The first thing that many people think about when considering Morning Time is the content: what are we going to memorize, how will we choose it, where will we find it.
Form instead of Content
But what I’ve found in our Morning Time practice is that the content doesn’t matter that much. It’s the form that carries the practice. It’s establishing the space, the container for the work. It’s the reliable structure that everyone can fall into on any given sleepy, frazzled Tuesday. In “The Country of Marriage” Wendell Berry calls it,
made in the light for the light to return to
Let’s look at those lines. The pattern is “made in the light.” It’s not cobbled together on that Tuesday morning. It’s been thought about and prepared in advance. Sometimes not much in advance, but that’s the goal anyways!
Sally Clarkson, writing about community, says “It isn’t something that just happens. It has to be planned and crafted, worked at and scheduled.” The work and thought beforehand makes space for community to grow. And really, that’s what Morning Time is, a community of learners.
Morning Time becomes a pattern “for the light to return to.” This homeschooling life is not all bright sunny days. We need a way to return, to remember, to find the path again. And it can be as straightforward as sharing a prayer, a song, a bit of scripture. These are reliable patterns.
Content over Form
I opened by saying that it was the form that carried the practice, and content was secondary. But content matters so very much! In our house Morning Time is not the place for memorizing lists of prepositions or state capitals. Morning Time is closer to liturgy, the work of the people to encounter “the best that is known and thought in the world.” No one ever has the need of learning “Ooey Gooey.” Ever!
So how do you choose what to use? This is where your own individual genius shines. I pick the songs + scriptures that I need to hear. The ones that will build me up and fit me for the work at hand. I lean heavily on the lectionary and what we are singing at church. When something connects with me, I make a note of it. We usually end up alternating a psalm with passages from other parts of scripture. This is how I choose our poetry selections as well–what do I want to hear? What can stand up to a month of daily reading.
Morning Time, Not Memorization
Daily reading, not reciting. We don’t actually work to memorize the passages. Remember how I said our Morning Time is a liturgy? It would never work to have a quiz in the middle of the liturgy! So while we are technically doing memory work, there are never any tests or recitations. We practice Not Word Perfect Memorization, and it’s been perfect for us.
Turns out when you aim for beauty and cultivate an atmosphere of joy, you get memorization as a bonus! The good words we share in Morning Time are taking deep root in our hearts. And over time the individual pieces begin to sing together and create harmony richer than I could have hoped.