How a simple solution totally changed the mood of our homeschool mornings. Sometimes the best homeschooling ideas aren't about curriculum. This simple tweak to our morning is teaching life skills: independence and self-starting.

It’s funny how sometimes a simple solution really hits the spot and solves more problems than you hoped it would. I found one of those these last couple weeks, and I should savor it.

It might not last all year – in fact, I know it won’t – and there are still issues and conflicts and difficulties in our days – but one small change totally shifted our mornings into a different gear.

Unassuming tea. Plain white mugs. Simple and cheap.

You see, somehow my older two boys thought they could buck the pattern of the last 6 years and go play Legos after their chores were done instead of getting to their math or Bible reading. It’s true, I was frequently distracted by my email inbox or by an oatmeal-encrusted toddler or by an overflowing laundry hamper, but still.

tea as a homeschooling hack for better mornings and moods

I tried being more on top of the situation in the morning, but it came across as clamping down on their fun and being the morning kill-joy and slave-driver. It was decidedly not pretty.

And even so, our morning start was creeping later and later, which translated into less being done overall.

homeschool mood lifter - a simple homeschooling idea for smoother mornings

So, one Sunday evening I told the older two boys: “If you have your chores done by 8, then you can make yourself tea.”

Now I’m fun mom! Now I’m extending privileges! I’m happy, they’re happy. They can heat the water, get their tea, add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and clean up their own mess. It adds zero additional work to my day and a lot of joy to theirs.

The younger children have been told this is a privilege for those 8-and-up. The younger ones don’t really care for a cup of hot tea, but every morning they think they do until I’ve made them one. A policy of age privilege, though, seems to be acceptable.

homeschooling with tea - a simple idea to make the most of homeschool mornings

The funny thing is, the tea answer not only stopped them from holing up in their rooms in the morning, it also has made their mornings incredibly more productive – and it’s not the caffeine.

Once they have a cup of tea, they have to be at the table. And they feel quite accomplished to be sitting at the table with a mug and some work. So they tackle their math over their tea and we’ve had significantly fewer math meltdowns and passed lessons much faster.

And it’s all because of their mood going into it. They are self-starting: making their own tea, asking for their math, and feeling like they’re getting somewhere. Part of that mood uplift is definitely that I have removed prodding and ordering from the morning routine as well. I don’t give the signal to start anymore, they get to their tea and then their work as soon as they can get their work done – by 8am.

It’s a Christmas miracle.

homeschooling with tea

Not that there aren’t ever tears or frustration anymore, of course. Let’s be real. But the entire atmosphere of our mornings, which were steadily declining, suddenly and drastically did a 180 with the introduction of this small ritual.

It’s not the tea. Yes, I let them choose English Breakfast if they want, but they often prefer herbal. It’s not caffeine.

It’s that they have a starting ritual, a signal to begin their work day, and it no longer requires my input at all.

This is the start of taking responsibility and stepping into real life – it’s provided a way for them to become self-starters and take that authority for themselves. They are ready for it and they have seized their opportunity and own it.

a simple homeschooling idea that make our mornings so much better

It’s made me look at the day and wonder what other small tweaks I can make to foster independence.

Any ideas to share?


  1. I am so doing this! My kids love it when Daddy makes them tea in the morning, but that makes a mess, and he often leaves before they are up. I am not a morning drinker of any hot beverage, so I don’t even think about it. Thanks for the idea; I will let you know how it goes!

  2. This sounds a lot like you are implementing some of Jenny Rallen’s ideas…so great! I know how much more willing I am to come to the table for school because I have my cup of coffee. And even for me, I think its less about the caffeine and more about the ritual of it. Great idea.

  3. I love this! Mornings are so hard around here but pretty sure my 3 and 1 year old just aren’t there yet. :) Can’t wait till they are though. This sounds wonderful! Happy for you and your awesome hack!

  4. This makes me do a little happy dance inside!

    I love these subtle shifts that make oh so much difference.

    Like all good hobbits, the children here eat two breakfasts: one just after waking, then another later in the morning. I use a hot bowl of oatmeal to lure them to the table. Then we linger for poems + begin our formal lessons.

  5. Mystie. I have followed your blog for a bout 6 months now and I have found a friend in you although you don’t know me:) I have 6 boys 10 and under and I have found after the first 6 weeks our mornings were creeping later and later. It is so hard for me to be as disciplined as needed at times, especially when waking later than I would like. So part of the wondering off for my boys was due to my lack of discipline and organization. Although, like you, I don’t care to be so militant just to keep order. Typically, we have meal, chores, morning time, formal lessons. I too was finding that after meal or chores different boys were wondering off to play (like the youngest get too). So, this is a good idea to ponder!!! I do have a hard time letting my olders be as independent as they would like (my husband is great at it), but they respond well to freedom, responsibility and respect the older they get. Thanks!

  6. What a wonderful idea! I bought my 13 year old iced coffee and have told her she can have some to get her morning work started — amazing how much she looks forward to Latin and Math now. ;-) I love that your boys love tea!

  7. I love this idea! I’m also doing a happy dance inside :). And what a perfect idea to try just in time for hot apple cider weather. We’re getting so busy these days with outside commitments that we really need to squeeze some more action into our mornings & can’t afford to be lethargic. A little ritual like this for the kids might just be the ticket, thanks Mystie!

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