How to Create a Hands-off, Independent Morning Time

PIN IMAGE with text: How to Create an Independent Hands-Off Morning Time in your Homeschool

With the exception of coloring books, our homeschool morning time is designed to be nearly all audio. (And I’m talking tech, not read-alouds.)

Most homeschool morning times are family-centered, and are traditionally more teacher-intensive. But unlike the communal morning basket with read-alouds, I created this all-audio routine to be completed independently by my daughter, as a launching point for her day. She craves structure, and this set sequence of audio tasks calms her and settles her (and me!) into a great headspace for the day. We used this same routine last year, too, and it worked out so well for us.

While a morning time that’s not also family time might seem odd, the way I see it, we homeschoolers are together with our kids 24/7 — sometimes that even feels like 25/7 or 8. So I’m not too worried about letting go of some together-time for an hour or so in the morning. In fact, it’s been a lifesaver.

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All-Audio Morning Time, Part 1: Bible

The first part of morning time is Bible, comprised entirely of iPad apps which don’t require looking at the screen — just listening. I grouped the apps into a single iPad folder, in the same order they’re to be listened to, so there’s no distraction looking around for the next one in the sequence. This can also be done on an iPhone, or on some WiFi-connected iPod Touches, depending on age and app compatibility. Unfortunately, I’m not familiar enough with Android devices to know if these app developers offer an Android version.

Some of the Bible resources we use contain liturgical elements. If you wish, you can simply use the audio Bible app, and skip the apps with liturgy. But as I previously shared in 100 Essential Tools for Homeschooling Gifted Kids: “Structured worship…is especially meaningful for a routine-dependent, sequential, rigid-thinking child. The orderly format [of liturgy] calms her, and she knows what to expect from day to day. This speaks to her soul in a way that abstract, spontaneous worship would not. I think it’s crucial, especially for an easily-overwhelmed science-minded kiddo, to show that the world of worship can be just as orderly as the world of science.”

  • Mission St. Clare App (FREE)
    • This app allows you to listen to beautiful hymn recordings each day, according to what hymns are listed for that particular day in the Book of Common Prayer. It can be glitchy at times, but when it works, it’s lovely. When the app doesn’t play audio, we listen to a few songs from Ancient Faith Radio instead.
  • Ancient Faith Radio App (FREE)
    • This app offers free streaming Orthodox hymns, in various world languages (English, too.)
  • Mission St. Clare Website (FREE)
    • Providing different content than the Mission St. Clare app, above, the Mission St. Clare website website has a short (approximately 15-minutes) recording of a service at The Episcopal Church in Garrett County, Maryland. Updated daily with a new service.
  • BCP: Daily Office Readings by Logos Creative, LCC (FREE app)
    • This app utilizes the ESV (English Standard Version) and reads aloud from various books of the Bible, according to the Scripture references listed for that particular day in the Book of Common Prayer
  • The Bible App by Life.Church (FREE)
    • Another great resource for listening to audio Bible. My favorite feature? You can set a timer which automatically pauses the audio playback after the timer expires. And there are lots and lot of translations from which to choose.

Drawing / Coloring / Notebooking Resources to Accompany Morning Time

While my daughter listens the audio from these apps, she colors, draws, or notebooks quietly. Here’s what’s on our IKEA Raskog cart

If your kids hate drawing and coloring, you can always swap out the pencils for something like a jigsaw puzzle. In my experience, though, you’ll want a somewhat special hands-on activity that is reserved only for morning time, so the novelty factor stays strong.

All-Audio Morning Time, Part 2: Recitation / Memory Work

After the Bible app portion of morning time is completed, the second part of morning time is designed to double as memory work. Memory work is a foundational component of the grammar, or primary, stage of classical education. And setting recitation assignments to music is such a beautifully painless way to memorize!

At the beginning of the school year, I upload audio CDs to iTunes on my iMac, and use iTunes to select certain tracks from each uploaded CD to create a custom morning time playlist. I then sync this playlist, via iTunes, onto the iPad. (You could also, of course, simply create a playlist on a PC and play it from the PC, rather than transferring it to a tablet.)

