May 03, 2012

10 Days of Accidental Unschooling - Day 9: Reading to Succeed

New series coming soon... Looking forward to blogging it! #hsbloggers #homeschool

NOTE: This is Part 9 of a 10 day series on Accidental Unschooling that is taking me LONGER than 10 days to write (sorry). I have had a little distraction in my life last week (hosting a blogger retreat weekend at my house) and it has been a very busy homeschool week following. If you are OCD and want to start from the introduction or Part 1, hop to the bottom of this post and use the conveniently provided links!

Reading is the gateway to all other knowledge. Students who do not learn efficient reading skills are blocked from every other subject in their schooling. ~ (The National Center to Improve the Tools of Educators, 1996)

Early on in my homeschooling years, I was told that reading should be my main focus as an educator. It isn't that all the other subjects are not as important, but reading seems to kill a lot of birds with one stone. Kids who are reading good books (not "brain candy" or "twaddle" as Charlotte Mason would have called it) are gaining a lot of skills without trying. A child who reads is getting grammar, vocabulary, topic relevance, history, science, virtues and character - you name it! Reading skills enhance every other subject and bring us the ability to learn independently, as well.

Having been educated in the public school system, it seemed to me to be pretty rogue to chart a course for my kids that didn't include a spelling or grammar curriculum through their formative years. It made sense to me, though, that learning grammar early would kill the desire to read and be creative... so I continued to research and constantly heard from veteran homeschool moms that their kids were flourishing with this technique. Most of all, I wanted my children to LOVE to read - so that they would become lifetime learners. I knew that if they were going to be Bible readers, they would benefit from enjoying reading to begin with. I knew that they would always be able to continue their own education if they were not afraid to crack open a book and dive in.

So what did we do? We started with the alphabet, we played alphabet games and did flash cards and sang songs. We did the Distar Phonics method and used Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons. We read Bob Books and Easy Readers. We went through a stack of picture books at the library every week. We emptied sections of the Dewey Decimal System on our unit study topics through the years and I always encouraged the kids to pick one or two off-topic books that they wanted to read for fun. I let them buy twaddle books (Star Wars, Garfield, Far Side Comics) as rewards for big accomplishments instead of video games or toys. I read in front of them, to them, and with them. We read for all of our subjects. We read a read-aloud book with the entire family for fun. We made reading the top dog on the school subject list.

After a while, reading was so natural that there wasn't need for a focus anymore. It was understood that reading was going to happen daily. I gave up on making a list of the books they have read - and that was hard. When our "Accidental Unschooling" began, the only thing that really changed about our reading was the fact that mom wasn't always the one picking the books out any more. I still had to keep up with the books that wound up in the car, at grandpa's house, lost or misplaced because they took books everywhere they went. Learning was happening sans mama. If you teach your kids to love reading, you won't be able to stop them from learning.


I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.  ~Anna Quindlen, "Enough Bookshelves," New York Times, 7 August 1991
New homeschool moms who are coming from a public school background are most likely scratching their heads in wonder at what I'm saying. Maybe they like the idea of "learning to read, and reading to learn" like Ruth Beechick has been instructing homeschoolers to do for over three decades, but they need to know more before taking the leap in to a relaxed educational model. I thought I would share a few books that have encouraged me on my homeschool journey as a homeschool mama, in hopes that they will do the same for you:

The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.  ~Mark Twain

It is hard to keep trudging through the trenches while you are spread thin between toddler and teenager, trying to keep your head above water. The amazing thing is that God is there in the midst of your mess and promises to reward you for earnestly seeking Him. It often happens when I'm feeling a little self-pity or comparing myself to other homeschool moms who seem to be doing everything better, that God will give me a little pat on the back. It is as if He's saying, "I know you don't feel adequate, Heather, but I didn't call you to do this great thing because you are perfect - but because I am perfect. I just called you to trust and obey."

Now that I have teenagers - who can read, compute, cook, speak, write, draw, and are becoming amazing young adults... I have the proof that God really IS capable of doing something greater than me - through me. I wouldn't take credit for anything along this homeschooling journey I've been on. If I could sum up my entire decade-plus journey of homeschooling in a picture, it would be the image of Jesus asleep on the boat as the waves tossed and turned, and me shaking him and yelling at him that we are about to "drown"! You probably know the ending to that story... the part where He told the waves to be still and rebuked the doubting and terrified apostles for having such little faith. The bottom line is that there's nothing He can't handle - and even if it looks pretty stormy, if I just keep moving forward with the end goal in mind, He'll get us there.

Devos #homeschool
Some of our devotionals this past school year...

My husband is more of an "informational reader". He reads news. He reads manuals that teach him how to build and do things. He reads his email and his Bible. He reads road signs and researches things to buy. He's a fine print guy. He's certainly NOT what I would call a "pleasure reader", though. Don't get discouraged if your kid doesn't fall in love with reading - there's hope for them being a productive member of society regardless.

