No More Fantasy Teatimes

No More Fantasy Teatimes

I got into a conversation with a mom who shared that she never has time for Poetry Teatime. There’s the baby who needs nursing, the toddler who is cranky, the older girls who are working on their math (and shouldn’t be stopped because it’s hard enough to get them started!) and so on… But as I thought about it, I remembered that I have five kids and we’ve been having teatimes longer than I’ve homeschooled.

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So I asked her why she didn’t have her family teatime when the toddler had already eaten lunch, the baby was napping, and the girls had finished math. She paused. “Well, then I wouldn’t have made the blueberry muffins.”

Aha! Another mom falls victim to “Fantasy Teatime Syndrome.”

This mom pictured matching placemats and frilly napkins, a centerpiece of flowers, new candles, and freshly made goodies to eat. She imagined a quiet house and all children happily participating. She supposed that she could bake the treats, set the table and choose the books on behalf of her children while they were occupied elsewhere so that when the teatime began, it would surprise and delight them. And so, being the ordinary mom that she is (like the rest of us) months went by without ever achieving those conditions, and consequently, never had a teatime.

To have a successful tea, however, all you need is hot water, mugs, and teabags. If you insist on treats, toast with butter and jam works great. (A package of cookies is as happily consumed as made-from-scratch brownies, too.) The key to teatime is having one. Poetry can be read by candle light or fluorescent bulbs. A centerpiece is purely optional.

When my youngest was a baby, my toddler had curly red hair and the energy of a power sprayer, and my three older kids were still under age nine, we read the Garfield Shakespeare Stories, It’s Raining Pigs and Noodles, and The Hopeful Trout and Other Limericks all during teatimes. Sometimes I’d be munching cookies and nursing a baby while an eight year old needed help reading a “hard word.” Sometimes the tea spilled all over the tablecloth and we’d have to move to the living room to finish our poetry readings. Other times were pure magic where the baby had fallen to sleep, the toddler became engrossed in Duplos and the three older children took happy turns selecting poems to read or be read.

It didn’t matter. Teatime was sacred time, even when the napkins didn’t match.

What happens in a homeschool when the kettle sings and steamy water is poured over raspberry herbal or Lipton black tea? When the workbooks are cleared and the poetry books are strewn across the table? The pace of the day changes. Sipping hot liquid requires slowing down, blowing across the surface to cool it. Reading poetry means flipping through pages looking for just the right rhyme to share. Reciting the poem simultaneously gets the tongue moving and quiets the buzz of chatter.

  • Don’t worry about the right setting or unhurried moment.
  • Don’t require pretty tea things.
  • Start with what you have.

Put the kettle on, collect the books, and set out mismatched mugs and honey. Add some toast, fruit, or packaged cookies. Let each person pick a tea bag and a poem. Then breathe in, breathe out. Your teatime break is about to begin.

Learn More about Poetry Teatime

16 Responses to “No More Fantasy Teatimes”

  1. Julia S. says:

    Thanks. I was going to just “do” teatime this year, but I was feeling awfully guilty for not being a mom who could pull off the warm fuzzy of homemade baked goods (at most I planned on buying the frozen cookie batter already in individual dollops and heating them up). Plus we don’t have beautiful teacups and our table is too big for a tablecloth (my husband went nuts when he made it). But I figure if I was going to do it then I had to just get done no matter how. Screaming toddler and all.

  2. Motherhen says:

    Hear, Hear! Teatime at our house is all of what you wrote (of course not all at the same time). We have had homemade-from scratch scones, clotted cream and lemon curd with our Earl Grey and we’ve had Oreos with our milk. For us the best part is the “time” of Teatime. Just to slow down for a short bit is worth it…sometimes the table is pretty and sometimes we haven’t even cleaned off the crumbs from lunch. Yet, even my 13 year old son joins us (ok…I confess he only comes for the food…but to get the food he HAS to read or recite a poem of his choice :-).And Teatime Tuesday is THE highlight of our 4 year old’s week. We even include (on occasion–when she isn’t napping) the VERY Fussy 18month old…she just sits (sort of) in her high chair with a sippy cup of juice and some special just-for-baby treats. This has been such a delightful part of our day since…just last year–Thank you, Julie, for the inspiration!

  3. It’s a relief to read this today. I had almost given up Tuesday Teas because I was tired after setting a beautiful table, meticulously carving fruit and baking the perfect banana nut muffins. I was exhausted, grumpy and not in the mood for poetry. My 9 year old daughter began to cry when I told her I was thinking about eliminating tea time, my husband was disappointed so something had to give. Now we just have iced tea, grapes and english muffins with marmalade. Now I can enjoy hearing my daughter read her selection of poems and my 5 year old son with “The Big Red Barn” (It’s the only book he brings to tea time and each time he tells the story it’s a little different!) I look forward to Tuesday now!

