5 Benefits of Reading Aloud to Your Family

This is a list of 5 of the main benefits I have identified from reading aloud to my family for about 20 years.

1. Reading aloud to your family promotes family culture, develops your family identity and unity, and provides an enjoyable shared experience and memories for your family.

It can also aid in character development when you read stories that portray a worldview that encourages good character and growth toward better character.

One year our family experienced a fun adventure as we read stories together on our way to a vacation in Florida.

We excitedly set out on our first real family vacation since we had kids. And we had 6 of them! We were going to Florida with 6 kids ranging in age from 18 months to 11 years old. It was a miracle. Gary was unemployed. We had no income. It was insane to think that we could do this, but sanity was not a part of the equation. We needed this! We needed a break from the ho-hum, humdrum existence we had been living for a year and a half. And my former boss at the day care center was offering her house for free if we could just get there. We could cook our own food once we got there. It had a fully functional kitchen and a grocery store nearby. So it wouldn’t really cost that much more than our humdrum life at home was costing us. Just the cost of gas to get there and one night at a hotel on the way there since it was a 900 mile trip and would take about 14 hours to get there.

We packed as lightly as we could with a family of 6 children and 2 adults. But one thing I made sure we took with us was the books we had been reading together as a family and the next one I had planned to read. We finished Wheel on the School as we headed out. I loved that story with all my heart! The next book I scheduled was Strawberry Girl. I opened it and started reading and found out that it took place in Florida! I didn’t even realize it before we headed out. I’m not the world’s best planner, but the Holy Spirit covers me all the time!

So on the way to Florida I started reading about a girl who lived in Florida and her family’s experiences as they moved from northern Florida to southern Florida. We kind of moved along with her from northern Florida to southern Florida corresponding to the story as we drove toward Ormond Beach on the Atlantic coast. We saw Palmetto trees like the ones Strawberry Girl described in the story. In fact our beach umbrella ended up in a tangled, impenetrable grove of Palmettos when a mini tornado swept in from the ocean and grabbed our umbrella and took it flying a few hundred feet in the air and deposited it across the street in the middle of a mass of plants and Palmetto trees that we were sure harbored snakes and all manner of spiders and other creatures that we wanted nothing to do with. So, alas, our introduction to Palmetto trees was not a happy one.

I was so happy to read a book about the same place that we were going to for our vacation. The only problem we had with reading aloud as we drove along in the car was my husband’s vivid imagination and his ability to lose himself in a story. We almost plowed into the back of the car in front of us several times because he was paying so much attention to the story that he forgot to pay attention to his driving. I learned to only read when traffic was light or we were on a stretch of highway that didn’t require a lot of his thought or attention to drive safely while thinking about something else.

We will always have that shared memory. The older kids were shaped by lots of stories. My husband still mentions the story I read to them on the way to Florida from time to time. We read almost every read-aloud in the Sonlight catalog to them. I need to go back and re-read them to the younger children now. I loved almost all of those books. They are living books, well-written, soul-enriching, full of moral lessons, and many of them portray family as a strong anchor for the members.

2. Reading good books aloud to your children exposes children to excellent authors, advanced vocabulary, story form, excellent writing, ideas, imagination, philosophy, heroes, and good morals.

It’s important to choose good books with a strong godly worldview that reinforces your values and ideals. Living books are the best books to read aloud with your family. If you’re not familiar with the concept of living books, research the Charlotte Mason method and look up her definition and explanation of living books. I have some posts about the Charlotte Mason method here on my blog  under the category of homeschooling and the subcategory of Charlotte Mason. She speaks about the process of children interacting mind to mind with great authors when they read their works and how our minds feed on great ideas.

Stories are the best way to teach and learn, too. Most of my children have been mostly read to as their main form of education, and the older ones have become excellent writers. I attribute much of that to being read to so much.

3. You can teach many subjects and lots of information by reading aloud.

When choosing a good book to read aloud, you should take into account the setting and time of the story. Many of the Classics and lots of historical fiction teaches content that we want our children to learn. They actually help children to learn more about history, geography, poetry, beauty of language and other cultures. Biographies and autobiographies are also good for immersing yourself and your child in the life and times of famous and successful people and can inspire your child to greatness himself!

