We love books in our family! More often than not, someone is curled up with a book in our home. This didn’t just happen by accident. When my husband and I decided to homeschool, we wanted to establish a lifestyle of learning to help our children become lifelong learners. Books are a very important part of this! These are steps we’ve taken to achieve this.
Keep books in our home. This might seem simple enough, but when you have a small home or a tiny budget, you have to make a conscious choice to use the space and money for books. We buy sets of quality books when we know we’ll use them for years to come. I scour used bookstores or curriculum sales for titles I know we want. We also have two crates full of library books in our living room at all times. How do I decide between buying a book or getting it at the library? This is usually decided by how many times I think the kids will read it and whether or not it is easily accessible through the library.
Read to our children. I love reading longer books aloud to my kids, but this tended to be the thing that would get cut from our school day when we got too busy. Since I love it, I moved it off of my “school day” list and onto my personal goals list. This year’s goal is to read the children 12 read aloud books in the year. Before January 1, I went through our bookshelves and made a physical pile of 12 books. I decided that I would let myself exchange a book from the pile for another I wanted to read, and this system has worked well for us. We’ve completed 8 read-alouds so far this year. What do I read out loud to the kids? Biographies, historical fiction, books from Sonlight’s reading lists, or books I find somewhere else. I do not read them ahead of time even though I’ll research to select them. If I have read the book recently, I find that I get bored reading it out loud or am not nearly as excited to finish the book.
Talk with my readers. I often ask my children questions about what they are reading. It might be as simple as “What’s that book about?” or “What do you think of the main character?” or “Where does that book take place?” I haven’t read every book that the kids read, but I try to make sure books don’t come into the house that I don’t want them to read. We don’t just randomly select fiction books at the library and read them. I read reviews, check other people’s booklists, and research to make sure a series is something we want our children to read.
Seek the spark! I actively search for books that interest my children to help encourage them to learn. In my search, I found wonderful series of history and science books through our library and discovered that that my son enjoys non-fiction just as much or more than fiction.
My kids know they can ask me to find them a book on a topic. For instance, my son wanted to learn more about Tesla. In less than 5 minutes, I had found a great picture book about him on Amazon, checked our library’s website, and put the book on hold. The excitement when we picked up that book on the library was well worth my 5 minutes of research. We use holds at our library so much that we have 4 cards to allow for up to 40 holds. On our blog, I share book lists, library finds, and other great books, if you want a place to start.
Pick non-fiction books that are at or below my children’s reading level. I have been doing this for years, but couldn’t have quantified what I was doing until I read Leigh Bortins’ recommendation for doing this in The Core. I realized that was just what I was doing. Yes, the non-fiction books might have vocabulary terms the kids have not heard, but in general I pick books that they don’t have to struggle to read. The point is that I want them reading to learn, not practicing learning to read.
Don’t be too busy! This is huge for us. When I pack the school day with extra projects, worksheets, or activities, my children don’t get time to read. The learning from books is far more valuable. So, I try to pare down everything else in place of reading. For their “official” school work, we study the Bible, memory work, math, reading, spelling, copywork, and (for my oldest) Essentials. We’ll illustrate the occasional history sentence or trace maps while listening to music, but I don’t have tons of activities and extras added to our life. Instead, we add in books. My kids are required to read at least 30 minutes of non-fiction learning each school day, but often they will continue to read after the time is up as well as read during free time, in the van, just before bed, or any time they can’t think of something else to do. We don’t turn on the tv or wii or have evenings packed with activities for this reason.
Read lots of books myself. I read to learn just as much as my children and model for them how to use books to learn. I will tell my children an interesting fact I read or share with them some educational technique I just learned. The kids know that I value books since they see it. When I have a spare minute, I pick up a book. My children have followed suit.
In my most recent reading of The Core, I was really struck by a quote in Chapter 3. Leigh Bortins says, “Even though the academics in this book emphasize grammatical skills, I am going to assume that your children of all ages will read (or be read) good books, have good discussions, and go to interesting places.” In whatever else we are doing to pursue a classical education, good books should be a huge part of the equation.
Want to see more about how they create this lifestyle of learning at home? Check out www.runningwithteamhogan.com where Becki and her husband Seth blog about running the race God has set before them.