My daughter listens to this same morning time playlist each day — and chants or sings along.

The history timeline song stays on the list all school year, since it corresponds with our year-long history curriculum, Veritas Press’ New Testament, Greece and Rome. But as other songs are mastered, I swap them out and update the playlist with new material.

This year, like last year, I’ll be pulling from the following list of audio resources. Since there are so many tracks from which to choose, it takes multiple years to get through all the CDs. And that’s great news for the budget!

(Although some are available via streaming services, I prefer purchasing the CDs or MP3s. This way, I’m able to launch the full morning time playlist in iTunes, without needing to access internet streaming.)

So that’s how we start each school day — with a tech-powered, independent morning time. You can see some of these resources on my Amazon Influencer Storefront, under the Memory Work / Morning Time board.

(An additional note on audio books: we personally haven’t added a chapter a day of an audio book to our morning time routine, because we tend to use audio books during afternoon downtime, while in the car, or while waiting for appointments. But you could absolutely include audiobooks if you wanted. We like the streaming services Hoopla and Overdrive, free with most library cards, for access to audiobooks at no cost. These usually let you download the audiobook fully while you’re on WiFi, so you can then listen from your device, without needing to access the internet. Edited to add: If you live in a rural area / have a small library, scroll down to the comment section to read Jen’s amazing tip about gaining access to these digital services!)

As your kids get older, don’t be afraid to set your kids up to do independent work. Don’t let the homeschool mom guilt get to you. (Audio books aren’t cheating.) More often than not, implementing some hands-off practices in your homeschool will make everyone happier. Plus, it’s a gentle way to begin teaching the importance of independent learning, self-motivation, and diligence.

Here’s to happy, orderly, peaceful mornings!

Questions about creating your own hands-off morning time? Ask away!

There’s also this fantastically helpful Q+A thread, all about the practical, nitty-gritty aspects of implementing an independent morning time like this. The discussion is in my closed Facebook group, so request to join!

(Pictured in this photo: How to Draw almost Everything, a bamboo Otis & Eleanor Bongo Speaker and Prismacolor Pencils.)


Using Children’s Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

Using Children's Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool

We read a lot of books in this house. How many? Last year, we scanned most of the books my daughter read, and at year-end, counted a virtual stack of 530 books. The year before, when she was five, we catalogued 561 books. (I don’t need to sign up for a fitness program; I carry library tote bags.)

And we didn’t scan every book she read, either. We tend to mostly scan library books, and not necessarily the daily-rotating selection from our wall of overstuffed bookshelves. So one thousand is a conservative count; over the course of two years, she easily read far more than a thousand books. (Does that make your head spin? It does mine!)

How do I keep up?

I don’t.

How do I preview them all?

I don’t.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received free books from Candlewick Press and was compensated for my time in exchange for writing and publishing this post. All opinions are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Continue reading “Using Children’s Books to Build Rabbit Trails of Curiosity in Your Gifted Homeschool”

Homeschooling, How To

How to Study Art History with Kids: FREE Printable

How to Study Art History with Kids: FREE Printable from the Oaxacaborn blog

Figuring out how to study art with kids doesn’t have to be complicated. This free, no-strings-attached printable provides art history discussion prompts you can use with any piece of art you encounter in your homeschool studies.

Continue reading “How to Study Art History with Kids: FREE Printable”


NORDIC CHRISTMAS :: DIY Paper Star // Papirstjerner

Paper star DIY

I’m happy to introduce you to Linda, the talented and design-savvy owner of a London-based Scandinavian house & home shop called Bo Nordica. (Have a browse, it’s lovely!) Linda graciously sent over this post to share with you. If you’ve been an observant reader of the Bo Nordica blog for some time, you may recognize it — for everyone else, enjoy this beautiful star DIY, originally from the Home by Linn blog. I can never get enough paper stars, can you?

Make Your Own Paper Stars Decorations

Christmas is one of my favourite times of the year. Over the years, the fondest memories I have of Christmas do not include expensive purchases, but precious moments spent with family and friends.

