Saturday, October 13, 2012

Our Morning School Routine

Well, this post has been a long time coming. :)

I think I took these pictures back in August, with the intent of sharing our morning schooling routine as we began more formal school for the year, but you know, school tends to take center stage for a while every fall, and this one has been no exception.

Now that it's October and we're more settled in our new routine, I'm taking a moment to share what we're doing on school mornings. If you would like to know more about the full run-down of our day, you can check out this post on our daily routine.

Morning school typically starts at around 10 a.m., after breakfast and morning chores.

I took these pictures the night before, knowing that the school day can sometimes get too busy for photo-taking, so the lighting isn't the best. Still, you get the idea.

Here's the setup at the kitchen table, once breakfast and morning snack have been cleaned up. (OK, so we often eat morning snack while we do morning school.) I set out binders for Ben (age 5) and Ava (age 3), which contain different work for each, at their respective level. We use (and love!) Jolanthe's binder printables from Homeschool Creations. Using her printouts we practice writing dates, time, reading the thermometer, track how many days we've been in school, and more. I laminated the sheets we use every day, so we simply wipe them off and reuse them.

I use these colored folders to keep any worksheets or print work that we may do during morning school. The reality of teaching several children at once is that I can't work with each one, every minute. So I fill these folders once per week with productive, skill-practice items they can do independently (like when I'm working with a sibling). I'm not the hugest worksheet fan, so I must say that I tried this system with some trepidation, but it has been working well for us thus far. I put review materials in the green folder- those sheets can be done with no guidance from me at all. The yellow folder contains new skills, but ones that I think each child can work out on their own with minimal guidance. Red folder work is comprised of brand-new concepts which are likely to need some direct instruction and support. Each child has these three folders in his or her morning binder, so as I'm working with one child on her red folder, another can work through his green or yellow one. 

Here's my teaching tool layout for the morning: Handwriting Without Tears materials (pictured here are our slate chalkboards, box of wooden letters and mats), our letter of the day book and puzzle (underneath the book- from a yard sale, but any letter-specific puzzle would do), and our simple, dollar store type stickers which both entertain the baby and motivate the older kids. Love those stickers.
Here's the morning board, hung in our kitchen. Once the kids come in after chores, this is the first thing we do, as a group. We say the pledge, put up our weather tabs (I adhere them with velcro dots), and we set up our day. [My weather chart is left over from my preschool teaching days, but this is a similar idea.]  The daily planner, which is in the bottom left corner of our board is another favorite from Homeschool Creations. Each activity has it's own square (with pictures for my non-readers), and we put together our schedule for the day so the kids know what's coming up. There are some things that almost never change: making beds in the morning, brushing our teeth and eating breakfast, for example, but which subjects we study or which lessons we attend do change. This also gives the children a chance to consider and ask for which subjects they'd like to spend more time on. 

We do a letter, number, and color of the week for the preschool kid(s), which I just write with dry-erase marker on a laminated sheet each week. (I do a corresponding letter display in the school room, also.) The bulletin board is flanked on each side by posters: one is numbers, the other, letters.  The pouches tacked on to the board contain the extra squares for both the weather and daily planner charts.
Ben, working on his morning binder.

Once we've finished morning binders and boards, we break up into other tasks. Since I let the kids choose how we lay out our day, what we do first changes on a daily basis. The week that I took pictures was not an FIAR week for us, so we started right in on Handwriting Without Tears work. I own both the HWT kindergarten teacher's guide and the preschool level Readiness and Writing teacher's guide, which outline daily activities for kids, each building upon the day before. If you're interested in the program I particularly recommend the kindergarten guide, and it only costs $8!

(If we happening to be rowing an FIAR book, I try to do that work in the morning while Ellie is awake because it's more family-oriented than skill work. Still, we try to be flexible.)

Here, Ava is polishing her "big line" with an old sock, as suggested in our HWT manual.
Here, she's building an F with her mat and wooden lines.

Ellie (18 months at the time of this picture), joins in the letter building... even if she's a bit out of sequence.

The girls leave Ben and me at the table to work together, and head into the school room to check out what I've put on their shelves for the day. They choose to work collaboratively on a letter puzzle.
That about wraps it up. When Ben and I are done working together, and the girls are finished with their work, we head outside. I keep our meal plan and our weekly homeschool schedule on my refrigerator, which I pass on the way out the door, so if I discover that I need to be doing something in terms of meal prep or afternoon school prep, I can be thinking about it while we're outside.

That's it! What does your morning look like?


  1. it seems that there is so much research/prep work/planning for your school day. id love to hear more about all that: when do you get all this done? where are the kids when you are setting up the classroom each day? when do you do your cleaning/cooking/household stuff if you always have to prep for the next day of school?

    1. Hi, thanks for the questions! It actually seems harder than it really is, I think. Once per week I just pull worksheets out of books and stick them into the colored folders. Since I work with the kids all the time, I know at a glance what they can, and can't, do on their own so the selection process is simple and quick. As for their work shelves, I change those up only when I see the kids tiring of the materials. I often change out only one option at once, and I do that whenever I see the need- during the day, during naps, etc. I love the FIAR curriculum because it gives such great ideas for book units, which I use readily and supplement when I see the need/have the time. Our Handwriting Without Tears and Singapore Math curricula come with a suggested schedule, and while we don't follow it exactly, having it there as a back up in case I don't have something more individualized works really well. My husband works very long, relatively sporadic hours, so my housekeeping schedule is based around doing it alone, with little hands as my helpers. :) You can check out our cleaning routine at this link, but the jist is that we do a little bit, every day. I often use Sunday afternoons as my catch-all/planning time because my husband is typically home then and looking to spend time with the kiddos. That works well for me because I get any planning that I need to do done, and Daddy gets to spend some time with the kids. Generally speaking, I like to have a plan or structure for the day, but we regularly omit anything that isn't working. I hope that helps!

  2. I would love to see a resource guide for all the products you show in the pictures. ie, the wooden lines for building the letters and the worksheets in ben's binder.

    1. Hi- thanks for the comment. If you check out the "Our Curriculum and Planners" dropdown under the Our Homeschool tab you'll see a list of all the formal curriculum pieces we use (like the wood pieces are from our Handwriting Without Tears curriculum). Items not included under that tab have hyperlinks to bring you right to the pages where I found them (like the binder printables from Homeschool Creations). Most of the other items we use are things that I've picked up at tag sales or that have been handed down to us from friends. I've updated the post to include links to those products I could find online, so I hope that helps. If you have specific questions about a particular product please post it here and I'd be happy to respond as best as I can.



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