As our family sat around the table one Sunday morning I reminded the family that everyone had indicated ‘reading more books’ was important for them this year. I asked them what they thought about having a Predetermined Book List. Joshua said, without even a pause – that my assigned book list was a good way to see how much you’ve failed! Obviously that comment caught our attention and we talked about how successful (or not) having a predetermined reading list has been over the years.
The truth of the matter is – they haven’t worked! And if you were to search through my blog, and through the kids work you will see that we have set an assigned reading list at the beginning of each year and then we never talk about a book on that list again! The kids have been reading, Peter and I have been reading, but we tend to choose books that are relevant or interesting at the time. When you let life and growth influence the books that you read throughout the year, your reading list is relevant and interesting. (Tweet this)
So this year we are going to look at our reading choices slightly differently.
- We will continue to make a distinction between books we read for learning and books we read for entertainment.
- We will set aside specific times for reading for learning. It will be a part of our study routine and will need to be protected from interruptions as any other part of our study routine.
- Each person will choose 3-5 categories now (though they too could be flexible, but we’ll start with something and see how the year goes) and will choose books within those categories throughout the year, being committed to a variety.
Our reading list isn’t the core of our kids’ general knowledge studies or the main part of the curriculum we use. We want them to read a variety of books: books that are inspiring – something that they are enthused about. These books may supplement what they are studying or it may be a completely different subject – their choice. I suggested these four broad categories to help them get started:
- Our relationship with God
- Growing in myself (intrapersonal)
- Interests and Passions
- General Knowledge
Even though my children love reading I have noticed that unless they purposefully and intentionally think about what they are reading, they read just to enjoy the story. And there is a place for that, but the purpose of these chosen books is that they learn something. They have to engage their brain as they read. To help them do this I have set three stages
- Before: Discuss with mum the purpose of reading this book, what is the theme in this book, what do you know about that theme, what do you not know. We just have a quick conversation before they start reading the book. This helps them read with purpose and stimulates further curiosity. (Discussing it with me is a training aspect, eventually they should be able to have this ‘conversation’ with themselves as they choose a book.)
- During: Keep a reading journal. A reading journal is a place to write quotes, questions and summaries as they read their books. I encourage my kids to write as they read (as this is the way I read) but they generally prefer to read a chapter and then reflect and write in their journal.
- After: Write about the book. I expect my children to write about each book once they are finished. They have a wealth of ideas and references in their reading journal (or should!!). Once they finish the book, they talk to me about it, sharing thoughts that they’ve had and discoveries they’ve made. If they can’t decide what to write about I generally set a topic based on our conversation. This is a goal for our homeschooling years, for those older than I think it is a good discipline to write a review, or summary, or response to a book, but it isn’t mandatory.
Then: Record your book on your Reading log. We are still learning to establish this habit. Josh and Jess kept a written log, whereas Naomi and Daniel are learning to use Good Reads (an online record).
One of the problems that came up in our conversation was that there are many books that come across our attention and we don’t want to forget about that book, but neither are we ready to read it. This is even more prevalent with e-readers as you can’t see the book, you can’t stockpile the books you may be interested in. For this reason some of us may keep a ‘wish list’ – we will also keep our wish list divided into our chosen categories (this can be done on our e-readers as well.) In hindsight, this is the true function of what we had been calling our assigned reading list – it served as a short list for choice.
I have found this process challenging myself as well. My Kindle is full of books that I would like to read – but it is unlikely that I will ever have the time to read them all! So I’m narrowing it down, being specific. My personal categories are:
- Read as a Mother: This includes parenting books, books that deal with the issues my kids face, books that I preview for my kids, homeschooling/teaching books.
- Read as a Wife: This includes books to strengthen my own marriage, and help me understand issues others go through.
- Read as a growing Christian: This includes books that address me being a Christian – either my personal growth, or outworking life as a Christian.
- Read as a lifelong learner: This covers books on topics that I’m interested in
My current selection is:
- Grace for the Good Girl, by Emily P Freeman (as a Mother)
- Desperate Marriages: Moving toward Hope and Healing in your Relationship, by Gary D Chapman (as a wife) I’m dipping this one, because I’ve recently heard the audio-book.
- Life Management for Busy Women, by Elizabeth George (as a growing Christian)
- Scottish Chiefs, by Jane Porter (my recreational for fun book!)
When I’ve finished one title, I’ll choose the next one for that category.
So though we haven’t predetermined a year’s worth of reading material, we still intend to read books – to be careful in what we choose, to think while we read and most importantly to be inspired by good books!
If this post has been either helpful or made you think about your homeschooling, I’d love you to leave a comment and share with your friends.