We started homeschooling this year, as our oldest began Kindergarten. In creating our approach to education in the home, I quickly became aware of a phenomenon on the homeschool blogosphere and podcast circut called Morning Time. I immediately implemented it, and it has been the most wonderful part of our daily routine, even (especially) on far-from-perfect days. Experiencing the fruit in my young family, and hearing from countless parents who have practiced Morning Time for decades, I believe that this communal activity is essential for every family, regardless of your school/work lifestyle.
What is Morning Time? Well, contrary to it’s name, it doesn’t have to happen in the morning. For some families it happens in the afternoon or in the evening. In short, it is a communal gathering of the whole family–across ages and across various subjects–to seek after truth, beauty and goodness. Cindy Rollins, the woman who bascially birthed the concept of Morning Time over 30 years ago, describes it this way: “…as a liturgy, Morning Time reminds us what we should love.”
There is no one way that Morning Time looks; because the uniqueness of each family helps to dictate the approach and content. However, most family Morning Times would include the following components:
- Recitation/Memory Work
- Reading Aloud (liturature & poetry)
As I reflect on why Morning Time has had such a beautiful impact on our family life, I realize that the culture created during this time simply harkens back to a part of family culture that has been lost. In fact, the list of activities above actually used to be a major part of communal family life about a 100 years ago. Families used to pray daily and recite passages/creeds together. They also commonly sang and read aloud together.
Gradually, however, these communal activities dropped off in most modern American homes. Singing together has been replaced by more individual music preferences; and because of our access to recorded music, we have been less compelled to create and share it in a live environment. Reading aloud, previously a staple of family education and entertainment, became neglected as there were more options of things to listen to on the radio or watch on television. In fact, I think it is fair to say that it is quite common today for members of a family to all be viewing different programs on different devices in different rooms of the house for a majority of evenings and weekends. Modern culture has provided us with countless ways to entertain (or educate) ourselves by ourselves. On top of these trends, prayer has become less of a communal family activity as well.
In truth, the concept of “Morning Time” is really a rebirth of “Family Time,” only now it is such a foreign structure to daily living that it feels like a major re-orienting of our habits and values. Seeking truth, beauty, and goodness together–time spent praying, singing, and reading as a family–is something that should and could be happening in every domestic church.
To some people this might sound like “another thing to do.” Well, that might be because we are too busy on things less important than the culture of our family life. Some might counter, “My kids go to Classical Catholic School; they get exposed to lots of truth and beauty there.” Or still others may say, “My kids go to CCD every Saturday morning.” To all of these comments I would say two things. First, nothing your kids do outside of your home is as important as what you do in the home together. Second, this family time together–experiencing and discussing truth, beauty, and goodness in the daily context of family living–this stuff is not an add-on; it’s the most important thing. That’s why the family is the domestic church; it’s the primary school of discipleship and formation. Through spending time together, being formed together and communing through activities filled with goodness, our domestic churches will flourish.