground for young hearts and minds.