Poetry tea time has become such a trend in the homeschooling world (especially Charlotte Mason inspired schoolers) in the past few years. It’s so appealing on an aesthetic level. The idea of a pretty time in the week to sit together and share poetry over treats and a cup of tea is nearly irresistible. But, for many of us who are schooling young ones at home, it can seem that a teaching tool like this has to be saved for either when the young ones are napping or when they are older. However, we’ve been making this work on a daily basis as a part of our daily rhythm. And, I want to share some tips to not only make this a welcome reprieve in the middle of your day, but also how to manage expectations and make this something you actually look forward to.
1. Keep it simple.
I know we hear this often, but I mean it. If you’re going for a classic tea time there are three parts to it. Sandwiches, Scones, and Sweets. Of course, you can do absolutely anything you’d like for your tea time. We tend to stick to this template since it gives such a special quality to this time together since they are three things we typically don’t have in a day. For sandwiches, you can do anything from a PB & J to a sophisticated cucumber sandwich. I usually pick up a little tub of egg salad or chicken salad to make sandwiches quick and easy. All I have to do is smear it on some bread, cut off the crusts, slice into shapes and I’ve got sandwiches done. Egg salad has been a huge hit (even though we call them “yellow” sandwiches since my girls will not eat anything with eggs in them…. and they love “yellow” sandwiches) alongside cucumber and cream cheese sandwiches. For scones, sometimes I have store bought scones, or I’ll make them from a mix. This last week we baked honey muffins and used those as our scones for the week. They were wonderful. For sweets, again, make it as simple or complicated as you’d like. I usually pick up a large pack of mini cupcakes when I’m grocery shopping and just defrost what we need for tea time every day for 10 minutes and use those. All together, it takes me 5-7 minutes to put together our tea time treats. For tea I use whatever I have on hand. Lipton, Earl Gray, Raspberry, Lemon, whatever is in the pantry. Put into a tea pot, it’s all a magical concoction. We have sugar cubes in the sugar bowl and some half and half in our cream spout.
2. It shouldn’t be expensive.
All the books we’ve read so far this year have been from either the library, used on ebay, from the thrift store, or borrowed from family. (I’ll share some reading lists later). Also, if you don’t already have a teapot, sugar & cream, tea cups, or anything else for serving ware, ask around! I received our tea cups from our local Buy Nothing group, found our tea plates at the Goodwill, and the tea pot, cream & sugar at target for around $15 total. Again, when it comes to these concepts you can make them as expensive or inexpensive as you’d like. Don’t be shy about asking family and friends if they have these items sitting in their cupboards unused as well!
3. Manage expectations.
This is the hard part. Let go of your idea of what this will look like. Our greatest enemy as homeschooling caregivers is our imagination and our idea of what outcomes will be. At our table we have a 4 1/2 year old and a 2 year old. They don’t sit pretty the entire time. Often times we have gentle reminders that we are reading the story and the youngest may run off and come back throughout our tea time. For us, it makes more sense for the kiddos to be enjoying their treats as we read a short story. We’ve done some poetry, but currently we are working through A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-pooh. They are short stores that are colorful, work on problem solving, and empathy. Keep your stories to something your children are interested in, and end the story before they’ve completely lost interest. If it’s your first time sitting down, don’t expect tea time to last an hour. Our first few times were just 10-15 minutes. A few weeks later they were lasting closer to 30 minutes. Be patient and if it doesn’t work, troubleshoot and try again.
4. Make this time work for your day.
For us, we find the slot around 11:00-1:00 works best for us. We’ve already done our weekly tasks in the morning or run errands, they’ve already been outside, and I’ve had a chance start my daily house work for the day. We decided to swap our tea time for what used to be our lunch. There’s a few benefits for us to this. First is that I don’t have to think about what we are having for lunch anymore, which is some weight off my mental load. Based on what I purchased for tea time for the week, that’s what we are having every day for tea. Second, It’s a nice time to come together, calm down a bit and focus on something enjoyable before my youngest goes down for nap and my eldest has her quiet time. Quiet time is something that I foster in our home for my own well being. I’m a better mother when we have a reprieve in the afternoon for my own sanity. Before we instituted tea time, it was a quick and difficult transition between the hustle and bustle of the morning and quiet time, and honestly, it didn’t go as well. Third, I now have a specific place in every day where literature happens other than bedtime. Obviously, we cover reading in our studies, but not literature for the pleasure of reading. I love that we have carved out a space for this activity in our day. Perhaps for you, late afternoon will be better, or even in the evening as a family activity before preparing for bed. Whatever the time, make it work for you, and don’t be afraid to change it up if it’s not coming easily for you.
Okay, now for some inspiration! We’ve read quite a few stories already in our school year. As I mentioned before, we are currently reading through a library of Winnie-the-pooh. We also read the Velveteen Rabbit, Snow White and Rose Red, and the Frog & Toad series. If you have a childhood story that was your favorite, this is a great time to pull it out! You can find a link to my Pinterest board which is full of reading lists, recipes, snack ideas, and tea time inspiration to get you going here.
Have you tried a poetry tea time at home with your children? How did it go? What did you find helpful? Is there something our community could help troubleshoot with you? Be sure to comment below!