S7 E11 | Morning Routines That Rescue Your Day (Jeannie Fulbright)
They say: Win the morning, win the day. And for a busy homeschool mom, having the right morning routine is essential for a stress-free (at least stress reduced) day. In this episode, Jeannie will share five simple things that can easily become everyday habits that infuse you with more energy, a clear mind, and the strength of the Lord to ensure your day is the best it can be.
Jeannie Fulbright, a 24-year veteran homeschooler, is the author of the #1 best-selling, multi award-winning Apologia Young Explorer science series: Exploring Creation with Astronomy, Chemistry and Physics, Botany, Zoology, and Anatomy & Physiology. She is also the author of the action-packed historical time travel book series Rumble Tumbles Through Time, as well as preschool science books and activity kits, the Charlotte Mason Heirloom Planner, and many high-quality Charlotte Mason based products. Jeannie and her husband Jeff became empty nesters in 2019. All four of their children all went to the University of Georgia on scholarship (homeschooling works!). For more than 20 years Jeannie has traveled around the country speaking to homeschoolers at conventions, covering a plethora of topics from Charlotte Mason to marriage and prayer.
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Jeannie Fulbright Welcome to The Charlotte Mason Show, a podcast that is all things Charlotte Mason and her tried and true philosophy of education, designed to help you homeschool with more confidence, joy, and success. It is our hope that you'll find golden nuggets that will transform the way you think and the way you homeschool. I'm your host, author of the bestselling Charlotte Mason Science Curriculum, Jeannie Fulbright, and I am so glad you joined me today.
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Hey, everybody. I'm so glad you joined me today. Today, I'm going to be talking about developing the habit of a morning routine, morning rituals that set your day up for success because they say how the day begins is how it will end. And you want your morning routine to be something that is simple, that is doable, that can be consistently done every single day without you thinking, because it becomes a habit. And it is like a ritual, like a muscle. We all have habits and routines that we don't think about. Things like brushing your teeth, taking your medication, letting the cat out or the dog out. All of us have routines that we don't have to consciously think about. And so we want to make sure that we have some really good set rituals and routines in place so that our homeschool day will run much more smoothly. Because what happens is when we have a good routine and order and something we're doing regularly, it's like a muscle, but it also provides us momentum. And that positive momentum will make things feel easier as they come throughout the day.
If you wake up in the morning and you already feel like you are overwhelmed and behind and unsure what to do, that is going to make your day so much harder. And there are a few things that I want to talk to you about today that will help you to have so much of a better morning and also homeschool day.
So I would say the first thing that we have to keep in mind is that tomorrow morning really starts the night before. And a lot of times we don't want to prepare for tomorrow the night before because we're tired already from everything we've done throughout the day. But if you think about your future self and how much happier you will be if you have breakfast already ready to go, just stick it in the oven or it's halfway done and you just make it hot or everything is all set up for you to make breakfast when you get up, that will make the next morning so much more smooth for you. So really thinking about the day before, the night before, what can I do to make tomorrow run more smoothly? And literally, if you just take 5 to 10 minutes of the night before and set up a few things to make it more smooth, you will be so happy with yourself that you did that. So that's the first thing that you want to do is think about tomorrow morning the night before, and do whatever little thing you need to do to get yourself ready.
And I would say that probably the biggest hiccup in this, the biggest thing that keeps us from getting our day ready the night before is procrastination. And the reason that we procrastinate is because of stress and overwhelm. And when we're stressed, we just want to feel better right now. And feeling better right now means not doing anything. And that's procrastination. And it's okay that we do that for ourselves. We're trying to... It's kind of like a form of self comfort to procrastinate because we're overwhelmed with life. Honestly, any time you procrastinate about anything, it is because you're overwhelmed and you're feeling stressed. And so I'm going to talk to you about a couple of things that you can do the next morning to actually decrease that overwhelm that feeling of stress.
