As I began planning what I wanted for our home school, it was pretty overwhelming. I was reading curriculum overviews and scanning textbooks. I was reading education philosophies. I was making list after list. Then I stumbled across a few podcasts and blogs that changed everything.
These are treasures, and they answer the question: Where do I begin?
The answer is: Begin with Reading Aloud.
First, Nurturing Competent Communicators, a free audio download by Andrew Pudewa on why we should read aloud to our children, and why they should memorize poetry/speeches. I discovered Andrew Pudewa by listening to a podcast from Sarah Mackenzie at Read-Aloud-Revival on why we must read aloud to our children, even our older children who can read for themselves. Especially our older children need to hear us reading.
Why read aloud? It’s about furnishing their minds with beautiful language.
Good input = good output, so if you want your children to be great writers when they grow up, they need to have their minds filled with great words and phrases and ideas.
What should you read aloud? Start with poetry. If you know some poetry that you like, begin with that. What you like is what you will read aloud well, and you’ll be amazed to see your children responding to it.
If you don’t know much poetry, then you can’t go wrong with a funny poet such as Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutzky.
If your children are 8 and under, read Mother Goose Rhymes to them. These are actually a vital bit of cultural literacy. These rhymes set them up for understanding complex literature later. If you have older kids and you are worried that they didn’t get enough exposure to Nursery Rhymes, the sneaky way to fix that is to have them read aloud to a younger child later in the day.
Read Aesop’s fables.
Pick a classic that you love, such as The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder.
Pick a classic that you’ve always intended to read but haven’t yet, like Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.
Pick a book about something your kid(s) are interested in and just start reading.
Read for about 15 minutes from the book you chose. Don’t worry if your kid is wriggling around or doing summer-salts on the floor. They’re listening. Let them color or make patterns with pattern blocks while you read.
Every few paragraphs, pause and ask your child to tell you what just happened . Let them tell you in their own words. Let them tell you what they thought was important. Don’t act like they got it wrong if they leave out something you think is important. Let them tell what they got out of it. (I do correct them if they have misunderstood what happened in the story.)
What I love best about reading aloud is that even if we accomplish nothing else for home school that day, I feel like we can call the day a success. We will have done what is most important, and what is most important is all that matters. Here is a morning time blog post from Cindy Rollins on why she loves morning time. If you loved reading books as a child, you will recognize the references she makes. I cried my eyes out when I read her post because I felt again the beauty that each of those books added to my life and with it my deep hope that I can pass that love of really good books onto my children.
Even if you don’t do home school, do reading aloud. It will bless your family. You’ll have created a shared family culture of books and poetry and fun times and that will make all the difference.