One way to ensure that your kids are more of a "pleasure reader" type is to try and read as a family. I have to twist arms and legs sometimes to get this to happen, and I admit that we aren't the picture-perfect family when it comes to read-alouds and family devotionals, but the point is to keep trying!

It gets harder when the kids get bigger. It's easy to sit down to the third read through "Go Dog, Go!", but when your teen comes to you and wants to read a new popular series book, and you have to read it first or read it together, it is a little more time-consuming. Make the time! Reading through the "Hunger Games" series with my daughter proved to be a bonding experience that we needed - even though the books were young-adult novels and not necessarily something I would have picked for my own reading list prior to beginning them with her. I enjoyed them; we enjoyed each other - and isn't that what the goal is?

A bonus to reading that will eventually come is writing well. You almost can't help learning to write well if you read great literature. At least you will be able to write well-enough! As a blogger, I might not be a world-renowned paperback writer, but I certainly enjoy practicing my 'craft'... and again, that's the goal!

I thrill at seeing my older kids gain confidence in learning to express themselves on paper and online as well as they do naturally in conversation. Take a look at a recent book review that my 13 year-old daughter did on the "Hunger Games" books and let me know what you think! I was so proud of her!

Pretty soon I'll post a few reviews that my 15 year-old is working on. He's brilliant once he gets started... and is one of the deepest thinkers I know. The more I get to know my teenage kids, the happier I am that I stuck with homeschooling, even though we ended up "Accidental Unschooling" against my will. Apparently God's will trumps your own. Fancy that!

A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. ~ Proverbs 16:9
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Next up we're going to talk about putting the HEART over the MIND. I thought it would be a great way to end the series - on the most important topic of all!
Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book.  ~Author Unknown
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Below are links to the rest of the series so it's easier to navigate for those that surf in after the fact. There is also a handy button on my sidebar to bring you back to this series later, should you want to read at leisure.

Introduction to this series
Day 1: Not So Super
Day 2: Morphing Methods
Day 3: Out of the Box
Day 4: Learning From Life
Day 5: Grace is for Homeschoolers
Day 6: Taste and See
Day 7: Grease and Sugar
Day 8: Carschooling and Fieldtripping
Day 9: Reading to Succeed
Day 10

Be sure to join me each day. I'll be giving away a prize to a random winner in my comments section on these posts. Each comment counts as one entry. I love comments! Even if I don't have time to answer every comment or email, I cherish them and enjoy getting to know my fellow homeschooling moms.

This post is a part of the 10 Days of... Series at iHomeschoolNetwork. Check out the other amazing homeschool bloggers who are participating in the writing challenge by visiting the landing page there.

Thanks for joining me!

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Genevieve Thul said...

Rarely do I read something on the blogosphere that tempts me to stand up and give an "Amen!" but this post was one such for me! I am a 2nd generation homeschooler (I was homeschooled until I started college classes in 9th grade), so I have been largely free of the fear and second-guessing that seems to plague my homeschool mommy peers. I absolutely agree with your take on the place of reading - and I can't wait to read the rest of this series! Thanks for taking time to get this out there - it is a message very much needed in an era where homeschooling seems to take a gargantuan effort and a schedule rivaling an Olympic athlete's.

Ashley Pichea said...

"If you teach your kids to love reading, you won't be able to stop them from learning."

I cannot agree more!! Jenny has a hunger and thirst for reading, and as such she is light-years ahead of where she is "supposed" to be in her knowledge and understanding of academic subjects.

Beth said...

I've really enjoyed reading through this *accidental unschooling* series you've been working on; it's wonderful (and you KNOW I can totally relate)!! However, *ahem* "The Far Side" is so NOT twaddle... heavy reading there. ;-)

educator said...

I love what you had to say about the basics. Too many new home educators cling to the public school method which forces kids into unnatural molds, and turns them off to learning.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great series! My journey has been an "accidental unschooling" as well. What a lovely surprise homeschooling has become because of it! I have forwarded your blog to several new homeschooling mommies as well! Brightest blessings!

Laurie McClure said...

I love this article. It is true, yet I also know the fear of leaving the "schooling" behind. I have taught all 9 of my children the oldest is 32 and now home schooling her 6. I still have 3 at home. I did the "school" thing with the older ones and have left more and more of it behind. And, yes, we have books everywhere! We just bought our 11 yod another bookshelf at a garage sale because she said she needed it sooooo badly! LOL.

Shannon said...

I have loved this series. I know that I will be getting a second better education when I start homeschooling my kids, and I will be reading less candy and more educational books as a result. The fact that my kids are reading at a much higher than grade level is what is giving me the courage to take this on.



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