Cindy Rollins, Morning Time, and Incorporating Poetic Knowledge


I recently read Cindy Rollins’ new book, Mere Motherhood. In one day. Basically, in one sitting. The story of her life (so far) was really enthralling. Her life and my life don’t have all that much in common except for the homeschool and boy-mom aspects (she raised 8 boys and one girl), but it was still very fun – and sometimes scary – to read about her highs and lows.

Rollins is known in homeschool circles as the person who invented “morning time” – or, what we call in our family, “circle time” (because sometimes it happens after noon). She no longer writes at her once-popular blog,, where the concept of morning time was born, but her past posts are archived there, and she occasionally drops some new information on there. Last year, for example, she posted a list of “The Literature of Honor for Little Boys.” It’s quite the list of picture books, and I have incorporated many of her suggestions in our family read aloud time. Rollins now blogs at CiRCE Institute’s web site and hosts the Charlotte Mason themed podcast The Mason Jar.

It’s my understanding that “morning time” became a thing because (1) she did it for years and (2) she blogged about it – and it was well received. I’m not sure when she coined the term or how she introduced it (she swears it was “a thing” before she thought of it), but she first mentioned “morning time” on her blog in September 2008. She described it as a practice she had been doing for 20 years. In 2008 she gave a brief description of morning time:

In [sic] was a way to bring all my educational philosophies to the table. It was a way to incorporate poetic knowledge into the hearts of my children. It was a way to share my faith and even preach a sermon every single day.

After reading Mere Motherhood and then diving into her old blog archives, I feel an even greater conviction to make sure we are doing morning time as often as possible. There are so many ways to incorporate this institution. Rollins described her morning time as a two-hour affair that covered everything from artist and composer study, hymns and folk songs, poetry, Shakespeare, Plutarch, and Bible study to reading aloud from three different books! In our home we have opted to keep “circle time” a lot shorter – due to preschool attention spans – and also so we can preserve time to accomplish separate read aloud books on our Ambleside schedules. We do cover most of the same subjects Rollins described, but many of them are on a loop schedule – meaning we do Shakespeare OR artist study OR composer on a given day, for example.

With A9 (yes, he finally had his much anticipated birthday!) in Year 3, L5 (so close to 6!) in Year 1, and J3 along for the ride, I feel like we’re still getting into a groove with how our mornings play out. We went through a brief time this fall where we tried to do math before our circle time, but it seemed SO HARD to accomplish them both. It turned into math OR circle time, which was not the effect I wanted. We had to switch back to doing circle time first, but I felt conflicted about it until I heard Pam Barnhill’s podcast “Why you shouldn’t start your homeschool day with math.” It sort of released me to follow my instincts, and it gave me a logical argument (which is something this INTP needs!). My kids actually enjoy math. It’s typically not a struggle, but when Barnhill said “Homeschooling is about relationships,” I knew she was right. It was the permission I needed to place circle time before math, both chronologically and in terms of prominence.

So, circle those wagons, kids. After Mommy has coffee and her 30 minutes on the elliptical machine.

Until we meet again in two weeks, be well.

I’m reading:


Moderately challenging books:

Stiff books:



3 thoughts on “Cindy Rollins, Morning Time, and Incorporating Poetic Knowledge

  1. I found Esolen’s book to be sarcastic as well. That said, I *LOVE* his writing and he generally makes excellent points in very good ways.. I actually agree with much of what he was trying to say in his “10 Ways..” book, but I didn’t like the way he went about it. It was like when, if you’ve ever had this experience, you are talking with someone who is sarcastic so often (and for them it’s so like a second nature) that you are often at a loss as to whether they’re being sincere or again sarcastic. It interrupted my reading as he would switch back and forth so freely that I’d consciously have to recall whether whatever it was that I was reading was meant sincerely or facetiously. Also, I found it HEAVY on criticism and light on, or even empty of, constructive ideas as to how we might slowly take back that which we’ve lost. Perhaps he felt that should be obvious, but I’d imagine if he thought he would be preaching to the long-since-converted choir, he wouldn’t have published the book (here I may be mistaken and I suppose if he did indeed write it to the choir, he may have been ‘right’ not to include ideas). If it’s meant as I assume, to reawaken people to what should be more important than it has become in our current mindset/society/culture, then I’d have hoped for ideas as to how to recapture it, reemphasize it.. Supposedly, however, his more recent book (the title of which has escaped me..) is much improved in this aspect. Not sure about the sarcasm though. Part of the appeal for me is, I’ll admit, a sprinkling of snarkiness/self-assuredness/sarcasm. I can rationalize it by saying that I have vaguely agreed with most of what he says, but not known how to put it into words or into action, and the snarkiness of a person who has it all figured out is strangely comforting, as it’s not the tentativeness of someone who is just starting on that road. But maybe a bit of the appeal is that I agree with him and it’s satisfying to read someone ribbing what I think deserves ribbing, or even ridiculing what I think deserves ridicule. I could see how someone would recoil a bit at that kind of condescension (lack of charity and such) or think it’s offensive. Sort of a pity that it (’10 Ways..’) turned out that way.


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