Why would I sit and read individually with kids who already read?
There are numerous reasons, from helping with interpretation and larger vocabulary, to increasing comprehension through the right emphasis and inflection of voice, to monitoring pace and making sure the books are read, not skimmed through. However, the real reason that, after 7 years of homeschooling, I still spend time reading with each child in addition to reading to them as a group is simple: it is the one academic time period spent one-on-one with each child doing something very non-academic—curling up with a good book and giving each one undivided attention.
After lunch, everyone gathers together for Bible study and a group read-aloud. My preference would be that this happened first thing in the morning, but the afternoon accommodates for everyone’s internal clock and associated time it takes to get to the table awake and alert. We’ve wrapped up the book of Proverbs, and the kids are developing their own books of wisdom, based upon an idea in our youngest daughter’s Bible. I can’t wait to see what they’ll come up with by next week.
Our group read-aloud is The Fellowship of the Rings, the last of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. We are almost finished with this series, and I am very glad we read the books rather than relying solely on the movies to educate us. In fact, our kids stated very plainly that they much preferred the books over the movie. Our son has taken a real interest in author Rick Riordan (of Percy Jackson and the Olympians fame), even reading the books that Riordan listed as his boyhood favorites. So it’s been a real treat to introduce him to the origins of many of the modern fantastical writers that he enjoys. I have to say, though, that unless there’s going to be an unexpected surprise at the end of this tale, Tolkien could have stopped at the destruction of the ring for me (although the marriages were romantic). I can’t figure out what purpose will be served by all of the restoration to be done to the Shire, but with 20 pages left, I guess we’ll know by next week’s end. “Learning through History” magazine has a nice tie-in to Tolkien’s work and medieval history that I look forward to sharing with the oldest once we’ve finished. From here, we’ll make a somewhat stark transition to Don Quixote and Sancho Panza.
The oldest finished Emma recently (a bit out of time sync with medieval history, I know), and we had fun watching “Clueless” and drawing the connection from a 15th century classic to the quirky Alicia Silverstone version we enjoyed. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight was a great story, and a quick read for both of us. As it was my first time reading this one, I stayed curious regarding the end all the way through, but I’m thinking I’ll go with The Once and Future King (or maybe use both titles) when our son covers this same period of history. My plan was to spend our next time together reading novels about Japan and China, but our daughter lost two books!! Once I could breathe again, we had to make adjustments, and since she and our son had a project associated with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, they’ll head there instead.
Again, our son is doing a lot of reading on his own, following the path of one of his favorite authors. The Flames of Rome moved past the heathenish nature of ancient Rome and into the persecution of Christians—still graphic, but a different eye-gate. We’re using a “No Fear Shakespeare” version of Twelfth Night, and will wrap up with a project similar to the oldest’s classic vs. modern themes. Amanda Bynes’ “She’s the Man” is based upon Twelfth Night, including the names of the main stars and the setting. The advantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast; the disadvantage of this is that it is easy for him to do most of the comparison and contrast. He tried to argue his way out of writing his own one-act play—the harder, more creative side of the assignment. What is this noise about shying away from hard work? Does he not know that dog won’t hunt in this house?
The youngest and I are falling in love with Old Yeller. Yeah, I know that for a kid who barely survived parts of Bambi, this probably wasn’t a good move. Yet, I wanted her– and the others—to hear this moving tale, and as I often say to them, there are so many references to this classic in the stories they watch every day until they needed to be acquainted with the original sources. In fact, when our son began to argue that he couldn’t possibly come up with an alternate setting for Illyria, we talked about how many renditions of The Prince and the Pauper, or A Christmas Carol, or Cinderella he’s seen on all of those silly sitcoms he likes to watch. It was a nice try, though. Because she didn’t get to read through the Chronicles of Narnia with the older two, I had a great idea to begin reading through them with her. I have not done justice to these great books, skipping days between reading. I sometimes wonder if she has been able to follow along with the plot of The Horse and His Boy at all. I’d almost abandon this project until she’s older, but I keep recommitting to daily reading, thinking that she’ll pick it up if I just stay consistent. Of course, I say that, and I missed reading it today as we quickly approached the time to head to dance practices. Ugh.
Our time with books isn’t all fun and games. I’m constantly after the older two to express themselves more fully through the characters. I’ll stop them in the middle of their reading with an obnoxiously loud yawn and say, “I’m sooooooo boooooorrrrrrred! Read it again, and this time, entertain me.” They’re no actors—this I know for sure. The youngest, a very expressive reader who is a joy to listen to, jumps up from the table quickly. She knows that once she completes math and reads with me, then there’s a break. I worry that she’s way too young to have such a negative attitude about school. But, as I was reading some old notes from a homeschool conference, I came across some notes I took from a Sally Clarkson conference. She talked about family ways, and how, as mothers, we can show our kids how to respond to life by our own responses. I later reflected on an older post by Linda Fay, when she talked about why her children read Plutarch, and giving their minds something noble and courageous to feast upon. This is what I hope the kids will realize in time, and while I wait, I enjoy a smile, a laugh, and even an occasional cry while we uncover increasingly more stories.