4. Reading aloud to children builds their imagination. They learn to listen and visualize scenes, characters, settings, landforms, landscapes and so much more.

When children are read to or listen to a story on CD or radio, they have to use their imagination more than when they watch a video or movie. They can visualize characters, settings, scenes, landforms and landscapes. They get to do the work of building a picture of what the characters look like and their mannerisms, clothing, and so much more from their own imagination. It is a good exercise in developing their imagination and ability to visualize, which we all need to be able to use to make life more interesting and to create beauty and to invent new things.

5. Reading to children inculcates a love of reading.

It instills a desire to read to themselves and to become lifelong readers and learners. If you start reading aloud to children when they are very young, as in so young that they still can’t read themselves, you can read stories to them that they can comprehend or get knowledge from even though they can’t read it yet for themselves. And as they get older, if you continue to read to them, you set a pattern for them and create a desire in them to learn more and experience good literature. You enable them to experience great stories and profound ideas that might be above their reading level but meet or extend their comprehension level. And the great stories and Classics may beckon them to learn to read so they can enjoy them on their own also. But I encourage parents to keep reading aloud to their children even after they can read. Nothing can beat the shared experience of enjoying a good story together!

Unfriendly Christians, Loveless Churches?

Alone in a crowd …

Have you ever tried to find a new church? What did you expect to find when you walked in the door of the church building? Were you warmly greeted? Were you treated as if they were glad you were there? Then you were lucky.

Not every church is so welcoming.

Many people have to go looking for a church when they move to a new place. They hope to find a place of love and acceptance, and a place to worship the Lord with other believers. Sometimes, they find very gracious, kind people just inside the doors welcoming them and acquainting them with the way their church operates. But other times, they walk into a big room full of strangers, and nobody comes to their aid. They are left on their own to try to figure out where the children are supposed to go, and all of the other little idiosyncrasies of that particular church. And no one asks their name or anything else about them.

But the thing I find the most disturbing is that even when a new person attends a church several times, even for weeks or months, some have an extremely difficult time becoming accepted or gathered in to the church family. I have experienced this many times. We have moved 5 times in 13 years. We have tried many churches. We have only found a few who welcomed us with open arms and continued to cultivate a relationship with us.

It seems that many have judged us by the number of children we have. They have acted like we were going to be too much work for them. We haven’t turned our kids over to their care. We take care of our babies and toddlers ourselves. The only time we let our children go to children’s classes is when they wanted to go. We tried to keep them in the sanctuary with us unless they were just too energetic for that.

Many times I felt judged by my brothers and sisters in Christ at the churches we attended. Our children were well-behaved, especially compared to others. We wanted to participate and contribute to the ministry of the church, but we were closed out. I remember one meeting in which people were to sign up to help with the various ministries of the church. I had prayed about it and felt that the Lord told me to help with Children’s Church. When the pastor called for people who wanted to help with Children’s Church to raise their hands, I raised my hand. The pastor called out the names of all the people who had their hands up – except me. We had been attending there for several months and had spoken to the pastor and his wife several times. But he was intentionally ignoring me. Finally some people around me started pointing to me and calling out to the pastor that someone else was volunteering. By that time, I had figured out that he was ignoring me on purpose, and I put my hand down. When the people around me started pointing and trying to get the pastor’s attention, I started shaking my head and telling them to never mind. He finally looked straight at me, and slumped and sighed and asked for my name and phone number. He just did it to keep his people from knowing what he was doing. I knew I would never get a phone call from him. I was right.

I had the same thing happen at two or three other churches we went to. I guess raising 10 children and having a teaching degree were not enough qualification for teaching children in their churches. I didn’t rush in to try to get involved. I actually didn’t want to do it. I felt like I was doing so much for my own children, and I wanted that Sunday morning time to just soak in the presence of God in worship and the teaching of the Word. But I felt like the Lord was telling me to volunteer to help teach the children. If it had been only one church, I would have thought it was just a fluke. But it happened over and over again.