I grew up on a farm near Stavern, a coastal town in the South East of Norway. Every year my father would take the family out in search of the perfect Christmas tree from the woods surrounding our farm. When we returned home my sisters and I would spend hours making paper stars and paper hearts to adorn the tree and decorate our home.

This is just one of our family traditions that made Christmas extra special..

This week I made paper star decorations with my children. I found these paper star instructions on the fantastic Home By Linn website. Why not give them a try?

DIY Paper Christmas Stars

You will need: paper, scissors, pencil and ruler.

1. The star is made up of of 8 paper squares – so you need to start by cutting these out. To save time you can make a thin cardboard square template – draw around it and cut out. I made my squares 10cm x 10cm. Position the square in front of you with one of the tips pointing towards you. Make a fold diagonally down the middle to make a crease, then unfold paper.

2. Fold each corner to the centre so the tip meets the middle line.

3. Fold again as shown in picture (See the Home by Linn post).

4. Fold the top triangle parallel along the little triangle below. Unfold and make a fold on the opposite side.

5. You have now made a cross. Then turn it around.

6. Make sure it looks the same as it does in the photo! Take the bottom pointy end and fold it to the left along the line that you made before you turned it around.

7. Now this is the tricky bit… You should have a small triangle on top of a large triangle. The large triangle has a line down the middle – fold down the middle along the line. The little triangle should now be bending a little. Fold the little triangle and follow the line from the cross you made earlier.

8. This is what it should look like. It should be easier the second time around.

9. Practice makes perfect… You have to make 8 of these

10. Now for the assembly… Insert the small triangle behind the ‘flaps’ of the large triangle. Do not tighten too hard at first as it will be difficult to assemble the last one. Tighten when they are all connected. Pull the tips carefully one by one. Voila! You have a paper star. You can make an assortment of these in different sizes, colours and patterns.

I hope you enjoy giving these a try. And don’t forget to let me know how you get on!

Until next time,
Linda xoxo

Bo Nordica | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest



Today, December 13, is St. Lucia Day! And today’s guest blogger, Linnea of Linnea in the Capitol, is here to tell you all about this wonderful Swedish holiday. -Gina

Growing up in a Scandihoovian (American-Scandinavian) household meant that Sankta Lucia day was an incredibly important part of our holiday season. Like my other favorite Swedish holiday, Midsommar, it involves wearing a fantastic crown and lots of singing!

How to Celebrate Santa Lucia Day at Home - Swedish Holidays

The Legend of St. Lucia

The legend – or legends, for I believe there are several versions – of Saint Lucia actually come from Sicily, Italy. A young maiden there, Lucia, chose to give away her dowry to the poor. This made her husband-to-be quite angry, and she was sentenced to be burned to death. The flames could not harm her, however, and eventually she was killed with a sword.

This tale was taken up to Scandinavia, where it melded nicely with local tradition and became a beautiful holiday and celebration. December 13th was the winter solstice according the old Julian calendar, and if you have ever been to Sweden in the winter you know how dark the days can be! Lucia brings light and hope (and often baked goods!) to the people on that dark, dark day.

Traditionally the eldest daughter in the family rises early and dresses in a long white dress with a red sash and with light on her head. She takes a tray of breakfast and goes throughout the home, waking the family with beautiful singing and bringing them breakfast in bed (at least that’s how we did it!)

Lucia programs are also put on in schools and throughout the community. One lucky girl is even chosen to be the National Lucia in Sweden each year. In some circumstances girls submit applications to be Lucia, and may be selected by a voting process. It is a wonderful honor to be selected as Lucia. Other girls make up the tärnor, a train which follows Lucia. The girls in the tärnor also wear long white dresses with sashes, and carry a candle in their hand. Often bringing up the back of the train are the stjärngossar (star boys), boys also wearing long white robes, wearing a tall pointed hat with stars on it and carrying a staff with a star on the end.

