I have been thinking about a homeschool series for the longest time, where I write about what we do for each subject, little by little through each day and in and out of the weeks of our school year. And then I was surprised to discover that apart from map work and timelines and mental math… one of the things our readers really want to know is how to get all that reading aloud done… So that’s where I am going to start…
For me to get anything done there really needs to be a purpose… and really reading to my kids is something I want to do not just because we homeschool, not just to tick the box on the curriculum sheet and not just because it gives our kids a cultural heritage. Books, stories, sagas, myths and legends are something that can be part of our memories. Memories of mine can become memories of theirs as we share the same couch or the same spot to go on a reading adventure together. Reading aloud together is a mingling of minds and something I really want to do with the people I love the most. That being said, you can see why above all things… a lot of reading out loud gets done on our house!!!
Reading together isn’t something we do over the period of a week – it is something we do throughout everyday. We call it school because it is the basis of our school plan but if we schooled at home or not reading would take up a huge chunk of our family time together. I have to say school reading is the one thing we do even on a bare-minimum day. We may miss out on Math workbooks and sometimes we miss out on writing in our journals – but we never miss out on reading together.
To put this post together I started writing a list of what we read, and when we read it, through the day – and honestly it was dead snoring boring… we read all day everyday – it’s like we do nothing else!!! So instead of giving you a schedule, which is always changing anyway, I thought I would give you a couple of “getting all the school reading done” tips:
- Read in Chunks:
- A Time and a Place:
- Be Generous with your Reading Time:
- Lingering Meals:
- Stagger Your Students Slightly:
- Check up on Students Who Read Independently: I know your students are perfect and would never miss out on a school assigned reader… but mine will, no matter how brilliant the book is, and this is a mistake I made early on and never made again after I discovered that a child was weeks behind in more than one subject!!! The honest mistakes of a home-schooling mum!!! This is important, I will say it again: You really need to check that their school reading is getting done and that they aren’t whizzing through a brilliant previously undiscovered series from the library instead. Trust me you need to check!!! One of my students is a natural regurgitator of facts… they literally spill out. Another you have to ask very specific questions – vague questions reveal vague answers you have to ask: “What was Henry the VIII’s third wife’s name?” And my other independent reader I have to gently pry the knowledge out and check if the facts are actually straight, because they aren’t always and a lot of creative meandering can go into any of those readings!!!
- We make good use of the library:
- Lead by example:
Little Chunks of reading throughout the day makes it seem less of a marathon and more of a journey. The difference between one and many students is that with one student I just had a pile of books that we read through together each day – it took about twenty minutes to do all the school reading. It is a little different when you have a whole heap of students. Also, now that we are more than a couple of years down the line with homeschooling the divide between reading for school and reading for fun has simply disappeared. We no longer have a monstrous pile of school reading to get through in a day – but rather different books we read at different times of day.
We read all over the show. Wherever we read a certain topic, I leave the current book there… the routine of our day takes us from the table, to the couch, outdoors and so on… wherever we will be for a reading session, so will the relevant book be. My kids expect our Bible study reading at the breakfast table, there Chapter book with lunch outdoors and so on. We don’t live in a minefield of books – tripping over ten at every turn. But books in their place makes it easy to say – grab the poetry books and lets head for the jungle gym.
One day when you are reading with a purpose take a peak at how long it really takes to read a chapter of a book or a picture book… it isn’t long at all!!! On a given day I don’t spend more than about two hours reading to my kids and spread over the day in fifteen to twenty minute sessions it really isn’t that much time. I have always had a strict policy that reading is a place where I won’t ever be negative: No taking away books because math worksheets weren’t done or no dropping of bedtime stories because of some “bad behavior”. Reading is a positive space in our home and I think it is that attitude that I am always open to a quick story that helps my kids know that reading is a part of life rather than a grand candlelit event at the end of the day – that we may or may not have time for depending on good or bad behavior!!! Not that there is anything wrong with grand candlelit events – I am all for them… but they are the exception rather than the rule around here.
It makes sense that family meals become family reading sessions. Seriously, catch their attention here and you are a winner… My little guys can take forever to eat, my older guys want to eat and dash… I want them to stay and wait until everyone is done. So this is when we read our chapter books, our great classic family read-alouds… little people are busy and older kids are content and concentrating. I can usually fit in a couple of chapters between finishing myself and the slowest eater finishing. Does everyone sit with rapt attention hanging on every wor? Not always. Do some books go over the heads of some of the listeners? Oh yes!!! Do even the little people remember whole sections from great classics? Oh yes!!! And will they hear the same stories read and re-read over time? To be sure.
Not all reading is created for lying around and enjoying the story… some of it requires a little work!!! When we are reading multiple kids history and science together it pays to have one busy while you read to the other. I usually get going with whoever arrives at the school table first… read their work and then set them up with a little bit of work in their journal… a map, a picture, a sentence or two. Then I read to the next child while the first child finishes up in their journal… and repeat until the science and history readings are done for the day. Remember that the history and science reading in the early years are really a double page spread of a fabulous Usborne book or a chapter in a great biography… Honestly it doesn’t take long to read them. My older kids to their own history and science reading but all at the same table so that we can chat about it and talk about what is going into their journals at the table together.
My older kids usually read ANY and ALL their books in a sitting and have no idea that you don’t read a book, any book straight through. A book before breakfast, a book after lunch and very often a book at bedtime means that we have to make good use of the library. There is a distinct advantage to having a number of kids – it means the library pile has so much more to offer!!! We take seventy books from the library each week: about a third are chapter books, the fatter the better, a third are picture books – little people need tons of stories too and about a third are fact books: places to visit, biographies and “things to do” types of books. Keeping track of the library books is a whole ‘nother post!!!
And the Se7en + 1th tip:
I have failed at this this past year and my reading has slipped into “reading for review” books… somehow that seems like work and I must say it was becoming a chore. I wasn’t reading for pleasure I was reading for work… and everybody noticed!!! My kids have set me a series of challenges this year – that’s another whole post too – and one of them is reading. So after lunch everyday before I check my computer I have to spend half an hour reading a book for pleasure… very often it goes for much longer. Like my kids I can’t leave a book half read!!! Just lately my kids have been recommending mountains of books they would like me to try and I have really enjoyed some of them. They love to suggest a good book, especially if I enjoy it too. There comes a time when you are no-longer saying: you should try this book… there comes a time when it works both ways and now that we have arrived there I am very glad for it!!!
That’s it: Our family reading adventure is by no means over… I still have three readers that have hardly begun, but I can say we are so enjoying the journey. I don’t have to make reading a priority and I don’t have to settle everyone down to listen because “the mother person is going to read now”… It just happens as part of the rhythm of our day because it is something I really want to do with my kids… because we read all the time it clearly is a priority!!!
If you have any “School Reading Time” questions – then go ahead and ask away… I know some of you are thinking: What if we are scheduled a book we don’t like or what if the reading is too difficult or do I let my kids play while I read – there are hundreds of reading questions… this is the post to ask away and I will endeavor to ask them!!!