One of the parts of our day that I really appreciate is — our read aloud. I have come to love this even more with the “Covid-19 World” we find ourselves in. Each morning: I get up, wake my kids up, eat breakfast, and find our story. This makes life doable for me. This is how we start our day – reading books! This semester we are learning about US history. Since January we have read:
- Landing of the Pilgrims (James Daugherty)
- Johnny Tremain (Esther Forbes)
- Ben & Me (Robert Lawson)
- The American Story (Jennifer Armstrong)
This is my fifth year of homeschooling. If you had seen us from afar those few years, you would see us busily reading and writing a bunch. At the time I was homeschooling my daughter and son who was 3-years younger. I am currently homeschooling my two sons, grades 4 and 7. One thing has changed: more read alouds, less writing. Writing IS important, but the value that simply comes from hearing about another person’s experience is priceless; bogging that benefit down with lots of writing (for two boys that really want to get out and ride their scooter), seems overly punitive. Surely when they get to high school they will have more writing to do (—as well as the emotional maturity to do it!).
I recently read a great article about some benefits of story. It even referenced the father of myth exploration — Joseph Campbell. The Power of Myths documentary with Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers explains reasons epic stories such as Star Wars are so popular and engrossing; many of the conflicts and situations these characters find themselves in are time-tested and appeal to our higher ideals. Here are some other benefits to stories from that article.
- Trains us to have us empathy for others
- Gives us perspective on our lives and help us to try different “frames”
- Enables us to learn new information
- Motivates us to go beyond
A Tradition of Story…Begets More Story
My father in law, Mark Echeverri, came up with his own Youtube channel: Drama, Dreams, and Drollery (link). In his 80’s — he has stretched himself to learn new technology. Since his retirement as a high school teacher twenty years ago, he has traveled a lot and has spent a much time writing poetry, drama, science fiction, comedy, short stories, and even an autobiography. He has been faithfully writing for some time; now he publishes his stories twice a month through videos. I consider him the original source of story in our family, giving my husband his value for story which has in turn given my kids a value for story.
Unusual Read Alouds
My husband Mark still does Read Alouds with our two boys. A quick look at these books, and a casual observer might think it odd to read them to a 4th and 7th grader. Alas, he did not start here with these! Download his Read Aloud list. That is where he started when they were 1-2 years old!
Fruits of Read Alouds in Our Family
- My younger son, after hearing stories for many years, has a natural writer’s voice; he has no problem coming up with his own stories. He always writes twice as much as is required.
- My older son, almost 13, thinks it quite cool that he is hearing about “Rock and Roll” history—from his Dad (not from a strange friend we do not trust). Our family likes music a lot. Why not be the first ones to introduce a younger family member to the lay-of-the-land?
- My older son always enjoys reading more about what he loves — WWII and Vietnam aircraft. Many of these interests have come from books read with Dad.
- In Covid-19, my boys are not scared of this epidemic. They have already heard stories about Ebola. What fear could come from coronavirus?
Literature Approach to Learning
As I explored various approaches to homeschool in my first three years, I can say that I am completely SOLD on story as a way to learn. In writing California Out of the Box, I had such a deep experience with the five historical fiction books in the curriculum, I probably wept after at least after 3 of them. I have come to believe, it’s okay to lay off busywork. Forget about writing ad-nauseam. But, DO NOT LEAVE OUT STORY. Even for students who are dyslexic, stories as read-alouds requires and invites imagination. The beauty of homeschooling — more time for read alouds. Fun for everyone!