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The morning basket listicle

I love a good list. I also love a fresh start. A new academic, Gregorian, or lunar year; a seasonal shift; a new notebook...drink in the freshness of renewal at every opportunity I say.

It's hard not to get swept up in the 'back to school' vibe, even as home educators who don't strictly speaking need to adhere to the stop-start system of term time, but in the interest of not passing up a chance to reflect and reconnect with values, I run with it. Plus, 'back to school' generally brings with it an abundance of stationery sales. Bonus.

One of the Big Questions that many of us are mulling over at this time of year is 'what should our days/weeks look (or feel) like come September?'. Enter: the rhythm reset.

Already I've been through more trial and error iterations of home rhythm than I am able to recall, and I stopped feeling frustrated about the brevity of settled periods and near incessant need for minor tweaks to major rethinks when I finally made peace with the idea that there will never be a 'right' rhythm, just a right for right now.

As the Red Queen says in Lewis Carrol's Through the Looking Glass:

"Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

Hard relate, Red Queen.

Acknowledging that this gig is naturally ever changing, and with so much variation in family set ups, budgets, learning styles, priorities and opportunities (etc.), sharing what our specific weeks currently entail/are shaped up to include come September would likely be of limited use, and may even lead some astray.

What I would like to share is a bounteous list of ideas for small, achievable daily/weekly touchpoints that can be gathered together to share...whenever. This started off for us as a 'morning basket' but has evolved into a more fluid format as works for our home. We don't usually engage with this selection in the morning, we don't do it every day, and rather than a single container we have a bit of a buffet, with 'busy tin' on the kitchen table; a large, shallow basket for some kind of construction toy; and a separate basket for readalouds, papers, and any other books. It sounds kind of chaotic, but it works for us...for the time being. It will change. The general principle has stuck though: some intentional selection of things to inspire, delight, connect, and reflect upon.

A crucial point here, and I can't stress this strongly enough, is that the morning basket concept is unlikely to be a successful feature if it ends up being a selection of desperation tinged expectations presented in attractive wicker. Your child will see right through that woven woody facade; this is not meant to be a Trojan horse to be filled with sneaky schooling waiting to spill out all over your kitchen table. I doubt the gates of learning would be opened this way as easily as the Greeks has it in Troy. Demilitarise that basket! Think of it as a selection of invitations to engage and opportunities to connect. Some days it will open up treasures of opportunities with your children, some days not so much. Either way, leave the pressure and expectation out of it.

I tend to sort though these things weekly, weeding out anything that's ready, for whatever reason, to be removed and adding in next steps and alternative offerings for the week ahead.

It requires some prior preparation (with the effort in this variable depending on the state of the home organisation systems behind it! Spoken from the experience of someone who has more than once stomped around the house at 11:30pm seething with 'Where are the f*ing fiddle toys/dice/obscurely specific flashcard set' based rage.) But, the process of gathering things together massively helps me to plan ahead for the week, and once I have a selection assembled then I know the week is well resourced whenever we're ready to dig in.

So, if you're in the market for a simple rhythm reset or just thirsty for a bit of invigorating outside inspiration then hopefully you will find the refreshment you seek in the list below. Bullet points and everything.

(Please note that where I've recommended or linked suggestions that they are only suggestions. Also for clarity I am not affiliated, paid, or otherwise connected with anything linked or suggested here besides having bought and used these myself. Bank the ideas and shop your home, share/swap resources with other home educating families, thrift, and shop around.)

Your 'morning basket'/similar assemblage of educationalish paraphernalia could include:

  • A biography/notable person to know (Bonus tip: "I thought you might be interested in this person because..." has been my most successful opening gambit here. Instantly engaging. We were lied to as children; because is the real magic word.)

  • A journal (such as 'Happy Self', or a plain old blank notepad for a daily doodle/gratitude list/core memory/record of local rainfall/whatever. Do one alongside your child(red) for greater engagement + life satisfaction.)

  • A creative prompt (e.g. from Angela Lord's Creative Form Drawing series, or Art out of the Box. Or go basic with scratch art/similar.)

  • A plan for the day/checklist.

  • Picture of a famous building or natural wonder to know

  • Times table multiplication (Try pairing with an annoying catchy musical multiplication song? We have The Good and the Beautiful's Musical Multiplication and Wilded Family's Times Tables songs. I may have overcommitted here. Too soon to tell yet if they're effective mathematical learning tools, but they are definitely annoyingly catchy.)

