By Emily Copeland of Table Life Blog
I’m convinced there’s pretty much nothing that can’t be learned through the pages of a good book. Even so, I understand that it’s not always easy to justify time for read alouds in your homeschool when you’ve got seemingly more important things to check off your list for the day. I mean, we’ve got goals to accomplish and tasks to complete for home and homeschool, right?
But what if we’re wrong about reading aloud and its place in the homeschool day? What if it’s not one more thing to do, but instead it’s the thing to do? What if reading aloud could be the very thing that helps you shift from school at home to a lifestyle of learning together?
That was the case for my family. I always read aloud to my kids, but it was more like a picture book a day and definitely nothing with intention or careful thought. I never considered it a priority, much less the foundation of our homeschool. Instead, I viewed reading aloud as an extra. It was something to fill in the rare blanks in our schedule.
All of that changed when I simply started doing it. I still read fun picture books, but I started choosing classics for us to enjoy together. I started with Peter Pan one day over lunch, moved on to The Boxcar Children, and then The Magician’s Nephew after that. It may not sound like a big deal, but it laid the groundwork for the homeschool we have today.
Since those first few intentional read alouds, we spent time using Five in a Row, a gentle curriculum centering around picture books and read alouds, and transitioned to a literature-rich Charlotte Mason-inspired homeschool. All that to say, that what was an extra in the early part of our homeschool years is the heart of all we do now.
I wouldn’t have it any other way.
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Making the Most of Homeschool Read Alouds
If you haven’t embraced read alouds in your homeschool, no worries. You’re only one book away from that transition. Start with choosing great books and then it’s just a matter of making the most of your read alouds. Here’s how to make it happen:
Rules of Engagement
In my experience, successful read alouds rarely involve kids sitting quietly in a circle with hands folded in their laps for 30 minutes at a time. It sounds nice, but it’s not realistic. That’s why it’s important to provide options to keep kids engaged while they listen.
These options could be something simple like crayons, coloring books, or paper, but any semi-quiet toy or craft works well for this. The goal here is to keep their hands busy. For us, the favorites are coloring books and Magna-Tiles.
When it comes to engagement, it’s also important to read with expression. It sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s worth mentioning here. After all, we adults don’t enjoy listening to monotone, lackluster orations. Why would we expect our children to be any different when listening to us read?
Also, you may also want to encourage narration after you read aloud. The act of telling back what they’ve heard may seem small, but narration has many benefits. Training children to listen, internalize, and communicate what they’ve heard is one of those benefits, and it guarantees engaged read alouds once they understand what they’re being asked to do.
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Between the Lines
One of the most valuable things I learned from our time using Five in a Row is that there’s more than a good story in the pages of a good book. That’s a key factor in making the most of homeschool read alouds.
It’s a given that read alouds promote skills like listening, focus, vocabulary, but read alouds can also be cross-curricular. Through a picture book like How to Make an Apple Pie and See the World, you can cover geography and culture, art, math, and life skills. Better yet, you have an excuse to make an apple pie with your kids. What’s not to love about that whole experience?!?
While I believe you’re never too old for good picture books, they’re not the only way to learn through read alouds. For example, while working through Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House books, you can dig deep into history, geography, and the daily life of pioneer families.
And whether you hang in the picture books camp or prefer more, ahem, mature reading, read alouds always provide opportunities to teach character to your children. No doubt, books help us develop empathy and gain a greater understanding of how others experience the world.
That’s not to say that every book has all of these components, but if you look for the right books, there’s always something more to explore with your kids. (If you need help choosing books, check out my reading lists. I’ve got several topical lists and book-related activities on my site to guide you as you choose.)
The Family That Reads Together
One thing to keep in mind about read alouds is they’re wonderful for keeping your entire family together, regardless of ages and interest. This matters on a busy homeschool day because it can be one of the few times you’re able to have everyone together learning the same thing at the same time.
Every homeschool is different, but if it weren’t for read alouds, my children would rarely experience any homeschool-related time together. My son and daughter are five years apart, leaving me with a foot in two different homeschool worlds each day. I don’t have the option of simplifying my homeschool through combining subjects. That doesn’t work when your kids are doing eighth and second-grade work, but it works beautifully with read alouds.
That said, most of our daily reading is done apart because of sheer logistics: I work through a pile of books with my daughter, and my son has reading that he does on his own. There’s lots of reading aloud happening in our homeschool, but we all look forward to our family read alouds. Those are saved for lunch or dinner when my husband is with us.
Since it’s something we do together each day, there’s no need to squeeze it in, put it off until tomorrow, or assume it’s not possible at this time. By making reading aloud a part of our routine as a family, we’re able to be consistent. And that consistency as a family provides a powerful example to our children. It shows them that learning – more specifically learning through reading – isn’t a school thing, but a family thing.
It’s what we do together, and that mindset didn’t happen overnight. No, it’s the result of book after book we’ve enjoyed together.
In closing, I hope you’ll make the most of every opportunity to read aloud with your family. After all, these aren’t just books. Our read alouds allow us to introduce our kids to amazing stories and walk with them into worlds they wouldn’t know otherwise. Indeed, the opportunities we have through read alouds are truly a gift. Let’s not take them for granted.
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