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Life Learning: Cultivating Readers

Life Learning :: Cultivating Readers

February 25, 2014

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Cultivating Readers

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Back in April I wrote a post on learning at home. It was a bit about our path from homeschooling, to school, back to homeschooling. Many of you have asked if I would continue that dialogue here, and share some of the things that have helped to form our journey. After many months, I realized that one thing that was catching me was the word homeschooling. In this day and age, life learning seems like such a better word. The reality is that we all do a bit of homeschooling, and our children find some influence outside of the home as well. I would like to think that the things that make us successful in our homeschooling lives would also be equally beneficial if our kids ever returned to a school environment. Sure there are specifics to a homeschooling environment, but for now I am focused on cultivating a life long love of learning in my kiddos, rather than on defining what homeschooling looks like day to day.

In the winter of 1993 I began the process of applying for college. It was a very rough time in my life, as it can be for so many. I attended a small all girls school full of some of the most amazing women I have ever had the privilege of knowing. They were heading off to the biggest and best of universities, and I was about to graduate second from the bottom of our class. It was embarrassing, and trying on my self-esteem. On a particularly hard night I approached my father to discuss where I wanted to go with my studies once I left high school. At the time I was thinking of art or culinary school (oh my how I wish I had taken that leap!), but my mom and dad encouraged me to pursue a more academic route. I expressed that I just wasn’t sure that I had what it took to continue on in school, and that my love of learning was seriously waning. My dad was by far the smartest person I knew, so I asked how he had done it, what made him so knowledgeable and eager to learn? He responded with no hesitation what so ever. It was reading. He had been a book worm for as long as he could remember, and he was quick to point out that books had been his very best classroom. He had learned what he loved about the world, new skills, and a passion for the written word all through a life time of just simply reading. Β From that moment on, my idea of academia changed, and five years later I graduated magna cum laude with a double degree in history and world religion. I spent my college years doing little else but reading on subjects of interest, and that certainly hasn’t changed in the years since graduating. Yes, my college classes were good, but honestly it was the books that taught me the most. Just that subtle shift in thinking about what made someone love to learn changed a lot for me.

When we had children, Joel and I decided that we wanted to approach learning as a life long process, one that needed a good foundation in order to succeed, but that taught passion for learning new things, rather than on specific techniques or theories. Joel and I both came into our relationship with a serious set of books, and rather than keep them in boxes or sell them at a garage sale, we put them on display. Most of our tables, shelves, closets, cubbies, and corners are filled with books, and that is how our kids have grown up.

I will have to come back in a few years and let you know if the last two kids have as much love for books as the first two, but Jacob and Elwood are book worms like their grandfather. We never actually taught them to read, but rather we walked around everywhere we went using a $2.99 set of phonics flash cards I had picked up at the drug store. The process was never overly dramatic or stressful, and they seemed to naturally progress from the sounds into the words.

Now, most days are spent confiscating books that are being secretly read under the kitchen table during dinner, or from under blankets and flashlights late into the night. Reading is an activity that is cherished by the boys, and that I secretly am more than a little thankful for. Reading makes the process of learning almost every subject a little bit easier. Whatever we are studying, we can supplement with a good book, and it always reinforces what is being taught.

We are often asked how we taught them to love books as much as they do. Β We are certainly not experts, we only have four kiddos, and only two of them can read, so take this next bit with a grain of salt. There are only two things that I know for sure that we did; surrounded them with books, and encouraged boredom.

In my opinion, boredom is not cherished enough in our fast paced society. We are encouraged to surround our kids with toys, learning apps, computers, or television. We are told that down time breeds time for kids to get into trouble, and that the more they do, the more they learn. What we don’t stop to realize is that generations before ours swear that they were great thinkers and inventors for the main reason that a good part of their childhood was spent in total boredom. There is something about long lulls of time that either makes you want to read something, or invent something. Whenever my kids tell me they are bored, I know that a recipe is about to be concocted, a fort built, a game played, or a book read.

We encourage special places to get lost in a book, we let the kids stay in their pajamas reading for as much of the day as they can, and we never say no to a trip to the library.

There is no way to force a child to read, but certainly for those that are struggling, being read to seems like the next best thing. We still read to our older boys every night (we are working our way through the Hobbit), and the younger two never close their eyes without a good story. There is no magic formula for cultivating readers, but just like everything in life, if there is joy and excitement about something, most kids want to see what it is all about. When we want our kids to love something, it can’t be a struggle. Reading is a pretty organic process, and every step of the journey needs to be honored. It took me years to catch the reading bug, but once I did, life certainly shifted.

I hope that as the years go on, and my kids find new passions and adventures, that they will hold on to their love of books. I hope that each of their major life events can be marked by what they were reading at the time, and that they too will one day open a book, look into their own children’s eyes, and begin the process with their little readers.

