This morning we took a trip into town. While Imogen and Charlotte had piano lessons, the younger girls and I made the most of our waiting time, and did some grocery shopping. It was gone 11 am before we arrived back home. We carted all the shopping bags into the house and unpacked them, before putting on the kettle. A few minutes later, I sank with relief onto the sofa with my cup of coffee.
“Do you want to hear more of The Wide Horizon?” I asked. Sophie and Gemma-Rose smiled and nodded. It was a silly question. Of course they wanted to hear the next part of the story. They love listening to me read.
I think back to our early days of homeschooling. I can see Felicity, Duncan and Callum crowded around me as I read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
“One more chapter, pleeease, Mum!” they would beg.
“When you’ve done some maths,” I’d reply.
I had discovered that my children were quite willing to do the things on my essential learning list if I bribed them with another chapter of our current book. So after every task accomplished, I’d read out loud. We got through a lot of books.
I guess I treated reading out loud as the dessert of education rather than the main course. If my children got through the ‘important’ meaty stuff like maths and spelling (the things I wanted them to do), they were rewarded with the sweet course.
These days we have dessert for breakfast… and lunch… and dinner. I have decided that reading together is the important stuff. Important stuff doesn’t have to be boring and hard work and involve a lot of groans and grumbling. It can be pleasurable and fun. And I really believe that children learn more from sharing books than they do from filling in a workbook, or completing any task that their hearts aren’t really involved with.
So this morning, we didn’t start with something like maths (though my girls do enjoy that too). No. We headed straight for one of our current read-aloud books. Actually we unexpectedly did some maths straight after our chapter. I noticed we were 75% of the way through the Kindle book, so we had an impromptu discussion about percentages and fractions.
Gemma-Rose sighed. “Three-quarters of the way through the book! There’s not much of the story left. I don’t want it to end!”
I reminded the girls that there is a third book in this Texas Panhandle series, and they cheered up. That’s the good thing about books. There’s always another excellent one waiting to be read… and enjoyed… and discussed… and thought about… and reread. For of course, a really good book needs to be read more than once.
So what makes a really good book? Gemma-Rose will tell you it has to have a good story line and not be full of dates. Sophie will say the book needs interesting characters, people you care about.
“We like The Wide Horizon because we like learning about different things like dug-out houses and pie suppers.”
“But the story can’t just be facts. It has to be exciting and fast moving and involving.”
And there’s one more thing I can add about a good book, especially one that is going to be shared: it has to be a story that both children and mothers will enjoy. We all have to feel excited as I open the book and begin reading, otherwise reading out loud turns into a chore.
My friend Karla’s daughter recommended the Texas Panhandle series by Loula Grace Erdman. There are three books:
You will already have guessed we love them.
It’s nearly afternoon tea time. A cup of coffee and another chapter of The Wide Horizon? Sounds good!