I’ll start with the backstory:

My kids wake up early in the mornings.  Like 5:30 early.  Consistently.  It’s been this way since they were born, it never changes, no matter when they go to sleep, and I don’t foresee this habit changing anytime soon.  I will freely admit that this used to really bother me.  Mostly because I find it hard to find 10 consecutive minutes to myself to get anything meaningful done.    The Husband and I are both early risers, so the fact that the kids both are really shouldn’t be much of a surprise.  But I digress.

In the past, I have tried to fill in the 3 hours we have in the morning together in a meaningful way – but somehow it usually ended up with the kids watching more tv than they probably should have, and nothing much meaningful happening.

This past summer, I wanted to find a way to get my son really interested in reading (he’s an excellent reader, he just doesn’t tend to pick up a book unprompted) and to get my daughter actually reading (she thinks telling me what’s happening in the pictures is “real” reading)!  So, we spent 10 minutes in the morning, once breakfast was done, working on phonics.  Because I wanted the kids to take what we were doing seriously (as in I wanted them to stay sitting at the table until we were done with our work), I told them that they were in “Mommy School”.  They seemed to buy it and it worked out quite well.  Ok . . . I did also put a reward system in place, so that for every 3 pages of work they did, they got a sticker on their chart; if they completed the chart (16 stickers), they got to choose one item from a list of rewards that included picking what we were having for dinner, walking to the store to buy a new book, or 20 minutes of iPad time.

As September rolled around, I wanted to find a way to teach them more than just phonics.  After the road trip we took in the summer, I saw how captivated they could get by certain topics, and I wanted to carry that over into our “Mommy School”.  So . . . I set about dividing the upcoming year into units, and focusing on a different theme in each unit.

I started with cooking and food in September; figuring that we were back to routines, back to cooking more with the oven than the barbecue, and so we could all get into learning more about our food, famous chefs, and even about cookbooks.  But . . . that didn’t go so well.  Turns out my kids do like to cook (if it’s muffins, kale chips, or a dessert), and the only foods they’re really interested in right now are pasta, steak, and chocolate.  Pretty much an epic fail on my part.

So we’ve moved on.  We have a trip planned to DisneyWorld in November, so our new unit is Disney.  We’ve spent the last 2 mornings learning about Walt Disney the man and the history of the Disney company.  Both kids are fascinated.  We’ll move on to learning about how cartoon movies are made, reading some of the original (non-disney) stories that the movies are based on, and we’ll even touch on how DisneyWorld, the theme park, is constructed.

Together, we’re all learning, we’re all engaged, and we now have some structure to our mornings; no more mindless tv watching.  Of course, this ties into my post yesterday; by being organized, by getting things done the night before/the weekend before, and by approaching the day with a calmer outlook, I have the time to devote to this little project, and to the kids.  And I couldn’t be happier.