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Cultivating Readers

Cultivating-Readers-3 Cultivating-Readers2 On-the-mat

Cultivating Readers Cutivating-Readers-3


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.  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.  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.



Art Bag #8

This easy and quick sewing project has been a favorite of mine since it first appeared in Rhythm of the Home so many seasons ago, and this year I wold like to surprise each of my boys with a new Art and Activity bag for their individual supplies and needs. I am thinking that perhaps we need to embroider their names on the top, just to keep the peace and the organization in check. I also plan to add in a heavy duty interfacing to make this bag a bit more sturdy than in the past. I have learned that these rough and tumble boys of mine need all the heavy duty gear we can give them, no matter what they are using.

As a work at home mother who homeschools her little ones, I am often asked what keeps us organized, and our days flowing. One thing that I really could not survive without is organizational bags and holders that keeps the materials that we need for any given project close at hand.

With four kiddos ranging in age from 10 to 4 months, I have tried to come up with ways that each kiddo can start to be more in control of what they are doing, wearing, and eating, but without the chaotic mess of throwing their clothes all over the floor, or spilling an entire box of cereal. I decided that each of their chairs, both in their homeschooling room as well as at our kitchen table, needed a bag on the back  to hold the supplies for any activity that they might be moving into.

The Art and Activity bag is designed to hold anything from a place mat, napkin and silver wear, to drawing pads, paints and brushes. It’s purpose is to give parents the ability to choose which materials they want their children to use, and children the ability to engage in an activity, such as setting the table, with much more independence.

The construction of this bag depends solely on what type of chair that you will be using, as well as it’s exact dimensions. I will be giving the directions for the chair that we used, but I will also be adding in the additional seam allowances that you will need to modify for the size of your chair.

To start, measure the width of your chair, and the length that you would like the bag to hang at once completed. For our chair, the width was 16″, and I wanted the total drop down to be 14″. From there you will add 1″ to your width, and you will have to decide how large you would like your main pocket to be.

For our bag, we decided that we wanted the drop down to be 14″, and that we wanted the main pocket to be 10″ in length.  This gave us the dimensions of 17″x24″.

Step #1

Cut both your exterior and interior fabrics to the dimensions that match your chair (again, for us this was 17″x24″). If you would like to make this bag sturdier, for heavier materials, you will want to add in the fusible webbing of your choice, and cut it to these same dimensions.

From there, you will need to decide the size of your smaller pocket. We chose a 4″x17″ pocket to hold smaller supplies like brushes, paints and pencils. Cut the pocket out and set aside.

Next, decide on the length and types of ties that you would like to use for your bag. We chose bias tape, and measured the amount of tape that we would need in order to allow for a pretty loose tie to the chair.

Step #2

Step #3

With the right sides of the fabric together, pin your ties to the main fabrics.

Leaving a 3″ portion of the fabric not sewn, and using a 1″ seam allowance, stitch around the entire bag. Trim your corners, being careful not to cut your stitches, and trim seam allowances if needed. Turn your bag inside out and press.

Please note, if you would like your bag to be extra sturdy, I would advise at this point to add stabilizer or interfacing to your project. Choose which weight would work best, and add it in before sewing the above directions. 

Step 4

Take your smaller pocket, and fold over onto the wrong side of the fabric by a 1/2″ on each side, and press. At this point you have the choice of either attaching a decorative bias tape to the top of your small pocket, or to simply fold the top over 1/2″ and edge stitch.

Now we need to fold the main fabric up to form the large pocket (We folded our fabric up 10″),  press, and place your small pocket on top of your large pocket (right sides facing up).  Align the bottom of the smaller pocket with the bottom fold of the larger pocket (what is now the bottom of the bag), and pin the pocket in place.  Open the main fabric so that the bag is now laying flat, right sides facing you.

Step #5

Decide how many dividers you would like on your small pocket. We chose to break our pocket into thirds, and we marked accordingly using a white disappearing pen. Stitch your dividing lines to your main fabric, making sure to back stitch at the beginning and end.

Step #6

Turn the bag inside out, and using a 1/2 seam allowance, stitch around three sides of your bag, beginning in the upper right hand corner. Clip your corners, and turn the bag right side out. Using a knitting needle or chop stick, push out your corners.

At this point, you will need to fold over the side edges, just above the main pocket on both sides, and top stitch.

Trim your threads, press and enjoy!

Art Bag #6