Liz has always been an accelerated reader. It never occurred to me to not let her fly.
She attended day care from six months – and then a Christian preK that used A Beka curriculum.
She complained loudly that they finished their curriculum by April and then watched Veggie Tales movies for the rest of the school year. The program did give her enough to go on for her to teach herself how to read.
So I didn’t have to really toilet train her or teach her how to read. Not sure how I feel about that.
I remember when she read the entire series of Magic Treehouse and Junie B. Jones our first few months of homeschooling – and we carried home stacks of Minnie Moo and early chapter books from the library each week.
I didn’t know that was unusual for a four-year-old.
I chalked it up to early exposure to words and reading. I was an English professor after all.
We had more books than anything else in our house. Books are important.
I very quickly developed some standards for her reading material.
I didn’t really like Junie B. Jones and a lot of that sort of fluff. I discovered Charlotte Mason and Ambleside Online and The Well-Trained Mind and all these amazing works of literature for children. Living books entered my vocabulary.
Somehow, I skipped over a lot of really good reading material when I was a kid.
I suppose I am a product of a school system focused on test scores and workbooks more than critical thinking and quality of reading material.
I actually really loathed reading until I was about 10.
I remember one night, lying to my mom about a homework reading assignment and I couldn’t narrate back to her anything about the text. I still feel ashamed. But it was so boring and I really didn’t care for any of the school assignments.
And I seem to have jumped right into Stephen King and Dean Koontz in late elementary school. I didn’t have the greatest guidance from teachers or parents.
I honestly don’t remember reading anything worthwhile in school until 8th grade with Diary of Anne Frank. We only did maybe 2-3 novels each year of high school. In 11th and 12th grade, I sat in the back of English class, by the window overlooking the teachers’ parking lot, reading the Beat poets and Russian novels that were nowhere on the curriculum lists.
I didn’t know how to write an essay until my sophomore year in college, in my Shakespeare class.
So, of course, it made perfect sense for me to become an English teacher.
My ten years or so of teaching English taught me a great deal about life, kids, parents, and education.
I certainly knew what I didn’t want for my kids when we decided to homeschool.
Thank God all four of our kids love words, books, and writing. Read alouds are an everyday, twice-a-day occurrence – and even the littlest one loves to snuggle while I read aloud from really hard, great books.
I am blessed with curious children, constantly asking the hard questions, demanding to get at the marrow of life, desiring to know what’s really important, trusting in my opinions, striving to learn the righteous path.
It’s a really tough transition into high school. The early teen years are fraught with confusion and making difficult connections and having virtually no life experience from which to draw conclusions.
I’m raising readers.
How to Raise Readers
Read read READ aloud to kids from prebirth until they won’t let you anymore. We read aloud in the mornings and bedtime stories in the evenings.
Buy lots of books. Get lots of books from libraries or used sales or borrow from friends.
Read a lot all the time and let that habit pass like osmosis to the rest of the family.
Find books on topics your kids are interested in. There’s always something for a reluctant reader. But don’t suggest or press or offer it. Just leave it lying around in their path for them to discover.
Audiobooks count. Movies based on books count. Anything to get kids interested in a literary life, to love words and phrases and imagination.
- The Read-Aloud Family: Making Meaningful and Lasting Connections with Your Kids by Sarah Mackenzie
- The Read-Aloud Handbook by Jim Trelease
- Before They Were Authors: Famous Writers as Kids by Elizabeth Haidle
- Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time by Jamie C. Martin
- The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller
- Reading in the Wild: The Book Whisperer’s Keys to Cultivating Lifelong Reading Habits by Donalyn Miller
Great literature helps us learn about people and events and the WHY.
This cycle 4 of modern times in our history studies is a really tough year to learn. I skipped most of the subject matter TWICE during our history cycles because I.Can’t.Even.
Modern history is tragic and really hard.
But we need to just jump in and do this.
Sample of a 9th grade reading list:
- The Call of the Wild and White Fang by Jack London
- Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
- The Short Novels by John Steinbeck
- The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
- Short Stories by Faulkner
- The Great Gatsbyby F. Scott Fitzgerald
- The Jungle by Upton Sinclair
- The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger
- The Outsiders by SE Hinton
Dystopian and Sci-Fi:
- The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
- The Invisible Man by HG Wells
- 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell
- Lord of the Flies by William Golding
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
- Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
- The Giver by Lois Lowry
- Have Space Suit – Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein
- I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
- The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
- The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
- Broken by Lauren Hillenbrand
- Lots of history material from the library and she’s performing in the play KinderTransport.
- Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
- Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
- To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- The Watsons Go to Birmingham – 1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
- Maya Angelou
We’re also watching many great films that showcase historical events well. Liz and I are having great discussions. She asks amazing questions and understands well. I’m actually not forcing too many assignments. She has a reader notebook and some assignment notebooking pages, but much fewer than usual. I want her to enjoy reading.
I know many parents shy away from the tougher subjects. Modern and contemporary history and events are too close. It’s uncomfortable. We remember lots of it. Our parents and grandparents lived through it. Their views formed our opinions and values. But we must study and review events with new eyes as we teach our children so we can all learn from the mistakes of the past.
We do our children a disservice not to walk through this with them and teach them about horrific events that took place. We must put aside any discomfort to discuss events that affects millions of people. We can’t live in a bubble and pretend that horror didn’t and doesn’t happen every day.
I refuse to send my teens out into the world ill-equipped– without an understanding of the sexual nature of mankind, without a knowledge of war, without being taught discernment, without an awareness of people’s fears.
Reading literature helps us to learn and understand the nature of man in all its beauty and ugliness.
My youngest daughter is disappointed that she can’t join the homeschool book clubs in our area because they have rules and their two clubs are only for certain age groups.
She loudly complained to me, “But Mo-om! I read teen books!” She’s 7. It pains me to see her confusion.
Even in the homeschool community, accelerated students are shunned. I get that there have to be rules, but kids shouldn’t be punished for being smart.
My 5-year-old son is now reading level 3 readers.