One of the most attractive aspects of homeschooling is the ability to spend time together reading. Whether it’s reading the Bible together in the living room after dinner or tackling a major work of literature, such as Little Women or The Lord of the Rings trilogy, memories of reading exceptional books together will be cherished. Your children will quickly grow to love this family time with everyone involved in active listening as you explore new worlds, learn about great moments of the past, and share the hopes, dreams, and struggles of others who have gone before us.
When I first learned about homeschooling, more than ten years ago, a friend handed me several homeschooling catalogs and described the joy she had in educating her children. The catalogs were the equivalent of receiving a map to a buried treasure! I couldn’t wait to embark upon the journey of reading with our children, especially the classics and books about history and the people who lived before us. Reading together continues to be a blessing today as our oldest is entering eighth grade and the youngest two are entering sixth grade.
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What will reading do for your family? It will improve vocabulary, memory skills, analytical thinking, and listening and writing skills. Filling your child’s mind with well-formulated sentences and descriptive words creates a reservoir from which he or she can draw in the future. The benefits will show up in your children’s ability to express themselves through writing or speech. The research of Jane Healy suggests that linguistic stimulation is especially critical as a child’s brain develops (from preschool through middle school).
A father who reads with his family is giving them a priceless gift. Children learn from example and will enjoy having a special time with their father, especially if he is away from home during the day and unable to participate in the daily routine. Before he was diagnosed with brain cancer three years ago, my husband would come home from work and lead everyone in a Bible study and continue on with the book we were reading. Today we are thankful that he is able to sit with us during this time and pray with us. No matter what your situation, reading with the whole family builds bonds that will last a lifetime.
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One of the best ways to develop an interest in history is to learn about the people who came before us. Read about their lives. Understand their struggles. Appreciate your own life. A number of wonderful historical fiction and nonfiction books are available to supplement your history lessons with biographies of people and descriptions of events from the time period you are studying. The Landmark and World Landmark series of books first published by Random House in the 1950s contains more than a hundred books covering United States and world history. Many of the books are out of print but are still available through the public library, either locally or through interlibrary loan. Use the Resource link (in the sidebar) to see the full list of Landmark and World Landmark titles.
The Childhood of Famous Americans series by Augusta Stevenson, originally published by Bobbs-Merrill and now partially reissued in paperback by Simon and Schuster, is a series that introduces younger readers to famous Americans during their childhoods. The We Were There (various authors, published by Grosset & Dunlap) and The Immortals of Science (various authors, published by Franklin Watts, Inc.) are both series that are out of print but also available through your library, interlibrary loan, used bookstores, and online retailers.
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Bethlehem Book’s Living History Library series has several titles from various time periods. Joy Hakim’s series, A History of US, is one of the most complete volumes describing the history of our country. You may also enjoy The Landmark History of the American People. Scholastic’s If You series includes several volumes of fact-filled historical nonfiction from the early history of the United States for younger readers. The Lamplighter collection and books by G. A. Henty are based on true stories and historic events that will inspire your family.
With so many books available and so little time to read them all, how do you select the best books to read? There are a number of resources that may provide the guidance you need. We have used the following books to help us select titles for family reading time in the evening, read-alouds during the day, and independent reading for various age levels:
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We generally choose classic literature for our family time. We are currently reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Some of our favorites have been Little Britches: Father and I Were Ranchers by Ralph Moody; Lassie Come Home by Eric Knight; Freckles and Laddie: A True Blue Story by Gene Stratton-Porter; The Wonder Clock by Howard Pyle; Mother Goose in Prose by L. Frank Baum; Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder; The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis; The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J. R. R. Tolkein; and the list goes on!
You may want to consider Newbery Medal Winners. Some of our favorites have included these fine books: The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle by Hugh Lofting (1923); Hitty, Her First Hundred Years by Rachel Field (1930); and Miss Hickory by Carolyn Sherwin Bailey (1947). These are delightful books to share with your children. Use the Resource links to search the Newbery and Caldecott Medal and Honor books to find something that may be of interest for your family.
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While it is good to read to your children stories that are at a higher level than their independent readers, what do you do if your child doesn’t seem to be listening? It’s easy to lose the interest of younger readers when you are reading a work with intricate setting descriptions and character development. Taking a break and asking questions about what you have just read helps pull children back into the story. Try allowing your children to draw quietly while you read. You may be surprised to learn how much detail they will be able to tell you, even though it appears that they are not listening.
The time you invest in reading aloud with your children will reap a multitude of benefits, from improving their word skills and comprehension, to bonding as a family and sharing special moments together, to cultivating critical thinking skills. No less important are the excitement and love of learning you will kindle as you share the history of influential people from the past. Establish this valuable habit with your children today!
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Cathy Diez-Luckie, author and illustrator at Figures In Motion, is thankful for being able to educate her three children at home and loves to study history and literature along with them. Her award-winning children’s book series (Famous Figures) integrates art and history and engages children with hands-on activities and movable action figures as they learn about the great leaders of the past.
Copyright 2012, used with permission. All rights reserved by author. Originally appeared in the October 2012 issue of The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, the family education magazine. Read the magazine free at www.TOSMagazine.com or read it on the go and download the free apps at www.TOSApps.com to read the magazine on your mobile devices.
Publication date: February 14, 2014