Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reading Together: How We Do It

 photo Daddyreading1.jpg
Not the best picture, but it's still one of my favorites, from a couple years ago.
Few things can beat a good book in hand and a good dog at your feet!

When reflecting on our parenting skills, it's easy for Marc and I to see our weaknesses, but one thing I feel like we've done pretty well with is reading to our kids. From the time they've been able to focus their eyes on a book, we've read to them. Well before we were a homeschool family, we were a reading family. Our couches are literally falling apart from the hours we've spent cuddled up together around a book. Therefore, our homeschooling has reflected our love for reading.

This year we read about 150 books to supplement our curriculum. About 130 of those books were for our history studies; the others covered a variety of topics including science, grammar, math, etc. Our total number of books read was much lower this year due to two factors: 1) Our kids are getting older so we read more chapter books and less picture books, and 2) This is our second time through this portion of history, so using our reading list I was able to refine our selections based on what we enjoyed last time. We don't read all of those 150 books together. Now that they are older I often have them read the picture books on their own (it's a great thing to keep them occupied if they are waiting for my help while I'm assisting another kid), and they are usually working on a chapter book or two on their own in addition to the designated read-aloud books we are working on.

Certainly we're not the only homeschoolers who read a lot. I think that's why my SOTW 2 reading list continues to be one of the most popular posts on this blog. Homeschoolers in general love to read. Nevertheless, I often get comments or questions on how we fit it all in. One of my favorites was when I posted a link to the list on The Well-Trained Mind forums:

Love it! Seriously though, how do we do it? I'll share a few things that have worked for us, and then I'd love to hear ideas from you.

Make it a Priority 

If you have a set time for reading, you will develop a rhythm to your day that prioritizes reading. For homeschooling we generally do our read-aloud sessions after lunch and we devote anywhere from half an hour to an hour to reading together (sometimes longer if we can't put the book down!). Our second read-aloud session is just before bedtime.

Have a Plan

I go a little crazy with our history reading lists. I just finished our history plan for the 2013-2014 school year and it took me hours to put together. But that's because I'm crazy. I come up with my list from a variety of sources and I like to have it in one place. You can see my plan here, but it's still a work in progress. My next step is to check the library to see what books can be reserved online, but my library system's catalog has been under construction for a few weeks, preventing me from doing further editing our reading list.

But you don't have to go crazy like me. You can just use the suggested reading list from the Story of the World Activity Guide or whatever curriculum you use and it will be wonderful. Or you can search the web for reading lists other homeschoolers have put together.

Daddy Saves the Day

Some homeschool dads are very involved in the day-to-day teaching of their kids, and I think that's awesome. I think for most homeschool dads, however, it is very difficult for them to get that involved due to demanding work schedules. Having Daddy read to the kids is a great way to still have him involved.

When our kids were young Marc and I used to take turns reading to the kids at bedtime or many times we'd do it together. Once we got into homeschooling Marc gradually took over the bedtime reading routine. Anna (15 yrs.) typically doesn't participate in these read-aloud sessions anymore because she's busy finishing homework or reading on her own, but Ryne and Grace still look forward to this time with Daddy. {Oh, and I'm the only one who calls him Daddy anymore (sniff!), but their switching to the more mature Dad is another topic.}

There's no set plan for their nighttime reading. They've read through a number of series together: I read through the Chronicles of Narnia books with them several years ago, then Marc took them through Harry Potter and the Lord of the Rings books. They've read some of the Borrower's books, Alice in Wonderland, Jungle Book, and many more that I'm too lazy to look up right now. : ) When we need ideas for new books to read, my favorite resource is Honey for a Child's Heart (affiliate link).

This year, however, Marc has been a lifesaver in helping me tackle our history reading list. Together they read Adam of the Road, The Red Keep, and several of our Reformation books. It worked out nicely too because many of those books I had read with Anna and instead of reading them again with the younger two kids, Marc got to experience some of the wonderful stories that make our studies come alive.

We Don't Do Projects

If you love getting out the glue and scissors on a regular basis, you will not be able to read as much. There are only so many hours in a day. And that's okay! I have great respect for the moms who make chicken mummies or catapults every week with their kids. I'm not that mom, however, so I focus on my strengths. We do very few projects around here and it works for us. In past years, I've also been known to neglect science in favor of our history reading too, but that doesn't work so well for us. : ) Thankfully, this year I managed to finally get a year where history and science were both finished by the end of May.

We Don't Finish School at Noon

If you're one of those families who likes to be done with school by lunchtime, my schedule won't work for you. We typically finish up between 2:00 and 4:00, depending on what day of the week it is. We go longer on Tuesdays and Thursdays when I don't have to pick up Anna from school. My kids never complain about this schedule; again, it's what works for us. I will say, however, that it's also probably why I can never keep up with housework and projects, but at this stage in our life I will always pick reading to my kids over mopping the floor!

None of these tips are particularly earth-shattering, I know. Perhaps the main theme here is that enjoying good books doesn't have to be such an effort. With the right routines in place it really becomes more of a lifestyle than something to check off a list, and it is a lifestyle that has richly blessed our family over the years.


  1. We did so much reading together when the boys were younger. I've fallen out of the read aloud pattern in the past couple years mostly because we have been prioritizing independent work and projects. :) I think I need to add a couple hours per week back into the plan, though.

    I LOVE your book lists! (I know I've said that before, but they're just that good!!)

    1. I think it's harder once they get older and I do feel sad that Anna is not a part of it anymore. After writing this I now remember that for a while Marc read through the LOTR books just with Anna while I read other books with Ryne and Grace -- I think that was a very special time for them. They still trade LOTR quotes back and forth all the time, although that might be more influenced by the movies. ; )

      I'm glad you like the book lists so much! I'd love to chat with you sometime about what your boys like to read for fun, because I sometimes struggle finding stuff for Ryne. Girl books seem so easy to come up with, but boys are harder.

    2. Yes, it is harder as they get older. Michael and the boys have done the LOTR read together, too. That does make for good Dad/kid time. :) We've read a couple Shakespearean works as a family, too. I think that's what we find most fun now-- plays. It's great fun for everyone to take a part (or 6).

      Yes, chat we must! July has been so busy. I know you know why. Let's work out a time to talk soon. :)

    3. Oh, I like the idea of reading plays together!

  2. sadly, since we are no longer home schooling, the only reading we do is devotions (Bible) after dinner and at bedtime. Otherwise, they read on their own now. :( I posted on Facebook that the days of reading out loud to them on long trips is gone. They watch movies. But they all do say that afternoons spent with me reading books to them was special and among very fond memories.
    Oh, and I am glad to see I'm not the only one who says Daddy, when the kids just say Dad.
    They are growing up....I guess this happens when they all become teenagers (well....in two months).

    1. I had to laugh when you said you do devotions after dinner and at bedtime, because all our activities seem to fall into the typical dinner time period so we eat dinner very late, making it pretty much bedtime! Wouldn't be much point in us separating the two. : )

      And I didn't realize your youngest was about to turn 13! How time flies!!!