Not only did these things happen that felt pretty unfriendly, but I was not able to make friends with many people in these churches. I used to have lots of friends when I was in the area that I grew up in. People knew my family, knew my history, knew of the school district I went to, and we always at least shared that common knowledge. But when we moved out of state, we didn’t know anybody. We had no family or friends at any of the places we moved to.

The people of the church were usually people who had known each other for years and had shared many experiences together. They seemed to think that they had “enough” friends. They didn’t need any more. I tried to go to some women’s groups. Not much success there, either.

I was closed out of one group because I was too old. I had 2 babies, 2 toddlers, and 2 elementary-aged children, but they said I was too old to attend that particular moms’ group whose purpose was praying for families. They were all younger moms in that group, and the leader felt that I would not fit in.

Where is the Love?

Seriously, where is the love in all of that?!

My husband and I finally threw up our hands and said, “That’s it, if we don’t feel the love of God when we walk into a church, we will know right then that it’s not the church for us.” We decided that if God isn’t there, we don’t want to be there, either. So that has been our measuring rod.

I have been trying to make friends at lots of different churches, but I have been largely unsuccessful.

Another problem is that all of the women are so busy! I have found a few who seemed interested in forming a friendship, but they worked at a job, or they lived so far away that it was hard to get together.

So, from my experience, many churches need to change their perspective of new people and the way they treat them, or they will not be gaining any new members. We are supposed to be the Body of Christ, all members of the same body. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. I should be able to walk into any church building and feel at home. People should know by the Spirit that I am a fellow believer and that I love Jesus with all my heart. Unfortunately, I have seldom had that happen.

This has made for a lonely life as we have moved from one region to another. I have reached out to other women in many different ways. A few have responded. But I have not found a bosom friend in all of my wanderings.

I detect a serious problem in our churches, and in the attitudes of many believers. There is a lack of love that really cares about fellow believers and befriends them and embraces them, if they haven’t known them for 10 years, and “they’re not from around here”.

I think that God wants His children to play together nicely. I think that believers should be able to visit among other gatherings of believers and feel like instant family. Am I expecting too much? Maybe.

But I think we can do better than this.

“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

John 13:35

Who Says You’re Behind?

 

Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as behind in education. Hence, there is no such thing as behind in homeschooling. I want to take some pressure off of you if you have felt guilty or stressed or incapable of teaching your children correctly.

Don’t feel like you’re behind. Who says you’re behind? Whose standard are you not meeting up to? The individuals who developed the scope and sequence or the order of skills taught in a curriculum were guessing the average ages and stages of readiness for certain skills and knowledge. It’s arbitrary. Don’t think it’s set in stone. Don’t act like it’s a law. It might help as a general guideline for what you want to introduce to your child and when, but remember to look for readiness. You can tell if they’re ready for it or not. Look for the signs.

All of math can be taught in 8 weeks, according to this article by besthomeschooling.org.

So if your child is “behind” in math, maybe you should evaluate how you’re teaching math and see if you can get through it more quickly. I’m going to, that’s for sure! I have heard great things from Dr. Melanie Wilson, aka psychowith6, about a curriculum that cuts to the chase and helps you learn math fast. In fact, that’s what it’s called: Learn Math Fast! You can find her reviews of this curriculum here.

What about the other subjects? Language Arts does not have to be broken up into 5 different topics, such as Reading, Spelling, Vocabulary, Handwriting, and Grammar. And let’s not forget about Literature, Composition, Speaking, Creative writing, prose, poetry, and research papers. We can easily combine those first five topics as we do those last seven subjects. We use all of the basic skills when we study Literature. We use the basic skills when we write stories and research projects.

Of course we need to teach reading first of all. And handwriting must be taught before the other subjects can be adequately studied. But when the basic skills are mastered, they don’t need to be singled out in workbooks with contrived, irrelevant, and unrelated sentences and exercises to continue practicing them. They should be used, put into practice, with real writing. By teaching language arts this way, your student may be able to accomplish the objectives much more quickly and efficiently than by using workbooks.