The first one is not hitting the snooze button. Now, some of you just pop up right in the morning. Just the sun's coming in and you're just up and ready to go. But some of you hit the snooze button, and the research behind hitting the snooze button is pretty interesting. It's called sleep inertia research. And apparently when somebody wakes up from the alarm and they hit the snooze button, what happens is it makes them more groggy when they finally do get up. And actually that grogginess can last up to four hours based on the research because what happens is you're still... You're really awake. When you hit the snooze button, you're still awake. You're kind of starting out like, "I don't want to get up. I don't want to do it." And what happens is that affects your mental state. And when your mental state is affected so early in the morning, you're actually losing so much of that early part of the day when you are... That's the most productive part of your day. But if you hit the snooze button and if you continue to push off the idea that you have to wake up, the research says it takes four hours to get through that grogginess and to feel more productive.
And so the first thing—great morning routine—we want to make sure that we implement is just get up. As soon as it's time to get up, get up, because that is the most productive part of your day, and you will be more productive if you get up and don't push it off. Some of y'all don't have that problem. I'm more of a snooze button person. So this is important, helpful information for me.
The third thing we want to do... And this is actually going to be hard for everybody to hear. Maybe some of y'all don't deal with this, but most people I know, first thing they do when they get up is they pick up their phone and they scan through it. They're looking at their messages. They're looking at their email. They're looking at the news. They might even open a social media app. And what happens is when you pick up your phone first thing in the morning, you are sacrificing some of the most important brainwave activity that you need in order to have a productive day. When you first are starting to wake up in the morning, your brain switches from the delta deep sleep waves to theta waves. Theta waves are that super creative, calm, peaceful feeling that you get, say, when you're walking through a forest.
Theta waves are an essential part of every morning. That's because that is when your brain is in its most creative place. And that's where a lot of problem solving happens. You solve problems when you're creative. And it's kind of like a daydreaming kind of state. But it's really important for our mental health that we stay in theta. And if we reach for our phone during theta, we're thrown immediately into beta waves. And we do not want to go there because the first thing we want to do is... When we start to really wake up, our brain starts to produce alpha waves, and alpha waves are what happens when you're awake, but you're relaxed and you're not processing much information. And this is a good time for you to be going into your morning routines. You're just... It's a peaceful place from theta to alpha, and you want to stay in alpha for as long as possible.
Now, by grabbing your phone first thing and immediately diving into the online world, you force your body to skip the important theta and alpha stages and you go straight from the delta sleep state to being wide awake and alert, also known as the beta state. According to a researcher, Dr. Ben... immediately turning to your phone when you wake up can start your day in a way that is more likely to increase stress and leave you feeling overwhelmed. It causes stress and anxiety to begin immediately from sleep, to move directly into all the things you have to do which are found right on your phone or checking social media. And there's a lot of stress and anxiety that comes from that as well. So we want to protect our morning.
And in fact, there was another study at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden that measured the effects of smartphone usage on people in their twenties over the course of a year. And the study found that those with high mobile phone use was directly correlated to increased reports of depression. So that's really what we're doing, is we are setting our day up for stress and anxiety if we check our phone first. And because it's such a habit, you really have to make a concerted effort to break it. So I recommend you just make a commitment. I'm not going to pick up my phone.
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So you've chosen not to pick up your phone. Now begins your morning routine. And I believe the best way to start the day is to start the day with praise, praising the Lord. And you may need your phone for this if you have a playlist. I have a playlist on my Spotify and I just tell Siri to open my hymn playlist in Spotify. And so I don't have to touch my phone and I have to open my phone, but my hymn playlist will begin playing immediately, and I can listen to praise music and begin my day focused on the Lord. And that is going to be an amazing way to begin your day.
I feel like we sometimes miss the power of praising the Lord because we don't realize how important it is for us. A lot of people wonder why do we need to praise? Why do we need to praise God? The fact is praise is for our benefit, not God's. He doesn't need our praise. But when we do acknowledge him and his power and his might and his holiness, what happens is we usher in the presence and power of the Lord into our lives. This is why Jesus, when He was teaching the people about the Lord's Prayer, the first thing you do is you acknowledge God and you praise Him. You attribute to him his holiness, his greatness. And when we acknowledge and praise God, many things happen. First, as I said, it ushers in the holy presence of God, which really brings an atmosphere, the kind of atmosphere that infuses us with power, with strength, with joy. That's an atmosphere where the enemy cannot stand to be. And so praise is like a weapon against the enemy. Our praise guards us, even protects us from the enemy.