  4. Sarah says:

    I knew that a pretty teatime would not happen at our house and was almost sure that the mug/water/tea bag kind also would be soon have me dragging my feet. Consequently we walk around the corner to our local coffee shop, support our local business, enjoy snow cones or cocoa depending on the weather, and read.

  5. Mary Armstrong says:

    You’ve inspired me to give it another try!

  6. Dona says:

    In my quest to do everything “right”, I needed to hear this a week before we officially get started. It’s going to work and it’s going to be great!

  7. LoriD says:

    We are going to start tea time this fall so it was SO timely to hear this, for everything about homeschool not just tea time! Why we have this picture perfect image in our head and high expectations of our kids (and ourselves). We SHOULD know better! To hear someone say it outloud was just like a huge AMEN to me, thanks SO much for the reminder! No tea time will not be perfect every week but if it teaches us to slow down (just for a bit), listen intently (even just for a moment) and sit still (even for more than a second) well it will be worth it. I did make one “rule” for our tea time for my 3 going on 4 year old, his teapot and cup must stay at the table and he must sit at the table if he wants to join us for tea. He ALWAYS is wandering even at supper time and I’m using tea time as some “training” and so far it’s working GREAT! So for us just to have him “join” us is all worth it!! Julie thanks so much for keeping us on track!! Lori D.

  8. Steph says:

    Wonderful post! Tea-time is very on-the-fly here … often featuring processed, packaged foods (and sometimes paper plates)

  9. Nadia says:

    We love our new tradition of teatime. My middle daughter is old enough to make the tea and set the table. We grab whatever is in the cupboard for snack. (No Betty Crocker delusions here!) Stick it on the good China and we are good to go.
    The other favorite in our BraveWriter lifestyle is freewriting time. The best part of both (according to my 6 yo son) is the large candelabra we use. Ah, the addition of fire! It has actually made him willing to sit and write with us. As for reading at teatime by candlelight, it’s a little hard on my eyes, but well worth it.
    We have always loved reading aloud to each other. We did it and called it having “book picnics” but now with tea time and free writing time made more special they are reading and writing more than ever.

  10. Lora Wolke says:

    OK, who in the world does this Teatime thing “To a Tea” anyways!!!!
    I have been feeling the “gulity teatime complex” for quite a while too. “But why?” I asked myself today and something clicked in my brain….
    Yeah, I did teatime yesterday. I plopped myself on top of our futon mattress which is missing the frame since the kids managed to truly break it this time. Then I grabbed books and started reading, one of which was Tomie’s Little Book of Poems by Tomie DePaola. And sure enough, everyone flocked, ears at the ready! I heard comments (and made them myself) such as, “I love that one. That’s sooo cute. Did you do the one about the frog’s belly? Which girl am I (while listening to We’re Racing, Racing down the Walk with Tomie’s adorable illustrations of girlfriends skating).
    I realized that “Yes, I have been doing teatime for years, thank you very much.” I just didn’t know it had an official name!
    Guess what else. I played “Uncle Wiggly” just this morning with my 3 year old and it hit me again – another teatime! All of the cards are little poems about how far to move your little rabbit man.
    So, don’t despair about your litte kings and queens upsetting your plans.
    Just focus on being a fun mom and you will find you are moving in the right direction.

  11. Thanks…..I *need* tea time.

    I can do boiling water.

    Barb-Harmony Art Mom

  12. […] This is how teatime looks at our house when we aren’t having a fantasy tea. Note the jars of jam, the hastily thrown on faded table cloth, the sweaters hanging over the back of the sofa, the knives tossed in the center of the table, the mismatched mugs… and the intent happy faces of the kids. […]

  13. Carol :) says:

    Oh how fun to read! I have fallen out of the habit! My kids haven’t been asking for it like they used to. So, I haven’t been having them, but I have so many happy memories when we did. I now have a lovely table out on the deck too. I hear it calling my name! It seems so long ago that I won my “Brown Betty” on your drawing because I sent in a picture of our tea time.

    So, I am going back. It is 4 p.m. right now. Isn’t that when the Brits have tea. I may just go away and do it right now!

    Thanks for the reminder!


  14. Lisa says:

    This is such a great post. I would like to put a link to it on my blog.

  15. […] used to stress a bit over tea time – wanting it to be perfect – Julie had posted something about this on her blog once – about keeping it simple – so I took her advice […]