It is easy to celebrate Lucia at home! Here are the things you’d need:

Lucia and Light // St. Lucia Crown DIYs

While Lucia is often the eldest daughter, there is no reason that it has to be! In my opinion anyone can be Lucia, regardless of age or gender! (I often heard my brothers lament that they would never get to be Lucia. Being a star boy is fun, but in my opinion boys can be Lucia too!)

While traditionally Lucia wears real candles on her head, many people forgo this today in favor of battery powered candles. There are battery powered Lucia crowns for sale, but there are many other ways to represent Lucia’s crown as well that you can put together at home. One common solution is a wreath of silver tinsel around the head – it catches the light and twinkles in a wonderful way.

I found several great DIY Lucia crowns online, ranging from very easy (construction paper) to a little more involved (sewing.)

Lucia wears a long white dress, generally loose fitting – a nightgown works well, but any white dress will do. Tie a red ribbon around the waist and put some white socks on the feet and the outfit is complete!

Baked Treats and Hot Drinks // Swedish Lussekatter Recipe

Lucia brings a tray of yummy things to eat. You can put whatever you’d like on your tray, but if you’d like to celebrate like a real Swede consider making lussekatter (St Lucia buns) – a saffron yeast bun. Saffron is generally expensive, but gives such a distinct and unique color and flavor. I found my saffron this year at Trader Joe’s.

lussekatter via Vera H
Image Credit :: Vera H

Here is our family recipe, a combination of instructions from Första Kokboken, my great-uncle Stig, and my mother.

100-150 g. (10.6 Tablsp.) margarine or butter
4 dl (1 2/3 cup) milk
½ cup warm water (110⁰ F.)
50 g. yeast (2 Tblsp dry yeast – Kirsti; 3 packages dry yeast – Stig)
½ tsp. salt
1 – 1 ½ dl (1/2 cup) sugar
15 dl (6 cup) flour
1 gram (2 packages) saffron, also raisins
1 beaten egg to “pensla med” (brush onto the rolls before baking)

Melt the margarine in a sauce pan. Pour in the milk and warm until it is “finger warm”. Place yeast in mixing bowl and add ½ cup warm water and let dissolve. Add the warm milk mixture and flour, sugar, and seasonings. Put  the saffron in a small bowl with a sugar cube and crush them together. Then add to the dough mixture. If you have a mixer with a dough hook, use this to mix the ingredients together until the dough holds together and leaves the sides of the bowl. (It will be stickier than regular bread dough.) Place a towel over the bowl (or plastic wrap, easier to clean up) and let rise for 40 minutes or until it is light and porous. (This may take longer depending on your altitude.)

Dust flour onto the counter or a bread board. Punch down the dough, place some flour on your hands and knead with a light touch.

lucia shapes
Image Credit :: Första Kokboken

Pinch off some dough and roll into “ropes”. Then shape into “S” shapes, oxen, and other shapes. Place on greased baking sheet and let rise for 30 minutes. Decorate with raisins and brush on beaten egg (it makes the rolls shiny!). Bake at 425⁰ for 5 – 7 minutes, watch carefully because they burn easily. You may have to adjust for your oven.

Let your newly baked bread cool under a towel. Then it will be nice and soft.

Hot chocolate, tea, and coffee are great drinks to round out your tray.

Music for St. Lucia Day

There are many beautiful Swedish songs celebrating Lucia. Here are five of my favorites that would make a great Lucia playlist (click on the title to be taken to the song on Amazon).

You may also be able to find a Lucia program in your community to attend! If you are in near Washington DC, the American Scandinavian Association has their Lucia program this Saturday. (Find more information here!) I know there are also beautiful programs throughout the country, try googling “Swedish Lucia Festival [your area]” or something similar and see if you can find one near you! (This not-so-great quality photo is actually me as Lucia last night at the Ambassador’s Christmas party at House of Sweden.)


You are beautiful, Linnea! Thank you for this great post. I can’t wait to have you back in the summer when we’ll talk more about Midsommar. :) Readers, be sure to add Linnea’s blog to your bookmarks!