If you are just joining us, you can catch up on our Camp Quarantine Series here: DIY Summer Camp
Want a slower, quieter, more peaceful start to your summer mornings? Try “Morning Watch.” This is a lovely camp ritual —simple, intentional, grounding, and reverent. And it will afford you with a peaceful morning respite to welcome the day while you drink your coffee in silence. Did you hear me??? DRINK YOUR COFFEE (or tea if you’re like me) . . . IN SILENCE.
What is it?
Traditionally, “Morning Watch” is a just-after-sunrise ritual at Christian Summer Camps. Upon waking and dressing for the day, campers head out into nature, with a journal or Bible in hand, and find a quiet spot to sit, observe, read, write, reflect, and pray. It is early, and the animals are up and active, but the human world still sleeps. For me, this was a soul-feeding aspect of camp. And looking back, for the counselors this ritual must have been as much about survival as serenity!
And yet, somehow, I forgot all about this beloved camp tradition until I interviewed my sister for this DIY Summer Camp Series and “Morning Watch” topped her list for what she believes to have been the most influential aspects of camp. We were both so inspired recalling memories of those early, quiet mornings in nature, that we each decided to start the tradition with our own kids this summer! Below are my lovely nieces just this week, soaking in the glory of God’s creation and his morning mercies from their new back porch in Tennessee.
My cousin, another camp veteran I interviewed for this series, also mentioned “Morning Watch” at the top of her list and describes perfectly how impacting and influential this waking ritual can be for a Christian:
“I truly believe that the beauty of camp during Morning Watch created a nostalgia for my early morning Bible studies. Even now, when I sit down in my own backyard, I am transported back to that small rock . . . next to the big tree . . . near the lake —my favorite morning devotional rock.” -Cousin April
Start your own “Morning Watch” with your kids:
DURATION (will vary by child and attention span):
- Kids under 5: aim for about 10 minutes
- Kids 5-8: aim for 15-25 minutes
- Kids 8-12: aim for half an hour or even up to 45 minutes for kids who love to draw/sketch or read/write
- Kids 12+: good luck getting them up!!!
DETAILS: in silence, kids may . . .
- WATCH: the sunrise, the wildlife, the waking world . . .
- LISTEN: to the birds, to the bugs, to the wind in the trees . . .
- READ: their Bible, a book, a letter, their journal . . .
- COLOR, SKETCH, or DRAW: the trees, the clouds, the sunrise, a dragon . . .
- WRITE: a letter, a journal entry, a poem, a story . . .
- SIP: tea, cocoa, coffee . . .
- IMAGINE, PROCESS, REFLECT: thoughts, ideas, emotions, hopes, fears, dreams . . .
- PRAY . . .
DODGING DILEMMAS and DETOURS; ensuring a successful “Morning Watch”!
~The “Morning Watch” Basket~
Let’s say you decide to give this whole thing a try. It’s your first “Morning Watch”. . . you and your kids are up and headed outside. One of your kids grabs a book, the other a sketch pad and pencil, and you grab your coffee and perhaps your Bible or the newspaper. You step out the back door, and you each find a quiet spot in the back yard or on the porch. Everyone is seated, quiet, and watching the morning come to life. A contented smile warms on your face as you watch your children observing the morning. You are moved and proud of your efforts. You settle in with your cup of coffee. Two minutes of bliss. Then it starts:
“Mom!? Can I grab a coloring book?”
“Hey, I finished the chapter, can I go inside to get another book?”
“Can I get my binoculars? There’s an awesome bird in that tree!”
Nothing will destroy the peace and quiet of “Morning Watch” faster than being unprepared. The answer? The “Morning Watch Basket.“ Ahead of time, gather all the activity options and place in one community basket or in a smaller basket for each child with their specific items.
What to include in your basket(s):
- Blankets (to sit on or wrap up in)
- Journals & Pencils
- Sketch Pads & Pencils
- Coloring Books & Colored Pencils
- Water bottles or other beverage
~Sustaining Silence and Serenity~
Silence (or at least quiet) is crucial to the concept of “Morning Watch.” It is pretty hard to listen (to the voice/word of God, to your inner thoughts, to the sounds of nature) if there is extra noise. But what can we do if our kids do not adhere to the whole “quiet time” or “sustained silence” thing? The goal is for this to be a positive experience . . . we don’t want it to feel like a punishment or a time out! However, at the same time, we want to instill some level of respect and reverence in this morning ritual, so some amount of monitoring will be order.
When there is noise, rather than adding on time or starting the clock over, I suggest we simply and calmly repeat: “We will enjoy 10 quiet minutes” (or however many minutes you have chosen) and then follow through by remaining in “Morning Watch” until the set number of minutes have been spent in quiet. This may seem like basically the same principle as adding on minutes, but it’s done with a different focus and attitude. Rather than focusing on the error and a consequence for the error, this technique emphasizes the goal and reaching it in spite of possible (and inevitable) slip ups along the way.
So who’s in for peaceful, intentional, reflective summer mornings? Join the “Morning Watch” Club!
Happy watching, happy listening, happy sipping!
Thanks for reading! Follow below for more camp-inspired summer ideas! If you give “Morning Watch” a try, I’d love to hear how it goes!! Leave a comment below!
Love, ~Our Holistic Homeschool~