Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Things We Did Right
Now that our oldest children are adults, I can see how some parts of our home education equipped them for success in university.
A year or so ago, our older daughter commented that she really had not known how much some of her classmates were struggling with the reading load of their university course. It made me consider how little focus we give to reading skill after the first few years of our children's education, and it made me analyze what we had done, more or less incidentally, that gave our children the advanced reading skills that have helped them so much.
We have always been a book-centered family. We read to our children from babyhood onward, continuing right through their high school years. Reading aloud brings books alive in a unique way. It slows down the tendency to skip over parts of a story. It improves vocabulary and stimulates discussion. I truly believe reading aloud daily is the most important part of any language arts or English program at any age. And it is the simplest thing to do!
We have chosen book-based curriculum for most of our school subjects. We have used Sonlight curriculum for most of the last six years, and before that we used a similar style of self-selected curriculum. It was not unusual for our children to spend two hours a day reading in their teen years.
We are also daily newspaper readers, and our children picked up the habit. We never made current events part of the curriculum. Talking about the news has just always been part of life, developed as we shared the daily paper around the breakfast table. A typical discussion would begin with a remark like "Can you believe how stupid this is?" Sometimes when we are very sure of our convictions, we fail to see that there even is an opposing point of view, but daily exposure to the letters page of the newspaper displays both the strong and weak arguments on any issue, and creates a natural situation for the critical reading that will necessarily be part of post-secondary education.
Years ago, when I was completing my education degree, we were taught that reading skills span all subject areas, and then we were sent out into the fragmented school system where reading skills are only valued in language arts class. When we began home education, I saw it as a chance to value reading in all areas of learning, in science and history and Bible study as much as it is when studying Dickens and Shakespeare. And for our children, when they studied social work and psychology and the history of music and theology, the reading skills developed in their home education were the tools for those challenges as well.