As a homeschooling mother of two tireless boys, and as a human alive in 2020, I feel an overwhelming urge to simplify, connect and unplug during the holidays. Although it sounds trite to say at this point, the month of December will look different for many. Countless Americans will be spending more time with their immediate household members, and some might be wondering how to pass the time in a meaningful way that fosters connectivity without spending a small fortune on Amazon, all while keeping their sanity intact.
Despite the short amount of time given to us, we can take advantage of this current moment to redefine what educating our children looks like while dispelling some myths about homeschooling. Because when the apple cart is overturned it can provide an opportunity to rearrange whatever went astray during the crash.
Enter the humble Morning Basket. During my summer of research, I would often encounter YouTube videos and blog posts dedicated to what seemed to be a staple of many homeschooling families. It took some time to grasp what it entailed because it was so simple. I was convinced there had to be more to it.
Put succinctly; a morning basket is a collection of books, toys, puzzles, or handicraft items that your family dedicates a small amount of time to during the day (traditionally in the morning). It provides an effortless way to expose your children to the rich vocabulary found in living books, converse about the philosophy surrounding the holiday season (altruism, charity, morality), and affords the chance to explore creatively together. In other words, you’ll be implementing a homeschooling lesson, and they’ll be none the wiser. At my house, the morning basket embodies what homeschooling looks like: books, rich conversation and togetherness. And not everything in a morning basket needs to be used at once.
Whether you’re the type of parent who raids every shelf at Target for the perfect themed basket and scours the internet for printables, the kind that adheres to a philosophy of “ordered chaos,” or somewhere in between, the holiday season is tailor-made to roll out this routine slowly. Whether you’re a secular or non-secular family, a morning basket is a beautiful tool to help implement cozy togetherness time with your family. In fact, despite its name, morning basket activities can happen at any time during the day. For many families, an evening cup of chamomile or hot chocolate provides the perfect backdrop for a Christmas read-aloud and a simple craft.
This month, take some time to fill your basket with simple seasonally themed items. There are endless possibilities:
Blank notebooks or sketch pads
Ornaments for decorating or painting
Christmas or winter stickers
Themed read-aloud books: picture books, story Bibles, short-chapter books, bilingual books, reader’s theater scripts
Logic puzzles and workbooks (Genius Squares by The Happy Puzzle Co. is a household favorite)
Hot chocolate or Chocolate de Abuelita
Teabags and honey sticks
Simple art supplies: pipe cleaners, small cotton balls, bells
Sugar cookie mix, cookie cutters
Foreign language flashcards
And here are some ideas for your holiday book list (for all ages):
“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” (Robinson, 1971)
“The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree” (Houston,1988)
“The Friendly Beasts” (dePaola, 1981)
“There was No Snow on Christmas Eve” (Munoz Ryan, 2005)
“Merlin Missions: Christmas in Camelot, Deluxe Holiday Edition” (Osborne, 2010)
“The Christmas Miracle of Johnathan Toomey” (Wojciechowski, 1995)
“How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (Seuss, 1957)
“A Christmas Carol” (Dickens, 1843)
“Letters From Father Christmas” (Tolkein, 1976)
“Happy Narwhalidays” (Clanton, 2020)
“Llama Llama Holiday Drama” (Dewdney, 2010)
“The Kid’s Laugh Challenge: Would You Rather? Christmas Edition” (Riddleland, 2020)
“The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving” (Berenstain & Berenstain, 2010)
So, as daylight makes haste towards nightfall, morning baskets have the opportunity to become an unplugged tradition for your family, all while being an undercover educational experience that can roll over into the new year and beyond.
Alex Hobbs, based in Irrigon, is a former educator turned full-time homeschooling mother of two elementary schoolers.