Psalm 18:10 tells us, "The name of the Lord is a strong tower. The righteous run to it and are safe." And then, of course, Psalm 91. I love this Psalm. "He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord: he is my refuge and my fortress. My God, in him I will trust." When we praise God, it's like we are in the refuge. We are in the fortress of God. We are in the strong tower of the Lord. And so beginning our day with praise is really powerful.
It's like the story in 2 Chronicles 20, and it talks about how the huge armies were coming against the Israelite. There was just so many of them and they were all coming and banding together to come against God's people. And the King, in addition to getting his army ready, he appointed singers unto the Lord. And they would go before the army and praise the Lord, singing praises to God and marching towards the enemy. And you know the story, what happened. All these people were coming against the Israelites, these armies, and the singers were coming towards them praising the Lord. And the enemy began fighting one another until they were completely destroyed. And the battle was won without the Israelites having to lift a finger. The battle was won by instead lifting their voices to the Lord.
And that's a lesson to us, because just like the children of Israel, we find protection and safety by lifting up and praising the name of the Lord. And so when you're getting yourself ready for the day, be praising the Lord. And that's a beautiful way to begin the day. And the final routine that I want to recommend that you add to your daily ritual is before your children start school, that you gather your children together and have morning devotions. A time where your heart and your children's hearts are being presented to the Lord and giving him authority and rule over your day, your school day, and teaching our children about the things of God. What is more important than that?
I've told this story before, but I'll tell it again because I think it's really important and really powerful. When I first started homeschooling, I was very dedicated to always having devotions with my children, and we would do different things. We read the book Leading Little Ones to God one year. Sometimes we just studied hymns and we would have a new hymn that we were studying and we would look at what the words meant and discuss it. And we always had Bible memory verses that we were doing. So we were always doing really wonderful little devotions in the morning, and then we would start our school day.
So this was a regular ritual for me, a regular part of our routine. But one year after Christmas, probably January, February, I started feeling like we were so far behind, that we were not getting our academic subjects anywhere near completed. I don't know what sparked it, but I just began feeling like I was the worst homeschool parent and my children were not getting the academics they needed and we were not disciplined enough to complete the lessons or get to all the subjects. And I was just overwhelmed and feeling stressed about school. And so as soon as we got up, everybody had to start school. We were starting school first thing. We didn't have time for morning devotions, but we'd get back to that once we got caught up. We needed to focus on school and then we'll get back to devotions. Maybe next week.
Well, next week turned into next week into next month into... Several months went by. And I have to tell you, family life devolved. My children became heathens. I mean, they were fighting each other, they were crying, they were ruining everything, they were complaining. When I said it was time to do school, they're like "ehh." Just that moaning. And everybody was unhappy. And I thought, I don't know if I can keep doing this. This is too hard. I am miserable. My children are miserable. Now, I really felt like the worst homeschool mom in the world. And I felt like my children would be better off if they had a different teacher than me. Nobody was happy. I was calling my husband every day, telling them what my kids had done, you know, basically tattle taling on my kids. I was probably even as bad as they were. I was unhappy. I was frustrated. I was yelling. I was a monster mom. And they were monster kids.
And so when I got to that really deep, dark, despairing place, I just realized I just need to take a break from homeschooling. I need to take a break. We just need to take time off of homeschooling. And we'll just do our devotions. I'll just do devotions with the kids. And so the next morning, instead of going directly to the school room after we had our breakfast, I said, "Hey kids, let's actually do devotions this morning." And they were all, "Okay." And we just went sat around on the couch like we normally did, rather than going directly to the school room. It was sometime after Christmas, but we still had a basket of Christmas cards. And so the first thing we did is everybody chose one family from the Christmas cards to lead a prayer for. We prayed for these families. We prayed for ourselves. We read the Bible. We worked on a new Bible verse, and we just really dedicated our heart to the Lord. We sang praise songs.