 

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

renee~heirloomseasons February 25, 2014 at 6:42 am

I am feeling tripped up by the word “homeschooling” too! Absolutely secure in our world of books and reading though!
xoxo

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Anna February 25, 2014 at 7:49 am

“…surrounded them with books, and encouraged boredom.” Perhaps my favorite parenting suggestion ever!

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

Boredom does a childhood god, for sure πŸ™‚

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Meryl February 25, 2014 at 8:57 am

And isn’t it just so fun, too?! Yesterday, K came home insisting we need to go stay in a log cabin after hearing about one in a book at school. Before then he didn’t know what a log cabin was, and now he’s planning our adventure.

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

It is! It really helps self-directed learning as well.

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This Little Blue Homestead February 25, 2014 at 8:58 am

I love the busy book with the orangutan where did you get that? I would love to get one for my littlest.

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 12:22 pm

I got that when Jacob was a babe, and it was for his shower. Let me look to see if I can find it anywhere πŸ™‚

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a little crafty nest February 25, 2014 at 12:15 pm

Heather,
Isn’t it interesting how one word can change so much of our thought processes? When we first registered for homeschooling, it was with a pedagogy that used only the words “homelearning” or “life learning” and that we are all “learners” and the teacher was really a “consultant”. Brent Cameron of Self Design was very adamant that the choice of words could alter how we view what is said. I have to agree, like you do. I use the term homeschooling all the time, though, but in my heart, what you write really resonates.
And so do your two guidelines for how you’ve raised your children so far : surround them with books, and encourage boredom. Love it.
One day, I would love to visit and take a peek at your bookshelves (might take a well, I reckon)!
I always appreciate your thoughtful, inspiring and informative posts! Keep them coming, my friend!
xo Jules

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm

Oh how fun would that be for a visit! You are always welcome my dear πŸ™‚

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essenzaroots February 25, 2014 at 6:26 pm

Beautiful… I have many things I step on or over (or into) daily that make my Mama heart sing–books, guitar picks, rocks, books, drawings, water, books….and books. Gratitude for it all!

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Joy February 25, 2014 at 6:33 pm

I wholeheartedly agree with every sentence in this post. I even made my husband read this, and he said, “She sounds just like you!” You wouldn’t believe how often people say to me that I’m “lucky” that my kids like to read. I think to myself, they don’t have much choice. They can read or find something creative to do. We don’t rely on tv or video games, and they have very few extra curricular activities. I truly believe that is the secret to creative, well-read children.

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm

I always love seeing your updates that include your kiddos love of reading. You must have the most amazing audiobook collection as well πŸ™‚

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Rosemarie February 25, 2014 at 6:35 pm

Sounds very like our home atmosphere. We always have at least 50 books checked out from a library. And spend many hours reading during the day. I so agree on the boredom thought. I always tell my boys it is good to be bored, but if they are they can either read a good book or start making something.
Lovely post.

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

Thank you πŸ™‚

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Emily February 25, 2014 at 9:23 pm

Thank you! I love this, and I needed it today.

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Hannah February 26, 2014 at 6:33 am

Oh, yes yes yes to all of this. My boy is an avid reader (still, at almost 14) and I think one of the main reasons he’s so into it is because he sees me reading for myself – getting excited about books, learning new things, discussing interesting parts, trying new skills learnt from books etc. A library trip is for everyone, not just kids and I think it’s sad how a lot of people stop reading when they no longer “have” to.

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Andrea February 26, 2014 at 8:04 am

This is a great post, and I would add that, in addition to a house full of books and reading to kids, that your kids seeing you read to yourself is another great way to inspire readers. They’re going to want to know what it is about that book that makes mom so eager to ignore them! I’m pretty sure that parents who don’t read will have a harder time inspiring kids to read.

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

I love this addition Andrea! Seeing us read is certainly a very important part of the process.

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KC February 28, 2014 at 11:47 pm

My two girls are not actually literate yet, but they spend a good 90% of their day leafing through books. We have books all over the house all the time. I read to them constantly. I’ve found their use of the english language to astounding thanks to reading to them all the time. And not just board books or young reader books but classic fairy tales. We are a bilingual family making the language and reading in two languages even more important. I always encourage the girls to ask questions when they don’t know a word or want to know what context a word is used in. So much fun!

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Heather March 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm

I wish we were a bilingual family. That is one thing I fear my kiddos education is lacking.

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Adrie March 7, 2014 at 8:06 pm

Love your dad’s perspective, and how it inspired you! Also, I think your point at the beginning is so true – sometimes homeschooling seems like a very tight or untrue label, and I think a lot of people share your desire for a better phrase. Thanks so much for sharing more of your journey with learning with your little ones!

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