I am convinced, whether you homeschool or not, that this is the single most important thing you can do for your children’s education. So many things are accomplished in this single act of love and teaching. Frankly, I did not start out with much of it. In my own home growing up, reading aloud was not a habit– although interestingly enough I remember it well and fondly when it did happen. I was aware that reading aloud was a sort of tradition in the homeschool movement, but I personally just didn’t have the patience. Besides, there were many more important things that needed to be done in the course of a schoolday.
It took a period of serious reassessment several years into our homeschooling venture that caused me take up this neglected delight and intentionally apply it to our daily curriculum. As my oldest son advanced through the grades, school became a push through a checklist. Richness, growth, culture, enjoyment, contemplation, and wisdom were descriptions I wanted for our home. . . but I suddenly realized they were sadly lacking. It was the wise advice of veteran homeschoolers that helped me choose a daily read-aloud time as a first step toward the education I aspired to. I have never regretted it.
Morning Basket, Morning Time, and Circle Time are current buzzwords that refer to this timeless concept. Google them to find how other families are implementing this practice. It can work with the simplest, most untalented mom, and students from babies to high school seniors. It can be done on the couch during illness or cold winter days, or outside on the lawn when the weather is beckoning. And you may be happy to know that it does not require elaborate planning. Such a simple concept, such great rewards. Here are just some of the reasons I have made it a part of our daily life:
*Develops attention span in children – If you plan on teaching your children anything, you will want an attention span! In this day and age, thanks to multimedia, our attention spans have decreased, especially children’s. Put away those screens and bring out the books. Our family has been doing Circle Time for a few years now, and I’m amazed at how long my 4yo will sit and listen to reading far above her “age-level.”
*Teaches vocabulary – Forget tiresome curriculum and lists, and let your children learn the natural way, in context. Hearing words read aloud also avoids the common pitfall of homeschoolers: using advanced vocabulary words, but not knowing how to pronounce them!
*Creates an enjoyable part of the schoolday – Let’s face it, a lot of traditional schoolwork is. . . well, work. What child will not appreciate the opportunity to put away pencils and listen to a story?
*Exemplifies correct speech – Children learn correct speech by hearing it. And printed prose is far more correct than our everyday modern speech. Hearing good literature exposes children to rich language and vibrant vocabulary that they would never hear otherwise. Reading silently to themselves does not imprint the language on their brains in the same way. Do you want good writers and speakers? Get good writing into their heads.
*Transmits culture, values – Would you like your children to be cultured? Would you like them to hold noble values? When does one receive effective instruction in these things with modern curriculum? How about in a story that that engages their imaginations and captures their hearts? Do not underestimate the power of story. This is worth a post of its own.
*Develops love of literacy and learning – This is probably your most important job as a teacher of young children.
*Allows Mom to have a positive role as teacher – If your main job as a homeschooling mom is to push workbooks toward your children, you will eventually feel like the constant bad guy. It feels much better to have your children exclaim to you, “Don’t stop, read one more!”
*Creates opportunity to “cover” things you have a hard time getting to – Do you want your children to learn about artists or composers? Hear the biography of a missionary? Be exposed to poetry? Learn a song? Do some math puzzles? Put them in your reading time.
*Is a catalyst for discussion on any manner of subjects that you may never otherwise discuss – The power of discussion as an educational tool is something that I’ve only learned in recent years. Reading a book together provides the perfect platform for discussion. It is amazing what children can learn as they process information mentally and then put their thoughts into words. Evaluating characters and situations in stories together is a potent way to transmit wisdom and values.
*Teaches all manner of content – Science, history, literature, Scripture, health, biographies, there is so much information that children can learn during this time.
*Allows opportunity for memorization – Did you have visions of your children being able to quote poetry or Scripture or famous speeches? Read your choices during a daily read-aloud time and watch your children pick them up without effort.
*Allows opportunity for narration – If you are a “Charlotte Mason” or classical homeschooler you will find natural opportunities for narration when reading to your children.
*Places beauty in your day – I have come to believe that part of educating human beings is to cultivate an appreciation of beauty. This is so needed in our current culture. Again, where can you find that in modern curriculum? Give your children samples of beautiful speech in poetry and prose on a daily basis. If you doubt the value of that, watch Dead Poets Society.
*Is a time during the day when the children can learn together – Since much of school is skill-based, children of different abilities must work separately. Reading time gives an opportunity for children to learn together. Younger ones can watch older ones model attention, discussion, and narrations.
*Nourishes fellowship between you and your children – A homeschooling mom has a busy life. We can get so distracted by the needs of the home and school that true fellowship falls by the wayside. A daily ritual of reading has provided a regular time of relaxing and connecting with the children. It truly forces you to slow down and give your children your complete time and attention.
I had a mother who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
“Blackbirds” stowed in the hold beneath.
I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.
I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Gelert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.
I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings–
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such!
You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be–
I had a Mother who read to me.
–The Reading Mother, by Strickland Gillilan
A Handbook for Morning Time: a practical little manual containing tips and tricks along with suggested lists of poetry, hymns, Scriptures, and read-alouds. Perfect if you need some ideas on where to start.
Morning Time Moms: The blog that birthed the book