Some of your questions will be answered naturally as the series progresses. I don't want to get too far ahead of myself, but here are a few more of your questions.
"When dealing with many age groups, how do you decide which books to read?"
"In a previous post you described how you all did it together, all 9,
teens down to babies. How did you have material (readings etc) that
captured the interest of such a wide age spread?"
My Morning Time was generally been geared towards the older children. In the early years this was natural as I started just reading aloud and doing memory verses with my oldest when he was around 4. By the time I had 5 children, the baby was in MT in the bassinet and the little boys were all there. That is not to say they were quiet and attentive all the time. I did learn that MT was great preparation for church. They learned to sit for some time each morning. Sometimes I nursed the baby during MT and sometimes a toddler would wander off but for the most part they just all joined in. I think it went so smoothly because that is all they knew. They grew up being in MT and behaving to a certain extent.
Later when I had a more diverse group, I continued to gear MT to the oldest children, letting the 11th and 12 graders out very early, but having what I called Ambleside Time after lunch with the 4 youngest children in our family. We did that for about 3 years until Ambleside Time was no longer needed as they were the only children left in MT. But the Amblesiders still came to MT.
I think one of the most amazing things about MT is that the younger students are picking up a lot of stuff they would never have had in a normal school. They are hearing Shakespeare, the KJV and Poetry so much their minds become ordered towards those things naturally. That is not to say that they always sit there quietly.
I did let my children play on the floor during MT. It was not just non-stop sitting. Sometimes discipline problems ruined MT. The important thing is to deal with it. Sometimes you have that thing called a reign of terror in order to get things back to a semblance of normalcy.
What if my child makes us laugh too much?
Someone mentioned having a child who disrupted MT with laughter and joking. Some of our happiest memories are of those times when we all couldn't stop laughing. One child had to be banned from MT every once in a while because he made me laugh so hard. It was a sad day though when he grew up and there were years where I missed those days of laughter until we finally had another cut-up who also grew up and thankfully, now Alex can get me laughing with his one-liners. Obviously, MT will not succeed if you are constantly laughing but it is a happy family who can enjoy a bit of laughter even if it has to be nipped sometimes.
To this day these cut-ups keep our family laughing and two of them have an ongoing gag going on something called SnapChat. I do not want to see those pics but I know they are funny.
"With that said, most of my children are too young for grammar (in CM's
opinion)--they are 5-8. Only my oldest is old enough (11). So. Would you
On of the reasons, I believe, you can easily delay formal learning with the 4-8 crowd is because of MT. As I mentioned above the littles are getting a rich education just by participating in MT even when they aren't tuned in. This can work for any subject really as long as you keep to Charlotte Mason's idea of short lessons. In a way, MT is a series of short lessons.
I have a few posts on poetry ready to go and you will see how I believe poetry works in education. In a similar way grammar is a language. That is really a better way of talking about the whole so-called grammar stage. Music has its own language and so does grammar. Spending a few minutes each day talking about a sentence with an older child is valuable (much more on this later) but why not have the littles around playing on the floor while you talk about the sentence? In this way they organically absorb much about the language of grammar or how words work and you will be surprised by their insight at times.
I don't want to confuse anyone about what to expect from toddlers. They are bad....jk...well, maybe. Life with toddlers is exciting which is why if you think of MT as a series of short lessons you can be happy when you get through the whole series with as many children as you can but if the baby falls asleep or the toddler needs to sit in the high chair eating or whatever you just have to adapt.
I know that children can learn to sit through MT with only some frustration but with small children there will always be interruptions. My advice is just plug along the best you can. Do a little bit each day. Try not to despair when today is bad. Today will be bad and maybe tomorrow but you are still banking a few good days here and there and those will add up over the lonnnnnggggg haul.