Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley
Homeschooling has its seasons, and some seasons are harder than others.
Take, for example, February.
February is the longest shortest month ever. And this year was no different for our family. After many happy, healthy months, my little trio succumbed to a virus and it was one of those doozies that sticks around for a while, leaving spent and crankalicious children in its wake.
My kiddos spent the first half of February snuggled up on the couch, in front of the fire, laying low and trying to recuperate.
And I spent those two weeks reading aloud.
Would you rather listen to this post?
As a school psychologist and homeschool mama, I know reading aloud is the most important thing you can do in your homeschool every single day.
It almost seems too easy, doesn’t it? The act of picking up a book and sharing a story with your children doesn’t feel like much, but it packs quite the educational punch.
When you read aloud to your children, you are being a reading role model. You are modeling reading fluency, proper pronunciation, and pacing. You are showering them with rich vocabulary, sophisticated language patterns, and you’re growing their fund of factual knowledge. Better yet, you’re connecting with them over the warmth of a shared story and, by doing so, you’re creating pleasurable reading memories.
No one comes into this world knowing how to read. Reading is a skill, and like all skills, one needs to practice it to get better.
Anyone who has ever had a child in music lessons knows this struggle.
My children take piano lessons and now, at almost 12, 10, and 8-years-old, they love playing the piano… but they didn’t always! The first year was exciting for them but then they hit year two and things got tricky. They wanted their little fingers to produce the notes they yearned to play, but they weren’t there yet.
They bellyached and bemoaned, and begged to quit lessons. My husband, who plays several instruments, knew that they just needed to get over the hump. And so we stuck with it, despite the complaints, and we encouraged them to practice a little bit every single day.
Over that year and the next, things gradually got easier because that practice began to pay off. Finally, those little fingers could string melodies together. The songs were simple and not what they had hoped to play, but it was a start. And it gave them hope and motivation to play more.
Reading is a skill, too, and the good news is, reading aloud provides a bridge.
We can read aloud to our children and let them bask in the sheer joy of the experience. We can protect the joy of reading for our children so that they learn to associate reading with pleasure.
While we do the “heavy lifting” for our children, we are showing them why reading is worth it! The more pleasure they experience in their early reading lives, the more they are going to want to unlock that code.
I believe homeschoolers are in a unique position when it comes to growing readers because they can preserve the sheer joy of reading in a way that can be challenging in other settings.
We can avoid the book logs, book reports, and oral presentations of our public school past. Instead, we can think outside of that public school box and allow our children to show us what they have learned through books in other ways.
And by protecting the joy of reading, we are raising lifelong learners. Because, let’s face it, if you love to read, you can teach yourself anything!
I talked about all of this and more at the most recent Kindred Collective Homeschool Conference.
And so, for two weeks in February, while my children recovered from a virus that sapped all their energy, we read aloud. I didn’t stress about math, or science, or language arts, or history.
I started our day with the easiest and most important thing: a read-aloud. They got lost in the stories… and so much learning happened! The learning was spontaneous and amazing to watch, and it just reiterated for me how books can provide a springboard for rabbit holes and delight.
At the beginning of our first week of illness, we read a book of poetry called I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage (afflink) by Lee Bennett Hopkins. That afternoon, I thought my daughter was upstairs napping (because there was a lot of napping happening that week), but she appeared before me with two poems she had written by herself while under the weather.
It just goes to show you that kids are learning all the time!
We also read the book The Sixty-Eight Rooms by Marianne Malone.
This book is about two children who find a key in the Chicago Institute of Art and the key makes them shrink… and they are able to explore the Thorne Rooms! This book resulted in the following rabbit trails:
- Learning about The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago
- Creating floorplans and dioramas
- Re-telling the story together and expanding upon it using our dollhouse
- Making our own miniatures with clay and shrinky-dinks
- Additional reading related to the Salem witch trials, which were mentioned in the book
Meanwhile, my oldest was reading The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg. The story is about a 6th-grade academic bowl team and the ways their lives intersect and their relationships with each other.
The story inspired my son to create a homeschool trivia bowl. My younger two loved this idea and, together, they used Snap Circuits to make a competition buzzer. The quiz bowl took place at our kitchen island, in jammies, with barking coughs and fevers, but it was tons of fun!
Again, it shows you how a book can be a springboard for learning, even when you’re having a crummy week.
By the second week, my kids were still under the weather but they were on the upswing. After a week of minimal appetites, they were ravenous! My youngest asked if he could pick the dinners for the upcoming week and I was only too grateful for the help.
He also decided to add desserts with his favorite cookbook, Nerdy Nummies by Rosanna Pansino.
This little fella avoids writing whenever possible, but suddenly he was writing out an entire meal plan and grocery order!
And when one child is interested in something, it can be contagious. Suddenly, my oldest found himself lost in Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons… and making pine needle cookies!
Next, we read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. This resulted in more play. The children recreated the setting using magnatiles and miniatures. They even found a wardrobe.
Then, thanks to a perfectly timed snowfall, they left our backdoor and ventured into the land of Narnia for some much-needed fresh air.
It was the first day in many that my nature lovers felt well enough to venture outside and I credit the magic of Narnia.
The two weeks of illness were tiring, but they were inspiring, too. Too often, sick weeks leave us feeling off-course and deflated, but it doesn’t have to be that way.
If you are in a rough homeschool season right now, please know you are not alone.
February may have been challenging, but now spring is just around the corner! In the meantime, please know that if you read aloud to your children regularly, you are doing something vitally important!
Open your eyes to the wonder underfoot! Children can’t help but learn, sometimes we just need to get out of the way.
If you want to learn more about making a read-aloud routine that fits your family, check out the talk I gave at the Kindred Collective Conference or my new ebook, The Powerful Simplicity of Reading Aloud.
And if you’re at a loss as to what to read aloud to your children, you’re going to want to check out the booklists we created at the Kindred Conference! I asked all attendees two questions:
- What is the book that made you (or your child, if you have a child who loves to read) a reader?
- What is the best book you’ve read- for yourself!- in the last five years?
The Kindred community did not disappoint; I had to actually create four booklists based on all of their incredible recommendations!
These are fantastic and you can get yours here!
Tell me: What books have you read aloud lately? Share here so we can fill our library totes together!
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