Your (Modern) Morning Basket: Morning Time and “Us-schooling” (an interview with Pam Barnhill)

Morning Time Morning Basket Homeschool Pam Barnhill interview
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Pam Barnhill is not only the Big Sister of Morning Time for many homeschooling families, but she’s also an author, podcaster, and homeschool speaker. Over the past couple years she’s also become my true friend! I was so tickled to be able to chat with her on this week’s Homeschool Conversations episode. We chatted about making homeschooling work for our individual families (that’s where “us-schooling” comes in) and we also talked about practical tips for integrating a Morning Basket into our homeschool day.

Be sure to check out all the other interviews in our Homeschool Conversations series!

Watch the video, read the show notes, and share with your friends!

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Morning Time Morning Basket Homeschool Pam Barnhill interview

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Who is Pam Barnhill?

Pam Barnhill is the author of Better Together and Plan Your Year. She hosts the popular Your Morning Basket podcast, writes at, and is one of the co-hosts for the Scholé Sisters podcast. You can find her speaking at homeschool conferences around the country when she’s not home in the Deep South with her husband and three kids.  

Morning Time Morning Basket Homeschool Pam Barnhill interview

Watch my interview with Pam Barnhill

Show Notes {with video time stamps}

Pam Barnhill’s family and their decision to homeschool {1:06}

Pam and her husband have 3 kids aged 15, 13, and 10. They were married for ten years before they began having kids. Pam was a teacher, and then worked in the yearbook profession. She loved what she did, so when her daughter was born she figured she’d take a few months off and then go back to work.

But then she looked at her little girl and realized she’d have to put her in the hands of strangers! Her family found her husband a job and the whole crew moved from Tampa back to Alabama where Pam’s family lived.

While working in education, Pam had also seen enough of a testing system that tied the hands of wonderful teachers to know she didn’t want that for her children.

Your Morning Basket

Us-Schooling {4:04}

When Pam came to homeschooling, she started searching for online homeschooling options. She found school-at-home K-12 programs and figured this would be easy.

But then she started looking around and seeing that it wasn’t just about “getting a box with a number on it.” She discovered Five in a Row, John Holt, Charlotte Mason, and others. “It opened up a whole new world of possibilities for me,” Pam said.

Pam came to realize that traditional education of the past 150 years was only a small portion of thousands of years of pedagogies (and the anthropologies that undergird them).

“I tried a little bit of everything,” Pam laughed. For a long time, Pam called their family “Us-Schoolers.” Now, Pam explained, they’ve really settled in a version of “Us-Schooling” grounded in a “classical philosophy that what we’re doing is educating whole human beings, whole persons, towards virtues. And that’s what education is about, not about checking off boxes or getting a grade for a test or even getting a job.

Surprises and challenges of homeschooling {8:55}

Pam said, “One of the particular challenges is that my children are nothing like me.” Pam had been the kid who finished all their work and pulled out extra work from learning centers in the back of the classroom.

Her kids are not the sterotypical, super-academically-focused kids. “It kinda drove me crazy for a while,” Pam admitted. But she realized that not only were they sinners, but they were also kids. They had to be taught.

Pam has also realized that although her children don’t have her same interests, they do have their own unique interests that can facilitate learning in their homeschool.

Your Morning Basket

Morning Time {13:00}

Pam said that it would be nice if Morning Time were called something different: “The name is almost unfortunate…the number one thing I still hear from people is ‘do we have to do it in the morning?’…but really all Morning Time is (or Morning Basket or Circle Time) is a time in your homeschool day when the entire family comes together and learns together.”

Morning Time does many things for a homeschool family:

  • Promotes Efficiency in the Homeschool
  • Builds Family Culture

“It doesn’t have to be done in the morning,” Pam reminded us. Not only that, but Morning Time looks different for different families and different seasons of life.

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“The most important thing to remember about Morning Time is that you’re going to do the subjects that are important to you and your family, not the subjects that are important to the family down the street. It’s going to fit your family… and that’s a successful morning time right there.”

Morning Time Morning Basket Homeschool Pam Barnhill interview

Pam’s favorite parts of Morning Time {17:45}

Poetry is one of Pam’s absolute favorite things to include in her family’s Morning Basket. She loves to memorize poetry with her children!

This past year, now that her kids are getting older, they’ve also begun getting into current events and having some great discussions during Morning Time.

How to start Morning Time in your homeschool {18:53}

Pam says that the easiest way to start is to get a basket (for keeping all your things in one place), take 5 things that your kids like to do, and put them in the basket.

“If you pick 5 totally new things…just because you think they’re worthy… [your kids] may not like them,” Pam warned.

One thing that Pam’s 10-year-old son loves is MadLibs, so she puts them in their Morning Basket!

Pam also reminded us to put something in there that we mamas enjoy as well “so this doesn’t just become another thing you have to do in your school day so that you can check a box.”

Then, sit down with your basket, take one thing out of it, and do that thing. Do a couple things, close it, put it up. The next day, get it out and repeat. At some point, you’ll finish a resource. Take that finished item out and replace it with something else.

It really can be just that simple.

If you’d like a resource where a sample Morning Time is laid out for you to get you started, check out Pam’s free month of Morning Time plans.

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Modern Morning Basket {22:14}

“We … get in our heads … that things like this are all very Victorian looking,” Pam said, but Morning Time is not some highbrow, old-fashioned thing. We’re doing a modern Morning Basket in our homeschool families.

Pam has found that her own kids do better actually sitting at the table. “If you’ve tried this and it hasn’t worked, maybe move it to a table and see,” she encouraged.

Morning Time Morning Basket Homeschool Pam Barnhill interview

Her kids are always doing something with their hands, working on a project during Morning Time.

Other families have found that sitting at a table doesn’t work. Maybe you need to have your little ones playing on the living room floor while older members of the family are sitting on a couch.

“If it’s not working, try changing your location,” Pam advised.

“If you get to a point where your morning time suddenly isn’t working… you’ve probably let it get too long,” Pam said. You can shorten your Morning Time without getting rid of the things that you love by using some sort of loop schedule.

In our family, we’ve found that we can have a “Circle Time” with the younger kids for the first hour, then at 9 am the older teens come in and we have a shorter ~30 minute Morning Time with all of us together.

Your Morning Basket

Find Pam Barnhill online

Do you include a Morning Time in your homeschool day?

Check out all the other interviews in my Homeschool Conversations series!

Homeschool Conversations Video Interviews

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