It was beautiful and it probably lasted two hours. We needed that. And so when we were done, I was done for the day. I said, "Okay, kids, I'm going to go and start working on making lunch." And my children did the most remarkable thing. All four of them, even the preschooler got up from the couch and walked into the school room without being told. They sat down. They all had their own schedule. I really had my children keeping their own schedules from the very early days of homeschooling, so they all knew what to do. They picked up their books and they started doing school without complaining.
And I realized this is what had been missing. This was the ingredient that helped us to survive our homeschool day is having those devotions. I realized that my children needed to be connected with the Lord because the more connected they are with the Lord, the more willing they are to hear His voice, to feel His prompting, the Holy Spirit's prompting on them. It wasn't me. It was God who told them, "Now it's time to go do your schoolwork." And they went and did it. But I had to connect them to the Lord. I had to spend that time reminding them that we are the children of God and He is our source of strength and power. It was just the most incredible thing. And I realized then that academic success does not produce spiritual maturity, but spiritual maturity does produce academic success. It produces all kinds of success because if you are spiritually grounded in the Lord, you will follow his will. You will hear his will in your spirit, and He will show you what you need to do every moment of the day.
That is the most important thing I want to recommend to you to implement in your morning routine, just being part of your everyday morning routine. And I think you'll find it's a pretty powerful and beautiful way to begin your day. And so just to recap, start your morning the night before. Prepare the breakfast, maybe get your schoolbooks everything ready to go, maybe have a five minute cleanup of the kitchen with your kids. Whatever it is that you think would make your future self, your tomorrow morning self feel less stressed. Number two, get up as soon as it's time. Don't hit the snooze button. Don't stay in bed feeling like you just don't want to get up because you're setting yourself up to be groggy during the most important part of the day, which is the productive part when you first get up.
And number three, don't pick up your phone. I would say don't pick it up until after you've done your devotions with your children. And I know that's hard. We're in the habit. This is a habit. And we need to break that habit because it's not good for us. It's not good for our homeschool, it's not good for our families, for us to begin the day with stress and overwhelm. And that's what the phone just automatically does. It begins the day with distraction and hijacks our time and attention and takes us out of those those beautiful theta and alpha waves and puts us directly into the beta waves. So no phone. And number three, dedicate yourself to morning devotions with your children.
And on that note, I am actually writing a Bible study for families to do together. It's exactly what I wish I would have had when I was doing devotions with my children. Going deep into the Bible, having a hymn study, having memory verses, and a commentary to really understand what the Bible is saying. So I hope to have that finished this spring and maybe ready by the summer. We will see. Pray for me. So thanks for tuning in today and I really hope your morning routines become something awesome. And if you have any questions about anything, I'm always available and love to hear from you, my fellow homeschoolers. See you next time.
Hey, a couple more things: Do you wish you had a Charlotte Mason mentor? Someone to keep you focused on the things that matter--the Lord, and His word, and prayer, and habit training and living books, nature study, and of course, the most neglected thing of all, self-care? Well, I have the perfect mentor for you: the Charlotte Mason heirloom planner. It is much more than a planner. It's a guide and a mentor and a place to chronicle your treasured moments and memories--all the things you want to remember and keep sacred and special from this homeschool journey. Check it out on my website at JeannieFulbright.com, and learn about that and so many of the other Charlotte Mason curriculum and tools that I've created to make your homeschool journey the richest and most fulfilling experience of your life. Thanks again for listening to The Charlotte Mason show.
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Have you joined us at one of the Great Homeschool Conventions? I would love for you to come! On my website, I have a special coupon code that you can use when you register. The Great Homeschool Conventions are the homeschooling events of the year with amazing speakers, hundreds of workshops to help you homeschool well, and the largest curriculum exhibit halls in the United States. People travel from all over the United States to Missouri, South Carolina, Ohio, California, and Texas to find encouragement, friendship, and curriculum. Be sure to go to my website JeannieFulbright.com for your coupon code. And when you're at the convention, please come by my booth and say hello, because I love meeting homeschoolers in real life. It's always fun to have new homeschool friends. So thank you so much for listening and I do hope to see you at the convention. Have a blessed rest of the week.