  • A logical reasoning puzzle or coding challenge

  • Dice/card games/Top Trumps

  • A board game (#GameSchooling)

  • A symbol to discuss, and look out for during the day/week (e.g. a road/map symbol, mathematical, musical, semaphore, nautical, shorthand, currency, crest/coat of arms, punctuation, flag, cultural, religious, safety, ...emoji? The world is full of funny little pictures that mean different things!)

  • A letter from morse code (...---)/the phonetic alphabet (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie...)

  • Green Board Game Co. / BrainBox games or snap cards (loads to choose from - keep a look out for these in charity shops! )

  • Sewing/lacing/papercraft/other handicraft (e.g. basic finger knitting, some modelling wax, weaving, loom bands, origami, a trollen wheel cord maker...)

  • Construction pieces (e.g. straws, snowflake discs, polyoctons, magnetic shapes, PlusPlus, Lego...)

  • A colouring page, reverse colouring page, scratch art, or step by step drawing sheet

  • A jigsaw (Tip: start a puzzle and leave it out on a table, or pre-sort edges and central pieces to encourage dispassionate jigsaw-ers)

  • A puzzle, sudoku, anagram, or maze

  • Play dough

  • Pipe cleaners (free bend, or include a challenge shape for everyone to make.)

  • Fiddle toys

  • A yoga position (e.g. A Yoga Pretzels card. A free Yoga Pretzels mini printable is available via Barefoot Books.)

  • Seek and find book

  • Sticker book

  • A material to describe (great sensory vocabulary builder for younger children. For older children take it further and look at how that material is made and used

  • Conversation prompt (e.g. A Little More Conversation (note some of the final section of these are a little darker, but most are fine), Our Moments, or play a game such as Sussed)

  • A joke. Doesn't have to be funny.

  • A root word (e.g. from English from the Roots Up (useful sample pages available freely via Google))

  • A quote of the day/week

  • An 'on this day in history' fact

  • Copywork (for an open and go selection try Copywork Cave)

  • Story cubes/story stones

  • Spelling work. Doesn't have to be awful. Do it as a game (e.g. a word ladder using 2 CVC words at the top and bottom, taking it in turns to change a letter. Or see my previous Sunny Spells post.)

  • A podcast/audio story

  • Poetry. A lovely tip I picked up from Leah 'Modern Miss Mason' Boden at her 2023 Conference as a poetry appreciation tool is to draw one line from a poem. The expectation to connect with or soak up a poem is managed right down to a very achievable and creatively open 'doing'.

  • A simple foreign language song to learn (Putumayo Kids albums feature songs in many languages, with lyrics and information usually included in an attached booklet. Or see YouTube for inspiration. Example niche starting recommendation: if learning French I'd highly recommend the nursery rhyme Meunier tu dors, complete with spinning arm actions increasing in speed with each sing through. Fun at any age!)

  • Chapter book/readaloud

  • A selection of books to nibble through...a post of recommendations in its own right really, but you can take this as an(other!) excuse to build a cracking home library to draw from.

  • Recitation/memorisation passage or poem. Work on one each through the week and showcase what you can remember over weekend breakfast/a wild Friday night family variety performance.

  • A BSL 'sign of the day/week'

  • A Braille letter

  • Country and capital city. Best served with...

  • International food. We used to have a foreign snack subscription box (that shall not be named!) but it became wildly unreliable so now instead we occasionally visit an international supermarket and pick up a selection of random items to try. Cheaper, and more fun! (Side note: why does every other country have better flavours of crisps than the U.K.?)

  • An affirmation. (We love Kind Words For Kids.)

  • A recipe to make

  • Some artwork (e.g. a postcard, or a greetings card. Usborne's Famous Paintings card set and Phaidon's 'Art Box' greetings card selections include a great range of styles with information about the featured art works. Pick up postcards when you visit museums, print images from the internet, or use a book like Phaidon's yellow/white Art Book for Children. Also, see my previous post on self portraits for a selection)

  • A True/False question, or multiple choice fact question.

  • Snacks. I can't stress this enough. S.N.A.C.K.S.

  • A 'would you rather' prompt (we picked up a books of daft questions from a charity shop), or game (e.g. Sussed).

  • A fact: Did you know...?

  • A candle and matches, or essential oil/wax melt. Set the scene. And make it smell amazing.

  • Music appreciation. I put together an audio playlist of iconic classical music, all of which was sourced for free via online downloads. (e.g. Your Classical has a 'daily download'). Sometimes we listen to it in the background, other times we focus in on a specific piece to grow familiarity and delve into a bit more depth.

  • A family photo or memento. Talk together about a memory from your own past, or something you've done together. Get to know each other better.

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