There are quicker, more efficient ways to let your kids study science and history, too. Let them study the topics they want to learn about. They may not cover all the topics in a typical textbook, but does that really matter in the scheme of things? What will be relevant to their lives after they graduate? Are the typical topics vital to their lives after high school? Probably not.

If there are certain subjects that matter to you and that you feel your child absolutely needs to know, then make sure he studies them.

But don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself or your child to cover everything in the book or finish by a certain time.

Deadlines help to make sure we get things accomplished, but keep expectations reasonable and look for the quality of the work and the results of the efforts more than the quantity or speed of accomplishment.

If you will change your mindset to one that says, “We are not behind. We are learning what my child wants to learn about, while using skills that he has learned and honing them even more”, homeschooling will become more enjoyable, productive, and relevant to real life.

  • And you will no longer hear the voice of that terrible taskmaster screaming at you that “you’re behind”.

 

 

Self-education is the Only Way to Learn!

In a related topic to individualized instruction, a goal that we as homeschoolers should be endeavoring to attain is self-education.

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”
-Albert Einstein

“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature.”
― Charlotte Mason

“I cannot teach anybody anything, I can only make them think.”
– Socrates

“Self-education is, I firmly believe, the only kind of education there is.”
– Isaac Asimov

“Real education must ultimately be limited to men who insist on knowing; the rest is mere sheep-herding.”
– Ezra Loomis

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth learning can be taught.”
— Oscar Wilde

When we think about teaching and learning, we think of a dispenser of knowledge standing in front of a group of students who are soaking up everything (?) the lecturer or instructor intends for the students to absorb into their brain.
But is that what learning is really all about? Is that how you learn best? Think about how you learn. If you hear a speaker, and even if you are enthralled with what he is saying – even if you are hanging on every word – if you never think about their speech again, do you really remember it? What helps you to remember thoughts, ideas, and concepts? Don’t you have to keep thinking and meditating deeply and for long periods of time, engaging your whole brain. Don’t you have to use different learning faculties, such as writing, rereading your notes, discussing your thoughts with others, and even imparting the information to another person (teaching) in order to make the knowledge your own and embed it deeply into your brain so that it becomes a part of your memory?

There really is no such thing as teaching. There is only learning. Learning depends on the person who is trying to gain new information. If they are trying to make it their own, then the knowledge will most likely sink in. If the learner is not putting forth the effort to learn deeply, then the teacher has no power to cause learning to take place. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. In the same way, you can lead a student to knowledge, but you can’t make him think.

Read and listen to this article and podcast about teaching and learning from the University of Pennsylvania.
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/the-objective-of-education-is-learning-not-teaching/

So in your homeschool, make sure that you are giving your children plenty of time to think. You may ask questions to encourage further thinking. But give them time to think deeply about the answers to those questions. This is a missing element in the school-style of education. The students are given all of the information that the teacher wants them to spew forth on the exam, but real learning doesn’t occur, because the time to reflect, process, and meditate is not given to the students. That process is not even addressed or encouraged in most classrooms. Students are told that they have to memorize certain facts that will be covered on the test, and then they are evaluated on how well they memorized all of those facts.

We want something more for our students. We want them to be able to think deeply, and to ponder all sides of a matter. We want them to develop their own relationship with the information. We want them to care about it and make it their own knowledge. So, in order to make this happen, we need to lead them along to further thinking and questioning. We need to give them time to think and time to put in their own words what they are thinking about. Give them good mind food. Give them lofty ideals and hopes and aspirations to dream about. Give them books to read that inspire courage and conviction. Read stories to them about people who made a difference in the world – people who were honest and generous and filled with love for God and their fellow man.

When we do these things at home – when we give them great ideas and concepts to think about and then give them time to think about them and a way to express what they are thinking, we will help them to achieve a deeper, more lasting learning that will stay with them for the rest of their lives.

This is self-education at its finest.

And you have the perfect opportunity to kindle this in your children when you homeschool them in this way.